KV Racing's Oriol Servia taking hot laps at the former CCWS teams test of IRL gear at Sebring, Florida - Registers fastest lap on final day. Image Credit: Shawn Payne via IndyCar.com
CCWS Attrition Turns To IRL Churn
At the beginning of the week, last week, things were looking pretty bleak for the fortunes of ChampCar’s transition into the IndyCar 2008 season.
By Tuesday of last week, only two teams had declared officially, and convinced the directors of the Indianapolis Racing League of their viability to be able to show up for the first race to be held at Homestead-Miami Raceway on March 29th, 2008. Truth is that the two teams were actually one full team – Newman/Haas/Lanigan, and two half teams forming from a combining of resources to run under the Conquest Racing name – Conquest Racing and Forsythe Racing (which had previously announced that it would not be able to field a team effort one week earlier).
This lack of participation from the field of ten ChampCar teams not only made the “merger” announcement on February 21, 2008 seem a little hollow, it was going to make one of the most respected temporary street races run through the streets of Long Beach be little more than a funeral procession for the vitality of unification. Adding fuel to this perception … the IRL has yet, to this day, to note this IRL sanctioned race on its schedule or anywhere on its webpage.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week saw the declaration and movement of ChampCar teams increase to the point the driver roster for the IRL 2008 season lists 26 drivers. This represents one of the largest rosters for a premiere international open-wheel racing series. Five seats will be occupied with drivers from the former ChampCar Series (from a real potential of 14 drivers of 20 that drove in 2007 – 6 drivers from last year have declared to run in other racing series).
Six former Champ Car entries took part in their first IRL IndyCar Series test, which began at Sebring, Wednesday 3-19-2008, with KV Racing's Will Power setting the quickest time. Image Credit: autosport.com
With the announcements of intention run in the 2008 season from Walker Racing - now declared out and threating to sue, HVM Racing (the remains of the Minardi Team USA), KV Racing (formally PKV Racing with one-half team funding provided by former Walker partner), Conquest, and Dale Coyne showing up to test at Sebring with two cars each (still undeclared are Pacific Coast Motorsports, Rocketsports, and RuSPORT) the driver roster could balloon to an additional two or three seats, maybe more.
The roster for the Homestead-Miami season opener released yesterday (3-20-2008) includes the following transitioning teams and drivers.
The total number of teams to transition in time for the first race is 5 (6 if one accounts for Forsythe combining forces with Conquest).
The total number of cars/drivers fielded is 9 of the 26.
The total number of CCWS Drivers to transition for the first race with IndyCar Series gear is 5 (Will Power & Oriol Servia - KV Racing Justin Wilson & Graham Rahal - Newman/Hass/Lanigan Bruno Junquiera - Dale Coyne Racing). The other four drivers are new to the highest level of American Style professional open-wheel racing (Franck Perera & Enrique Bernoldi - Conquest [and Forsythe] Ernesta Viso - HVM [formerly Minardi Team USA] Mario Morales - Dale Coyne Racing), however it has to be noted that Franck Perera was a former Champion of the Atlantic Series, feederseries to the CCWS and is familiar with many of the American Style CCWS venues.
One of KV Racing's Aussie Vineyard’s Dallara chassis driven by Will Power getting a good working over in the pits at the Sebring test. Image Credit: Shawn Payne via IndyCar.com
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach racing plans – information from various sources.
FROM The Talkback Pages at IndyCar.com:
LBGP is the ChampCar Farewell
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach 2008 is the farewell to ChampCar race. As far as I know it will be sanctioned by Champ Car World Series not the Indy Racing League. Indycar points are being paid so that former Champcar drivers don't fall behind in the IndyCar championship. With the Motegi conflict and the short time involved they simply couldn't transform the race into a proper Indycar event.
As of today 16 Champ cars are confirmed for Long Beach per this article:
That is only 1 car less than last years count is it not?
Enjoy the LBGP for what it is a farewell to Champ car. And come back and enjoy a bigger better show in 2009. :)
This excerpted and edited from the Long Beach Press Telegram –
Michaelian extends LBGP passion to fans
Doug Krikorian, Sports columnist - Article Launched: 03/14/2008 12:02:24 AM PDT
Civic-minded Jim Michaelian never has had political aspirations.
