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2001 Sneak Preview Diary: Day Three
Deals Are Made As The Week Winds Down.

Fontana, CA, January 18 Thursday brought the Sneak Preview to a close. It turned out to be the shortest of the three days, and that's to be expected. With a series growing as CART is, there was too much for two days, and almost enough to consume three. Camera in hand, Deep Throttle's Jeff Davidson went out to California Speedway to complete our coverage of the season's first media event.

Key news on Thursday was the announcement of a multi-year deal to have a CART race in Montreal. For those who don't know, Molson controls the CART races held in Canada. We learned that the fate of the Vancouver race is still up in the air, but CART CEO Joe Heitzler hopes the race will stay on the schedule. CART will use the same track as F1 does, which is named for racing icon Gilles Villeneuve.

Max Wilson, who was jilted by Sigma Racing after doing testing for them, put his trip to California to good use by signing with Brooke Racing Team Arciero, themselves somewhat jilted by Casey Mears. Max Wilson is, according to Jeff, shorter than anyone in CART, including Cristiano Da Matta, and also most jockeys we have met. I found out that Mears' deal with Galles to run in the IRL is only a 4-race deal. Brooke Racing is still willing to run a second car for Mears if he makes himself available to do so.

Sigma Racing left the Sneak Preview with what we consider the coolest paint job on any car. Unfortunately, the rumors around the event indicated that, contract notwithstanding, their driver would be Oriol Servia. After watching the way the Spaniard raced at Surfer's Paradise in 2000, I think it's a shame to waste such lovely work on someone like Servia. One can only hope that if he does race in this series in '01, he will not be so intent on taking other drivers out of competition.

The partnership issues that have apparently divided Team Zakspeed/Forsythe were resolved in the favor of the German partner. In spite of co-owner Gerald Forsythe's having serious discussion with UK F1 driver Johnny Herbert about a ride alongside American Bryan Herta, German Marcel Tiemann was announced Thursday for the second seat at Z/F. Hopefully, having Tiemann and PRG driver Michael Krumm signed on as CART drivers will help promoters market the new race this year in Germany. Krumm in particular thinks that CART has the potential to become wildly popular in his native land.

Thursday's photography schedule was a mixed bag for Jeff Davidson. Mo Nunn Racing's Kanaan and Zanardi were his pick for top team. All he had to do was point and click, and Jeff got nearly perfect shots of both. Jimmy Vasser was another matter. Not only did he not wear a driving suit (which in fairness to him, he may not have, not having a confirmed sponsor yet), but Vasser could not stay still, and all the photographers had to shoot many photos to get even one that was usable. On the other hand, the best smile in CART has to be Helio Castroneves'. He totally lights up any room or track with his grins, as we noticed the first time we saw him. So, please know that we did our very best to get you quality shots that you'll be able to enjoy throughout the year.

Thursday's lunch was in the Media Lounge, and Jeff shared a table with, among others, PacWest's new driver, Scott Dixon. Jeff pronounced Dixon a "nice kid." Will the nice kid get a competitive car and have the chance to join CART's many race winners? And I must say that the majority of the drivers, team members, sponsors and journalists all seem to have tremendous enthusiasm for the sport -- that came through loud and clear each day of the Preview.

By my count, if Dale Coyne can successfully field a two car team, there should be 31 cars (editor's note: it may now be 32!) in CART's Class of 2001. We must thus judge this as a pivotal year for the continued success of the series. CART has a new CEO who appears poised to tackle the divisiveness that has crippled it for so long. Last year was very competitive, and this one promises to be even more so, unless a "winning package" clearly emerges. There are more races outside North America. Putting this all together, CART may emerge as a stronger series -- if not the strongest -- in 2001. I sure know I'm going to be watching. Hope you will, too!

Copyright © 2001 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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