Carroll can step up to Formula 1
There may be more on the line than the A1GP championship when Adam Carroll takes his place for Team Ireland on the grid for the final round of races in the ‘World Cup of Motorsport' at Brands Hatch this weekend.
His priority, of course, is to win the title for Ireland but with the scheduled final round in Mexico City cancelled because of the swine flu outbreak, it may be a last opportunity for a while to showcase his talents at a moment when motor racing is poised to undergo major changes.
The ‘budget cap’ plan for Formula One is expected to open the door to new teams and one of those expressing a strong interest in joining the grand prix grid next season is Lola, a company with a long racing tradition and which is owned by Martin Birrane, a fellow Irishman and Carroll admirer.
There are others, too, including Aston Martin/Prodrive and Carroll admits he has been in discussions “with one or two” prospective teams.
“I'm looking at my options for next year,” he said. “This has been a great season, but I'm also looking at other opportunities and there may be options for me in F1, especially with new teams expected to come into the series.”
But Carroll has been here before, having spent the winter of 2005 testing with the BAR-Honda team, and is too experienced to put all his eggs in a fickle F1 basket.
He was in America recently, attending the Indycar race at Long Beach with Team Ireland investor Teddy Yip jnr, where he had talks with a number of team bosses including Michael Andretti, co-owner of top-ranked Andretti-Green Racing.
Marco Andretti drives for Andretti-Green but he has also been racing in A1GP for Team USA and his dad Michael has attended several rounds where he has seen Carroll notch up three victories, three further rostrum finishes, four pole positions and four fastest laps in the current campaign to take Team Ireland to second place in the series.
“We're winning, we're up there in every single race and they (Team USA) are struggling to get in the top 10, so they rate me very highly,” said Carroll. “There is definite interest in America.”
That interest is sure to heighten if Carroll can secure the A1GP title on Sunday. He is the first to admit Team Ireland, and specifically team principal Mark Gallagher, have been instrumental in resurrecting his flagging career.
He has always had the ability, just not the money or backing to make the leap from F3 and GP2 — in which he has raced and beaten the likes of Nelson Piquet, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock, Heikki Kovalainen and, yes, Lewis Hamilton, too — to F1.
It was fellow Ulsterman Gallagher who gave Carroll the opportunity to race without the pressures of chasing budgets — and even get paid to do it!
He has repaid Gallagher by bringing Team Ireland their first A1GP victories in four years and now they could be on the brink of becoming champions.
Switzerland, and the equally talented Neel Jani, lead on 88 points with Ireland on 86 and Portugal third on 82.
Each team can drop their worst score of the season which means that Team Ireland actually lead by two points from Switzerland, but it’s so tight that the championship will only be decided at the end of Sunday's feature race.