Quotes of the week
ROBIN MILLER, Veteran Open Wheel Racing Journalist
"A source at Forsythe Racing tells me that Paul Tracy received an e-mail a few weeks ago saying, 'If you don't renegotiate your deal with Gerry Forsythe, he's going to cut you loose for 2008 because he needs to save money and we're trying to trim the budget and blah-blah-blah.' Well Tracy signed a 5 year deal last year, kids, and guess what? It's an ironclad contract. He said, 'No more NASCAR. I'll just concentrate on Champ Car. I want to finish my career here.' They had a big press conference. Gerry Forsythe was only at three races this year. He never went to a race after April. Tracy hasn't talked to him since Cleveland. Paul says, 'All I know is I have an ironclad contract. I'm committed to Champ Car. I don't know what's going on. I just read the internet. So I'm committed to Champ Car, but I don't know if they're committed to me.' "
"Champ Car barely registers on the national media map now. You've got Paul Tracy and Graham Rahal. That's about the only people anybody knows in the local media around cities. So what happens? The promoter at Toronto is already a nervous wreck because he said, 'If I don't have Paul Tracy, we won't have a race in Toronto.' And this would be one of the biggest in a long line of PR disasters for Champ Car. It's one thing they could not imagine. This is their most visible, most successful, most popular driver, and they're going to try and jack this guy around and not give him his contract? I mean Gerry Forsythe, to me, has lost his mind!" (Commenting on rumors that there is a possibility Paul Tracy's ride at Forsythe Racing is in jeopardy.)
MAX MOSLEY, President FIA
"I don't think it [Spygate] has done any damage," Mosley said. "In fact, it has raised the public awareness. That is the paradox. What is important is that people believe the spying has stopped and will continue to be stopped. If we want a level playing field, we have to be sure as far as we are able that the 2008 McLaren does not incorporate any Ferrari intellectual property that has been illegally acquired. I know that top teams are being super careful, revising their procedures and emphasizing to all their people that this sort of thing must not happen." (Mosley is reported to have authorized a "forensic examination" of McLaren's computers. Should any Ferrari material be discovered then the FIA could order the team to design a new car from scratch - a time-consuming and debilitating process that in itself would effectively rule them out of the championship. Alternatively, the Woking outfit could be thrown out of the championship.)
"It's not up to me to say," Mosley said when asked whether McLaren team principal Ron Dennis should resign. "The thing is I really don't have a problem with Ron, contrary to popular belief. I really don't. All I want, in each team, is somebody who tells us exactly what is going on, is open and truthful. Life is too short to go through the procedures we have had to go through with this. I couldn't pretend they told us the truth on the 26th of July (at the first hearing)," remarked Mosley. "And there is reason to suppose they may not have told us the whole truth on the 13th September either, and that does make it difficult. In the end, we are trying to run a sport, and we don't have the resources of the police, the Secret Service and these elements. We have very limited time, and it is extremely annoying to go through hundreds and hundreds of pages produced by lawyers who are being paid by the amount of time they can spend on the case. It completely detracts from what we are supposed to be doing in the sport, but on the other hand we cannot allow people to - to put it crudely - cheat."
MAX MOSLEY (Honoring Mario Andretti with the FIA Gold medal)
FIA president Max Mosley paid tribute to Andretti’s breadth of achievement. “Mario Andretti is one of motor racing’s true legends and is thoroughly deserving of this award,” he said. “He is perhaps the ultimate multi-discipline driver who has achieved success in every area that he has competed. “No one in the history of motor sport has had a career as long and as triumphant.” (Andretti joins an elite group of former winners including Michael Schumacher and Sir Stirling Moss.)
FELIPE MASSA, F1 driver, Ferrari
"It's a big difference, good fun and a better show for the fans. I do expect more crashes though. Some might expect it will cause more overtaking maneuvers but I can't agree with them. It is more dangerous as we lose some grip, especially with slicks. The car is really tricky coming out of the corner and thus it is more difficult to have a good exit out of the corner. You can easily lose the rear end of the car now so you need to be a lot smoother on the throttle." (Massa believes the ban on traction control might improve the spectacle of racing, but will also cause more crashes to happen.)
NICK HEIDFELD, F1 driver, BMW Sauber
"If it will stay like this and the tires will stay like this, it will be extremely dangerous in 2009," Heidfeld warned. "On my outlap I even thought about coming back in, because there were so many drivers flying past me. You feel like you're standing still compared to the others and it's very easy to spin the car. It's very, very dangerous. Bridgestone could turn this around by making better tires, but the question is: does it make sense for them?" Heidfeld said. "If there's another tire supplier and there is competition, it would be solved. If the tires become softer, it will help a lot. But I'm not a tire expert, maybe the mixture of the compound should change, but like this, it will be extremely dangerous. They should change the tires, or they should allow tire heaters for 2009. Without traction control it's even worse, but if we would run with traction control (in 2009), it would still be very, very difficult. Even if the tires are hot, you have so little grip with the new package. We have too much power and too little grip. I don't like it at all," a disappointed Heidfeld said. (Heidfeld scared himself at Jerez after having tested slicks and a 2009-spec aero package in his BMW and revealed that F1 drivers may not be as good as one thought - only able to drive a high-downforce ride-on-rails car. The 2009 rules cut downforce by half, and with slicks that are not up to temperature Heidfeld has warned of serious dangers.)
