First let's get something straight, I'm not Bernie
Ecclestone, and I will never claim to be. However, many have asked
about the Bernie buying into CART rumors, primarily "what's in it for
Bernie, why would he buy CART when he has Formula One, and does CART
really need Bernie?" There
is no guarantee that he's going to buy CART. However, assuming by
chance he does, I thought it
best I respond to those questions in my best Walter Mitty
impersonation.......If I were Bernie.
It's an overcast damp day in London on a Tuesday morning and Bernie is just getting into his
office not far from his home in Chelsea Square. No sooner does he take his rain slicker off and grab a cup of coffee, the
BERNIE: Hello, Bernie speaking
MAX MOSLEY: It's me Max, you'll never guess what Ron Dennis did today?
BERNIE: no, not again.
MAX: yes, he wrote me another letter.
Ron and Frank
are so frustrating, sometimes I want to poke my eye out
BERNIE: another letter?
MAX: yup, this time he says we've gone too far with our proposed F1 rules
changes, he says he's going to pop
the big vein in his neck.
BERNIE: tell him he's constipated, and send him a case of Ex-Lax and two
MAX: two corks?
BERNIE: yes two corks. One in case he swallows a whole jar of the
Ex-Lax, he could plug the resulting leak, and the other one for his mouth, it runneth over.
MAX: OK, I'll send him the Ex-Lax and the two corks.
BERNIE: what else does he say?
MAX: he says he spent all those millions of dollars on building his little
fiefdom called Paragon, and it'll be a cold day in hell before he let's
you and me cut all the technology out of Formula One. He says F1 is
the breeding ground for new technology and he's close to building the
first driverless F1 car. He says this is the essence of F1 and we
must not lose sight of where we've been and where we're going.
BERNIE: tell him if he doesn't shut up and mind his own business,
I'm going to take his driverless car and drive
it where the sun don't shine. I have had it with these F1 team
owners. It's time I show them whose boss around here. I'll get
back with you.
MAX: OK, goodbye. Call me when you've taken care of the matter.
BERNIE: I'll do that.
Berne then dials CART President Chris Pook, the telephone
BERNIE: it's me Chris, Bernie. Did I wake you?
CHRIS: yes Bernie, it's only 3:00 AM here in California.
BERNIE: 3:00 AM and you're still in bed? Are you on vacation?
CHRIS: No, I'm not on vacation Bernie, us normal people sleep
at 3:00 AM!
BERNIE: Well you can sleep another time. I've got a plan.
CHRIS: Oh boy, this had better be good.
BERNIE: Chris, when have you known my plans not to be good?
Anyway, here's the plan. I have decided to buy CART.
CHRIS: Why that is fantastic. Buy all of it?
BERNIE: No, just a controlling interest. I want to announce
it by Friday.
CHRIS: Can we get it done that fast? Why Friday?
BERNIE: Two reasons. First I am concerned that stock
car racing is becoming so successful in the USA that open wheel racing may become
extinct, at least on the ovals. I want to head that off by boosting up CART
and raising the awareness of F1 in North America.
Second, I want to show the manufacturers and team owners in F1 who is boss.
CHRIS: They already know you are the boss Bernie.
The F1 owners just won't jump for me anymore. I must devise a
BERNIE: At one time I used to walk down pit road and say jump and
they would all ask, how high? Now when I say jump, they ask me, why?
They are beginning to talk about gaining control, taking some of my money, etc.
We all know that a manufacturer or team owner run series will never succeed. Never has,
never will. They are their own worse enemy, I must save them from their own
CHRIS: OK, so what is the plan.
BERNIE: It is a multi-part plan. First. We will announce that
CART is adopting the 2006 six-race per engine F1 engine rules lock, stock, and
barrel. This will bring value to the F1 engine manufacturers because we
instantly open up the entire NAFTA market to them with many races, not just the
Canadian GP and the USGP. They don't have to compete in CART, but by
doing this the
door is wide open to them.
CHRIS: But Bernie, we developed our own V-10 spec. It's
essentially an IRL V-8 with two more cylinders. We were just getting ready
to announce it.
