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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Alternate Solution
6/9/08

Cairo, NYŚOn the heels of a brief, cryptic report regarding the auction sale of 20 Champ Car chassis, disenfranchised fans of our beloved speed sport have been thrust into the speculation mode regarding the possibility of a new series.

"The cars we run will have environmentally-friendly motors. I want to promote eco-friendly, alternate solutions," said Ben Johnston, the man who out-bid all others for those 20 surplus rollers at a bankruptcy liquidation auction held last Tuesday at the former Champ Car Company headquarters.

Associated Press reporter Cliff Brunt interviewed the winning bidder. He's the guy in the Champ Car Orange shirt to the right of a Champ Car World Series-livery 2000 Reynard in this AP Photo.

Deepening the mystery, Brunt identified Johnston only as an "Atlanta collector" who claims that his series is set for a 2010 launch.

A bit of googling revealed that Ben Johnston of Alpharetta, Georgia has some gloves-on racing background, including competition in the Champ Car Atlantics Series. Johnston is also President/CEO of Media Brokers International (MBI), a company involved with advertising, sports marketing and other media-related projects.

What or who Ben Johnston represents and why an aged Reynard makes a good platform for his Going-Green Champ Car series is interesting speculative conversation. However, before we get carried away with the eco-friendliness of recycled carbon fiber, it bears remembering that these chassis have always been propelled by alternative fuel engines.

Methanol is not only manufactured from renewable resources but it is far less flammable and potentially explosive than gasoline. For added safety, a methanol fire can be extinguished with water. Most importantly, in its heyday CART's Indy Cars cranked out 1,000+ horsepower with our favorite sweet-smelling eco-friendly elixir in their fuel cells.

So if Champ Car chassis will be used to promote alternative energy solutions the fact that they were "green" long before such technology came to popularity must never be swept under the rug.

What we truly need is an alternative solution to our four-buck-a-gallon foreign oil dependency. Whether it comes from a new energy source, new automobile technology, or from expanded use of our untapped resources we will all need to be more conservative in our driving styles and travel habits until the crisis ends.

Since fewer fans will be driving to racing venues as discretionary trips become more and more cost-prohibitive, those who do attend races will want better-than-ever bang for the buck. To that extent, it might be difficult to sell a substitute Champ Car series that fails to include methanol-burning screaming turbocharged engines.

So what would you do with 20 Champ Cars to "promote eco-friendly, alternate solutions?" I can think of at least 20 major Champ Car stronghold cities around the world and plenty of drivers who would love to represent their hometowns in a re-born Champ Car series.

How about Paul Tracy in the Toronto Car or Mario Dominguez in the Mexico City Car or perhaps Ben Johnston in the Atlanta Car talking up the eco-friendliness of their cities -- public conservation education, recycling, mass transit, energy-efficient government projects, go-green industry in the area, etc. -- while competing before a dedicated, ready-made fan base?

Now there's a way to call attention to both the current fuel crisis and the lameness of the unified sham series that has us all hoping for an alternate solution.

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