Will Laguna Seca lose its Champ Car race?
Don't wave the checkered flag on the Champ Car World Series just yet. At worst, we're looking at a full-course caution right now but as far as Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is concerned, the green flag is waving.
Late last year, The Herald reported that Champ Car was returning to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this season after a three-year hiatus, during which it tried to make a successful run on the streets of San Jose.
The pre-cursor for this year's event was Champ Car holding its Spring Training event on the world-renowned permanent road course last year. Once again, Spring Training is scheduled for Laguna Seca March 13 and 14 and that date still appears on the CWS web site.
May 16-18, the 750-horsepower turbo-charged iron horses of the series with the new Panoz engineered DP-01 chassis and Bridgestone tires are scheduled to tackle the technically challenging 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit nestled in the hills of Fort Ord.
Last week, Campbell received a communiqué from Champ Car counsel Matt Breeden that said, in part, "We're (Champ Car) happy to confirm the May 16-18 race."
No waffling, no innuendos, just the statement that the series was confirming it was coming to one of the tracks that had long been a mainstay on the CART — now Champ Car — circuit.
"I have not heard anything to the contrary," Campbell also said regarding the return of the CWS Spring Training event that last year had a huge turnout of local fans to show their support for the series.
In recent weeks, there have been stories, rumors and all sorts of innuendos that Champ Car and the rival IndyCar Series would be merging this season and/or Champ Car was on the verge of filing bankruptcy. There was also a story circulating that long-time Champ Car team owner Derrick Walker was pulling out of the series.
"There has been lots of speculation and gossip," Campbell said. "I'm sticking to what I know. That's (the word from the Champ Car counsel) the only fact I know and that is what I'm presenting to the board."
The board to which she is referring is the directors of the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), the not-for-profit organization that oversees the operation of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Campbell also referenced a communication from Walker that appeared on another auto racing web site and was being widely circulated.
Essentially, Walker said the stories that he was pulling his team out of Champ Car were unfounded.
In part, Walker said: "Our interest in the IRL was formulated some time ago. We looked at the possibility to run two open wheel series cars in our facility again. So the idea of running in the IRL is not a new concept for us and is not a concept that was born out of that fact that there would be a merger or that Champ Car could disappear.
"The future for open wheel racing is somewhat uncertain, but the encouraging sign is that all parties are talking. There is nothing that seems to be off of the table at the moment. It's just an awkward time where everyone is on hold and the media is trying to get the story out there to the fans, but it's too premature to be able to tell the story because the discussions really have to be finished before everyone in the IRL and Champ Car know what potentially could happen. If Champ Car continues on and we have the funding, it's very likely that Team Australia would continue, and it's also quite possible that we could successfully secure sponsorship for the IRL and have an IRL program as well." Monterey Herald