Elan and Green Prix troubles? UPDATE #3 Saint Patrick's Day and Spring Break revelers will have to wait for another time for the Green Prix USA debut and/or the Cooper Tires Atlantic Challenge Powered by Mazda series cars to race here on the Hutchinson Island road course.
Several recent events, including the need to bring the 1.98-mile, 10-turn public course to full racing standard, have made what would have been the Green Prix USA for Champ or Indy style cars debut for March 13-15 unlikely.
Green Prix USA founder Ben Johnstone, of Alpharetta, envisioned 20 mostly former Champ Car World Series Panoz DP01 cars to be the weekend's headliner. The DP01s would have been identically prepared from Panoz's Elan Motorsports Technology Group, of Braselton, and powered by former turbocharged 2.65-liter Ford-Cosworth EXE V8 engines. The revived Champ Cars were to be supported by what would have been the opening round of the Atlantic Challenge.
Atlantic Challenge officials, however, issued a revised 2009 calendar Feb. 2 where the Hutchinson Island race was replaced by second races during their June 12-13 weekend at (Millville) New Jersey Motorsport Park and July 25-26 at Joilet Ill.'s Autobhan Country Club. The series is to now debut as a support race for the ALMS Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring March 20.
Johnstone, who bought the Atlantic Challenge series Oct. 31 and put it under IMSA sanction, has not made any comments of the Green Prix USA postponement. The owner-operator of Media Brokers, Inc., a commercial time buying company, has been a long-time SCCA Alabama-region Formula Atlantic driver and made one processional Toyota Formula Atlantic start in the 1990s.
Westin Savannah Harbor Resort general manager Mark Spadoni, in a report published Jan. 26, said that the circuit his hotel is near lacks the safety barriers and other features required for pre-race insurance and sanctioning body certification. Those features include concrete dividers and steel guardrails that were removed after the course's May 15, 1997 CART Indy Lights Dixie Crystals Grand Prix.
"It's a time-frame issue," said Spadoni to SanannahNow.com. "If we don't have a St. Patrick’s Day race, that doesn't mean we won't have some other event here this year that allows us to get one under our belt. That way we can learn and tweak some things for a big event for St. Patrick's Day 2010."
01/06/09 This rumor is downgraded based on this note received from Elan Motorsports Technologies today:
Despite rumors to the contrary, Elan Motorsports Technologies (EMT), is fully operational and continues to function strongly in both motorsports and non-motorsport technology sectors.
Following the demise of the Champ Car World Series, in early 2008, Elan retained a full staff in its race car design/build divisions in order to execute the development and launch of the Superleague Formula Series car in August of 2008.
The Superleague car was successfully launched with universal acclaim for its quality and performance from SLF officials and teams. However, without another major new design/build program on the horizon, coupled with the severe downturn in the global economy, EMT took prudent steps in December to reduce its workforce.
A significant amount of EMT’s ongoing business is with aerospace, military and aircraft industries and this part of the business remains strong going into 2009 with a full order book already in place.
With regard to its motorsport business, EMT expects the Superleague Formula Series will continue with a full program throughout 2009 with demand for both new cars and spare parts. EMT has also recently reached an agreement with another major North American race series to take over all manufacturing and distribution of its parts. An announcement will be made regarding this new development in the near future. Additionally, EMT continues to build IMSA Lites cars (DP02), Formula SCCA, Panoz Esperante GTLM and provide full spare parts inventory and track support for these cars and many others, including Star Mazda.
EMT recently transferred all Van Diemen’s North American race car business to EMT headquarters in Braselton, Georgia. This strategic business decision was made in order to improve supply, service and pricing to Van Diemen’s North American customers. EMT will make a further announcement regarding the continued operations at Van Diemen UK later this week at the Autosport Show at NEC Birmingham, UK.
EMT still retains a strong core of dedicated and highly skilled personnel. And while EMT rarely comments on rumors, in these challenging economic times EMT feels compelled to respond to these unfounded allegations with facts. EMT continues to operate as one of North America’s leading motorsport and related technology companies.01/05/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. We can confirm that there have been layoffs at Elan Motorsports. The following is currently posted at mulsannescorner.com, which is the website of a former employee at Elan.
Elan Motorsports Technologies
"The end of an era...Naturally I have a personal connection to this story if anyone has been paying attention over the course of the past 5 years. On December 19, myself, and 17 others, were laid off from Elan Motorsports. My first day for Elan was February 2, 2004. The company was solely unique in American motorsports. Arguably no other company in the United States had the capacities of design and manufacturing, coupled with an expertise in engine building all under one roof. But certainly no other company could claim EMT's resume over the past 5 years: Indy 500 wins in 2003 and 2004, a GT2 class win at the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans, Champ Car contract 25+ chassis delivered), Superleague contract (20 chassis delivered), and all while building 100+ Star Mazdas and 40+ DP02s. EMT was decidedly "European" in its choice of projects which made it additionally unique.
While the reasons for EMT's failings are numerous, truth is the company's slide began well before the current economic turmoil. But let it be known it wasn't for the lack of skill, creativity, and determination of the rank and file employees..."
01/04/09 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Ben Johnston's Green Prix USA series will be stillborn and this has caused Elan Motorsports to lay off most of its staff since the only real car building they had going was doing more Panoz Champ Cars. When Green Prix pulled the plug the Elan pink slips came out. Waiting for more details on this rumor.