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Atlantic Series to replace Indy Lights? DENIEDUPDATE #2 An insider writes AR1.com to give their insight, Dear AR1.com, Here is my take on the recent conversations regarding the Atlantic and Indy Lights series. First of all, I understand Tony Cotman saying that the Atlantic series should disappear as it represents an embarrassment for the IRL run series. Nevertheless, let’s look at the past to see if his wish has some value. Atlantic was racing with CART at the time Indy Lights was racing as well. It was not a conflict and it was not confusing anyone then.
I think the reason of a controversy is that the "real" Indy Lights of the CART era was a lot faster and was well positioned between Atlantic and Indy Car. The old "Lights" were racing at 203 mph on a 1 1/2 mile oval track and road course lap time right on the middle between Atlantic and Indy Cars. The only drawback of that series was the engine noise, which was similar to the new Indy Lights up to last year.
I think the new “IRL version” of Indy Lights has never been a well balanced car, being too heavy and too bulky. It fit well behind the Indy Cars as these cars are relatively slow, making the new "Lights" OK, unless compared against the Atlantic cars.
Making the Lights more competitive with a smaller and lighter chassis and engine package would make these cars as fast as the actual Indy Cars, which would not work until the “big” cars are re-designed.
Back to the Atlantic cars and championship: we can notice that the series is forming more top drivers, now competing very well in Indy Lights. In fact, drivers from either Formula 3 or Atlantic are very competitive in Lights as the step from Star Mazda is too big for the great majority of the drivers. One argument saying that the drivers from Atlantic do not have a path to follow, being associated with IMSA is not true. In reality, Atlantic has the best path possible as the series offers 1 million dollars to the winner with which he can either go to the best team in Indy Lights or negotiate a ride in GP2 or Renault 3.5 World series or Formula 2 and certainly be very well prepared to be highly competitive. [Editor's Note: But that sort of prize money cannot be sustained.]
Why Atlantic is competitive, even if there are only 13 cars today? The package is well balanced with a relatively light chassis, a good engine with a good base power and very good racing tires. This car is pushing engineers to explore continuously new ways to raise their competitive level in order for them to, at least, stay afloat with the competition and the drivers are exercising their talents with a nimble car that allow them to reach higher limits, which is what young drivers have to do to exert their trade. Teams are also better equipped and compete at a higher level compare to the average level in Lights. If the Atlantic cars had 50 more horses and smaller side pods, they would be fighting for pole position with the actual Indy Cars, and that would be even more embarrassing for the IRL people. Meanwhile, the Indy Lights series should be happy to harvest talented drivers from the Atlantic series. Name withheld by request
08/08/09 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Indy Lights Chief Steward Tony Cotman spoke to AutoRacing1.com this morning to set the record straight.
"Indy Lights is not going anywhere next year," said Cotman. "The series is strong and growing. We are looking how to best align all the junior racing series and Atlantics will not be part of it. I do not see where Atlantics fits in and, if anything they are just causing confusion for the fans."
Cotman felt that being aligned with IMSA means the drivers have no path to follow up the Open Wheel ladder system in the USA.
"The Atlantic Series was a great series and believe me I was part of it back from my Champ Car days, but at this point I don't see a future for that series, which has just 10-car fields(13 if you include the 3 old cars in class 2) and no strong TV package, and it just needs to go away. We (IRL and Vicki O'Connor/Ben Johnson) have two different philosophies of where the junior series should be. Atlantics is aligned with Ben's vision for the Green Prix Series but that still hasn't gotten off the ground."
The generally feeling is that Green Prix will never make it off the ground given the IRL is so much more established and has the Indy 500. If Champ Car could not make it how could Green Prix ever have a chance to make it?
"We are talking to a couple of engine manufacturers for the Lights series and we are formulating a plan that we hope to announce later this year that will create a new strong ladder system up to IndyCars."
From AR1's perspective, Mazda should become the engine supplier for Indy Lights. In the Star Mazda series they have a very strong established junior formula and the path for young drivers could be Star Mazda-->Indy Lights-->IndyCars Mark C. reporting from Mid-Ohio
08/08/09 We are hearing in the Mid-Ohio paddock that some drivers have been told the Firestone Indy Lights series may go away next year since the Hulman George sisters have cut funding for the IRL. Apparently the money they are giving will be focused on the more important IndyCars.
Since the Atlantic series has an engine manufacturer backing their series (Mazda) and the Indy Lights has none, it would make sense for the IRL to sanction (not pay for) the series as their ladder cars into IndyCars. Since the Atlantic cars have proven to be as fast, and sometimes faster, than the Indy Lights cars on some tracks, it would not be difficult to slot the Atlantics in to replace Indy Lights.
Both series are hurting financially, so by combining resources of both series, and making one stronger support series, the IRL will be well served. As for Firestone (Indy Lights) and Copper Tires (Atlantics), one would have to step back.
Ben Johnson, who had hoped to also resurrect the Champ Cars into a Green Open Wheel Series, probably would like to align the Atlantic series with an open wheel series like the IRL, instead of IMSA who current sanctions Atlantics. Mark C.
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