Matters of Moment, March 1996

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Tearing The Fabric

The Indy Racing League is probably feeling reasonably satisfied. As you can read elsewhere in this issue, the inaugural event of this breakaway series has already taken place, and it was not the wholesale farce that many had predicted.

But nor was it exactly a showcase event. And it was indicative of the overall standard we can expect at this year’s Indianapolis 500. Distant as it may seem to the majority of regular MOTOR SPORT readers, the fact remains that the Indy 500 is far more than some quirky national institution. Imagine a British Grand Prix field comprising nothing but a mixture of fading (or faded) stars and a bunch of rank no-hopers, all of them driving cars a year old or more. That’s what this equates to, and would it appeal to you?

There have been many splits in this business in the past, and most have been repaired in due course. The FOCA/FISA (as was) wars of the early 1980s threatened to do untold harm to Formula One, but in the end common sense just about got the better of self-interest, and whatever one may think of modern-day Formula One, it is neither bereft of public interest nor a hive of pauperism.

It has weathered many storms, survived and thrived.

Sadly, there appears to be no sensible short-term solution to the current confron tation in the United States. The CART/PPG IndyCar World Series has all the valid stars; the IRL has the Indy 500. The creation by the tormer of the US 500 at Michigan on Memorial Day, to provide overlapping televisual conflict with the Indy 500, simply proves that America’s greatest race was not a big enough stick with which to beat the establishment into submission.

The IndyCar teams said that all along. The IRL should have listened. It didn’t, and the consequence is that a piece of motor racing folklore, which is still conducted in much the same spirit as it was back in 1911, is about to be reduced to a meaningless sham. Is there anybody out there who cares for tradition? S A

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