Like most American kids that grew up in the 80's I watched the Indy 500 every year and became interested in motorsports thanks to that race, but I didn't really get hooked until I started watching Formula 1 racing in the late 90's. My favorite era were those years with the great Mika Hakkinen/Michael Schumacher battles. (I was a Mika Hakkinen fan) So my fondness for Formula 1 waned once Mika retired and Schumacher started winning everything, even at the expense of his teammate Rubens Barrichello. My interest in F1 has only been lukewarm since.

Then I turned to Champ Car racing here in the US for my motorsports fix. However that was quickly extinguished once Champ Car and Indy Car merged and we were stuck with Tony George and his many foibles. (It was entertaining to watch the Hulman/George drama I'll admit.) My interest has been less than lukewarm with Indy Car lately, even without Tony George at the helm.

Over time however, the excitement I once had for motorsports has slowly gone. Maybe it has to do with my age, I don't know. But I think I will pour my efforts into my Trooper and my interests in the outdoors to add excitement to my life.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I will still post racing news when I find something interesting or noteworthy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Granatelli kiss

Famous photo from 1969's Indy 500 Victory Lane celebration

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jackie Stewart at the Nurburgring, 1969

Catching air in an F1 monster.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Another nail, 2012 car still a dream

(by Obi Wan 6-23-11)

We're seeing all the makings of a typical Pagoda bait-and-switch con job. They've got everyone focused on the timeline for the prototype chassis -- of which they theoretically need only one hand-made example – rather than where the production “safety cells” are sourced. That, for sure, is not as advertised.

The production safety cells were supposed to be manufactured entirely in Dallara’s Indianapolis factory; which was ostensibly the reason that the State of Indiana was subsidizing their sale (using Federal disaster relief money). Now, the Pagoda is setting the stage for the first production run of Dallara cars – most likely the greatest number of them that will be sold at any one time and the only ones the state is subsidizing – to be manufactured entirely in Italy; where needless to say they don’t pay state (Indiana) or federal (USA) taxes.

Moreover, as a show of “good faith,” Dallara Automobili and its rarely mentioned local suck—er, co-partner Scott “Clueless in Indy” Jasek and the Indy Racing Experience were supposed to put up $7 million toward the cost of the new plant. So far, the Speedway Redevelopment group has used public funds to demolish the derelict building that was on site and prepare it for construction of the new Dallara factory; but there is no report that the Italian firm (as a separate entity from the IRE) has so far contributed a single dime toward the creation of its new American facility.

Anyway, I don’t think it should be overlooked that the Hulman-George’s rubber-stamp MORONIC committee essentially filched the best parts of both the Lola and DeltaWing proposals and gifted them to their Italian pals. Approval of the Dallara proposal (by the H-G’s) was always a foregone conclusion but the pirated portions of the other chassis-makers’ proposals help sell the clueless Indiana politicians on the idea of subsidizing the Italians. When the DeltaWing started to gain traction with the public, the H-G’s persuaded the politicos to use the money the DW group was counting on to build their prototype, to boost Dallara sales instead.

We also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that other crucial parts of the plan to roll-out the 2012 cars are well behind schedule as well. For instance, the Rodeo Clown says that the decision on the aero kits is due any week now. However, we are well past the point where the aero kit manufacturers were supposed to declare their “intentions” (and cut the H-G’s their checks for 250 G’s each). So, it’s beginning to look like that decision has already been made (or has been made for them).

Moreover, the Dallara shenanigans mentioned above seem to point to a certain reluctance on the part of the Italians to invest their hard-earned lira in the H-G’s 2012 car. If the 2012 car were to be cancelled today, it seems likely the Italians could walk away without losing a cent. The obvious delays in rolling out the new prototype – for example, has anyone actually seen one in the flesh? – may speak to difficulties in finding someone to finance its design and construction. The H-G’s may have expected Dallara to front those expenses as the cost of doing business with the League, but aside from perhaps absorbing the cost of the lone prototype the Italians don’t seem to be investing much (if anything) in IndyCar’s future. Of course, the H-G's notorious penny-pinching may have left them no choice; their profit margin may be so skeletal that they literally can't afford to underwrite the new car without huge risk.

There’s no question that the H-G’s believed that they could specify the 2012 car of their dreams and simply order the team owners to buy it. Besides the obvious problem that the vast majority of teams don’t have the money to do so, the few that do – like Penske – have signaled that they aren’t going to allow the Terre Haute family to spend their (teams) money. If Penske and his fellow team owners have essentially vetoed 2012 aero kits, what else might they veto? It’s not inconceivable that they could balk at buying the new car entirely, in which case the H-G’s would be royally screwed. In this regard, the team owners can afford to play a waiting game and the H-G's cannot. Every day it becomes clearer and clearer to potential sponsors and broadcast partners that IndyCar can't survive one more season of the status quo. The H-G's desperately need the new car and the few remaining fans of the series expect it. If the H-G's demand that the team owners declare their intentions (with, say, purchase orders for the new Dallara) and they don't, what then? The H-G's can't afford to wait and find out; they'll most likely have to fund the new car themselves on faith (of which there is presently very little) or consider an exit strategy. That would seem to be their only choices.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the ex-CART team owners – which are about all that’s left in the IndyCar paddock nowadays – are as sneaky and evil as the H-G’s and their Gomer followers obviously believe them to be. Someone stricken with paranoia might begin to suspect that they’ve been biding their time in Gasoline Alley smiling their smiles while they bleed the H-G’s of every cent they can wheedle out of them; while casually tossing one obstacle after another in their path. Meanwhile, almost all the sources of revenue available to the IMS, ICS, and H-G’s are drying up along with series attendance, television ratings, and sponsorship. This has reached such dire proportions that there is serious talk about IMS needing to be sold. Well, who would likely buy the troubled Speedway from the weakened H-G's?

The NASCAR oval cartel (ISC, SMI, DVD) is currently overextended and suffering attendance and ratings problems of their own. John Menard could show the H-G's a thing or two about pinching pennies until they scream; so don't expect him at anything but an IMS fire sale. Well, don’t look now but at least one likely candidate to buy IMS is sitting in Gasoline Alley and just so happens to be the one currently causing the most grief. However, if one were to move against him, well then, one could kiss Chevrolet good-bye and with them the glorious new “re-birth” of IndyCar! However, if one doesn’t move again him, one may end up handing him the keys to a bargain-basement-priced IMS along with a reborn IndyCar. Then, unfortunately, there's always the possibility of moving against the wrong sneaky ex-CART team owner and while the outraged Pimp is destroying one's IndyCar renaissance, the Chipster steals the keys to the Brickyard.

What’s a body to do?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

They've got the power.....but not really

What has IndyCar become? It looks like nothing more than a circus sideshow.

To try and add excitement to an aging league, IndyCar recently brought back a double-header format for a recent race in Texas. I'll give them credit for trying the double-header since IndyCar did have double-header races back in the glory years. But in typical modern-day IndyCar style they had to turn it into some carnival freak parade, ie Danica, Helio, Franchitti etc. etc.

