Champ Car has added an extra European race for its newly-released 2008 schedule – but anyone hoping to see the likes of Justin Wilson and Katherine Legge race before their home fans is in for a disappointment.
The 14-race schedule includes just six venues in the United States – the lowest ever – as the series visits Canada three times, Mexico, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain for a new race at Jerez.
Champ Car markets itself as a world series, unlike its more clearly American rival IndyCar, and the vast majority of its drivers this season were not from the US, including Brits Wilson, Legge, Dan Clarke and Ryan Dalziel.
Just like this year, inflexible contract agreements mean the Surfers Paradise and Mexican races are stranded long after the rest of the season has finished, leaving gaps that might be filled by as-yet unannounced races.
Speaking in a teleconference to announce the schedule, Champ Car CEO and President Steve Johnson made two things clear: he’d like to see more worldwide races, but there were no plans for this season as things stand.
Asked about the schedule gaps, he said: “We have contractual obligations with both Surfers and in Mexico. So is there potential room there? Absolutely. But again we’re working on the future right now. And if the right opportunity came up for 2008, we’d definitely take a look at it.”
Although his aim is to grow the series globally, Europe looms large in his expansion hopes: “If you take a look at our driver line-up the majority of them are Europeans. There is a tremendous amount of interest in the Champ Car World Series that seems to be coming out of Europe. So that’s why it makes sense for us to grow there.
“But as a World series and International series, we’ve got to look everywhere, which we are, which includes the U.S. So I think you’ll see growth going forward.”
And when he was asked explicitly about adding an extra European race in 2008 if the opportunity arose he made it clear that the announced schedule was unlikely to change – but that he’d grab at a chance if it was sufficiently realistic.
He said: “I’ll never say never. I’m sure not going to start putting maybes in there because, again, you learn from the past. The object is not list a bunch of races and then have them cancel.
“So we feel very good. We’re solid with this 14 race schedule. And if a great opportunity came up, we would definitely look at it. But right now we’ve got a 14 race schedule for ’08.”
So the prospects for a return to the UK next year? Slim – but not completely ruled out, if a sufficiently deep-pocketed promoter was to appear.