Formula INDYCAR?

Indy car racing’s history is, strictly speaking, an American racing series with historically American locations and champions. The FIA overseas international level racing and sanctions many types of “world” championships. Said championships mainly have European centered calendars with some flyaway action seen. In 2010, Formula 1 had 19 events, 11 in Europe and the Middle East, 6 in East Asia and Australia, leaving one race in Canada and one in Brazil. 2010 in the WRC was similar, 13 events and only 3, Rally Mexico, Rally Japan and Rally New Zealand, outside of the close European bubble. GT1 gets 2 of 10 in South America. INDYCAR needs to fill the holes in the western hemisphere voided by big championship racing absent outside of the handful of races, spanning various series, presented by the FIA. Although INDYCAR is an American championship, the series should expand the number of international dates, take a Formula 1 model and apply it to the western hemisphere.

Brazil and Canada are obvious candidates for races added to the calendar outside of the US. Vancouver could fill the hole in the northwest and give Canada another strong event. The race was dropped from the Champ Car calendar after the 2004 season amid controversy and economic turmoil, but I think we all think that Randy Bernard can make a race work anywhere. There has been talk of another street race in old city Quebec with the intent of using an old-world backdrop to showcase cutting edge auto racing and technology. Both of these options would give Canada a very strong 4 race schedule, mend more lingering split sourness, and give Canada a stage to showcase their very strong pool of talent they have to offer.

Brazil’s race on the streets of Sao Palo was a huge success last year. The stage was set, again, to give a country with a large contingent of native drivers, 8 different Brazilians raced in the series at some point last year, a home race. A second race in Brazil seems like a no-brainer. Give the country with the largest population of drivers in the series another event. Porto Alegre seems to be lined up for said second race in 2012. Fantastic. But if you are already flying the hardware down there, it seems to follow logic that you would hit as many tracks as would make it financially sound. A third race would be nice, but Argentina has a very nice track in Buenos Aries steeped in open wheel racing history. The track also has a triangle oval configuration. How cool would an oval race in South America be? Finally, a return to Mexico City would be really nice to see. The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez last saw Champcar in 2007 and was a victim of schedule coalescing due to unification. The track seemed as if it was well liked by the drivers and enjoyed by the locals.  Like the Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez in Argentina, the facility would most likely need some updating for safety and drivability although the Mexican track is much closer to standards than the Argentinean track.

Many people have called for a return to Australia. This is not a sound location for a national series based half a world away. Races in South America and Mexico are in the same time zones here in the US, Australia in markedly not. Twin Ring Motegi has been all but invisible to American viewers because it goes down in the middle of the night. Australia did have viewership due to the history of Surfers Paradise. During the 2008 IRL season I did watch Surfers paradise, I can’t remember what time it was on but if memory serves correct, it was like at a reasonable hour unlike Motegi. Again, if we are making the trip to Australia the series needs to make it worth their while. At least one more race in addition to Surfers Paradise with, at most, two more. Calder Park has a quad-oval designed for stock car racing that could play host to the series.  INDYCAR does have a few heavy hitters from down under. 2 races in Australia and 1 in New Zealand would be perfect. The fans in Australia are rabid, and have had a spotty history with formula 1 in the history. As recent as March of this year, Formula 1 has talked of dropping Albert Park from the calendar possibly leaving a hole in the hearts of Australian open wheel fans, but I do not think INDYCAR can or should even try to fill the hole without multiple races in the area and heavy local support.

Formula 1 has a large presence in the East Asia market. The series, smartly, plan these six races in two blocks to cut down on transport costs for the teams. Although Honda funded the trip to Motegi every year, the race was not a huge success outside of the local market near the track and all but invisible to the consumers of  indy car here in the US.  China is supposedly building a 500,000 seat oval and hopes to hook INDYCAR with a big payday for racing at the facility. This is not in the best interests of the teams. As with Motegi, a two week block on either side of the race is needed for transport and being invisible from the western customers is suicide. There is a reason why the series is not that upset about losing Japan. The series also has no business in Europe, there is too much competition from other series to warrant a trip across the pond for a few dud races. Most of our European drivers came here to get away from the European style of motorsports; we should not force them to go back. INDYCAR would be smart to avoid going head to head with F1 in these markets and they don’t need to, they have a different style of racing which appeals to a different type of fan.

