JANUARY 28, 2004
It is D-Day for CART
Formula 1 bosses will be looking to America later today to see the outcome of the auction between CART and the Indy Racing League to see whether there will be two competing open-wheeler championships in the United States or whether the two will be combined under the control of the IRL. Continued division in America would be better for Formula 1 as it would add to the discontent and confusion which surrounds US open-wheeler racing and will encourage US race fans to Formula 1 as an alternative.
The representatives of IRL and the Open Wheel Racing Series will meet in the US Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis where Judge Frank Otte will preside over the auction of CART's assets. Otte is obliged to get the best possible deal for the shareholders in CART and must decide what is best for the CART organization. The IRL bid would, in effect, mean the end of the CART organization and Otte may rule that OWRS is a better idea although he might take a longer term view and conclude that it is in the best interests of those involved in CART to close the series down and combine with IRL. Both arguments have strengths and weaknesses as do the bidders. The judge will no doubt look at the fact that CART used up $100m in 2003 and that it is arguable that the series cannot survive even if OWRS wins. He will also note that OWRS opted out of a $7.5m purchase of CART so as to send the company into bankruptcy and then offered only $1.6m for the assets. That opened the way for IRL to come in and bid $3.3bn for selected assets. This bids can be increased and arguments made to the judge. These are expected to include an invitation from IRL to welcome all CART teams into the series. It is thought that IRL may also announce that it will adopt several CART events on roads and streets.
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