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The Way It Is/ Paul Tracy is unmoved and newly motivated with Forsythe in Champ Car

by Gordon Kirby
Champ Car fans can take heart this week because Paul Tracy is not leaving Forsythe or the Champ Car World Series. Rumors abounded in recent weeks that Tracy was headed to the IRL because Jerry Forsythe and his new partner Dan Pettit had asked the 39-year old Canadian to renegotiate his five-year agreement with Forsythe and accept a big pay cut.

But Tracy met with Forsythe last week and emerged from the meeting happier than he's been in a couple of years with the setup at Forsythe. Equally important to Tracy, the question of renegotiating his contract was never raised by Forsythe.

"The result of the meeting is that Kenny Siwieck is now in charge of my car and everything is squared away with me and Jerry," Tracy reported. "Everything is fine between us. I went into the meeting believing that Jerry was going to renegotiate my contract to a very low amount or I would leave. And the conversation never even went that way. It was never brought up."

Siwieck joined Forsythe-Pettit this winter as the team's new team manager. Siwieck worked for Newman/Haas for eighteen years and was most recently assistant team manager at Newman/Haas/Lanigan, calling the pitstop strategy on Sebastien Bourdais's championship-winning car.

Forsythe-Pettit's longtime general manager Neil Micklewright will not have any direct involvement in running Tracy's car this year. Micklewright will oversee the team's second and possibly third car with Siwieck bearing the responsibility for Tracy's car. The relationship between Micklewright and Tracy soured in recent years, last year in particular when neither had much good to say about each other. Everyone involved believes the new arrangement will be much healthier and more effective.

"Jerry's main interest was in asking me what I think has been going on with the team the last couple of years," Tracy said. "We went over a bunch of points that I had and he asked me what I think I need to win the championship. I told him there was obviously a conflict between me and Neil. I said I would prefer to have Kenny running my car and let him put together a team of engineers and crew guys who he believes have what it takes.

"I said to Jerry that when I came to the team in '03 you asked me what I needed and I said I needed Tony Cicale to engineer my car and I needed a Lola and a good group of people around Tony and I can win the championship. And Jerry did what I asked him to do and we won the championship. But then Tony left and since then, it's been dictated to me how we're going to play ball. It's got worse every year. I told Jerry I've had no input. So he listened and asked what I want."

Tracy told Forsythe he has complete confidence in Siwieck and the team's technical director Tom Brown who joined Forsythe from PKV near the end of last season and helped sort-out the team's cars for the year's final races .

"I said, you've got Kenny onboard and I have a lot of confidence in him," Tracy remarked. "I've known Kenny for eighteen years and we have a good relationship. I've also got a lot of confidence in Tom Brown and I have trust in their ability to put together a strong team for me. I believe in these guys and have a lot of time for them and I'm sure they can find the right guys so we can go out and win.

"So we talked about where we've been and what we want to do in the future," Tracy added. "The whole situation of renegotiating or terminating the contract was never even brought up. In the end we had a very good sit-down talk which resolved some differences of opinion. Everything is squared away and we're going racing and trying to win a championship."

Kenny Siwieck has worked as a race mechanic, crewman and team manager. He's worked in the sport for twenty-three years, including eighteen with Newman/Haas. Siwieck concurred with Tracy's take on last weekend's meeting with Forsythe.

"It was absolutely a very good meeting," Siwieck commented. "We've cleared the air and are committed and going forward. It was very frustrating dealing with all the misinformation that was going around. There was a lot of 'He said, she said,' stuff, and I said the only way we're going to resolve these issues is to sit down and have a face-to-face meeting, and that's what we did. We resolved any differences and we're moving forward with Paul."

Siwieck said Forsythe-Pettit's technical director Tom Brown and he will decide on specific job assignments for both of the team's cars in the next few weeks. Siwieck also confirmed that the team hopes to run three cars this year.

"Tom is the technical director here, of course, and he'll be overseeing the preparations of all the efforts of both cars here," Siwieck noted. "I am personally involved in the whole effort as well and we'll make direct personnel assignments as we get closer to going to Sebring. We want to make sure we have everybody in the right places so we can play to their strengths and do the best we can with what we've got, and hopefully there will be three cars.

"I'm almost fully-staffed for two cars," he added. "There's been lots of interest. I've had people walking in the door all day long looking to join us. I'm sixty percent preparing myself for a third car. I'm having to hold off on staffing for that effort right now, but we're hoping to run three cars."

Siwieck and Forsythe covered a lot of ground before Siwieck agreed to join the team. "It's a wonderful opportunity for me," Siwieck remarked. "The resources and personnel here are world-class and I'm very excited with the opportunity to show what this organization can do. I've had the good fortune to have Mr Forsythe provide me with this new challenge in my career and I've got his full support.

"Jerry is committed to the series and the team. He and I had long talks before we came to an agreement and made our commitments to each other. I feel very strongly about this team and the ability to bring this organization back to its winning ways. I've told everyone here that I am not going to judge what occured in the past. I can't change that. I want to move forward using the experience the team has and the experience I can bring to the organization. I have a really good feeling about our ability to succeed."

All this is good news for Champ Car because at this stage Oriol Servia at PKV Racing is the series' only officially-confirmed driver. The next big challenge for Champ Car is to make sure Justin Wilson, the series only other star, lands with either Newman/Haas/Lanigan or Forsythe-Pettit and isn't driven out of the series amid a contract dispute. Next week, I'll take a look at IRL and Champ Car's many problems and put forward what I believe is the only solution to both series' unenthusiastic futures.

Auto Racing ~ Gordon Kirby
Copyright 2008 ~ All Rights Reserved

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