Sunday, July 27, 2008

Zeppelin von Champ Car

Obviously the face of Open Wheel Racing has changed dramatically since the Spring of 2006, which was also Pre-No Fenders…

Yet, interestingly, on Monday following the Roadster Show, RuSPORT announced new primary sponsorship for Justin’s No. 9 Champ Car, with new primary sponsorship from CDW, while just two days later, (Wednesday) Oriel Servia was signed to replace Cristiano “What’s duh Matter?” da Matta at PKV Racing as the ever growing Black Hole nebulous shadow of the Zeppelin von Champ Car was ever increasing in size.

Meanwhile Captain Kevin “Smiley-Face” Kalkhoven and Co-pilot Jerry “What me Worry?” Forsythe were busy sawing away at the recalcitrant controls… “Drop ballast, All hands to the left side of the Gondola, Schnell- Schnell!

Thus, here’s a quick all speed reverse look back from the surviving members of the Zeppelin von Chump Carzs… As ironically Toyota was sponsoring the Long Beach GP, although they had Pulled-Out” of all open wheel racing in the US after having their BUTTS SPANKED by the then dominant Honda Indy engine. Nevertheless Toyota has retained its title sponsorship of the LBGP and actually had CCWS’s LARGEST field in quite some time in the series swan song this April… You know, when we had that most PATHETIC two Open Wheel races in two countries on the same weekend!

Dale Coyne Racing
Cristiano Da Matta/Mario Dominguez
Jan Heylen

Simply known as the little team that could! Coyne recognized early in his driving career that perhaps he’d be better suited to taking the route traveled by such luminaries as Penske, Haas and Ganassi… As in focusing upon the managerial side of the fence, Ahem Mr. Roth!

The team started off with brilliant performances by Cristiano Da Matta who was making his return to the series after driving for Toyota in Formula 1, while rookie Jan “Van Hagar” Heylen was also busy impressing in the under funded Sonny’s Barbeque car.

Forsythe Championship Racing
Paul Tracy
Mario Dominguez/AJ Almendinger/David Martinez

Not sure what to say about Mr. Forsythe, as I was led to believe that many of CCWS’s problems stemmed from Paul Gentilozzi’s mis-management. (Can you say SCCA Pro Racing Trans Am?) Yet it was Forsythe who had sour grapes and left Paul Tracy standing at the altar upon the “Uni-fish-ication” of Open Wheel Racing this February.

And while Mr. Chrome Horn was without a doubt the team leader, after the incredulous firing of AJ “Wall-Dinger,” the Californian got engaged, hired by Forsythe and went on to win his first of five races that season in a span of just ten days. Yet, once again another “Yank” went for the easy money and DEFECTED to RASSCAR for 2007 behind the wheel of “Juan ‘O” Deeter Majestic’s Toy-yoter’s.

MiJack Conquest RacingAndrew Ranger
Charles Zwolsman Jr.

This team has been owned by Eric Bachelart with long-time partner and “Money-man” Mike Lanigan of MiJack, before ultimately splitting to become the third wheel (Amigo) at the reformulated Newman Haas Lanigan Racing outfit in 2007, which saw Bachelart scramble to scrape by with a one car effort in Champ Car’s penultimate season.

And perhaps its just me, but I’m sure that everyone would prefer to see the three “KUH-NUCK” racing drivers Andrew Ranger, Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy pounding’ round Edmonton City’s Centre INSTEAD of Marty “Gerritol” Roth, eh?

Newman Haas RacingSebastian Bourdais
Bruno Junqueira

What can I say about one of Champ Car’s most DOMINANT teams, which would ultimately see The Hamburgular (S. Bourdais) re-write the history books on his way to an unprecedented four consecutive championships before departing for Formula 1.

Yet “Junky” was back (literally) from his surgically repaired backside, grabbing pole position ahead of Almendinger with Sea Bass and Wilson starting on row two as it was most impressive of Newman/Haas to have returned Bruno to his seat in what would ultimately be his last season at N/H, while current driver Graham Rahal was then toiling away in the Atlantics championship and would finish runner-up to Simon Pagenaud, who’s now co-driving Gil DeFerran’s ALMS Acura LMP2 prototype.

PKV RacingOriel Servia
Katherine Legge

The 2006 Long Beach, CA race was the venue of team co-owner and 1996 Champ Car Champion Jimmy Vasser’s unofficial final start at that years Long Beach race, before coming back for another “One-off” Champ Car farewell drive aboard a third KV Racing Technology entry this April.

If memory serves me correctly? (Shush! Danny!) This was the weekend that Servia demolished NOT one but two Lola tubs and actually raced aboard Legge’s back-up chassis, of which the team mockingly made reference to with a sticker adorning the racecar’s nose. Servia would be unceremoniously dumped from the team the following season, only to return once again for this year’s season, while Legge, who still has MORE major career wins then somebody named Princess… Is now keeping busy giving Ralfanso (Ralf Schumacher) grief in the German DTM series.

Justin Wilson
AJ Almendinger/Cristiano Da Matta

Of course everybody remembers RuSPORT, eh? As this was the year that team owner Carl Russo did the unthinkable and FIRED the driver he’d built the team around… As AJ Almendinger was let go to make way for Da Matta who in turn was replaced at Dale Coyne by Mario “BOOM BOOM” Dominguez… As Mario had lost favour at Forsythe after punting PT twice out of races in the first four events and would ultimately get the short straw in the three driver Monty.

Sadly, Da Matta would nearly perish in the freakish testing accident at Road America later that summer, when a wayward Deer decided to high jump the 8’ fence topped with barbed wire… Hmm? Perhaps this critter should be competing in Beijing shortly?

Da Matta has since made a full recovery and competed for Bob Stallings Grand Am team in a second Daytona Prototype co-driven by ex-boss/teammate/friend Jimmy Vasser at Laguna Seca this May.

After Da Matta’s nightmarish testing accident, Russo effectively threw in the towel in what started the team’s way towards eventual shut-down, as Kalkhoven enticed former business partner Dan Pettit to purchase the team for ’07. After a lackluster season, Pettit closed RuSPORT’s doors in order to join forces with Gerald Forsyte in the reconstituted Forsythe/Pettit Racing for 2008, when the team effectively threw Paul Tracy under the bus…

Ironically Forsythe/Pettit Racing was busy contesting the Formula Atlantic championship in Alberta this weekend with Canadian James Hinchcliffeand Mexican David Garza.

Also, FPR apparently announced on July 15th that they would be joining the Firestone Indy Lights championship in 2009 and are now also close to announcing deals to compete in both Indy Car and ALMS next year...

Team Australia
Alex Tagliani
Will Power

The Team Aussie set-up was made by long time racer Derrick Walker, who gained an infusion of cash from new team co-owner Craig Gore, who unceremoniously split with Will Power to the cozier confines of KV Racing Technology this season.

Thus it seems a tad ironic that Walker is trying to once again resurrect his Indy Car aspirations out of a “One-off” race with Paul Tracy behind the wallet of Tony George and his third Vision Racing Dallara chassis, as the Subway car hopes to keep itself “Fresh” the entire weekend, as Tracy has clearly been the fastest of the three Vision drivers… Along with being the oldest! Good luck PT and Derrick and watch your backsides… As some dude named EJ (NOT Ernesto) Viso may wanna borrow your pit stall, eh?

Hopefully, Tony George and Indy Car will do the RIGHT thing and re-instate Portland to the 2009 Indy Car World Series calendar, which as I’ve previously noted will be the 100th Anniversary of the FIRST Indy Car race…