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New mega Champ Car team in worksUPDATE #20 BTW, we forgot to mention that their intention is to call the team Minardi as Stoddart told AutoRacing1.com he still owns the rights to use that name. We have updated our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page.
10/25/06 According to this Dutch website, the long rumored new Champ Car team is a go - Paul Stoddart, Harry Muermans and two unknown investors will have a go in Champ Car and a Dutch F1 commentator (Olav Mol) is being asked to become team manager. We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong.'
10/18/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources Kevin Kalkhoven, Champ Car President Steve Johnson, and others had dinner with Paul Stoddart in Sydney, Australia Wednesday night. No word on what stage talks are at, but they do continue.
10/02/06 Some interesting quotes from this Dutch article, Doornbos stated, "Red Bull have indicated they'll be able to offer a drive in Champ Car and I am seriously reflecting on this."
The Dutchman's sponsor, Harry Muermans commented, "With Formula 1 anything is possible. But indeed the Champ Car offer from Red Bull hasn't been dismissed yet - certainly something to consider." He also expressed shock that Christian Klien had declined Red Bull's offer of a seat saying, "I do not understand Klien. He should have grabbed the offer of a Red Bull Champ Car drive with both hands."
It would also appear that Muermans favors the Champ Car option - over going back to an F1 testing role - for his protégé:
"If Robert chooses to race in Champ Car, that won't mean the end of his Formula 1 career. If he continues as a test and reserve driver, he will not get much running, as using a third car at races won't be allowed. Therefore, you're talking about no more than 3000km testing. But by racing in America, Robert would stay sharp, so that he can, when necessary, return to Red Bull [in Formula 1] and immediately be up to speed."
09/30/06 The team isn't giving Robert any false hope. "They have been very clear to me about that, for next season there will only be a testing role available for me at RBR (Red Bull Racing)", according to Robert Doornbos in China, who indicates his future plans are not only pointed at F1 anymore. "You can endlessly focus on F1, but there is a moment when it's over. Inside Red Bull they have told me they can arrange a racing seat for me with an American Champ Car team, I'm now seriously considering that option. If I can stay race fit that way and be involved as a test driver at the same time at RBR, then maybe that's the best option for me for 2007."
Nevertheless Robert is still focusing on a permanent seat in F1 in 2007 for the next couple of weeks. "In the coming 3 GP's I'm one of 22 drivers at the start and there isn't a better way to show off. Maybe my performance in the next three races will open doors at other F1 teams which are currently - still - closed"
With today's qualifying result (10th), Robert is already doing his best to crack these doors!
09/26/06 Robert Doornbos admitted that following his three F1 races in China, Japan and Brazil, a return to the test bench is most likely.
The Dutchman admitted to F1's official website: ''We have an offer from Red Bull to stay on next year as a test driver. ''Maybe a combined role of testing and racing somewhere else would be a good option as well.''
Recall we told you that Muermans is not coming to Champ Car in a big way unless Doornbos comes. If the "racing elsewhere" that Doornbos refers to does not mean Champ Car, then this rumored new Champ Car team won't happen, but we are told Muermans will continue to support Jan Heylen at Dale Coyne Racing. Mark C.
09/11/06 Paul Stoddart says that he is now in a position to enter Champ Car next year but has yet to convince himself that he wants to spend his life flying back and forth across the Atlantic. Stoddart is even believed to have negotiated a deal to run his fleet of F1 two-seaters at a number of races in the United States as the F1 circus was not much interest in using them. Stoddart says that he will have to decide soon and that he would probably take over an existing team rather than starting his own team but still needs to be convinced that it is the right thing to do.
Stoddart was at Monza to visit the F1 fraternity and was muttering about maybe looking at doing something in GP2 instead. The Australian aviation magnate has a large racing factory and staff in Ledbury and still owns the right to use the Minardi name. He started out in major international competition fielding a Formula 3000 team with drivers Mark Webber and Christijan Albers before moving into F1 with Minardi. Stoddart accepts that the way F1 is at the moment it would be hard to get back into the game but with cost-cutting and other changes that could occur in the years ahead, he might one day be in a position to get back into F1. Grandprix.com
[Editor's Note: We told you Bernie would find a way to get Stoddart back in his camp instead of Champ Car. We also told you Stoddart may take over the CTE Racing- HVM team, and he hints at that above. To clarify, we believe KK owns all the assets of CTE Racing-HVM, not the actual corporation.]
09/11/06 With Robert Doornbos being announced as replacing Christian Klien to race alongside David Coulthard the remainder of this year, this rumor is downgraded to 'speculation.' Just as Bernie Ecclestone found a way to remove Champ Car owned Cosworth from F1 in 2007 (unless Spyker badges the Cosworth) he may have also seen to it that Muermans (right) and Stoddart did not come to Champ Car. However, Webber has the 2nd Red Bull seat for next year, but the rumors are that Doornbos (or Klien) could find their way to Spyker next year....or both.
