Rahal takes over CART

CART's new 'interim' CEO Bobby Rahal held a press conference late on Friday in Detroit. Rahal was elected unanimously by the CART board to take over from the ousted Andrew Craig with retired Textron CEO Jim Hardymon joining Rahal as chairman of the board

Rahal takes over CART

"I'm very excited about this new role for me," Rahal said."I want to recognise Andrew Craig for his contributions. He did a lot of very good things for us. Credit where credit is due.

"This is my passion and my life I'm a huge supporter of open-wheel racing and I think we can take this sport to the next level."

Rahal demurred in explaining why Craig's tenure had been brought to such a rapid end."I think we felt it was time," Rahal said."There was no one particular thing. There were some opportunities out there for Andrew. We took a big step today. I have no illusions except it's going to be very difficult."

CART co-founder Pat Patrick who ran the organisation for a short time in its early days was equally close-mouthed in explaining Craig's sudden departure. Patrick emphasised Rahal's strengths as someone with deep knowledge of the sport, unlike Craig and his predecessor Bill Stokkan.

"Andrew agreed that the company needed to go in a different direction," Patrick said,"and we agreed that it was time for him to pursue other options. I think this is a huge day in CART history. For the first time since I resigned as the head of CART an owner is the CEO of the company, someone who is familiar with the inner working of the sport. I don't see any major changes in any area right now but I think there will be subtle changes."

Hardymon admitted that his and Rahal's selections were determined in a vote during Friday morning's lengthy board meeting."We did work out the structure that you see this morning," Hardymon said."There was no way we could come and face you with a resignation. The management team at the top of the company we worked out today."

Added CART founder Patrick about Rahal and Hardymon's appointments:"Bobby agreed to do this under protest and I believe we could not have made better choices."

Rahal said he viewed his new job very much as temporary position."After this interim period, I want the best possible person to be in this position."

Patrick reiterated Rahal's opinion."We are seaching for a full-time CEO," Patrick said."We're looking for someone within the sport, someone who knows what's going on. To run this business you need to know the business and its intricacies. It's a complex sport and you need to be able to communicate."

Rahal said his first priority is to produce CART's 2001 calendar."I hope the schedule can be announced in several weeks," Rahal said."I think where we will be will be very strong events. We have to get our schedule out. That's a pretty immediate goal."

Bobby lives in Columbus, Ohio, approximately 250 miles south of Detroit, and he admits he will have to spend a lot of time in Detroit in the next few months.

"I will be spending a lot of time in Detroit. I don't think you can run it by remote conrol. There are a lot of people and constituencies I need to meet and become more familiar with. I think that's going to take a lot of time in the short term."

Asked about whether a dictatorship would work better than CART's democratic structure, Rahal said he preferred a democracy."The CART system may be unweildy and frustrating at times," he commented."There are many different constituencies and agendas and it may be a bit unweildy. It's not for the impatient, but I believe democracy is the way to go."

He also talked briefly about any renewed efforts to work out a rapprochement with Tony George and Indianapolis."We will always try to find a solution, but that's not always up to us," Rahal remarked."I expect to give him a ring. I was a member of the committee last year trying to find a solution with Indianapolis. Tony and I have skied together and played golf together and I'm sure we'll continue to talk."

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