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Wednesday, July 31

Herbert may run CART event

LONDON -- Johnny Herbert could be in the frame to take on the top names in American motor racing at England's Rockingham oval in September if plans for an all-British CART team get off the ground.

"We are talking about it, we'd love to have what could be almost a 'Team Saint George' (in the race)," Rockingham chief executive David Grace told Reuters.

Grace said Ford-owned engine manufacturers Cosworth and chassis builders Lola, both based in England, had been approached. Drivers had been sounded out and tests at Rockingham could take place next week.

Herbert, a popular race winner who has been driving sportscars since he retired from Formula One in 2000 and failed to secure a CART drive, is likely to figure on any shortlist of English drivers.

"He's obviously one and that would be fine for us," said Grace. "But there are a number of other names in the frame such as Darren Manning or Darren Turner."

Grace said he had discussed the idea with CART officials at the Vancouver race in Canada last weekend and they were 'very keen to make it happen'. But things had to move fast for the project to work.

"The next week is critical," he said.

"The chassis and cars are available, it's not like trying to drag a Williams or a Ferrari out of someone's garage. But getting the people together is the issue.

"Pulling it all together is quite complicated."

The September 14 race at Rockingham, which hosted a CART race for the first time last year, is the only European round of the U.S.-based championship after eastern Germany's Lausitzring EuroSpeedway filed for insolvency last month.

Scotland's Dario Franchitti, winner in Vancouver, is the main local draw for the race.

Grace said Rockingham 500 and CART organisers were hoping German fans would be able to convert their Lausitzring tickets into ones for the British venue.

"We are about to make an offer to all German fans, with CART's assistance," he said, expecting several thousand Germans to make the trip.

Rockingham and the German circuit would have shared the considerable financial overheads involved in bringing the CART championship to Europe and the burden now falls on the British venue.

Grace said CART organisers were helping out and actively seeking another European venue for 2003 to make the European leg worthwhile with two successive races.

"(CART president Chris) Pook says he would like to see another European round," he said. "Coming for one round is difficult so he's got to find another for 2003 so it makes sense. I think that he's looking at the options."

Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi, who drives for the Newman-Haas team, said the European exposure was important for a championship competing against the IRL series at home and also overshadowed in popularity by NASCAR.

"I'd love to see more races in Europe, it's a huge market for us and a chance to show what it's all about," he said.

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