28 December 2011
Ganassi against more overseas races
Team owner Chip Ganassi has cautioned the IndyCar Series organisers against holing too many races out of North America in the future.
Team owner Chip Ganassi has cast doubt on whether the IndyCar Series should be looking to add more rounds outside the United States in the future.
"One race offshore is fine, adds a little bit of caché or whatever, but I don't think we want to get three, four, five races outside the country," said Ganassi at a media teleconference just before Christmas. "I'd have to say that's going to start to have a detrimental effect on the series."
Ganassi was talking ahead of the publication of the 2012 calendar, which included as expected a maiden race in China to replace the series' long-time flyaway destination of Motegi in Japan. With two races in Canada and another in Sao Paulo (with a second Brazil race strongly rumoured to be under discussion), Ganassi felt that the series had reached its limit.
"Once you get outside of Mexico, US, Canada, I'm not sure I'd be in favour of a lot of races outside that for our series," he said. "The question is, maybe you separate it, if it would start to grow like that, have two separate championships or something like that, and you could choose to participate or not."
Ganassi emphasised that one of the primary factors behind his concerns over long distance flyaway races was the matter of cost.
"We all have vivid in our minds the financial crisis of a few years ago," he explained. "It makes us a little bit more nervous going forward with plans like that. There's so many venues here in the US that I think we can make a success of. It would be a lot easier than travelling halfway around the world."
As well as cost, there is also the matter of TV coverage. This year's Motegi event was held in what was the middle of the night for much of its prime audience in the US and duly attracted negligible ratings, a matter of concern for the series which is struggling to hold onto its fan base in the face of the NASCAR juggernaut. China will have a similar problem, whereas the trip to Sao Paulo keeps to familiar time zones and is less of an issue.
Ganassi made it clear that he wasn't against overseas races as a whole on principle. On the contrary, "I think one or two outside is fine for a little bit of caché," he summarised.
But the veteran team owner was far more keen looking forward to a return to Motor City after confirmation that the series would go back to racing at Detroit Belle Isle again in 2012.
"That's always been a good market for us - being around obviously Detroit with everything that has to do with the car business," said Ganassi. "I think more importantly we have a promoter who is [friendly], if you will, with the sanctioning body. I think that makes a better marriage when you have a willing promoter like that that wants to have an event like that. That says a lot for the series and says a lot for the kind of leadership that Roger [Penske] shows."
Penske has been instrumental in bringing motor manufacturer Chevrolet into the series form next season, with Chevrolet sponsorship also behind the return of Belle Isle to the calendar for the first time since 2008.
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