CHAMPCAR/CART: High tech meets high speed

One of the biggest U.S. cities yet to host a major motorsports event is finally getting a chance: San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, has a tentative agreement with Champ Car to run a race downtown to a potential crowd of 120,000 on July 29-31, 2005.

Pace lap: Nelson Philippe.
Photo by Dan Streck.
The race, around the 1.5-mile street circuit encompassing HP Pavilion, home of the San Jose Sharks and Arena Football San Jose Saber Cats, utilizes parking lots and roads behind the arena to form a multi-turn street course suitable for speeds approaching 150 mph.

The next key moment for the races' approval come on December 7th when San Jose City Council members meet. In a story reported by Rodney Foo, reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, the city will have to pony up $650,000 of the $3 million necessary to host the event. Event promoters will pay the remaining $2.35 million.

Up for vote by members will be the re-deploying of funds from a project called the "Canary Fund" which was slated to fuel redevelopment in the downtown area . "We're optimistic about getting this thing going," said Canary Fund President Dale Jantzen. The city would be repaid from revenues generated by the event.

Similar to the long-running Long Beach Grand Prix and newcomer Denver, San Jose has a potential to rake in tens of millions of dollars from hosting the Champ Car World Series. Long Beach brought in $40 million this year and Denver $17 million; both drew well over 100,000 spectators.

"We're delighted to officially acknowledge the great city of San Jose as our newest member of the Champ Car family of venues," said Joe Chrnelich, Champ Car World Series Executive Vice President - Development, Government Affairs & Planning. "The Bay Area market, and San Jose in particular, offers Champ Car all the elements that make for a long-term, successful event. We look forward to working with Canary Fund Enterprises and the city officials in showcasing San Jose for the world to see."

Mayor Ron Gonzales and budget policy director Joe Guerra have their work cut out for them, though. Some members within the council are not yet sure they support removing funds from much-needed local projects to support a sporting event that looks good on paper but still has to work out all the logistics. This, along with the city's current $60 million budget deficit, may cause others to think twice.