The Bear’s hearing precious few rumors – and that’s a worry. It’s a worry because this is usually the time of year when stuff is happening. Hearing good news (or not so good) from sponsors, putting together budgets, talking to drivers, suppliers, engine and car builders. But there’s little of that going on, and little has gone on over the summer. To borrow a rather overused term, there’s not much “buzz.”
Some asked why Murphy wasn’t “on the case” for the engine announcements. Remember the Cosworth sports car engine? Right. Engine announcements are just that; announcements. Judd announces they’ll be in the next sports car engine market. Surprise, right? Right. The real question is who starts “kicking the tires.” (Ok, not the right metaphor, but it will have to do.) And that’s exactly the problem with the crickets thing.
It seems certain Braselbergers who should know better (because it’s their job) have a problem with civil communication. That’s not escaped the notice of the paddock, where it’s “just one more thing.”
Disappointment with the Schedule? Of course. Whatever the spin, that huge gap in the middle is a disaster for sponsors (and for getting sponsors). All you have to know is “activation.” In simple terms (that’s all the Bear knows) that means a sponsor wants (no, needs) to supplement his “direct” racing exposure with other related marketing. Remember Office Depot’s full sized cut-outs of Tony Stewart? Or this classy little item? A big gap ruins that related marketing program.
Farewell, we hardly knew ya. (No Saleen)
Sadly, there will be no Saleen to see at Petit. Not a big surprise – though we started with the expectation of two Saleens – more a disappointment, a chance lost for North American fans to say farewell to one of their own. Come to think of it, this car was so rarely raced in North America, we’d forgotten it.
What’s the team? (No Abruzzi)
Late last week, “PTG” was dropped from the Abruzzi PLM entry; “Team Panoz PTG – as it was in past years and in the first two PLM entries – became just “Team Panoz.” Was it simply a change of language, or does it portend a (last minute) change in the program? One of Murphy’s forest creatures said he heard “a couple of weeks ago” that Krohn would run the Abruzzi, so perhaps Braselburg’s entry sheet is just catching up with “old news.” Another friend of the Bear’s thinks Krohn’s involvement is unlikely. Still another rumor has a prototype in that Krohn shop, while earlier Krohn was connected to the new McLaren sports car.
The entry name change may be just the tip of a Titanic-like iceberg. “They are well behind in the car build; it’s the typical Panoz/EMT corner-cutting operation,” the Bear was told. In confirmation of that comes a report that even Braselbergers admitted at a South Carolina event that the rebodied Esperante wouldn’t make it to the grid. It’s now likely there will be a static display at Petit; might that be better than a moving chicane?
Body by Comprent, chassis by Multimatic, assembly by PTG, and raced by Krohn (or no one)? There’s not much Panoz in there. There’s about that much left of the Panoz automotive “empire.”
Murphy hears that David Price will be a guest of the Don at Petit; just renewing old acquantances, or something more?
Where’s the business case? (No Audi)
Marshall Pruett reported today that Audi wouldn’t be back in the American Le Mans Series in 2011. That can’t have come as a surprise to Paddock Poop readers, though, can it? As Murphy wrote on June 25th, “If it (the Audi board) does (say Jawohl), Murphy expects to see the new prototype in the Intercontinental Cup events and nowhere else.”
There were always two steps in Audi prototype programs: (1) approve and fund the car, a corporate decision at the highest level, and (2) fund the operation of racing programs. The first of those was done this summer, and the second has just failed after Dr.Ulrich’s public plea for funding from North America. Mr. Pruett puts it down to a “rift” between Ingolstadt and Audi North America, but Murphy’s sources don’t see it that way. Audi’s “national” divisions have always paid the bulk of the bill for racing the R8, R10, and R15.
After years of funding the American Le Mans prototype racing program – including significant payments for television sponsorships and other “promotional considerations” – the North American sales division concluded that the ALMS “platform,” though helpful, was not pulling its weight in the marketing program. In fact the quality of exposure was slipping. So it was an easy decision to follow Porsche out in 2009. Proof that it wasn’t a cost, but rather a decision on return has been seen in Audi’s expanded advertising in other sports since, including Super Bowl buys, about which Murphy wrote in February 2009.
When Audi didn’t return in 2010, it had nothing to do with rules, and everything to do with hard-nosed marketing decisions. Audi had the R15 pretty much ready to race at Sebring, but passed. The Bear wrote then that Audi had pretty much given up on getting value out of an ALMS campaign commensurate with its cost.
Hoping all that means an R8 will be on the GTC (or GT2) grid? The Bear’s take remains that a Grand Am GT R8 is far more likely than an ALMS entry of any kind.
State of the Series
In the absence of the announcement of next year’s schedule – the main reason we’ve sat through the talking heads in past years the Bear is wondering if there will be a “State of the Series” on Friday at Petit Le Mans. Wonder no more. Acting on a tip from the Braselburg mole, the Bear Brigade captured a clandestine courier en route to France, Murphy has come into possession of a document he believes to be the outline of the much-anticipated speech.
- Down is the new Up
- Television: Less is More
- Seven traditional tracks that still want us
- Why Baltimore is a fine place and Oklahoma City isn’t
- Audi who?
- Future entries (If you knew what I know)
- New Class: Legends (EFR)
- Don’s winter vacation plan
The Italiams are on the Case
According to the Wall Street Journal, in Triest, for a game against Padova, and “for the first time in four years, nearly every seat appeared to be taken. On television, the crowd looked impressive. But in person, the scene looked a bit strange. The fans were clad in scarves and winter coats—unusual for a balmy September afternoon. They failed to make a sound when the home team ran out on the field and didn’t budge when the match ended in a scoreless draw.”
These “fans” were actually two-dimensional images of fans printed on a giant sheet of vinyl and stretched across the empty seats according to the article. So Braselberg – and Daytona – take heart. The Italians are on the case.
American Open Wheel
Murphy’s chief elf in Indy reports that the landlord for HVM Racing’s shops showed up last night to change the locks, and security personnel were stationed at the facility. The gates were locked up this morning to their parking lot and the team apparently “got today off.” All less than a week before they would be loading up to go to the finale at Homestead on oct. 2.
What happens to Simona di Silvestro? She is second behind Alex Lloyd for Rookie of the Year. She also was very competitive on the road courses with an underfunded team. Will an ALMS team bring her aboard for 2011? She quickly became a fan favorite in IndyCar and she has more talent and potential than any of the other women in that series.”
Another source hints that following the finale in Miami, Sarah Fisher will retire as a race driver to become a full-time team owner. Sarah has said in the past that at some point she would retire from driving to start a family. Will there be a “little Sarah” driving sometime in the future?
The Bear’s been told the Elkhart Lake Town Board voted to approve a 6 hour, into dusk, event at Road America. Now it remains to be seen if the promoter choses to use the permission.
Tags: Abruzzi, Alex Lloyd, Audi, Baltimore, EFR, HVM Racing, Judd, Legends, Marshall Pruett, Office Depot, Oklahoma City, Padova, Panoz, Porsche, PTG, Road America, Saleen, Sarah Fisher, Sebring, Simona di Silvestro, State of the Series, Super Bowl, Tony Stewart, Triest