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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Natural Resources
11/10/04

Athens, NY—"People are excited and there’s a lot of talk," commented Oriol Servia whose P7 Mexico City finish earned the ever-aggressive Catalonian ninth place in the final 2004 Champ Car World Series championship points. While admitting that several drivers’ 2005 employment prospects hinge on funding issues, Servia optimistically added: "…It definitely feels better than the end of last year!"

Yup, the completion of a "successful" season of Champ Car racing on the heels of the CART financial debacle is certainly optimism provoking stuff; an accomplishment that should help increase sponsorships and hopefully stimulate the job market for 2005.

Incidentally, Servia’s season-long aggressiveness earned his under-resourced Dale Coyne Racing Team its first top-ten points finish in nearly 20 years of CART/CCWS competition—a far cry from the laughable ride-buying exploits of such distinguished Coyne alumni as Hiro Matsushita, Dennis Vitolo, and Charlie Nearburg.

Similar success stories revolve around racy veterans Mario Dominguez, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani, and Ryan Hunter-Reay plus super rookies A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson. All of the aforementioned played interesting bit parts in Champ Car’s 2004 production. However, the show was stolen by the dominating true star performance of Sebastien Bordais.

While Bourdais’ disgruntled Newman-Haas runner-up teammate—the now thrice confounded Bruno Junqueira—avoided mathematical elimination well into the seasons’ finale, the outcome of the Champ Car points championship was never nearly as suspenseful as the US Presidential race that ran concurrently with it. Decided earlier in the same week, the ultimate winner of the race to the W-House continued to be unknown even hours after the checkered flag waved at our nation’s polls.

Had Junqueira somehow gotten the job done, his accomplishment would be analogous to the Y2K presidential contest in which, without benefit of a popular vote plurality, Bush II captured enough of the Electoral College to make it stick. An argument would now be raging that it was the controversial new points system which had artificially enabled a steady podium occupant like Junky to outpoint the overwhelmingly winning-est participant in the series.

And speaking of the effectiveness—or lack thereof—of quirky new rules, it should be noted that despite eliminating mandatory pit stops and allowing triple push-to-pass time in the last event, Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez was, nonetheless, the scene of a far too parade-like race day to suit the tastes of most Champ Car aficionados.

No, my fellow fans, it was not merely the bogus TV coverage that did little to help make this and most other races appear exciting. Just the same, the Spike affiliation is certainly not one of the entities for which we should continue to thank the OWRS troika during the off-season.

Optional spec rubber, pit/fuel controls, P2P, and chrome horns aside, serious R&D, engineer re-education, and lots of testing must be among the leading priorities of OWRS and its teams if overtaking frequency and the quality of the racing product is to be improved for the future.

Taking nothing away from the overall talents of N-H’s employee roster, you’ve got to believe that some "secret technologies" could greatly improve the winning potential of the racy drivers listed above. A spec series is what the drivers and engineers make of it!

The announced 15-race 2005 schedule is (barely) event rich enough to provide adequate fan pleasure. And it will be interesting to see if any of the tba’s pan out.

According to Champ Car Vice-President of Development, Governmental Affairs and Planning Joe Chrnelich: "We are in discussions with other potential new venues for the future as we strive to build the best series possible for our teams, sponsors and fans."

Chrnelich’s boss, Champ Car President/CEO Dick Eidswick further hyped "the international flavor" of the series during the official schedule announcement:

"In our last race, drivers from seven nations were among the top eight finishers and it is diversity like that which helps broaden our appeal and makes our series attractive throughout the world. We believe that [the 2005] schedule will develop awareness of Champ Car even further."

Eidswick is not the first CEO to place a premium on worldwide awareness of our beloved speed sport. We can only hope that the current management will emulate the series’ aggressive drivers—especially those who are working with whatever resources are available to them—to finally get the marketing job done.

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

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

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