TORONTO - The great experiment to have an all-Canadian team in the IZOD IndyCar series is over.
FAZZT Racing, which last year ran the entire IndyCar schedule with Montreal’s Alex Tagliani at the controls, has been sold to Sam Schmidt Motorsports, an American-owned team based in Indianapolis.
The team was formed prior to the 2010 IndyCar season with majority owner Andre Azzi — a Montreal entrepreneur — promising it would be a launching pad for young Canadian drivers who were aiming for IndyCar or even Formula One careers.
Azzi, however, admitted in an interview with the Toronto Sun mid-way through the season, that he had not anticipated the high costs associated with such a venture.
On the track the team, for a small one-car outfit, flourished with Tagliani finishing 13th in the series standings with a strong performance in the Indianapolis 500, qualifying fifth.
As for Tagliani, who had a small personal stake in the team, he is under contract for this season with sponsorship from Toronto-based Bowers & Wilkins.
“All I can say is that I will be driving the No. 77 car all this season and there are many beautiful things happening right now,” Tagliani said. “There was tremendous interest from (Schmidt) to jump into IndyCar and he contacted us.”
And it is a good deal for Schmidt, a former driver who was left a quadriplegic after a crash while testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando in 2000.
He gets an already assembled team and a shop full of equipment ready to race.
Schmidt will be able to start the 2011 season in St. Petersburg with virtually none of the expenses normally associated with a start-up team.
“This is a fantastic time for me, my family and everyone at Sam Schmidt Motorsports,” Schmidt said in a team release. “Though we competed in the IndyCar Series in 2001 and 2002, I can now admit we were naive in our understanding of what it took to be successful at the top level of open-wheel racing in the United States. Ten years later, I have a much better understanding of what it takes to go IndyCar racing.”
And with Bowers & Wilkins Schmidt gets a full season’s sponsorship deal and an experienced driver in Tagliani.
“Our support for Alex will transition with him to Sam Schmidt Motorsports,” Bowers & Wilkins chairman Joe Atkins said. “We are excited about this new relationship and look forward to supporting Sam and the team in any way we can.”