Sources close to the Indy Racing League and Champ Car say both sides have agreed on terms for a merger that will take place this year.
Indy Racing League boss Tony George is set to help any Champ Car teams that want to make the leap to the IRL, which has its season opener in Miami March 29, sources within the league said. George reportedly has offered free chassis and Honda engines to Champ Car teams that commit to the entire season.
A melded schedule still has to be ironed out, and at least one major rescheduling would be needed.
The talks, which have been on-again, off-again this off-season, seemed to be dead just a week ago. But now, sources close to principals for both series said George and Champ Car President Dick Eidswich along with officials for key sponsors and suppliers–notably Honda–will fly to Japan Feb. 9 to talk with officials at the Twin Ring Motegi track.
George, sources said, will try to persuade Twin Ring officials to reschedule the race now set there for April 19. IRL and Champ Car officials would like to stage the Long Beach Grand Prix in California for that weekend.
If the unification takes place, the IRL will add races in several key markets, including Mexico City and Surfers Paradise, Australia, in addition to Long Beach.
There’s no word on who would run the series, but motorsports experts said there’s little chance George would give up majority ownership. Not surprisingly, both sides are giving mixed signals. IRL officials admitted there have been recent unification discussions, but said there is no timetable for an announcement. Champ Car officials are saying as of Feb. 8 they are still planning to have their own open-wheel series this year.
Do you think open-wheel unification will really happen this time? And is it a good deal for the IRL?