Remember, Bernie has always wanted CART, now Champ Car dead, so when he heard Muermans might bring his money to Champ Car, he may have decided that wasn't going to happen. Recall we reported that this mega-team very much depended on Doornbos (left), because Doornbos is Muermans' guy (note his hat while he talks to Harry Muermans). We'll see if Bernie finds a way to stop Red Bull too.
09/09/06 AutoRacing1.com is hearing that one option for the Muermans Stoddart team is to take over the CTE Racing - HVM operation. According to our sources Kevin Kalkhoven owns CTE Racing - HVM and unless that operation can become self-sufficient by finding sponsorship, KK could use the shop and personnel to provide Stoddart and company a turnkey operation in Indianapolis so they can hit the ground running.
If true, the Stoddart team would not be two additional cars on the grid, but instead would reinforce an existing 2-car operation.
Another option for Stoddart would be to expand the existing PKV facility. As we understand it, the building PKV Racing is in is large enough to house another 2-car operation that would see Stoddart's team as an offshoot of PKV Racing, which could see the two teams sharing engineering data. In this scenario Stoddart's team would add 2-cars to the '07 grid.
09/09/06 “We’re obviously still evaluating it [Champ Car team],” Paul Stoddart told SPEEDtv.com on a visit to Monza. “They’re lovely people and it’s a lovely series. The final decision won’t be made until October, and there are reasons for that, none the least being that although some of the boys are quite prepared to be based over there it’s a pretty big upheaval in my life, and 13 trips a year would give me a few problems. So let’s wait and see. But we wouldn’t go into it unless we were funded, so there’s no issue there.
“I think we’d go for an existing team probably, but the option is there to start from scratch because it’s a new car. But that’s the kind of thing we’re evaluating at the moment. It would probably be in Indianapolis. You’d be quite silly to try and base it anywhere else, to be honest. One thing that F1 taught me is that you might think you can do it better than other people, but you can’t, so it’s better to build on something than start from scratch.”
Stoddart said he would like to hire F1 drivers he knows.
09/03/06 Latest word on this team according to AutoRacing1.com sources is that a lot depends on Robert Doornbos. If he finds a suitable ride in F1, that is where Muermans will back him and he probably will not fund a Champ Car team. However, if Doornbos does not get a fulltime 'regular' drive in F1, which appears unlikely at this time, the likelihood of Muermans funding a Champ Car team is very high. "Doornbos is Muermans guy," the source told AutoRacing1.com.
08/22/06 Hearing from our European sources that this team is indeed going forward.
08/09/06 According to this Dutch website article, Harrie Muermans confirms that he and Paul Stoddart met with Kevin Kalkhoven in London to discuss forming a Champ Car team and that things look pretty good. However, his first priority would be to find Doornbos a ride in F1. Of course we know that is not going to happen without a lot of cash. He goes on to say that the team has all the equipment they need to field a Champ Car team, they just need to buy the new Champ Cars. He is also considering bringing over the two Minardi 2-seat cars for ride-along stuff with business partners. Muermans said that since this news came out his email box is full of sponsor offers and drivers expressing an interest in driving for the team. This together with the inside info we recently heard leads us to predict this team is probably going to happen.
08/07/06 We have since gotten word that the Paul Stoddart Champ Car team is still "looking good" for next year. We are told a good number of team members will be ex-Minardi F1 guys and that the team will be based out of Florida, at least for the winter test months. This is still a 'rumor' and should not be taken as 'fact' just yet.
08/07/06 Does this mean this team is dead on arrival, or are they looking at other drivers instead of Doornbos?
(GMM) Robert Doornbos could be retained as Red Bull's test driver beyond 2006, according to reports in Holland.
'Formule 1 RaceReport' claimed on Monday that Christian Horner has ruled out Doornbos' hopes of a race seat in 2007.
''We still have not taken a decision,'' the team principal was quoted as saying. ''At the moment, the race drivers are our priority.
''But we are very satisfied with Robert.''
Doornbos' manager, however - Marco Zecchi - said he is in negotiations with 'several teams' about a test role for the Dutch driver.
In a day or two, Red Bull is expected to confirm that Mark Webber will join David Coulthard in the racing seats next year.
Christian Klien, then, is the casualty, and Toro Rosso's Gerhard Berger insisted that there is no room for him at the 'junior' squad.
''We will have Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed,'' said the team's co-owner, according to 'APA'. ''We are full.''
07/20/06 This Grandprix.com article says Stoddart will make a decision by the end of August, not October which Autosport reported.
