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CATEGORIES (articles) > American Motorsport > Motorsport Events For Petrolheads > Champ Car Race Series

Champ Car Race Series

CART redirects here. For other uses, see CART (disambiguation):

Champ Car, a shortened form of "Championship Car", has been the name for a class of cars used in American Championship Car Racing for many decades. It is also the common name for the Champ Car World Series, an Open Wheel World Championship mainly based in North America that was formerly known as CART, or Championship Auto Racing Teams. The series was formerly known as the CART PPG IndyCar World Series and the CART FedEx Championship Series.


Nigel Mansell racing in a Champ Car in 1993

In 1909 the American Automobile Association (AAA) established the national driving championship and became the first sanctioning body for auto racing in the United States. In 1956, the United States Automobile Club (USAC) was founded to take over sanctioning from the AAA which ceased sanctioning auto racing in the general outrage over motor racing safety that followed the Pierre Levegh disaster at Le Mans Sarthe. USAC controlled the championship until 1979. In that year, CART began operating its own competing series, which quickly became dominant.

The split away from USAC in 1979 was spurred by a group of activist car owners who had grown disenchanted with what they saw as an inept sanctioning body. Complaining of poor promotion and small purses, this group coalesced around Dan Gurney, who, in early 1978, wrote what came to be known as the "Gurney White Paper", the blueprint for an organization called Championship Auto Racing Teams. Gurney took his inspiration from the improvements Bernie Ecclestone had forced on Formula 1 with his creation of the Formula One Constructors Association. The white paper called for the owners to form CART as an advocacy group to promote USAC's national championship, doing the job where the sanctioning body wouldn't. The group would also work to negotiate television rights and race purses, and ideally hold seats on USAC's governing body.

Gurney, joined by other leading team owners including Roger Penske and Pat Patrick, took their demands to USAC's board and were turned down flat. This rejection turned disenchantment into defiance. In 1979, the rebel team owners laid plans to run CART, their own racing series, competing with the established USAC National Championship. The new series quickly gained the support of the vast majority of USAC Champ Car team and track owners, with the only notable holdout being A.J. Foyt.

As the morning of March 11, 1979 dawned, the open-wheel landscape had been transformed. The formerly all-powerful USAC was left with a slim, hodge-podge schedule of seven races, while CART could lay claim to the sport's notable drivers and tracks—except Foyt and Indianapolis. On that day, CART—sanctioned then by the Sports Car Club of America—dropped the green flag on its very first race, the Arizona Republic/Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix International Raceway. Gordon Johncock would claim the checkered flag, but it was Rick Mears who would go on to capture the inaugural CART championship. USAC's competing championship was dominated by Foyt, but it would be the last National Championship for both the driver and the sanctioning body, as USAC relented at the end of the season and folded its National Championship Trail.

CART, like its predecessor USAC, was dominated by North American drivers until the 1990s. Many road-racing stars, including Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal, and Danny Sullivan found success in the then-PPG IndyCar World Series. After former F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi won the series title in 1989, the floodgates of talented South American and European drivers began to open. These pilots discovered that competing in Champ Car could often be more lucrative than an average career in F1 and consequently there was an increased presence of non-US drivers (from mainly F1 and the European Formula 3000).

After British driving star Nigel Mansell's successful battle with Emerson Fittipaldi for the 1993 World Championship, a lot of people interpreted his victory as evidence of the superiority of non-US drivers. This, combined with CART's move to include more road racing on the schedule, led to a split of the series after the 1995 season due to a dispute between egos at CART and Tony George, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. George went on to form a new racing series, the Indy Racing League (IRL), which initially included an all-oval schedule, all races on US soil, and mostly American drivers.

In the early years of the split, CART seemed to be dominant. It controlled most of the races and most of the "name" drivers, while George's primary asset was Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its 500. The first IRL schedule consisted of only four races, including the 500, and most of the drivers, even in the Indy 500, were virtual unknowns. In 1996 CART attempted to create a rival showcase event, the U.S. 500, at Michigan International Speedway on the same day as the Indy 500, which was discontinued after 1999.

In 2000, CART designated the Vanderbilt Cup as its series championship trophy.

Hurt by the defection of several top teams to the IRL, CART went bankrupt during the 2003 offseason, and shares of the stock were worth only 25 cents. The assets of CART were liquidated and put up for sale. Tony George made a bid for the company in an attempt to bury the series once and for all, while a trio of CART owners (Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi, and Kevin Kalkhoven), who had formed the OWRS (Open Wheel Racing Series), also made bids. In the end, a judge ruled that the OWRS group should be the purchaser of CART, which ensured a 25th anniversary season in 2004, running as Champ Car.

