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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Bored Eh?
7/20/07

Cairo, NY—Having endured at least a thousand cuts to the body over the years, I'm certainly grateful not to have perished. Sure, occasionally I leave the house in the morning with bits of toilet paper stuck to the razor nicks on my face but alive is still a valid component of my resume.

Unfortunately, for most of its post-split life, the Champ Car World Series has also been driving around with toilet paper stuck to its face. However, that may not really matter all that much for there are those—a non-turncoat former CART team owner, for one—who would point out that at this juncture "...the fans don't know or care about the drivers."

No huge surprise there except that the conduit for this rather stiff shot of reality is none other than one of the foremost chroniclers of Champ Car racing who, in recent years, has been as much a cheerleader as a journalist, creating mainly informatively fluffy pieces for the CCWS house organ and penning biographies of open-wheel heroes from the bygone halcyon era.

Gordon Kirby has, to date, not been a biter of either of the hands that feed him and, to be fair, it may not be necessary for the messenger to be shot in this instance. Nonetheless, there's gotta be a problem with the product when most of the shills have now written of, if not embraced, concerns about the series that are quite similar to the long-standing opinions of this renegade scribe and other, shall we say, disheartened realists.

Inspiration for the title of Gordon Kirby's recent personal website piece, Death by a thousand cuts, is obviously the following quote from Steve Horne who, after several years in absentia, attended this year's Cleveland Grand Prix. It has been reported that the Champ Car Company’s partners spent time with him during that weekend and that they have been exploring the possibility of hiring the former Tasman Racing boss, perhaps as a reunification liaison:

"I hate to say it but [CCWS] reminded me of the SCCA all over again...it reminded me of GP2, or something like that. It's moved on to become something else we don't recognize. Really, it's like death by a thousand cuts."

It was my pleasure to have had informal conversations with Steve Horne while he was campaigning Andre Ribeiro in one of the original Honda-powered cars. That took place just after Bobby Rahal's disappointing single detonation-filled season with the Japanese manufacturer's engines and just before the Ganassi team's Vasser/Zanardi/Montoya championship domination referred to in the Kirby piece.

No commentator—not even Gordon Kirby—has ever observed that Honda's dominance might never have taken hold had Horne and company not performed so meticulously during their CART development days. A former Indy Car jack-of-all-trades, Horne struck me as being confidently calm, pragmatic, and deliberate. Certainly not an emotional self-aggrandizer like, say, Bobby Rahal.

So while I doubt that Steve Horne would be duped or manipulated by the double-speaking inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, who thoroughly bamboozled his fellow CART team owner Barry Green and continues to fuel the ongoing psycho-babblings of Grandpa Andretti, Horne is not apt to last very long in reunification talks given his no-nonsense approach to the business of open-wheel racing.

But then again, who really believes that reunification is even a remote possibility while the splitter of our beloved speed sport is still driving around with toilet paper stuck to his faccia bruta.

* * *

Don't let today's title and strange locality identification fool you. While our new house is a bit further north and the surrounding terrain is certainly evocative of the Canadian woods, we're still a good couple of hours drive from the border.

It has been an extremely hectic few months since my last rant was posted. During this period we spent lots of time chasing down homes for sale, followed by often-difficult negotiations both as buyers and sellers. Then there was the laborious process of disposing of many years worth of pack-ratted stuff plus weeks of planning for the inspections, closings, and finally the big move.

Since moving day there have been a million projects and a job change of which I'll spare you the gory details. Nonetheless, not a single lap of televised Champ Car racing has been missed. Granted, the ill-planned 48-day hiatus between Houston and Portland might have helped just a tad bit in enabling my race-following conscientiousness. In any case, I didn't want you to think that I haven't been paying close attention.

Even though the recently-tightened points race and its key players have provided some moments of good entertainment both on and off the track, I've got to agree with Steve Horne that the series is a far cry even from its deteriorated state at the time that he chose to walk away.

Ridiculously low car counts, limited and outdated technology, the lack of diversity—including zero ovals, too many street festivals, too few road courses, and the total spec-ness of the series—have all become boring old stories.

Kirby's additional notes regarding star recognition, personality marketing, and/or the lack thereof are well taken. Personally, however, and in light of all of the foregoing issues, I see no need to criticize the sharp-looking new Panoz chassis and its reasonable cost-efficiency.

In particular it bugs me that in an environment which shuns drivers' aids such as traction control, tire warmers, and pace car-led starts while highlighting the theoretical it's all about the drivers component of a spec series, the racing is as much or more about P2P (push to pass) as good old fashioned D2P (drive to pass).

{Editor's Note: What's with Ed and Old World (very Old World) city names?}

Copyright © 2007 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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