Thursday, January 25, 2007

Night and Day

Thanks to the fantastic 2007 racing calendar over at Fastest Lap, I realised just in time to follow it, that, one week on from the Monte, the Endurance racing season kicked off this weekend in the rather milder climes of Florida.

I was speculating a couple of weeks ago on whether Jacques Villeneuve might equal Graham Hill's so far unique achievement of winning at Le Mans and Indy, as well as taking a Formula 1 World Championship. I was taking it as read that Le Mans is the world's premier 24 hour race, but the more I think about it, the less sure I really am.

It all rather depends on how one chooses to determine these things. If we're talking about the race with the longest, most illustrious history - the one that will be the most familiar to man on the street, then there's no doubt its Le Mans. If we're talking about the race with the fastest, most technically interesting, and in the case of the new Peugeot 908, damned beautiful cars, then, once again, Le Mans wins hands down. If, on the other hand, what you really care about is how open the race is - how many potential winners there are, and how many really first-rate drivers are in the field, then I'd say Daytona comes out comfortably ahead.

Let's face it, realistically, if you're not in a Peugeot or an Audi this year, you are not going to win Le Mans. Come to that, you're probably not going to win it if you're not in an Audi, and that has been the case for the last seven years or so. By contrast, it was rather more difficult to pick a winner from among the 28+ cars entered in the Grand-Am DP class at Daytona this year. One might well argue that the Chip Ganassi Riley-Lexuses would be where the smart money would go, but that would be to ignore an awful lot of other potential winners. Brumos or Michael Shank Racing could certainly have been winners with Riley-Porsches, Alex Job Racing , Howard Motorsports and Cheever Racing must be amongst those who were in with a shot with a Crawford, even if received wisdom has it that the Riley is the chassis to have at Daytona.

The DP cars themselves? Well they're not quite Spec-racers, but they aren't especially technically complex, and certainly calling them prototypes is something of an abuse of the word. Slightly odd looking little stubby things, with a rev-limited 500BHP, they are to my mind more than a little reminiscent of the old C2-class Tigas and Argos from sports car racing's second golden age in the 1980s. On the other hand, they're easy enough to drive that a competent amateur can go reasonably quickly in one, they have little enough downforce that they actually slide around a fair bit, and on a track like Daytona, they're actually quite a spectacle.

The overall quality of the driver line-up at this year's event was remarkably impressive too. From NASCAR came Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Juan-Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and others. From IRL came Sam Hornish Jr, Tomas Scheckter, Helio Castroneves and Dan Wheldon, to name but a few, while Champ Car provided Paul Tracey and the recently departed AJ Allmendinger. Also on hand were a host of ex-F1 drivers, such as Max Papis, JJ Lehto, Jan Magnussen, Tomas Enge and Roberto Moreno. And that's not to mention the established sportscar pros, who were of course out in number - Andy Wallace, Wayne Taylor, Scott Pruett, Sascha Maassen and Butch Leitzinger, for instance.

The result was an Endurance race which was much more interesting, and much more of a genuine contest than Le Mans has been for many a year. Dan Gurney's eldest son, Alex, got the pole and led the early laps, before falling victim to an incident involving a backmarker Porsche. SunTrust racing's Max Angelelli was next to take up the baton. The Brumos Porsche took the fight to Ganassi and SAMAX for a while and as the hours ticked by, though many of the fancied runners fell by the wayside or encountered problems of one kind or another, there was two way fight right to the end. The Ganassi Riley-Lexus of Montoya, Salvador Duran and Scott Pruett traded places throughout the second half of the race with the SAMAX Riley-Pontiac of Patrick Carpentier, Darren Manning, Ryan Dalziel and Milka Duno. In the end, the Ganassi car came out ahead after 24 hours - but by only just over a minute. A small enough margin, that might have been even closer had the SAMAX car had 4 real first rate drivers, as Duno was never on the pace of the other 3. For Montoya, and for fans of esoteric records, there was the added bonus of becoming the first driver ever to win the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the Daytona 24 hours. Who knows, he might even add the Daytona 500 when he comes back in February, although its probably a little too early for that.

So, a good start to the road racing season in the US then. How many 24 hour races have been decided by such small margins? The favourite might have won, but it wasn't half a race. Let's hope its a portent of things to come this season.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Green shoots of recovery?