Today, there are still many questions about the future of the series, particularly whether or not it will continue the series' long-running tradition of American road races. In the past two seasons, several traditional circuit venues have been dropped in favor of street courses, which some fans view as counterproductive and damaging to the health of the sport. A dearth of noteworthy, name drivers has also hurt the series in its quest to recapture the popularity it held in the early 1990s. However, new owners Forsythe, Gentilozzi, and Kalkhoven have so far demonstrated a commitment to the series, notably expressed in their November 2004 purchase from Ford of the sole engine supplier, Cosworth Racing. While the owners may have no qualms about spending the money it will take to build Champ Car back up, whether their efforts will be successful or not is a question that can only be answered by time.

A Champ Car V-8 engine.

The Champ Car name

As of 2003, Champ Car is the official name of the sanctioning body of the racing series that has been promoted as Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, or simply as The Champ Car World Series. This name was adopted after FedEx dropped their sponsorship for the racing series, and after the bankuptcy of the former CART sanctioning body.

Ownership changes

For many years Champ Cars were also called "Indy Cars" after the Indianapolis 500. However, since 1996 they have not run at the Indianapolis 500 as that race became part of the separate Indy Racing League which uses different specifications for its cars. The term IndyCar is now trademarked to the IRL in the United States, but Champ Car races in Australia and Canada may continue to bear the Indy name, which contributes to the ongoing confusion.

In November of 2005, Molson Canada transferred control of the Molson Indy Toronto to the Grand Prix Association of Toronto, which is owned by Champ Car series principals Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe. The Toronto race, one of the most popular and prestigious on the Champ Car circuit, is now known as the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto.

In February of 2006, the Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by U.S. Bank (formerly owned by Champ Car) was bought out by Mi-Jack Conquest Racing under the ownership of Michael Lanigan. They also became the owner of the Grand Prix of Houston in 2006.


A Champ Car has a Ford Cosworth turbocharged, 2.65 litre (162 in³) displacement V8 engine, fuelled by methanol to produce about 650 kW (850 horsepower). It has a top speed of about 390 km/h (240 mph). The car is 4.8 to 5.1 m (190 to 199 inches) long, weighs 700 kg (1,550 pounds), and sits on a 3.0 to 3.2 m (120 to 126 inch) wheelbase.

Comparison with Formula One

A Champ Car is a single seat (commonly called open wheel) racing car. For much of their history Champ Cars have been similar to Formula One cars, although there have traditionally been several key differences between the two.

