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Minardi in Champ Cars

Paul Stoddart has brought the Minardi name into Champ Cars by buying into the CTE Racing-HVM team. He is also hoping that there will be no need for politics in the American series as there was in F1. And who can blame him after the antics he was forced to get up to for Minardi to survive in F1?


1998 Minardi

It is good to see the Minardi name live on but, of course, the ethos of the team is long gone. In their Italian days, the team was the embodiment of all that was good in F1: a love of motor sport for its own sake, a light-hearted spirit that refused to be depressed by adversity and the best food in the paddock. Most of that had evaporated by the time Stoddart bought the outfit and now it is only a memory.

In reflecting on his foray into F1, Mr. Stoddart confirms what we all knew – that it has ceased to be a sport and is now a business. Small wonder that tiny minnows like Minardi have been squeezed out. But perhaps the most interesting point Stoddart makes is that he knows of at least one other F1 team considering making the move to Champ Cars.

One casts around quickly to see if a possible taker might be identified; but there is no obvious candidate. Red Bull already have a finger in the pie so perhaps this is what he means. But, if he has some other team in mind and especially if it is true, this is a telling comment on the fluctuating fortunes of F1 and Champ Cars.

When Champ Cars first began, it was not given much hope of survival in competition with its alter ego, the Indy Racing League. To everyone’s surprise, it has blossomed and become a major outlet for European and South American drivers who cannot get into F1 – there is currently only one American driver involved. If it now starts to siphon off teams from F1 as well, even the FIA would have to admit that there is something wrong with their sport/business.

Champ Car is attractive because it does not have the convoluted politics of F1, it relies on lower and less costly technology, but still delivers on the entertainment side. Battles between leading drivers are just as enthralling as in F1, perhaps more so since they are all in approximately equal machinery. It is a sport still and the main business of competition on the track has not been forgotten.

Perhaps F1 could learn a few things from it…

4 Responses to “Minardi in Champ Cars”

  1. Whao there Clive! I think Champ is *much* more commercialised than F1, especially in terms of it’s coverage. I refer you to the red tyre wall rule (an excuse for commentators to mention the tyre manufacturer), the horrible push-to-pass button (a contrivance to mention the engine manufacturer) and to an extent the “no blocking” rule (which I can just about accept given the narrow street circuits Champ races are held on) to promote “excitement”.

    These rules make the battles a little less enthralling for me. It will be interesting to see if Bourdais takes an F1 drive (Torro Rosso?) in 2008, to see how he measures up against the standards in F1.

    Having said all that, there was at least one really good punch-up in Champ last year – how long since we saw passion like that in F1?

  2. Commercialism, yes, but this is America after all. ;) It’s the endless politicking of F1 that gets me down, especially the fact that everyone says they’re going to help the small teams but then regulates them out of the game. I share your dislike of the red tire walls, the push-to-pass button (and that’s on the cards for F1 according to Magnificent Max) and the no blocking rule. But, let’s face it, the rules governing Champ Cars are much simpler than F1′s. It’s not that I’m seriously advocating that we all watch CC instead of F1 – more that I fear that the pinnacle of motor sport is being reduced by the money men to something that is less than CC.

    Bourdais has won so often in the States that he must be pretty good. As you say, Rob, it will be interesting to watch his progress.

    As for passion, have we all forgotten Eddie Irvine? Heck, even Senna took a swing at him… :D

  3. Too true, politics and money men rule F1 and the future rule changes towards more commoditised and sponsored components, like the Microsoft badged McLaren ECUs, and away from bespoke parts will further reduce the ‘purity’ of F1. We are losing something here – gone are the days of daring rule-bending like ground-force fans (Bernie himself was behind this I believe) and six-wheeled cars. These days we’re reduced to daft upright wings as ‘innovation’.

    Re: Bourdais. I’m not convinced he is that good. Is anyone on the inside of F1? His F3000 title was won by default, and for all the noise in the press about his Torro Rosso drive chances, he hardly set the world on fire.

  4. Convinced? No, the memory of Michael Andretti’s failure in F1 is still too recent for me to be convinced by one test. Bourdais has won consistently in the States, however, and this sometimes indicates talent – witness Montoya at least. I think perhaps it is harder to move from Champ Cars to F1 than the other way around – it may even be easier to go from GP2 to F1 since the tracks are the same. So we are being a bit optimistic to expect anyone fresh from CC to shine immediately. I have no doubt that Bourdais will get another chance and probably a drive in 2008 – we will see how good he is then.

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