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The Rockingham 500 was an annual Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) motor race held at the Rockingham Motor Speedway oval track in Corby, Northamptonshire, England, United Kingdom in 2001 and 2002. The event was the first major motor race held on an oval track featuring Champ Cars in the United Kingdom. It was created in the hope of rivalling the Formula One British Grand Prix, although CART had problems promoting the event to the public.

Rockingham 500
Rockingham Motor Speedway.svg
VenueRockingham Motor Speedway
LocationCorby, Northamptonshire, England, United Kingdom
Corporate sponsorSure For Men (2002)
First race2001
Last race2002
Previous namesSure For Men Rockingham 500 (2002)
Most wins (driver)Gil de Ferran (1)
Dario Franchitti (1)
Most wins (team)Team Penske (1)
Team Green (1)
Most wins (manufacturer)Reynard (1)
Lola (1)
SurfaceTarmac
Length2.380 km (1.479 mi)
Turns4
Lap record25.217 (Jimmy Vasser, Lola-Ford, 2002)

The inaugural race, held in 2001, was marred by drainage problems, and was won by Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran. It was last held the following year when a poor trading environment and inclement weather conditions affected the track. The race was moved to Brands Hatch for 2003 under the name London Champ Car Trophy. The event was instrumental in helping the Rockingham Motor Speedway become established on the world motor sport scene, and brought a new type of racing to Britain.

HistoryEdit

The plan to hold a CART motor race was revealed publicly in October 1999 by former property developer Peter Davies during the construction of the Rockingham Motor Speedway.[1] It was announced in July 2000 that Rockingham would hold a race for the 2001 season. It would be the second event to occur in Europe, following the German 500 at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Klettwitz, Germany.[2] The event would take place on a four-turn 1.479-mile (2.380 km) oval track that has banking of up to 7.9 degrees.[3] The organisers signed a five-year contract with CART to hold the event.[4] It would become the first time since 1978 that Champ Cars had participated in Europe, and the first time the vehicles had driven on an oval track in the United Kingdom. Several observers were doubtful about the chances of CART holding a race in England, noting that past similar schemes were unsuccessful.[5] It was started in the hope it would rival the British Grand Prix.[6]

At an early stage, CART encountered problems in promoting the race. They were unable to adequately educate British motor racing fans about the series. Rockingham's owners attempted to display an advertisement at the 2001 British Grand Prix but the owner of Formula One's commercial rights Bernie Ecclestone cancelled the plan shortly before it was due to occur. A major marketing strategy took place in response.[7] The advertising, headed by the Michaelides & Bednash agency, began in August in the printed press, and also included two television advertisements and an official poster.[8] The event was affected by drainage problems on the new track which caused the practice sessions to be cancelled. The starting order was set according to the drivers' positions in the points' standings.[9] Its distance was reduced from 210 to 140 laps and was won by Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran after overtaking pole position starter Kenny Bräck on the race's final lap.[10] Most drivers praised the circuit but did not criticise the problem that affected it.[11] Despite two days of practice and qualifying rounds being cancelled because of the drainage issues, 38,000 spectators watched the race.[12] The track later had an extra layer added along with a sealant to allow it to drain water.[13]

During the planning for the 2002 race, it was announced that a provisional date for 2003 had been set at 4 May. The then Chief Executive of the circuit David Grace said it presented an opportunity to hold the event at the start of summer, and give motor racing fans "the ideal start" to the season. He noted the moving of dates did not involve additional risk of bad weather as the meteorological information the track accumulated showed the months of May and September were the driest of the year.[14] The 2002 event had better weather but was down on attendance. It was won by Team Green driver Dario Franchitti.[15] In an attempt to promote the race, Dale Coyne Racing formed what was described as an "all-England" team named Team St. George with British American Racing Formula One test driver and ASCAR Days of Thunder series competitor Darren Manning.[16] Some journalists believed there was a possibility the race would not be run because of the cancellation of the German 500 owing to financial difficulties.[17] Rockingham renegotiated its sanctioning fee from $4.2 million to $2.8 million, claiming the event's reputation had been damaged by the German 500's cancellation.[18]

In November 2002, Rockingham Motor Speedway's chief executive Ashley Power began talks with CART officials hoping to end the race's five-year contract early because of a poor trading environment and inclement weather conditions. He added the circuit would make a loss, contradicting a forecast made by the track's former chairman Peter Middleton in January.[19] This was due partially to the track financing the Team St. George operation although Rockingham sold sponsorship to regain some of its deficit.[4] On 25 November, it was announced that Rockingham Motor Speedway would not hold its scheduled 2003 race but CART and track personnel declared their intention to explore the possibility of holding similar events in future years.[20] It was revealed that the track did not have the resources to develop a marketing program and the time find a new title sponsor. The delay until 2004 would allow them to reach those targets.[21] The race helped Rockingham to become established on the world motor sport scene, and created a new attraction for British motor racing fans.[22] It was moved to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit for 2003 and was held under the name London Champ Car Trophy.[23]

Race winnersEdit

Year Date Driver Team Chassis Engine Race Distance Race Time Average Speed
(mph)
Report Ref
Laps Miles (km)
2001 22 September   Gil de Ferran Team Penske Reynard Honda 140* 207.06 (333.23) 1:20:59 153.408 Report [24]
2002 14 September   Dario Franchitti Team Green Lola Honda 211 312.069 (502.226) 1:58:44 157.682 Report [25]
  • 2001: The race was originally scheduled for 210 laps. But was rescheduled to 168 laps due to lack of practice. The race was then further shortened due to darkness.

