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DATE

News (chronologically)

3/8/03

New paint schemes for The Winston and Pepsi 400  


(L) The Dupont car will carry the special logo celebrating 100 year anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight. The car will run in the Winston in May. Amanda Wright-Lane and Jeff Gordon with the 100 Years of Aviation special car. (C) Kevin Harvick with the Snap On Tools paint scheme he will run in the Winston. (R) Tony Stewart with the Home Depot Declaration of Independence themed car that will run at Daytona on July 5th.

3/8/03

Crash ends Team Olive Garden test    Team Olive Garden’s initial Sebring test yesterday was cut short after just 20 laps here when a starter motor gear broke and cascaded into heavy damage to the clutch, gear- box casing and drive shaft. It was the case of the proverbial “two- dollar part” that will prevent the team from proceeding with a planned two days of testing over the weekend leading up to the classic American Le Mans Series endurance race. Team leader Gabriele Rafanelli took the trouble in stride, however. “I’m glad this wasn’t Thursday next week! While we managed only about 20 laps today, Emanuele Naspetti got down to the 2 minute 3 second range (lap time) and that was basically our rollout test for the new car. The boys are hard at work and a couple of the other teams here and those on the way are helping us to turn things around fast so that we expect to be running again on Monday. “The new car is very stable and I must say the Pirelli tires showed me some great potential. Their grip level was very high considering there was no rubber on the circuit and I was impressed with both the directional stability and the transient behavior. “I was down-shifting for turn two and bang… it broke and the pieces must have severed a rear brake line because instantly, I lost the rear brakes, locked the front and went straight into the tire wall. I have the Sebring circuit to thank because it is really safe. It could have been a lot worse if it had happened elsewhere.”

3/8/03

Villeneuve family feud   This Winnipeg Sun newspaper article says The Villeneuves have been accused of many things, but lacking an opinion has never been one of them. And Jacques Villeneuve, the uncle of the Formula One driver who shares the same name, is no different -- which may explain why they haven't talked to each other in years. "We haven't talked in six years. We do not share the same point of view of what racing should be," said Villeneuve, 49, who will be racing at the 41st annual Canadian Power Toboggan Championships in Beausejour this weekend. Meanwhile, his nephew -- the highest-paid driver on the F-1 circuit after German star Michael Schumacher -- will be trying to win the Australian Grand Prix. "Money is more important to (my nephew) than racing itself. For me and (his father) Gilles, it was the other way around," Villeneuve said yesterday. "Racing was always the most important thing and if money came with it, fine. "(My nephew) has the talent, there is no doubt there. "He's good at it because he was Gilles' son. But we definitely don't race for the same reasons."

3/8/03

The woes of open wheel racing   UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AR1, I think what people forget with this whole CART/IRL war was how small open wheel racing in the US was before CART came on the scene. Sure there was the 500, I remember my Dad and I would avoid the radio and TV all day long so we could watch the tape delay like it was live. But other than that, USAC did little to grow the sport. I remember races in Trenton and Phoenix, but that's about it. Once CART came on the scene they took over F1 venues Detroit and Long Beach, added races in Toronto and other cities, and grew open wheel to unseen heights in North America. All of which benefited the Indy 500.  By the early 90's CART had brought Chevy, Ford, Mercedes, Firestone, back to Indy. In 1993 CART even managed to bring the reigning world champion Nigel Mansell to CART.   Apparently those large paydays that CART was providing him every May wasn't enough, and he felt that owning the speedway gave him the right to hijack CART, even though The Hullman/George/USAC contingents lack of vision and ham fisted oversight had led the Patrick's, Penske's, and Gurney's to form CART in the fist place. He did this by first inviting NASCAR to the speedway which not only gave NASCAR a second marquee event to go along with Daytona, but diluted the Indy 500 as well. Now with a full bank account Tony George was ready to dictate terms to CART, and did that by reserving most of Indy's grid to his IRL. Not wanting to give up the keys to house they built the powers at CART split. This is when Tony George effectively killed the Indy 500. You see, IMS is really only a track with some grandstands, what made it great were the people and machines that raced there. Once you dumb down those parts of the equation, erase the links to the past, and the magic is gone. Yankee Stadium is the house that Ruth built, and is considered holly ground to many purest, but don't expect 50,000 people to fill the stands to watch an AA team in pinstripes. And that is what happened to the Indy 500. The place is still there, but the magic is long gone. Joshua Weiss, Chicago IL  3/8/03 - In this ESPN.RPM.com article, Robin Miller sums all the current situation in CART and the IRL.  He reaches the same conclusion just about everyone has reached for the past seven years, that the CART/IRL spilt has caused irrefutable damage to Indy Car Racing.  Open wheel racing has been irreparably damaged by this Civil War. It may never get back to where it was in 1995. The Indy 500 has become a one-day event. Neither series has enough owners or sponsors. Both series lie about attendance. The man on the street doesn't know Sam Hornish from Bruno Junqueira but he darn sure recognizes Kenny Wallace. People who say George won the war aren't paying attention. Because there's only been one winner in this demolition derby. NASCAR.  We bet the France family laughs with joy every time they make their daily bank deposit, thinking how their support of Tony George (and AJ Foyt's) to create the IRL helped kill off open wheel racing in the USA, leaving more fans/sponsors/money for NASCAR.

3/8/03
Porsche Junior Team

American Long Becomes 1st U.S. Team Member of UPS Porsche Junior Team   Twenty-one year-old Patrick Long, from Oakpark, CA, has been named to the UPS Porsche Junior Team - the first American driver ever to earn a spot on this prestigious squad. Long, who won the Barber Dodge Pro Series "Big Scholarship" in 2001 and competed in the British Formula Renault series this past year, was chosen by the Porsche factory test panel after two days of trials at Porsche's new test track in Leipzig, Germany, in November. Speed is important at these trials, but the Porsche jury - which included head of Porsche Motorsport Herbert Ampferer; Uwe Brettel, Head of Porsche One Make Cups; Helmut Greiner, Porsche Carrera Cup manager; and Porsche race engineers Owen Haye s and Roland Kussmaul along with UPS representatives - looks for a driver's attitude and mental approach as well. "Patrick Long was very systematic and calm during the test drive sessions. He asked all the right questions to get the information he needed, didn't make even a small blunder in his Porsche 911 test vehicle, and was continuously faster as the test progressed," said Kussmaul. Long's precise statements, his passion for the sport, and his professionalism make him an ideal UPS Junior Team member, according to Hayes. Since 1997, Porsche and its logistics partner UPS have been working together to find promising race drivers for the Porsche factory team. Graduates of the program include Lucas Luhr, current American Le Mans Series co-champion, and 2000 ALMS GT champion Dirk Mueller. The most recent Junior team members to race on the America scene are Germans Timo Bernhard - Le Mans GT and two-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner - and Marc Lieb, with Bernhard having a regular ride with Alex Job Racing in ALMS, and Lieb helping Alex Job as a third driver for Sebring and Petit Le Mans last year. Long was selected for the Red Bull American Formula I Driver Search last November before coming the Leipzig to test for Porsche. Besides Formula Dodge and Formula Renault, Long was also the British Formula Ford Zetec series runner up champion, and finish ed third in the Elf La Filiere Campus Series in France (1999). Starting in karts at the age of six, Long has won several national karting titles in the U.S. as well as internationally. As part of his first year as a UPS Porsche Junior Team members, Long will contest the entire German Porsche Carrera Cup championship (Luhr, Mueller, Bernhard and Lieb are all former champions) as well as selected Porsche Michelin Supercup events. Long will live in Germany during the race season.

3/8/03

Money woes for Octagon parent Interpublic   This Guardian article says, Shares in Interpublic have fallen to their lowest level in more than 10 years after the group reported a sharp drop in earnings and effectively put its motor sports business up for sale. Interpublic, the second-largest advertising group in the world, said it had hired advisers to come up with an "exit strategy" for Octagon Motor Sports, which owns the Brands Hatch racing track. The company said the poor performance of Octagon and weakness at its McCann-Erickson advertising agency dragged profits down by a hefty 79% in the fourth quarter of 2002. The news dragged Interpublic's shares tumbled to $7.50 in pre-trading - their lowest level since October 1991 - from a close of $8.59 on Thursday......The performance of Octagon reflects wider problems in the world of motor racing, particularly Formula 1, which has been hit by falling television audiences and internal disputes over rules changes. However, Octagon Motor Sports has also been hit by its failure to win approval for plans to extend the Brands Hatch circuit so that it can be used to stage the British Grand Prix. The company, which paid £120m in 1999 for Brands Hatch, last year denied reports that it planned to sell part of the circuit to a housing developer. David Bell, Interpublic's new chairman and chief executive, yesterday admitted his short honeymoon was over. "These results are unacceptable. There's clearly much to be done," he said. "We have major work ahead of us. The company has made strides in improving its balance sheet and liquidity. These will remain significant priorities for me, as will a commitment to achieving financial reliability and accountability, both at the holding company and within our operating units."

3/8/03

Latest F1 Hot News items  

Minardi Find Quali-Loophole
Rubython Now Heads To France
Sauber Run Light For Results
Schu Steals Pole From Rubens
Bernie Vows To Fight GPWC
Bosses Call Truce On Hostility
JV Hails Best-Ever BAR
Fighting-Fund Still Alive?
Berger Quits After Aussie Race
Even Williams Feel The Pinch
Qualifying Shorts 1: Australian GP
Qualifying Shorts 2: Australian GP
Qualifying Shorts 3: Australian GP
Qualifying Shorts 4: Australian GP

3/8/03

Spectacular but slow   Rookie Jaguar driver Antonio Pizzonia went off the track quite a bit this weekend in Australia, but none so spectacular as during qualifying where he put all four wheels on the grass through one of the turns yet never let up.  He ended up way down the grid in 18th.  Photo courtesy of Ford/Jaguar.

3/8/03

Schumacher crash   In Saturday morning practice, Michael Schumacher's Ferrari back-ended out of turn 15 and flew off the track through gravel into a safety wall. The left front wheel, suspension, and the nose was damaged, but the German continued on to the pits to get repairs underway. Photo courtesy of Ferrari

3/8/03

Trans-Am cancels Washington DC    The National Grand Prix of Washington D.C., scheduled for the weekend of June 28-29, has been cancelled. The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup was set to participate in the event, along with the headlining American Le Mans Series. The Trans-Am Series took part in the inaugural event in 2002, held at RFK Stadium, with Butch Leitzinger earning a hard-fought victory in his Chevrolet Corvette. He went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and finished second in the Drivers¹ Championship behind Boris Said. In wire service reports, Bobby Goldwater, the chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, said the event's promoter, National Grand Prix Holdings, failed to meet its obligations to the ALMS and the Commission. ³We are certainly disappointed with the news of the cancellation,² said John Clagett, executive director of the Trans-Am Series. ³The temporary circuit at RFK made for a wonderful venue in a tremendous market. Our competitors, our sponsors, suppliers, manufacturers and our fans were very much looking forward to this year¹s race. We¹re certainly hopeful the event returns in 2004. ³We¹re assessing our options with respect to adding another race date, as is the American Le Mans Series,² Clagett added. ³We¹ll do everything in our power to ensure our best interests are met.² The race weekend was "a victim of operational problems on behalf of the event organizer," said ALMS President Scott Atherton. "Having worked closely with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission for the past several months, I can honestly say that there is an unwavering commitment by all involved to retain this event and we will do everything in our collective power to see that this race returns to our schedule in the near future."

