CHAMPCAR/CART: ACCUS hurdle leapt today in Federal Court

Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford leapt another hurdle today in preparation for this Sunday's 2004 season opener, the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Attorneys once again gathered at Judge Frank J.

Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford leapt another hurdle today in preparation for this Sunday's 2004 season opener, the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Attorneys once again gathered at Judge Frank J. Otte's Federal Bankruptcy Court hearing room to discuss the matter of ACCUS membership, which permits drivers to race under FIA guidelines. In order to be a member of ACCUS, the United States' delegate to FIA, OWRS will use CART's grandfathered membership to list its events on the International Calendar.

That membership wasn't really a slam-dunk for OWRS, particularly without Judge Otte's imprimatur. Attorney James Carr argued that ACCUS membership is actually CART's last big asset and must be assumed by OWRS in order to go forward.

The Judge, not terribly knowledgeable on the ins-and-outs of international motorsports asked a good number of questions about ACCUS and its function. He decided to permit OWRS to assume ACCUS membership through an agreement with CART, Inc., thereby allowing the Long Beach race - and others - to go forward.

The agreement covers seven races currently on the Champ Car World Series docket for 2004: Long Beach, Milwaukee, Portland, Cleveland, Elkhart Lake, Denver and Laguna Seca. Two TBA events remain and one is thought to be Las Vegas, which would make it an eight-event agreement.

There is also the outside chance that, should OWRS be unsuccessful next year in gaining its own ACCUS membership, the pact could go on well after the Chapter 11 bankruptcy is concluded on a date no one is certain about at this time.

Included in the courtroom this morning were representatives of Champ Car, OWRS, 88 Corporation and two race tracks: Elkhart Lake's Road America and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. None voiced objections to the sanction agreement accepted by Judge Otte during this hearing.

The importance of this morning's debate can not be understated, because in granting OWRS the use of CART, Inc.'s ACCUS membership, Judge Otte approved an agreement that will hold CART, Inc. "blameless from any loss, liability or claim that may arise from CART performing its sanctioning services."

The agreement also stipulates that OWRS "assume the defense of any indemnification claim and pay all costs reasonably incurred by CART in connection with the defense or settlement" of any claims, these including "reasonable attorneys' fees."

In return, OWRS assumes CART's annual membership fee to ACCUS, together with ACCUS listing fees for each race, all CART travel expenses related to ACCUS business. Race promoters must name CART as an additional insured, "in amounts and by form of coverage no less protective of CART than provided by those policies of insurance maintained by CART for its Champ Car racing series conducted in 2003."

When ACCUS last met in February to determine its board membership for the 2004 racing season, none from CART were included, due to the untenable, disruptive nature of the ongoing bankruptcy filing.

Whether all ACCUS members approve the Court's order is not a rubber-stamped item, as member clubs include the Indy Racing League and NASCAR, neither of which is delighted to see OWRS survive.

The sanction agreement between OWRS and CART Inc. designates all pertinent employees conducting OWRS events have authority over their domain, relegating CART Inc. to the position of a paper entity, which could be dissolved once the bankruptcy procedure is concluded.

The agreement ratified today mandates OWRS' compliance with all FIA regulations and acceptance of all costs related to such compliance. OWRS personnel may also be required to wear a CART identification patch on their uniforms as requested by FIA and member entity ACCUS.

In addition, all competition results, timing & scoring information will have to include the phrase "sanctioned by CART," which insinuates continuation of the name and, likely, the entity CART Inc. once bankruptcy proceedings are complete.

The sanction agreement between OWRS and CART Inc. was signed by principals on the 31st of March but could not be ratified until approved by Judge Otte, who did so this morning without objection.

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Series IndyCar