07/20/06 Former Minardi Formula One team boss Paul Stoddart has confirmed his Champ Car plans. According to a story in today's Autosport Magazine, Stoddart said, "Yes, the rumors do have some credibility, but we are still in the very early stages.
"However, what excites me is that Champ Car has moved almost entirely to street and road courses, and away from ovals, and has made itself into the most spectator-friendly top level race series."
He also confirmed that should the team come to fruition, it would be with the financial backing of Muerman's Group, a property investor and developer originating in the Netherlands and has expanded to the USA, Germany and Belgium. Photo left by Mark Scheuern/AutoRacing1.com shows The Muermans group logos on Dale Coyne's car driven by Jan Heylen.
He added: "Robert Doornbos would be on it, as would any good quality driver worth experience such as one who has driven for Minardi in F1. Bas Leinders is another and Zsolt Baumgartner.
"However, we don't need to decide on drivers yet: we need to sort out whether there is going to be a team and we need to have that done by October."
[Editor's Note: AutoRacing1.com can now reveal exclusively that Kevin Kalkhoven held meetings with both Paul Stoddart and Harrie Muermans Sunday night and they were still in talks on Tuesday in Europe. Kalkhoven flew to Europe for that and other business. With Champ Car debuting the new Panoz DP01, which will significantly lower operating costs and level the playing field for everyone, especially newcomers who have no setup data on the existing Lola chassis, 2007 is the year for new teams to enter the series.]
07/14/06 We hear an important meeting regarding this potential new team is to take place Sunday night in Europe.
07/13/06 At the Indy USGP Charles Zwolsman Jr. was a guest of Midland, and was told that he should contact Muermans about this project. Unfortunately for him it's a 'no-go'! Given the background and history of Charles' dad (major drug dealer in the Netherlands, or at least he once was), it's needless to say Muermans (also from the Netherlands) is 'not really' interested, one of the reasons being to avoid 'nasty' questions from the taxman! Obviously the very gifted and talented Charles Zwolsman Jr. can't help this, but especially in the Netherlands this is a very sensitive subject!
The news we referred to regarding F1 Friday drivers was confirmed today - It's official -- 'Friday' F1 drivers will not be needed in 2007, meaning many of those 'funded' drivers will now look to Champ Car for rides..
07/13/06 (GMM) Paul Stoddart could race back into the world of open-wheel racing with his own Champ Car squad.
The Australian entrepreneur, after selling his Minardi team to Red Bull ahead of the 2006 season, is reportedly linking up with backer Harrie Muermans, a staunch supporter of Stoddart's F1 effort.
A debut in the 2007 Champ Car season, the premier open-wheeler championship for American road courses, is possible, according to Dutch grand prix publication 'Formule 1 RaceReport'.
''It is still very early to say,'' Muermans, supporter of the F1 careers of Jos Verstappen and Robert Doornbos, was quoted as saying.
Muermans was, however, spotted at the recent Champ Car event in Portland, where he reportedly met with series owner Kevin Kalkhoven.
07/12/06 Well we have been keeping a lid on this for some time, but word is getting around so, not to be second, it is time we come forward with this rumor.
Visiting Portland was Dutch entrepreneur and real estate tycoon Harrie Muermans, invited by his driver, Belgian Jan Heylen. One of the reasons was to investigate how Champ Car works and what the impact is to the public. Also to find out what possibilities there are to do B2B and client entertainment at the track.
Harrie is also a longtime sponsor of Dutch driver Robert Doornbos, Red Bull's Friday driver. Robert is very keen on driving next year in F1. Problem is that there are not that many seats available for Robert (even not at Red Bull )!
Harrie is also a very good and personal friend of Paul Stoddart. Minardi has been heavily backed by Muermans in the last couple of years. Paul missed out on the last (12th) slot in F1 recently, but is still very keen on making a comeback on the international racing scene. He has definitely got the resources to put together a competitive team straight away for an assault on the 2007 Champ Car title! (Muermans and Stoddart pictured right at a Minardi F1 2-seater ride day)
Well, rumor has it that these 2 businessmen are plotting together and want to start a brand new Champ Car team for 2007... Drivers could be Jan Heylen and... Robert Doornbos (who is still only 24 - born 23 September 1981) who, although not in F1, can get started racing again! If, for whatever reason, Robert ends up in F1, it's quite likely there will be other drivers lining up to get a seat at this new team!
We hear that Champ Car's goal is to expand from the current 9 teams to as many as 14 teams, though we are not sure if they will get to 14 in 2007.
With the 'Friday' F1 drivers now disappearing from the F1 race meetings, the Champ Car doors are now wide open for the - old, present and future (not possible anyway) and especially paying (!) - 'Friday' drivers, as Champ Car is the closest form of competitive international racing after F1 itself! One of the drivers could be Robert Doornbos, but there are many others! All in all its (very) good news for - the future of - Champ Car! Mark C.
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