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ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

With one swipe of a pen, racing veteran Justin Wilson went from being a championship contender to a raw rookie.

Transformed from a guy who'd seen and done virtually everything there was to see and do in his league to a wide-eyed newcomer who hasn't even been around the block once.

EXPERIENCE

It's been a frustrating, humbling and exciting experience all at the same time.

"We knew it was going to be very difficult," Wilson said of the transition from Champ-Car to Indy Racing League. "I don't think the team's had a day off since the announcement of the merger."

After back-to-back second place finishes in the points standings, Wilson was a top dog in ChampCar. And with perennial champ Sebastien Bourdais trying his luck in F1, the 29-year-old Brit was all set to inherit the crown

"I finished second two years now, third the year before that, and the guy who keeps beating me is gone," grinned Wilson.

"I'm thinking, maybe there's a chance we can go out and win a championship. Then, at the last minute, the (merger) comes in and changes the whole game."

The merger between ChampCar and IRL was long-awaited and much needed. Only it wasn't so much a merger as ChampCar teams simply joining Indy.

Indy cars, Indy rules and Indy tracks.

All of it is brand new to Wilson and the other ex-Champ drivers, who didn't even know they were merging for certain until a month before the first race of the season.

"All year we've been going to the tracks not sure what to expect,"he said. "We tend to be a step behind. It makes life difficult. But you just have to react. It's very easy to get distracted and stamp up and down and say this isn't fair, but what are you going to do?

"I, as much as anyone, think the merger is good for the sport - it allows everyone to move ahead. You just have to make the most of your situation and try to make it better."

It's going to take a few years until the ChampCar teams can catch up. As it stands now, veteran IRL teams show up at a track, flick on their computers and know exactly what worked there last year. The ex-ChampCar teams show up and don't even know where to park their semi trailers.

"At the end of the day, because of the situation we're in, we can't compete with them," said Wilson. "We can have good weekends, but in terms of competing for the championship it's not going to happen."

Not yet.

The former ChampCar teams estimate they are five years and $30 million behind the IRL teams, who've had half a decade to learn their vehicles inside and out, and have years' worth of data from all the tracks.

Well, almost all the tracks. Edmonton marks the first race where the ChampCar guys have an information edge.

"It's one of the few tracks we know this season, so we're looking forward to the whole event," said Wilson, adding the set-up won't be exactly the same, since Champ cars and Indy cars are different, but they will at least have a pretty good starting point.

"We feel we won't be as much on the back foot as we have been all season. We know the track. Hopefully the setup will be close so we can work on fine-tuning our setup from the start.

"Coming here, we feel we have the advantage. It won't last for long; these other teams are very experienced and have a lot of smart people, they'll catch up quick.

"We just have to do everything we can to take full advantage."

TRYING SEASON

Even though it's been a trying season, he's still thrilled that open wheel racing is finally unified.

"It feels like everything means more," he said. "To have 27 cars on the track, when you come out for the formation before the race and all the cars are stacked there ... it really feels like it's a proper event.

"To have this many cars adds to the whole show.


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