MARCH 19, 2008

The decimation of Champ Car

The deal between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car was billed a merger, but it is now emerging that this was not the case at all, as most of the Champ Car teams are now dropping out of the sport. Forsythe Championship Racing, Minardi USA and Walker Racing have announced that they will not be switching to IRL. Conquest Racing says it will join the series, but we hear that there are money troubles as the team's new backer provided money which was then spent on Champ Car equipment and there is little cash left for the switch.

Newman Haas Lanigan Racing will switch over and former Champ Car shareholder Kevin Kalkhoven says he will run cars under the new banner of KV Racing Technology, once again in partnership with former driver Jimmy Vasser, but it remains to be seen whether Kalkhoven will continue for long and we have heard suggestions that he is more interested now in looking for a way into Formula 1 racing. KV Racing Technology will enter cars for Will Power and Oriol Servia, with backing from Aussie Vineyards, which used to be the backer of the Walker team. It is not yet clear what will happen to Paul Gentilozzi's Rocketsports, Dale Coyne Racing and Pacific Motorsports.

Minardi Team USA's Paul Stoddart says that he has been looking at a return to Formula 1 and looked at Super Aguri, but feels that he will not get a very warm welcome in the sport until the FIA President Max Mosley has retired.

"If a team were to come onto the market at a sensible price that I felt I could do something with, then I would be interested," Stoddart said in Melbourne. "There is a monumental difference between starting a new team and taking over an existing one - all kinds of financial differences. So if you ask me if I would be interested in starting a new team? Not until Mosley has gone. Would I be interested in buying an existing team? If the right opportunity came along I would definitely be interested. What happened was good for North American motorsport, it had to happen. But it wasn't beneficial for any of the Champ Car teams. In anything like this there are winners and losers and all the Champ Car teams were the losers."

The demise of the series also creates potential for Formula 1 to look at available US venues. The problem, as always, is finding a venue which can afford to pay the fees that are needed and has the infrastructure to support an F1 race. The Long Beach Grand Prix is an obvious target but seems likely to be merged into the IRL, while Toronto might have been a candidate for F1 but for the close proximity with Montreal. Mexico has been looking for an F1 race for some time but recent projects have been outside Mexico City rather than at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.