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Uncensored CΛRT Commentary
by Ed Donath

The Missing M-word

ATHENS, NY—It was somewhat disappointing that Emerson Fittipaldi stopped just short of inserting the F-word—pronounced fon-tos’-teek—into his on-camera conversations, but that perpetually raised huge left thumb, those big sparkling teeth and the trademark hyper-positive energy of an undisputed World Champion were, in and of themselves, enough to save the opening day game from itself.

Not that there weren’t other factors which made the inaugural St. Petersburg Champ Car World Series event at least a qualified success.

With little more than a handful of test laps, a canny pit strategy and his smiling team leader’s positive energy, Emmo’s protégé—a Portuguese kid with a last name that sounds like a Mitsubishi SUV—was able to lead a bunch of race laps and finish his first-ever Champ Car race in a respectable P7.

Similarly, more than half of the record crop of nine rookie pilots—most of whom have European surnames that sound like anything from soft cheeses to mysterious diseases—also showed flashes of consistency, if not brilliance; not the least of which was a geeky French caricature of a teenaged Greg Moore.

This bespectacled Frenchman managed not only to outclass all qualifiers with his blinding speed but also went on to overcome raceday adversity, putting yet another couple of points on the championship scoreboard. However, his Brazilian teammate—everyone’s pick to succeed his boyhood pal as CΛRT’s V-Cup winner—drank nothing but whine with his post-race dinner, despite a podium finish.

Sharing a dinner table with the aforementioned Brazilian was another veteran Championship hopeful—the affable Mexican National Hero. The latter changed many peoples’ high opinions of the level of his personality and sportsmanship by calculatedly inserting the S-word—pronounced ess-too’-peedo en Español—into a TV interview.

But don’t worry about the state of the Champ Car racing art South of the Border. There is a fully matured potential replacement hero who is poised to take over by dramatically assuming the points lead—if not actually securing his breakthrough victory—before what is certain to be a record-breaking home crowd at Fundidora Park next month.

Your veteran expatriate Ontarian race winner, appearing in his premier event with Canadian “patriots” from the Great French White North, also used uncharacteristic positive energy and conservatism to stay the course. A last-minute engineering shake-up notwithstanding, the Maple Leaf Banner was ultimately unfurled by…a Harley-ridin’ Nevadan.

Thus, not only was the anti-crapwagon contingent vindicated, the memory of dastardly defectors was also obliterated by the thick smoke from the victor’s Zanardiesque post-checkers doughnut display. Incidentally, doesn’t it make you wonder just how much of a Cosworth XFE’s 1200-mile life gets scrubbed off like expendable Bridgestone rubber during the course of one of these crowd-stoking exercises?

Of course, all of this sounds exciting, intriguing and perhaps even a bit romantic. That is mainly because we are involved, in the know and loyal to our beloved speed sport.

However, to the lesser initiated who somehow found themselves scratching their heads while watching under-sponsored, inexperienced ostensibly foreign no-names acquitting themselves in competition with somewhat better-known veteran pilots, this is all merely the stuff that F-3000 is made of. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t exactly tuning into that particular motorsports genre in droves.

Furthermore, in-house commercials that feature a nerdy Gen X’er with a laptop—voiced-over by a non-descript female in a cheap echo chamber—is not very likely to help the cause. Who, beside us true fans, really cares about the official Champ Car website, anyhow?

Frankly, “Feel the Speed” and “I’m Faster” campaigns were a bit closer to the accurate portrayal of fan excitement, driver superiority and the sexiness of the series. And, in case you’re wondering, the missing M-word—as always in CΛRT—is “marketing.”

Copyright © 2003 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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