  • Over the years, Champ Cars race schedule included high speed oval tracks. The increased stress and speed of these tracks mean that the cars tended to be heavier and have longer wheelbases than F1 cars (increasing stability but decreasing agility), which race exclusively on road and street courses.
  • When the weight of the driver is factored in, a Champ Car weighs over 20% more than a Formula 1 Car. The minimum weight for a Champ Car is 700 kg without the driver. A Champ Car piloted by 170 lb. Paul Tracy would tip the scales at 1715 lbs. The minimum weight of a Formula 1 Car includes the driver. This minimum weight is 600 kg (1322.7 lbs). This difference of 393 lbs is nearly 23%. Of course this number is variable and contingent on the specific pilots weight. Bear in mind that a driver would have to weigh less than 50 kg (110.231 lbs) to drop the weight difference to less than 20%.
  • In recent years it has been possible to compare the respective performance of the two series. Since 1978 Formula 1 has made an annual visit to the Circuit de Villeneuve in Montreal . Champ Car added this circuit to their tour in 2002. During the inaugural Champ Car visit in 2002 Cristiano Da Matta won the pole position in the Champ Car race with a lap time of 1:18.959. Several weeks before former Champ Car Champion Juan Pablo Montoya seized P1 in the Formula 1 race with a lap time of 1:12.836. The performance superiority of the Formula 1 machines were also demonstrated in 1989 when Champ Car began to race on a street circuit in Detroit that had served as the Grand Prix of the United States just one year prior. There was no six second discrepancy in lap times on this occasion but this was partly due to a tight second gear chicane that was removed from the circuit for the Champ Car series.
  • Since the late 1960s Champ Cars have used turbocharged engines. Turbos were banned in Formula One on safety grounds in 1989. For some periods of their history, notably in the early 1970s and late 1990s, turbocharging gave Champ Cars up to 300 horsepower (220 kW) more than F1 cars, in the 70s cars had in excess of 1000 hp. Recently in 1999/2000 the Champ Cars approached 1000 horsepower (750 kW) before regulations on turbo boost were tightened. The current generation of cars are now about equal in power to F1 cars at approximately 750 horsepower (since F1 imposed stricter engine specifications from 2006), with the turbo used mainly to improve the spectacle rather than lap-times with the so-called 'push-to-pass' system giving drivers an increased amount of power for a limited duration during the race. Another reason for retaining the turbocharger is with many city street races on the calendar, the muffling effect it has on the exhaust note helps keep the cars inside noise-limits.
  • Champ Cars use methanol for fuel rather than gasoline, and refuelling has always been permitted during the race. This is a legacy of a crash at the 1964 Indianapolis 500 in which a crash involving cars filled with more than 75 US gallons (285 L) of gasoline killed two drivers (Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs) in an immense fireball. Until 1994, when refuelling was re-introduced to F1, the prominent coupling for the refuelling hose was a notable difference between Champ Cars and Formula cars.
  • Champ Cars continue to have sculpted undersides to create ground effect. This innovation was originally created in Formula One by Lotus in 1978, and was immediately used on the Chaparral Champ Car in 1979. F1 banned sculpted undersides in a bid to lower cornering speeds for 1983.
  • While F1 use grooved tires to limit performance, Champ Cars remain using tread-less 'slick' racing tires. To make races more unpredictable, drivers are permitted to use one set of higher performance softer compound tires. Informally called 'reds', as these tires are made visible to the spectators by their red sidewalls.
  • Unlike in F1, Champ Car teams are not obliged to construct their own chassis, and in recent times have tended to buy chassis constructed by independent suppliers such as Lola, Swift, Reynard, March and Dan Gurney's Eagle. The most notable exception was Penske Racing, although they also bought other cars when their own chassis was uncompetitive.
  • The Formula 1 Car is simply a far more expensive and high technology racing machine than a Champ Car. This was even the case during the CART PPG halcyon era during the mid to late 1990s. At this time global engine manufacturers Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and Ford vied for dominance. Since Champ Car's restructuring, a desire to keep costs down and the existence of one engine manufacturer has helped to create a series with far more parity than its European-based cousin. What is ironic about the current Champ Car business model is that it mirrors the direction taken by the rival Indy Racing League during its formative years and that Toyota and Honda both defected to their Indianapolis-based rival.

2005 race locations

  • Long Beach, California (Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach), April 8–10
  • Monterrey, Mexico (Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey), May 20–22
  • West Allis, Wisconsin (Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225), June 2–4
  • Portland, Oregon (Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland), June 17–19
  • Cleveland, Ohio (Grand Prix of Cleveland), June 23–25
  • Toronto, Canada (Molson Indy Toronto), July 8–10
  • Edmonton, Canada (West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton), July 15–17
  • San Jose, California (Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San José), July 29–31
  • Denver, Colorado (Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver), August 12–14
  • Montreal, Canada (Molson Indy Montreal), August 26–28
  • Las Vegas, Nevada (Las Vegas Motor Speedway), September 22–24
  • Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (Lexmark Indy 300), October 21–23
  • Mexico City, Mexico (Gran Premio de México), November 4–6

2006 race locations

  • Long Beach, California (Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach), April 7–9
  • Houston, Texas (Grand Prix of Houston), May 12–13
  • Monterrey, Mexico (Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey), May 19–21
  • West Allis, Wisconsin (Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225), June 2–4
  • Portland, Oregon (Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland), June 16–18
  • Cleveland, Ohio (Grand Prix of Cleveland), June 23–25
  • Toronto, Canada (Molson Grand Prix of Toronto), July 7–9
  • Edmonton, Canada (West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton), July 21–23
  • San Jose, California (Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose), July 28–30
  • Denver, Colorado (Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver), August 11–13
  • Montreal, Canada (Grand Prix of Montreal), August 25–27
  • Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, (Road America) September 21–23
  • Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia (Lexmark Indy 300), October 20–22
  • Mexico City, Mexico (Gran Premio de México), November 10–12


  • An event is in the works for Brooklyn, New York at Floyd Bennett Field.
  • The Las Vegas City Council has approved a 2.44-mile, 14-turn circuit on the north end of the strip. The event is slated for April 6-8, 2007. ([1] 29093/)
  • The ill-fated Ansan, South Korea race would be replaced by a race in Zhuhai, China.
  • Events in Phoenix and Philadelphia are still in the planning stages and could be added to the 2007 schedule.

2007 Champ Car Season

In 2007 Champ Car will undergo some major changes.

The opening race of the season will be changed from the Long Beach Grand Prix to Las Vegas for the first running of the Vegas Grand Prix. The rest of the 2007 schedule will be announced in the near future.

