Latest leg of the journey
Hectic month and some great news for my son Graham who’s been having a tough time getting a competitive Indycar ride this year.
Thanks to his sponsor Quicktrim, a dietary supplement (most Americans eat far too much!), he now has a six-race deal and some stability in his programme. We’ve been talking to Quicktrim ever since the Indy 500 where they were really happy with their exposure and we’ve done a deal with Newman-Haas which is the team most likely to threaten the Penske/Ganassi juggernaut this season. Why not with our own team Rahal-Letterman? Well, we don’t have the proper resources in place right now in mid-season and he needs to run with a team that’s ready to ﬁght for wins.
Graham has been down, but he’s matured and right now he has a big smile on his face. The tough times have been good for him. And I think this is good news for the IndyCar Series, too. All the top positions in the championship are ﬁlled by non-Americans and this is a trend that, in the long term, may not be good for Indycar. There are several reasons why so few Americans are winning. First, a lot of famous American drivers retired at about the time I did after dominating the sport for decades. And there’s no doubt the sport suffered from losing those names from the roster. For the past 10 years or so there’s been a lot of new guys coming from Brazil, Australia, Britain and New Zealand. Also the two top teams, Penske and Ganassi, simply haven’t been hiring American drivers and they are the teams providing the winning cars.
This is not great for the sport because Americans relate to American drivers, they like the generational aspect – you know, the Andrettis, the Unsers, the Pettys and the Earnhardts. For NASCAR, the old American racing families are still a huge draw, and the series bosses need to do more to make this happen in Indycar. One of the reasons the fans love NASCAR is because there are families who’ve been there for generations – mechanics, team owners and drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr is nothing like as successful as his father, but year on year the fans vote for him as their most popular driver. That’s how it is.
We went to Watkins Glen in New York State for the second event in our new Legends of Motorsport historic series, this being a familiar setting to those of you who remember the great days of the American Grand Prix. But you may also remember the weather at the Glen and this time, on the Sunday, the place looked like London Heathrow on a bad day. Heavy rain, fog and lots of mud. But we got through it and the crowd was very loyal, although at times the racing was like it used to be at the old Nürburgring – headlamps in the fog – and that was a shame.
Our third event at Mont Tremblant was a big success, the best weekend yet. The Canadians are fantastically enthusiastic about their historic racing, and very knowledgeable, and of course St Jovite is such a wonderful circuit. So we had a good crowd and I believe the vision we had for the series is coming right. We still need more entries but I’m conﬁdent that will come.
Jacques Villeneuve was a highlight. He drove a McLaren F1 GTR from the collection of Lawrence Stoll who also owns the circuit which, by the way, is in great shape. Jacques was great all weekend, engaging with the crowd, and really joining in the spirit of the event. Next we go to Sebring in Florida for our last race of this season on December 3-5.
Life is certainly varied right now, and I found myself racing an Alfa Romeo Giulietta at Monza in among everything else. That was interesting – there was time to read the newspaper on the straights – but just to be at Monza was special. I raced there in Formula 3 and I was reminded of what a great circuit it is, even though I’m not a fan of the ‘new’ chicanes. I’d never driven the Giulietta before, but it’s like anything – you get in and you make the best of what you’ve been given.