CHAMPCAR/CART: Musical chairs and nomenclature

As the Champ Car World Series prepares to open its 2005 season with the 31st annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - and the series 22nd visit to the venerable street circuit - on April 8-10 the cast of characters who will appear on the grid is...

As the Champ Car World Series prepares to open its 2005 season with the 31st annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - and the series 22nd visit to the venerable street circuit - on April 8-10 the cast of characters who will appear on the grid is solidifying.

Forsythe Championship Racing acknowledged today that two-time Champ Car victor Mario Dominguez has joined the team and will race a #7 Indeck/Forsythe Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone entry in all 14 events on the docket.

Dominguez, who has spent the balance of his Champ Car career with HVM Racing (nee Herdez and Bettenhausen Racing) needed a change of venue for this season as he prepares to go Formula One racing in 2006.

The aggressive Dominguez, who finished fifth in the 2004 points chase despite failing to secure a third victory is "very excited to be joining the Forsythe team, since over the past years they have shown the commitment and level of excellence needed to win races and championships at this level."

Dominguez will be paired with a local hero from north of the US border, Canadian Paul Tracy who took the Champ Car title in 2003. The Mexican is hoping to win on his soil, something Tracy has accomplished at both Toronto and Vancouver.

"My goal is to bring the Vanderbilt Cup to my home country," the Mexican ace said. "When we arrive in my hometown of Mexico City for the last race of the season, I expect to be battling for the championship."

The relationship between HVM's managing director Keith Wiggins and Dominguez had grown strained as the latter proceeded to look at options in Formula One over the winter. Despite a contract in place, the two were never able to come to terms for this year and Dominguez looked elsewhere for a good chance to take home the title.

Neil Mickelwright, Forsythe's director of operations has been a Dominguez fan since the middle 1990s and has watched his career since that time as Mario progressed up the ladder from Mexican F3000 through Dayton Indy Lights and into Champ cars. "Mario has demonstrated speed and tremendous race craft over the past seasons," Mickelwright observed, "and on numerous occasions has shown a unique ability to make clean, aggressive passes where others fear to tread."

Now that he's got two hard chargers in his garage area, team owner Jerry Forsythe will be expecting results: "Between Mario and Paul I expect us to be in contention at every race and to regain our position as the championship team of this highly competitive Champ Car series."

Forsythe, who helped bring the two Mexican races at Monterrey and Mexico City to Champ Car, expects his affiliation with Dominguez to bring further awareness to the series and to his Indeck/Forsythe Championship Racing team.

HVM have not yet made their driver choices clear for the coming season but word is expected soon. The team tested Dutch F1 veteran Jos Verstappen and Toyota Atlantic driver Ronnie Bremer at Sebring last week, together with Mexican Roberto Gonzalez and Dominguez.

Another long-standing Champ Car entrant has solidified his stature as a two- car entrant for the entire 2005 season. Scotsman Derrick Walker has renamed his Indianapolis-based squad Team Australia Racing and has secured the backing of two Down Under businessmen who happen to be racing participants.

Craig Gore of the Wright Patton Shakespeare Financial Group became interested in Champ Car racing last year when Brisbane-based Gore helped to enter Aussie and V8 Super Car Series vet David Besnard in last year's Surfers Paradise race. Besnard secured seventh place in that event, driving a Walker Racing Reynard.

"This involvement [with Craig Gore] provides sponsorship assets without having to buy into my race team," Walker explained. "This was a way he could be involved in the sport by bringing in sponsorships and also share in some ownership of the race program element only."

As he gained interest in Walker's program, which converted to the preferred Lola chassis over the winter and secured the services of Champ Car veteran Alex Tagliani, Gore introduced another business associate, John Fish to Walker's Champ Car plans.

Fish, who has major plans to introduce his Australian wines to United States consumers under the name of Aussie Vineyards saw an advantage, "the program quickly took shape and we have an exciting fresh race program that symbolizes the New World order in Champ Car today," Walker revealed. "Craig and John bring unique business skills to the table that make this program partnership a win-win situation.

"That's something we also want to be doing on the track pretty soon," Walker declared.

The Aussie Vineyards brand will be primary sponsor identification on both of the Team Australia Racing entries for rookie Australian Gold Coast native Marcus Marshall's #5 entry and for Tag's #15 Lola/Ford/Bridgestone racer.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , David Besnard , Roberto Gonzalez , Ronnie Bremer , Marcus Marshall