3/7/03

Trulli tops final practice  
Pos

Driver

Team

T

Time

Gap

1

Trulli

Renault

M

1:26.928

136.463 mph

2

Button

BAR

B

1:27.415

0.487

3

Alonso

Renault

M

1:27.424

0.496

4

M Schumacher

Ferrari

B

1:27.517

0.589

5

Barrichello

Ferrari

B

1:27.558

0.630

6

Montoya

WilliamsF1

M

1:27.700

0.772

7

R Schumacher

WilliamsF1

M

1:27.814

0.886

8

Heidfeld

Sauber

B

1:28.049

1.121

9

Coulthard

McLaren

M

1:28.090

1.162

10

da Matta

Toyota

M

1:28.177

1.249

11

Panis

Toyota

M

1:28.360

1.432

12

Webber

Jaguar

M

1:28.421

1.493

13

Villeneuve

BAR

B

1:28.509

1.581

14

Raikkonen

McLaren

M

1:28.564

1.636

15

Frentzen

Sauber

B

1:28.590

1.662

16

Fisichella

Jordan

B

1:28.619

1.691

17

Firman

Jordan

B

1:29.814

2.886

18

Pizzonia

Jaguar

M

1:30.551

3.623

19

Wilson

Minardi

B

1:30.857

3.929

20

Verstappen

Minardi

B

1:31.066

4.138

3/7/03

Jordan lands another sponsor   Jordan Grand Prix has signed a one-year sponsorship agreement with RE/MAX Europe, part of the RE/MAX International real estate network which lists and sells more real estate than any other network world-wide. The agreement sees the RE/MAX brand displayed on the Jordan Ford EJ13 cars commencing with this weekend's opening round of the 2003 Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, Australia. RE/MAX's arrival into Formula One is a natural development for the company which is title sponsor of the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) RE/MAX series of stock car racing and also principle sponsor of Team RE/MAX Racing in the USA. RE/MAX International's Chairman and Co-Founder Davy Lee Liniger has been a driver and primary team sponsor in the both the NASCAR and ARCA series. "I am absolutely delighted that RE/MAX has chosen Jordan Ford as its partner in order to extend its involvement in motor sport to include Formula One," said Eddie Jordan, Chief Executive of Jordan Grand Prix. "RE/MAX Europe is an impressive real estate network and the decision to utilize Formula One as a platform to promote the brand is a tremendous vote of confidence in the sport as well as in Jordan Ford. We are looking forward to working with them and to making sure that RE/MAX's involvement is as successful as possible." William Soteroff, President RE/MAX Europe, said, "We believe that Formula One is one of the best vehicles to reach customers throughout Europe and around the world. The quality and profile of the Jordan team is unquestioned and RE/MAX is delighted to be joining them this season. It's a very exciting development for us and we wish the team every success during the year."

3/7/03

Monterrey ticket sales update   UPDATE According to this El Norte article, ticket sales have slowed from previous years, but picked up slightly after Jourdain finished 2nd in St. Pete.  The novelty of the race has worn off somewhat.   3/7/03 - According to today's El Norte newspaper, 24,800 of 58,541 reserved seats have been sold for this years CART Champ Car race in Monterrey, Mexico.  As we have seen the past two years, there is normally a rush on tickets the last few weeks.  A sellout or near sellout is expected again.  Mark C.

3/7/03

CART stock hits record low   CART's stock price closed today at $2.95 per share, the lowest level ever.  The low for the day, another record, was $2.91.  The primary reason for the continued slide is probably the SPEED TV ratings.  The ratings are scaring away sponsors, which limits CART's ability to generate a positive balance sheet.  The decision to put less races on network TV this year instead of more (like the IRL did), may turn out to be extremely costly for CART.  The IRL's TV rating wasn't great, yet, 14 TIMES as many people watched the IRL event than watched the CART race because of network TV vs. cable/satellite.  The other things that CART has going against them is the lack of marketing support that puts them in the public eye outside of an event. We may have missed the CART versions, but in a span of basically a week, Firestone and Honda both had full two-page ads in the USA Today about their IRL programs - with driver pictures (Firestone), and a one-page Toyota win ad runs today featuring Dixon, De Ferran and Castroneves. Bernie may take over CART, but unless he finds a whole lot of sponsors to promote the series for him and buy more time on CBS, etc., CART will fall further and further behind in the U.S.  Bottom line - CART needs more sponsors who are willing to spend what was lost when Honda and Toyota left.

3/7/03

Button tops Saturday AM practice in Melbourne    Jenson Button set the fastest lap in the first 45-minute free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Saturday morning. The Englishman set a time of 1:27.415. Rubens Barrichello was second quickest in his Ferrari, his time of 1:27.614 exactly 0.2sec faster than Ralf Schumacher, whose Williams/BMW showed significant gains from yesterday’s form. Michael Schumacher was fourth, running just nine laps after taking the nose off his Ferrari F2002 in a minor brush with the wall. Renault's Jarno Trulli and McLaren's David Coulthard filled out the top six. The session was stopped with 10 minutes remaining by a massive accident involving Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was fortunate to emerge unhurt from a heavy impact that destroyed the left side of his McLaren/Mercedes MP4-17D. He was seventh fastest at the time of the accident. Raikkonen must now decide whether to wait for his race car to be repaired or switch to the spare car for the remainder of the weekend.

 Position/Driver Team Fastest Lap
1 Jenson Button BAR 1m27.415s
2 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1m27.614s
3 Ralf Schumacher Williams 1m27.814s
4 Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1m27.987s
5 Jarno Trulli Renault 1m28.037s
6 David Coulthard McLaren 1m28.090s
7 Juan Pablo Montoya Williams 1m28.120s
8 Fernando Alonso Renault 1m28.154s
9 Mark Webber Jaguar 1m28.421s
10 Jacques Villeneuve BAR 1m28.509s
11 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren 1m28.564s
12 Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber 1m29.170s
13 Olivier Panis Toyota 1m29.212s
14 Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan 1m29.343s
15 Cristiano da Matta Toyota 1m29.673s
16 Nick Heidfeld Sauber 1m29.674s
17 Ralph Firman Jordan 1m29.912s
18 Antonio Pizzonia Jaguar 1m30.551s
19 Justin Wilson Minardi 1m30.857s
20 Jos Verstappen Minardi

3/7/03

IRL drivers crash at Phoenix, walk away OK There were two accidents in the first two days of testing at Phoenix, both involving former winners at PIR. Two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., who won in 2001, hit the outside retaining wall between Turns 1 and 2 on March 6 in his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Sharp, who won in 1998 at Phoenix, hit the outside retaining wall in Turn 1 on March 7. Neither driver was hurt. “We don’t know what happened yet,” Sharp said. “It was very early in the corner, and the rear of the car just abruptly snapped around. Of course, I’m really disappointed. The Delphi team has been working so hard, and after just coming out of Miami with a decent finish of fifth place, we really had good momentum starting this test. “But I know this team will rebound, and I’m confident we’ll be in good shape when we return to Phoenix at the end of the month for the race.”  Preparations for the Purex Dial Indy 200 IRL IndyCar Series event at Phoenix International Raceway kicked into high gear as several top teams conducted private tests March 6-7, with more teams expected to test March 9. Teams are preparing for the Purex Dial Indy 200 on March 23 at the 1-mile desert oval, the next event on the IndyCar Series schedule. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. tested his No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone on March 6, while his teammate, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp, tested his No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone on March 7. “It was a good test,” Unser said. “We did have to cut it short because of a few problems, but it was definitely worthwhile to come out here and test. I learned a lot about the Corteco car, and I think we’ve really helped our race car. We went just as fast as we did in the Test in the West, and I think we’re still making improvements.” Unser, who hails from Albuquerque, N.M., and lives in Henderson, Nev., has finished second three times in Indy-style races at PIR. “I’m really looking forward to the race in Phoenix,” Unser said. “It’s like a hometown event for me.” Jaques Lazier, who finished sixth in 2002 at PIR, turned 230 laps in his No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone on March 6. “Testing at Phoenix went exceptionally well,” Lazier said. “We found out what the car likes. We are trying to learn what to do and what not to do. We have a real solid base. It’s the first time this year I’ve had a car that gave me confidence.”

3/7/03

ALMS cancels Mexico City and Washington DC    Due to numerous issues that have caused cancellations by both event promoters, American Le Mans Series events that were to be run in 2003 in Mexico City and Washington, D.C., will not be held, series officials have announced. The sports car endurance racing series was to have held a new event on April 5 at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, and June 29 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., in a return engagement of a successful event held in 2002. Series officials indicated that they are actively seeking replacement events to be held in 2003. “It is with deep regret that we have been forced to make this announcement,” said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series. “It is profoundly unfortunate that both these events have been simultaneously cancelled, but a variety of circumstances will prevent each event organizer from holding their races this year. “The removal of these two events from our schedule has immediate impact on our fans, race teams, sponsors, suppliers, manufacturers and media who have made plans to be at these races, and right now that is our primary concern,” he said. Atherton said that despite every effort to resolve the complex issues, the organizer of the Mexico City event, Grupo Automovilistico Nacional y Deportivo (GRAND), has informed IMSA and the American Le Mans Series that it will not conduct what was to have been a six-hour race in 2003. Atherton said he could not elaborate on the circumstances of the default, but did confirm that every effort was being made to secure future events with GRAND in Mexico. The event at RFK Stadium is promoted by National Grand Prix Holdings, LLC. “For this year, the race has become a victim of operational problems on behalf of the event organizer,” said Atherton. “Having worked closely with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission for the past several months, I can honestly say that there is an unwavering commitment by all involved to retain this event and we will do everything in our collective power to see that this race returns to our schedule in the near future,” said Atherton. Legal considerations surrounding the Washington, D.C., event prevented Atherton from providing more details. The American Le Mans Series begins its fifth season with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Mar. 12-15, and Atherton said that “the overall strength of the series will help to overcome the very disappointing loss of two of our events for 2003. “We have an incredible field of over 60 world-class sports cars set to compete at Sebring, and we expect a great event to open the season,” said Atherton. “We are focused on Sebring, but are also very aggressively conducting the business of filling the void we suddenly have on our season schedule. “In addition, we remain fully committed to our long-term plan of establishing a schedule that concentrates on date stability and successful events at the key sports car racing venues in North America,” he said. “This will not deter us from steering the course we have charted for the American Le Mans Series.”

3/7/03

Bentley's test in Sebring    The much-anticipated North American debut of the Bentley Speed 8 Prototype in next weekend's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring came even closer Friday when the two British-green racing machines made laps of the historic racing circuit in a private testing session. The Bentleys were joined by several other cars in an all-day session, including the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8, the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8, the Doran-Lista Dallara-MG and the Team Olive Garden Ferrari 550 Maranello. David Brabham, Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell, all former Formula One drivers, will share one of the Bentley's in the 12-hour endurance race on March 15, while Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello and Guy Smith will drive the other. The race will open the 2003 season for the American Le Mans Series.

3/7/03

Brands Hatch tickets going fast   Not that they have a lot of grandstands, but some are already sold out for Monday's May 5th CART London Trophy race at Brands Hatch, England.  If you desire a grandstand seat, you better get them soon, or you won't.  Mark C.

