So amongst the never ending commercial playlist of “Everything’s going to be alright”, “What?!? You think this is wrong?” and “It’s in our products and in our Culture” Did you notice it? Something new. Something different and something that did not involve Male enhancement or a really silly looking dance by someone who should have known better. There it was, a new member of the advertising playlist. During the last two races of the year a Mazda racing commercial made its debut in the commercial reel. I only saw it once in each race but it was there.
The commercial itself highlighted all the various forms of motorsport that Mazda was involved with, including ALMS and Formula Atlantics. It is very similar to the Racing spots that Honda used last year. But unlike that ad which made sense because Honda is an official sponsor of the IRL, Why Mazda? Why here and why now???
As mentioned before Mazda is involved with ALMS and Formula Atlantics. Heading into 2010, both series are in trouble. As the Australian A1GP debacle has shown – just because a series has published a schedule and issued some press reports, until the cars are lapping the track, you cannot assume that it will be business as usual next year.
Atlantics is a series with a proud tradition but was left as an orphan after ChampCar merged with the IRL in 2008. It has been tagging along as a support series for ALMS over the past two years. At the finale this year, the series was able to muster a whopping 10 entrants. Now Martin Pruett via The Other Side is reporting that the lead team in the series, Newman Wachs and its defending champion (a JP favorite) John Edwards, is likely to race elsewhere next year (quite possibly in IndyCar). If the series could find buyers for the swift chassis, the series would be over with a soft landing. At this point, a hard landing looks more likely.
ALMS in the prototype division is equally challenged. Fernandez racing is closing shop, Acura involvement is still in the balance, though most believe the die has been cast for Acura to pull the plug. Both developments leave Dyson Racing’s Mazdas as the only competitive P1/P2 entrants for next season that raced the majority of this season. The ALMS officials have announced a new Prototype Challenge class, at this point less than a handfull of these "spec" cars for the "Non Spec" series have been sold.
So with the two highest levels of its North American racing program in jeopardy, Mazda could be searching. Searching for a new dance partner to race with and Lights is available. The Firestone IndyLights Series powered by, well, no one. At this point I am just speculating and matchmaking, but, this seems to be a match made in heaven. Hopefully the pieces can be put into place.
Lights in 2010, IndyCar in 2012??? BB always seems to mention that there are multiple engine manufacturers involved with the new car effort in 2012, four tends to be the number most mentioned. Honda, Alfa and some sort of double counting of the VW/Audi/Porsche family are the players usually mentioned. Hopefully, the silent partner here is Mazda. Since the day Toyota left, I have thought they would be a nice addition and a good fit. I drove a Mazda at the time and thought it would be cool to be able to make the connection.
One thing that some of these developments do show, is that no matter how bad things seem to us right now. The IRL will answer the call and race for the foreseeable future. As other series wither away to financial oblivion, The 500 and the IRL live on. I spent the weekend in NYC and borrowing from a source there, perhaps the IRL can adapt from another inspiration – “Give us your tired, your weak, your poor of spirit and light of wallet. Because together, tomorrow we’ll race another day”