So after years of kicking around the idea of an international series it seems like IZOD Indycar officials are close to making it a reality.
It’s been something the front office has been talking about for a while and they seem to have found a promoter who wants to facilitate a five-race international schedule in World Series Operations. I couldn’t find much about them on Google, and Autosport reported they were related to the failed A1GP series, but didn’t specify what kind of capacity. I read just about everything I could find about the A1GP bankruptcy and most of the blame seems to have fallen on Tony Teixeira, unfairly I think. A1GP was overly ambitious and would have needed years of capital banked, and it launched right as the global economy tanked. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about World Series Operations based solely on that.
Depending who it is that comes from the A1GP there could be some good things, the least of which is someone had some contacts and skill. During the lifetime of A1GP they raced on a number of tracks that also host F-1 events, something Indycar has not been able to do. The bad news they often cancelled events and scheduled a number of failed events. How much the World Series Operations group had to do with the failed events, I don’t know.
I’ve been supportive of the idea of an international series for a while now. If the rumors moving Houston and California to the summer – which sounds massively stupid — and ending the season on Labor Day are true, they’ve got to do something. You can’t have a professional sport with almost a six-month off season, unless you’re football.
So what are some of the benefits?
- More track time for rookies and young drivers: Indycar rookies have a laughable amount of starts. Sage Karam has 80 open wheel starts as of this writing, and has never made a pit stop. This proposed international series would allow drivers like him to get five-full race races in before the start of the season.
- Keeps the crew active: If you don’t follow the sport closely you might not know that most teams lay off a good amount of their staff over the winter. Keeping them employed would mean more money for the guys.
- More money for teams. Teams would all be free to either sign deals with their existing sponsors, or track down new ones. Novo Nordisk operates 170 countries, Verizon has a world-wide footprint through Vodafone, and so they might want the additional exposure. Sponsors like National Guard or Target might not want the international races, and potentially those teams could recruit international companies.
- Drivers with an international fan base like Tony Kanaan or Helio Castroneves might be able to better utilize their overseas connnections.
- Not everyone is going to get an invite. I doubt promoters would be willing to transport 26 teams across the world, a more realistic number would be 20 or 22. It’s cheaper and it concentrates the prize money.
- Smaller teams could fall further behind. If a team can’t find the cash, and their sponsors aren’t interested in the series then you could see a situation where a Panther Racing, Dale Coyne Racing or A.J. Foyt Enterprises could miss out, Dragon Racing might only field one car for example. If you’re not at the track and your competitors are then you’re losing out and they’ll have an edge once the season starts for real.
- More international drivers. It’s possible/probable that international ride buyers will take seats that go the series regulars. There’s always a few drivers who have part a budget for a season, but not enough to buy a fulltime ride. Conceivably it could heighten teams’ reliance on ride buyers over sponsorships.
- No one would watch in America. Do I need to say more? Yeah, Indycar could work a new TV deal, but of those races aren’t on ESPN or ABC during normal broadcast hours no one is going to watch.
Looking at some of the places A1GP has run in the past we might be able to get some indication of where they might run in the future. Also, there are several warm weather locations that are looking to up their international profile. Losail Circuit in Qatar and the Dubai Autodrome are both trying to host an F-1 test, and has Losail has lights, which means a night race in Qatar would be daytime in America.
The Buddh International Circuit in India would be hosting a GP in 2014 because it’s moving to the spring, allegedly, but wants a fall race. It’s possible they could want to host an Indycar event in November.
Indycar wants to return to Australia, but the regional government has cut $8 million from the Surfer’s Paradise event so odds are it will be a new location, and Perth has been publicly courting the series for years.
So, based on little more than A1GP history and speculation here’s what I think the schedule could look like. The Dates are all 2014/2015
Nov. 22 Australia Indy 300, Streets of Perth, AU Local, noon., EST midnight.
Dec. 7 Grand Prix of Argentina, Potrero de Los Funes Circuit Local 1 p.m., EST 1 p.m
Dec. 14 Grand Prix of Brazil Porte Alegra, Local 1 p.m. EST 1 p.m.
Jan. 1 Grand Prix of Qatar, Losail International Circuit Local 7:30 p.m., 12:30 p.m. EST
Jan. 11 Grand Prix of Dubai, Dubai Autodrome, Local 3:30 p.m. 7:30 a.m. EST