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Côrtes is a young Brazilian journalist who writes for
Multilingual (English, Portuguese, Spanish and French), Mr.
Cortes brings a fresh South American perspective to our
Who will be the winner over Long Beach?
In 1929, French Minister for War Andre Maginot
commissioned 2.9 billion francs to create a line of fortifications
along the Franco-German and Franco-Italian borders. Having learned the
lessons from World War I all too well, Maginot knew France stood in a
vulnerable position to its neighbors in the east, especially as they
seemed to grow ever fonder of totalitarian ideals in the late 1920’s.
When everything went wrong, when the worst-case scenario was such that
France’s hopes were to dwindle by the hour, Andre Maginot’s brainchild
would spare his motherland from ultimate disaster.
Yet as Sebastien Bourdais and Nelson Philippe were taught at middle
school and can thus attest, what became known as the “Maginot Line” is
considered one of history’s greatest military blunders. As the dark
months of September, 1939 developed, Hitler’s armies simply took a
detour through Belgium to avoid the Maginot, and went on to march
under the Arc du Triomphe in less than two weeks.
Fast-forward to September, 2004. As the Indy Racing League revs up to
road race at Watkins Glen and Infineon Raceway in 2005, a new
million-dollar question arises in the open-wheel world: can Tony
George put on a show similar to Champ Car’s Grand Prix of Denver? If
it can, open-wheel’s landscape may look radically different in the
next few years.
Street races are Champ Car’s last trump card over the IRL. They’re
Paul Gentilozzi, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe’s Maginot line.
The IRL’s capability to parade under American open-wheel’s Triumph
Arch is not a simple question to be answered, though.
How would an IRL car deal with the narrow streets surrounding Denver’s
Pepsi Center, where corner-exiting torque is king and gearboxes are
strained to their limits – hardly strengths of their current package?
Not to mention the fact that their engines still run circa 100
horsepower shy of a Champ Car’s.
With owners like Chip Ganassi repeatedly stating their unwillingness
to spend big money on a full-version road course car (check the IRL’s
minor road course
the Dallaras and Panoz G-Forces’ ability to appeal to open-wheel fans
once the hit America’s road courses looks weak.
The IRL’s strategy for the moment seems simple: avoid head-to-head
comparisons by racing on NASCAR’s road courses, where they’re
guaranteed to lap faster than the Frances’ 1.5 ton behemoths.
But it’s no secret Tony George craves for Champ Car’s remaining crown
jewel: the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. And as the event’s name
itself states, he may have a major ally in the world’s second largest
car manufacturer, currently one of his league’s main supporters. High
Champ Car sources don’t doubt Tony George’s disposition to spend seven
figures out of his and Toyota’s bottomless pockets to snatch Long
Beach away from Champ Car. In that case, Champ Car would be helpless.
Long Beach is the event Champ Car fans take most pride in. Losing it
to the IRL could mean the beginning of a wave which, some fear, might
culminate with the loss of other successful events, such as the Denver
GP itself (a race whose promotion this weekend was widely acclaimed by
most within the Champ Car World Series community).
In an urban environment, Champ Car’s distinctive cosmopolitan flair is
at its best. One stroll through Denver’s Mall street on the race
weekend’s Saturday night shows what events like this are all about:
mingling the series with the local community, in a pleasant atmosphere
that lasts from Friday through Sunday. To quote a fellow scribe: “You
think those guys in the IRL like to go to Nashville? This [Denver] is
where they’d love to be; they’re forced to go there because of the
As Andre Maginot’s naïve planning proved five decades ago, failing to
strengthen your last line of defense is a recipe for disaster. If
Champ Car is to thrive in the long run, its owners may think of
brushing the dust off their old middle school history books, and make
damn sure the engines roaring on the streets of Long Beach, Denver et
al. are mounted on Lolas instead of Dallaras.
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