|AR1.com has said for 20 years that Bill France Jr. and Bernie Ecclestone played Tony George like a fiddle and got him to break up CART and destroy IndyCar racing
1995 IndyCar champion and '97 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has said that the media and fan attention that followed Nigel Mansell from Formula 1 to CART Indy car racing in 1993 "annoyed" Bernie Ecclestone.
Speaking on stage at Autosport International in the Birmingham, UK, Villeneuve reminisced about his switch from Japanese Formula 3 racing to Formula Atlantic in America in 1993, and said initially he thought he might remain in U.S. open-wheel racing because it was booming.
However, he believes that Formula 1 leader Bernie Ecclestone played a role in Tony George splitting from CART Indy car to form the rival Indy Racing League. CART went bankrupt and its assets were bought by Champ Car, which finally reunified with the IRL to form IndyCar in 2008.
Villeneuve, who finished third in Atlantics in '93, before graduating to Indy cars in '94, and winning the Indy 500 and CART title in '95, said: "At that point I was thinking it would be great to make it to F1, but perhaps the rest of my career would be in the States. Remember that's when Nigel Mansell went to Indy car, and Indy car was starting to be bigger and bigger and bigger, and the viewership was starting to get super-strong.
|He was Indy alright. We guess after you get played like a fiddle you are allowed to wear a hat like that
"I guess that annoyed Bernie and I think he was very instrumental in separating IndyCar so they would have separate championships. That's why Indy car racing died — because it was starting to damage Formula 1.
"But at that point in time in the mid-'90s, being in the States was quite good and the cars were super-quick. If you just look at the Indy 500, it was special. But obviously it would have been disappointing not to make it to Formula 1, because Formula 1 remains the specialty." David Malsher/Motorsport