3/7/03

Evernham to build a Chevy  Car owner Ray Evernham plans to build a 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo in an effort to help his Dodge operation become more competitive. "I feel like we have good equipment, but we're getting ready to build a Chevy so we can see what the difference is," Evernham said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Through three races, Evernham's drivers, Jeremy Mayfield and Bill Elliott, are 24th and 31st in points, respectively. Mayfield has the only top-10 finish between them, an eighth at Daytona. "What you can do by looking at someone else's car is better know and understand what they have and then find out where your car is better or worse," Evernham said. "If you feel their nose is a little better, you work on front downforce. Everyone says, 'I'm maxed out.' But it seems you can find a little bit more if you work hard enough." Evernham said his organization built a General Motors engine to use as comparison before Dodge debuted in 2001 and hopes to find similar benefits in building the Chevrolet. ThatsRacin.com

3/7/03

Doran-Lista set for Sebring    Coming off a superb year in which it won the Super Bowl of endurance sports car racing in North America, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the Doran-Lista Racing team is all geared up for the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season opener, the prestigious Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway here next Saturday, March 15. Reigning Grand Am Rolex Series Sports Racing Prototype driver champion Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz., will be joined behind the wheel of the Doran-Lista Dallara MG #27 by Fredy Lienhard Sr. of Niederteufen, Switzerland and Eric van de Poele of St. Jean-Geest, Belgium, team owner Kevin Doran announced today. Fredy Lienhard Jr. originally planned to drive at Sebring, but he recently returned to Switzerland due to some previous obligations. van de Poele just got the call to substitute for him yesterday morning (Thursday). Theys won this race in 1998 in the Kevin Doran-prepared Momo Ferrari and is well established as the lead driver of the team, which is based in Lebanon, Ohio, near Cincinnati. van de Poele has two overall victories at Sebring: in 1996 in a Riley & Scott Olds and in 1995 in a Ferrari. He also won his class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998, 2001 and 2002. He has driven for many other top endurance sports car teams too, including Risi Competizione, Panoz, Bentley and Cadillac Northstar, and he's also driven in Formula 1. "First I truly thank Fredy [Lienhard Sr.] to put his trust in me. I know that Didier was behind this too, and I want to thank him very much too," van de Poele said. "I have competed against the Doran team for many years, and I've been beaten by them many times. It's an honor for me to join this top team, and I could not ask for a better opportunity with such a competitive package as we'll have at Sebring. I am very happy to finally join this family. "I believe the last time I drove with Didier Theys was at the 24 Hours of Spa in 1987, and we won the race," van de Poele noted. Getting the call to drive at the 11th hour doesn't faze van de Poele. It's happened before, with terrific results. "I'll always remember my first 12 Hours of Sebring, which was in 1995," he said. "I had a call a week before the race, just like this time, and incredibly we won the race." Even with former winners behind the wheel and calling the shots in the pits and garage area, Theys says the team has its work cut out for it at Sebring and the other ALMS races this year. He notes that the team's primary rivals have been competing in this series and on these tracks for several years, while the Doran-Lista team has been concentrating on the Grand Am Rolex Series. Many other teams also have much bigger budgets. "Sebring will be the toughest race of the season for us for sure," Theys said. "That's where the competition will be the strongest. There will be three or four Audis, which are good and reliable in long races. The Bentleys have the mechanical strength. The MGs have tested a lot in the last few months, especially the Dyson cars, which will be very strong. The Riley & Scotts have been testing a lot too, especially the Matthews car. "We need to have a perfect race, and by that I mean routine pit stops and a good pace for the drivers. That's the key to having a good result at the end."

3/7/03

Strategy the key with new F1 rules    Jacques Villeneuve said he liked the concept of each driver getting a single lap to determine Sunday's grid, but opposed the rule limiting fuel load. "The one lap, when you leave the pits cold and back in, I love it, it's great," said Villeneuve, who finished Friday's qualifying in third place. "The Friday formula is great but the Saturday formula where you have to qualify with different fuel from car to car is wrong. "There's less reasons to take risks in qualifying because the guy that goes faster than you might have less fuel than you. "Our car is quick but now we have to decide what our strategy is and whether we want to go low fuel and make sure we're near the front or go with race distance fuel and be somewhere near the back." But Minardi boss Paul Stoddart gave the new system the thumbs up, despite his team's poor showing on Friday, when they made up two of the last three places. "It was very, very exciting and that is what it was supposed to be," he said. "I think we have seen the closest thing we will see to qualifying in that all cars were running on undoubtedly low fuel and closest to their qualifying trim, whereas on Saturday strategy is going to play a large part. "It has got people talking about Formula One and they are going to be talking about it more on Saturday. "If we can get more people interested in Formula One we have achieved what we are looking to do, which was brighten it up a bit."

3/7/03

IRL to thrill fans  As part of the Indy Racing League’s enhanced pre-race festivities for the 2003 season, League officials announced March 7 a partnership with Chicago-based Klein Tools making the company’s dazzling Klein Tools Air Show the Official Air Show of the Indy Racing League and an integral part of the League’s entertainment for fans at select races. Premier aerobatics pilot Michael Mancuso, in association with Klein Tools, has performed at major air shows and other special events throughout North America. Flying the Klein Tools Extra 300L aerobatics aircraft, Mancuso, who has been an aerobatic pilot for more than 15 years, entertains fans with precision flying and thrilling routines. “This is an exciting opportunity for Klein Tools,” said Richard T. Klein Jr., Klein Tools chairman and CEO. “Michael Mancuso puts on an outstanding performance, and our air shows have been a tremendous success in the past. We are pleased to be able to partner with the IRL, and together we will provide even more excitement for the many IRL fans.” The Klein Tools Air Show is the newest addition to the Indy Racing League’s one-hour, pre-race program and is part of an overall strategy to elevate the entertainment and fan experience at all League events. The pre-race show includes the Schlatter two-man, precision skydive team flying a large American and IRL flag, military aircraft flyovers, the Firestone Firehawk mascot, pyrotechnics, and driver and dignitary introductions as part of the excitement leading up to the command “Start Your Engines.” “The Klein Tools Air Show and the entire pre-race entertainment spectacle is designed to provide fans with a fun prelude to the wheel-to-wheel excitement of Indy Racing League IndyCar Series racing,” said Bill Long, vice president of marketing, Indy Racing League.

3/7/03

Barber Dodge Pro Series TV schedule  The Barber Dodge Pro Series announced its 2003 television schedule today, with the ten-race championship to be shown exclusively on the Speed Channel, representing the second year of partnership between the Pro Series and Speed. The forty-minute races will be shown in an hour-long format on a tape-delayed basis and will feature weekend airings. The schedule for additional replays on Speed of each race are in the process of being finalized at this time. Barber Dodge officials were pleased to continue the relationship with Speed, as the channel provides a captive audience for the Pro Series. "Since the inception of our Pro Series in 1986, television has played an integral role introducing tomorrow's auto racing stars," said Steven Sewell, Vice-President of Motorsports Development for Skip Barber Racing. "The one-hour format on Speed Channel provides our drivers the opportunity to  better demonstrate their abilities before an audience of knowledgeable enthusiasts, who tune in to see some of the best open-wheel racing in North America."
Round 1, St. Petersburg Saturday, April 12; 12::00-1:00 p.m.
Round 2, Monterrey, Mexico Saturday, April 19; 12::00-1:00 p.m.
Round 3, Laguna Seca Raceway Sunday, July 6; 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Round 4, Portland International Raceway Sunday, July 20; 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Round 5, Cleveland Burke-Lakefront Airport Saturday, August 9; 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Round 6, Exhibition Place Circuit, Toronto Saturday, August 16;1:00-2:00 p.m.
Round 7, Concord Pacific Place Circuit, Vancouver Saturday, August 30; 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Round 8, Road America Saturday, September 6; 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Round 9, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Sunday, September 14; 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Round 10, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal Sunday, October 5; 3:00-4:00 p.m. 

3/7/03

Gonzalo Rodriguez trial news  UPDATE You might be interested in reading the pre-trial analysis of this lawsuit done by our Mark Cipolloni back in November of 2000, and a follow-up in November of 2001.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out.  3/7/03 - According to this Monterey County Herald newspaper article, testimony resumes Monday in the wrongful-death lawsuit brought by relatives of an Uruguayan race car driver killed in a crash at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September 1999. The family of Gonzalo Rodriguez is suing the the Championship Auto Racing Team, which sponsored the race. Rodriguez, 27, died when his car skidded off the track, hurtled through a gravel trap, slammed into a concrete barrier and then went airborne, landing upside down. The $25 million lawsuit, filed in 2000 by Rodriguez's parents, Ruben Rodriguez Saldias and Lillian Bongol-Rodriguez, alleges that the gravel pit was too small to slow a car leaving the track and that the barriers provided insufficient protection. Antonio Ferrari, a member of the Ferrari car family [Editor's Note: as far as we know he is NOT related to Enzo Ferrari's family.  In Italy, Ferrari is as widely used as Jones and Smith in the USA] and a racing team owner, testified Tuesday that too few tires were used to slow Rodriguez's car as it headed for the concrete barrier and that the tires present were of poor quality. Ferrari also testified that netting was needed above the concrete barrier to prevent Rodriguez's car from heading into its fatal plunge. CART will present its defense next week.

3/7/03

More Bernie threats    Bernie Ecclestone is threatening to take legal action against the automobile manufacturers if they continue to destabilize Formula 1. The commercial boss of Grand Prix racing told The Financial Times that "writs will fall like leaves in autumn" unless the car companies stop disrupting the sport. "Everyone who is a party to it intends to respect it until it is unanimously agreed to be varied," says McLaren's Ron Dennis, who is heavily involved with the manufacturers' rival series, the GPWC. "A contract is something that you sign and then you honor it with your word. You can whine and cry about it but until 2007 or by unanimous agreement it will not change."

3/7/03

Fan-fest for IRL fans  Indy Racing League fans unable to attend the Purex/Indy 200 March 21-23 at Phoenix International Raceway are in luck. The Tempe Speedfest, a non-racing festival designed to bring IRL drivers to the fans, is scheduled March 20 at Tempe Beach Park. The annual event, previously held at the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix, is from 5 to 9:30 p.m. and includes a 90-minute autograph session. There also are interactive games and displays, but the best news is there's no admission charge. Among the drivers appearing for a 6:30-8 p.m. autograph session are defending champion Helio Castroneves, who also is the two-time defending Indianapolis 500 winner, Al Unser Jr. and Kenny Brack. PIR President Bryan Sperber said there will be giveaways, a silent auction and live music. Arizona Republic

3/7/03

A "true" road course in Arizona   This Arizona Republic article talks about the new 2.23 mile road course being built in Arizona.  Arizona Motorsports Park, a 155-acre Litchfield Park racing facility still being completed, is drawing raves from amateur racers throughout the Valley. Dan Webb, Arizona regional director for the National Auto Sport Association, toured the site recently and immediately began counting the days when the first wheel could be put down on the racer-friendly, 16-turn, 2.23-mile road course. "It's pretty unbelievable," said Webb, whose organization already has scheduled a two-day event there next weekend. "Nothing against the other two facilities (Firebird International Raceway Park and Phoenix International Raceway), but this is a true road course. It's very, very nice.......The course's longest straightaway is about 1,700 feet, but there also are plenty of intriguing turns with double and even triple apex corners. "It's very technical," Webb said. "The straights have enough length to allow for a generous amount of acceleration, and there also are four generous braking zones." Naughton also said he expects several CART Champ Car teams to use the road course for testing. CART owner/driver Adrian Fernandez of Paradise Valley already has toured the track, and, like Webb, came away impressed. "It's fantastic," Fernandez said. "There was only one concern we had and that was with a little dip at the end of the back straight, but they said they'd fix it. "It's got a lot of good corners and some are the likes we see at tracks on (the CART) schedule. Some are fast, some are slow. That's good for us to test. For SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) racers, I think it's good because there's quite a few opportunities for passing."

3/7/03

Berger "we are too far behind"    Gerhard Berger states after first round qualifying: “I found the first qualifying session very exciting,” added Gerhard Berger. “Due to the new rules a completely new picture comes up after all the years of routine. But I think everybody will get used to the new scenario quickly. It is great if one can concentrate on observing a car for a full lap. The procedure went well, there was nothing wrong with it except our lap times. Ferrari and McLaren were performing as expected, BAR was clearly better. And we are where we have been in the early tests, too far behind.”

3/7/03
IROC

Ron Capps to get IROC shot?    Capps, fresh off a national event victory near Phoenix two weeks ago, will get to try. The Carlsbad resident, who has 14 career victories in a career that dates back to 1995, has been invited to test an International Race of Champions car before IROC events at Talladega (Ala.) Speedway in April and at Chicagoland Speedway in July. The practice could lead to Capps becoming one of the 12 selected drivers to compete in the four-race series next season.  IROC, which began in 1974, features drivers from various forms of motor sports in similarly prepared Pontiac Firebirds. The part-time series has included a who's who of motorsports over the past 30 years, including the likes of Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt. No drag racer has competed in the series, which makes stops at Daytona, Talladega, Chicagoland and Indianapolis. "It's pretty cool,' said Capps, who earlier this year drove an open- wheel midget car during the Chili Bowl Race of Champions in Tulsa, Okla. "Nobody in drag racing has ever been invited, so just to test at Talladega is pretty exciting. I hope I do good. I'm just excited to (drive at Talladega).' Capps is well aware of the importance of including an NHRA competitor to the series, which now consists of most NASCAR Winston Cup and Indy Racing League competitors..

