Halliday’s return to Champ Car could be short-lived UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The following statement is in response to stories that have surfaced regarding Matt Halliday driving a second car for Conquest Racing in the last five races of the season.
From Eric Bachelart, Conquest Racing Team Owner, “I want to start out by saying that Matt Halliday and Conquest Racing were only originally contracted together for the first three races of the 2007 season. We had considered trying to work out a deal for the last five races of the season but the economics did not work out and I feel it would be best for Conquest Racing to focus solely on the #34 car and Jan Heylen for the rest of the season. The entire Conquest Racing team and I wish Matt Halliday the best of luck in his negotiations to continue his career in Champ Car as well as his future plans in other race series.”
07/16/07 Eight hundred horsepower and lots of downforce - that's what Matt Halliday wants from his racing cars.
And that's what he's about to get again as the Aucklander - one of New Zealand's A1GP heroes - has just returned to America for more races in the Champ Car series.
An intense man totally focused on his sport, Halliday has been battling for years to make the big international breakthrough, and now he has a place in one of the world's top single-seater series.
Halliday raced three Champ Car rounds earlier this year and loved driving the very fast car, which has a turbo engine and sophisticated aerodynamics.
"They're awesome cars to drive," Halliday said.
"They have a lot of aerodynamic downforce and guys who've driven Formula One cars, like Sebastien Bourdais, say they're just as fast as F1 cars in the fast corners - they pull four or five G and it's a real strain on your neck and arms.
"They've got about 800hp and getting the power down out of the corners is very tricky - there's no traction control. It's a great car."
The A1GP car, which has about 500hp, seemed tame in comparison, Halliday said.
He did most of the driving in New Zealand's Black Beauty A1GP car in the first season, when they finished fourth, and supported Jonny Reid in the 2006-07 season when they finished second.
Halliday should be happy as he has a deal to race a Champ Car for the Conquest team in five more rounds, including the meeting at Surfers Paradise. But a racing driver is not really happy unless he's winning, so Halliday has mixed feelings.
He did three races with Conquest, run by Eric Bachelart, earlier this year and things did not go well.
"It's difficult because it's a new car and I'm a rookie driver, in a one-car team. Eric and the team do a good job but they don't have the resources the top teams have, because they don't have the budget."
The budget - that's what motor racing is all about. Drivers such as Halliday, on the fringes of the big time for several years, can't get a drive in a top series unless they bring money to their team.
"It's a business," Halliday says. "Just about any series except V8 Supercars, you have to bring a budget to the team."
He has backers in New Zealand, including vodka company 42 Below, but one of his problems is explaining to potential sponsors the difference between America's two single-seater competitions: Champ Cars and the Indy Racing League (where Scott Dixon races).
"They don't understand why I wouldn't be racing in the Indianapolis 500," he says, referring to one of the IRL's glamour events.
The A1GP successes proved Halliday is a fast driver - and after running at the front there, he doesn't want to be in a car that is only a midfielder at best.
So now he is aiming to renegotiate his deal with Conquest, and is checking out at a wide range of possibilities.
"We're looking at Champ Cars, the IRL, the American Le Mans Series sports cars, V8 Supercars," he says.
He feels he needs to achieve some good results in America this year in order to secure a good drive for 2008, which is why he is worried about the Conquest deal - he might drive the car to the limit of its performance, but if he's not at the front of the field no one will notice.
Meanwhile, he is expected to again have a role in New Zealand's A1GP team, although Reid looks likely to do the majority of the driving in the coming season, and will also race two long distance V8 Supercar races in Australia, at Sandown and Bathurst, with the Ford Performance Racing team.
In 2006, he qualified 14th at Sandown and finished 15th, sharing the car with Cameron McLean, but at Bathurst he and David Brabham failed to finish.
Now he is putting an extra effort into those races, taking part in all the team's test days whereas last year he had to miss some.
Top results could gain him a fulltime drive in Australia next year - and that would solve the budget problem, because then at last the team would be paying him to drive instead of the other way around. Stuff.co.nz