Instead of doing a reverse order lineup to start the second race they did a Price is Right spin the wheel whorefest. Will Power got to start in P3 where his biggest rival Mr. Judd started near the rear. Power went on to win the race.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Exclusive: Tony George, Former IndyCar CEO, Speaks Out

(by Holly Cain 5-4-10)

In his first in-depth interview since his June 30, 2009 dismissal as CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his subsequent resignations from the Hulman & Co. board of directors and as CEO of the Indy Racing League he founded, Tony George tells FanHouse how he's spent the past few months and how he is adjusting to his new roles in business, racing and family.

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Tony George resigned from the Indy Racing League in January, it came at a time, he says, when "there was still too much to do that I wanted to see through."

The former leader of American open wheel racing tells FanHouse of how difficult it was to give up the leadership of the IRL, the organization that he started. He calls accusations that he brought financial hardship to the IRL "wildly inaccurate," and says he "spent a lot less that it would have taken" to buy a professional sports team.

He talks of his love for IndyCar racing and tells of how he caught a pre-dawn commercial flight to
St. Petersburg, Fla., just after returning from a business trip in China, in an effort to catch the race
there in person.

In this first of two parts, George explains what he thinks is "the best thing that's happened for
Danica" this season and also predicts a 2010 breakout star. And the answers may surprise you.

George officially resigned from the IRL on his 50th birthday, Dec. 30, and when he returns to The
Speedway for the May 30 Indianapolis 500, his only responsibility, for the first time in his life,
will be that of team owner.

Through weeks of phone calls, a sit-down interview at George's Indianapolis-based Vision Racing
team headquarters, and pages of thoughtful written replies to questions, George discusses a wide
range of topics with senior writer Holly Cain.

One of the most significant -- and controversial -- figures in American motorsports during the
past 20 years, George is now eager to set the racing record straight in a lengthy and comprehensive interview that will be presented in two parts Tuesday and Wednesday:

Holly Cain: Did you ever, ever expect that you would not be an integral part of the series you formed? Or the Speedway?

Tony George: In a word, no.

But having said that, I did expect I would reduce my role with both and work on transitioning members of the family into leadership positions. In fact, in March of 2009, (March 17, 18, and 19 to be exact), I organized an initial meeting with an executive leadership consultant that I had worked with previously, to begin working with my son and nephew, both of whom were working in the business.

I have said it before; I would be less than honest if I didn't admit to thinking of winding down the day-to-day workload after realizing unification, but not that soon and not that way. There was still too much to do that I wanted to see through.

HC: What tops that list of things you feel are unfinished business?

TG: I clearly had in mind to see the (Indianapolis Motor Speedway's) Centennial through and all that went with it.

HC: How difficult has it been to turn over "your baby" -- the IRL -- to someone else to run? Could you explain your decision?

TG: It has been very difficult; my decision to not accept the offer to remain as CEO of the league was based on a number of things. Chief among them my belief that Terry (Angstadt, president, IRL commercial division) had done a very good job the last couple of years, at a time when everyone seemed to have an opinion as to what kind of person was needed as CEO to make the IRL successful. He was capable and deserving of assuming the responsibility. In my opinion, he has provided quality leadership as we turned the corner and had us headed in the right direction.

HC: Have you been paying close attention to the IRL season? Your thoughts?

TG: I have been paying close attention from afar, which has been somewhat bittersweet. I have officially fallen from the ranks of those who have attended every IRL race since 1996. ... less than a handful remain.

I missed (season-opener) Brazil and Barber (Motorsports Park in Alabama) but was able to take in St. Pete when it was postponed. I had just returned home Sunday night about 10 p.m. from a trip to China and decided to catch a 5:20 a.m. flight to Tampa in hopes of getting there in time for the 10 a.m. start.

Airport delays caused me to arrive well into the race, but it was good to be back at the track.

It has certainly been an interesting start to the season with Will Power getting off to such a strong start. Having said that, it promises to be a very competitive season, I just wish Vision could have been a part of it from the commencement in Sao Paulo.

With some driver-team seat swaps and new players in both ranks, it is nice to see new faces in new places. This will be a breakout year for someone (I predict Marco Andretti).

So far this year, the best thing that has happened to Danica has been she picked up the best motor coach driver in the business, who became available after being let go by IMS at the end of the 2009 season.

Likewise, the Firestone Indy Lights Series has seen some interesting shake up. It is another good field of drivers this year. Although fewer in numbers, it should be very competitive. We (Vision Racing) miss being involved in this series too. I feel like we put forth a great effort last year which not only gave us our first win as an organization but it was a source of pride that helped us all pull together. I am glad to see the ladder program get implemented this season too. It should be a tremendous benefit to the future development of the League.

IZOD coming on board as the title sponsor of the ICS has been wonderful as it has really helped create more team sponsorship and a sense that the series represents a place of opportunity.

I know they will use their position of influence and space to advance the interest of the entire series and not just the interest of one team or one driver; however, securing the long-term future of Ryan Hunter-Reay is important. Allen Sirkin and Mike Kelly have led from the top and that makes all the difference in the world.

HC: What are some of your proudest accomplishments during your 20-year tenure with the Speedway and in founding the Indy Racing League in 1994?

TG: I'm proud of our leadership in investments in the safety of the sport. I am proud of the Hulman Family's commitment to community and philanthropy.

Obviously, once the decision was made to expand our racing events at the Speedway, being a part of bringing world-class events like the Brickyard 400, MotoGP and F1 USGP to fruition; but with that said, the IRL for sure. It has so much potential and it truly is who we are, we can influence its direction; build it as a brand leveraging both the IMS and the 500 for which it exists.

Much has been speculated, wildly inaccurate, about how much was spent to build the IRL. I am proud that we have spent a lot less than it would have taken to buy a professional sports team in the NFL, MLB, NBA or even the NHL -- and we own the whole league.

The IRL is a fantastic asset both financially and strategically. I'm proud of that.

HC: Do you have any regrets?

TG: With the benefit of hindsight, there are things anyone would do differently given the chance, but regrets? Not so much.

Staying more involved with the day-to-day at the Speedway is something I definitely should have done. Off-loading that responsibility was a mistake.

As an organization, we should have addressed the need to restructure sooner; we had gotten fat and complacent. Some saw the need and potential benefit of trying to streamline some of the functions within the enterprise, while others saw it as a threat. In the end, much of it has now occurred but it was forced.

If I have any regret, it would be that we lost some very good, loyal people who could have had a positive impact on the organization going forward, but they left as a result of the uncertainty or the handling of the restructuring as it occurred.

One other thing that I have regretted is about the timing of my dismissal; that it occurred right in the middle of the season, just as we had the momentum of the Speedway's "Centennial Era" celebration. It took the bright light that should have shone on our company's history, the participation and valuable investments by our sponsorship community, and cast a dismal shadow over it.

HC: Who have you heard from within the industry in the months since you formally resigned? Who has reached out and what have they said.?

TG: I have heard from many people within the industry, within the city, the state, the globe, you name it. I don't feel that it would be appropriate to name people, but they have reached out by letter, e-mail, phone call, voice mail; they stop me on the street, in airports, at church.

I have been genuinely humbled and grateful for the sincere interest and love from so many people.

