CART adds race in Mexico in 2001

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The Independent Online

Championship Auto Racing Teams will be racing in Monterrey, Mexico next March.

The exact date is still to be determined, but CART said it has signed a five-year deal for the race.

The Mexican event raises the Champ Car schedule to 21 races, with another new event, in either Rockingham, England or the eastern part of Germany, expected to be announced later this season.

CART officials said in Long Beach, California on Friday that the race in Monterrey will be run on a 1.9-mile (3.05-kilometre) temporary road circuit to be built in the 172-acre (68.8-hectare) Fundidora Park near the center of the sprawling industrial city, which has 3 1/2 million inhabitants.

The race was organized by CART team owners U.E. "Pat" Patrick and Jerry Forsythe, who worked for more than a year with officials from the city of Monterrey and the state of Nuevo Leon to make it happen.

"Our goal is to build the most beautiful road course in the world and develop a premier racing event," said Patrick, one of the founders of CART.

CART currently has two Mexican drivers - Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain Jr Fernandez is very popular in Mexico and drew a crowd estimated at more than 50,000 for an exhibition last year in Monterrey in which he simply drove one of the Champ Cars along a city street.

CART, which was formed in 1979, raced in Mexico City in 1980 and 1981.

The race weekend will also include an Indy Lights support event.

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AMERICAN FLAVOR

Thanks to a couple of accidents - one on the racetrack and the other of the household variety - the number of American drivers in CART has doubled for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Joining remaining series regulars Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser are Bryan Herta and Memo Gidley.

Herta is temporarily replacing rookie driver Shinji Nakano, who was injured in a crash during testing in Milwaukee. Herta was supposed to have a full-time ride this year with Forsythe Championship Racing, but team owner Jerry Forsythe - who also owns a separate two-car team - withdrew Herta's entry in a franchise dispute with CART.

Gidley, who ran 10 races last year as a rookie, was considered for the ride with Walker Racing before Herta got the job. But, when Patrick Carpentier fell in his home and broke his wrist, Gidley got the call from Forsythe's Players team.

Herta is expected to replace Nakano for three races, while Gidley's deal is tentatively for two events.

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MILEAGE

The course winding around the Convention Center in downtown Long Beach has undergone its fifth distance change since CART began running here in 1984.

All of the changes have been made due to ongoing construction in the area along Long Beach harbor.

The latest version of the 11-turn track was officially measured Friday morning at 1.968 miles (3.166 kilometres) just before the Champ Cars went out for their first practice session.

The original version of the course was 1.67 miles (2.687 kilometres). That was cut to 1.59 miles (2.558 kilometres) in 1993, modified to 1.586 miles (2.551 kilometers) in 1998 and extended to 1.824 miles (2.934 kilometres) last year.

More changes are expected in the future as the area continues to grow.

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