Editorial

Now is the time for CART to redefine its ladder system

 by Mark Cipolloni
December 17, 2002

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CART's current ladder system goes from go-karts to Barber Dodge to Toyota Atlantics and then to Champ Cars.  While that ladder/path is certainly a decent training ground, it is too out of touch with the rest of the racing world.  CART wants to get closer to F1 and play in the international arena?  Well then it had better walk the walk and talk the talk.  This article suggests exactly what the CART ladder system needs to be.

Rung 1 (50 HP or so)
The world understands go-karts, so CART certainly has this rung of the ladder right.  No change needed, just better promotion.

Rung 2 (2.0 Liter 4-cylinder 200 HP or so)
Many people will tell you that the CART Barber Dodge Pro Series is a good 2nd rung on the CART ladder.  Wrong.  The series needs to run to 100% FIA Formula 3 specifications.  If it did, the world road racing motorsports community would immediately recognize any driver who won the championship as a true F3 champion - i.e. it will immediately click, "oh yeah, I know what F3 is."  Ask them what the CART Barber Dodge Series is and most will simply scratch their heads. 

The current cars are getting a bit long on tooth.  When the series officials announce their new cars in the next couple of years, we will be shocked if they are not 100% F3 specifications, with current engine supplier Dodge, or any other manufacturer.  It would be a mistake of monumental proportions.


Petrobras Junior driver Antonio Pizzonia of Brazil in action during the F3000 Championship held on September 14, 2002 in Monza, Italy.   Everything a CART Toyota Atlantic car should be but isn't.

(Photo: M. Hewitt/Getty Images)

Rung 3 (3.0 L V-8 450 HP or so)
Many people will tell you that the CART Toyota Atlantic Series is a good 3rd rung on the CART ladder.  Wrong.  Ever watch a FIA F3000 race on SPEED TV?  If you have not, you are missing some fabulous car control and balls-out driving.  The Atlantic cars are simply not powerful enough at only 250 or so HP.  The series needs to run to 100% FIA Formula 3000 specifications.  If it did, the world road racing motorsports community would immediately recognize any driver who won the championship as a true F3000 champion - i.e. it will immediately click, "oh yeah, I know what F3000 is."  Ask them what the CART Toyota Atlantic Series is and most will simply scratch their heads.

The current cars are getting a bit long on tooth.  When the series officials announce their new cars in the next couple of years, we will be shocked if they are not 100% F3000 specifications, with current engine supplier Toyota, or any other manufacturer that can provide a 450 HP V-8 making 450 HP.  It would be a mistake of monumental proportions.

Rung 4 (3.0 Liter V-8 750-800 HP or so)
Many people will tell you that the CART Champ Car Series is a good top rung on the CART ladder.  Wrong.  The series needs to run as close as possible to FIA Formula 1 specifications, but with technology stripped away to control costs.  If it did, the world road racing motorsports community would immediately recognize any driver who won the championship as a true F1 "Lite" champion - i.e. it will immediately click, oh yeah, I know what F1 is.  Ask them what a CART Champ Car is and most will simply say it is an Indy Car...i.e. a plug for the rival IRL series.  If Bernie buys into CART as rumored, he needs an "almost F1" series for drivers who just miss out on F1 and for countries who want a F1 race but can not have one because the schedule is full.

The current Champ cars are getting a bit long on tooth and are grossly overweight.  When the series officials announce their new 2005 cars soon, we will be shocked if they are not the same size and only slightly heavier than a F1 car, with identical V-10 engines to their more sophisticated sister F1 series.  It would be a mistake of monumental proportions.

There you have it, four rungs on the CART ladder system, all in tune with the rest of the world.  It's about time CART stops operating on an island and gets with the show. 

P.S.  See this page for a comparison of the worlds "Formula" open wheel cars.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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