Canadians should be able to compete in international motorsports; companies and investors should be able to support talented Canadian drivers while reaping at least some commercial benefits from it. So declared Andre Azzi, a Canadian businessman and CEO/owner of the FAZZT Race Team, ahead of the country's back-to-back IZOD IndyCar Series events at Toronto and Edmonton. At a meeting with the Canadian racing press in Toronto, Azzi committed to fielding at least one Canadian driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series and to spearheading the rebirth of a Canadian driver development program.
“This country has a wonderful history in motorsports,” said Azzi. “I still remember watching Gilles Villeneuve and admire how his achievements brought so many Canadians, and people from other nationalities, together. After careful reflection, I have made a decision to spend the next years of my life building a Canadian race team and driver development program that ensures that young drivers in this country get the support they need to reach the higher echelons of the sport. No one can do this alone, so I will be reaching out to corporate Canada to join me in filling this important need.
“As Canada's only team in IndyCar racing, we can offer sponsors ratings, a full schedule of events, exciting spokespersons, solid fan base and, here in Canada, an uncluttered business platform,” added Azzi. “We are passionate and confident about our vision, and are well under way.”
In the mid 1990s, at a time when legislation allowed for tobacco sponsorships, Canada boasted a successful driver development program that helped groom a strong lineup of drivers including Jacques Villeneuve, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani. Since then, Canadian involvement has waned, but Tagliani is convinced Azzi's efforts can help to turn the tide.
“Thanks to the support and training we received on and off the track, we've been able to compete at the highest levels and represent our country around the world,” said Tagliani, part-owner of FAZZT with Azzi, who drives the team's No. 77 Bowers and Wilkins-sponsored Dallara-Honda. “I feel very enthusiastic about Andre's vision and hope that Canadian companies come on board in support of our collective dream.”
“Canada is showing hints of a racing renaissance,” said Azzi. “We now have a Canadian team thanks to our sponsors Bowers & Wilkins, Hot Wheels and others, and leading organizations are starting to reinvest in a variety of racing properties. I am committed to making FAZZT Race Team a driver of this renewal.”