It was sad to talk last week with each of Derrick Walker (above), Paul Tracy (below) and Carl Haas. All three had tales of woe to tell about how the fallout from Champ Car’s demise has affected them. Walker’s team finds itself without the sponsorship to be able to race in this year’s unified IRL series, Tracy is out of a ride and has no idea what or even if he will race this year, and Haas admits to losing a pile of money on his investment in Panoz DP01 parts and equipment.
As everyone knows, Walker has lost his sponsor and driver Will Power to the renamed KV Racing Technology team and is going to court to attempt to get some restitution from Craig Gore. Walker has not laid-off any employees and will run three Atlantic cars this year but he’s looking at diversifying into the A1GP series or sports car racing or any other sensible form of motor sport that will pay the bills.
Meanwhile, Paul Tracy awaits word from Jerry Forsythe about how Tracy might buy his way out of his multi-year contract or find some other resolution to his dilemma. At the moment Tracy is a pedestrian, without a ride in the IRL. He’s assuming, but doesn’t know if he’ll race at Long Beach. “I feel like I’m standing on the platform and the train’s driving off,” Tracy remarked. “I feel like the guy who got a new suit for the big date and I’m primed and ready for the prom, and she didn’t show up.”
And then there’s Carl Haas (above), a proud man who, with his partner Paul Newman, built one of America’s most accomplished and respected race teams. Over half a century Haas has made his living entirely from racing, selling cars, parts and service to all kinds of formulas and categories. Haas admitted last week that he has lost more than two millions dollars on his investment in Champ Car’s failed Panoz spec-car project. Like Walker, Haas has remained loyal to his people and he has not laid-off any employees.
The good news is that Cristiano da Matta (above) enjoyed a very good first run in a race car last week since his near-fatal accident at Elkhart Lake in the summer of 2006. Da Matta tested one of Bob Stallings’ Gainsco Riley-Pontiac Grand-Am cars at the new 2.5-mile Eagles Canyon road circuit in Texas and after two days and around 140 laps Cristiano was bubbling with enthusiasm. Da Matta will make his return to racing at Laguna Seca in May, driving a second Stallings’ Grand-Am car beside series champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty. Da Matta will share his car with old friend and former team-mate Jimmy Vasser.
“It will be a good way to get back,” da Matta remarked. “I won’t be able to fight for the championship this year, but just to get back to it and next year be serious about the job of going for the championship, it’s very exciting. And to do it with Jimmy who is not only a very good driver but also a very good friend of mine – and he’s also very fired-up about it – it’s like a dream.”