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Report: IRL/Champ Car merger deal done

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TSN.ca Staff
2/19/2008 11:05:54 AM
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It appears a deal which would unify open-wheel racing in North America is done.

According to SpeedTV.com, officials from the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series have finalized plans to unify the two series following two weeks of intense negotiations.

It's uncertain when a formal announcement will be made but David Higdon, the executive vice-president of strategic development for Champ Car, says no announcement is imminent.

"We're in the same position we were last week: Discussions are being held, but nothing is done," he tells the Indianapolis Star. "We're continuing to operate as Champ Car. We should know imminently which direction we're heading."

IRL boss Tony George would not comment on the report, telling SpeedTV.com that while they are at the "threshold of something long-overdue, we have not yet stepped across it".

Champ Car co-owners Gerald Forsythe, Kevin Kalkhoven, Dan Pettit and Paul Gentilozzi are reportedly reviewing a document which could finally end the 12 year split.

IRL president Brian Barnhart says he's been told by George to find out how many of the current teams have equipment to spare for any incoming Champ Car outfit.

"(He) has me talking with these teams about chassis, but he does not have (anyone) buying it yet," Barnhart tells the Indianapolis Star.

While one report suggests most of the current Champ Car lineup would make the switch to the IRL, Gentilozzi cautions that many of those teams may only make it to a couple of events and not contest the entire season.

"I don't know of a Champ Car team that is a go," Gentilozzi tells the Star. "(One owner) told me he'd run (the Indianapolis 500), but he will not run the season."

"I can't make the numbers work (for a move to the IRL)."

Derrick Walker indicated last week he had purchased equipment to make the move to the IRL.

Canadian Paul Tracy says he has been informed to show up in Indianapolis later this week for a seat fitting in a new Dallara chassis, which is the equipment of choice for the IRL. He also expects to be at the IRL's first open test in Florida next week.

Several other Champ Car teams said they have been told to stop working on their current Panoz chassis and to expect delivery of a new car in the very near future.

According to the latest unification plans, any Champ Car team willing to switch to the IRL in 2008 would get help in acquiring a Dallara chassis and a Honda engine as well as be eligible for the $1.2-million guaranteed incentive program. It's uncertain if the car and engine would be free, as has previously been reported.

As well, several current Champ Car races would be absorbed immediately into the 2008 IRL schedule with Long Beach, Edmonton and Australia mentioned as the likely candidates. The conflict involving the Long Beach and Motegi, Japan races has apparently been worked out. Champ Car officials were adament that any merger/unification would have to include Long Beach and that it's April date was firm.

It's likely that future IRL schedules will attempt to incorporate other Champ Car venues such as Toronto and Mexico City. 

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