Plain-speaking Aussie businessman Paul Stoddart says he won’t be moving his Minardi Champ Car team across to the IRL following the merger because he’s had enough of trolling around at the back of the field.
He thinks that – apart from the very top Champ Car teams – anyone who makes the jump is in for a long, painful couple of years and he’d rather take a sabbatical.
The failure to run in IndyCar represents a further blow to the remnants of Minardi’s loyal fan base, coming barely a month after Gian Carlo Minardi and his son Giovanni announced that they would no longer be running teams in GP2 or Euroseries3000 after the break-down of their relationship with GPRacing.
The decision leaves Brit Dan Clarke and Dutch rookie of the year Robert Doornbos stranded without drives – although Team Minardi USA will take to the circuit for one last time in the final one-off Champ Car race at Long Beach next month.
Stoddard, who retained the right to race under the Minardi name after selling the F1 team he bought from Gian Carlo Minardi, told Autosport: “I did enough tugging round at the back to know I don’t want to do it again. I had a taste of victory last year and it was very nice, so I’ll just take a sabbatical and see what happens. I think realistically 2010 is the first opportunity for Champ Car teams to become competitive, when the new car comes.”
He thinks the only ex-Champ Car team that might have a chance of mixing it with the IRL veterans is Newman/Haas/Lanigan, new home of ex-Minardi F1 driver Justin Wilson: “With four weeks until the start of the season it’s a pretty big ask to change your entire operating facility to a car you’ve never seen, on ovals you’ve never raced on, and to go out and be competitive.”
Wilson himself has again moved to lower expectations of his team’s likely performance: “It’s hard to know what kind of goal to have. My personal aim is just to do the best we can, whether that’s trying to get a podium or pick up race wins. We can only judge the competition when we get there, but we have to be realistic.”