Most (people) genuinely can't believe it, don't understand it; then there are those that do believe it and do understand it. Everyone wants to know what I will be doing next; will I keep the team, will I stay in racing or will I stay in the city, the state?

HC: How have you been spending your time since, most recently, resigning your position in the Indy Racing League?

TG: The next day (resigning from the IRL), New Year's Eve, Laura and I boarded Amtrak for a New Year's trip to Montana. It was our first trip on a train together and we had a great time even though it was 25 below zero for most of the trip. After a few days out there we drove our Suburban home trying to out-run the first snow storm of the New Year that was headed from the Pacific Northwest toward Indiana. So that first week of being disconnected was quite an adventure.

Shortly after that we went on a planned ski trip to Austria with Kevin (Kalkhoven) and Kim for what turned out to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable trips I can remember. I really appreciated spending time with someone I have enjoyed getting to know as a by-product of unification.

Since January I have continued to do quite a bit of traveling and most of it has been related to Vision Racing or future business development opportunities. Beyond the ski trip, not much of the travel has been for personal pleasure. I continue to seek an opportunity to restart our racing operation as soon as possible and that remains a priority and area of focus, in addition to other business interests.


(by Holly Cain 5-5-10)

INDIANAPOLIS -- In part two of FanHouse's exclusive interview, Tony George discusses the state of the Indy Racing League and why he's not a big proponent of the new championship format.

He discusses the possibility of working in the family business again, the upcoming Indy 500 and whether his great gamble 16 years ago to form a second major American open-wheel series was all worth it in the end.

Holly Cain: What is the direction you'd like to see the IRL take in the future to be a successful racing organization? And did you have any input on hiring (new CEO) Randy Bernard?

Tony George: I will answer the second part of the question first. No, I did not. I had already resigned my position effective the end of the year.

I will tell you that Randy came highly recommended by the "Horse Whisperer" Chris Cox, a friend of my sister Josie and my mother. Randy was also known to a fellow rancher in the Wyoming valley Josie lives in. She has said she was looking for a racing outsider and she found one.

Now to answer the first part of the question; I do have thoughts on the direction I would like to see things go. I don't think it is appropriate for me to comment on that. I will say that, so far, not much has happened since my departure that has changed the current positive trajectory of the League. Most everything that has come together was already in the works, in large part due to (President of IRL Commercial Division) Terry's (Angstadt) leadership and efforts.

Over time, I am sure I will form opinions and express them on the future direction of this or that; and like everyone there will be those opinions that are shared or rejected by those in a position of influence.

Rest assured of one thing, there will always be important, political and emotionally charged issues to deal with and not everyone will always agree.

HC: What's your opinion on the new IZOD IndyCar Series championship format, which will now crown champions in both oval and road course disciplines in addition to an overall champion?

TG: I am not sure I understand the need for it; I know the concept was raised by others in the past, but I didn't think then and I don't believe now that we should bifurcate the series, or create sub‐champions to grow.

In my opinion, once we realized unification, what we needed were a couple of seasons to settle in and demonstrate leadership. That is what we committed to doing post unification.

HC: Generally speaking, how is your relationship with your family after such a difficult situation?

TG: Assuming you are referring to the relationship with my mother and sisters, generally I would have to admit that our conversations have been somewhat strained by our business disagreements; how could it not be?

As I said before, I truly love my family and nothing can change that, but we have a very different view of the future and approach to doing business.

HC: Is there any chance that you would resume a position either with the IRL or with The Speedway or another of your family's companies?

TG: I would absolutely love the opportunity to be involved again, but at this point that seems highly unlikely.

I am so excited and focused on the opportunities that Laura (his wife) and I have before us -- and realistically all these good things will keep us very busy for years to come. I have a renewed energy and vigor from this new chance to focus on my personal and immediate family's opportunities instead of dealing the challenges of leading a family enterprise.

Any family enterprise, with the size and breadth of holdings like our extended family, especially by the fourth or fifth generation, likely foments internal grasping and deceit that can come from a lifetime of deep-seated resentment and anger that only a family can inflict on each other.

This is so common in large family enterprises it is almost a cliche. This can be painful and damaging not only on the current generation, but also on spouses and children of the next generation. The bottom line is that I truly love my mom and sisters, but I am truly grateful and relieved to now get the opportunity to explore other ways to live the most productive years of my business life and attend to the needs of my own wife and children. [Ed. note: Tony and his mother, Mari Hulman George, pictured at right]

What Laura and I are trying to teach our children is that families need to realize that their most valuable assets are the ones that don't include financial holdings -- like relationships, shared values, shared history and experience, and a tradition of generosity with shared purpose and accomplishment that can impact our community with a lasting legacy.

HC: What does the future hold for you in the immediate and long-term? Will you go into business outside of racing?

TG: Some of the things I am exploring are automotive-related and to an extent will leverage racing. I mentioned SONAX earlier. SONAX is a car appearance product company -- like wax and other products to protect and detail a car. It is a very high-end, high-quality product and enjoys a huge market share and phenomenal consumer loyalty in Europe. It is distributed in 94 countries and I have secured the rights to distribute these products in the United States and the potential is enormous.

There are other opportunities that are too early in the development stages to elaborate on. Suffice it so say, I have seen many things come forth as a result of the relationships that I have built through the years and a few that have accelerated because I now have the time to focus on them.

HC: What are your hopes for Vision Racing and where does the team stand? Obviously some positive things are coming up in May (partnering for the Indy 500 with Panther Racing) and from what (Panther Racing owner) John Barnes indicated, possibly beyond that.

TG: Well, I mentioned trying to create options for Vision, let me tell you it has been quite a roller coaster ride since learning that Menards would not be back with us as our primary sponsor for the 2010 season. Starting over from scratch has proven difficult, but I just keep working at it.

Partnering with Panther for the 500 will allow the team to stay in the game to an extent, but we will have to see if that leads to anything else for 2010. For the most part, my focus has to be on creating that sustainability for the future, so realistically that would be 2011 and beyond.

There are some interesting challenges in trying to anticipate which direction to go. I have been a two-, three- and four-car team at times so I have accumulated a lot of stuff. I have been paring down recently, selling redundant assets to others.

If I am successful putting together a program for a multi-car team, then we can expand again easy enough with the proper funding in place. On the other hand, if we joint venture or shut down, I will have simplified greatly and it will make the transition easier. With the potential of new equipment as early as 2012, I don't want to have more obsolete stuff sitting around to figure out what to do with.

Recently we have had good spring garage sales both at home and work, that have provided a real sense of cleansing. Hopefully the clear direction will soon present itself and in the meantime, I look forward to the month of May and the Indianapolis 500.

HC: Your feelings about being at the Speedway for the first time in two decades not affiliated with the league or the speedway management, but as team owner?

TG: It will be different for sure, but I can't say exactly what my feelings are; I think I will have a better sense for my feelings after having experienced it.

I am not exactly going into the event viewing myself as even a car owner so much as just having an involvement. It might be splitting hairs, but if (Vision Racing driver) Ed (Carpenter) wins the race, it won't be recorded in the annals that Vision was the winning entrant.