3/7/03

GP of the Americas secures three associate sponsors    The Grand Prix Americas, Downtown Miami’s premier auto street race, has secured three returning partners to this year’s event from the inaugural year, announced Chuck M. Martinez, president and general manager, Grand Prix Americas. The new partners are the InterContinental Miami, Mumm Champagne and Bridgestone Tires. InterContinental Miami and Mumm Champagne both return from the inaugural Blast by the Bay, and have agreed to two-year contracts. The InterContinental Miami will be the official hotel of the Grand Prix Americas, and Mumm Champagne is the exclusive champagne partner of the race. Bridgestone Tires has signed a one year contract as the official tire of the Grand Prix Americas.

3/7/03

Bodine gets restraint order  NASCAR driver and Davidson, NC, resident Brett Bodine won a court order to shield him from his estranged wife after telling authorities she hit him and threatened to ruin him financially. The driver's action comes nearly two months after his wife, Diane Bodine, filed for divorce. Diane Bodine also sued a Georgia woman she accuses of seducing her husband and ruining her marriage. See the full story at ThatsRacin.com/Charlotte Observer.

3/7/03

Pook speaks    This LA Times article says, Promoters are usually full of hyperbole, but you still have to listen when Chris Pook, founder of the Long Beach Grand Prix and now president of CART, speaks. Among his comments during a visit to The Times this week:
* "Sebastien Bourdais, the French kid who drives for Newman-Haas, has more potential than Juan Montoya had when he came to this country." Montoya won the CART championship in 1999 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2000.
* "The St. Petersburg Grand Prix could become larger than Long Beach, the way the people in Florida responded to our race there [two weeks ago]." Long Beach has been CART's No. 1 attraction for nearly 20 years.
* "The Indy Racing League padded attendance at last week's Homestead race with free tickets and alienated the folks in Florida who paid for their tickets." A practice they perhaps learned from Pook, who used to give away Friday-only tickets at Long Beach.

3/7/03

Berger steps down immediately    Gerhard Berger has decided to step down as BMW F1 boss immediately rather than waiting until the end of September as originally announced.

3/7/03

Secret meeting in Geneva    This Grandprix.com article says, the major players behind the scenes in F1 met in Geneva on Wednesday and the word on the street was that they met to discuss the future of the sport. With the spotlight on the F1 circus in Melbourne, the meeting was not spotted but our spies report that Luca di Montezemolo, Jurgen Hubbert of Mercedes-Benz, Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley were all present at the meeting although there is no word on whether or not any agreements were reached.  [Editor's Note: Was Chris Pook and there too?  Was the discussion also about CART?  Hmm....]

3/7/03

Sex and cash fuel F1    This Daily Record article talks about the women who clamor to get close to the F1 drivers.  With hi-tech cars zooming past at 200mph, scantily-clad models everywhere and private jets parked around the corner, the world of Formula One has always been one of the most glamorous lifestyles on the planet. Whether it's the millionaire row events along Monte Carlo harbor or the all- night parties in Japan, the F1 stars have always known how to turn every leg of the tour into a weekend of scandal and gossip. Scottish glamour model Leah Newman, 21, works for the Jordan racing team and says: "A lot of the drivers are really good-looking and it's great to work with all these gorgeous guys, but most interest is the other way. "I can't mention any names, but I've been asked out and chatted up by some drivers. I've always said no, although it is flattering." Even clean-cut Scottish driver David Coulthard, who has had a string of gorgeous girls on his arm, once said: "Sex before a race? Why not - sex makes you faster and it's great to have a sexy girlfriend."

3/7/03

Western Union signs with Williams    The BMW WilliamsF1 Team have today unveiled a new sponsorship deal with Western Union, with the latter recognizing the significant global marketing platform that Formula One™ can provide. Western Union provide fast, safe and secure money transfer for individuals and businesses across the world, and have acquired 151,000 customers to date. Their logo will be displayed on the FW25 chassis from the Australian Grand Prix onwards, whilst Juan Pablo Montoya - who has a substantial following in South America - will endorse the services provided by the company in one of it's key business regions. Both parties feel the partnership will be an extremely productive one, and can offer rewards to both sides. "Western Union is delighted to join a strong portfolio of BMW WilliamsF1 Team sponsors," William Thomas, President of Western Union, remarked. "We are excited to be involved in a truly global sports program that reflects the worldwide footprint of our business, and with a team whose characteristics of speed, performance and safety reflect those of Western Union's business." "I am delighted to be welcoming such an established and prestigious name to the team, and I have every confidence that the strength of the B2B relationships built within the Formula One™ paddock will provide significant business opportunities for Western Union," added Frank Williams, Team Principal of the BMW Williams F1 Team. "I am also pleased that Western Union's confidence in Formula One™ is another strong endorsement for the sport in an improving sponsorship market place."

3/7/03

Bernie will do whatever it takes    Bernie Ecclestone has said he is willing to make further changes to F1, in addition to the host of new regulations that Max Mosley has introduced, to make F1 more exciting. "There's nothing to stop us making further changes," he says in an interview with the Financial Times, "if the ones introduced do not have the desired effect. "They are there for the season, but, having said that, what's the good if I'm taking tablets to cure whatever and they're not working, I can take different tablets, I don't have to keep taking the same ones because I've got the boxful." "But until we get four or five competitive teams, there's not going to be a monumental change." "We're like a big car showroom," he says. "And these people wanted to come and put their cars in the showroom. Now they're inside the showroom, they want to break all the glass so nobody can see. They should be building the brand. "It's having a terrible effect already," he continues, "I've had one big sponsor say to me 'we're sorry Mr Ecclestone, we haven't told the team yet but we are not going to continue in F1 because of the uncertainties'." "I suppose when I am no longer here, you'll have a completely different structure and a different form of management," he says. "And maybe it'll be better. Provided it's not going to be a whole load of accountants and lawyers, it'll probably work. But it's a little bit like the rule changes, you won't know until it's happened. "Certainly, I wouldn't want to leave things as they currently are. I'd like to leave when Formula One is back where it was. On the top."

3/7/03

Boss praises Villeneuve cool    David Richards has praised his lead BAR driver Jacques Villeneuve even though their strained relationship continues at Albert Park. The pair were at loggerheads for much of last year in the wake of Craig Pollock's firing and Richards' desire to ship the expensive pilot off to CART racing. But after the first shoot-out qualifying session of 2003 in which Jacques beat even Michael Schumacher to third place, Richards said: 'Jacques got out of the car and said: 'It's easy - I could have found another half a second.' Villeneuve and new arrival (and Richards favorite) Jenson Button are also building a relationship based on hostility. But Richards said JV's determination to see off the young Englishman spurred him on during his flying lap at approximately 2.30pm this afternoon. 'He was wound up by Jenson's time and went out to beat it,' David Richards adds. 'Certain people react well under pressure and Jacques is very calm - he needs that tension.'

3/7/03

Roman Advice For Boy Button   Jacques Villeneuve may have the bigger mouth, but one of Jenson Button's former team-mates has warned the young Englishman to do his talking on the track. Rated Roman Giancarlo Fisichella thrashed Jenson when he drove a Benetton in 2001, but now heads up the Jordan pairing while Button finds a home at BAR. But as Villeneuve - a former world champion - steps up a war of rhetoric with a Jenson Button he is yet to respect, Fisichella warns the 23-year-old of the importance to put JV in his place. 'Jenson is a very nice guy, I had a good time with him,' said Giancarlo at the Albert Park circuit. 'I heard they are already fighting, which is not good, especially for the team. Jacques is sometimes quite arrogant with some other drivers, he's a character. 'Jenson is much quieter - but I think it will only be a problem for him if he is not quicker on the circuit. This would be Jenson's best answer.'

3/7/03

F1 Word In The Paddock   Both Bridgestone and Michelin were towing chirpy lines after the first-ever shoot-out qualifying challenge at Albert Park today. Bridgestone-shod runners took four of the top six places, Rubens Barrichello leading the pack which also included the hard-charging BAR of Jacques Villeneuve. Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager of Bridgestone, said: 'I am generally very pleased with our performance so far. Our single lap qualifying performance in particular was encouraging.' But Michelin colleague Pierre Dupasquier was also smiling as the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen pushed the pace hard to go second quickest with French boots. Observers say the new Michelin tyres are immediately ready for hot-lap action after its former tendency was to require some 15 laps of 'rubbering-in'. 'It has been a very interesting day,' said the Frenchman. 'Generally I think we are looking good,' he says. 'Our tires are suited to the track and have no problem with consistency.' Meanwhile, chief Renault engineer Pat Symonds added his thumbs-up to the new rules allowing Friday testing. Renault is one of four teams, including Minardi, Jordan and Jaguar, to take up the option of limiting in-season development for more running time at the GP circuits. 'We were able to track the circuit conditions and also to analyze some tire work,' he said as the first such session took place in Melbourne this morning. Allan McNish, former Toyota racer, made the trip to Australia especially to fill the third R23 seat at Albert Park, and will do the same at every other grand prix circuit. 'Overall, I think we accomplished most of our program, which focused mainly on tire durability,' said the Scot.

3/7/03
Industry News

Ford fights back bankruptcy forecast    According to this UK Telegraph article, Ford is fighting gloomy predictions that it could be forced into bankruptcy, weighed down by debts of $150 billion (£94 billion), stumbling sales and a sluggish world economy. A scathing examination of the motor icon's balance sheet by the analyst famed for predicting that WorldCom and Enron would go bust long before Wall Street realized those companies were doomed puts Ford's future in doubt. Sean Egan, founder of the Egan-Jones ratings agency, offers eight reasons why Ford could be in serious trouble including huge pension fund liabilities and a lack of cash to fund borrowings. "If it didn't have the name Ford, it would be in bankruptcy right now," says Mr Egan.........Mainstream rating agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's rate Ford's debt at a little above junk level, though these firms rely for income on issuers of debt. Ford is the largest debt issuer in the US.

3/7/03

Latest F1 Hot News items   

Schu: Don't Call Me Fangio
Rubens Steals Friday Moment
New F1 Venture Hits Snag
Thumbs-Up For Friday Testing
Mixed Fortune For BAR Stars
No Chance Of Minardi Pole
New Sponsors For F1 Teams
Jacques And Jenson: 'We're Okay'
Schumacher: Not The Happiest
Problems For Sauber Duo
Friday Bits From Pitlane
Aussie Misery For Williams
Australian GP: Quick Quotes
Schu Expects Tough New Season

3/7/03

Top kart driver to get Barber Dodge ride  “Stars of Tomorrow” announced today the initial Champ Car Ladder System award that will be a part of the 2003 Stars national awards structure. Champ Car, through the Skip Barber Racing program, will award a full season in the seven-race Barber Formula Dodge National Championship (FDNC) presented by RACER to a top karter in the ICC or ICA classes for the Stars series in 2003, chosen by a panel of judges. This award program has a value of $45,000 in 2004. “The FDNC is a key step in the development of our future racing standouts,” stated Robert Dole, Champ Car Ladder Series Manager. “Champ Car recognizes that the best candidates for the FDNC come from the Stars of Tomorrow ranks. This award reflects the synergy between the Champ Car, Skip Barber, and Stars organizations.” Open-wheel legend Bobby Rahal, a Stars of Tomorrow owner, realizes the value of kart racing and the Champ Car Ladder System. Rahal’s son Graham currently competes in the karting ranks while former karter Danica Patrick will drive Team Rahal’s Argent Toyota Atlantic car in 2003. “These programs have already produced drivers that have made it Champ Cars,” said Rahal. “From Stars through the Barber ranks and Atlantic, Champ Car provides the only true ladder system to prepare racers for big-time open wheel competition. Stars values the support given by Champ Car and Skip Barber to this vital kart racing program.” “We are very pleased to have Champ Car and Skip Barber step forward to support the Stars program,” Said Bryan Herta, Stars founder. “For those who wish to move the proverbial ladder, there is no better place than Stars.”

