The 2020 Summer Olympics are speeding along in Tokyo, with seemingly every sport contested but auto racing.
For a variety of reasons, it’s unlikely the sport of four wheels will have a place in the Games, but the concept of racing while representing a nation isn’t new. In 2005, A1 Grand Prix launched as an international competition of nations billed as “the World Cup of Motorsports.” The series of single-make, open-wheel machines lasted four seasons.
France won the first season followed by Germany, Switzerland and Ireland as champions. Switzerland also finished second twice as did New Zealand. Team USA never finished higher than ninth.
James Hinchcliffe was the most active among current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, participating in 10 events over two seasons while driving for Canada as Robert Wickens did. Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal also participated in multiple events, with Rahal driving for the Lebanon team given his family descent. Will Power drove for his native Australia.
Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, JR Hildebrand, Bryan Herta and Buddy Rice were among the U.S. drivers. Jonathan Summerton was the most successful of the Americans, winning a race in Shanghai, China. Only one event was held in this country, March 12, 2006, at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
For fun, let’s consider how a modern-day competition could be held comprised largely of current NTT INDYCAR SERIES competitors. Forty-one drivers have competed in the series this season, and they represent 16 countries.
While this INDYCAR field is largely comprised of American drivers, the nation breakdown is reasonably balanced. Only a couple of teams would need to draw from either recent INDYCAR or Indy Lights competitors.
For this exercise, each of the following 15 nations gets two car-and-driver combinations. The U.S. team is comprised of the top two in points as the INDYCAR season currently stands.
Which teams are most likely to contend for medals?
Australia: Will Power, Ryan Briscoe
Brazil: Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan
Canada: James Hinchcliffe, Dalton Kellett
Colombia: Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Munoz
Denmark: Kevin Magnussen, Benjamin Pedersen
England: Jack Harvey, Max Chilton
France: Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais
Japan: Takuma Sato, Hideki Mutoh
Mexico: Pato O’Ward, Esteban Gutierrez
Netherlands: Rinus VeeKay, Robert Doornbos
New Zealand: Scott Dixon, Scott McLaughlin
Russia: Mikhail Aleshin, Nikita Lastochkin
Spain: Alex Palou, Fernando Alonso
Sweden: Marcus Ericsson, Felix Rosenqvist
United States: Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta