Friday, July 31, 2009

Open Letter to Bobby Rahal

Roggespierre channels Ed Hinton:

Dear Bobby Rahal,

Sir, you are not entitled to the racing series you want. Telling Autosport this week that you "would like to see the (IndyCar) series take on more road courses," serves no purpose except, perhaps, to elicit more creepily smug nods of approval from Gordon Kirby.

Look, we know that you love road racing, and for good reason. You were very good at it, your son appears to be good at it, and the SCCA ceremonially kisses your derriere as a matter of course. Harmless matters, these.

What's more, the chicks tend to be hotter at road and street races, and drunker, too. (Roggespierre offers this insight for citizens who don't comprehend the lingering, post-mergification, bitterness.)

Anyway, Bob, we suspect you're still feeling the sting from your one-race NASCAR (sans-culottes!) nightmare with the Wood Brothers - the Confederate Flags, the Rebel Yells, and the yahoos who still call you Bobby Ray Hall.

Regardless, your sizable ego is invested in twisty-course racing, just as Foyt's is enmeshed with Indy, although Danton swears he remembers Foyt actually winning at Le Mans. (GJD asks that you take no offense.)

But whatever it may be that you and other insiders like is of no consequence now. As a wise man once said, "Ah! It's a profit deal."

Bob, you and your "fellow" team owners - Roggespierre uses the term loosely - can not afford to race the way you want. You can't even afford to race in the IRL. There is no one to bequeath you another multi-year sponsorship. BEA Systems was acquired by Oracle, a company, you might recall, that goes racing only with Randy Lewis. Danton tells me the Argent guys aren't having the Best of Times, either. Then again, it seems they only wanted Danica, anyway.

The IndyCar Series will race where and when you and your "fellow" team owners can afford it. This is a fundamentally good idea. Decisions based on the preferences of suppliers - and that is what the teams are - can be no more. The enablers - CART shareholders, Kalkhoven's wallet, Forsythe's mattress and the Speedway's big room where they count the money - are all gone.

For your sake, Bob, Roggespierre hopes that the aristocrats at BMW (Huns!) continue to fund that ladder-to-nowhere series you're operating. But please remember that the manufacturer-as-sponsor model hasn't worked all that well for racing enterprises that actually require fans. Incidentally, did you know that Stanford Business School published a case study on the economic failure that was the San Jose Grand Prix? It's true. Roggespierre has a copy.

So, Bob, we beseech you; confess your counterrevolutionary sensibilities. Recognize that you and like-minded insiders don't call the shots anymore. If citizens show up for road and street races, then road and street races there will be. But if fans should prefer to watch Indy cars race at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds, then so shall they have it.

Your resume is impressive, Bob, and the Republic likes you very much. Roggespierre gave a hearty cheer when you snookered Coogan on the last restart in '86. That is why he so wants to help you understand that the Glorious People shall have what they will!

And so, Bobby Ray, take heed and remain silent. Celebrate your achievements, even as you take pride in Graham's. Denounce power and princes, and stifle your Machiavellian proclivities.

Go forth and help the IndyCar Series serve its true customers. We deserve it.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

IndyCar Teams: Build Something!

Revolution can be so disappointing.

Early IRL stalwarts, think back with Roggespierre to those hopeful days of early 1997, when the new cars and engines were going to transform Indy car racing into an egalitarian enterprise. The new, production-based engines from Nissan and the automaker formerly known as General Motors would be available, at one low, low price, to everyone. Once more, teams could work on their own engines! The oppressive reign of leases, sealed blocks and manufacturer badges would be banished forever.

Suckers, we were.

The dirty little secret was that the teams did not want to work on engines. John Menard and Ed Rachanski, good revolutionaries, both, were exceptions. A.J. Foyt, apparently of his own free will, chose to lease his motors from Katech Engine Development. The remaining Aurora teams contracted with Roush, Comptech, Rocketsports, Speedway and Brayton, in addition to Menard and NAC. Herb "Herbie Horsepower" Porter and Rick Long resurrected the Infiniti before turning it over to Tom Walkinshaw.

The early Indy Racing League was revolutionary in the existential sense, but it failed to rid Gasoline Alley of an entrenched culture of consumerism that began in the 1980s and that continues to this day.

F1 teams build things. NASCAR teams (sans-culottes!) build things. Ford-Freaking-Focus Midget teams build things. IndyCar teams order things and have them delivered with some assembly required. The royals shall be served.

The result is a massive outflow of cash from IndyCar teams to Dallara, HPD and Ilmor. Guess who's left without any money? It's the guy who "hired" the aristocrat in Pilotis to drive his car, that's who.

NASCAR teams (sans-culottes!) keep tens of millions in their pockets every year by making things and selling them to each other. They figured out the benefits of kereitsu even before those treasonous counterrevolutionaries from Toyota showed up.

I'll give IndyCar teams this much. Ever since George Bignotti turned Robin Herd's lame-ass March F1 chassis into a mass-produced U.S. open wheel behemoth, IndyCar teams have demonstrated a keen appreciation for the Division of Labor.

Roggespierre hears that Americans are fed up with outsourcing. But it looks like the only ones that are doing anything about it live south of the Mason-Dixon Line (sans-culottes!)

Meanwhile, the IndyCar guys can't even sell their old stuff like they used to because they keep it and buy update kits every year. And yet they wonder why getting to 33 at Indy is tough? Nincompoops!

So, please, Mr. Barnhart, take heed of this advice. Imagine an IndyCar tub that has all of the neat-o safety additions that you guys have worked so hard on over the past few years. Bid it out, get a good price, and have the low bidder start taking orders. Then let the teams do the rest.

IndyCar is hurting because the underlying economics make no sense. No fundamental problem will be solved by push-to-pass, option tires, or any other Cotman gimmick. And please tell me you aren't serious about that three-wheeled Indy car I've been hearing about.

All due respect, Mr. Barnhart, you don't serve the teams. They are your suppliers - they provide an essential portion of your product. But they don't pay you, so they're not your customers. The kind of help they need from you is tough love. They must stop hitting on grid girls, roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Let them build stuff and sell it.

Advertising and B2B supply chain opportunities aren't getting better any time soon, and those are the businesses your teams are in. Do them a favor and make them build, not buy. The results might be, gasp, interesting, perhaps so much so that fans will want to buy tickets and watch the fine coverage on Versus.

The old order must be crushed and Gasoline Alley society subjected to the will of the People. Fail in this endeavor, sir, and the knitters might put you, too, on the next ox cart to Revolutionary Square.

And you really don't want that.