SIR JACKIE STEWART, 3-times F1 World Drivers Champion
Sir Jackie was keen to point that he wished to avoid "unpleasantness between individuals" but said that he felt that there was a serious need for a rethink about the way F1 is governed and that there must be "the removal of any concern of genuine independence and impartiality in the governance of sport by the FIA". Stewart again brought up the question of the $100m fine against McLaren and said that there was "an extraordinary imbalance between the magnitude of the penalty and the crime alleged to have been committed. What was the evidence?" he said. "There was no sensible answer that I have heard." Stewart went on to say that power within the FIA is overly concentrated in the hands of the FIA President, that the World Council was never designed to be a judicial body and that the precedent that was set with the McLaren case has been worrying for the corporate world in F1. "Corporate governance is an important business," he said, adding that he believes that the sport should be headed by a chief executive, "a captain of industry to be head-hunted. Someone who is not involved and not from within the FIA. It is not the job for a retired racing driver." He argued that this was necessary "to ensure the very survival of the sport and the long-term future". Stewart said that the FIA has done many good things in terms of safety but added that he was "concerned because my life has been F1 and I can see clouds of the horizon that could affect the future prosperity of the sport. The time has come to take stock."
PETER DE LORENZO, Motorsports Journalist, "Autoextremist"
Comments on Champ Car and the IRL
"As for Champ Car, any connection to the "glory days" of CART has long since evaporated into a scatter-shot, second-tier racing series that exists solely for the egos of the ownership group running it. Yes, you could certainly say the same thing about Tony George and his IRL, but the big difference between the two series is that the IRL has Indy, and Champ Car has no signature event. And no, Long Beach doesn't meet the criteria to be one, either. A happening, a circus, a party? Yes, of course, Long Beach is certainly all of that. But one of the world's great races on the order of the Indy 500, the Monaco GP or the 24 Hours of Le Mans? Not even close. Without any real focus or signature race, Champ Car has become the vagabond traveling circus of major league auto racing, a race series that will come to your city or country (if the price is right, of course) and put on a fairly decent show - one utterly devoid of recognizable stars or continuity or any connection to significant racing history - other than the fact that the racing team formerly known as Newman/Haas hangs its hat there. Not to take anything away from the brilliant Sebastien Bourdais, but the rest of the Champ Car lineup (other than maybe Paul Tracy and Graham Rahal) is virtually invisible and could pass for a decent Formula Atlantic/GP2 grid. And none of this, of course, is conducive to building fan loyalty or holding fan interest, let alone getting fans seriously interested in what's going on to begin with.
These two series (Champ Car, IRL) conduct their individual slants on racing in a vacuum. The fact that they exist in their own separate little borderline irrelevant worlds is unconscionable and a disgrace. The time for a unification of some kind has come and gone so many times that the average fan doesn't even care let alone ask, "Why not?" Hell, even the hard-core racing enthusiasts on both sides don't have the stomach to get exercised about it anymore. At this point, I reserve particular ire for the Champ Car ownership group in this matter. Without a signature event to cling to and without any serious sponsors to speak of (save for N/H/L's McDonald's), these guys have become nothing more than malicious obstacles preventing major league open-wheel racing from gaining back at least a shred of relevance in this country. But then again, Big Checkbooks × Big Egos × Flat-Out Stupidity has equaled bad news since the very beginnings of this sport. Come to think about it, the brain trust that runs Champ Car can align with that bit of history, for what it's worth."
PETER DE LORENZO
Comments on NASCAR
"I'll leave the NASCAR marketing juggernaut out of this discussion for now, because after seeing bits of that corporate business-to-business shill-fest - aka the season-ending NASCAR awards "banquet" - unfurl on TV last Friday night it's clear that these people are operating in a world lost unto themselves - one that is becoming further and further removed from the average racing enthusiast altogether. NASCAR has chosen to either rationalize or ignore the fact that fans are turning away from its once red-hot, "can't miss" sport in droves, as TV ratings plummet and empty grandstands loom glaringly on the live broadcasts. It's as if the powers that be in NASCAR have decided that the racing entity can exist without the fans altogether and that ultimately all that matters are the co-branding opportunities, the marketing partnerships and the synergistic advertising relationships. To that I say, 'We'll see.' Because without its hard-core fan base to bank on, even NASCAR's dynasty would crumble."