Oval racing comes to the UK!

Champ Cars will race on a UK oval next year. The CART Championship Series will hit the brand new Rockingham Motor Speedway on September 22nd as one half of a European swing with Germany's Lausitzring

Oval racing comes to the UK!

Governing body CART confirmed the dates today (Wednesday), with its acting Chief Executive Officer Bobby Rahal flying in to the UK to rubber-stamp the deal with the circuit's management team.

It will be the first time Champ Cars have raced in Europe since 1978, and the first time they have appeared on an oval in the UK. The Lausitzring's September 16th date - one week before Rockingham - means it has the honour of being the very first track in Europe to hold an oval race, but with the German race clashing with the Italian Grand Prix, the UK track appears to have the better of the two dates.

The 1.5- mile Rockingham track is a purpose-built oval situated near Corby in Northamptonshire. Securing the Champ Car date is the culmination of some 10 years' work for the team behind the facility.

"For all of us it's an extraordinary achievement," said Rockingham's marketing director Christopher Tate. "It hasn't really fully sunk in yet, but it's all tremendously exciting and we've been given a great opportunity."

With several schemes coming to nothing in the past, many observers remained sceptical about the chances of a CART race coming to England. An agreement between CART and the FIA, motorsport's governing body, states that any new Champ Car races outside the USA must take place on oval circuits. Rockingham and the Lausitzring now make that possible in Europe.

"With Champ Cars running on Ovals, there is an obvious distinction between it and F1," explained Rockingham's managing director Peter Davies. "CART is very different from F1 and that should be celebrated and highlighted."

Despite recently-departed CART CEO Andrew Craig stating that Europe should hold only one race, his acting successor Rahal is happy for Germany and the UK to both hold a race.

"The view was that if we were going to come all the way to Europe," he said, "we might as well do both if we could do them back-to-back."

With the races in Europe, the 2001 CART series will race on every continent except Africa. Although it is not expected to announce any more overseas events in the near future, racing outside North America is clearly important.

"Champ Cars is a North American series with forays outside our home continent," explained Rahal. "I don't see this as some kind of attempt at world domination by any stretch of the imagination. It is vital to allow important companies to showcase their products in their home countries, like Reynard, Lola and Cosworth in England and Mercedes-Benz in Germany."

Despite the race being in the same county as the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and despite top-level oval racing having no history in the UK, the Rockingham team is confident that the race will be a hit with UK fans.

"I think, and hope, they will love it," said Davies. "It will take a little time though, and we are looking at ways to educate the audience on oval racing between now and the race."

Rockingham gears up, click here

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