That would make four races in Canada, three in South America, and one in Mexico for a total of 8 races outside of the US with a possibility that only Mexico could be an oval. If this were the case and a balanced schedule is desired, INDYCAR would have some hard decisions to make. At a time when fans of the series are calling for more historic road racing circuits to be added to the schedule and oval deals are hard to come by, we would have to decide what is more important. A balanced schedule is very important for the visibility and viability of the series. If the schedule starts to lean towards roads or ovals more heavily, it would portray a Champ Car lite or IRL lite which would really start to jeopardize the peace that is running through the paddock and grandstands.

INDYCAR is Formula 1 American style, let’s expand and raise the series to its rightful place in the motorsports world. NASCAR is a non issue if INDYCAR is constructed in this mold. In England, the British Touring Car Championship is a giant, very similar to NASCAR, but Formula 1 is king. We can take this model, Americanize it and market the hell out of the series on an international level. I say expand north and south, keep the balance and don’t cross the pond or pacific.

Here is part 1 and part 2 of a possible international schedule.

Eric Hall

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7 Responses to Formula INDYCAR?

  1. Oilpressure says:

    Good post Eric. I’m a proponent for more Canadian races. I always liked the Vancouver races in the nineties. Molson was a big supporter of CART in those days. They sponsored Danny Sullivan’s cars a couple of years and I believe were the title sponsors for the races in Toronto and Vancouver.

    James Hinchcliffe has taken a page from Scott Goodyear’s playbook and gotten a Canadian financial company involved. Three weeks ago, I had never heard of Sprott and I doubt if many in the US had. They are much more well known today. more Canadian companies need to get involved in the series.

  2. jerrycruz says:

    Hi Eric,
    Welcome to IndyCar blog sphere (already following your tweets, look me up)….now, on the topic in point I want more races but I would not drive away from balance…no way! There has to be more or equal ovals than twists. The main reason I lost interest in CART on its heyday (yes, that happened, although there are some people still dreaming that everything was perfect and TG was bad!!!) due to moving almost 80% to road/street courses. I missed the ovals and that is what eventually (including Helio’s win at 2001 Indy 500) brought me to the IRL.

    Again, I’m all for 20-22 races but there has to be at least 10-11 ovals for me to keep interest in all the races (although I’m a hard-core fan and will watch anyway!).
    Races I will add to the current schedule (eliminating Motegi, Sonoma, Mid-Ohio):
    * Cleveland (airport)
    * Phoenix (oval)
    * Mexico (road)
    * Chicagoland (oval)
    * Brazil (1 oval/1 road course if available)
    * Vancouver (street)
    * Atlanta (oval)
    * Fontana (oval)
    * Elkhart Lake (road)

  3. Pat W says:

    Hi Eric, just found your blog. I’ve long thought that IndyCar (and CART before it) should follow the road taken by F1. Start out as a regional series, then add a few dates here and there, expanding outwards wherever it makes sense to do so sustainably.

    The problem is that F1 lost a lot of traditional venues in the process and IndyCar would have to do the same, and that’s a painful issue. Realistically though, a lot of US road circuits just aren’t being upgraded to modern safety standards so perhaps they are due to fall off the schedule anyway.

    I take issue with your inclusion of the Middle East within Europe when it is nothing of the sort, the furthest east you can include is Turkey. Abu Dhabi and (the scheduled) Bahrain are always considered as Asian ‘flyaway’ races so that makes the balance 9 Europe, 9 outside-Europe, which is a good split for a series with its heartland in Europe and which also calls itself a World Championship.
    I agree with you that the other FIA-sanctioned series claiming to be World Championships are nothing of the sort, 8/10 events in Europe makes a mockery of the title – the same would be true if IndyCar tried to call itself a world series the way CART used to do, when it too only has a few events outside North America.

    IndyCar should be a regional series based across primarily North America but also South and Central Americas. I always liked the idea of visits to Surfers Paradise and yes to the Rockingham and Lausitz ovals in Europe – I still think going to ovals over here makes it sufficiently different to the rest of racing in Europe to make it viable, in time, and promoted properly (which it certainly wasn’t last time). Remember, despite continued US fan assurance that ‘Europe has tons of open wheel racing’, it is almost all junior formulae leading to F1 and there isn’t a single major oval race on the continent.

    And yes, regardless of location, the overall balance of circuits should lie somewhere in a margin of 45%-55% toward either road/street or oval.. with a further balance between road and street courses to ensure more roads than streets (i.e. bring back Watkins Glen and Road America).

    Thought-provoking piece as you can see. :)

  4. Pingback: Friday Favourites: 13 May 2011 | I Watch Too Much Racing

  5. Pingback: Formula INDYCAR schedule Pt. 2 | anotherindycarblog

  6. Pingback: Formula INDYCAR schedule Pt. 1 | anotherindycarblog

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