It's waiting time for Champ Car teams in Indianapolis, as the news reports keep mounting on the Indy Racing League's interest in property owned by CART, Inc., the Michigan-based firm that Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS) is trying to buy in Federal...
It's waiting time for Champ Car teams in Indianapolis, as the news reports keep mounting on the Indy Racing League's interest in property owned by CART, Inc., the Michigan-based firm that Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS) is trying to buy in Federal bankruptcy court.
A trip around this Circle City yields different answers to the question of: what do you do while you're waiting for CART to either rise from the ashes or go quietly into the dusk?
Of all the groups that competed in last year's Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, American Spirit Team Johansson is the only entity that has shut its doors completely, barely making it to the end of the year and its initial Champ Car victory in Surfers Paradise, Australia. A cadre of tractor trailers painted in Johansson's dark blue colors sits ready to take off for new adventures, but the doors are closed and nobody's home at the Gasoline Alley shops.
Just across the way, Herdez Competition is getting ready for testing at Sebring the first week of February and intends to run two cars: one for sophomore sensation Mario Dominguez and the other for a player to be named later, who might possibly not be from south of the border, according to managing director Keith Wiggins. Wiggins feels certain the series will go ahead and his team is making plans just for that.
Dale Coyne Racing is located in the Chicago area and Coyne has stated that, during the 2004 season, he'll be in CART if anywhere. It's pretty normal for Coyne to be a last-minute entry and he's said he's still putting his plans together. He did emphasize, when we talked in late 2003, that the Indy Racing League has little to offer his backers. Coyne did test Tomas Enge and Michael Keohane at Sebring in November and hopes to sign either or both.
It's wait-and-see for the Champ Car division of Fernandez Racing on Indy's north side. While the IRL side of their shop is moving forward with plans to run Kosuke Matsuura, nothing much is happening in the area reserved for team co-owner Adrian Fernandez' Lola/Ford mount.
There are only three people still on the payroll at Patrick Racing, all in the hopes that Emerson Fittipaldi will find the funds he needs to take over the Georgetown Road shops and run the 2004 Champ Car season. Mr. Patrick will not be back in CART, the team advised, having lost sponsor Visteon at the close of the 2003 campaign, and Jim McGee, the venerable team manager/crew chief is in California somewhere, taking a good vacation.
As for Fittipaldi, he's still looking for the proper funding to take over the assets at Patrick Racing's shops and to run at least one car next year. The former Champ Car, Indy and Formula One champion came late to the party last year, and will likely do so again.
Eric Bachelart is another on the wait-and-see list, but he has tested Frenchman Nelson Philippe and expects to have the Barber Dodge Pro Series driver wring out his Reynard/Ford at Sebring again next week. A shrug of the shoulders was the best we could get from the Belgian, a former CART Indy Lights champion. Bachelart's Conquest Racing shop has much of its crew intact at this time.
Newman/Haas Racing, based close to the Wisconsin border expects to go racing in 2004 and is prepared to do either CART or the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series. The 2002 champs are simply waiting, like the rest of us to find out whether they'll be turning left or left and right with Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais signed for the season. Their preference, from one end of the team to the other, is to remain in CART.
PK Racing has had to shelve Mika Salo's expected test at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca scheduled for later this month due to a supplier problem. A part they needed for the intended flog could not be received in time and they've elected to take the Finn to Sebring the first weekend of February. The entire crew is intact from last year and the team is hoping to find funding to run a second car in the Champ Car World Series.
At Team Canada, aka Forsythe Racing, the work goes on to prepare for the coming season for drivers Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier. The team is intact and they'll likely be testing the first part of next month. Only two guys have left the shop and those departures were expected. The bright sign on Georgetown Road still says "Player's - Forsythe" and hopefully, always will.
In Lansing, Paul Gentilozzi's Rocketsports Racing is gearing up for the new season with a new engineer for Alex Tagliani in Brian Ma, late of Herdez Competition. Gentilozzi is hoping to attract funding for a two-car effort next year and there has been conjecture as to the driver he will hire for that second seat. One thing for sure - it likely will not be Jacques Villeneuve.
Over at Team Rahal, co-owner Bobby Rahal expressed his hope that the 2004 Champ Car season will commence and Michel Jourdain Jr. will continue to move up the points ladder this year from the third-place finish he had in 2003. Sponsor Gigante, as a Mexico-based company is primarily interested in the Champ Car World Series for its marketing purposes.
Derrick Walker has some outside work to do that's keeping his crew busy at his north Indy shops and is waiting to see what happens with CART's court dates. The veteran team owner and manager is hoping to secure sufficient funds to run at least one car in CART this coming season and has already tested three dynamos: Michael Valiante, Jonathan Macri and Timo Glock as he prepares to choose a young pilot to mentor.