Now that it’s clear the merger talks with the
IRL are not likely to bear fruit, Champ Car is now moving
forward with its march toward global expansion.
For years Champ Car has struggled to define itself, acting as a
domestic series while it dabbled internationally. It seemed
confused, but no longer. Kevin Kalkhoven stated clearly that
Champ Car's goal was to become increasingly international, and
in 2007 is staying true to his word.
Struggling to make inroads into the stranglehold NASCAR has on the
USA market, in 2007 Champ Car is making its boldest move yet to
step outside of NASCAR's sandbox and into F1’s. In no time in its history will Champ Car
(including the CART era) race in more countries and on more
continents in a single season.
With the addition of China and Europe (2 countries) Champ Car
can now claim they race in 7 countries (USA, Mexico, Canada,
China, Australia, Holland, Belgium). While that is
not as many as F1, which holds events in 17 countries, it’s
clear that Champ Car is no longer just a domestic series.
The question that remains to be answered in this coming season
is whether Champ Car is adequately prepared to not only manage
this growth, but to capitalize on it, especially China which
holds tremendous potential given its economic growth. Not only are they adding
three new overseas events, Champ Car is also adding Las Vegas,
Mont-Tremblant and Phoenix in North America. That’s six new
events in a single season. F1 and NASCAR have never attempted
that many in a single leap and they are far bigger
While Champ Car appears to be the Energizer Bunny of auto
racing, surviving despite numerous attempts from the dark side
of the sport to kill it, it will be interesting to see whether it is
prepared for such rapid change.
Over the years USAC (Mexico, Brazil and Argentina), followed by CART
(most recently Brands Hatch and Eurospeedway, two failed events) and then Champ Car have ventured
outside the borders of the USA with its Indy Car style of
racing, only to see the events eventually die because of the
same inherent problem – failure of management to recognize the
need to manage those far away markets locally to ensure their
In the past USAC, CART and now Champ Car have relied on the race
promoter to make these races a success. And yes, one can argue
that ultimately the promoter is responsible to promote their event
and make it profitable,
they cannot do it alone. Because Champ Car isn’t known well
enough in these far away new markets, the ability for
the promoter to sell this unknown product is slim -- Australia
notwithstanding because they have a super promoter in “Crusher”
Murray who understands the game perhaps better than anyone.
It’s imperative that Champ Car have a minimum of one driver on the starting grid
that represents each country that Champ
Car races in. And we do not mean just that one race, but
an entire season so race fans in these new markets have time to
take a keen interest in how their countryman is doing. Let's analyze
how well Champ Car is positioned in that regard.
Canada - Yes, Paul Tracy, Andrew Ranger and Alex Tagliani
- at least one, but probably all three will find a seat in Champ
Car for 2007.
USA - Yes, Graham Rahal and Alex Figge as a minimum will
have a seat.
Mexico - Yes, Mario Dominguez and possibly David Martinez
Australia - Yes, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, one or both
will have a seat
China - Perhaps Dutch/Chinese Ho-Pin Tung who has
expressed a desire, but right now no deals are even close and no
other Chinese drivers appear ready.
Holland - Yes, Jos Verstappen, Robert Doornbos and
perhaps Ho-Pin Tung should find a ride
Hockenheim Germany, LeMans France or Zolder Belgium - Yes, for France (Philippe,
and Bourdais) and Belgium (Jan Heylen) but no for Germany unless
they got someone like Timo Glock or Andre Lotterer back
Based on this analysis it appears Champ Car is
pretty well positioned for their planned international expansion
from a driver/fan standpoint. This gives the local
promoter something to base their marketing and advertising
It's exciting times for Champ Car. A new
car, at least three new team owners, and six new and exciting
race venues all in one year. Now if it can just figure out
a way to convince sponsors to come aboard for the ride, which to
date as been their biggest failing, their
future will begin to look even brighter.
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