07/12/05 Champ Car will regain the early season toehold in Florida it lost with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg if negotiations can be completed to hold its season opener in conjunction with the 12 Hours of Sebring sports car race in March.
The open-wheel series raced through the streets of St. Petersburg in February 2003, but abandoned the venue because of a litany of financial and logistical issues and the city's interest in the rival Indy Racing League. The IRL held its first grand prix in St. Petersburg on April 3.
Sebring International Raceway president Tres Stephenson said the deal is "not officially done" and he had not been privy to discussions.
Champ Car would have to race either Friday, the day before the American Le Mans Series opener, or Sunday, which would not be conducive considering the differences in tires between the two series. Champ Car and ALMS are discussing running several doubleheader weekends involving different promoters.
Tim Mayer , chief operating officer of International Motor Sports Association, which sanctions ALMS races, called reports on SpeedTV.com that Champ Car had a tentative March19 date in Sebring "somewhat speculative." He did, however, see value in adding Champ Car to the weekend: "I think that any time that you can bring more value to your fans, it's good for motorsports. And obviously Sebring is a race with a lot of tradition and a lot of fans, but as an organization, we're always trying to find ways to improve that for our fans."
League spokesman Steve Shunck said several steps would be involved in coming to Sebring, including a review by vice president of operations Tony Cotman . "It takes a lot to go into a new venue and see potential track layouts, etc.," he said. "Just because we've talked to Sebring doesn't mean it's going to happen." St. Pete Times [Editor's Note: This idea was proposed by AutoRacing1.com many times over the years. Perhaps now it will finally happen. We are still hoping our campaign for standing starts eventually gets implemented. All indications are that will happen with the new cars in 2007, but not at every track because some are too narrow. If a race promoter wants an exciting standing start for their event they will have to widen their S/F straight, which is not always possible in a city street.]