Walker pulls plug on IRL switch
|By Steven English||Monday, March 10th 2008, 11:14 GMT|
Former Champ Car team Walker Racing have abandoned their plan to join the Indy Racing League this season after failing to raise the necessary sponsorship.
The team originally planned to run Will Power and Simon Pagenaud under the Team Australia banner in Champ Car this year, and boss Derrick Walker was one of the most vocal supporters of the merger with the IRL.
But he couldn't raise the required funds to get the IndyCar programme off the ground and officially withdrew at the weekend, leaving both drivers currently without a seat this season.
"I've been keeping going for the last four months because I thought we would work things out," he to American website SpeedTV, "but I finally ran out of time and money, and had to pull the plug.
"I dropped the bomb on my team on Friday and it was the toughest thing I've ever had to do. Everybody was shocked because I'd been optimistic that we were going to get the sponsorship."
The team would have received free IRL chassis and engines, and $1.2 million per car, from IRL boss Tony George if they could have contested the full season, but Walker predicted it would take another $3.5 to 4 million per car.
Walker still plans to field cars in Champ Car Atlantic this season, although the future of that series is also uncertain, and he hopes to be able to join the IRL next season.
"My goal would be to come back to IndyCar in 2009, but right now I'm just trying to keep the lights on," he said.
Walker formed his team in 1991 after working in Roger Penske's IndyCar operation for 15 years. Their best result was finishing runner-up in the CART standings in 1997 with Gil de Ferran.
Three years ago Walker joined forces with Australian businessman Craig Gore to create the Team Australia brand, under which Will Power won two races and finished fourth in the Champ Car standings last season.
Walker and Gore have parted company, with Gore rumoured to be on the way to KV Racing to link up with countryman and former Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven.
"It's very sad because the Team Australia concept was working and this impacts a lot of good people," said Walker, who employs 40 staff at the team's Indianapolis headquarters and is now looking at other series for this season.
"I'm going to Mexico to check on the A1GP series to see if they need any personnel, because this team's biggest asset is its people."