In the early 1990s, there was an economic recession in Britain.  The
people, as they are wont to do when things go wrong, blamed the government. Stuck for any more sensible answer, the government of the time chose at first simply to deny that there was a recession at all. When this line became
untenable in the face of overwhelming evidence, they instead began to
tell us that the corner had been turned, and that we were now enjoying the "green shoots of recovery". Spring, one might
say, was a long time coming, and the phrase became something of a
running joke.

It was a strangely comic little episode that came back to me with the
beginning of the 2007 World Rally Championship this weekend. ISC, who
own the rights to the series, have spent a lot of time denying that
there is anything wrong whatsoever with the World Rally Championship.
After a season in which 15 of the 16 wins were shared between just 2
drivers, and only 2 full works teams were involved, that has become a
rather hard line to maintain. So now we are hearing that the worst is
over, and that the 2007 season will be an altogether more close fought

Well, maybe... There are, however, still only three full manufacturer
teams this year. Citroen are back as a full works team, with their new
C4. In a sense, they were never really away, as there was little doubt
that they were pulling a lot of the strings for Kronos last year, in an
effort to keep Sebastien Loeb from heading off elsewhere in search of a
competitive ride. Ford, and Subaru, of course, are still around.
However, just as last year, each of those three teams has only one
really established star driver. Sebastien Loeb, with his three straight
titles, needs no introduction. The same can be said of former champions,
Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg. But their number two
drivers? Of those, only Mikko Hirvonen has ever actually won a round of
the championship - and even then only because Loeb missed Rally
Australia last year, and Gronholm crashed out. Dani Sordo, over at
Citroen, is to my mind ultimately a more promising prospect than
Hirvonen, having won
the Junior WRC two years ago, but has only ever really impressed on
tarmac. Chris Atkinson strikes me as a rather eccentric choice for
Subaru, but the team have stuck with him for another year. He's proved
quick from time to time, but has been crash-prone to an extent that even

a young Colin McRae would have struggled to match.

Having said that, on the evidence of the Monte this year, perhaps the
understudies will be a little closer to their illustrious team mates
this year. I've never been especially enthusiastic about Mikko Hirvonen,

and have heard stories that he only got the drive at Ford because he
came with a truckload of cash, but he seemed nearer to Gronholm's pace
than was the case last year. Dani Sordo appeared to give an
admittedly below-par Loeb a run for his money at the front, although
whether either driver was really being allowed to fight is an open
question. Such was Citroen's margin of superiority in the Ardeche last
weekend, it is hard to know whether we saw anything more than a
demonstration run from the two drivers. In the end, it was Atkinson who
did best of the
trio, beating Petter Solberg fair and square, and mixing it with the
faster Ford of
Hirvonen into the bargain. For once, he didn't fall off the road and
finished a very creditable 4th, equalling his best finish of last year.

All the same, there are an awful lot of young, seemingly talented rally
drivers who might be more obvious candidates for the number 2 drives.
Its a
shame that third cars have become so uncommon over the last couple of
seasons, thanks to changes in the way manufacturer points are scored.
Were they not, surely somebody would be tempted to give Gigi Galli a
drive, for example. Its nice to see Jari-Matti Latvala getting a
full-time ride in the second-string Stobart Ford team, but, having seen
him in
action in the British championship from time to time, I can't help
feeling he's worthy of a full works seat. Jan Kopecky did a good job of
hustling the two year old Skoda Fabia into the points last weekend, and
is perhaps worthy of better equipment. All the same, the most striking
thing about
the Monte Carlo entry list is the number of really promising drivers
absent from it. Such is the lack of full works teams that there was no
place on it, for instance, for Francois Duval, Daniel Carlson and Janne
Tuohino. And that's to say nothing of the guys who have impressed in the
JWRC over the pastcouple of years, like Kris Meeke, Per-Gunnar Anderson,
Guy Wilks and Patrick Sandell. The trouble these drivers have is that,
to a much greater extent than is the case in circuit racing, it takes
time to become competitive at the top level in rally driving. Even the
supernaturally talented - the likes of Sebastien Loeb
and Petter Solberg, took a few seasons to find their feet before
launching a championship bid. Loeb was instantly quick on tarmac, but
took time to find real pace on tarmac. To some extent, the reverse was
true of Petter Solberg, though it is fair to say he took longer to make
an impact anyway. Currently, the big works teams (Citroen aside) seem
happier to run a reasonably experienced journeyman in their number two
seat than to take their chances with a less-than-mature talent.

