For The Fans: Walker Racing’s Point Of View

Over the last couple of days there has been a lot of speculation as to what is happening with Champ Car and Walker Racing/ Team Australia. We are sure that the fans have heard and read a lot of the rumors that are circulating about Champ Car and we thought it was important to give them a little perspective on Walker Racing’s point of view about the issue of the potential merger and our current status.

First and foremost, let’s begin with the issue of the merger. From a fan, sport and business point of view, one open wheel racing series in the United States has long been recognized as the only way for a strong series to succeed. Two similar series racing against each other and competing against one another for the same fans, sponsors, race tracks and television packages, really doesn’t make sense in today’s world. There isn’t enough interest in the United States or even in the world for two competing series as similar as Champ Car and IRL are.

It makes all the sense to pull both series together and that’s obviously been tried many times before, and now there has been a lot of discussion about the possibility of it happening again. However, there is great difficulty in being able to pull those series together at this time of the year for IRL or Champ Car.

Logistically, on the Champ Car side, to restart the series and go racing at the first race is probably easier of the two equations when you look at what has to be done for we as teams to compete in open wheel racing. However, if there is a merger, all of the Champ Car equipment is basically redundant. It’s obsolete because the rules in the IRL are completely different. Teams would have to buy new equipment. For example: cars, spare parts and systems to be able to work the IRL car comes with a price tag of around $1.3 million per driver, so it’s a significant investment in equipment. It’s also worth noting, in Champ Car we invested on average $1 million per driver in Panoz equipment and that investment would be written off if there was a merger.

From a competitive standpoint, Champ Car teams would be at an obvious disadvantage to be gearing up with this new equipment and to be competing again on ovals, racing a completely different specification car with no previous knowledge or information on how to set it up and race it effectively. One could expect that the Champ Car teams, from a competitive standpoint, would be a little bit behind initially, and slowly over a two year period would begin to catch up and to regain some reasonable level of competitiveness.

On the issue as to whether Champ Car survives or doesn’t, here is what we know. We know there has been and continues to be discussions on the possibility of a merger. We know very little else. There are some obvious signs that Champ Car is on hold until these discussions are finished. It’s also fair to assume that Gerry Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven have invested a considerable amount of time and effort into making Champ Car a success. So if this merger is to happen, it represents a considerable change in their strategy for Champ Car.

From a Walker Racing standpoint, Craig Gore, my partner in Team Australia, has expressed many times to continue his involvement in the Team Australia program with Will Power, whether it is in Champ Car or in a merged series. As of yet, those plans are on hold until we know what is happening with the potential merger.

Our interest in the IRL was formulated sometime ago. We looked at the possibility to run two open wheel series cars in our facility again . So the idea of running in the IRL is not a new concept for us and is not a concept that was born out of that fact that there would be a merger or that Champ Car could disappear.

The future for open wheel racing is somewhat uncertain, but the encouraging sign is that all parties are talking. There is nothing that seems to be off of the table at the moment. It’s just an awkward time where everyone is on hold and the media is trying to get the story out there to the fans, but it’s too premature to be able to tell the story because the discussions really have to be finished before everyone in the IRL and Champ Car know what potentially could happen. If Champ Car continues on and we have the funding, it’s very likely that Team Australia would continue, and it’s also quite possible that we could successfully secure sponsorship for the IRL and have an IRL program as well.

My last comment from a Walker Racing perspective: we are a small specialized company running in open wheel racing. We are non-political. We see open wheel racing as open wheel racing and we go where our business leads us. If it’s in two series or if it’s better for the business to be in one series, then we will be where we can get the corporate support to be able to keep racing. Thank you for your support as fans and we will do our best to keep you all posted.

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