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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

What’s the Motor-vation?

Athens, NY—Monday’s official announcement that specialty engine manufacturer Cosworth has been rescued as a result of its purchase by Champ Car company partners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe represents good news for anyone concerned with the preservation of engine diversity and the all-out tech competition in ForMoola One.

However, a very different scenario could play out in Champ Car. At this early juncture we can read between the lines and merely speculate about any impact that Cosworth’s sale may ultimately have on our beloved speed sport.

Laughably, only one racing benefit will accrue to Champ Car racing according to Gerald Forsythe [as quoted in an 11/15/04 report at F1 website]. "As we go forward Cosworth will be a developer of affordable engines for the Champ Car ladder series," said the new co-owner.

The following are random "renegade scribe thinks outside the box" observations regarding what most fans will consider to be the new and improved Cosworth connection. Please keep in mind that these are merely thoughts—not predictions, recommendations, or endorsements.

  • If the long-term goal of OWRS is, as one would expect, to expand engine manufacturers’ participation in Champ Car racing so as to create a more F1-like technical environment, then having a couple of insiders seated at the table alongside the world’s most advanced engine suppliers certainly creates important instant contacts.
  • It also dramatically deepens the OWRS troika’s knowledge/information pool.
  • If additional engine manufacturers cannot be lured to the CCWS, the Cosworth connection not only insures supply of the current spec engines but also precludes the purchase of any of this technology by a competitor.
  • Since Cosworth is no longer a Ford company what will happen to the Powered by Ford part of the series official title? How does Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by 2/3 of Its Owners sound?
  • Just as silly is the possibility that the 2.65-liter turbocharged Cosworth engine might be badged to accommodate Ford or some other carmaker. Quirkier yet, there is the possibility that a variety of auto manufacturers could each have their logos emblazoned on the Cosworth’s valve covers. Powered by Hummer? Sounds like a bummer.
  • Another Champ Car possibility: multiple Cosworths, each custom-made to the order and/or input of any number of carmakers. It would be a way that companies could do R&D and go racing in a less costly manner while enjoying the prestigious PR byproduct that derives from participation in high echelon motorsports.
  • Coupled with GM’s recent pull-out, if the circulating reports of Toyota’s and/or Honda’s disgruntlement with the IRL are to be believed then Cosworth engines were surely seen as a very attractive lower cost/lower potential brain damage alternative for the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to consider opening his checkbook to cultivate. Chip Ganassi’s recent offer to purchase Cosworth was likely not to have been made to enhance his NASCAR interests but purely to do the bidding of the Speedway owner and/or Toyota.
  • At some point the IRL could run out of engine suppliers. If, at that time, CCWS is no longer a spec series, KK and GF could put the squeeze on the inheritor. This could take the form of making him and his fair-weather friends pay through their noses for engines, which would probably lead to mass re-defections.
  • Regarding the recently abandoned Chevy-badged IRL Cosworth engine, Robin Miller states in a current Speed story, "…it's not too far-fetched to imagine Honda and Toyota leaving the IRL after 2006 with Kalkhoven and Forsythe still owning a normally-aspirated engine with IRL specs." The ramifications of such a scenario could lead to Champ Car participation at Indy or to a full-blown reunification or even a buy-out. Loyal Champ Car fans can only hope that it would mean the end to f-inheritor and, perhaps, the restoration of the Indy 500 to its former status.

Speculate all you like but the truth about the current spec Cosworth Champ Car engine is that, in a big pinch, it literally rescued the series. Therefore, Cosworth is certainly deserving of its own rescue by Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven. Furthermore, these engines have performed admirably to meet their promised level of endurance and cost efficiency.

Nonetheless, any ideal Champ Car scenario should include Cosworth competing against the rest of the world’s best.

Road Rage! An op-ed feature by Ed Donath.

Copyright © 2004 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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