Editorial

Is CART next for Villeneuve?

 by Mark Cipolloni
December 7, 2003

Go to our forums to discuss this article


Jacques Villeneuve in 2003
Photo courtesy of Honda

At 32-years of age, Jacques Villeneuve (JV) is far from being washed-up.  He has gone on record as saying he won't buy a ride in F1, hence his F1 career is over because there simply are no rides left that give him any chance of winning, nor of getting paid a salary. 

He has made statements about NASCAR, and while there is certainly money to be made in NASCAR, I just don't see JV driving anything but an open wheel car.  And besides, after being in F1 all those years, it's hard to imagine him fitting in the NASCAR paddock, or putting up with NASCAR's grinding 36-race schedule.  I could be wrong, but I don't think so. 

He rules out the IRL series as too dangerous. "The IRL is not for me," he says. "Because the only way I can do a job like this is by pushing to the limit and taking risks, and you can't do that in the IRL. Look at how many people get hurt. I know that I will get hurt, so there's no point. 

He has mentioned a go at LeMans, and while that's still possible, that's only one race per year. 


A much younger Jacques Villeneuve as a CART driver in 1995.  He won the championship then left for F1
Photo courtesy of Ford

 That leaves two serious options from where I sit,

 1) He will sit at home and relax, plant some flowers and vegetables, spread some fertilizer, water them once a day and watch the crops grow, or

 2) He will be pleasantly surprised when Open Wheel Racing Series LLC (OWRS) reveals their plans for CART, decide that's better than gardening, and ultimately decide to return to the series that launched his career. 

 You should note that CART is NOT racing the weekend of LeMans in 2004, hence JV can still do that if he so chooses. 

 I believe OWRS will be keen to sign someone like JV to bring more credibility to their new series, and it certainly will be a major shot in the arm for CART's already successful Canadian venues - Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.  CART has suffered a loss of many of its big name drivers in the past two seasons.  Paul Gentilozzi, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe are smart enough to realize that if they are going to grow their new business they have to get additional big name drivers into the series, pronto.  JV fits that bill, bringing instant global name recognition.


Jacques Villeneuve in the Player's Reynard/Ford at Long Beach in 1995
Photo courtesy of Ford

Bringing JV in will create an instant rivalry with fellow Canadian, and defending CART Champion, Paul Tracy, who himself is a bit controversial.  CART certainly could use a few good rivalries.  It's become too mundane as of late.

I think JV is still very bitter about how he was treated in F1, although some of that was brought upon himself by his sometimes controversial verbal outbursts and the reputation he made for himself.  When he is in a better frame of mind, and weighs all his options, I feel he will ultimately view CART as the sensible alternative. 

In a CART return, he will be greeted as a hero, especially in Canada, and he will certainly have a fighting chance to win races once again. 

However, in order for OWRS to lure JV back, they will have to find him a team where he has a real chance of fighting for wins each week.  Here I see two options:


Jacques Villeneuve in the Player's Reynard/Ford at Phoenix in 1995
Photo courtesy of Ford

 1) He can drive for Kevin Kalkhoven and manager and friend, Craig Pollock, alongside Mika Salo at PK Racing.  The team was showing some real improvement late in the season, and they are ready to challenge for podiums on a regular basis, but are they ready to win races on a regular basis?  Or,

 2) He could return to his old team and drive alongside Paul Tracy for the Player's Forsythe team, though Player's is gone due to Canadian tobacco laws.  It would reunite him with some of his old friends and would create a dynamite team for Gerald Forsythe.  Player's, though gone from the sidepods, would gain some residual benefit.  A deal like that could see Patrick Carpentier then move over to PK Racing alongside Mika Salo.

