CHAMPCAR/CART: CART to drop Indy Lights, focus on Atlantic

DETROIT (September 10, 2001) - Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc., announced today that, in an effort to provide a more viable and effective system of racing development for open-wheel racing teams and drivers, it will consolidate its...

DETROIT (September 10, 2001) - Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc., announced today that, in an effort to provide a more viable and effective system of racing development for open-wheel racing teams and drivers, it will consolidate its operational and marketing efforts behind a single, top-level development racing series beginning in 2002.

The development series, based on the current CART Toyota Atlantic Championship formula, will have an enhanced race event purse structure as well as a significant season-ending points fund that CART officials believe will attract a greater number of teams and drivers. As part of the decision, CART will no longer conduct its Dayton Indy Lights Championship.

"We believe this is a significant step in strengthening the CART racing development system," said Heitzler. "Since CART purchased the two series in 1998, the overall competitive environment has changed making it more difficult for the two series to exist on a successful level. As we evaluated the situation, it became apparent that a single 'ladder system' series would be most beneficial for all parties. This, coupled with the relationship we have with the Skip Barber Racing Schools, gives us a more clearly defined and solid development series direction as we move into 2002 and beyond."

CART plans a minimum of 12 races on the series' schedule next season, each paying a purse of $100,000. CART also plans to distribute a season-ending, $1 million points fund. Currently, purses for the two series average slightly less than $80,000 and the year-end points fund, combined between the two series, totals $400,000.

For the next three seasons, the current 240-horsepower Toyota 4-AG engine and Swift chassis will remain as the series' engine while the new chassis and engine package will be the Swift 014.a and an update kit is available for the current Swift 008.a. CART also announced that it plans to develop a new engine formula, with increased horsepower, as well as a new chassis, for the 2005 season.

Toyota National Motorsports Manager, Les Unger, welcomes CART's renewed focus on the development series and sees the new direction as one that will benefit all involved.

"We are pleased to see CART lay out a clear direction regarding its development series," said Unger. "We believe this decision will lead to more drivers and teams coming into the sport, providing a stronger base for CART's FedEx Championship Series. We are happy to play a major role in this new direction."

Like the Champ Car series, next year's development series schedule will include a mix of permanent road courses, temporary circuits and ovals.

"We believe that this new direction will be a tremendous success as it includes all the necessary elements of great competition, excellent television coverage and the largest prize fund in the history of CART's development series," said Vicki O'Connor, president and CEO Pro-Motion Agency, Ltd., which oversees the Toyota Atlantic Championship.

The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship is one of the world's top open-wheel development series. It is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from the Atlantic Series are CART racing stars Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Alex Barron, Memo Gidley, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani as well as former Champ Car series champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Jacques Villeneuve.

Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, November 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership among Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the largest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series title.

Champions Michael Andretti, Gil de Ferran, Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser are among the drivers who battle for the FedEx Championship Series title on oval circuits as well as temporary and permanent road courses. CART also owns and operates its top two development series, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and the Toyota Atlantic Championship. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.cart.com.

-CART-

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About this article
Series Atlantic , IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Alex Zanardi , Danny Sullivan , Skip Barber