Just one day after announcing the company would enter the Grand American Rolex Road Racing Series in the GT class and empower its NHRA Sport Compact import drag racing program, General Motors' GM Racing division declared its intent to withdraw...
Just one day after announcing the company would enter the Grand American Rolex Road Racing Series in the GT class and empower its NHRA Sport Compact import drag racing program, General Motors' GM Racing division declared its intent to withdraw from the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series, effective at the close of the 2005 season.
The move, made public by GM Racing director Doug Duchardt in a last-minute teleconference was a "very difficult decision. We met with [IRL CEO and president] Tony George and our teams in Indy this morning and told them that we are committed through the 2005 season. We will not extend beyond next season," Duchardt proclaimed.
"We will try to win races next year," he continued. "We've been with the IRL since its inception and we've had a great relationship over the years but the investment just doesn't make business sense anymore. This was a money decision," Duchardt said. "Honda and Toyota have driven the price up and we had to examine how much we were spending and what we were getting out of it."
Comparing this move to the dropping of GM's German Opel brand, Duchardt called it "another difficult decision." While he did not reveal the status of the current Chevy teams Duchardt did note, "I think I can safely say that Panther Racing will be with us next year and we are both committed to winning."
Over the 2004 campaign, Chevy supplied its Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 to Pennzoil Panther Racing, Red Bull Cheever Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Patrick Racing in the regular 22-car IndyCar Series lineup. Alex Barron, driving for Cheever was the highest placed Chevy driver at the end of the year in 12th place in the final season standings.
"When we were successful the series worked well for us," Duchardt recalled. "The costs have been going up (with Honda and Toyota's entry in 2003) and the television ratings were either flat or down. We had to look at the bottom line; this decision was based on what's good for our business."
Duchardt did state that GM has no plans to remain in open wheel racing at this time and that, "Right now is the time to go away from it. We participate in a lot of different racing programs and this was a very difficult decision for us. We're a competitive company and we take pride in the fact that we've had a long association with the Indy 500 and the IRL. We wish we didn't have to do this but 2005 will be our last year here."
With Honda taking 14 of 16 victories in the 2004 season, "They found it worthwhile. They changed the relationships between teams and manufacturers," Duchardt stated.
GM Racing will announce its IndyCar Series lineup at a later date but did confirm it expects to continue its cooperative venture with Cosworth through 2005. "We know there is some uncertainty there," with Cosworth Racing offered for sale by parent company Ford Motor Co., "but we expect to continue." A Cosworth representative at the SEMA show did indicate the engine maker's new ownership could be announced within the next week.