IRL, Honda pushing Crapwagons

UPDATE #5 Dear, I couldn't agree with you more that open wheels must be sexy. Racing is or should be about more than speed. It is about esthetics, grace and form. It is about a sound that send chills down your spine, not rattles your teeth.

Champ Car with their new chassis and turbo engine realize that. The IRL don't. It seems they created their package for an audience that wasn't interested ( NASCAR fans) and now they are trying to ram it down our throats. Actually I am curious about Honda's motives. Ugly cars and awful sounding engines only puts them in a bad light. Do they think that their customers don't watch open wheel, or do they not want to spend money to build turbos because they are saving it to go into NASCAR?

I only hope that the people in Champ Car realize that massaging our senses with beautiful lines and sweet music will always win the day. Bradford Dunlop, Toronto Canada

Another writes, Furthermore, for those who remember the heydays of CART in the late 90's, the biggest problem they had with running a schedule with ovals and road courses was that the cars were either too fast on the ovals or too slow on the road courses. They finally figured it out by adjusting the boost with the turbochargers so they could turn up the wick on the road courses or turn it down on the ovals. This canNOT be done with a normally aspirated engine and it will be back to the same old problem of having a car that is uninspiring on any circuit, which took years for them to resolve.

Are they really that ignorant to replicate a NASCAR formula? I believe Bernie said it best the other day…"The best NASCAR race has as many viewers in the USA as an average F1 race does in Italy alone." Ya, let's go away from the F1 formula and follow NASCAR. Maybe the IRL people believe we should go wear tank tops and only drive pick up trucks next! Then again, when have the IRL people ever had a clue about open-wheel racing. D. Hughes, Cincinnati, OH

06/20/06 Yet another writes, What people seem to forget is that a turbocharged motor is quieter than a normal aspirated one. All the work that has been done to lay the foundation for all the successful street race venues will go by the wayside if non-turbo motors are the norm. I am surprised that the noise Nazis haven't invaded St Pete. The turbo engine are street friendly, the IRL motors are not. Mike Faulknor

06/20/06 Another writes, Dear, If your report is true that Honda and the IRL want their cars and motors for the merger I am very skeptical about the IRL's true intentions and have my doubts that the two sides will ever merge. Let's see, CCWS should open the month of May so their teams could help fill the Indy 500 field. Then many fans and writers such as Robin Miller said it would be a gesture of good will to let the IRL have Champ Cars Milwaukee race. Now, at a point where it is impossible for the two sides to merge for next year, Champ Car is supposed to agree on the IRL chassis and engine package thus locking Champ Car into another year of low car counts because of the outdated equipment no-one wants to invest in. The bigger question would be why even run in Champ Car next year if you need to invest in IRL equipment for 2008. This sounds to me like an end game the IRL is playing to destabilize Champ Car. I'm sorry, but I don't see where the IRL is giving at all on this merger. I can only hope Kevin Kalkhoven sees through this all and moves on. Sadly this may turn into a fight to the death for one or both series. Arno Fritz, Milwaukee, WI

06/20/06 Another reader adds, My father and mother in Dallas went with some friends to the IRL race in Fort Worth a couple of weeks ago. The noise, he said, was “horrible," and he warned me never to go to one of their races.

Even when the cars were under caution and behind the pace car on the back stretch he said he couldn’t talk with anyone near him because it was so loud. My mother complained that her ears were still ringing several days later because she didn’t get ear plugs until the 17th lap.

Now these two are veterans of many racing events since the 1950s. My father first went to the Indy 500 in 1950, and he and my mother regularly attended the 500 from the 1960s to the early 1980s. In recent years, they have attended several NASCAR events at TMS and in Las Vegas. None of these, he said, came close to the noise level of the IRL cars today. He likened them to the old Novis, which he said would rattle your spine when they were a quarter mile away.

All this is an issue because if the IRL were to get its way and a combined series were to adopt their engine formula, I would be very reluctant to take my kids to a race. My wife said she wouldn’t let me under those circumstances. Yea, they could wear ear plugs, but what fun would that be if they couldn’t ask a question or talk to their siblings or parents throughout the race for fear of the noise? And the ear plugs will only prevent so much of the noise, if they are inserted correctly and left there.

At least in my family this creates a potential long-term problem for the future of the sport, even if the series are combined. If I can’t take my young boys to a race — the time when they are most likely to catch racing “fever" — because of health reasons then it doesn’t bode well for the long-term health of the series.

All this would naturally take care of itself if the powers that be were to consider the interests of the fans first, and their own self-interests second. But then again, the leaders of the IRL didn’t consider the interests of the fans in 1996 when they split the sport. It might be too optimistic to expect them to have learned that lesson a mere decade later. Jim Allen, Virginia

06/20/06 A reader writes, This is the sort of attitude that is NOT in the spirit of compromise. Who cares what cars they run in the beginning? Just get the 2 series merged. They will eventually need new equipment and will then get new cars. My idea would have been to merge in 2007 and tailor the new Champ Car for the merged series. Tom – Full Name Withheld by Request

Dear Tom, We believe the concern on the Champ Car side is the presentation and image the product will have to the fan base worldwide. This isn't stock car racing, which appeals to a different crowd with a different image. Open wheel cars must be sexy and give the appearance of state-of-the-art. The Indy 500, for example, was always about new ideas and new innovation, that was part of the appeal of Indy Car racing in its glory days. You can't take a stock car approach to open wheel racing and expect fans to be interested. Through history open wheel fans have turned their noses up to "stock blocks" and the weird ugly looking cars. F1 is so appealing because of its sexy look and sound. The feeling is that the new Panoz Champ Car is inexpensive yet sexy and the turbo engine sets it apart from a "Stock Car" sound and image. The general feeling is that the IRL was started based on a low-cost stock car type model and failed miserably. Why make the same mistake again? Mark C.

06/20/06 One Champ Car team member told after Portland where Honda's Robert Clarke was visiting, "I can't believe it. the IRL and now Honda's Robert Clarke are trying to sell us on the idea of running the inferior IRL Crapwagon car complete with the horrible sounding IRL naturally aspirated engine. It is the most putrid looking race car mankind has ever produced and why would we want to give up our superior engine."

It is not the first time that the IRL side has tried to convince the Champ Car side to switch to their equipment. Another team member told, "We don't care what equipment we run, we just think a merger has to happen. Since the IRL teams have more sponsorship backing they are in a better position to switch to what we are running then us switching to their stuff. Besides, our equipment is better and the new car will be less expensive."

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