26 April 2013
Panther DRR set to close after Indy
Panther DRR co-owner Dennis Reinbold has told employees including driver Oriol Servià that a lack of sponsorship means the team will shutdown after Indy.
One of the most talented and consistent performers on the IZOD IndyCar grid might be out of a ride for the second time in two years, after Oriol Servià and other workers in the Panther DRR team were this week told by co-owner Dennis Reinbold that the team faces closure after next month's Indy 500.
Reinbold blamed a lack of available sponsorship funding for the decision.
“It's disappointing, obviously, but financially it has to make sense,” he explained. "IndyCar racing is getting more and more affordable and it needs to continue that way but we just don't have the funds to continue past May."
Reinbold initially teamed up with former Indy Lights champion Robbie Buhl in 2000. Among the drivers the team co-owners have fielded over the years have been Ryan Briscoe, Justin Wilson, Mike Conway, Buddy Lazier, Al Unser Jr. and Sarah Fisher. Last year they signed Oriol Servià to race for them, after the Spaniard was left without a race seat following the unexpected closure of the Newman/Haas race team at the end of 2011.
Part-way through last season the team scaled back to a one-car joint entry with the Panther Racing organisation. But it seems that even a sharp upturn in race performances after managing to get out of their ill-fated Lotus engine deal - Servia finished in fourth place in last year's Indianapolis 500 and was sixth in last weekend's race at Long Beach - has not rewarded DRR with the sponsorship money that they need to carry on beyond next month.
"I didn't see it coming," Servia told The Associated Press on Thursday after learning the news. "I knew we were short on sponsorship money, but we haven't missed a single test. We haven't skipped anything.
"I was so happy with the car at Long Beach, so happy. We were making such progress," he continued. "I knew we were a little short and one big deal fell through at the last second but I figured we'd be okay. It's sad because Dennis and Robbie have put together a damn good team.
"I figured maybe we'd skip some testing in the second half of the season, but never this," the 38-year old admitted. "Unless a miracle happens, I don't see how we'll continue."
Servià's season so far has been financed by a number of small-scale sponsors resulting in a different livery virtually every race, but without a more significant investor coming to light in the next few weeks the team will be forced to shut down race operations, putting the jobs of up to 30 employees at risk.
"The crazy thing is that we've already got a sponsor for the 2014 Indy 500 so I know we'll be back there for sure," said Reinbold. "I want to keep as many of our people as possible if we do have to cease our operation, so we'll try and get creative and weather the storm."
“I'm not giving up and neither is Dennis," insisted Servià. "This is a proper operation and we can win Indy so maybe somebody will see that and come along and save us," he said, adding: "We're not selling smoke here."
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