Newman/Haas Racing announced on Thursday that it will not be entering any cars in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
“The economic climate no longer enables Newman/Haas Racing to participate in open wheel racing at this time,” said Carl Haas, owner and co-founder of Newman/Haas Racing.
The news of the loss of one of its biggest and most iconic teams is a serious blow to the IndyCar series, and is especially shocking considering the renaissance in the team’s performance during 2011 – which saw the team’s lead driver Oriol Servia finish in fourth place in the championship, and James Hinchcliffe pip JR Hildebrand for the Rookie of the Year honours.
The news of Newman/Haas’ withdrawal will now leave both drivers without a confirmed ride. There was no immediate comment from either man, with Hinchcliffe simply posting a cryptic “Well, today started great…” on Twitter as the news started to break.
The team has been competing in US open wheel racing since it was formed by racing entrepreneur Carl Haas and the Hollywood movie star Paul Newman in 1983. It was the force behind Sebastien Bourdais’ dominant run of four consecutive Champ Car championships from 2004-2007, having already powered Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell and Christiano da Matta to series titles in 1984, 1991, 1993 and 2002 respectively.
Bourdais told the US SPEED motor racing cable channel that it was “really sad news for me … they are like family to me,” adding: “If you look at all the success we had together, and what they did last season with Oriol and James, you know they are some of the best anywhere.”
Other drivers for the team have included Christian Fittipaldi, Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira, Graham Rahal – and Justin Wilson, who claimed what proved to be the team’s last series win at Detroit in 2008; Oriol Servia came very close to winning the controversial final restart at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this season, but lost an appeal over the final classification. In total, the team boasts 107 race victories and 109 pole positions.
The team joined the unified IndyCar Series in 2008 but had struggled to recover its former championship-winning performance, with this season’s campaign spearheaded by Servia and Hinchcliffe the best showing they’ve made in recent years in IndyCar, with Servia even qualifying in third place for the centennial Indianapolis 500 in May to start the race from the front row.
It’s believed that hoped-for sponsorship for 2012 fell through, and with the team facing heavy costs to buy new chassis and engines for next year the management found no way to continue. 33 employees have now been told that they are out of work with immediate effect, with severance pay through to the end of the year