3/7/03

Jag boss Marc Gilliam talks about Friday woes    “Today was very busy for us in terms of on-track activity. We started the morning by running through our planned testing program, with particular emphasis on tire comparisons and general set-up. Mark completed 40 laps with no issues, while Antonio managed 16 laps. This was down to the fact that Mark was undertaking laps in the T-car as well as his race car. We then used the Free Practice to focus our efforts on finding an optimum set-up for qualifying and in Antonio’s case, help him better understand the nature and demands of a circuit he has never raced on. The new one-lap qualifying certainly lived up to the spectacle that it promised but it’s fair to say that our car was better than the drivers today. Both Mark and Antonio made mistakes during their qualifying runs and while we are disappointed not to have done better, we walk away encouraged and pleased with the performance of the Jaguar R4. With another qualifying session tomorrow and the race on Sunday, it is futile to read too much into today’s performance, albeit the honest admission of our drivers mistakes.”

3/7/03

Kyle Petty in fundraiser bike ride  Kyle Petty, known for racing around NASCAR tracks at high speeds for big bucks, took a much shorter, but equally exciting ride today — for $1. Victory Motorcycles teamed up with Petty during Daytona Bike Week to kick off the Victory Challenge — a test-ride program that encourages people across the U.S. to visit a Victory dealership or demo-ride location and raise money for kids by taking a test ride on a Victory motorcycle. The program, which runs from March 5 through June 29, donates $1 for each test ride taken on a Victory motorcycle. Petty took the inaugural ride on a new 2003 Victory Vegas at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona to raise the first dollar. After the ride, he encouraged 50,000 people to take the Victory Challenge and ride a bike for tykes. “The Victory Challenge is a great way for people across the U.S to get involved and help raise money for kids simply by taking a test-ride on a Victory Motorcycle,” said Petty. “The goal of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America is to provide money for sick and hospitalized children, and thanks to programs like the Victory Challenge, we are able to make a real difference in their lives.” Victory issued the Victory Challenge as part of its increased commitment to the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. For the past five years, Victory Motorcycles has been a sponsor of the charity ride, which takes 250 motorcycle riders cross country to raise money for kids and the Victory Junction Gang Camp.  In addition to participating at one of Victory’s 300 dealerships across the country, people can take the Victory Challenge at demo-ride locations during Daytona Bike Week, through March 9; Laughlin Bike Week in Laughlin, Nev., April 24-May 8; Myrtle Beach Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, S.C., May 13-18; and at Americade in Lake George, N.Y., June 2-7.“Victory has a tradition of supporting charitable causes that assist children in need,” said Mark Blackwell, general manager of Victory Motorcycles. “The Victory Challenge is a great way to expand that mission, because it allows our customers and owners to feel personally connected to our charitable efforts and make a contribution of their own.” The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America is an annual motorcycle ride that raises money for children’s hospitals and the Victory Junction Gang Camp — a summer camp for children battling chronic and life-threatening illnesses that Petty and his wife, Pattie, created in memory of their son Adam. Each year, more than 250 motorcyclists from around the U.S. join Petty on the cross-country trip and have raised more then $3 million dollars to date. This year, the ride will take place from June 22 through June 29. Along the way, Petty and the bikers will stop to visit with motorcycle and NASCAR fans across the U.S. and spread the word about the ride and the mission to raise money for children’s hospitals and the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

3/7/03

Final Vegas rating 6.9  Last Sunday's Winston Cup race from Las Vegas came in with a final  6.9 rating and 15 share, easily making it the weekend's most watched sports program for the third week in a row, with 11.3 million viewers. These numbers represent 7,368,000 households.

3/7/03

Homestead final rating holds at 1.8  The Indy Racing League opener from Miami on ABC got final numbers of a 1.8 rating and a 5 share. The race was watched by an average of 1,908,000 households and finished in the 9th spot among over-the-air sports broadcasts for the weekend. The 1.8 rating represents a 20 percent increase over last year's 1.5 rating.

3/6/03

Barrichello tops Friday Qualifying  

 Position/Driver Team Fastest Lap
1 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1m26.372s
2 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren 1m26.551s
3 Jacques Villeneuve BAR 1m26.832s
4 Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1m27.103s
5 Jenson Button BAR 1m27.159s
6 David Coulthard McLaren 1m27.242s
7 Fernando Alonso Renault 1m27.255s
8 Olivier Panis Toyota 1m27.352s
9 Jarno Trulli Renault 1m27.411s
10 Juan Pablo Montoya Williams 1m27.450s
11 Cristiano da Matta Toyota 1m27.478s
12 Nick Heidfeld Sauber 1m27.510s
13 Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber 1m27.563s
14 Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan 1m27.633s
15 Mark Webber Jaguar 1m27.675s
16 Ralf Schumacher Williams 1m28.266s
17 Ralph Firman Jordan 1m29.977s
18 Jos Verstappen Minardi 1m30.053s
19 Antonio Pizzonia Jaguar 1m30.092s
20 Justin Wilson Minardi 1m30.479s

3/6/03

McLaren leads opening practice in Australia  

 Pos. Name Country Team Time
1 K. Räikkönen Finland McLaren 1.26.509
2 D. Coulthard Scotland McLaren 1.26.988
3 J. Trulli Italy Renault 1.27.266
4 R. Barrichello Brazil Ferrari 1.27.459
5 M. Webber Australia Jaguar 1.27.654
6 M. Schumacher Germany Ferrari 1.27.666
7 F. Alonso Spain Renault 1.27.671
8 N. Heidfeld Germany Sauber 1.27.918
9 J.P. Montoya Colombia Williams 1.27.929
10 R. Schumacher Germany Williams 1.27.982
11 A. Pizzonia Brazil Jaguar 1.28.092
12 H. Frentzen Germany Sauber 1.28.207
13 O. Panis France Toyota 1.28.362
14 J. Button England BAR 1.28.493
15 C. da Matta Brazil Toyota 1.28.698
16 G. Fisichella Italy Jordan 1.29.327
17 R. Firman Great Britain Jordan 1.29.531
18 J. Verstappen The Netherlands Minardi 1.30.198
19 J. Wilson England Minardi 1.30.606
20 J. Villeneuve Canada BAR 1.31.529

3/6/03

Trulli leads "extra" practice in Australia  

  Pos. Name Country Team Time
1 J. Trulli Italy Renault 1.28.125
2 M. Webber Australia Jaguar 1.28.213
3 G. Fisichella Italy Jordan 1.28.226
4 F. Alonso Spain Renault 1.28.340
5 A. McNish Scotland Renault 1.29.560
6 R. Firman Great Britain Jordan 1.30.324
7 J. Verstappen The Netherlands Minardi 1.30.458
8 A. Pizzonia Brazil Jaguar 1.30.501
9 J. Wilson England Minardi 1.31.187 

3/6/03

RJR gives NASCAR permission to shop  This AP article talks about the RJR and NASCAR relationship and why RJR may be getting out of NASCAR.

3/6/03

Valiante back with Lynx   Lynx Racing has announced today that Michael Valiante, 23, of Vancouver, B.C., will return for his second full season as driver of the team's #19 Swift 014.a in the 12-event 2003 Toyota Atlantic Championship. Valiante scored three wins and finished second in the championship with the Lynx team in 2002, his first full season with the team. He led the points battle for most of the season until problems in the final two races (a flat tire in Montreal and a bad clutch in Denver) derailed his championship charge. "The lesson we learned from what happened last year is that, if you're going for the championship, you have to go flat out from the first lap of the first race," says Valiante. "We took a conservative approach at the start of last season because I was basically a rookie and we knew we could win some races, but we weren't really thinking in terms of going for the championship. By the time we saw we could win it, we were already so close to the end of the season that bad luck played a bigger part than it should have. So this year, it's already hammer down. We're after poles, podiums and victories, and to win the championship as early and as convincingly as possible. Not that it's going to be easy. There may be less cars in the field this year, but the talent pool is really deep and winning is going to take a great team, a fast driver and a really focused effort." After a brief visit back home to Canada, Valiante has resumed testing duties with the Lynx team and expressed enthusiasm for the team's progress toward the goal of winning the 2003 Atlantic championship. He has returned to an organization that has retained all its personnel from the 2002 season, and both team and driver have worked hard in the off-season to expand and enhance the strengths inherent in that continuity. Steve Cameron will again do double duty as team manager and driving coach, while Rick Cameron will be both the team's technical director and handle testing and race weekend setup duties on Valiante's car along with engineer Tim Lewis. Aaron (Maxie) Thornton will continue as crew chief, and Andy (Deuce) Schneider remains lead mechanic. "This is such a strong team and everyone works so well together that we felt keeping everything as it was last year would put us in a strong position going into 2003," says Steve Cameron. "The changes we've made have been mostly evolutionary and procedural. We've worked to make sure all the channels of communication throughout the team are clear and open, and we've really focused on enhancing the rapport between Michael and his engineers. We've also focused at testing at different times and tracks than other teams because you always seem to wind up in a contest to see who can go the fastest, and we don't see any value in that. We've been significantly quicker than last year everywhere we've tested, and we're ready to go racing." Lynx has also renewed its relationships with all of the team's technical partners, including Comptech Engines, Ohlins Shocks, Motorsports Spares and RedLine Oil, as well as Swift Cars and Yokohama Tires. Says Rick Cameron, "Putting together a championship-caliber effort is like assembling the pieces of a puzzle; everything needs to fit smoothly in place. Not every part gets an equal share of the spotlight, but they're all important. All of these companies care as much as we do about winning, and we're fortunate to continue our excellent working relationships with them."

3/6/03

Who is fastest out of the box  Chris Pook made some comments lately that American drivers are not as fast out of the box on cold tires or on a dirty track as the Europeans, that the American ladder system needs some changes to force the drivers to get up to speed faster (see related article).  Even Paul Tracy has said recently that he is not a good 1-lap qualifier, that he needs time to build up speed.  We did a little analysis from the first 30-minutes of practice at St. Pete.  Only two Americans were in the field, but one of them (Hunter-Reay) was atop the charts in those first 30 minutes.

Lap Time

Top of Charts

Nationality

Clock Time (mins into session)

73.71

Jourdain

Mexico Trained

08:38

73.64

Haberfeld

European Trained

11:14

73.10

Junqueira

European Trained

11:27

70.97

Servia

European Trained

12:59

69.56

 

 

14:09

69.02

Moreno

European Trained

21.11

68.34

 

 

22:19

68.05

Hunter-Reay

USA-Trained

27:37

67.47

 

 

28:45

66.76

Tagliani

Canada/USA Trained

30:02

65.76

 

 

31:08

64.75

 

 

32:13

3/6/03
Fran-Am

Fran-Am schedule change   Fran-Am Sport – the organization based in Aspen, Colorado that runs the North American Pro Fran-Am 2000 Championship as well as the various national and regional Fran-Am 2000 and 1600 series throughout North America – has announced today that Round 11 of this year’s North American Pro Championship will be staged October 11 and 12 in Mexico City as part of the ChampCar Mexico Gran Premio. The race was originally scheduled to be run on October 3 to 5 on Virginia International Raceway’s road course but Fran-Am Sport has come to an agreement with the Mexican Formula Renault 2000 race organizers. This change boosts the number of Pro Fran-Am 2000 races to be run with ChampCar events to five, the other four being the Denver Grand Prix and the three Canadian Molson Indys of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Last year’s edition of the Mexican race – staged on the Hermanos Rodriguez road course downtown Mexico City – was an instant success, attracting a record crowd of 175,000 spectators on race day and over 350,000 over the three days of the event.

