The prospects of a new car spec for the 2012 season has been an intriguing topic to follow for those of us who are IICS junkies. Mentions of the ho hum (ie Dallara 3.0), to the creative folly of the Art student’s project images that started making their way from blog to blog, to HVM’s open solicitation of what the car should look like to rumors of a radical new future being secretly developed by team owners sequestered away in Area 51 code named “The Delta Wing”. Reporting and Commentary has ranged from the simple need for a new car, the virtues of evolution vs revolution to recent spoof and satire. All this has, however, been a good thing – the project has captured the attention and engaged the fan base.
Recent reporting as of late has begun to cast a more ominous tone across the effort. Robin Miller in a couple mailbags has used words such as “Battle” and “War” in describing the growing the rift between conservative league officials and team owners that are behind the Delta Wing project. Then this week the clearest delineation of the battle shaping up came to light. John Oreovitz reported that Brian Barnhart may have to make a choice between keeping Honda, the life support system for the league the past number of years, happy and the stalwart Target Chip Ganassi team, primary sponsor of the Delta Wing.
Of course I thought to myself “I’ve seen this movie before” then “Not every series needs to be a trilogy”. Hanging by a thread – that’s where both Champ Car and the IRL stood three years ago. After two splits in the sport pitting owners vs sanctioning bodies the fall from grace into oblivion for the sport was nearly complete. Car counts for both leagues were sub 20, and a third to half of those participating, were getting fat substinance checks from under funded leagues to keep going. The merger came as a life preserver to both sets of participants, and the recent cash infusions from Izod and the Brazil race have been a tow line pulling the league to safer waters. But, if this battle over the new car escalates into another split, it will serve as finale fatale for the previous 1979 and 1995 episodes of pettiness over prosperity. American based Open Wheel Racing will be done. Three strikes kids – You’re out.
During the late nineties I walked away from the sport, the stupidity of the whole thing disgusted me. Keeping both halves of what you currently have engaged in at least one half of a split product is hopeful thinking, many will walk and bail. Even if that doesn’t happen, what little fan base there is, split in two, would not measure as enough audience to round a TV rating up from zero to anything. What little sponsors there are, gone. The only drama would be to see which side sold out to ISC or SMI first. (for reasons best left to another pondering – ISC NEEDS an open wheel series in their portfolio – but I digress) The point is that half of next to nothing – is well - nothing.
In a previous post, I have stated that I think revolution over evolution might be the best strategic move for the league, distancing itself from both nascar and F1, while re—engaging the imagination of the motorsport world. But truthfully – I would prefer either as a direction for the future over another split that leads to the death of open wheel racing in America. My guess –most of the fan base agrees with me. Should this post past the eyes of any who is an active part of the discussion, tread lightly friends. The wrong decision about a car is not fatal – but a third split, born from ego and obstinance, is.