BERNIE: Are you crazy? CART isn't strong enough right now to
be coming out with an engine unique to that series. You will be painting
yourself on an island. Perhaps you will get a couple of engine manufacturers
to play, but then when one pulls out, you will be down a stream without a paddle
again. You want to have as many manufacturers as possible. That brings
more money into the series by way of advertising dollars, hospitality, etc.
CART is cash poor with just one manufacturer right now. We will need
5 or more for sure.
CHRIS: But our teams can't afford a F1 engine.
BERNIE: Nonsense. F1 engines must last 6 races between
rebuilds in 2006 and we are going to ban exotic materials and issue a standard ECM.
By today's standards, they will be dirt cheap. Plus, with the manufacturers
involved, they subsidize the teams. It's possible they may even supply them
for free at that point because I'm going to bring them more value at a lower cost, as you will see
when I am finished. It will cost them less to compete in both series
than it does today to compete in F1, far less.
CHRIS: But what about their breakaway series threat?
I'm so devious, I have it all figured out
BERNIE: Don't worry I'm so devious I have that all figured out. I
am in the process of buying back all rights to F1 and will try to
renegotiate the Concorde agreement with the manufacturers. After all
that, if they still go
ahead with their breakaway series, Max and I have agreed to declare that any driver participating in
that series will not qualify for a F1 Super License because it's a
competing series to F1, it dilutes the World Championship and, therefore,
will not be recognized by the FIA as a series.
Their hopes of ever becoming World Driving Champion will be lost unless
they race in F1A first. We will have
John Judd, Cosworth, or someone like that make an engine for it, and sell the naming rights
to any manufacturer (such as the Koreans, Audi, GM, etc.) who wants to compete in F1 at a bargain price to do so.
I have had many companies tell me they would love to compete if the costs were
lower. We will have no shortage of companies to take their place.
CHRIS: OK, it sounds good so far, we will adopt the same
engine formula. What else?
BERNIE: Second, we are going to rename CART to Formula 1A.
The "A" meaning Americas. CART and Champ Car are not worldwide branded
names. Never were, never will be. I can add the "A" after F1 and it
will become instantly recognizable.
CHRIS: Where exactly will CART be positioned then?
BERNIE: We will make it a small step down the ladder to F1.
Same size cars, same HP, just a little heavier and, therefore, slower. And
we will promote the hell out of it to make it ultra-successful. It
will be a better training ground for F1 than F3000 is because the cars
will be bigger and have the same HP as F1.
CHRIS: What about TV? Our current TV deal is
killing us with low ratings.
BERNIE: First we will do a TV deal to televise all the races
live on my entire F1 TV distribution channels worldwide. When F1A and F1
race together at certain venues, Formula F1A will race Sunday morning at 10:00 AM
local time and F1 will race at 1:00 AM. When they race at separate venues,
they will race on alternating weekends. In order to bring sponsors value, we
must make F1A almost as popular as F1.
CHRIS: What else?
BERNIE: I will get some bigger F1 teams to start F1A teams
too since their costs will be way down. I will also get some name F1 drivers
to drive in a F1A race or two. I'm sure I can get Montoya to run some F1A
races for the Williams junior/F1A team. Juan already has experience at all
CART tracks. If I can get Ron Dennis to start a McLaren F1A team I'm
hoping he will have less time to write his annoying letters.
CHRIS: That will certainly help. How many races would
we race together?
BERNIE: Maybe four maximum. Places like Monza and
Monaco come to mind. We will do others too. In fact, being CART has
September 14th wide open on their calendar this year, we will run CART Champ Cars
(nee F1A) along with F1 at Monza during the Italian GP weekend. We will run
it on Saturday and make it the Saturday feature race. Maybe I will get one
of the Ferrari drivers to run in the F1A race, that should get the tifosi
talking. We will also announce Ferrari's plans to enter F1A in 2006 when the
engines are the same in both series. The tifosi will go bananas.
Ferrari's entry into F1A will secure its future.
CHRIS: How about Long Beach?
