REPORT: IRL-Champ Car unification a done deal

While it has yet to be confirmed, emerging reports indicate that the decade-long split in American open-wheel racing could be drawing to a close after Champ Car and IRL organizers reportedly came to a deal Monday night. The deal would involve most of the big teams from the Champ Car World Series moving over to the Indy Racing League, with the latter adopting a number of Champ Car races into its calendar. Paul Tracy – who became the winningest driver in Champ Car with Sebastien Bourdais' departure for F1 – is set to take part in the IRL's first test session of the season at Homestead, Florida eight days from now, while Champ Car teams were advised to cease development on their Panoz chassis in anticipation of delivery of their new IRL cars.

Newman/Haas/Lanigan, PKV, Forsythe, Walker and Conquest are all expected to take advantage of Indy chief Tony George's offer for free cars and a $1.2m stipend to join the series, while several other teams, including Minardi Team USA, have reportedly yet to decide. The addition of the Champ Car teams to the 16 cars already in the IRL would make it the biggest field in years.

The conflict between the Champ Car race at Long Beach and the IRL event at Motegi, Japan, is reportedly being resolved, with Motegi possibly moving dates. Tony George, the prefect of IRL, is said to be considering adding several other Champ Car events – including Edmonton, Canada, and Surfer's Paradise, Australia – to bring the combined 2008 schedule up to 19 races, with other Champ Car venues such as Toronto and Mexico City under consideration for 2009. An official announcement could come as early as tomorrow when Champ Car chief Kevin Kalkhoven returns from England, and if confirmed, the move could stand to bring open-wheel racing in America back to the pinnacle.

[Sources: via Autosport and Winding Road]

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