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MARCH 12, 2004

A blow for Champ Cars

The Champ Car series in the United States was once seen as a potential global rival to Formula 1 but in recent years it has not been able to compete because of the split in US open-wheeler racing. Instead it has had to compete for sponsors and coverage with the Indy Racing League. Champ Car is hoping to make a big comeback this year now that new ownership has been put in place but the last-minute announcement that Fernandez Racing is switching to the IRL is a big blow for Champ Cars and there are already rumours that Bobby Rahal's team is about to follow.

Team boss Adrian Fernandez says that the decision was taken after he and his team took "a hard look at what we know at this point in time to determine what is best for our sponsors and the future of Fernandez Racing". He said that he did not feel comfortable with the future of Champ Cars.

Fernandex already had one car running in IRL under the Super Aguri Fernandez Racing banner.

Rahal says that the defection of Fernandez may result in a change in his strategy. The former Jaguar Racing F1 boss is running Michel Jourdain in Champ Cars and Buddy Rice in the IRL

If Rahal follows Fernandez, it may be impossible for Champ Car to get sufficient cars to run the series this year. Champ Car boss Paul Gentilozzi has been saying that the series will have 18 cars at Long Beach in April.

"I could only count 13 confirmed and that's not enough," said Fernandez. "So I did what I had to to guarantee the continuity of Fernandez Racing."