3/6/03

Could NASCAR implement Monday Night Racing?  This Tennessean article says, Might we flip on the TV some future Monday night and hear Hank Williams Jr. bellow, ''Are you ready for some racing!?'' Is Monday Night NASCAR on the horizon? Could NASCAR follow the NFL's lead and cultivate a whole new audience of prime-time partiers with a special Monday night race? And if so, could a Monday night race be Nashville Superspeedway's ticket into Winston Cup? Fox Sports analyst Darrell Waltrip thinks Monday night NASCAR is a possibility, and that it could be as successful as Monday Night Football. ''Monday Night Football has been such a huge success for so long,'' Waltrip opines on his Fox Sports Web site. ''Before the NFL season starts we could program NASCAR races on Monday nights and it would be an opportunity for the sport to capitalize on that Monday night audience. If they'll watch football on Monday night, they'll watch racing on Monday night.''  More.....

3/6/03

American Spirit team news  Welcome Barilla: American Spirit Team Johansson is proud to welcome Barilla pasta as an official supplier of the American Spirit Champ Car team. Barilla is the number one pasta producer in the world.  Physically Fit: Ryan Hunter-Reay has signed up with one of motorsports premier fitness trainers, Simon Jones. A former officer in the Royal Marines, one of the Elite branches of the British Forces, Jones has come to Florida to assess Hunter-Reay’s fitness level. With the Champ Car being one of the most physically demanding race cars to drive, Hunter-Reay is working with Jones to make sure he is in the best physical condition possible, as he makes his assault on his Rookie Champ Car season. Hunter-Reay will complete three grueling fitness sessions per day for the next three days. At the same time, Jones will assess his current fitness level and build a nutrition and exercise program for Hunter-Reay to execute throughout the course of his racing career. Hunter-Reay and Jones will meet again prior to the Champ Car race at Brands Hatch in May, where Hunter-Reay will complete another fitness evaluation. While Hunter-Reay is Jones’ first client in the Champ Car World Series, he continues to work with drivers Pedro de la Rosa, Eric Bernoldi, Jos Verstappen and Johnny Herbert. On the Web: AmericanSpiritTeamJohansson.com is up and running. The website features all of the latest news, results, statistics, photos and special features on Jimmy Vasser, Ryan Hunter-Reay and the American Spirit Team. Try your luck at our “Pick the Podium” contest, if you chose the top-three race finishers correctly, you will win a Stefan Johansson watch.  Headed West: Hunter-Reay and the #31 crew will test at Firebird International Raceway’s East track next week. It will be Hunter-Reay’s first unofficial test in his #31 Champ Car.  Team Gear: Look for American Spirit Team Johansson merchandise starting at Long Beach. Updates regarding the clothing and souvenirs for men, women and children will be posted on the team website.  Endurance: American Spirit Team Owner, Stefan Johansson will race for his third 12 Hours of Sebring title this weekend as he teams up with fellow Formula One drivers JJ Lehto and Emanuelle Pirro in the Audi R8 for Champion Racing.

3/6/03

Closed Chicago Motor Speedway got $750K in Ryan Pork  UPDATE It looks like the track has been sold.  The Chicago Tribune reports - Palatine-based developer DiMucci Cos. announced plans to build a $150 million mixed-use project in Cicero on the site of the former Sportsman's Park. Construction is to start this spring on the complex, which will include a 500,000-square-foot convention center, soccer fields, a shopping center and a 400-room motel. The track's owner, the National Jockey Club, put it up for sale last year, hiring the Chicago office of Cushman & Wakefield Inc. Terms were not disclosed..  3/6/03 - A front page headline article in today's Chicago Tribune newspaper say just three days before leaving office, the administration of former Gov. George Ryan hustled through a $750,000 state grant to reimburse the owners of Sportsman's Park for concrete poured years ago to add an auto track--even though the thoroughbred facility is closed and no auto races are scheduled. The entire complex also is up for sale. The grant went to the politically powerful National Jockey Club, which five years ago oversaw the $70 million conversion of Sportsman's from a cozy 11,000-seat horse-racing track in Cicero to a 70,000-seat stadium available for horse racing and NASCAR-type (NASCAR?) events. The Jockey Club and its top officials have long been generous political contributors to a variety of Illinois politicians, Ryan included. In a recent interview, Bidwill said two groups have expressed interest in acquiring the Sportsman's site, with potential uses ranging from a manufacturing or distribution and warehouse center to a facility with a small soccer arena and convention center that the town of Cicero desires......Charles Bidwill said negotiations are moving along and he hoped a sale could bring in $15 million to $20 million. Regional auto-racing interests have looked into buying some of the assets from Chicago Motor Speedway, and items not used as part of any consolidation with Hawthorne would be sold at auction, Bidwill said. Duffy said the auto track technically has not been closed, but no races are scheduled. However, he said the Jockey Club is in negotiation with the CART racing circuit to bring in a race this summer. He also said it is possible a buyer could reopen the auto track. "We would love to see somebody come in and operate it as an auto facility," Duffy said.

3/6/03

Smallest field for Indy 500 in modern era  According to this Autoweek article, Indy Racing League officials were primed for up to 30 cars at races in 2003 and its usual 40 at the Indianapolis 500. Now, having seen only 21 at the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami last weekend, league vice president Brian Barnhart is scaling back on his Indy expectations. He now expects somewhere between 36 and 40. "It's pretty much what we've come to anticipate," Barnhart said. "Being the first year of the equipment and the most expensive year as far as a capital outlay, I'd say this is what we're faced with."  The Indy Star says - Robert Clarke, the general manager of Honda Performance Development, is skeptical the IRL can deliver more than 33 this year. Members of his group met with league officials, including Barnhart and Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George, last weekend to discuss the issue. "We don't see them," Clarke said of competitors. "And our fear is that the league is going to say we've got to supply engines for this guy and this guy at the last minute. We're not prepared for that." The engine manufacturers are required to sell or lease engines to anyone within 90 days of each league event. But the deadline for the May 25 Indy 500 passed last month. All three manufacturers can deny clients now. There is only so much expansion the 13 current teams can incur, and interest from CART teams has been negligible. CART will race in Germany on Indy's first weekend of qualifications, leaving only a couple of practice days and bump day on May 18 to make the field.

3/6/03

N.C. House Committee Begins Debate on Autopsy Photos  North Carolina would follow Florida's lead in limiting public and media access to autopsy photos under legislation now being considered in the state House. Rep. Karen Ray, R-Iredell, told members of the House Judiciary II Committee on Tuesday that limits are needed to prevent graphic displays like those that can be found on the Internet, which cause families further mental anguish. The legislation would bar public access to autopsy photos or videos without permission from a judge. Access would be limited to medical examiners, prosecutors, judges, next of kin, law enforcement and other government officials authorized by the courts to see the material in performing their duties. Photos that delete identifying information could be provided to professionals for training purposes or for publication in medical journals or textbooks. Anyone could petition a district court judge to release the photos or videos but would have to show "good cause." The bill would not affect written autopsy reports. Ray's bill is modeled after a Florida law that went into effect in 2001 after Earnhardt's widow, Teresa, began a legal battle to keep 33 autopsy photos of her husband from being released to the Orlando Sentinel. Just after Earnhardt's death, similar legislation was introduced in the North Carolina House but the bill never received a committee hearing. Excerpts from WRAL-TV Article

3/6/03

F1 Word In The Paddock   Aussie favorite Mark Webber has a 1.5 percent chance of winning his home race in a Jaguar, according to local betting stats. Roman ace Giancarlo Fisichella was genuinely honored to get the nod from his pitlane colleagues for the inaugural Drivers' Driver award recently. 'To win that trophy was very important to me,' said the Jordan driver - 'it was a fantastic day, and a nice party!' The undoubted paddock star Michael Schumacher, on the other hand, conceded today that Formula One as a spectacle needs to improve. 'They won't alter my attitude towards the race weekend, but will undoubtedly affect the preparation,' he said of new Formula One rules. Ralph Firman and Justin Wilson - a couple of rookies making their debut in Australia this weekend - donned wetsuits at a Melbourne aquarium this week as they swam with sharks. One pitlane insider mused, however, that there are more flesh-eating beasts in the Grand Prix paddock than Melbourne's city aquarium. 'I think I will probably sleep quite well tonight,' said Ralph Firman, Jordan rookie, 'but you have to be nervous to drive well and you will be no matter what.' But fame will have to wait for this 27-year-old as he learned first-hand after hopping the pitlane on Thursday to take a sneak at the starting grid. 'I jumped over the pitwall and had a few marshals on bicycles chasing after me,' he smiled. 'They got very excited but they calmed down eventually. All eyes will be on Albert Park tomorrow as the weather forecast calls for a few spots of rain as new shoot-out qualifying rules get into swing.

3/6/03

Williams Pair Confront Team   A bemused Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher confronted their Williams bosses in Melbourne this week after a round of media musings. Technical director Patrick Head and Engineering whiz Sam Michael were among BMW-powered team members to tell the press that the young driving duo could afford to mature and knuckle down. 'They made harsh comments of myself and Ralf,' Juan Pablo, the 27-year-old Colombian, told reporters in the paddock as Thursday drew to a close at Albert Park. But Montoya played down the media hype: 'We both went to talk to them and really, they never said anything. 'If somebody said something harsh, it was the press, not the people, that said it. If they're not happy, they would come and tell me. They wouldn't tell you (the press). 'And they haven't told me anything anyway.' Juan Pablo played down expectations of his first Grand Prix with the 'innovative' new FW25 as he warned that the new package 'needed more time.' He said: 'The potential is there, but I don't think it will be right for the first race. We're probably about where we were at last year.' Montoya finished second to Michael Schumacher at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix.

3/6/03

Jaguar Start From Scratch   New Premier Performance Division boss Tony Purnell admits he was surprised when the Ford Motor Company gave him the nod over triple world champion Niki Lauda. Lauda, the great Austrian driver, was fired after little more than a season of steering the Jaguar ship as the Milton-Keynes team accused him of having little engineering prowess. 'I was a bit taken aback when I got the job,' Purnell said. 'Niki was very good for sound bites and was reported all over the world, so I thought he was the type of man Ford liked.' Purnell, a former electronics whiz at Pi, concedes that the season will probably be again spent scratching around on the bottom rows of the grid with a new R4 racer that was designed 'suicidally' late. 'Jaguar has had a difficult time in Formula One,' he said. 'We came on the scene with a bang but couldn't deliver. We've now got to start from the bottom.'

3/6/03

Bernie Explains TV Tax   Bernie Ecclestone has been musing about his latest idea to close up the inequities in Formula One's pitlane. The 72-year-old F1 impresario, responding to frustrated moanings from his broadcast clients, said that 'A television tax is floating before my eyes.' The diminutive Briton explained that teams would pay 'for the minutes' they are shown on television - 'so that the weaker teams can profit too.' Ecclestone said the sport, after a year of total dominance and private team collapses, was ill-equipped to deal with more seasons of exorbitant spending. 'We have to stop this waste of money,' he said as Williams and McLaren vow to fight the changes in arbitration. Bernie says the inadequate rivals to Ferrari brought on the crisis themselves: 'The teams were stupid enough not to agree on the needed changes,' he adds. 'Had Williams, McLaren or Renault done their job last year, we wouldn't have needed these panic changes now.' The supremo concludes by urging that the world champion, Michael Schumacher, hopped out of his car at the end of another 2002 victory looking like he'd just popped down to the supermarket. 'He should sweat for his money,' says the sport's ringmaster in defense of looming electronic driver aid bans.

3/6/03

Justin Wilson Floats   Justin Wilson made history this week by becoming the first grand prix driver to float on the stock exchange. His manager and former driver Jonathan Palmer explained how £500 would buy you a slice of Justin Wilson plc, an unquoted company, to fund the Englishman's debut Minardi drive. A modest salary will be all this 24-year-old rookie sees for the next three years as investors become entitled to his total income. Until 2012, Justin Wilson plc will forward 10 percent to its owners. Palmer, to be now known as Managing Director of Justin Wilson plc, said: 'If this man turns out to be as successful as Nigel Mansell or Damon Hill, you will double your money in three years.' The 'investinwilson' logo appeared on the front wing of the new PS03 Minardi launched on Wednesday, the scheme having already promised boss Paul Stoddart some $5 million.

