IndyCar boss Mark Miles has made it no secret he's going to explore taking IndyCar out of North America for a series of big money, non-points races and his lieutenant, Derrick Walker, wants to make it clear this is in its planning stage at the moment. IndyCar has not made any firm commitments with groups or tracks or countries yet, Walker says, but a limited international element is part of the series' long-term plans.
“It's something Mark has been talking about and we're definitely look out for great opportunities to showcase our special brand of American open-wheel racing overseas,” said Walker, the president of operations and competition for IndyCar.
Speaking in response to a story by AUTOSPORT's Gary Watkins, which reported a European group called World Series Operations supposedly has a plan for an IndyCar Global Challenge, Walker insists that IndyCar is not represented by any other parties, that it is taking directly with tracks and promoters who have interest in IndyCar.
In CART's heyday, races in Australia (ABOVE), England, Germany and Brazil were staged with varying degrees of success and IndyCar currently runs in Sao Paulo. An attempt to race in China fell apart in 2012 but Walker believes there's definitely a market for foreign events.
“I think we have proven through the years that we are a very portable series and our formula appeals to a lot of people around the world,” said the longtime car owner who joined IndyCar a few months ago.
“We're not a threat to Formula 1 nor are we trying to be – I think we compliment them and we probably should be working closer together as we have a lot more in common that any other major racing series, and of course we shared a lot of history together.”
Walker, who began his career as a mechanic for Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham F1 team in the early 1970s, has requested a face-to-face with his old boss and the F1 czar during the United States Grand Prix at Austin in November.
“We should be thinking strategic and go places F1 wouldn't want to go or can't go” he said. “And we shouldn't be trying to compete with each other in the international arena because we're all part of the same DNA.”
The season ends in late October this year but will be over on Labor Day weekend in 2014 and all that down time is unhealthy in many ways. Six months off may force the smaller teams to lay off mechanics and being off the public's radar isn't good for business.
“Right now we've got a lot of down time and there's only so much testing you can do,” said Walker. "Our teams need income and an international component could help provide some additional income that helps strengthen their financial position."
Miles has discussed opening the season earlier and possibly outside the USA if the price was right but finding the right venue and collecting the sanction fee will be challenging as it always has been, but at least he has a plan to grow a international component to IndyCar and not at the expense of its domestic schedule.