Saturday, March 1, 2008

Rotten apples (Part 3)

So, while Emperor Bernardo has molded Formula 1 into a fairly conducive, single, unified racing series which is arguably the pinnacle of motorsports today, will Open Wheel racing manage to resurrect itself? As fortunately it appears that the main protagonists; The Four Moosketeers vs. ‘lil Napoleon have finally come to their senses and look set to do the right thing for the sport of Open Wheel Racing, (well at least “Juan” Mooseketeer, eh?) which noted soothsayer Robin Miller has been urging them to do for years. And what was that famous saying the Musketeers once cried; One for all and All for One…

Yet, even with this long overdue consolidation, sadly, I find Pat the Carpenter’s analogy the most forthright towards the current plight of Open Wheel racing…

Carpentier said he loves open-wheel racing and is happy to see the two series moving toward reunification. But he's never going back.
Do they make some sort of skin patch to help drivers quit the open-wheel habit?
"Yeah," Carpentier said. "They kind of split the patch in half - that's what helped me."

And while the nonsense of He said, She said continues to roll along in the Open Wheel Racing arena, I find it interesting that the various lynch pins of the IRL have decided to cover their bases (Arses) by diversifying their racing portfolios, as they’ve all taken up the opportunity of running Sports Car programs. Yet, just like the CART/INDY Split, not even all of the Indycar interlopers can decide on which separated Endurance car series to contest. Because sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t! As these big boys try to figure out whether to race in the ALMS, Grand Am or both, yet just like the Open Wheel divide, these two racing series remain at loggerheads with each other as their rift is eerily similar, with the France’s holding the crown jewel, the Rolex 24 hostage while Honda supports the European rules style formula instead. And although I guess you could claim that Grand Am is the IRL and ALMS is the CART (Champ Car) of endurance racing, the ALMS is most definitely doing better than Champ Car at the moment.

Currently three Indycar Team owners are contesting the ALMS, as Roger Penske fields two Porsche RS Spyders in the LMP2 category and won a record eight events overall last year, defeating the mighty Audi’s. Michael Andretti runs a single car Acura factory backed effort in LMP2, while Bobby Rahal has previously run a brace of Porsche 911’s in the GT2 category and will spearhead BMW’s return in 2009 with a two car M3 factory effort.

Also joining the party is ex-IRL Team owner Adrian Fernandez, who’s made the switch to racing an Acura in the LMP2 class, while Penske alumnus Gil De Ferran will begin his own Sports Car operation in order to campaign a fourth Acura in LMP2 against his prodigy, The Captain. And let’s not forget Bobby Rahal’s favourite racing driver Scott sharp who’s taken his tequila bottle with him to Highcroft Racing.

Meanwhile Chip Ganassi has just become the first Team owner in Grand Am to complete a Hat Trick for overall victory at the Daytona 24 Hours, as the Cheepster has been contesting the Daytona Prototype category since the class’s inception.

An not wishing to be out staged by his TCGR rival, Penske has just made his first trip back to the Daytona 24 Hours enduro for the first time in 35 years, running a joint effort program with Wayne Taylor Racing.

Yet, who has suffered the most from this agonizingly pathetic war of Northern Aggression? Yeah, we the fans did, along with the drivers and respective team personnel, as with no disrespect to the current crop of participants, Both the Champ Car and Indy Racing League seem watered down.

Indycar has potentially six really big names (Stars) Marco Andretti, Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon, although Briscoe is an unknown quantity and the jury’s still out on Marco and the Princess, with Ganassi having hired Indy Pro Series Champion Alex Lloyd to a part time schedule. Jay Penske’s satellite operation, Luczo Dragon Racing will campaign Tomas Scheckter for three races, while Darren Manning and Vitor Meira continue to persevere with their respective mounts. Obviously Meira is a blue chip prospect, since Newman Haas Lanigan went after his services prior to the takeover, Err, merger. And I left out another CART alumnus, Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Meanwhile Champ Car was even more of a mystery as the reigning four time consecutive Champion Sebastian Bourdais bolted in favour of Formula 1, thus leaving Paul Tracy as the series only remaining bonified big name. (And we know what his loyalty to Gerald Forsythe and CART/Champ Car got him as he now scrambles to find a ride in Indy Car) Although Justin Wilson looks set to inherit the moniker of superstar upon taking the Hamburgular’s seat at N/H/L alongside the talented 19yr old American Graham Rahal, son of three time CART Champion Bobby Rahal.

And not to be left out of the spotlight, Oriel Servia and Alex Tagliani certainly are fan favourites, while Will Power is certainly a future star of Champ Car (Err, Indy Car) along with Robert Doornbos and Simon Pagenaud, while Bruno Junqueira may still have some spunk left in his tank. Yet the problem for both of these series (primarily Champ Car) is the revolving door syndrome, where one has needed to always have an extra score card on hand in order to keep tally on who’s behind the wheel? As the three aforementioned drivers are still waiting to be announced along with their respective rides in the Indy Car World Series, as obviously this newly created single unified Open Wheel Racing series was needed in eons ago in order to stem the flow of any remaining blood, as the STUPIDITY OF BOTH BLOODY TURNIPS (Sanctioning bodies) has seen that monstrosity, the 800lb Gorilla, better known as RASSCAR become the “Premiere” motorsports entity in North Americana, which PAINS me greatly!

As a famous namesake and elder Sprint Cup driver has noted: It’s just a lot of talk, no action. According to Kyle Petty, who has watched NASCAR's popularity lap open-wheel racing since it split into two rival series in the mid-1990s.
"It's almost like watching things going in with diplomacy in foreign countries, where you think, 'OK, now we're going to have a break in this,' and you never have a break," Petty said. "It's getting to the point now where they've cried 'reunification' enough that no one really pays attention."
“And they’ll still be in a major hole; “Now they’ve got to go head to head with [NASCAR], you’ve got to go head to head with drag racing, you’ve got to go head to head with a lot. It’s like opening up a coffee shop next to Starbucks. I mean, how successful can you be?”

Well Kyle, it appears they’ve finally done it… Although one has to agree with Kevin Kalkhoven’s statement that “Unification isn’t the magic bullet” to solve all of the previous woes of Open Wheel Racing and yes indeed, now the hard work begins… Geez, who’d a thunk it, that I’d actually agree with something Messer glass half full said, eh?

But it’s also worth noting that the crux of Open Wheel Racing’s lack of success can be summed up by the architect of CART, when Dan Gurney surmised in his original White Paper 30 years ago;

Formula 1 succeeds because it has a divine ruling presence in Bernie Ecclestone whom all of the teams have given 100% control over to.

This differs greatly compared to the Top heavy elitist’s who only play in American Open Wheel Racing to win on their terms. Thus, is Tony George the right man for the job? Is he the next best thing to Bernie Ecclestone? Will RASSCAR continue to suck the lifeblood out of Open Wheel Racing in its quest for domination?

I suspect that it’ll bee two steps forward and one step backwards as only time will tell. Yet, I believe that there’s still a market for a solid Open Wheel Racing series which differentiates itself greatly from King Kong. Since Tony George was one of the main protagonists to get us in this mess, the ball is now firmly in his court and it will be largely up to him to drag Open Wheel Racing from the abyss…

Note to Kyle Petty from the coffee capitol of the nation, while reports claim that java sales have declined; NOT everybody likes $tarbucks!