3/6/03

Rubens' Rule Disdain   Rubens Barrichello was looking forward to the challenges of one-lap qualifying. 'My passion is driving the car and so I liked the idea of the one lap qualifying,' he said as the paddock shaped up at a sunny Albert Park on Thursday. But now, with the newest bombshell that cars must start the race with leftover qualifying fuel, the 30-year-old Brazilian thinks there will now be times when pole position 'means nothing.' He said: 'The problem is that there is the possibility of getting your strategy wrong and then losing a race you should have won.'

3/6/03

Power-Mad Wilson   Formula One drivers often wow that carbon-fibre braking is the most impressive element of their grand prix machinery - or perhaps it is the immeasurable grip in high-speed corners. But Justin Wilson, the tallest but lowest-earning pilot in pitlane this weekend, says his new Minardi racer is most inspiring in the power department. 'It's obviously a lot better car than the Formula Nissan I was driving last year,' he said. 'I think the main difference is the power. The Minardi has a lot more power from its Cosworth engine. 'When you put your foot down you get shoved right back in the seat, even though you are strapped in really tight. 'It took a few laps to adjust to the speed. Corners were on you before you knew it. It took a while for the brain to catch up and get the reactions up to speed.' The Yorkshireman and his Minardi will be among the first to grace Albert Park in the morning as Friday testing gets underway.

3/6/03

Toyota To Spring Surprise   'I would say Toyota may turn out to be the surprise of 2003.' The speaker is Rubens Barrichello, the Brazilian ace whose Melbourne-specification Ferrari bears a striking resemblance to the new Toyota TF103. 'At least in the early part of the season they should do very well,' the five-times winner adds. However, the Toyota pilot pushing the envelope, according to Rubens, will be a veteran Frenchman and not Barrichello's Brazilian compatriot Cristiano Da Matta, a rookie. 'He will have a tough time,' Rubens said of the CART champion, adding that Olivier Panis is best equipped to make the most of his handy new racer. 'Because Cristiano is going to have one hour to learn the circuit and then qualifying starts. I wish him all the best.'

3/6/03

McLaren Forcing Minardi Out?   Ron Dennis is trying to squeeze perennial backmarkers Minardi out of Formula One. That is the terse opinion of Paul Stoddart as the Anglo-Italian team boss continues the war of words with the McLaren CEO. 'I think Ron's trying to get rid of me and he doesn't care if he kills off Minardi along the way,' Stoddart said. The verbal battle was declared last week when Ron Dennis said Minardi should not be entitled to any financial help from the other teams or the FIA - but that Jordan should. 'All these comments that Minardi doesn't belong in Formula One - excuse me, Minardi are the fourth oldest team in Formula One,' hissed Stoddart. 'Have people forgotten that? This is our 19th year.' But Paul, the 47-year-old Aussie, has only been in control for two years and has often teetered on the brink of extinction. Ron Dennis suggests that Minardi is playing a highly-powered game of poker without any chips. 'I had plenty of chips when I came into it but that may be right now,' said Stoddart. 'So many circumstances have changed, ones that none of us could ever have foreseen. But it's also a much more dirty poker game where the richer are getting richer and the poor are going out of business.' The Formula One grid - now in danger of failing to deliver its contractual obligations of providing a field of 20 competitors - has lost two teams, Prost and Arrows, in twelve months. 'And now comments by people like Ron put me under pressure,' said Stoddart who said the McLaren boss's negative jibes had de-stabilised his sponsors. 'That's not the way to take Formula One forward.'

3/6/03

Jordan Would Sell His Team   Eddie Jordan would sell his struggling Formula One team if it moved the Northamptonshire-outfit closer to the podium. The Irishman admitted holding talks with Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz over plans to sell the outfit for between '£30 million and £50 million.' 'But they never came to anything,' he adds. The new customer Cosworth-powered EJ13 boasts few sponsors and had been earmarked to follow Prost and Arrows out of business. Jordan said: 'If someone else took it over - and these days it does appear you need to be part of a car manufacturing group to win - I would still like an involvement. He said he'd enjoy a football-manager style role by having a contract to run the newly-owned operation for a couple of years to 'steer the team to the very top.' Eddie continues: 'If I didn't perform, they could boot me out.' The flamboyant boss, whilst promising to retain his phlegmatic approach to Grand Prix racing, denied that he ever came close to losing the popular yellow struggle to collapse. He said: 'We are the Artful Dodgers of the pitlane. We are the greatest survivors of all-time who will always be able to spring a few surprises.'

3/6/03

No HANS Praise From Rubens   Rubens Barrichello is just another Formula One driver to state his opposition to the mandatory wearing of HANS - the controversial Head And Neck Safety collar. 'At the moment,' said the Ferrari ace, 'when I am in the car, I am unable to concentrate fully on driving as during the two months we have tried it, the system is really painful.' He added to the cruel assessments of men like Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve in stating that the FIA should not be forcing drivers to wear HANS as of tomorrow - opening practice in Melbourne. 'I am all in favour of continuous work to improve safety for the drivers, but I think it should be a matter of personal choice as to whether or not a driver uses HANS,' said Rubens. 'I am concerned that in an impact it will hurt even more.'

3/6/03

Italy Ready For National Hero   Italy is ready and waiting for a national driver to don scarlet overalls and win races for their beloved Scuderia Ferrari. That is the unsurprising message from Giancarlo Fisichella, the Roman racer living out a Jordan contract in the mid-field as he continues to dream about a Ferrari career. 'Now I think is the right moment for them to bring in Italian drivers,' the Drivers' Driver said as opening practice at Albert Park grows ever-nearer. 'They have the best car, they won three championships with Michael Schumacher who is a fantastic driver but I think the Italian people want to win now with an Italian driver.'

3/6/03

Schumacher sounds ominous warning   World Champion Michael Schumacher made his first appearance at Albert Park today (Thursday) and it was all bad news for the other 19 drivers in the field for Sunday’s 2003 Foster’s Australian Grand Prix. "I have had a fantastic time off this year," said the superfit-looking German. "I am feeling very relaxed and ready to go racing again." Asked about the pressures of returning to the track in pursuit of a record sixth world crown, Schumacher said: "There is always pressure to fulfill my targets – which I set for myself." He also had a kind word for the first race venue of the year. "It’s always a great time for us being here in Melbourne," he said. "I guess we have made lots of people happy with victories in the last three years, so I hope we can make them happy again. "It’s a good town: a great location by the sea, great restaurants and good people."

3/6/03

Vegas race gets 9.6 rating in Vegas  In the Las Vegas market, the Winston Cup race garnered a 9.6 rating and 19 share. Tiger Woods' golf on Channel 13 pulled a 6.0 rating and 12 share. "I'm ecstatic about the television rating," said Chris Powell, speedway general manager and president. "Among other things, it points out the recognition Las Vegas receives from the event, not just nationally but all over the world. "It's important for the sport that NASCAR's ratings remain high, both from a business standpoint for television and sponsors, and for fan interest." "The tremendous coverage Fox and NBC have given the sport has proven the sport is mainstream, that it's not some niche sport," Powell said. Las Vegas Sun

3/6/03

Smith. France relationship cold  This AP article talks about the cold relationship that exists between NASCAR's two biggest men - Bill France Jr. and Bruton Smith.

3/6/03

Marlin, Johnson deny clash  According to this AP article, Sterling Marlin denied intentionally hitting Jimmie Johnson on the final lap at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, while Johnson dismissed rumors Tuesday of a later confrontation between the two at a casino. The drivers were in the only side-by-side battle headed to the finish line in Sunday's race. Fighting for eighth place coming out of Turn 4, Marlin's Dodge wiggled just a touch, enough to bang into the left side of Johnson's Chevrolet. The contact sent Johnson spinning through the grass and to an 11th-place finish, the final car on the lead lap, drawing questions over Marlin's intent. ``I didn't intentionally hit him; we were just racing for position there at the end,'' Marlin said Tuesday. ``I went to make the pass under him and the car got loose and touched him. I hate it for Jimmie, because he's a good, clean racer. It wasn't intentional at all; it was just one of those racing deals.'' Marlin didn't stick around after the race to take questions, giving his first version of the events on Tuesday. Johnson did talk to reporters, wondering if Marlin had deliberately spun him out - perhaps contributing to rumors of a showdown between the two at the Bellagio casino later that night. ``To be honest with you, I haven't even seen Sterling,'' Johnson said. ``I spoke to his crew chief and his spotter, but I never even saw him afterward.''

3/6/03

Thursday press conference cancelled   Max Mosley was to address the media today as a lead in to the season opener.   Due to a problem with his flight arrangements, FIA President Max Mosley will not attend the 2003 Australian Grand Prix as previously planned. The FIA Press Conference scheduled for 15.00 hrs on Thursday, March 6th, has therefore been cancelled.  During the FIA Press Conference scheduled for 16.00 hrs on Friday, March 7th, Ron Dennis, Eddie Jordan, Jean Todt, Paul Stoddart and Frank Williams, will be joined by additional guest Gerhard Berger.  Mosley has decided to not go to Australia at all.

3/6/03

Brazil Debut For F2003-GA?   Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has hinted that the Brazilian Grand Prix could witness an early debut for the all-new F2003-GA racer. Earlier reports suggested that the San Marino race, staged in Italy in late April, would be the first time the scarlet car designated in honor of Gianni Agnelli would see the tracks. 'We haven't decided when to start using F2003-GA,' he said, 'but certainly we won't use it for the first two races.'

3/6/03

Minardi Launch Low-Key PS03   Minardi boys Paul Stoddart, Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson launched a striking black PS03 in the city of Melbourne on Wednesday. The Minardi trio, donning uniforms without the clear support of a title sponsor, unveiled the Cosworth-powered racer in a marquee with Melbourne Grand Prix chief Ron Walker and Victorian premier Steve Bracks. 'We're heading into this weekend feeling pretty confident,' Stoddart, the 47-year-old entrepreneur who bought the ailing Faenza team from Gian Carlo Minardi in late 2000, told us. 'The package looks good and, as you can see, the car is very handsome and has plenty of improvements.' Action kicks off at the picturesque Albert Park circuit tomorrow (Friday) morning, and 24-year-old rookie Justin Wilson and his veteran team-mate Jos Verstappen will be among the first to hit the tarmac for pre-practice testing. 'We're in for a challenging year,' said a forthright Verstappen, the 30-year-old Dutchman returning from the sidelines after an eighteen month track layoff. The black and white PS03 no longer wears title GO-KL stickers with Stoddart warning that tight finances leave 'no margin for error' in 2003. He said: 'We've enough money compete and complete, provided we don't have any problems with any of our sponsors. 'We are on an absolute tight budget.'

3/6/03

David Fears Grid Alliances   David Coulthard fears that new Formula One qualifying rules could taint the racing by drawing pitlane alliances.  The McLaren ace thinks that if a front-runner opts for higher fuel loads and therefore a lower position on the grid, allied teams could help out their works-backed cohorts. 'If teams become aligned with each other,' said the 31-year-old Scot, 'the bigger teams could ask the smaller teams for assistance. The veteran racer says he only makes the comment because qualifying will no longer 'truly reflect' the pace of competitors. Racers will start the sixteen grand prix events of 2003 with the same fuel load with which they cruised into parc ferme after the Saturday afternoon shoot-out. David added: 'Now, in theory, you are going to see top-line cars qualifying mid-grid because they have taken a strategy that is not there to impress in grid positions, but is there to get a result at the end of the day.' Media reports suggest that Ferrari could find alliances with Sauber, who run with the Scuderia's engines, and Minardi.

