The IRL has confirmed that it is considering a bid for assets of the rival CART championship, which ran into financial trouble during the 2003 season.

Speaking to Reuters, Fred Nation, executive vice-president of communications of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IRL, said that no offers had yet been made, but confirmed that the IRL had sent a team to CART headquarters in Indianapolis to review the assets.

Despite comparatively low crowds for many of the oval-only series' events, CART has been hit hard by the success of the IRL, with a handful of major teams and manufacturers defecting in recent seasons. The IRL retains the Indy 500 as part of its calendar, however, which continues to be regarded as America's biggest single-seater race.

Attempts to keep the Champ Car World Series on its feet in the wake of the defections led CART into financial difficulties, and the organisation had to file for bankruptcy last year. A hearing is now due ahead of the sale of its assets at the end of this month. At present, only the Open Wheel Racing Series formed by a consortium headed by team owners Paul Gentilozzi, Gerry Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven have shown an interest in buying up the assets - which would allow them to run the Champ Car World Series in 2004 - with the IRL very much keeping a watching brief.

The IRL has stated an interest in running at selected road courses in future years, and Nation confirmed that, from 2005, the series would have a limited number on the calendar. Most road circuits in the USA are linked to Champ Cars, but the contracts are among the items included in the list of assets available for acquisition. In addition to the races, technical equipment and a state-of-the-art mobile hospital will be up for grabs at the sale, which is scheduled for 28 January.

"There are a lot of interesting assets for sale at reasonable prices," Nation told the news agency, without divulging any more of the IRL's intentions.

Nobody from the OWRS, which made an offer for CART's assets last year, was available for comment on the latest speculation, although Gentilozzi had earlier admitted to holding talks with IRL chief Tony George over the state of play in American single-seater racing. The Rocketsports boss did not appear to believe that the IRL would mount a bid for the CART assets, nor did he believe that a merger/takeover involving the two parties was imminent.



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