CHAMPCAR/CART: IRL: Carpentier leaves Champ Car for IndyCar

Trying to take away the thunder from Indy Racing League IndyCar Series competitors Red Bull Cheever Racing, Forsythe Championship Racing - owned by Open Wheel Racing Series principal Gerald Forsythe - announced the departure of long-time driver Patrick Carpentier this morning.

Patrick Carpentier.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
Carpentier, who has been with the team since 1998 and has been partnered with fellow Canadian Paul Tracy over the past two years is expected to be named as driver of one of Eddie Cheever's cars momentarily.

Forsythe, however, wanted to get his message out quickly and did not wait until the IRL team had named the French-Canadian as one of its two drivers for the 2005 IndyCar Series season. A release naming the two drivers is expected today from Cheever's north Indianapolis headquarters.

"Patrick Carpentier called me last night from Indianapolis," Forsythe said, "to advise me that he had signed a contract with Cheever Racing to drive in the Indy Racing League in 2005."

Carpentier was one of three Forsythe Championship Racing drivers in 2004, and was the only named to the team a couple of weeks prior to the season opener in Long Beach, CA last April. In 2004 Forsythe also fielded cars for 2003 Champ Car titleholder Tracy and Rodolfo Lavin, who brought sponsor Corona beer with him.

Despite not having the finances offered by former sponsor Player's cigarettes, which was forced to withdraw from all motorsports activities in October of 2003, Carpentier was a title contender for much of the 2004 season, winning the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca round from pole position in September for a second consecutive year.

Carpentier's first win the former CART series came at the Michigan International Speedway 2-mile oval in 2001. He was 1997 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year in the CART series

Patrick Carpentier.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"Patrick has been with the team since 1998 and I've enjoyed seeing him develop as a driver of the years to become one of the leading and most competitive drivers in Champ Car," Forsythe acknowledged. "He has had successes on every type of race track, proving himself to be a genuine championship contender in recent years.

"I think it's a shame that Pat has decided to make a move now and frankly I don't think this is a good career choice for him, personally," Forsythe continued. "But this is his decision and all of us at the team wish Patrick, [wife] Anick and [daughter] Anais the very best of luck in the future."

Carpentier's season nearly ended in the penultimate race of the year when he lost a wing at Surfers Paradise and crashed heavily. He was able to come back from that incident two weeks later and take sixth place in Mexico City, giving him third in the final point standings behind Newman/Haas Racing's Sebastien Bourdais, who claimed the title and Bruno Junqueira, second for the third consecutive season.

2004 marked Carpentier's second time earning a third-place finish in the Champ Car World Series; the first came in 2002 behind Cristiano da Matta and Junqueira.

"It's a pity Patrick felt he had to make such an early decision," noted Forsythe Championship Racing vice president of operations Neil Micklewright. "We didn't want him to leave. Patrick has come a long way during his tenure with the team and we will miss him. We wish him the best of luck in the future and look forward to him returning to Champ Car in the near future."

Carpentier's Las Vegas neighbor and teammate Paul Tracy reiterated the comments he made in Mexico City at the final race of the 14-event 2004 campaign: "I've enjoyed having Pat as a teammate; we've worked well together, I think, always openly sharing information and battling hard but cleanly at every race. I wish him the best."

Red Bull Cheever Racing said on Tuesday that it would reveal its 2005 driver and equipment lineup on Wednesday. is still waiting for that information to be officially revealed.