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A listing ship

October 9, 2013

All I want is for INDYCAR to survive and thrive.

I want to have to push my way (or take alternate routes) through the paddocks at every race, not just a few like Indy or my home race at Long Beach.

And I want competition.

Not just the awesome work of the wheelmen and women who race these high-speed cars so intently. I want to see competition again in the Indy car universe. As a friend said to me as we shared this conversation, “Yep, multiple chassis and engine suppliers are the mark of a healthy series.”

So look around. Competition begins with Formula 1, of course, where there are different chassis and several engines in a variety of development and tuning. it’s competitive; it’s compelling.

Even NASCAR has different chassis underneath the manufacturer bodies, which have their own subtleties while meeting strict rules. Engine competition is rampant and tough. The same with sports car racing in the United States, at least through this season.

Then you come to Indy cars. One chassis. Yawn. Two engine manufacturers. Double Yawn. A single turbocharger spec for 2014 – don’t get me started on that one. And no identifiable body kits until 2015 for a series that once defined competition.

No, I’m not going to ask for a return to the 1960s or 1970s – not even the ’80s.

And a caveat here: I’ve been in this business since the mid-1970s as a professional journalist. I started with IMSA sports cars, moved to the USAC/SCCA Formula 5000 series, did some F1, got heavily involved with Indy cars and now, while working with Race Engine Technology magazine, I seem to cover anything and everything involved in racing on four or two wheels.

I’m not jaded by all of this. Rather, I want to see common sense reign in every series I cover – and every last one of them has its challenges, its upsides and downsides.

INDYCAR appears to have the most trouble, though, and much of it is due to its lack of competition.

So fondly I remember the days when Reynards battled Lolas and Swifts and even Eagle cars. There were Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota engines involved in the CART series during those glory days of the mid-1990s up to this new century.

Mind you I really don’t want to go back to it – those days are gone now, but I’d sure like to see a modern interpretation and a technical department capable of working with a mass of competitors.

As long as INDYCAR is working with organizations like Boston Consulting Group to determine its destiny, failure is imminent. Had the Hulman-George family decided to contact Daniel Sexton Gurney, they might have had a more workable answer to most, if not all of the problems surrounding the IndyCar Series and its ladder series as well. For the Road to Indy, at least Dan Andersen is capable of controlling much of what happens within his realm, even if he did jettison any Firestone participation.

The recent Houston weekend is simply a microcosm of what ails INDYCAR. A hastily built track, Mickey Mouse solutions (sounds like the first year of Baltimore, San Jose, Edmonton, streets of Las Vegas, etc) and a resultant horrid accident that injured one of the few stars of the show, in addition to a worker and paying fans.

It’s a sad, sad situation, but one that will repeat itself as long as this ship continues to take water. It ain’t the Titanic – yet – but the forces within the Indianapolis 465 Beltway are working hard to make sure the listing seaward continues. A large dose of competition could help right this ship, but I feel, quite painfully, that it’s not going to happen.

By Anne Proffit

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One Comment
  1. Carmen Quesero permalink

    This is a common complaint, lack of competition. I’ve read it a million times from Gordon Kirby, Robin Miller, etc. But where is the solution? An actual step by step solution to recovery? And where is the analysis of how we got here? The dance between mfrs and racing organizations is a complex one. Look at how the retreat of mfrs killed GTP and CART….How do you properly manage that and prepare for it? The focus shouldn’t be solely on Indycar, look at sportscars also. The current situation is far less satisfying to the heydays of GTP. Everyone thought open tech and freedom was the way to go with IMSA, but what happened? The mfr’s didn’t join Honda and Mazda and the series got swallowed up by Grand Am. I’m not sure the choice to limit Indycar chassis’ to Dallara’s was the right decision, but then I wasn’t privy to the meetings of the (what was it?) the ‘Iconic Committee’. I love Dan Gurney, and he showed the ability of AAR by getting the DeltaWing produced, but why don’t you pepper him with ways to deal with mfrs? Seeing how he removed the ‘Toyota’ stickers off his beloved Mk III I’m sure he would be full of useful insights. While your there, tell him it’d be great to see a Cosworth XF in the last Eagle, just to show where the problem was…

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