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Toyota and Honda to leave IRLUPDATE #6 Whether Honda stays in the Indy Racing League long term remains to be seen. Robert Clarke, the vice president and general manager of Honda Performance Development, said after Sunday's race at Pikes Peak International Raceway that his company must re-evaluate its plans in the wake of General Motors affirming its departure at the end of this season. Toyota is already scheduled to leave the IRL after the 2006 season. "We're not looking to leave; I'll leave you at that," Clarke said. Indy Star [Editor's Note: The Toyota and now GM part of this rumor are 'fact,' as both have announced they are leaving the IRL and Brian Barnhart admits no other manufacturers are interested. The Honda portion isn't fact.....yet.] 07/27/05 This rumor was never upgraded to 'fact' when Toyota announced they were following Chevy out of the IRL. We now wait to see if Honda leaves too if no competition is found by the IRL. Robert Clarke feels Honda should stay buy he admitted it is not his ultimate decision. 05/02/05 Adding fuel to the Toyota-NASCAR issue are reports that Toyota plans to drop its IRL support at the end of the season (the company is spending nearly $100 million this year on its Indy-car program) and that Honda executives have indicated to IRL boss Tony George they don't plan to stick it out either if Honda is to become the only engine supplier to that series. Winston Salem Journal [Editor's Note: If these rumors turn out to be true, the IRL will be left with zero engine manufacturers soon, unless the Porsche rumors turn out to be true, which we highly doubt.] 04/13/05 This LaSource article is a prime example of a reporter reading something and running with a story without all the facts. We saw that during the CART bankruptcy hearings where reporters from around the world jumped on the CART death bandwagon. Now it's the IRL's turn, and although there could be some truth to the rumors, we'll believe it when we see it. We would not be at all surprised to see both announce their renewal with the IRL during the month of May at Indy. Why, we have no idea though, given the plummeting TV ratings and soft race attendance figures. While Toyota is already in NASCAR, our sources are telling us that it's not if Honda is coming, the talk is whether they will enter the Truck Series first or go right into the Busch Series.
La Source article - With Toyota concentrating more on Formula One and said to be looking at the American NASCAR series it seems likely they will pull out of the Indy racing League (IRL). It’s been suggested that the Japanese manufacturer will announce their plans after the Indy 500 in May, with many insiders suggesting they will leave the series at the end of 2006. With General Motors (Chevrolet) leaving the series at the end of this season it would leave only Honda as a manufacturer involved, something which would either diminish the competition or escalate the costs, a situation that both Toyota and Honda weren’t happy with in the Champ Car series forcing them both to switch to the cheaper option of IRL. .
Chevrolet has said that the primary reasons for leaving the sport are a lack of interest at both the races and on television. This certainly makes sense from a marketing point of view. Both Toyota and Honda are concerned with Chevrolet leaving the sport, as it means an American manufacturer no longer represents it, something that cannot be good for an American based series.
With Toyota’s current position in the Formula One World Championship it seems certain that they will concentrate on trying to win a world title rather than just a North American title. Honda could soon follow should their main rival in the world market take these steps. It’ll be an interesting time for both Formula One and of course the IRL.
04/11/05 More on this rumor of both Honda and Toyota leaving the IRL from TSN.ca (excerpts) - The Indy Racing League is about to suffer a double-blow in the coming months, according to published reports. Honda and Toyota are set to abandon the oval-based series by 2006 which would leave them without a major engine manufacturer, according to motorsport journalist Gordon Kirby. Speaking on Champ Car's roundtable show prior to this weekend's season opening Long Beach Grand Prix, Kirby said Toyota will confirm the rumors that they are pulling out of the IRL following the Indianapolis 500 in May.
"Chip Ganassi as we speak is preparing to close down his IRL team," said Kirby. "My Japanese friends tell me that at the end of the year Honda are going to announce that they're out at the end of 2006." The move comes a year after Chevrolet announced it was withdrawing from the series at the end of the current season.
High costs, poor attendance and television ratings were cited by General Motors as the primary reasons for leaving. The move certainly raised concerns within Honda and Toyota, who say an American-based series without an American manufacturer attached to it is "very bad". "We haven't decided to leave. We are committed to the program through 2006," Toyota Motorsports manager Lee White was quoted as saying late last year. "The fact Chevrolet [is leaving] is a very, very serious problem for the IRL."
"It has absolutely turned into a 100% manufacturer head-to-head combat and that is not a comfortable position for us," White said. "The direction we are going in now is very troubling." Toyota's decision to leave the IRL could also affect the IRL's future pursuit of the Long Beach Grand Prix. Sunday's Champ Car race was the final one under a five year deal with the promoters and the IRL are expected to make a serious pitch to add the street course to its series. Toyota has been a Long Beach sponsor since 1975 and many expect their connection to the IRL will play a role. But Toyota motorsports manager Les Unger says they have no preference at this point.
"Our interest in title sponsorship isn't predicated on being a competitor," he tells the Indianapolis Star. "We've been involved here 31 years and haven't had a car racing (in the main event) except for seven of those. We'll have no say in determining who is racing here," he added. "That's not our job." Champ Car officials are very interested in returning to Long Beach but series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven admits they have a back-up plan which likely includes a Los Angeles-area race should it come to that. 04/11/05 After re-listening to the roundtable discussion moderated by John Oreovicz including Robin Miller, Gordon Kirby and Dave Phillips there is no reference to Penske closing its IndyCar operation. A team spokesperson said, "I can assure you that we have no plans to shut down our IndyCar operation." 04/11/05 According to Gordon Kirby in this roundtable discussion, Toyota will announce its departure after the Indy 500, Honda at the end of this year - both gone by the end of 2006. He also said Ganassi is gone - currently it's just a matter of deciding whether to keep his facilities in Indianapolis for Grand-Am, or move back to Charlotte. In passing, he said that Penske will also be shutting down his IRL operation. If true, no wonder Tony George is so desperate to take Long Beach. However, we don't believe these rumors until we see it.
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