The sky is not falling. Not here. Not yet.

Posted by Iannucci | 12/06/2008 | 4 comments »
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I guess this is what the good guys at Jalopnik would say is further fallout from the "Carpocalypse". Let's recap the announcments from the last day or so in case you missed any of them.

Over in F1 the good folks at Honda have decided that spending hundreds of millions of dollars to win one race in the last three years is probably not an effective investment. They announced they are pulling the plug on their Formula One team, reducing the curent grid count for the worlds premier open-wheel racing series (ahem) to 18 cars - and that's amid talk that fellow Japanese manufacturer Toyota may soon follow Honda's departure.

Meanwhile in the N-Word, news is develpong that Richard Petty's team may soon be merging with Ray Evenham's team. Please note that both teams sold major portions of their ownership in recent months, right before the world markets decided to nosedive. While consolidation isn't a sign of impending doom, it once again raises the question of whether the Cup series will be able to field 43 cars per race. Maybe if they just went back to the old models that are currently floating around ARCA they could reduce the costs for ownerships.

Not as significant dollarwise but noteworthy nonetheless is the sudden departure of Audi from ALMS. Audi has won like a zillion races over ther, including every LMP1 class championship since 2000. This follows the departures of IndyCar ownerships Andretti Green and Team Penske from the series as well, indicating reduced involvement from Acura and Porsche. So needless to say things are tough all over.

What does this have to do with IndyCar series? Directly nothing but indirectly a lot. The ICS is still staring at post unification car counts shrinking to pre-unification levels, what with 14-19 cars currently spoken for. But Honda representatives are saying their IRL commitment is sound, and word is that league representatives are in Germany speaking with the parent comapany of Audi (and Porsche) about joining the series in the coming years. So as bad as the Carpocalypse is looking, right now the IRL looks no worse than anyone else.

UPDATE: The briantrust at TrackSide Online expounds.

In some perverse way, the IRL is lucky that it is not heavily dependent on manufacturers, as they are obviously pulling back and that is rippling through various series. They are also lucky that the one manufacturer they have is on solid financial ground.

The question we ask ourselves is thus. Is it better to have several manufacturers (and teams highly dependent on them), or to be relatively underfunded, but have the teams a little more "self-sufficient". Can't say we have the answer - but it appears we are about to find out by watching what happens in quite a few series around the world.

Interestingly, when we talk to people in the series (officials, team owners, team managers), we just aren't getting the degree of negativity we would expect. Again, perhaps some are just resigned to working in a tough environment and they have low expectations for anything beyond survival, but it is surprising to us that we don't hear more negativity - though it is certainly out there.


  1. AZZO45 // December 07, 2008 12:54 PM  

    It must be said AGR "left" the ALMS due to Honda telling them that the other Acura teams OUTPERFORMED them!!! AGR was suppose to be Acura's leaders & they were just followers so they were basically FIRED.

    Penske is "vacationing" in Grand Am in '09. Porsche is rumored to be working on a P1 Hybrid concept & '09 would be an R&D year. Penske keeps his sports car crew together running GADP (w/ Porsche's $$$).

    The ICS might have KV & Rahal with issues, but as for my focus on sports cars...

    ...My Name is the ALMS!!! :) :) :)

  2. pressdog // December 07, 2008 2:54 PM  

    It's a huge shit sandwich and everybody is going to have to take a bite.

  3. J E Clerk // December 07, 2008 5:33 PM  

    it's a double-decker s*$t sandwich, that's for sure.

  4. Tabernerus // December 09, 2008 7:29 AM  

    Not to be a ray of sunshine on this cloudy day, but consider this:

    AZZO45 is right, AGR was basically dumped by Acura in ALMS because they weren't up to speed - at least that's how it looks from all the comments and reports.

    Honda left F1 partly because of economic realities, and partly because after years of spending almost a half-billion dollar per year to finish mid-pack, they've decided there are better ways to spend that money.

    Audi is stepping out of ALMS (for the most part) because they're debuting a new car, and much like Porsche developing a P1 program, and not supporting a factory team while doing doing, Audi will pull a Peugeot, and focus on a few key races as a test year for the new R15. In the process, they can save a little coin that might just be useful when developing an IndyCar motor.

    Penske will almost certainly be back as the factory team with Porsche if they bring a P1 effort to ALMS in 2010.

    There have been rumors of a merged prototype class in ALMS starting in 2011. It's possible that some manufacturers want to wait and see what happens. If that package is close enough to the IndyCar package, well ... yay?

    So basically, yeah, a lot of these decisions were financially driven, but more as plausible cover for otherwise sensible decisions. All were also likely temporary, with the possible exception of Honda F1 (and does anyone think they won't be selling engines to SOMEONE?). So really, I'm not that worried.