Champ Car officials confirmed that Panoz will be the sole chassis supplier for Champ Car for three years beginning in 2007. The Panoz DP01 will be built by sister company Elan Motorsports Technologies and will be powered by a turbo-charged Cosworth engine. The new formula is expected to significantly lower the costs of competing in the series, which in turn is expected to increase car counts for the 2007 Champ Car season.

There also have been rumors that Champ Car is seeking a new TV deal for 2007 and beyond. The current TV deal of NBC (3 races), CBS (4 races), and SPEED Channel (8 races) is expected to be the last of this TV package formula for Champ Car.

At present there is also some chatter regarding the reunification of Champ Car with its rival series, the IRL. It is hoped by many open-wheel racing fans that this merger of the two struggling series (in respect of field sizes and television ratings) will secure the future of the Grand Prix racing format in North America, whose racing landscape is currently ruled by the massively popular and more financially stable NASCAR. A merger for the 2007 season is unlikely according to both Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven; however, the latter optimistically set a deadline for August for issues to be resolved. If not, both sides will hopefully look again for future opportunities to resolve outstanding differences.


CART Season Champions: (1979 to 2003)

Year Driver Nationality Team Chassis/Engine
1979 Rick Mears United States Penske Racing Penske/Cosworth-Ford
1980 Johnny Rutherford United States Chaparral Racing Chaparral/Cosworth-Ford
1981 Rick Mears United States Penske Racing Penske/Cosworth-Ford
1982 Rick Mears United States Penske Racing Penske/Cosworth-Ford
1983 Al Unser United States Penske Racing Penske/Cosworth-Ford
1984 Mario Andretti United States Newman/Haas Racing Lola/Cosworth-Ford
1985 Al Unser United States Penske Racing March/Cosworth-Ford
1986 Bobby Rahal United States Truesports March/Cosworth-Ford
1987 Bobby Rahal United States Truesports Lola/Cosworth-Ford
1988 Danny Sullivan United States Penske Racing Penske/Chevrolet
1989 Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Penske Racing Penske/Chevrolet
1990 Al Unser Jr United States Galles-Kraco Racing Lola/Chevrolet
1991 Michael Andretti United States Newman/Haas Racing Lola/Chevrolet
1992 Bobby Rahal United States Rahal/Hogan Racing Lola/Chevrolet
1993 Nigel Mansell Great Britain Newman/Haas Racing Lola/Cosworth-Ford
1994 Al Unser Jr United States Penske Racing Penske/Chevrolet
1995 Jacques Villeneuve Canada Team Green Racing Reynard/Cosworth-Ford
1996 Jimmy Vasser United States Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard/Honda
1997 Alex Zanardi Italy Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard/Honda
1998 Alex Zanardi Italy Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard/Honda
1999 Juan Pablo Montoya Colombia Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard/Honda
2000 Gil de Ferran Brazil Penske Racing Reynard/Honda
2001 Gil de Ferran Brazil Penske Racing Reynard/Honda
2002 Cristiano da Matta Brazil Newman/Haas Racing Lola/Toyota
2003 Paul Tracy Canada Player's/Forsythe Racing Lola/Cosworth-Ford

Champ Car World Series Season Champions: (2004—)

Year Driver Nationality Team
2004 Sébastien Bourdais France Newman/Haas Racing
2005 Sébastien Bourdais France Newman/Haas Racing

Rookies of the Year

CART Rookies of the Year: (1979 to 2003)

  • 1979 -
Bill Alsup
  • 1980 -
Dennis Firestone
  • 1981 -
Bob Lazier
  • 1982 -
Bobby Rahal
  • 1983 -
Teo Fabi
  • 1984 -
Roberto Guerrero
  • 1985 -
Arie Luyendyk
  • 1986 -
Dominic Dobson
  • 1987 -
Fabrizio Barbazza
  • 1988 -
John Jones
  • 1989 -
Bernard Jourdain
  • 1990 -
Eddie Cheever
  • 1991 -
Jeff Andretti
  • 1992 -
Stefan Johansson
  • 1993 -
Nigel Mansell
  • 1994 -
Jacques Villeneuve
  • 1995 -
Gil de Ferran
  • 1996 -
Alex Zanardi
  • 1997 -
Patrick Carpentier
  • 1998 -
Tony Kanaan
  • 1999 -
Juan Pablo Montoya
  • 2000 -
Kenny Brack
  • 2001 -
Scott Dixon
  • 2002 -
Mario Dominguez
  • 2003 -
Sébastien Bourdais

Champ Car World Series Rookies of the Year: (2004 to present)

  • 2004 -
A.J. Allmendinger
  • 2005 -
Timo Glock

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