Newman/Haas Racing will not contest the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012. The former Champ Car World Series (CART/CCWS) championship team just had one of their best seasons since they made the switch to IndyCar*. James Hinchcliffe, one of the hot shoes from Canada, earned the Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 while Oriol Servia finished fourth in the standings this year.
“The economic climate no longer enables Newman/Haas Racing to participate in open wheel racing at this time,” said Carl Haas, owner and co-founder of Newman/Haas Racing per the team's official statement.
NHR had top stars of open-wheel racing who took multiple victories and championships since 1983 when Carl Haas and the late Paul Newman formed the team. Their driver list over the years has been very impressive and includes those who spent time in Formula One before and after their time spent in the American-based Indy cars.
Their first title came in their second season with Mario Andretti in 1984 and Mario's son, Michael Andretti followed up with the second championship in 1991. Nigel Mansell was considered a rookie in the CART series despite his Formula 1 career; the Briton took the title in 1993 in his rookie season. In 2002 Cristiano da Matta was the champion and then came Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais who notched four consecutive titles with the NHR team; his first was in 2004. CART became Champ Car World Series during the years of Bourdais’ domination.
The simple statement by the team on their pulling out of IndyCar next year is a shock considering that both drivers were expected to take on the challenge in 2012 with the new IndyCar chassis. While speculation of loss of sponsor is floating around, there remains the fact that NHR was expecting the delivery of the new cars before Christmas. It appears they will find a buyer among the teams who will run in 2012.
The cost of the engine / chassis package plus spare parts will be around $3 million and that is for just one new car setup. The new Dallara, which was tested by the late Dan Wheldon, was selected by the IndyCar committee and the contract for the chassis is through 2016. The engines will come from Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus. The turbocharged six cylinder engines will have 2.4 liters of displacement and will produce between 550 to 750hp.
Due to the fact that the IndyCar Series runs on ovals, street circuits and road courses, the need for aero packages – at least two -- also factors into the overall cost of each car. Plus add in testing and repairs that might be needed during the year.
The news from one of the powerhouse teams on sitting out the 2012 season might be for forbore of things to come. Will Newman/Haas Racing be the only team to withdraw for the new season or will others follow suit? From 1983 to 2011, NHR’s drivers have amassed a total of 107 Indy car victories. Penske’s team has 159 wins since the Indy car team was formed in 1971 under the CART banner.
It is hard to believe that the Newman/Haas Racing team will not be on the IndyCar grid in 2012. Hopefully they will return in 2013!
Newman was well known for his Sports Car Club of America amateur racing program before his professional career including the Trans-Am Series. His legacy also included sports car racing and no one will forget when he took a class win at the age of 70 in the 24 Hours of Daytona race. Perhaps the team that carries on his legacy will consider taking on a new challenge by entering the Grand-Am Rolex Series or the American Le Mans Series.
The team is not closing down their shop and they are aware of other opportunities in the world of motor sports. Carl Haas Automobile Imports, Inc. has always been known as an importer for Lola and in 2010, Haas’ company made a deal with Elan Motorsport Technologies (EMT) for the distribution and service of the Panoz race cars and parts. At that time, CEO of EMT, Scott Atherton said: “Combining the design and manufacturing expertise of Elan with the resources of Haas - the benchmark for race car parts distribution, service and support certainly in North America and among the best in the world – is a combining of the best of both worlds. Collectively we have opportunities like never before to expand the scope and reach of all the assets and resources within EMT nationally and globally.”
Of course, at this time, nothing from NHR indicates their future plans including who on their staff is still employed in their shop. Lola is one of the main constructors of sports cars that contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as the two series: ALMS and Le Mans Series. In 2012, the start of the FIA World Endurance Championship will take place and teams with Lola prototypes will be involved in chasing that crown along with series championships.
At this time, we in media and the fans of the team will wait to discover what decision Haas will make.
(* 2008 the CCWS closed their doors due to a merger with IndyCar)
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