March 26, 1989|By Robert Markus, Chicago Tribune.
Among the seven new teams in the PPG-CART Indy-car series this year is one owned by Antonio Ferrari of the famous Italian racing family.
Euromotorsport will not make much of a splash this year with its year-old Lola (purchased from Dick Simon) and a Cosworth engine.
“We’re looking for a very good European engine package for 1990 and beyond,” says team manager Dave Thomas. “This will be our learning year. We’ll stick with the tried-and-true Cosworth in order to reduce the variables while we establish the team.”
Thomas says the team has spent $500,000, “and we haven`t turned a wheel yet. That’s a little unnerving for a newcomer.”
The team is hoping to cash in on CART’s popularity in Europe and will make a series of sponsorship appearances on the continent after the `89 season.
“The demand for these cars in Europe is tremendous,” says Thomas. “Mr. Ferrari is certain he’s the first of a wave of Europeans who will jump into Indy-car racing in the next few years.”
Swiss driver Jean Pierre Frey, who drove two races for Simon last year, will be in the cockpit.
Other new teams and their drivers: Bayside Motor Sports, Dominic Dobson;
Dyson Racing, James Weaver; Mann Motorsport, Gary Bettenhausen; Protofab Racing, John Jones; Saleen Autosport, Steve Saleen; and Stoops Racing, Steve Butler.
Jones was rookie of the year last year but was replaced on the Arciero team by Didier Theys.
– Theys drove only the road courses for Simon last year, so when he tested at Phoenix recently, “it was the first time I had been on an oval since the ARS race at Nazareth a year and a half ago,” he says.
He got some help, he says, from an oval-track master, Rick Mears. “Rick is a very nice guy and he showed me how to work on my left-foot braking on ovals. I now know why he is the best on those tracks. We went quicker immediately.”
– Oddly, Mears was once known as a road warrior. He still holds the CART record for consecutive road-course victories (four), “but now I’m teamed up with the fastest road racer in the business (Danny Sullivan),” he notes, “so all of a sudden I`m not a road racer.”
Mears confesses he does prefer the ovals. “I’ve always preferred the ovals more as far as working with the chassis and the aerodynamics,” he says. “At the speedway, you’ve got to make the car carry you, not you carry the car.
“I like both, but if you said pick one, I’ll take the oval.”
– Dale Earnhardt still leads the Winston Cup points chase after finishing second at Atlanta, but he hasn’t won a pole in two years. If he hasn’t won one by May 20, he’s got a great shot to end his drought in qualifying for The Winston, NASCAR’s all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That’s because qualifying for the race is determined by a unique format that requires a stop for right-side tires during the three-lap qualifying run. Earnhardt`s pit crew is a four-time winner of the Unocal 76 pit crew world championship.
“The difference in speed among all those great cars will be less than a half-second,” says Alan Kulwicki, who won four poles last year. “The difference in the pit crews could be five seconds. It`s more a race for pit crews than cars.”
– Wonder if Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One czar, has ever been in Phoenix in June? Ecclestone pulled the Formula One cars out of Detroit and will hold the U.S. Grand Prix through the streets of downtown Phoenix on June 4.
The average high temperature on that date is 104, and it often gets to 110 or more.
“They can drive in that heat,” says Sullivan, who drove the Formula One circuit and raced in Brazil, “but I don`t know how many people want to come out and watch it.”