Editorial

A true global vision will serve CART well

 

 by Mark Cipolloni
May 31, 2001

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On our rumors page we reported that  Luca di Montezemolo, the Ferrari chairman, announced the return of Maserati to motorsports next year, but he has strongly denied that the Ferrari/Fiat owned company is looking to bring Maserati to F1. A Ferrari spokesman said that the small marquee was going to concentrate it's efforts elsewhere in the racing world. "They will definitely not be in F1," said a Ferrari spokesman. "Maybe in GT racing, or over in America with CART or the IRL series."

With that said, CART needs to give serious consideration to our proposal to race at Monza or Imola as part of an expanded European swing, and as a way of assuring it lands Maserati/Ferrari in the series. While Maserati is not Ferrari per se, it certainly will draw a lot of fanatical Italian racing fans since Ferrari/Fiat owns Maserati. 

With the right marketing to all the tifosi fans, CART can further develop the type of international following it needs.  As CART begins to rub elbows with F1 for part of the world market share of top-level open wheel racing, a market where demand far outstrips supply, it will be well served by having more involvement with companies that have a true global vision. 

We can't see Maserati in the IRL simply because it obviously wants an international sporty image and CART can deliver that to them, not only a strong USA presence, but also a strong worldwide presence. For a company that sells cars worldwide, one would assume CART would be their first choice. 

Therefore, we recommend, once again, that CART  announce their plan for a turbocharged 1.8L turbo engine so Ferrari will know that they are investing in a engine formula that will last them 20-years (might we remind you that Ferrari has a lot of experience with street and F1 turbo engines). Then we'll wait with anticipation when Ferrari/Fiat decides to rebadge the engine as a Ferrari at some point. 

Once that happens, there is no stopping CART. Their popularity will skyrocket to a level on par with F1, and some years from now CART will look back on this decision as a defining moment in its history, not only for maintaining its turbo heritage, but for providing a platform by which a car company can develop alternate engine technologies.  Might we also remind you that several car manufacturers still sell turbocharged street-legal cars, and with the push to smaller, more fuel efficient engines of the future, turbos are beginning to be looked at once again as a way to maintain performance levels with smaller displacement engines.  Design and development of a small 1.8 liter engine for CART, will enable engineers to apply what they learn on the track, to their passenger cars of the future.

CART can and MUST deliver to manufacturers and sponsors a worldwide exposure where annual TV audiences are measured in the billions per year, not millions. CART already has the international flavor of drivers and manufacturers.  Now it needs to land a few more sponsors with a true global vision, implement the right worldwide marketing effort, and sit back as all the current F1 engine manufacturers, currently considering starting their own rival F1 series, step back, take a look at CART and say, "why are we spending so much in F1 when CART is now delivering us a worldwide presence for a fraction of the cost, and by golly, we actually have a  chance to win a race.  

It's time CART move swiftly (is that possible with so many self interests standing in the way?), with a unified global business plan, that is supported by a global marketing plan, topped off with a global mentality.  That global mentality must permeate throughout its entire structure......and that means from the mechanics on the teams right up to the President of the organization.  

Possibly the biggest task ahead for CART's new President, Joe Heitzler, isn't a new TV package or series sponsor, it's getting all the troops to grasp and understand the 'global vision'.  Mr. Heitzler has solicited the input of all CART's constituents to help develop CART's next business plan.  Unfortunately, not all those constituents have the same idea as to what's best for CART as a series.  They certainly have their best interests in mind.  Can you blame them?  But that means not everyone agrees on where best to expose their product (the USA or globally) and CART will never be able to make everyone happy.

We'll use Toyota and Philip Morris as two examples.  Their current participation in CART is currently funded 100% by Toyota USA and Philip Morris USA, respectively.  Their parent companies are tasked with selling in the global marketplace, while their USA arm is tasked with selling product in the USA.  Therefore, if you ask them, they will tell you that CART should pull in the reigns and concentrate on making CART a very strong USA series.  And while that has a lot of merit, the fact of the matter remains that the USA motorsports marketplace with NASCAR, ALMS, GrandAm, TransAm, NHRA, IHRA, and the IRL is terribly over saturated.

With little future growth to be realized in the USA, the challenge for CART will be to maintain a strong USA presence (choosing its races wisely with just 50% in the USA) while growing a strong global presence with the other 50% of its races.

Certainly Toyota USA and Philip Morris USA might not be too keen on my push for CART to be a global powerhouse, believing instead that CART would then neglect the USA market they covet.  That's expected.

However, just as NASCAR had to endure the outcry when it announced it was dropping both short track races at North Wilksboro, NC in favor of bigger superspeedways that could hold three times as many fans, it will be up to CART to help the Toyotas and Marlboros to understand the 'bigger picture'  of where the series is headed.  It will then be up to them to decide whether to ride the rocket ship upwards, or jump off before the booster rockets ignite, seeking refuge in the more tranquil den at 16th Street and Georgetown Road in Indianapolis, or the sandy white beaches in Daytona. 

With a global vision that permeates the entire organization, at least companies such as Toyota USA and Philip Morris USA, will understand where the rocket ship is headed, instead of second guessing where it might be going, as it does today.  Should they decide to jump off, it will then be up to CART to convince their parent companies to replace them with perhaps an even bigger financial commitment.  

How's the old saying go?  You get what you pay for.  As a pure USA company, CART delivers millions of eyeballs, but as a true global company, CART can and will deliver billions of eyeballs.  We don't know about you, but we know which we would prefer! 

Unfortunately, many in the CART community think their battle is with the IRL and that's where the focus should be.  Forget about the IRL, there are far bigger fish to fry and far bigger markets to cultivate.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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