Champ Car silly season hots up

The Champ Car silly season is in full flow, with a battle already in full flow to fill the two seats at Chip Ganassi Racing that will be left vacant at the end of the year when Juan Pablo Montoya heads to Formula 1 with Williams and Jimmy Vasser moves on to another team after being dropped.

Champ Car silly season hots up

Four drivers are leading the way, with Formula 3000 champion Bruno Junqueira and the driver he beat, Nicolas Minassian, leading the way, with Champ Car rookie Memo Gidley and Toyota Atlantic points leader Buddy Rice completing the quartet. All four are expected to test for the team at Firebird Raceway in the near future. Just to keep these drivers on their toes, team owner Ganassi said that his search doesn't stop with this quartet: "It's important for us to look as far afield as possible," he continued.

One of this year's rising ChampCar stars, Cristiano da Matta, may have signed an extension of his PPI Motorsports contract for next year a couple of months ago, but Carl Haas, boss of rival Newman-Haas Racing, is trying to buy the Brazilian out so that he can replace Michael Andretti as the team's leader in 2001. This may well happen, as PPI Motorsports owner Cal Wells has said that he is prepared to sell the contract, providing the price is right.

One driver who is backing away from the Champ Car scene rather than running towards it is Jorg Muller, a race winner for BMW in the American Le Mans Series. The German has been approached by Bettenhausen Motorsports about a drive for 2001, but he elected not to take up the team's offer of a try-out. "I don't want to go to Champ Cars for one year with a small team," he explained, "as that could ruin my career. If I had a proper offer for two or three years, I would do it." Muller says that he would prefer to continue in the ALMS, even though it is a near certainty that BMW will not be entering a works team next year.

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