Thursday March 22nd, 2001
CART driver Dario Franchitti still has his sights set on Formula One but first he wants to conquer America.
"I've always said, there's no secret of the fact that I'd like to do Formula One," the 27-year-old Honda Reynard driver said at Honda's British headquarters on Thursday.
Earlier, the Scot had become the first driver from the U.S. CART series to inspect the Rockingham Motor Speedway in central England which is nearing completion and is due to host a round of the championship on September 22.
"I'm out of contract at the end of this year, if it happens so be it. We'll see," he said of his Formula One plans while emphasising that his current focus was all CART.
"Right now I'm happy where I am, I'm enjoying my racing, I'm enjoying driving the car. To think about the future and ifs and buts is a waste of energy."
McLaren's David Coulthard is the only Scot in Formula One but Allan McNish is a test driver at Toyota, who make their debut in 2002 and are launching their first car in the south of France on Friday.
Franchitti, who had a Formula One test with Jaguar last year that came to nothing, sang the praises of McNish as a match for anyone on the Grand Prix grid.
"I'd love to see Allan in Formula One," he said. "I think he deserves it. He's a fantastic driver. I think he's one of the best. He's as good as anybody in Formula One right now.
"If we all got in together it would be great."
Franchitti has been linked with Jaguar again now that American Bobby Rahal, who also runs his own CART team, has taken over as Jaguar's team principal.
Rahal met Franchitti at the first round of the CART season in Mexico earlier this month and was quoted afterwards as saying that he rated the Scot highly and that his earlier test had not been a fair assessment of the driver.
He also said that if Franchitti were to move it would have to be at the end of this season.
"Bobby said some nice things and he elaborated on what happened at the test and why it didn't go the way we hoped," said Franchitti.
The Scot came close to winning the CART title in 1999 when he finished level on points with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya but lost out on the number of race wins.
"To win the ChampCar title would be tremendous. That's my goal, that's what I've been working towards in the four years I've been there. I'd like to go one better."
Franchitti said CART coming to Europe -- there is also a race scheduled for Germany -- would surprise a lot of people with the top speeds of 240 mph and the amount of overtaking on offer.
"When David Coulthard came over at the end of last season at Fontana he was just shocked," he said. "He just stood there with his mouth open half the time. He couldn't believe the speed."
Rockingham organisers said the oval could cater for a maximum of 70,000 seated spectators, with about 12,000 seats sold so far.