Okay, Jim and I simply couldn’t wait until Sunday to talk about the FOTA’s decision to start its own breakaway series. I am very nervous about this, as our all American F1 fans, because we know far too well the consequences of this decision. While I agree with FOTA on principle, I am not convinced that they can govern themselves. It’s this very issue that ultimately led to the demise of CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) here in the states. And Indy Racing still hasn’t recovered from the fallout to this day.
First, a little history. For the bulk of the Indianapolis 500’s life the event was governed by USAC (United States Auto Club) a club basically run by the Hullman family, who also the own the famous brickyard. But in the 1970’s the teams that raced in USAC events got increasingly frustrated and eventually decided to start a breakaway series called CART. CART was the alliance of the racing teams, a democracy of sorts, who thought they could govern themselves better than USAC. In 1979 CART was born and quickly took over as the main open-wheel car series. While they enjoyed some success in the 1980’s and became quite popular in the 1990’s, they never seemed to be able to control themselves. As a result, costs elevated beyond control and their relationship with the Hullman family was tense.
In 1994 a young Tony George wanted to become more involved with CART, when CART refused to work with him, he said, “fine all start my own series!” Thus, in 1996 the IRL (Indy Racing League) was born. CART, full of ego and short on sense, decided to compete against the Indy 500 with the American 500, a race held at Michigan International Speedway on the same day, this act split the fans in two directions and created a rapid downward spiral for American open-wheel racing. As the two series competed against each other, fans precipitously abandoned the sport for NASCAR leaving both series to struggle for survival. Even the Indy 500, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” significantly lost popularity.
When CART split from USAC it ultimately failed, Indy car is now fully controlled by the IRL and Tony George, who himself is a member of the Hullman family. And what exactly does Mr George control? An open-wheel series with one-tenth the popularity of it’s former self. A glorified spec-series with one showcase event.
My point is simply this, the FOTA will not be able to govern itself. There is simply too much ego, people will inevitably act in their self-interest as opposed to what’s best for the group. Without firm decisions, costs will sky rocket, manufacturers will leave and they’ll be left with nothing. Both the FIA and the FOTA need to come to an agreement, or everyone will suffer and we, the fans, will be left to watch the Sprint Cup at the “Pepsi presents the Mobil One Monaco Grand Prix powered by Intel!”
FOTA, please be bluffing…