So is the World Championship in any better state than last year? Well, I

suppose Jari-Matti Latvala's place at Stobart is worth something, and
Sordo will be more of a threat now he has a season's experience to draw
on, but overall, it still looks pretty weak. On one crude measure things
have improved. Last year, under the old SupeRally rules,
Loeb dropped five minutes and still finished second. Add a five minute
penalty to his winning time this year, and he wouldn't even have made
the points.

Overall, though, the lack of strength in depth in the series
is at its worst since the late eighties, after the abolition of Group B,

when Lancia basically had the sport to themselves for a few years. That
time round, it was understandable. Group B had been cancelled suddenly,
and its proposed replacement, Group S, had gone the same way, with the
formula that replaced it - Group A, looking decidedly unexciting by
comparison. It was not surprising that manufacturers were reluctant to
commit to the sport with such uncertainty about the future rules. This
time round, there is no such easy explanation.

The WRC rules have been around for the best part of a decade, there is
no need to go to the trouble of producing 5000 road cars, as used to be
the case, and yet still the manufacturers stay away. Other than the
anticipated entry of Suzuki into the series later in the year, there is
little sign that any of this is going to change in the immediate future
either. Green shoots of recovery? I suspect we could be a long time
waiting for the flowers to bloom.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Grand Slams and Quadruple Crowns - Villeneuve Goes to Le Mans

So Jacques Villeneuve is going to Peugeot to race at Le Mans. After all the talk of his going to NASCAR, he has decided that his year will instead focus on June in La Sarthe. This is good news, I think, for the race itself. In recent years, topline rally drivers, Colin McRae and Sebastien Loeb, have turned their hand to the event and generated plenty of publicity for a race which, thanks to Volkswagen Audi Group's domination since the turn of the century, has not been at its most exciting. A formula one world champion though? Its been a while since a top line F1 driver has had a go at Le Mans. Plenty of drivers try Le Mans as junior drivers - Michael Schumacher raced for Mercedes there in 1990, Mark Webber did the same ten years later. Eddie Irvine came close to winning the event for Toyota in 1993 and 1994, and Johnny Herbert actually did win for Mazda in 1991. But bona fide F1 stars, guys with world championships to their name? To my memory, the last to appear on the entry list was Mario Andretti, back in 2000. By that time, he was 60 years old, and driving a Panoz, so there wasn't much chance of him achieving a great deal, but Le Mans was an itch he had tried to scratch several times before, never quite succeeding.

He first came to the race in 1983, paired with his young son Michael Andretti and equally precocious Frenchman Alliot. In a Porsche 956, they finished 3rd at their first attempt. Andretti would be back a few years later with his son Michael joined by brother John, attempting to win the race as a family. That time, they could only manage 6th overall. It would be late on in his career, once he had retired from the Champ Car World Series, that he would come closest to winning at Le Mans. In 1995, against a motley grid of hamstrung prototypes and GT cars, Andretti partnered Bob Wollek and Eric Helary to second place in a Courage C34 Porsche. Even allowing for the rain, which played into the hands of the Mclaren GT runners, the race ought to have been his for the taking, but an incident between Andretti and a rent-a-driver in a GT car lost them time and handed Mclaren its only Le Mans victory.

What is interesting is why Mario Andretti kept going back to Le Mans well into his 6th decade, and long after he had stopped racing in any other category. The answer: unfinished business. Andretti had the F1 world championship, and the Indy 500 to his name, and he very much wanted to add victory at Le Mans to his list of achievements - the motor racing equivalent of the Grand Slam. He never did achieve it, but it is this record which Jacques Villeneuve, Indy Car Champion and Indy 500 winner of 1995 and Formula 1 World Champion of 1997, is now chasing.

Only one driver has ever claimed all three: Graham Hill took the F1 world championship twice, in 1962 and 1968, was victorious in the Indy 500 in 1966 and paired up with French Le Mans expert Henri Pescarolo to win the 24hr race in 1972 in a Matra. Others have claimed victory in two of these events - Texan AJ Foyt won at Le Mans in 1967 and won the Indy 500 no less than four times, but never had any interest in Formula 1. Jim Clark won at Indy and had 2 F1 titles to his name, but never won Le Mans. Emerson Fittipaldi also claimed both the Indy 500 and the F1 title. Going further back, to a time when sportscar racing perhaps held more significance, Jochen Rindt and Mike Hawthorn were F1 champions who at Le Mans and American Phil Hill won the F1 title and took no less than 3 victories at Le Mans but, despite being born on the far side of the pond, to my knowledge never so much as started the Indy 500.

