San Jose Diary:|
Brave New Race
San Jose, CA, July 31 ó Itís a perfect day for a race or two, which is fortunate, because thatís why we are here at seven in the morning. Arriving early, too, are thousands of race fans, which we take as a good sign for attendance on race day. While there have been many discussions over the weekend about the track and the facilities, today it comes down to how well the concept of the urban street race festival will translate in this most populous of Northern California cities.
This morning we learn in the media center that Rubins Barrichello will leave Ferrari for BAR Honda in 2006. In this case itís one old friend, Gil De Ferran, recruiting another to change jobs. This type of change, we feel, is indicative of the old racing model, which includes cronyism, but also a heavy reliance on auto manufacturer monies to pay the bills, or in this case, Rubinís new salary.
In contrast, Champ Car and the San Jose Grand Prix are all about the Brave New World of Racing, which Kevin Kalkhoven understands so very well. In our Brave New World, driver salaries are not, moreís the pity, what they were in the Olden Days. Instead, there is a balance of interests, evolved into marketing platforms, which involve engine and tire manufacturers shilling their wares, to be sure, but also venues, such as San Jose, and sponsors, such as Taylor Woodrow, targeting desirable markets. When asked, for instance, who would pay for the new $2 million in CCWS sponsorships for the 2006 and beyond Atlantic Championship, KK replied, "The continuing success of Champ Car".
This is not, as we should all know by now, a man out there looking for a manufacturer to fund such an effort for a perhaps dubious return, or in return for a long-owed favor. Instead, there is a direct correlation now between the monies earned by the series and an investment in its future. Itís a business model, not an automotive manufacturersí modelóitís the brave new world of racing, and it will in time become the norm.
Other series have grasped part, but not the entire concept. So, we in Champ Car are ahead of the curve, and the rest of the racing world will be playing catch up to us. In the meantime, itís now time for the Brave New Race.
First up are Atlantics. The series is promoting its "Fabulous Five," the five drivers who have henceforth dominated its series in 2005. On the start, both Zwolsman and Legge are able to out accelerate row mates Kasemets and Martinez, and are in P one and two, respectively. Around the middle of the race, the Dutchman develops gearbox problems sufficient for Legge to pass for the lead, and Martinez is in third due to the retirement of Kasemets. Itís an exciting race, and at the post race press conference, it is gratifying to hear how open the top three drivers are about how the race went, and how the drivers in this series support one another.
We also learn three very important things. First, we see C2 class champion Justin Sofio has clinched that honor at todayís race and in his home state as well. Justin is a friend of our friend, Larry Mason, so itís very good news to us. Second, the beaming man I encounter in the aisle says, "I certainly am" when I ask him if heís Katherine Leggeís father. I introduce him to Jeff Davidson, whoís able to show him a great shot of Katherine going over the finish line, which we promise to email to Derek Legge as soon as we can.
Third, we learn from Katherine that she is over having another woman driver in another racing series mentioned in every article that is written about Katherine. Weíre over it now, too, Katherine, and hopefully others will follow suit. In fact, we will go one better and encourage others to follow suit: after winning three races in the Toyota Atlantic series, we in the media should be over having a "woman race car driver" win a race. We should be covering Katherine Legge simply as a driver, and not as some sort of sideshow attraction. We at Deep Throttle will try to adhere to this policy out of respect for Legge, and hopefully, it will catch on.
With the afternoon comes the Champ Car race, and itís a real attrition fest. The main culprits appear to be the now reviled train tracks, which make the racetrack like a paint shaker, and the turn four wall, which nabs more drivers than an autograph-seeking fan. By the middle of the race, we are treated to veteran owner-driver Jimmy Vasser being in 11th place but also 11 laps down. We figure Sebastien wins this race not only due to talent, but being on a team that can afford to rebuild his car the night before. As races go, this one was not exciting, but in the urban festival setting, this is almost beside the point.
Because this Grand Prix truly is a Brave New Race in a Brave New World.
Copyright © 2005 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.