If Ed wins the race or has another reasonably good result, I will enjoy great satisfaction for having had an involvement.

HC: Reflecting back in general, are there any misconceptions you'd like to set straight?

TG: Misconceptions are only a concern to those that hold them.

HC: Given all that you know now -- all that you have been through -- was it all worth it to form the Indy Racing League? And why?

TG: That is a very broad, open question and the only thing I can do is reiterate what I said earlier, but perhaps say it another way.

There is great value in the Indy Racing League; it exists to support the institutions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 Mile race; and I am proud of its contributions to the sport.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Where have all the cowboys gone? Er.....I mean fans?

Judging by the turn-out, qualifying at the Milwaukee Mile must have been more of an "inside" affair. Even Tagliani was left wondering where were the fans hiding. Turn-out for the race wasn't much better.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wicked crash at 2011 Le Mans 24

The Audi #3 before the race

Some funny Crapwagon comments that were posted during the Le Mans 24


I can't believe I'm missing nascar truck practice for this stupid sports car race.

Hey, those headlight stickers have light coming out of them!


This so legendary.

I can't stop smiling.

It oozes with legitimacy.


Racing is supposed to be dangerous. Not IRL dangerous and a death trap. But it is supposed to be just fast enough and dangerous enough that it differentiates itself from say, tennis.


Michael Waltrip must be crapping his pants over a race that oozes this much legitimacy

Thursday, June 9, 2011

DeltaWing To Build LMP1 Car For 2012 LM24 Race

IndyCar’s loss is Le Mans’ gain as Highcroft Racing, Dan Gurney, Don Panoz and Ben Bowlby come together to build a two-seater DeltaWing.

( 6-9-11)

Some of the biggest names in American motorsport have joined forces for the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans to showcase a unique concept demonstrating extreme performance with half the weight and horsepower of a traditional racing car.

The Project 56 group brings together the design talents of DeltaWing Racing Cars LLC; the manufacturing capabilities of All American Racers - the company owned by 1967 Le Mans winner and American racing legend Dan Gurney; and back-to-back American Le Mans Series championship winning racing team, Highcroft Racing.

American Le Mans Series founder Dr. Don Panoz has also joined the project as a key advisor.
The group has received an invitation from Le Mans 24 Hour race organizers, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest to contest the 2012 race as an additional 56th entry.

The 56th place on the grid is reserved for a technologically innovative car to participate “outside the classifications” – a vehicle showcasing new applications and unique technologies previously unseen in the world’s greatest endurance race.

While racing cars have traditionally strived for increased performance through gains in horsepower and aerodynamic downforce, the DeltaWing concept concentrates on exploiting efficiency gains found outside contemporary regulations to reduce fuel consumption without reducing performance.

The new and experimental car is targeting competitive performance with only half the horsepower of the outright contenders. It does this through halving the amount of aerodynamic drag of traditional racing cars as well as a similar reduction in weight.

The Project 56 Group is in discussion with engine partners to provide a 1.6-liter turbocharged power plant for the project – producing approximately 300 horsepower.

The car will be unlike any previously seen at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car features a slender nose with extremely narrow front track – minimizing the horsepower required to push the car to speeds of 200mph around the 8.5 mile circuit.

Eliminating the use of traditional wings, downforce for the DeltaWing is generated solely beneath the car by the contoured underbody.

The DeltaWing selection was revealed today at the ACO’s annual press conference coinciding with this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans event.

Construction of the new machine will begin next month at Gurney’s California facility. The Highcroft Racing team will begin track testing of the new car later this year.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest and most famous endurance race. First held in 1923, the event has attracted the world’s finest automotive manufacturers and drivers.

Highcroft contested the race for the first time in 2010 while Gurney won the race in 1967 aboard a Ford GT40 with AJ Foyt – famously spraying champagne on the podium for the first time to kick start a now world-renowned tradition.

VINCENT BEAUMESNIL, Directeur Sports, Automobile Club L‘Ouest:

In 2010 the ACO Sporting Committee decided to create the garage #56 to promote new technologies. When the ACO Management met the representative of the Delta Wing project everybody thought immediately that it would be a high quality project for Le Mans Experimental entry in 2012. The interest of this project is based on the optimization of all factors that have an impact of global energy consumption and efficiency of the car : weight, power, drag.

The ACO want to give the opportunity to evaluate each technology, and this project shows that ahead of hybrid, bio fuel or electric technology - we can explore other ways to improve efficiency.

BEN BOWLBY, Chief Technology Officer, Delta Wing Racing Cars:

The secret to the DeltaWing car is simplicity and efficiency. To achieve the dramatically reduced carbon footprint we have looked at ways to reduce weight and drag, as well as the total number of components required to build the car. Essentially, the car has a three-point layout with the narrow front and wide rear track – as opposed to the rectangular layout of contemporary racing cars. We have a delta-shaped car that allows us to take a different route to achieving our performance goals as well as enhancing driver protection.

We need much less chassis torsional stiffness for handling performance so we don’t need to use such stiff and brittle materials in the chassis. We can use light, tough and energy absorbing materials instead.
“One of the attractions of Le Mans is the incredible variety of vehicles in competition - with different fuel types, open and closed cockpits, GT cars – there are lots of different solutions and they all run together during the event.

What is particularly impressive is the fact the ACO decided to create the 56th entry where a car that is outside the regulations is invited to participate to showcase an even greater diversity of automotive engineering concepts.

It’s an industry runway, it shows what the future may look like. We are lucky to receive this entry and amongst all the other diversity, the DeltaWing will be very much in the spirit of Le Mans.

The 56th entry is really a golden opportunity for us because it gives us the chance to make a step change and “race” a car that doesn’t comply with the existing rule book.

We really have to applaud the ACO for having the foresight to create this opportunity for an entry like ours. We believe this is a true automotive innovation which could be the catalyst for changing the way people look at not only racing car design, but automotive design as a whole.

DUNCAN DAYTON, Owner, Highcroft Racing:

This is an amazing opportunity. To take a car like this with a totally innovative design to Le Mans and run before a worldwide television audience of more than 600 million people is an incredible story. This will be the first legitimate test with 55 other cars on the track – it will be a huge challenge but one that we are looking forward to.

The DeltaWing project really represents a unique opportunity for all automotive industry sectors; the OEMs and suppliers, whether it be engines, drivetrains, lubricant and fuel companies, tire manufactures – it is such an innovative concept that it provides an incredible platform for them to market and prove their capabilities.
In my opinion, it has the potential to be one of the most significant developments in motor racing in 50 years. It is so new and exciting, and such an interesting departure from the traditional race car development path – it is highly relevant to the future.

Given that the world is concentrating on efficiency and green technologies in an attempt to achieve sustainability, this project in my opinion will help promote the direction that is being adopted throughout the entire automotive industry.

DAN GURNEY, Founder, All American Racers:

The combination of proven items that make up the character and capabilities of the DeltaWing car make it an extremely exciting project. It weighs half as much current cars, it burns half as much fuel, uses much less tire and goes the same speed because of the exceptional aerodynamics and low drag.
“Almost every aspect of the car is really basic engineering but the combination of the total package should be astoundingly good.