Comparisons with a Grand Slam of the major tennis or golf tournaments, though, are not entirely warranted. For a start, its absolutely clear that, in tennis, the four major championships are Wimbledon, Roland Garros, Flushing Meadows and the Australian Open. In Golf, there is perhaps ever so slightly more room for debate, but those who care about the sport (I do not) would list The Masters, the US Open, The British Open and the PGA Championship as the big four.

In motor racing, its all a bit more confusing. Its pretty clear that Le Mans is the biggest sports car race, but is winning Le Mans more important than a sportscar world title? Perhaps, given that the quality of the field at Le Mans has, throughout most of the last fifty years, been higher than that to be found in the sportscar championship as a whole. A driver can fit Le Mans around an F1 or Champ Car campaign, but couldn't do the whole Sportscar championship (and that's not forgetting that in some years there hasn't even been such a thing). More to the point, is winning the Indy 500 more of an achievement than winning the Indy Car Series? The race might mean more to the man on the street, but is one race really more important than a whole championship? How to rank Nigel Mansell's achievement - winning the F1 championship and the CART championship in consecutive years, but never (quite) winning at Indianapolis? Perhaps its better to forget the additional complications caused by the IRL/Champ Car split...

If Jacques Villeneuve wins Le Mans, his achievement will in fact be unique. He will become the first driver ever to claim the F1 championship, the Indy 500, the CART Championship and victory in Le Mans, a quadruple crown, if you like. Exactly what kind of achievement is this though? Every top tennis player might dream of winning the Grand Slam (or at least compete in all the Grand Slam events) but there have been great racing drivers who never showed much interest in any category outside their chosen specialism. Michael Schumacher never much liked Le Mans, and never showed the slightest interest in attempting the Indy 500. AJ Foyt was famously indifferent to Formula 1. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost never tried their hand at either Le Mans or the Indy 500, feeling that F1 was the pinnacle of the sport and everything else a mere distraction (though Prost has had a successful second career as an ice-racer, of all things). The truth is, the great majority of drivers aren't much interested in chasing Graham Hill's triple crown, or any similar such achievement. And even if they were, increasing specialisation and the nature of driver contracts makes doing so very difficult.

In the end, the motor-racing grand slam is a more esoteric task - the kind of personal goal which some great drivers feel they must set themselves, but not the gold standard measure of success that it is in some other sports. After all, did not Mario Andretti have his own quadruple crown of sorts? He may never have won Le Mans, but he did have the Indy 500, the Indycar and F1 championships and the Daytona 500, the world's premier stock car race, to his name. And if its big races, rather than world championships, that count, maybe Juan Pablo Montoya might like to try to add that to his Monaco Grand Prix and Indy 500 victories. After all, neither Andretti nor Villeneuve ever won round the streets of Monte Carlo.

I've always liked the concept of the all-rounder, and I wish Villeneuve the best of luck in his efforts at Le Mans. He might need another year to pull it off, given that Peugeot are going up against the dominant Audi team, who have won 6 of the last 7 24 hour races. But maybe we're thinking too narrowly. Villeneuve won the F1 championship in a Renault powered Williams. Perhaps, if and when he's done with Le Mans and Peugeot, he'd like to have a word about a Monte Carlo rally campaign with Citroen?

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

In the spirit of the pioneers

Its incredible how little modern motorsport resembles those first races as the 19th century turned into the 20th. Emile Levassor won what is generally regarded to be the first 'motor race', from Paris to Bordeaux in 1895. In the earliest years of the sport, races usually took the form of point-to-point, or city-to-city, dashes along rutted open public roads intended for horses and carts, rather than new-fangled mechanical horses. They were intended perhaps less as sporting events than as demonstrations, meant to prove that these gasoline powered carts were actually a viable alternative to the horse and carriage for travelling long distance.

