Champ Car prepared to move race to LA

This Long Beach Press Telegram article says, His right shoulder immobilized by a sling, Kevin Kalkhoven delivered a blow that was more powerful than any he could have thrown even before his skiing accident. The 60-year-old Aussie told a small group of reporters inside his posh motor coach Friday that the Champ Car World Series is primed to create a street race somewhere in Los Angeles if the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach doesn't bring his series back in 2006.

"In the unfortunate event that we are not back next year, we know our fans in the L.A. area like to see Champ Car. So we'll hold (a race) for them," said Kalkhoven, who is the most influential and vocal of the three team owners who run Champ Car.

The Indy Racing League is making a strong case to replace Champ Car, which sees its contract with the Grand Prix Association expire following Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Champ Car and its precursor, CART, have raced in Long Beach since 1984, but its dearth of sponsors has weakened its pitch for a contract renewal.

While some people close to Grand Prix told the Press-Telegram that his comments should be seen as no more than veiled threats, Kalkhoven was confident he could put on a street race a week before next year's LBGP.

"What we have in mind for a street race in the Los Angeles area is pretty well laid out," Kalkhoven said. "These are very much contingency plans designed to make sure our fans get to see Champ Car."

He wouldn't divulge where he expects to conduct the race and Chris Pook, the founder of the Long Beach Grand Prix, said finding a suitable location in L.A. is no easy task.

"The Grand Prix Association tried for years to find a place to race in Los Angeles," Pook said Friday of his search some years ago to add another street race in Southern California. "We couldn't find one."

Jim Michaelian, the current head of the Grand Prix Association, had no comment. Starting a street race is certainly no easy undertaking, especially in the same market as a race that has 31 years of tradition behind it.

Champ Car would likely have to foot most of the $3-4 million in startup costs. Since it wouldn't get any logistical help from the Grand Prix Association, all the safety equipment the cement barriers and protective fences and grandstands would have to come from an existing street race.

The most likely candidate would be to borrow the equipment from the San Jose Grand Prix, which will hold its inaugural race in July. But Bob Singleton, the general manager of the San Jose race, said he's heard nothing about any L.A. Grand Prix and said it usually takes 18 months to develop and conduct a street race.

Kalkhoven and Co. have 11 months and change. This wouldn't be the first street race in L.A. Dr. William Burke, the founder of the L.A. Marathon, ran a street race on Olvera Street in 1997 and then around the L.A. Coliseum in 1998 before the venture was doomed by mounting financial losses and complaints by residents.

Any new street race will likely need an environmental impact report, an inquiry that can take several months before local officials give the OK. Kalkhoven also alleged the IRL recently offered to purchase the Grand Prix Association from its parent company, Dover Motorsports. "(Dover) can't just do a side deal with a company, but that's what the IRL tried to do," Kalkhoven said.

Ken Ungar, the senior vice president of business affairs for the IRL, denied his series made any such move. "We've had no secret meetings and we don't want to own the Long Beach Grand Prix," Ungar said. "We want to sanction the race there. I don't know why he thinks that. We've only had discussions to sanction the race there."

Kalkhoven said he's had no discussions with the Grand Prix Association about a contract renewal. Champ Car wouldn't leave Long Beach empty-handed; Kalkhoven said he would take the LBGP's newest addition Formula Drift with him to his new race. Kalkhoven also said he would likely keep Rosko Dickinson, the man behind the Miss Grand Prix pageant, from the LBGP next year since Champ Car has a deal with Dickinson to conduct similar pageants at other races. "I haven't done anything yet," Kalkhoven said. "I'm quite happy to stay in Long Beach." [Editor's Note: See our related article, which said basically the same thing two days ago.]

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