Tagliani out, Philippe and Matsuura in at Conquest Racing
Nelson Philippe and Kosuke Matsuura will race for Conquest Racing this year, following an acrimonious parting of ways between the team and Alex Tagliani. Philippe will contest the IndyCar Series races at Sonoma and Homestead, the series finale, while Matsuura will race in Motegi.
Tagliani nearly won the Honda Indy Toronto for the team, but following a desultory 13th place in the Edmonton race, the Canadian was left angered with what he considered as a lack of investment in the car’s development.
It’s open knowledge that the team is financially strapped at the moment. By not racing at IndyCar’s ninth round, Watkins Glen, team owner Eric Bachelart is ineligible to receive the full TEAM payment of $1.24m from the Indy Racing League. Teams are only allowed to miss four races before the TEAM payment is halved, and Conquest had already skipped Kansas, Milwaukee, Iowa and Richmond.
Consequently, there were rumors that Bachelart had to obtain extra monies from sponsor Northlands in order for his team to compete in the Rexall Edmonton Indy – an event whose branding has been carried on the side of Tagliani’s car at each race so far this year. RACER has also learned that Conquest team members have had to take drastic pay cuts over the past month.
Despite swapping out Bruno Junqueira for Tagliani at Indy 500 in order to appease the team’s Canadian sponsors (for which Junqueira was financially compensated by Bachelart, the Brazilian confirmed today), the relationship between Bachelart and Tagliani has declined since. Last week a terse press release from Conquest Racing announced that “it has ended its partnership with the Rubicon Sports Agency. The termination of the association, which included Rubicon’s Jim Freudenberg acting as Commercial Director for the team, is effective immediately.
“Rubicon Sports Agency had been brought on by Conquest Racing in April and was responsible for the development of the team’s commercial platform including attracting new and maintaining existing commercial partners.”
Given that Freudenberg is regarded as an ally of Tagliani’s, and given the driver’s unhappiness with the way Conquest is run (which he went public with in the French Canadian media last Monday), it became clear that the Tagliani/Conquest partnership has no future.
It is understood that Nelson Philippe will carry the colors of I Drive Green, which was seen at this year’s Indy 500 on his HVM Racing entry. His deal with Conquest, for whom he raced in Champ Car in 2005 and ’07, will be announced this week, although Conquest will skip the Mid-Ohio race this weekend.
With the help of a U.S. investor, Tagliani has purchased a stock car to compete in the Trois-Rivieres and Montreal rounds of the Canadian Tire NASCAR Series later this month. Longer term, however, he states that he remains committed to open-wheel racing.