CHAMPCAR/CART: News abounds from Long Beach

There was so much news from the Champ Car World Series Season Premiere in Long Beach, CA that it's tough to know where to start delineating it. Owners OWRS finally clarified new television package with production facilities and the direction of...

There was so much news from the Champ Car World Series Season Premiere in Long Beach, CA that it's tough to know where to start delineating it. Owners OWRS finally clarified new television package with production facilities and the direction of rules that will surely enhance competition. Teams divulged modern support programs to benefit themselves and their community. There are new and enthusiastic backers coming into the CCWS and others staying with the reformulated group.

In addition to newcomers announced yesterday, like Nextel International Inc. (NII) aligning with PKV Racing, Jimmy Vasser's newest business and competitive venture, LeasePlan joining Rocketsports Racing and driver Nelson Philippe, there were plenty of interesting developments announced today.

The barrage of information began with Team Rahal's vow to put all their emphasis on the championship hopes of third year driver Michel Jourdain Jr., again with Gigante and Office Depot on board their Lola.

After that, Fernandez unveiled its new Lola car, which trades Tecate backing for "Visit Mexico" sponsorship from the country's tourism board. Both Fernandez and Rahal will continue as single-car teams in 2004.

Newman/Haas Racing had plenty of news this morning, showing off a brace of Lolas for Bruno Junqueira (PacifiCare) and Sebastien Bourdais (McDonald's). The latter agreement is a three-year pact for the team, which had the fast- foot giant on board for three races last year. McDonald's is using the cooperative branding between Newman's Own salad dressing of team co-owner Paul Newman to help increase sales through Champ Car.

RuSPORT, joining the Champ Car World Series after a single year in Toyota Atlantic, where they managed to take the title with ladder-climbing A.J. Allmendinger, completes the ascent in Champ Car, bringing sponsorship with BG Products, a lubricants company. Allmendinger has personal sponsorship with Red Bull, and will wear their familiar red, yellow, blue logo on his helmet.

Even before the teams present revealed their plans and logos, Champ Car World Series revealed plans that should benefit the organization's competition. There was plenty to announce.

Push-to-pass will be used by drivers for a decreed 60 seconds over the term of a race in the hopes of eliminating follow-the-leader parades. This will add about 50 horsepower (about 2.5 inches of pressure from the turbo), with the system coming on about 85% throttle and stop when boost falls below that point.

Both teams and fans will be able to monitor usage of push-to-pass which will enhance strategy, OWRS believes. The system will get its first test later this week at Firebird International Raceway southeast of Phoenix, AZ.

Races will be shortened a bit more than 10%, while teams will get one additional set of tires as a "use or lose" proposition, hoping to get more cars out of the pits during Friday practice. Standing starts were considered but not adopted at this time.

The next gen Champ Car will appear no earlier than 2006, OWRS declared, giving teams a couple of years to amortize their cars.

Confirming one of the worst kept secrets in racing, Champ Car World Series introduced Betelgeuse Productions of New York as their production company on all broadcasts for 2004, hiring one of the most respected producers in the business. The firm is new to motorsports but has worked with the NBA and NFL.

Spike TV, carried in 86 million homes will televise all Champ Car races and will carry each at 4PM Sunday, no matter the time zone. A half-hour pre-show will precede the Sunday telecast. HDNet, which produced and broadcast the Mario Andretti Grand Prix of Road America last year will present live practice, qualifying, interview, pre-race and race shows..

Using high definition cameras for all broadcast media, crispness and quality will go up in all formats, including old-style televisions and wide format HD offers added graphics and statistics to be shown over the air.

Viacom, which owns Spike intends to market the broadcasts to its own partners like CBS and MTV, and viewers will be able to watch Tommy Kendall in the booth with Bob Jenkins, who rejoins Champ Car after a long spell with IRL. Derek Daly is the pit reporter and Bronte Tagliani, Alex's wife will do lifestyle reports.

A pay-per-month version of Champ Car telecasts will be available for $9.95, patterned after the NASCAR model. It will include practice, qualifying, interviews, pre-race and race content available worldwide. The first month is free. Global Media Services, also out of NY, will operate the series website.

The two-day Season Premiere concluded this evening with a Fan Fest that included pit stop demonstrations by the partially assembled Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit, which hosts the Champ Car World Series season starter April 16-18. The weekend will mark the 30th race on the Long Beach streets and includes Motorock Trans-Am and Toyota Atlantic support series.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Mario Andretti , Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Derek Daly , Nelson Philippe , Michel Jourdain , Tommy Kendall