The fact that he's been heavily involved in a major downtown open wheel car race since its inception in 1975 - it's now known as the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - might have something to do with such feelings.
Still, Mr. Michaelian is always working feverishly on behalf of Long Beach, the latest proof of which is the extra downtown activities he has instituted 72 hours before the race that will be free to the citizenry and that is geared to getting all segments of the society involved in this city's biggest annual attraction.
The Long Beach Grand Prix no longer can be called a three-day extravaganza.
It's a four-day one now with its proceedings this year starting on Thursday at 11 a.m. with the inductions of Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones and Gary Gabelich (posthumously) on the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on Pine Avenue in front of the Convention Center.
After that, there will be a potpourri of events to sate the appetite of not only racing patrons, but also those who have a special fascination for fish, as the popular Shark Lagoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific will be open to the public between 6 and 9 p.m. and even will include live music.
For the first time in the history of the Long Beach race, cars also will be zipping around the 11-turn, 1.97-mile course on Thursday, as both the sports and drifting ones will be doing practice laps between 3 and 5:45.
"And what's nice is people can come out and watch and there is absolutely no cost," says Michaelian proudly. "And between 3 and 6, our Lifestyle and Alternative Energy Expo at the Convention Center also will be open to the public. And so will the paddocks where the people can get an up-close glimpse at the inner-workings of the racing teams."
And, of course, what has become a hallowed affair - natch, it's known by the corporate handle of Tecate's Thursday Thunder on Pine.
Jim Michaelian has been quite excited ever since Champ Car and the IRL merged - and that he was assured that Champ Car would be making its final appearance at the 34th Long Beach Grand Prix.
16 Champ Cars already are committed for Long Beach.
Alas, Champ Car's highest profile driver, Paul Tracy, four-time winner here, still doesn't have a ride.
The only woman ever to race for Champ Car, Katherine Legge - she was in the past two Long Beach Grand Prixs - is now participating on the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) circuit. I look for the affable Great Britain native to one day return to open-wheel racing.
Paul Tracy, sitting the first race of the Indianapolis Racing League series season on March 29, 2008 out. Image Credit: autosport.com
And the latest Churn happenings on Paul Tracy from AutoSport –
Tracy resigned to missing IRL opener
By Matt Beer - AutoSport - Friday, March 21st 2008, 10:18 GMT
Paul Tracy says he has resigned himself to missing the IRL IndyCar Series opener at Homestead next weekend, and admits that the only open wheel race he currently has lined up is the Champ Car finale at Long Beach.
"My options right now are pretty limited," Tracy told Indianapolis radio station 1070 The Fan.
"I've got to sort my contract situation out with Forsythe and we haven't been able to achieve that yet.”
"I could get in a car right now and do it, but it's not going to happen by (Homestead) next week. As of right now, the only time I know I'm going to be in a car is at Long Beach, and from there I don't know. I'd like to be in an IndyCar, I'd like to be in a good car and to have the opportunity to run at Indy.”
"Right now, I don't have any options in an IndyCar, but there are some options to do some stuff in Grand-Am and hopefully do some Nationwide races, like the race in Canada.”
"With my contract I can race other stuff, but I'd like to go IndyCar racing, and I can't get an answer out of my team."
Finally, I talked with Pacific Coast Motorsports President & Team Director, Tyler Tadevic, on the phone Wednesday (3-19-2008) and things haven't gelled together as hoped just yet. The intention is to be able to get there with a full two car team for the season.
PCM is already committed to Formula Atlantic with a two car effort for the season and nothing has changed there.
I know Tyler wants to be able to keep the structure of team and drivers he had going into the 2008 CCWS season. It strikes me that a discussion and match-up with Paul Tracy and his 4 million dollar sponsor, Monster Energy (Forsythe and Conquest are full with two drivers) just might get the team over the top - I am just talking from afar so don't think that I know anything ... again just talking.
… notes from The EDJE