This chapter of motor racing history did not last long. Levassor's 1895 win was achieved in a Panhard-Levassor with just 4 brake horse power, but by 1901, cars producing 60bhp or more were not unheard of, and neither the brakes, suspension and steering, nor the primitive roads of the time, were intended for such power. In 1903 8 people were killed on the opening day of the Paris-Madrid race were killed and the race was stopped in Bordeaux. France banned motor racing on open public roads and the short but fascinating opening chapter of motorsports history came to a close (anyone interested in reading an account of this race might want to look here). In 1907, the first purpose built racing circuit opened at Brooklands in Surrey and began to change the sport forever.

The short 10-30km timed stages of modern rallying bear little resemblance to the early road races from the turn of the century, and are more liked 'against the clock' Grand Prix racing than any kind of test of endurance (indeed, the total competitive mileage of a modern world championship rally is often less than that of a Grand Prix).

No, the closest thing we have in spirit to those earlier races, I would submit, is the Dakar rally. Taking place over 15 days, and involving thousands of kilometres of competitive mileage over some of the most inhospitable terrain that the Sahara desert can provide, it is as much of a test of endurance, of survival, as of a driver's ability to control a car at high speed, and as much an adventure as a race. While there are untimed, 'non competitive' sections, drivers will be competing often for several hundred kilometres over a single day, against the clock.

It is not really about driver ability in the sense that rallying, let alone Grand Prix racing, is. Finding those last seconds is not really important when winning margins can sometimes be measured in hours, rather than minutes. A knack for avoiding trouble is more important than really first rate car control. Sure. rally drivers like Juha Kankunnen and Bruno Saby have won the event, and Ari Vatanen pretty much made it his own for a while, winning four times between 1987 and 1991. On the other hand, though, Pierre Lartigue secured a hat-trick for Citroen in the 1990s, and he would not feature on many people's list of the all time great rally drivers. Nor would the event's only female winner, Jutta Kleinschmidt, be considered by most to rival the achievements of Michele Mouton in the 1980s

Circuit racers, too, have been drawn in by the challenge of the Dakar. Jacky Ickx won the event for Mercedes in 1983 and Jean-Louis Schlesser is a regular competitor in his eponymous buggies, having won twice. Patrick Tambay and Ukyo Katayama have also made tried their hand at the event in the past.

All have been drawn to the event by the unique challenge it offers: more adventure than race. For all but a few of the 500+ competitors, it is not about winning, but simply about finishing - Dakar or bust. Where else can the average race or rally driver try his wits against 100 foot sand dunes?

One other thing, unfortunately, that the event has in common with those early road races, is the rather high death toll. In all, 49 people have been killed since the rally began 30 years ago, of whom 24 were competitors. The most recent, South African motorbike racer Elmer Symons, died this week. Just as this kind of racing declined and eventually died out in Europe, so it is possible that the Dakar rally may one day go the same way. In common with the Mille Miglia some fifty years previously, the event has also raised the ire of the Vatican (though cynics might question exactly how helpful some of the Vatican's own policies have been in Africa...)

In the meantime, though, you can follow the event as it happens through Martin Haven's excellent Dakar blog

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Friday, January 05, 2007

US Open Wheel Racing: Time To Bash Some Heads Together

I was looking through some old copies of Autosport the other day, dating back to the early 1990s when reigning F1 world champion Nigel Mansell had defected to the CART series to partner Mario Andretti at Newman Haas. At the time, there were those who seriously wondered whether the CART championship, with its more open competition and its mix of ovals, wonderful road courses like Road America and Laguna Seca and successful street events like Long Beach and Surfers Paradise, might become a serious rival to Formula 1. In fact, if you were living in the US at the time, the question might have been better framed the other way round. The CART IndyCar series was much bigger news than F1 ever was - especially given that in 1993, there was no US Grand Prix and Mario's son Michael was taking one hell of a pounding over at McLaren.

Fast forward to the present and Champ Car drivers like Timo Glock and Antonio Pizzonia have defected not to F1, but to GP2, to further their careers. Leading young IRL star, Mario's grandson, Marco Andretti is talked about as a potential future F1 driver. Pundits reckon though that he too would first have to prove himself in GP2. Champ Car and IRL champions Dan Wheldon and Sebastien Bourdais can't get a drive in F1 at all. And could anyone imagine that Michael Schumacher might have decided to spend this year in the IRL as a prelude to retirement?

