INDIANAPOLIS — Fans who attended an auction Tuesday at Champ Car headquarters relished the chance to buy genuine chassis and other racing hardware, but the sale made the league's demise hit home.
Champ Car merged with the Indy Racing League earlier this year, signaling the end of a 12-year split in open wheel racing. Some fans said the competition between leagues would have been good for the sport if done properly.
“It's a sad event,” said Ben Johnston, a collector. “I hate to see the demise of Champ Car, but I think there's definitely more interest in open wheel racing than there's been in recent years.”
The money went to creditors of the bankrupt racing series. Among the items for sale were five Champ Car chassis, four of which Johnston bought. He purchased the first for $47,000 — he said he paid too much for it — but he wants to use them in a series starting in 2010. After his purchases, he now has 20 chassis.
“The cars we run will have environmentally friendly motors,” he said. “I want to promote eco-friendly, alternate solutions.”
Chuck Haines, who runs Can-Am Cars Ltd., a collecting and restoring business in the St. Louis area that already has 45 cars, said the auction was rare.
“This kind of opportunity doesn't come very often,” he said. “Maybe once every five, 10, 20 years. I've never seen it happen on this scale.”
He left without any of the available chassis, though he bid on one of them. He said the prices of items were driven up by sentimental fans.
“I knew they'd be high, but I didn't expect it to this extent,” he said. “I thought certain things would go high. Things just got out of hand.”
Prices were even too much for one of the IRL teams. John O'Gara, team manager of Sarah Fisher racing, tried to buy a transporter trailer, but stopped bidding at $91,000. It sold for $92,000.