Nov 12, 2007
Let's hope the rain in Spain doesn't fall mainly on Jerez on June 8. If it does, it'll put a damper on a Champ Car race to be held on the former Formula One circuit, a race just added to the Champ Car 2008 schedule. In fact, Champ Car's expanding presence in Europe is the most newsworthy aspect of its new schedule. The season will open in Long Beach, Calif., helping to celebrate the Silver Anniversary of Champ Car in that long-ago F1 venue and will feature distinct U.S., Canadian and European legs, along with traditional dates in Surfers Paradise and Mexico City.
"We have succeeded in improving our schedules for next season, offering Champ Car fans, sponsors, teams, drivers, TV broadcasters and other stakeholders a cohesive, strong calendar of events," said Champ Car CEO and president Steve Johnson. "We will stabilize our base in North America, begin a steady growth plan for Europe, and provide a balance of temporary and permanent circuits."
In fact the Jerez date seems emblematic of the F1-wannabe nature of the Champ Car series. For 2008, it will hold six U.S. races, three races in Canada and one race in Mexico for a total of 10 North American races. The open-wheel racing series also is excited about adding Jerez to expand to three European races in 2008, pending ACCUS/FIA approval, of course.
The Jerez circuit was built to host the 1986 Spanish Formula One Grand Prix, which was held there for seven years and it is still a popular testing venue for Formula One teams, who favor its reliably mild, sunny weather. Since 1989, Jerez has hosted one of the most popular MotoGP races in the world, and the circuit continues to be used by Formula One teams for testing. The 2.752-mile racing circuit in the south of Spain was resurfaced in 2005 and features updated corporate, media facilities, control tower and pit boxes. And the area is a booming resort with plenty of transplanted northern Europeans.
"By pairing Jerez with Zolder (Belgium) and conducting them in June, we now will be in Europe during two different times next season rather than just one as we were in 2007," Johnson said. "Assen (Holland) will remain in September, where it was very successful this year. The two 2008 trips expand our reach in Europe and establish two footprints for future growth there."
The fact is that Europe might hold more promise of growth for the series than the U.S., which might give U.S.-based sponsors some pause. But Champ Car, the direct descendent of what was once an American open-wheel series that contested many of its events on circle tracks, seems determined to take pursue an international road racing strategy.
The year will officially kick off with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Fla. on April 20 and it will follow up the next weekend with a race on a temporary circuit in Houston's JAGFlo Speedway. The series will return to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., with a May 18 date and then it's off to Europe for back-to-back races in Zolder (June 1) and Jerez (June 8).
After their stint in Europe, the Champ Car competitors will feel right at home in Cleveland, which many consider to be the most European of American cities with the exception of, perhaps, Waco, Texas. Following Cleveland comes the Great White North portion of the schedule with Mont-Tremblant, Toronto and Edmonton on June 29, July 6 and July 20, respectively. And Portland, Ore., is close enough to Canada to be a logical candidate for a July 27 date. The lone August date is on the 10th at Wisconsin's Road America and that is followed by a second trip to Europe -- September 14 at the TT Circuit Assen, in Assen, Holland. Months after its last North American race, the Champ Car World Series will finish with its traditionally strong events in Surfers Paradise, Australia (October 26) and Mexico City (November 9).
"For 2008, our prime objectives are to stabilize our events in North America and carefully foster growth in Europe by expanding into Spain while strengthening the two events in Belgium and Holland that we introduced this season," said Johnson. "We also will more fully integrate the Atlantic Series into our business operations and continue to grow it as the premier open-wheel developmental series in the world."
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