Indy Racing League boss Tony George has re-iterated his belief that US single-seater racing will, on day, be unified, but admitted that Wednesday's court ruling in favour of Open Wheel Racing Series had temporarily widened the gap between the two principal series.

Speaking for the first time since hearing bankruptcy judge rule that OWRS presented the best case for acquiring the assets of the former CART operation, George told that, given time, a merged Champ Car/IRL series would prevail.

"I think there's no doubt that, eventually, open-wheel racing will be run under one banner," he said, "It only makes sense. We tried to make the argument that there would be opportunity here for the teams, sponsors and promoters in time."

He added that teams currently competing in Champ Cars would be welcomed should they decide to defect to the IRL before any merger, and join up as the result of one.

"Certainly, the [CART] teams will always be welcome and treated just like everybody else," he insisted.

One of the sticking points in the outcome of Wednesday's hearing in Indianapolis centred on the immediate future of several Champ Car events, which would either have had to wait before being included on an expended IRL schedule or disappeared altogether. George admitted that, with the 2004 calendar already in place, there was no chance of incorporating the likes of Long Beach or Road America among the oval races already listed, but there were plans to expand into road racing in 2005.

"I think that, in time, we could have worked in some of the really great events that exist out there as part of the CART schedule, and now the OWRS schedule," he said, "We just hope that, however it turns out, there remain viable opportunities at some point in the future for open-wheel racing."

He later told the Indianapolis Star newspaper that, rather than continuing to dream of a unified single-seater scene, he would press ahead with negotiations to run road- and street-course races as part of the IRL next season. Although the likes of Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta - neither of which features on the OWRS schedule - have been mentioned, the IRL revealed during the hearing that it would have considered maintaining events in Long Beach, Canada and Mexico in 2005. It is also understood that talks have been held with OWRS venues in Portland, Laguna Seca, Elkhart Lake and Cleveland.

Asked what he thought had prevented the IRL from winning the case, George claimed that he had been 'blindsided' by news that CART had loaned the racing division $62million - and wasn't willing to forgive the debt if the IRL bid had succeeded. The OWRS had earlier revealed that the debt would be wiped out should its bid win.

"That drove the cost out of sight for us," George said, "It didn't matter how much we offered, it would have taken an insane amount of money to prevail. We came willing to spend, but we couldn't have [gone to that level]."



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