BroadcastingEdit

United KingdomEdit

Highlights of both races were shown on the BBC Two sports programme Sunday Grandstand the day after they were held.[26][27]

Year Network Lap-by-lap Colour commentator(s) Pit reporters Ref
2001 BBC Two Leigh Diffey Mark Blundell N/A [26]
2002 BBC Two Charlie Cox Johnny Herbert N/A [27]

United StatesEdit

The 2001 race was due to be broadcast live on ESPN initially but was moved to ESPN2 and was aired via tape delay at 12:00 Eastern Daylight Time.[28]

Year Network Lap-by-lap Colour commentator(s) Pit reporters Ref
2001 ESPN2 Paul Page Parker Johnstone Gary Gerould [29]
2002 Speed Bob Varsha Tommy Kendall
Scott Pruett
Calvin Fish
Derek Daly
[30]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Rockingham aims to host CART race". Autosport. Haymarket Publications. 5 October 1999. Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  2. ^ "F1 Faces Competition from CART in Europe". Atlas F1. Haymarket Publications. 13 July 2000. Archived from the original on 15 February 2001. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  3. ^ "Rockingham". racingcircuits.info. Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b Stuart, Jay (2 December 2002). "England's Rockingham parts with CART". Sports Business Journal. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Oval racing comes to the UK!". Autosport. Haymarket Publications. 13 July 2000. Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Rockingham could drop CART race". Autosport. Haymarket Publications. 18 November 2002. Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  7. ^ Cipolloni, Mark (8 August 2001). "Rockingham ready for CART. Is CART ready for Rockingham?". AutoRacing1. Archived from the original on 18 August 2001. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  8. ^ White, Jeremy (10 August 2001). "M&B unveils ads for Rockingham". Campaign. p. 6. Retrieved 22 September 2016 – via General OneFile.
  9. ^ Fogarty, Mark (23 September 2001). "De Ferran breaks CART drought in soggy England". USA Today. Gannett Company. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 6 September 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Gil de Ferran captures CART's Rockingham 500". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Associated Press. 23 September 2001. Archived from the original on 6 September 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  11. ^ Benson, Andrew (22 September 2001). "Circuit escapes censure". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 29 December 2002. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  12. ^ "De Ferran Becomes Record-Tying 11th Different Winner With Pulse-Pounding First Victory of the Season at Rockingham 500". Champ Car. 22 September 2001. Archived from the original on 5 January 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  13. ^ "Rockingham boss promises improvements". Autosport. Haymarket Publications. 12 September 2002. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  14. ^ "One month to go to the 2002 Rockingham 500". crash.net. 12 August 2002. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  15. ^ Wade, Stephen (15 September 2002). "Franchitti blazes to Rockingham 500 title". Napa Valley Register. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Manning named Team St. George Rockingham driver". motorsport.com. 6 September 2002. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  17. ^ "Rockingham gets green light". BBC Sport. 17 July 2002. Archived from the original on 17 December 2003. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  18. ^ E. Whitaker, Sigur (2015). The Indy Car Wars: The 30-Year Fight for Control of American Open-Wheel Racing. McFarland & Company. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-7864-9832-1.
  19. ^ "Hands' Rockingham circuit races into problems". The Daily Telegraph. 17 November 2002. Archived from the original on 29 February 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  20. ^ "Rockingham Removed From 2003 Schedule". Championship Auto Racing Teams. 25 November 2002. Archived from the original on 12 December 2002. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  21. ^ "Rockingham gives up 2003 CART race". Hurriyet Daily News. Reuters. 28 November 2002. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  22. ^ "No CART at Rockingham in 2003". crash.net. 25 November 2002. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  23. ^ Allsop, Derick (5 May 2003). "American spectacle fails to win over British fans". The Independent. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  24. ^ "2001 Rockingham 500K". Racing-Reference. USA Today Sports Media Group. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  25. ^ "2002 Sure for Men Rockingham 500K". Racing-Reference. USA Today Sports Media Group. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  26. ^ a b "BBC sets speed trap". BBC Sport. 6 September 2001. Archived from the original on 2 March 2003. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  27. ^ a b "Herbert rocks up to Rockingham for the BBC". BBC Press Office. 6 September 2002. Archived from the original on 23 April 2003. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  28. ^ "CART Rockingham Friday Summary". Championship Auto Racing Teams. 21 September 2001. Archived from the original on 31 December 2002. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  29. ^ "CART 2001 TV Schedule". Champ Car. Archived from the original on 6 March 2001. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  30. ^ "2002 CART TV Schedule". Champ Car. 8 February 2002. Archived from the original on 22 March 2004. Retrieved 8 September 2016.

Coordinates: 52°30′54″N 0°39′27″W / 52.5150°N 0.6575°W / 52.5150; -0.6575