After looking at the project and the technical aspects of the car I was asked if we were selected to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, would I like to be involved – or in our case, would we like to build it. I didn’t hesitate for a moment – my response was absolutely yes. I have a lot of curiosity and when I first discussed this car with Ben Bowlby I listened closely and tried to shoot holes in what he was saying but I quickly found I wasn’t able to. I told him I was very interested. I believe the targets and predictions are valid and now we have been given the green light from the ACO – count me in.

It has been a very long time since I have been to the 24 Hours of Le Mans – in fact, the last time I was there for the race I won with AJ Foyt and the Ford GT40. I certainly am very much looking forward to heading back there next year and seeing our car compete.

Once again the French are leading the global charge for efficient automobiles as they have done so often in the past.

DON PANOZ, Founder, American Le Mans Series:

I am extremely proud of the progress that the ACO and the American Le Mans Series have made in showcasing sportscar racing as the global leader in green racing. The ACO has proven itself to be a leader in encouraging manufacturers to investigate new technologies to tackle the world’s greatest endurance race. Their decision to encourage this forward thinking through the creation of “Garage 56” has been the inspiration and catalyst to bring together some of the biggest names in US motorsport with a view to “how can we do things differently.

I am delighted to play a role in bringing this project to life as I believe it is one of the most important technical innovations and philosophies displayed in the sport for many years. I am also thrilled that the bodywork of the DeltaWing car will utilize R.E.A.M.S. - Recycle Energy Absorbing Matrix System – the same system debuted on the Panoz Abruzzi earlier this year at Sebring. This is a multi-layer composite system that is lighter than carbon fiber, equally strong and can be recycled. Technologies like this will certainly help us achieve our performance goals.

This entire project is an incredibly exciting opportunity and I am sure the fans will be eagerly awaiting the chance to see the car in action at Le Mans in 2012.


Vehicle weight: 475kg
Horsepower: 300 BHP
Wheel base: 2.9 m
Aerodynamic drag: Cd 0.24
Front track: 0.6m
Rear track: 1.7m
O/A length: 4.65 m
O/A width: 2.00m
Height: 1.03 m
Brakes: Carbon discs and pads
Fuel cell capacity: 40 liters
Chassis construction: lightweight composite
Front tire: 4.0/23.0 R15
Rear tire: 12.5/24.5 R15
Weight distribution: 27.5% Front/72.5% Rear


• Engine and transmission are “non-stressed members” in the chassis structural design which allows the installation of a wide variety of lightweight powertrains.

• The car features a 4 cylinder 1600cc liquid intercooled turbocharged engine that will produce approximately 300 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and weigh 70kg.

• Transmission is a 5 speed plus reverse longitudinal design with electrical sequential paddle shift actuation. The differential features an efficient variable torque steer/differential speed-controlled planetary final drive reduction layout with the entire transmission weighing only 33kg.

• Vehicle weight distribution is necessarily more rearward than traditionally seen with 72.5% of the mass between the wide track larger rear tires.

• 76% of the aerodynamic downforce acts on the rear of the car which has a lift to drag ratio of >5.0.
• Rear wheel drive coupled with the rearward weight and aerodynamic distributions greatly enhances inline acceleration capability.

• Unique amongst today’s racing cars, more than 50% of the vehicle’s braking force is generated behind the center of gravity giving a dynamically stable response.

• Locking propensity of the un-laden front wheel at corner entry is greatly reduced due to virtually no lateral load transfer with the narrow front track/wide rear track layout, steered wheel “scrub drag” moment is virtually zero greatly increasing tire utilization and reducing mid turn understeer.

• Advanced computer modeling of structures, impact energy management, aerodynamics, vehicle dynamics and tires has been used to develop the DeltaWing design.

• Driver position, restraint layout and energy absorbing structures designed to meet the latest occupant survival criteria.


The original Indy proposed DeltaWing from 2010. The new Le Mans version in my opinion looks much better and more aggresive. I hope it works, it would be great for something from the United States to shake the racing world up and prove revolutionary. (That isn't me in the photo by the way, I posted that more for comedic purposes.)

CART, Democracy and Roger Penske

(by Obi-Wan 6-7-11)

CART was structured very much like a professional sports league with individual team owners looking out for their own best interests (i.e. team) and trying to gain an advantage (unfair or otherwise) over the other owners. However, with its democratic governing structure it was rightly (IMO) assumed that the more extreme individual interests would be largely canceled out by collective group interest when it came to voting.

We all know that there is usually a difference, sometimes great, between the way a democracy is supposed to operate and the way it actually does in the real world. However, the important thing is that the ideal be kept ever in mind and that there is a constant striving on the part of a majority of the citizens to bring the ideal into being. When that situation is operative, abuses of the system are hopefully short-term as its members correct them in pursuit of the perfect model.

Yes, like a lot of rich men Penske used his wealth to finagle (some might say abuse) CART’s democratic governing structure. However, I believe that a correction for his more flagrant practices was well under way within CART by a majority of the team owners and it was this “revolt” which Tony George seized upon in his early efforts (and justifications) for taking over the sanctioning body. When the reformers within CART got a good look at what George was trying to sell them – basically a “benevolent” dictatorship – they wisely chose to reject Tony’s offer and decided to handle Penske on their own.

It is my suspicion that Penske set up the Idiot Grandson to fail (in his takeover bid) with the predictable result that George vowed to do everything in his power to ruin them and the sport, and then RP used Tony’s very real threats to convince the other team owners to abandon CART’s democratic governing structure and adopt a mutated form of George’s autocratic commission (only with Penske in charge instead of Tony). In his July 8, 1994 press release announcing the formation of the Indy Racing League, George refers to this as “the recent trial period (July 1992 - Jan. 1994) with George as a non-voting CART board member [that] failed to move IMS and CART closer together.”

What Tony doesn’t mention is that the CART board of which he was a non-voting member was a special seven-person board that he and Penske (IMO) forced upon the organization to replace its previous 17-member democratic board. When George quit the new CART board in a fury because it selected Andrew Craig to replace Bill Stokkan as CEO instead of Tony’s hand-picked choice, Cary Agajanian, the team owners quickly reverted to the original democratic structure (but with a maximum of 24 members).

Between July 1992 and January 1994 I would contend that Penske was more in charge of CART than at any other period except during the organization’s formative period. Once the other team owners took back CART governance in July 1994, immediately after George formally announced formation of the IRL, I think Penske’s days as ruler of the sanctioning body were over. As the other owners looked to correct The Captain’s perceived abuses of power, he seemed to begin to distance himself from the organization he co-founded. In 1996, he sold 12% of his motorsports holding company to NASCAR’s France family and in 1997 he helped engineer the taking of CART public; which allowed him to cash out his CART interests at the expense of unsuspecting new shareholders. In 1999, he sold out all his CART stock (as soon as he was legally able) and completed the sale of PMI to the Frances. From that moment on, Penske had no more ownership or designs on the governance of AOWR.

My sense is that Penske prolonged his rule over CART as long as he was able but that an impatient George forced his hand. Stokkan’s decision not to seek renewal of his contract as CART president (in part because of harassment from George), created a situation from which there was no escape: the choice of his successor as nominal head of the sanctioning body caused George to make his move to take over the company and when that failed and he left, the spotlight turned on Penske.