Can Forsythe's team afford JV?  Perhaps our speculation that Kool would replace Player's as sponsor of the Forsythe team is true.  Our sources tell us the head guy for Imperial Tobacco's racing program has been reassigned to Brown & Williamson in the USA to head up their Kool program.  Both Imperial and Brown & Williamson (B&W) are owned by British American Tobacco who sponsored JV at BAR under their Lucky Strike brand for many years, so they have a previous relationship with JV.  JV does have some friends at BAT, though in the end they were not able to save his ride at BAR.  Honda wanted Sato.

BAT still owns B&W for now, but.....R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. agreed recently to acquire British American Tobacco PLC's U.S. cigarette business and a second unit for about $3 billion, creating a stronger No. 2 competitor to market leader Philip Morris.  The new entity, to be called Reynolds American Inc., will boast annual revenues of about $10 billion and more than 30 percent of the cigarette sales in the United States, the companies said.  The cash and stock deal unites RJR's R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Winston (former NASCAR sponsor), Camel (former F1 sponsor), Salem and Doral cigarettes, with BAT's Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., the home of such brands as Kool (former CART sponsor), Pall Mall and Carlton.


Could we once again see Tracy in a Kool car?  BAT owns Kool and Player's
Photo
by Bill Kistler/AR1

Gerald Forsythe was instrumental in ensuring that Andretti Green Racing did not take the Kool brand to the IRL.  I suspect a deal was struck at that time to have Kool replace Player's in 2004. There are no laws in the USA that prevent Kool from sponsoring the team.  We shall see......but it would put CART Champion Paul Tracy back in a Kool car once again and give Kool some great exposure.  And Kool could certainly afford to foot the bill for JV as well.  Is all this making too much sense?

Let's hope JV gets back in a car soon. Auto racing needs its champions. It also needs its characters, and JV certainly fits that bill.  JV is worth more than his current tarnished reputation portrays.  The same can be said for CART as a series.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Author

 
Other Editorials

Champ Car's Minardi 2-seater is the ultimate ride

For Alex Figge and PCM it's baptism by fire

A tribute to Alfred J. Cipolloni

Champ Car owners move to silence critics

Establishing a firm foundation for Champ Car

One-on-one with Champ Car President Steve Johnson

J.R. Hildebrand is one American going places in a hurry

What's new for Champ Car for 2007 - Part 1

Champ Car positions itself for international expansion

Paul Stoddart confirms interest in Champ Car

An inside look at Champ Car TV production

Ho-Pin Tung wants to be Champ Car's first Chinese driver

Stephen King explains Justin Wilson's novel Investor's Club

One-on-one with American sensation AJ Allmendinger

Champ Car moving forward without the IRL

One-on-one with Paul Tracy

Bruce Delahorne explains CDW's sponsorship in Champ Car

One-on-one with Justin Wilson

Champ Car bosses won't be bullied

Part 2: NASCAR/ISC get dirty in Phoenix, out to destroy Open Wheel

Part 1: NASCAR/ISC get dirty in Phoenix, out to destroy Open Wheel

The Rahals: Like father, like son

Why and IRL/Champ Car merger will be a big boost for the sport

Headless Open Wheel Racing appears doomed

Richard Lyons looking at Champ Car for his next challenge

We salute the champions of 2005

Is Jay Howard the next Ayrton Senna?

Interview with Grand-Am President Roger Edmondson

Otaru, Japan Champ Car race moving closer to reality

Champ Car's global appeal may ride on mimicking the Team Australia concept

Champ Car's Surfers Paradise race promoter "gets it"

Champ Car cements another brick in its foundation

Custom built Champ Cars and Indy Cars

Interview with RuSPORT Team President Jeremy Dale

Conspiracy Theory: What Indy was really all about

Why the Champ Car/IRL war must end

How a Champ Car and IRL merger might work

Will the battle for Long Beach destroy its Grand Prix?

