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SEPTEMBER 18, 2002

Dario goes to IRL

Dario Franchitti has been a major advocate of CART in recent seasons, the Scotsman has always argued that the racing is good and the standards high. But now he is departing to the Indy Racing League with Michael Andretti's Team Green. The move knocks three more stars out of the CART galaxy (Andretti and Franchitti are being joined by Tony Kanaan).

Christian Fittipaldi has gone off to NASCAR and there is talk of Cristiano da Matta departing to Formula 1. This means that four of the top 10 in the current CART points standings will not be there next year and, at the moment, only a couple have confirmed CART deals - and we are in September. The CART principals still talk of 18 cars but the share price continues to fall. The markets clearly do not agree.

Presumably there will come a point at which the company will pass back into private hands and then perhaps a few individuals will get together to try to keep CART alive with their own money but the sponsors are clearly making their point.

"Things change," said Michael Andretti announcing his defection. "I really enjoyed CART, I enjoyed the format of CART, but we have to go where we feel the momentum is in auto racing. At this moment, looking at what the IRL is doing and what they have for the future and even what they've done this year, we feel that's where our future is. Roger Penske won the last two championships in CART and went there and didn't win the championship, so I think that says something about the competition."

CART has not given up and is now looking for new stars. Former British American Racing test driver Darren Manning is suddenly a man in demand in the United States after his impressive showing at the weekend in the Rockingham CART event at the wheel of a Team St George Lola.