By Gary Watkins, Crain News Service
DETROIT (Aug. 23, 2013) — IndyCar has targeted an expansion outside of North America in 2015 with a series of off-season races around the world that could be in the form of a winter championship.
The aim of the races would be to give IndyCar teams a new revenue stream over an off-season that looks likely to grow from next year. It is understood that the next year's calendar, which is due to be announced at this weekend's Sonoma Raceway event, will climax before the end of August.
Plans for the internationalization of IndyCar have been laid out by Derrick Walker, the series' new president of operations and competition. He outlined a number of different scenarios, including non-points races, a winter or regional championship, and even the possibility of the IndyCar Series starting overseas in January or February.
"We have teams that, from the end of September or October through to the start of the season in March, don't have an awful lot to do; there is only so much testing you can do," said the former CART and IndyCar team owner, who took up his position in May.
"Our teams need income, and an international component to their season would help strengthen their financial position."
Mr. Walker stressed that there were no plans to add any flyaway events to the Sao Paulo street circuit in Brazil—which has had a place on the IndyCar schedule since 2010—to the middle or end of the season.
"We are not going to tear up our existing calendar and we don't want our champion crowned at 1 a.m. in some faraway place," he explained. "But if there are races in January or February leading into the domestic series, then it might make sense to include them in our championship."
A European group called World Series Operations with links to the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport in 2005-09 and subsequent attempts to relaunch the championship is known to have put forward plans for a winter series under the IndyCar Global Challenge banner.
It already has draft agreements in place with a number of promoters and has proposed a five-event schedule starting at the end of 2014.
The idea for winter races appears to have the backing of the teams.
Andretti Autosport Vice President J-F Thormann seems excited about the idea. "We are very much in favor of it. The domestic schedule ends so early," he said, "but we employ our personnel all year round, so it would be a good utilization of human resources and assets."
This report appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.