Katherine Legge has her eyes set on Champ Car

Traveling Light Media - Just what the doctor ordered

Champ Car lays out bold 3-year plan

Champ Car's 2005 driver lineup vastly improved

Hunter-Reay anxious to get racing again with new team

That sucking sound you hear is NASCAR

Feud - The story of the murder of Mickey Thompson

Yes, Blame Tony and the CART defectors too

Interview with ALMS President Scott Atherton

2005 a foundation laying year for Champ Car

Kalkhoven talks Champ Car with AutoRacing1

Kalkhoven and Forsythe buy Cosworth from Ford

Carl Russo is bullish on Champ Car

Can this be Champ Car's next-generation car

Champ Car poised for major comeback

Champ Car Race Control - the 'Hot Seat Zone'

Open Wheel Racing is in serious need of consolidation

Champ Car South of the Border, An interview with Joe Heitzler

There is an easy way for Champ Car and the IRL to unify

From airport to race track, a race within a race

The 2-seater Car is one of Champ Car's biggest assets

Why Bernie Ecclestone could, and should, buy Champ Car now

Champ Car rocks the streets of Times Square in Manhattan

Why did Fernández leave Champ Car?  Follow the money....

Next Generation Champ Car: A call for F1 tires

Coming to America?  Interview with Ralph Firman Jr.

Open Wheel Racing defeats IRL - Champ Car Series to continue

Open Wheel Racing needs a win by OWRS - Part 2

The next generation Champ Cars - Part 2

Is CART next for Villeneuve?

New deal for CART may be better than first thought

The genius of one Bernard Ecclestone

CART Champ Cars, the next generation - Part 1

Details emerging on CART race in Seoul, South Korea

CART hits a Grand Slam in Mexico City.  Now What?

Top-10 Challenges facing new CART owners

CART can still race in Europe, but will they?

For CART, time is of the essence

Making sense of CART's situation

Push-to-Pass means no more parades for CART

An interview with CART's David Clare

What did Roger Penske really mean?

CART must differentiate itself - clearly

Why turbos make for superior street and race engines

For CART, it's now or never

Chicken or the Egg?

War of the worlds

What Bernie brings to CART

CART, Driven to where?

Is it really about CART vs. IRL?

If I were Bernie

The Champ Cars and St. Pete

An informal survey of the St. Pete race attendees

Artificial Dissemination

CART, F1 coming to grips with doing business in China

Cancel the Funeral

Why CART and F1 must, and will, share a common V-10 engine

Book Review: Autocourse 2002-2003 F1 yearbook

Does CART need Michael Andretti?

2002 CART TV ratings by the numbers

Now is the time for CART to redefine its ladder system

CART gets a taste of tifosi passion in Mexico

Love affair in Mexico

Making sense out of Bernie/CART rumors

Changing of the guard?

Mom, apple pie, CART and....Formula1?

Why CART and Bernie make perfect dance partners

Miami should be a CART and ALMS kickoff party

David slays Goliath in Miami

What to make of Gurney's F1 team

Taking it to the streets, why Miami is a war zone

CART, like the Phoenix, about to rise up from the ashes

There's more than handwriting on the wall.....and here's the concrete facts

Labor Day weekend 1952...A weekend I'll never forget

Team owners show support for CART

CART still may be in cards for Villeneuve

Bryan Herta, USA's next best chance for F1

Is Paul Ricard in CART's future?

CART's real attendance numbers

Is Brands Hatch suitable for Champ Cars?

An Unappealing Appeal, George reigns in GEORGE-town

A candid conversation with Chris Pook

More than meets the eye with CART's turbo move

It's time for CART to define its own future

Key upgrades at Road America

Back-Breaking work

The rebirth of CART

The hidden costs of Indy Car racing

CART's road and street circuits are clicking with the fans

Is it sport, or a P.T. Barnum show?

IRL at Fontana - a victim of friendly fire

CART's 2003 race venues #1 in the world

Meet the Gonzalez brothers

ISC is making enemies in Miami

e-mail us:
contacts@autoracing1.com

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2003, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