Quiet, Don't tell anyone, I have a plan for TV and the future of the USGP
BERNIE: Not until 2006. I will not renew my contract
with Tony George and Indy. Attendance has dropped way off and he does not
support our cause, road racing. He's part of the oval track cartel and I
simply won't do business with them. We can move the USGP back to Long Beach.
CHRIS: If we raced F1A and F1 together at LB, that
would be huge for the city of Long Beach and for us. That would
bring enormous attention to F1 and to future F1 drivers. It would
help immensely to have both series race together on the USGP weekend. Tony won't be happy.
BERNIE: I gave Tony his chance to have CART/F1A race
at Indy with F1.
CHRIS: What did he say?
BERNIE: He said "I don't want to have anything to do
CHRIS: What did you say?
BERNIE: I said, fine, if that's the way you want it.
Your partner ABC will lose the F1 TV rights in 2003 and you will lose your F1 race
when this contract ends. Too bad you spent all that money building that road
course. You can race your IRL cars there.
CHRIS: I would have loved to see his face then.
Couldn't happen to a better fella. Now he must know what it's like to drive
nails in a coffin. What else do you have planned?
BERNIE: I will also guarantee the winner of the F1A
championship each year a full-time ride in F1 the next year, even if I have to
start my own team again. We will make winning the F1A title a coveted goal.
CHRIS: Let's talk more about TV
BERNIE: We will negotiate the contracts as one, giving
us a better chance of leveraging them and getting good over-the-air deals in most
countries. We need almost all CART races on CBS. We can't sell
sponsors on F1A with dismal 0.2 ratings on SPEED Channel. Maybe we
will put all F1 races on CBS too, tape delayed perhaps.
CHRIS: What about China?
BERNIE: I see a big future in China, I'm
surprised you don't have a race scheduled for China yet. China is a
key emerging market. We will
race F1 in Shanghai and F1A in Beijing. That will cover their two biggest
CHRIS: The South Korean car companies are gaining market share
too. Ditto for the Korean tire companies. David Clare tells me the
Koreans are interested.
BERNIE: I would like to have at least one series race
in South Korea, but not until that nut who runs North Korea is out of power.
He might lob a nuke warhead over at any time.
CHRIS: What about our existing ladder series?
BERNIE: You must get them in line with the rest of the
world. Make the Barber Dodge Pro series run to F3 specs and the Toyota
Atlantic series run to F3000 specs. Actually, I like the Telefonica World
Series specs better, it is a cheaper F3000 formula than the FIA F3000 spec series.
CHRIS: Are you worried about oval track racing and NASCAR
jumping to overseas markets?
BERNIE: Yes, a little, but it's a free market so you
can't stop them. That is why I want to solidify road racing around the
world. Bringing CART closer to F1 and calling it F1A will help strengthen
our cause and our influence. Road Racing fans are usually more
sophisticated. They understand that full throttle oval racing isn't really
racing. We will make a big issue out of this, that are drivers require a far
greater skill set - true driving champions.
OK, I think I have matters taken care of Max
CHRIS: All this sounds good, can I get back to sleep now?
BERNIE: Sure Chris, but if you are going to run F1A for me,
you really are going to have to learn to sleep less. And next time we talk I will
fill you in on Phase 2 of my plan.
CHRIS: Phase 2? Isn't this enough?
BERNIE: It's never enough Chris. Phase 2 is
going to set the racing world on its ear. My apologies to your lovely wife
for waking her up so early.
CHRIS: I can hardly wait.
Berne then dials Max Mosley back, the telephone
MAX: Hello, Mosley here.
BERNIE: OK the matters taken care of Max. I've
bought CART and will call it F1A. I can do that since I own the F1 naming
rights. If Ron or Frank and the manufacturers try to start their breakaway
series, I will rename F1A to F1 and we will continue like nothing happened.
Ron can go ahead and build his driverless car. Yeah, that will really excite
MAX: Bernie, you are a genius.
BERNIE: I know Max, I know. But I do like a challenge once
in awhile. It keeps me feeling young.
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