I believe Penske may have dodged a bullet earlier, at the time that Tony made his bid to buy the sanctioning body. For unknown reasons George had decided on Goodyear’s director of racing, Leo Mehl, to be his nomination for the position of commissioner over the sport; whose sanctioning body was to be renamed “Indy Car, Inc.” When the team owners firmly rejected Mehl, George was incensed and called their refusal a “deal breaker” with respect to his entire proposal. Why Tony chose to make Mehl his line in the sand is a mystery, because he (Mehl) was reportedly turned away because the owners thought he was “Penske’s man.” At the time Roger owned the Goodyear racing tire distributorships for the Midwest, East and Eastern Canada, so it was not an unlikely assumption. I think it illustrates, however, how much resistance there was to Penske’s influence over the sport; to the point of paranoia. It is perhaps too facile to suspect that since Penske helped prep George for his presentation to the CART BoD, he may have been the one to suggest Mehl to George. On the other hand, it has been written that A.J. Foyt played a pivotal role in the advancement of Mehl’s career, so possibly George’s godfather was the purveyor of the idea of the Goodyear man for the position of commissioner. If there was indeed a connection between Penske and Mehl, it makes for interesting speculation about Roger’s influence over the IRL after George chose him to head his new motor sport from 1996-2000; an influence of which Tony may possibly have been unaware.

Be that as it may, I think that it is likely that the surprising amount of support that George found among the small-team owners in CART alerted Penske to his vulnerability. As you noted, CART’s governing structure theoretically gave each franchise holder equal power within the series; however, a prominent team owner like Penske had much more invested in the series and, hence, much more to lose. If George had succeeded in getting enough of the disgruntled team owners on the CART board to agree to sell him the company (i.e. sport) in November 1991, then Roger would have been out millions of dollars. At the time CART was financed by a $7 million personal loan (according to Bob Jennings) from Penske, which would have been repaid, but Roger was undoubtedly using his influence over CART to capitalize his other motorsports properties; which would have been put in jeopardy.

For example, Penske was just about the only team owner with enough foresight and financial wherewithal to see that the only way the sport could secure the speedway racing component of the sport was to own speedways and act on it. By doing so, Penske not only guaranteed access to speedways for CART but contained George and his family in Indianapolis. This was especially effective as Tony had made it clear that he was only interested in creating an oval-centric motor sport. Of course, these were not Penske’s only reasons for owning speedways. For instance, speedway ownership combined with leadership of CART gave Roger a seat at NASCAR’s table roughly equivalent to that of the Frances and arguably more influential than that of other speedway owners like O. Bruton Smith. That’s because Smith could only turn to the Frances for access to the profitable races he needed to make his speedways prosperous but Penske had access to his own motor sport for that purpose; access which he could use to barter with the Frances for Cup races. So, coming relatively late to the NASCAR table, Penske still commanded a choice seat.

Another use for his control of CART was to be found (IMO) in Penske’s pioneering use (in motor sport) of the sort of public-private financing for the construction of multimillion dollar speedways that other professional sports leagues used to build their stadiums and enrich the franchise holders. Here, I think Penske forged a path that was later used to great success by the titans of NASCAR.

Thus, it is probable that while the democratic board structure of CART was intended to treat all team owners as equals, the reality of the situation was that (to paraphrase Orwell’s Animal Farm): “all team owners are equal; only some are more equal than others.”

The fact that Tony George got relatively close to buying CART out from under Penske – a fact of which George seems unaware – must have come as a shock to Roger; as well as being a wake-up call. I think it could be argued that Penske needed to assume direct control over CART during George’s “trial period” in order to prepare to divest himself of his suddenly vulnerable properties at better than fire-sale prices.

This speculation gets an added measure of intrigue if one factors in the contention that Bill France Jr. manipulated the Idiot Grandson into acting to destabilize CART and essentially attack Penske’s corporate holdings and drive him into France’s arms. If that seems like a far-fetched conspiracy theory, it is lent some credibility by Tony George’s report during a radio interview last week (in company with Robin Miller) that he was heavily influenced by France and urged by key USAC leaders to act as he did in his challenge to CART and formation of the IRL.

If there is truth to the assertion, then it certainly worked. When France reportedly influenced George to move against the team owners of CART – and Tony started reporting this to the press not long after he assumed the presidency of IMS in January 1990 – Penske had a prominent place in NASCAR politics and deal-making. Six years later, Roger was more or less forced by a dysfunctional George to hedge his bets and ally himself with the Frances. By 1999, Bill France Jr. owned almost all of Penske’s motorsports holdings, thanks to the loose cannon that is Tony George. In return for his endangered properties, Penske received ISC stock which made him the second largest shareholder in the company outside the France family group. However, ISC and NASCAR are structured such that the Frances retain control of the companies almost no matter how much their share holdings are diluted; so while on paper Penske was the second most influential person in NASCAR, the reality is that he would always be subservient to the Daytona Beach family. Thus, France’s manipulation of Tony George, if real, won him control over Penske and undisputed hegemony over NASCAR. Bruton Smith evidently only woke up to that reality when he heard rumors that a merger between ISC and PMI was in the offing (circa 1998/1999). Way too late, he tried to reach Penske in order to negotiate a deal but Roger reportedly wouldn’t take his call; by then, the merger was a fait accompli.

Back on topic, in the 1994 press release announcing formation of the IRL, Tony George commented (in the third person tense of which he is fond): ” "The Indy Racing League offers a new series management structure and philosophy which we at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway believe in very strongly," George said. "We are pleased to include the 1996 Indianapolis 500 exclusively in this new series."

The rhetoric masked what was an ultimately successful hostile takeover of the sport. The “new philosophy” of which Tony spoke was the divine right of kings, coming from a Terre Haute family that considers itself to be AOWR royalty. For all of George’s talk about answering the pleas of the sport's other stakeholders, there has only ever been one stakeholder in his view: the Hulman family. Tony is fond of masking his autocratic ways with hosts of advisory committees, commissioners, political appointees, investigative bodies, etc. and the original title of his sport, league, is a farce meaning: ”an association or union of persons, nations, etc, formed to promote the interests of its members” or in the sports context, ”an association of sporting clubs that organizes matches between member teams of a similar standard.”

Yet, inclusive as it was meant to sound, the Indy Racing League only ever had one controlling member: the Hulman-George family. Everyone else is either an employee and/or a vassal of the royal family. Tony only discovered the harsh reality behind the fa├žade -- which other supposed members of the league had known for quite some time – when his mother, sisters, and the family attorney deposed him and sent him into brief exile in June 2009.

In any event, the sport is now in the hands of a family of former wholesale grocers. That may sound like a knock, but it is a necessary descriptor. That’s because the Hulman-George family approaches the sport as if it were one of the commodities that once graced their long-gone warehouse shelves. From the beginning their aim has been complete ownership of the sport, after which their strategy is to make their proprietary product cheaper than competing products. Their grocery sense tells them that this is the way to dominant the market place; the difference between baking powder and auto racing being negligible in their view.

