Bourdais: merger a disaster for teams
|By Matt Beer||Saturday, March 1st 2008, 15:31 GMT|
Four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais has described the manner in which the American open-wheel series merged as "a disaster" for Champ Car teams.
The Toro Rosso Formula One convert predicted that even his former outfit Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will struggle to get near the established IndyCar Series squads.
The Champ Car World Series has effectively been absorbed by the Indy Racing League for 2008, with the unified championship using IRL equipment and adding three Champ Car dates to the existing IndyCar schedule.
Bourdais believes the late decision to unify and the reliance on IRL equipment will severely penalise the former Champ Car teams.
"We had all been waiting for it for a long time, but obviously didn't expect it 30 days before the start of a season," he told reporters after F1 testing at Jerez.
"It's not a merger, it's the death of Champ Car and the IRL taking over - the schedules, cars, everything. It's the cars (the IRL teams) have been running around with for five years, so what are the Champ Car teams going to be able to do? Nothing.
"They had no time to prepare over the winter, because the winter is over. It's a disaster for Champ Car teams, obviously."
Bourdais said Newman/Haas' trips to the Indianapolis 500 in 2004 and 2005 demonstrated the scale of the task facing the IRL newcomers.
"The cars are really, really, really hard to develop. It's all tiny little things, especially on ovals," he said.
"In year one Bruno (Junqueira) my teammate, not knowing the car, was on the first row. We made a few developments over the year but obviously not much because it wasn't our car.
"We showed up the next year and were 14th/15th, 2.5-3mph off the pace. Yes, we had great race car - we were running in the top five towards the end, I had a cut tyre and I crashed on the last lap, but we were in the mix in the race.
"But in one year they had gained 3mph, so over five years you can imagine what has happened.
"Even if they start working on the cars now, the season's going to be over by the time they start to be half-competitive."
The Frenchman believes the only hope for the Champ Car teams is if the IRL rapidly adopts a new technical package.
"Hopefully they will change the cars quite quickly because otherwise it's going to be a slow death for all the teams that try and make (the switch) happen," Bourdais said.
"How do you find sponsors when you're running at the back? It doesn't matter if you're Newman/Haas or anybody else.
"Newman/Haas is going to get it figured out somehow, but when you look at how badly Andretti-Green struggled for two years to get to Penske and Ganassi's level - and that was with their resources and four cars - I think it's a bit more complicated than people seem to think. It's horrible.
"I'm even more convinced it (F1) was the right thing for me to do. I would not have been a contender in any way this year (in IndyCar)."
Bourdais said he wished Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven had taken the merger decision sooner.
"I have a lot of respect for Kevin, but if it was not fun for him anymore and he was sick of losing money or wasting money then I think he could have figured it out at the end of last year, not 30 days before the first race," he said.
"It's very good for the sport, just it's going to cause a lot of trouble. A lot of people are going to lose jobs and it's going to take a long time to rebuild."