If auto racing was like the stick-and-ball sports, we’d be gathering around the TV with friends every February to watch the AFL Championship game, pitting the Patriots against the Texans. In May, we’d be wondering if the Virginia Squires or San Diego Sails would be winning the ABA title. The established powers always seem to prevail, except in racing.
If auto racing was like the stick-and-ball sports, we’d be gathering around the TV with friends every February to watch the AFL Championship game, pitting the Patriots against the Texans. In May, we’d be wondering if the Virginia Squires or San Diego Sails would be winning the ABA title.
The established powers always seem to prevail, except in racing.
The Indy Racing League shot off of CART and last year became the only major open-wheel racing sanctioning body in American after a bloody 12-year war. Before that, CART broke away from established USAC to become the series of record. The Grand American Rolex Series was formed in response to the mismanagement in IMSA, and after a brutal start appears to be winning the sports car tug of war.
In October, we could see Force India win the constructors championship in Formula One.
Last week, the bulk of the existing Formula One teams announced the formation of a breakaway series in response to the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile’s proposed rules package for 2010, one which caps a team’s spending at $65 million annually. Consider that the top teams like Ferrari and McLaren currently pour between $300-450 million into their efforts, and you get an idea of the disparity. Odd as it sounds in the current economic climate, the established powers of F1 are threatening to form a new series so they can spend more money.
F1 has always been the pinnacle of auto racing because of the exotic machinery. No other cars on earth are equipped with the kind of gadgetry like Ferraris and McLarens. Those same operations wish to preserve what’s considered by many to be the backbone of the globe-trotting series. However, the people who oversee and operate Formula One see the writing on the wall – restructuring within the auto manufacturing business – and don’t want any one team outspending their way to world championships.
Pick a side. It’s not easy.
Side with the FIA, which wants to reign spending into the realm of the reasonable ($65 million is still double what it costs to operate a single NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car and more than triple what IndyCar Series owners shell out). Or ally yourself with the teams who want to keep the budgets open, even at the expense of alienating some of their brethren, thus risking a serious reduction in participants.
I fear if there is a fissure in F1, the teams will win in the end.
That’s what history says, anyway.
Speaking of ...
If there is a split in F1-style racing, that opens up the possibility of one or the other returning to North America.
This year is the first time Formula One will not cross the Atlantic, in one form or another, since the series’ inception in 1950 – before the United States Grand Prix at Sebring, the Indianapolis 500 counted toward the world driving championship. The series hasn’t raced in the United States since 2007.
Do not get your hopes up for a return to Watkins Glen, that ship has sailed. The track isn’t F1-ready, and my bet is that parent company International Speedway Corp. isn’t inclined to dump 85 busloads of $100 bills needed to bring it up to European standards.
In all likelihood, F1 or the bastard series would return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the only domestic road course that’s up to par.
Speaking of II ...
The potential of two series in 2010 opens up the possibility of going old-school – open the Indy 500 up to be part of the driving championship again. The Brickyard hasn’t been globally relevant since 1995, but add either F1 or the Ferrari series and suddenly it takes on international prominence again.
I’m safe in assuming the people at IMS would be for it, but European teams have a problem with oval racing. Heck, Michelin couldn’t build a strong enough tire to endure one corner at Indy.
A lot can change: We’re three weeks away from the fifth-annual visit from the IndyCar Series to The Glen, and so far the Penske and Ganassi cars have had their way.
Ryan Briscoe (Penske), Scott Dixon (Ganassi), Dario Franchitti (Ganassi) and Helio Castroneves (Penske) are 1-4 in the standings, and have won each of the first six races. If not for Graham Rahal’s two pole positions, the super teams would have pole positions locked up, too.
However, the next two races are short ovals – and we’re not talking miles, either. Iowa Speedway is .78 miles in length and Richmond International Raceway is .75. If you thought a driver needed a perfect day to win at Texas, one slip at the little tracks could kill your title hopes. Action happens in a smaller frame, which means more chaos. Chaos is good.
These next two weeks might be the best chance for Andretti Green or Panther racing teams to get a win this season, and maybe make the points a little more interesting.
Chris Gill, who covers auto racing for The Leader, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.