It’s the time of year when the terrible state of open wheel racing in America makes everyone start to ask why the IRL and Champ Car can’t kiss and make up and form a unified series.
Champ Car has lost Sebastien Bourdais to F1. His former team, Newman-Haas, is threatening to defect to the IRL in 2009 if the two series do not merge.
Raphael Matos has already gone to the IRL because, despite winning Atlantics last year, he needed to bring sponsorship to fund a full-time ride.
Not that the IRL is having a better time clinging onto its talent. Over the winter the IRL has waved goodbye to 2007 champion Dario Franchitti, 2006 champion Sam Hornish Jnr has followed him, and 2005 champion Dan Wheldon apparently wants to follow.
There’s no denying the popularity of NASCAR, but that does not convince me that a well-funded open wheel series combining road, street and oval tracks can’t thrive in America. Franchitti, Hornish and Wheldon are top drivers and they aren’t going to NASCAR because of some new-found dislike of single seater racing – they’re going there because that’s where the money is.
The stumbling block to re-unification is the same in 2008 as it was in 1996 – egos. Hopefully the pitiful sight of two series in their death throes will force a little humility on the relevant parties, and we can start looking towards 2008 as an interim year before a long-overdue re-unification in 2009.