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CART Suffers Another Blow

December 04, 2003|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

The shaky future of Championship Auto Racing Teams got even more tenuous Wednesday when potential buyers of the open-wheel racing series revealed that CART would be unable to meet the conditions set for a stockholders meeting Dec. 19.

Open Wheel Racing Series owners instead proposed that they acquire certain assets of CART before the stockholders vote in order to permit OWRS to continue the CART series next year.

The opening race, scheduled for Feb. 22 at St. Petersburg, Fla., has already been postponed, leaving April 18 in Long Beach as the series opener.

"OWRS plans to maintain, and ultimately expand, the CART racing season in the Americas and throughout the world," said Paul Gentilozzi, an OWRS partner with Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven. "While OWRS is disappointed that the previously announced transaction appears no longer feasible, it remains committed to the CART racing series."

CART stockholders were to vote on a proposal to accept 56 cents a share on their stock. If accepted, OWRS would have become the owner and would have changed its status from a publicly owned corporation to a privately owned one.

However, under the new OWRS proposal, there is no guarantee that stockholders will receive anything.

CART's financial report has been so dismal that it was feared the company might be forced into bankruptcy before the vote could be taken, or possibly cease operations and liquidate its remaining assets.

"This proposal will allow OWRS to acquire the assets necessary to continue the CART racing tradition into 2004," Gentilozzi said. "OWRS expects to retain a sufficient number of cars to meet CART's contractual obligations with our race promoters."

Only 18 or 19 cars competed in CART's 2003 races and it appears the number it could guarantee next season would be much less.

Contracts for most races call for a minimum of 18 cars.

Stefan Johansson, director of the American Spirit Team last year, announced Wednesday that he has resigned. His team, financed largely by CART, had Jimmy Vasser and rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of the season's last race in Australia, as its drivers.

Another CART regular, Darren Manning, announced last month that he was switching to the rival Indy Racing League next year.

If CART became unable to conduct the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the premier race of its schedule, Toyota officials have said that there definitely would be a race on that weekend in Long Beach.

Alternate possibilities include an IRL race, although an April 18 date in Japan would have to be changed; a sports car program involving either Don Panoz's American LeMans series or the France family's Grand American Rolex series, or a combination of vintage, celebrity or stock car races.

CART has raced at Long Beach for the last 20 years.

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