Champ Car gets underway

It has not been an easy offseason for the Champ Car World Series but this weekend the championship kicks off at Long Beach, having managed to scrape together the 18 cars needed to meet its contractual obligations. The final names in the jigsaw puzzle are Oriol Servia and Tarso Marques, who are expected to line up for Dale Coyne Racing. The pair will join Forsythe Racing (Patrick Carpentier, Rodolfo Lavin and Paul Tracy), Herdez Competition (Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mario Dominguez), Mi-Jack Conquest Racing (Alex Sperafico and Justin Wilson), Newman-Haas Racing (Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira), PKV Racing (Roberto Gonzalez and Jimmy Vasser), Rocketsports (Nelson Philippe and Alex Tagliani), RuSport (AJ Allmendinger and Michel Jourdain Jr.) and Walker Racing (Mario Haberfeld). Although not a particularly glittering cast, it does include two former CART champions and eight drivers who have won CART races.

The next mountain to climb is to convince the sponsors involved that CART is worth continuing with. The series is well-placed in that it has a strong Mexican involvement and thus appeals to the Latinos in the United States but beyond the big Mexican names the sponsorship is patchy and often linked to the personalities involved. In order for Champ Car to survive in the longer term it needs more blue chip sponsors. Most of these have now moved across to the Indy Racing League.

In an effort to spice up the show Champ Car is introducing some new ideas to make the racing more interesting with buttons which drivers can use for one minute during a race which give the driver an extra 50 horsepower. In addition drivers will have to use at least one set of soft tyres during a race. The aim is to create a variety of different strategies which will mean that cars are travelling at different speeds at different points during a race. This will create overtaking opportunities. Fiddling with the rules gave CART the opportunity to have a series of different winners last year but some had little credibility.

The major aim will be to get more TV coverage. Champ Car has done a deal for the races to be shown by Spike TV. This was formerly known as The Nashville Network and is a cable network owned by MTV Networks. It is aimed at a male audience and is available in 86m homes across the US.

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