Vasser to leave champion team

Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 CART champion, will leave Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of the 2000 season, it was confirmed at the weekend

Vasser to leave champion team

"We agreed a nice amicable divorce," said Vasser according to CART.com. "Chip [Ganassi] talked to me Saturday night and said he wanted to make a change," added the Californian. "I had one year remaining on my contract and he opted to buy me out."

Vasser has proved one of the most consistent drivers in the series, and used his prolific scoring rate to take him to the 1996 title ahead of Michael Andretti and Alex Zanardi. He has driven for Ganassi since the beginning of 1995, and has been partnered with Bryan Herta, Alex Zanardi and Juan Montoya. Vasser's problem would appear to be that since his title winning year, he has generally been outpaced by his team-mates, though Montoya and Zanardi are arguably the two greatest CART drivers in recent years.

"I think Jimmy has been in a position to win a couple of races but, for one reason or another, the wins haven't come," said team boss Ganassi. "Jimmy and I have been friends for six years, and we always will be - the unfortunate part of our business is that friends have to deal with each other in this environment."

Ganassi faces a wholesale driver change, as Juan Montoya is likely to head to a Williams Formula 1 seat in 2001. However, mounting speculation recently suggests that Toyota are prepared to go to extreme lengths to keep the current champion in one of their cars.

Ganassi refused to elaborate on who might replace Vasser, simply suggesting "We will continue to explore the worldwide market." Ganassi has not been afraid to look to Europe for his drivers in the recent past, a path which has proved phenomenally successful. It is not unreasonable to expect, therefore, that Formula 3000 stars such as Nicolas Minassian and Bruno Junqueira may enter the frame.

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