~~the background of the sport prior to the split
~~whether it could've been prevented
~~how the principals involved reacted
~~the history of the split itself
~~and the future of the sport
It is said that, by studying the past, we can hopefully learn not to repeat the mistakes of the past. And so it goes with this topic......A Brief History of the Split.
1995.......American open-wheel racing was at its' proverbial zenith; a vibrant, living, full-throttle sport that was dominant in NA motorsports and was, so I'm told, breathing down on the glass houses of Max Mosely and Bernie Ecclestone and, through them, Formula 1. Just 24 months after Nigel Mansell left F1 to dominate CART, there were 25+ car grids at most events, three(soon to be four) engine manufacturers(Ford, Honda, Toyota and Mercedes-Ilmor), three chassis builders(Reynard, Swift and Lola), two tire companies(Goodyear and Firestone) and at least a dozen fully-funded teams competing for a title that spanned all the way from the Granite State of New Hampshire to the Aussie Gold Coast of Surfers Paradise. Attendance was approaching all-time high at the oval tracks of New Hampshire, Michgan and Phoenix while massive traffic jams were commonplace at the great road courses of Laguna Seca and Road America. Only professional golf's legendary Masters tournament had a tougher tricket to get than the Indy 500 and television ratings averaged between 1.8-3.7, according to Nielsen......It was a glorious time for the sport.
2006.......After 11 seasons of a divided sport, the carnage, wreckage and devastation of the split btwn. CART and the IRL is ever the more evident. No ovals will be on the 2007 ChampCar schedule, while the IRL continues to morph into what CART was back in the early-mid 1990's. The great ovals of Phoenix and Milwaukee are no longer visited by ChampCar, and only the IRL will travel to the Milwaukee Mile in 2007. Estimates are that IRL founder Tony George has spent over $400 million keeping the Indy Racing League afloat, while Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe are doing yeomans' work, it seems, trying to rescuitate ChampCar from the shell of CART. Both sides have fallen to the point where, for instance, they have to employ time-buys in order to broadcast races on television. No title sponsors of note are present in either series; neither series has very many team sponsors and the television ratings are downright pathetic at times. And what of "the Greatest Spectacle in Racing"? It, essentially, is a two-day affair(Pole Day and the race) that can barely qualify 33 cars on the grid and hasn't seen a sellout since 1995.
Tom Elliott, former director, American Honda Motor Company's motorsports program:
Steve Horne, former CART team owner, Tasman Motorsports:CART was the most exciting and competitive series in the world back then and it's just sad to see what's happened. I don't think anybody could've foreseen things getting so bad. It it had been less confrontational, maybe both sides could've sat down and worked it out when there was still a chance. Had anybody had an inkling of what it would turn out to be, they'd have said, 'Let's talk this over.'
As I said up top, over the next few weeks, I'll expand on this thread and hopefully, pick my way through the sometimes twisted, esoteric and frightening world of AOWR that the split has wrought. Only by learning about the past can we ever hope to prevent it from happening in the future.....Teams in the IRL probably have higher standards but they're racing in a vacuum......no people, no enthusiasm, no atmosphere. Champ Car has some good venues but no sponsors to speak of. You've got two entities slogging each other to death.