Sunday, September 24, 2006

State of Champ Car Racing in 2006

For a while, around 1993-1996 I used to follow CART / Indy Cars even more faithfully than I did Formula One, with Nigel Mansell and Mario Andretti, the young, exsciting Paul Tracey and the rise of Jacques Villeneuve there was a lot to watch back then. Plus you had the super-fast ovals and tight street courses to keep the racing interesting, and it was the best racing around hands-down.

Everyone knows CART suffered a lot ever since the split with the Indy 500 owner in 1996, and personally I'm pretty surprised that it's still going on, but here it is on Speed TV, with cars just as I remembered them racing around the great Road America course.I know a few of the names, Paul Tracdey is sitll in it, and some former Formula One hopefuls like Justin Wilson and Sebastian Bourdais. The racing is closer than F1, and passing is a lot more common 0on this track, anyway. F1 cars these days have a huge problem where instead of being able to draft a car in front of you and try nad get a chance to pass, a driver will get caught up in the dirty air from the wings of the driver up ahead and lose speed.The Champ Cars seem to have been tuned to make passing more common, and good for the series organizers for it, too.

Road America is a great classic road-racing course, with fast corners and long stretches, it reminds me of the Spa course in Belgium. Easily the best course in the U.S..

I don't know a lot about the current state of teh drivers standings but it looks like Bourdais has dominated for the last few years.

I was sad to see that Christiano da Matta got into a big accident a while ago and has some kind of head injury for which he's just getting out of the hospital. It's making me think that maybe safety is a cloud hanging over the series, with the memory of Alex Zanardi losing his legs in a huge oval track accident a few years ago and a couple of
deaths in the late 90s.They've basically been running the same spec cars for the last decade, without the investment in safety as the much righer F1. Combined with teh much faster speeds of the oval courses (still by far the fasted in the world) and it leaves me with a little feeling of dread - since I still have a soft spot for the series and don't want its name attached tospectacular tragedy.

The race is about a third over right now, and the cars are still going at each other, not just cdruising and trying to save fuel like in the
1998-era where Honda and Toyota had so much influence that it overshadowed the need for exciting racing. I'm glad this is a spec-engine series now, the Japanese engine makers can spend their hundreds of millions of R&D money fighting for fourth place in F1.

I'm glad to see Champ Cars still going strong, open-wheel racing lost its chance at being the top-draw in America after the Indy-CART split and the rise of NASCAR, but they seem to be slotting into a great
niche and doing what they can to provide great racing while living without huge manuufacturer budgets.

By al - 3:57 p.m. |

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