The simple fact is that, aside from a few open-wheel purists, nobody is really watching the Champ Car World Series or the Indy Racing League these days, even in the US. And if they ain't popular at home, there's no way these series are going to find a big audience abroad. In America, 'motor racing' is spelt 'NASCAR' to the average man on the street. And indeed, its to NASCAR that washed up F1 stars are now defecting - first Juan Montoya and now, if the rumours are to be believed, Jacques Villeneuve.

And the reason for this dramatic fall? Its always hard to know for sure, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that it hasn't been the promotional brilliance of the France family alone. Instead it has been the confusing and self-defeating split between Indianapolis circuit owner Tony George and the men behind the then CART series which must take the lion's share of the blame.

On the surface, having two major open wheel series rather than one might seem like a good deal for the fans. There are twice the number of races that there would otherwise be, and two championship contests to follow. In practice, though, it has not worked out that way. Neither series is in good health, and arguably, aside from Champ Car in the late 1990s, neither series ever really has been.

Champ Car seems to attract the slightly larger raceday crowds, thanks to their policy of concentrating on street venues within easy reach of large population centres. IRL has, at least arguably, the greater strength in terms of driver quality, with more serious professionals and fewer pay-drivers. But its relative, isn't it? Neither championship has anything like the variety of circuits that the old CART series (or even the early Champ Car series) had, with Champ Car's calendar made up largely of street circuits and IRL's dominated by ovals. It is significant that neither series is able to support races at two of America's finest road circuits, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca.

Perhaps the most serious sign of failure, though, is that American race fans I have spoken to tell me that the vast majority of their compatriots, even those who consider themselves motorsport (i.e. NASCAR) enthusiasts, would have little idea who either Sam Hornish Jr or Sebastien Bourdais are. And if Sea-Bass' name rang any bells, it would probably be thanks to his efforts in the IROC series, rather than his three Champ Car titles. If fame and fortune are what either of these men are seeking, then, as AJ Allmendinger has done, they would have to go off and take their chances in stock cars on ovals.

So reunification is what is needed, but is it going to happen? Personally, I doubt that there will be any deal between Tony George and his opposite numbers, Gentilozzi, Kalkhoven et al in the foreseeable future. Both series have contracts to fulfil with chassis manufacturers, circuit promoters and so on, and it is not clear how these could easily be resolved to create a single series. The current IRL series is fundamentally built around ovals, and the new Panoz Champ Cars are not really oval machines. Any series would have to adopt either the Dallara or Panoz chassis, and either the Honda atmo engine or the Cosworth turbo. I can't say which of the two would be quicker were they allowed to race against each other, but I very much doubt that any meaningful equivalency formula could be instituted to allow the two types of car to race against each other in a single unified series.

This is a shame, because I can't help feeling that there is one really good series lurking in there. Imagine Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti and Scott Dixon up against Sebastien Bourdais, Justin Wilson, the recently departed AJ Allmendinger (who could surely have been persuaded to stay in a unified series) and Bruno Junquiera. This would be an awful lot more like a serious major open wheel series grid, with no room for timewasters and journeymen like Nicky Pastorelli, Tonis Kasemets, Roger Yasukawa, Jeff Bucknum et al.

A series boasting Forsythe, Newman-Haas, Andretti-Green, Penske and Chip-Ganassi might not instantly rival Formula 1, but should at least stop shedding drivers to GP2 and would be easier to see as some kind of serious career move, rather than being the next best thing if you can't secure a drive at Super-Aguri or Toro Rosso. Especially if they were racing at the best of the tracks the two series have to offer: street circuits like Long Beach and St Petersburg, ovals like Indianapolis and the Milwaukee Mile, the massively successful airport race at Edmonton and road courses like Watkins Glen, St Jovite and Road America.

Don't get me wrong, it won't surpass the popularity of NASCAR overnight. Too much damage has been done by the squabbling over the last decade or so. There is a serious dearth of a US single seater racing talent as a result, and a series dominated by foreigners, hell, Frenchmen at that, is going to be a difficult sell to the US public. Nonetheless, a single premier open wheel series would have a credibility that neither IRL nor Champ Car do at present. As I said earlier, I really doubt its going to happen. I fear that the most likely outcome is that the 'winner' will be the last series left standing, though in their currently weakened states, I doubt that it will be much of a winner at all. But come on Tony, Kevin and Paul, go and prove me wrong for once...

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