HBO Brazil last night aired the movie Driven (translated to
the Brazilian market as “High Speed”) written and starred by Sylvester
Stallone and directed by Cliffhanger’ s Renny Harlin
This is a rare case of a movie that manages to not please anyone.. Regular
movie fans with a bit of intelligence find the plot weak and filled with
clichés. Race fans are troubled by the ridiculous overtaking (there’s
never an outbraking overtake; apparently, to Stallone and Harlin, shifting
faster than your rival is the key to get by him), absurd crashes (though I
enjoy them – it’s supposed to be an action film after all, and most
crashes account for breathtaking action) and the joyride through the
streets of Chicago (how did they start the Champ Cars? By turning the
Hardcore CART loyalists find it hard to get over the bluntly shaped
purpose-built cars that share the screen with the real, much sleeker Champ
Cars. Any Brazilian gets pissed with the fact that Memo Moreno (played by
Chilean Cristián de la Fuente) speaks Spanish, not Portuguese – and so on.
Oother disturbing points include, for instance, Til Schweiger’s horrible
acting as Beau Brandenburg, Jimmy Bly’s (Kip Pardue) irritatingly
stereotyped “show-me-the-money” older brother (Robert Sean Leonard), and
the fact that the wardrobe people managed to give hot Estella Warren a
beer belly with the outfit they chose for her at the “Prototype Party”. As
a Brazilian racing and movie fan, and a CART enthusiast with that bit of
intelligence, I shouldn’t be able to stand “Driven”. But I did. And I
actually liked it.
To hardcore CART fans, there’s just no option to “Driven”. So, even though
my girlfriend had given me the DVD last year, I watched the whole movie
(again) on HBO.
After almost two hours, I was worried. The majority of the Brazilian press
were optimistic after CART’s 2003 debut at St. Pete – it was some good
racing, provided by a category many thought was about to die. The
dissonant voice was Téo José, “the Voice of CART” on TV during the
category’s heyday (95-2000). He wrote, in an editorial in his website, how
worried he was about CART’s future, mostly due to the general lack of
sponsors. At first I disagreed with him. Now I don’t.
For that’s exactly what shocked me as I watched Driven again last night.
The movie is based on the 2000 season –in which many thought CART was
already starting to struggle. Well, if that’s struggling, what do you call
CART now, dead?
The number of big-time sponsors lost in less than three years is nothing
short of amazing. But that’s not all: featured teams, drivers and venues
that are no longer around make 2000 seem like a dream season (attendance
and TV ratings show it wasn’t – the war with the IRL was already beginning
to take its toll). Let’s account for the casualties then – what WAS in
Driven but is NOT on the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World
Series Powered by Ford:
Engine manufacturers: Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz; all now gone
Events: Rio de Janeiro, Japan; all now gone
Race-winning drivers: Juan Montoya, Christian Fittipaldi, Tony
Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, Cristiano da Matta, Max Papis, Mark Blundell
(retired), Mauricio Gugelmin (retired), and, of course, Jimmy Bly and Beau
Teams: Penske, Ganassi, Mo Nunn, PacWest, Green, PPI - all now gone
Big-buck sponsors: Target (2 cars), Marlboro (2 cars),
Motorola/Nextel (2 cars), Miller, Hollywood, K-mart, Texaco/Havoline,
Shell, Pioneer, KOOL (2 cars) - all now gone.
And this is just what I can quickly recall, without thinking much or
getting help from the DVD.
What has replaced all these losses? In terms of international
events, nothing (additional races in Mexico and Canada can’t be considered
replacements – they’re NAFTA markets, after all). Driver-wise, nothing
either (the only 2003 rookies that would have a seat in that 2000 season
would be Bourdais, Haberfeld and Manning – but not in the top rides, at
least for their rookie year).
In terms of teams, the situation is not as dramatic – Emmo, Craig Pollock,
Paul Gentilozzi and Stefan Johansson are very credible names. But when it
comes to sponsors, the scenario gets really ugly: the four abovementioned
new owners, all widely respected names in racing, have no major sponsors
for their teams! (except for Gentilozzi). What big sponsors did CART add
for 2003? PacifiCare and Corona come to mind, but they’re both backing
just one car.
Anyway, teams like Fittipaldi-Dingman, PK Racing, American Spirit Team
Johansson, RocketSport Racing and Conquest Racing have structures and
drivers (except for Vasser) that would enable them to achieve mid-pack
performances at best in 2000.
Point is, it cannot be denied that CART’s level has dropped – even though
the current situation of the world economy can be partially blamed for the
lack of sponsorship dollars. That’s not necessarily bad for the racing –
St. Pete had great action. It’s just that, a few years ago, many
Brazilians and perhaps just as many North Americans saw CART as just as
much of a “pinnacle of motorsport” as F1. That perception no longer can be
Seeing “Driven” today proves Chris Pook’s philosophy is right; given the
turmoil CART has found itself in lately, the series’s major goal for the
2003 and 2004 seasons has to be its sheer survival. Then in 2005,
hopefully with Bernie on board, begin to finally regain its old (and much
deserved) prestige. It's a rebuilding process for CART, but the
"new" CART will be even better than the old.
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