This is the primary reason that INDYCAR fans have had to endure the same boring motorsport product (i.e. the “spec” series) for the past eight seasons. The key to the H-G strategy for motor sport domination is to make participation in their motor sport as inexpensive as possible – so that any dissenting team owner can be summarily banned and easily replaced, thus making the family business immune to outside influence – and to make its equipment proprietary. This latter feature proved to be vitally important to their takeover of the sport.

Early in 2002, when CART was reeling from a year of sabotage, unprecedented attacks in the NASCAR press and, most importantly, the defection of Team Penske and the majority of its auto manufacturers/sponsors to the IRL, its new president (Chris Pook) tried to save the series by recommending to its franchise board that it adopt the IRL’s chassis and engine specifications virtually verbatim so that the team owners could operate in both series at will. Tony George responded to the CART board’s adoption of the IRL’s technical outline as a threat and, belatedly, as an opportunity. He already had in place regulations that permitted manufacturer participation in the IRL only on an approved basis; mostly as a means of taxing the sport’s suppliers. To ensure the proprietary nature of his equipment, George took a further step and demanded that those suppliers who were dependent on him – for instance, his chassis makers – sign letters of exclusivity. After being wooed by the league and spending more than a million dollars on a prototype Indycar chassis for the new “common” formula, Lola for one refused to sign the exclusivity agreement and was disapproved as a league supplier in favor of the vaporware MK Racing company (which never produced an operable racecar). As a consequence, Lola Cars nearly went bankrupt and had to reorganize.

In case his exclusivity agreements proved inadequate (or unenforceable), George had a back-up plan: he had exclusive rights to certain pieces of equipment, like the Xtrac transmission, whose use he mandated on all IRL chassis. Thus, an outside chassis maker like Lola might be able to build a “common” chassis but it could never be used in the IRL without the family’s blessing. The same was true of any potential engine manufacturer, who was required to have their product badged by an official IRL automaker. Again, this policy was put in place so that the H-G family could siphon off most of the auto manufacturer sponsorship that was going to the team owners (in CART for instance), a sum in the hundreds of millions of dollars (in the popular rival series). When Chris Pook announced CART’s common-equipment initiative early in 2002, CART had five committed engine manufacturers signed on but only one was an approved IRL supplier (Toyota). One by one, the potential “badges” were dissuaded by the IMS owners from allying with the CART engine makers. For instance, a disgruntled Honda formed an alliance with Penske’s Ilmor Engineering (one of the committed engine makers) and made it a condition of their partnership that the engines not be made available to the rival Champ car series. Another interested “badge,” Nissan (Renault), withdrew from competition when faced with the daunting prospect of an all-out engine “war” in the IRL between Honda and Toyota. Finally, Toyota reneged on its agreement to sponsor CART teams and looked to balance its IRL budget on the backs of the CART team owners and Ford, disgusted, headed for the door. Only an 11th-hour appeal by Pook to Ford kept the Detroit automaker as a CART engine supplier; albeit on an exclusive basis as a requirement. Hence, George and the IRL were the actual architects of the latter-day CART “spec” series (as a last-ditch effort by it to survive).

The only reason that INDYCAR fans are getting the “exciting” new 2012 Indy cars, assuming they do, is because the Hulman-Georges were guaranteed that the new cars would be half the cost of the old cars; which fits perfectly with their strategy to control the marketplace for their motor sport. However, the initiative is doomed to failure (IMO) because the family could not care less about the desires of the fans but rather see the new formula as expanded opportunities to suck more money out of their sport’s suppliers. For example, the family recently concluded a sponsorship deal with Borg-Warner to become the exclusive turbocharger supplier for the new 2012-2016 Indycar formula. A quick check of the suppliers the last time that the sport featured turbocharged cars (i.e. CART/CCWS), didn’t turn up Borg-Warner as one of its turbo suppliers; Honda used IHI turbos and Ilmor-Mercedes and Cosworth used ones from Garrett. Now, if the H-G’s new formula actually sees the light of day, its engine manufacturer clients will have to try to differentiate the performance of their engines using the same brand of turbocharger (because the family gets a fee for its use). The same is true, as recently disclosed by project leader Tony Cotman, for the trusty (if not tried and true) Xtrac transmission and, of course, Dallara chassis. It is rumored that it was the H-G’s greed and attempt to soak Firestone that caused the tire maker to announce its withdrawal from the ICS in 2013 (and refuse to “co-promote” the series).

In his recent radio interview, Tony George lamented that major ICS sponsors like PVH/IZOD were wasting their resources by sponsoring individual teams (e.g. Penske) and drivers (e.g. Ryan Hunter-Reay) when they should be using the money (in his view) to promote the INDYCAR brand. That, of course, is a euphemistic reference to the option of paying the money instead directly to the Hulman-George family; a practice Tony more than endorses. Yet, in the same interview George also lamented his inability to fund his Vision Racing team because he was unable to secure sponsorship for it! Amazing as it seems, his team’s sponsorship went away with his control over the IRL and its rulebook and officials. Tony doesn’t seem to understand why sponsors would want to back winning teams and drivers (instead of his own losing ones) or use their money to market as they see fit rather than just hand the money to his family as a form of Hoosier baksheesh.

Anyway, it is debatable how “different” the new Indycars are going to be when the H-G family controls its specification and development and are shopping every identical nut and bolt of it to the highest bidders in order to line their pockets.

Back on topic, it is a commonly held belief in our sport (and especially among the Gomers) that governance of the sport by team owners was an unmitigated disaster. That tired notion couldn’t be further from the truth, IMO. It is often overlooked that CART was modeled after Formula One’s F1CA/FOCA (Formula One Constructors Association) and that both premier open-wheel series arguably reached the heights of their popularity and prosperity worldwide when they were governed by their team owners. Here it should be remembered that Bernie Ecclestone was merely the spokesman/agent for his fellow team owners until he managed to get his lawyer, Max Mosley, to persuade the FIA to sell the commercial rights to the sport to him in 2000 without competitive bid and on scandalously easy terms. This had been made necessary by Bernie’s attempt to take his FOM companies public, which required him to make financial disclosure about the inner workings of his F1 empire. When his fellow team owners found out how much he had been skimming from the sport, supposedly at their behest, they made plans to buy the sport themselves and dump the rapacious Ecclestone and Mosley. The Gruesome Twosome barely beat them to the feeding trough. The point being that however much Eccelstone or Penske actually pulled the strings in their respective motor sports, the sports were actually operated by associations of team owners when they achieved their greatness. The proof of the collective team owners’ not-inconsiderable influence is the extraordinary escape plans that both el supremo and The Captain had to avail themselves of when their fellows discovered that they had been skunked.

Further, I don’t think we should forget that any human enterprise, no matter the purity of its intentions, is subject to corruption; especially one organized for the financial benefit of its members (as was CART and FOCA). When Penske opened the series floodgates to auto maker sponsorship of the teams with first, Chevrolet, and then Mercedes-Benz, he made the team owners self-aggrandizing representatives of the car manufacturers. Honda had done wonders in CART with a relatively modest budget and large doses of innovation. An internal study by rival Japanese manufacturer Toyota in the 1990’s highlighted Honda’s success in CART as one of the keys to its sales success in North America; where Honda’s share of the market was roughly equivalent to that of Toyota (at around 10%). This was remarkable because at home in Japan, Honda was usually considered an “also ran” in comparison to giants like ToMoCo (the Nippon GM) and Nissan. On the basis of the study, Toyota’s leadership decided to declare “war” on Honda and make the focus of their attack Honda’s participation in the CART series.

On entering North America’s premier open-wheel motor sport, Toyota’s greatest asset was its massive capitalization. Toyota initially tried to take Honda’s approach to the sport with its alliance with Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers; but without much success. Gurney attributes Toyota’s lack of results to its meddling with his efforts. Honda’s CART campaign was being run for the most part domestically by the motorsport arm of American Honda; whereas Toyota insisted that TRD in Japan oversee Gurney’s efforts (especially with respect to their engines, which were an embarrassment). Finally, Toyota decided to take the gloves off and BUY victory over their rivals in CART. The opening salvo was their purchase of Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s four-time championship team (with Honda powerplants) for a rumored $40 million and then their representation of TCGR’s championships as their own. This so incensed American Honda executives that one had to be restrained at the Detroit Auto Show – where the TCGR cars with Toyota livery were on display – from physically attacking the visiting president of Toyota!

In any event, it is debatable if ANY democratic institution could have withstood corruption when a special interest group with such vast resources targeted it with literally hundreds of millions of dollars in “sponsorship.” I’m going from memory but if it serves, in the last years of CART participation by the major engine manufacturers, Toyota’s budget was said to be around $110 million annually (and an unknown sum under the table); with Honda at around $80 million and Cosworth at about $60 million. Ganassi became the de facto Toyota bagman in CART and used its wealth to buy votes on the CART franchise board (which had conveniently been made separate from CART’s corporate Delaware Board and oversaw all technical developments in the sport). I think it was relatively easy for certain team owners – now divorced from series governance by the IPO – to convince themselves that taking money to vote Toyota’s agenda would have little effect on the sport. In point of fact, it ended up destroying it; as the Ganassi-delivered Toyota ultimatums destabilized the series and enraged Honda (who was unable to match Toyota spending on corruption) to the point where it left the sport for the IRL but, more importantly, decided to destroy CART as an act of revenge for its betrayal of the carmaker.

If the Champ car sanctioning body had not been embroiled in a deadly “war” between itself and the IRL (going on seven years), it might have been able to curb the manufacturers’ abuses of the system with measures akin to the government’s campaign spending reforms but it had the IMS owners actively aiding and abetting the turmoil in CART (“I bring a hammer to work every day”); and it ran out of time and sponsorship. Much is made of the fact that CART had $100 million in the bank (from the IPO) when Pook began to fight back in 2002. Overlooked is the fact that the Hulman-George family spent at least six times that much to win its war. Moreover, the H-G’s started and ended the conflict with two renewable sources of income – the Brickyard 400 and Indy 500 – whereas CART lost much of its income-generating assets with Penske’s defection.

So, say what you will about CART under the leadership of its democratic team owners; the proof was in the pudding (and CART’s once-soaring popularity). As Winston Churchill remarked: ” It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

In any event, one fact of which I am positive is that our sport will never prosper and/or regain its popularity as long as it is a captive of the would-be royal family from Terre Haute.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Memo to a groundhog

(by Obi wan 6-6-11)

I feel the need to address a matter that is so patently obvious that most Gomers have missed it completely. That is the fact that Tony George and the rest of his Hulman-George family do not support the sport of INDYCAR racing.

“Sport” in this instance refers to American open-wheel racing; the series of motor sport events comprising the remnants of the American National Championship (as created retroactively by the AAA in 1909).

There is no need to take my word for it but instead one need only look to what Tony George has said.

The press release announcing the formation of the Indy Racing League – “a new auto racing series to run in concert with the Indianapolis 500 beginning in 1996” – was subtitled: “Maintaining the Greatest Race Course in the World.”

In case that is too subtle a statement, as it seems to be for 99% of Gomers, it means that the purpose of the new auto racing series (IRL) was “maintaining” the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (i.e. “the Greatest Race Course in the World”) and its Indianapolis 500 race. Period. In simple terms, the new series exists to serve one race track, not the other way around. If there is a conflict in their respective needs, those of the race track come first.

With everything that occurred during the dozen years of war in American open-wheel racing that formation of the IRL precipitated, is it possible that Tony George and his family changed their intention?

In one of his only interviews during his short time in exile after his family ousted George as CEO of IMS and he resigned as head of the IRL, dated May 4, 2010, Tony said:

HC: What are some of your proudest accomplishments during your 20-year tenure with the Speedway and in founding the Indy Racing League in 1994?

TG: I'm proud of our leadership in investments in the safety of the sport. I am proud of the Hulman Family's commitment to community and philanthropy.

Obviously, once the decision was made to expand our racing events at the Speedway, being a part of bringing world-class events like the Brickyard 400, MotoGP and F1 USGP to fruition; but with that said, the IRL for sure. It has so much potential and it truly is who we [Hulmans] are, we can influence its direction; build it as a brand leveraging both the IMS and the 500 for which it exists.

Much has been speculated, wildly inaccurate, about how much was spent to build the IRL. I am proud that we have spent a lot less than it would have taken to buy a professional sports team in the NFL, MLB, NBA or even the NHL -- and we own the whole league.

So, at a time when Tony George had separated himself from all formal connection with the IMS and the IRL, and hence any conflicts of interest, and three years after the war in AOWR was concluded, George is clear that the purpose of the IRL (i.e. “for which it exists”) is still to “leverage both the IMS and the 500.”

In this brief quote, Tony also betrays his incongruous thinking about the operation of the sport (i.e. “the whole league”). He compares his investment in it with the purchase of “a professional sports team in the NFL, MLB, NBA or even the NHL.”

The conflict that George has never acknowledged, apparently even to himself, is that a professional sports team for the most part can be operated separately from the sport of which it is a part and for the exclusive enrichment of its owner(s) -- as contrasted with the owners of other teams in the sport -- whereas the sport must be operated (in order to succeed) for the benefit of ALL the teams and their owners. Thus, Tony maintains (by extrapolation) that a sport like major-league baseball could be successfully operated by, say, the owners of the NY Yankees and exclusively for their benefit; when obviously it cannot. The results of this sort of erroneous thinking are painfully obvious in the ruined remnants of our sport.

If any doubt remains about the exact meaning of Tony George’s words and intentions, he concluded his two-part interview with this assessment of the worth of the IRL:

There is great value in the Indy Racing League; it exists to support the institutions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 Mile race; and I am proud of its contributions to the sport.

Besides the simply stated purpose of the IRL (now ICS), note if you will its relationship to the sport: it is a contributor to the sport, not the sport itself. This is something that the Gomers have yet to realize.

Given all the Hulman-George family’s rhetoric about “maintaining” and “protecting” the IMS and the 500, it is ironic indeed that they have almost single-handled brought both to near ruin; such that it is widely believed that IMS must be sold soon in order to save it and its once-iconic 500-mile race. Now you know why.