3/6/03

Schu Rejects Ally Fear   Michael Schumacher has rejected one of his main rivals' fears that pitlane rivalries will color the racing in 2003. McLaren ace David Coulthard hinted that alliances such as between Ferrari and Sauber - both powered by the same engines - could arise because of new rules limiting refueling before the race. 'It would be a very unfair tactic,' said Schumacher. 'I can't see why other teams would interfere, they have their own interests.' Coulthard said a smaller team could drain its fuel and earn a top-notch grid position for the race while front-line outfits head into qualifying with more sensible strategies. Media reports further hinted that Ferrari is aligned with Minardi as they often test on the private Fiorano and Mugello tracks. 'It is a surprise hearing that a team like Minardi test on our circuit and they are therefore aligned with Ferrari,' Schumacher said. 'If you want to say things you can always say things but at the end of the day everybody will want to do their best.  'You see even McLaren testing with us over the winter so will they help us? I don't think so.'

3/6/03

Berger Predicts Closer Year   Gerhard Berger may be winding down his motorsport career after announcing his retirement, but the Austrian is nonetheless making sound predictions for the 2003 season. The Austrian veteran reckons triple back-to-back champion Michael Schumacher is a 'great driver, but if he thinks he's going to have it all his own way this season, he is in for a shock.' Schumacher, the most successful in Formula One's history, earned eleven wins in 2002 - an outright record. A former Ferrari driver himself, Berger - the BMW Motorsport chief - says Williams and McLaren are 'getting their act together.' 'Sunday's race should provide the excitement lacking last year,' he added. He added: 'McLaren appear to be on the pace and, last season, the BMW engine was the fastest.'

3/6/03

Luca Hints At Compromise   Luca di Montezemolo has admitted that a compromise over the future of Formula One, rather than a breakaway series, is the best solution for the pinnacle of motorsports. The Ferrari President said: 'We need to see if there is a way to find an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone that increases the weight and revenues of the constructors.' A group of five manufacturers, also including Renault, Mercedes, Ford and BMW, have threatened to walk away from F1 if more television cash fails to find its way into the teams' pockets. Bernie, the 72-year-old F1 supremo, hinted that his family trust might be willing to re-purchase the majority shares in Formula One's rights if the teams sign on for another eight years. 'We have many important things to discuss with Mr Ecclestone and I hope we can find an important new agreement for the future that puts together three elements,' said Di Montezemolo. Ecclestone said: 'We're talking now and it'll all get sorted out.'

3/6/03

Bernie's Ferrari Hopes   F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone hopes the financial crisis at Fiat translates directly onto the racing circuit. The ailing Italian manufacturer owns a majority of Scuderia Ferrari, which has dominated the sport and precipitated waning television and sponsor interest. Bernie, who negotiates with television broadcasters who are growing frustrated with the waning spectacle of F1, noted that Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari President, 'is going to be busier with Fiat now.' He added: 'So maybe Ferrari won't be so quick - that's what I hope.'

3/6/03

DC: I Would Be Ferrari Champ   David Coulthard reckons he would be world champion if his mount was an F2002, not a McLaren MP4-17, in 2002. 'I certainly could have won the championship in his car last year,' said the Scot of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari racer. 'Our immediate goal is to get in front of Williams,' he added. 'We've seen during testing Ferrari is still leading the way.'

3/6/03

GP drivers get the babes   Jacques Villeneuve has enjoyed his fair share of pit lane babes over the years, including Australian stars Dannii Minogue and Natalie Imbruglia. This year Villeneuve has arrived in Melbourne with 21-year-old ballerina and fiancée Elly Green. F1 playboy David Coulthard has arrived with Brazilian model Simone Abdelnour, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen will show off former Miss Scandanavia winner Jenni Dahlmann.

3/5/03

Hometown Boy   Melbourne's own Formula One team owner Paul Stoddart was the man in the main spotlight today as we continued counting down the hours to the start of the 2003 Foster's Australian Grand Prix weekend. Minardi owner Stoddart met Victoria's Premier and delivered a coveted prize to his home town. He also spoke of his pride at being the lone Australian in charge of one of the 10 teams who will contest the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. The Hon. Steve Bracks, Premier of Victoria, was on hand to receive the Formula One equivalent of an Oscar: the 'Bernie' statuette awarded to Melbourne as the best circuit on last year's Grand Prix calendar. Stoddart, based mainly in the UK, had accepted the award on behalf of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and brought it with him when his Minardi team traveled to Melbourne for the season-opening race this weekend. Premier Bracks also took the opportunity to congratulate Stoddart, originally from Coburg, for his achievement in steering the under-funded Minardi outfit through F1 waters that have been rather troubled in recent times. "Melbourne is my old home town," enthused Stoddart, for whom Mark Webber scored two points on World Championship debut here last season. "It still seems like home to me: fantastic place, fantastic people. And Australia having the first Grand Prix: that is really special. "A lot of people don't realize just how special it is for us as competing teams to be able to come to somewhere like Australia where you get co-operation, you get tremendous enthusiasm from the local people, the organization." While convinced that newcomer Justin Wilson will do an excellent job for the team this season, Stoddart is realistic enough to be keeping his hopes under control. "I think we used up all our favors from above last year," he said, "because what we actually had was the most fantastic week of our lives. "If you put all of our expectations and hopes into one basket, it would have come out Melbourne 2002."

3/5/03

Bridgestone throws down the gauntlet   One of the most intense rivalries in Formula One is between the companies who provide the round, black components at the corners of each car - and the new rules for 2003 will only make things hotter. Bridgestone has launched its 2003 campaign in the annual 'tire war' with a word of warning to its fellow-supplier, Michelin. "We finished the 2002 season on a high note with a 70th Grand Prix win at our 100th race in the championship," said Bridgestone's Director of Motorsport, Hiroshi Yasukawa. "We are determined to carry on from where we left off - with another win." Bridgestone is flying approximately 1100 racing tires to Melbourne from its F1 tire production facility in Tokyo. The intensive winter test program in Europe has seen a total of some 5000 tires of different specifications used by the five teams Bridgestone supplies: World Champions Ferrari, Sauber, Jordan, BAR and Minardi. This year's new rules mean each of the tire companies is allowed to supply two different types of dry-weather tire to each of its customer teams. As for wet weather tires, a new rule means only one specification may be supplied to all teams of each manufacturer. Bridgestone's 70 wins since 1998 have put the company five ahead of Michelin, but the French company returned to F1 only in 2001 after a 16-year absence. Last season Bridgestone scored 15 wins - all with Ferrari - to just two for Michelin, one each for Williams and McLaren.

3/5/03

Tony George promises Texas two races  Despite published reports (see Autoweek article), the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series will continue to race at Texas Motor Speedway twice per year in the 2004 season and beyond. In fact, Texas Motor Speedway will continue to host the first race following the Indianapolis 500, this year the Bombardier 500k on Saturday night, June 7, along with the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series championship event, the Chevy 500k season finale scheduled this year on Sunday, October 12. “Tony George and I have discussed our mutual desire to race twice per year in Texas,” said Texas Motor Speedway General Manager Eddie Gossage. “Tony and I have agreed that we will continue our mutually beneficial relationship for years to come, and he has given his word that includes not only two races a year, but that they will continue to be the first race after Indianapolis and the IRL’s season finale. “We enjoy working with Tony, the Indy Racing League staff and all of the IRL teams. We regret that any media outlet would cast doubt on the ‘Second Home of the Indy Racing League.’”

3/5/03

Tony George claims not to want to put CART out of business  This Autoweek article says (we include excerpts), Tony George seems to hold all the trump cards these days. Whether he will even need to play them is the question. For instance, George, the Indy Racing League founder, has more than enough money to buy a track the rival CART series races on and close it down—just for spite, so CART couldn’t run there anymore. Just the hint a couple of months back that he might do exactly that with Germany’s bankrupt EuroSpeedway was enough to end any talk of CART continuing to run there. It was also a gloomy enough prospect for England’s struggling Rockingham Speedway, which shared expenses with EuroSpeedway, to also throw in the towel on its CART race. (However, CART has worked out a deal to race this year at EuroSpeedway on May 11, sharing a hefty amount of the costs.) . George is considering several big steps during the next five years or so that, if not designed specifically to crush CART, would put banana peels under its wheels. “I don’t have a ‘five-year plan,’” George says. “I want the IRL to be the best possible racing series it can be and be recognized as the best racing series in the world.” He added, “I’m not out to put CART out of business. That’s something people assume. I’m just interested in building the IRL.” Really? What about George’s comment last year that he “brings his hammer to work every day” to put nails in CART’s coffin? “What I actually said was, ‘I bring my hammer to work every day—to help build the IRL,’” George said. “It certainly wasn’t intended to be so... Well, it just kinda came out wrong.” Still, George’s actions over the past six or seven years speak more decisively than his words. He has demonstrated a knack for bringing the once almighty CART series to its knees. CART’s schedule, once a potent amalgam of road courses and oval tracks, now offers oval track races at only Fontana and Milwaukee........George’s interest is piqued by a possible European oval track championship using IRL specs—but not U.S. cars—at mile ovals rumored for Sweden, Holland, Belgium and France, in addition to the Rockingham and EuroSpeedway tracks. “That could happen at the end of a five-year plan,” said George, who is also talking about a possible road course series in the States, again using IRL-type cars—possibly with fenders—to run at places like Mid-Ohio, Road America and Watkins Glen. But would George agree to step in and run his IRL cars at any of CART’s traditional road racing venues, to bail out promoters, if, say, CART were unable to fulfill its contractual obligations to provide a full field? “At this time,” George said, “we haven’t announced any road races.” We also asked if he sees a possibility of IRL cars running on the Jacarepagua oval in Brazil. “No. I’ve always said, if and when the opportunity presents itself—when we ever even look at it—we’ll consider it.” Sources said any such consideration would be for the 2004 season, when promoters have their highest anxieties about CART’s health. “Nearly every CART promoter or organizer has contacted me either directly or indirectly,” George said. What did he tell them? Insiders say he has left the promoters in limbo—not telling them yes or no. One intriguing report: George might be interested in taking over the Long Beach Grand Prix, founded by CART leader Chris Pook. It’s just the type of in-your-face move George has proven capable of when it comes to grinding CART into the dust. George says the Long Beach race is run by a public company with a contract with CART. So that requires treading lightly when it comes to discussing any notion of how the IRL might replace CART at Long Beach. George would like to return Formula One to Long Beach in a cooperative venture with F1 major-domo Bernie Ecclestone. “If and when the time is appropriate to talk about doing a race together, we’d do that. I think Bernie would do that,” George said. “I’ve often said, but don’t know if I’ve ever been quoted in interviews, if and when the time was right I think a second Grand Prix would help further establish F1 in the U.S. Maybe at a different time of the year. Different part of the country. I don’t think there’s enough support there to warrant it right now.” ........Track promoters can decide whether to continue to pay CART’s seven-figure sanction fees for small fields. Or they can petition the IRL for a race that might cost them one third as much, with overflowing fields [Overflowing fields?] and commensurate sponsorship bonanzas. “Sooner or later tracks like Mid-Ohio or Elkhart Lake are going to have to decide,” George observed, “whether they can host a CART event and have it be a profitable activity for them.” George sees CART trying to refocus its emphasis on street circuit races in large metropolitan areas. If successful, CART will have done his work for him—CART would no longer be a direct competitor, and therefore not an entity he would feel a need to put out of business. “I’m not interested in doing that,” he insisted. “Truly, I’m not—because clearly their business model has changed. We have become two separate and distinguishable series—which we weren’t before.”

3/5/03

Ferrari signs deal with Infineon   Infineon Technologies AG and Ferrari SpA have agreed on a wide-ranging technical co-operation. Infineon, one of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers, is with immediate effect “official supplier” of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro Formula 1 team. As part of the technical co-operation agreement, Infineon contributes its leading technology in automotive electronics and a team of experienced motor sport engineers. During the 2003 Formula 1 season, Infineon engineers will work with Ferrari on advanced racing systems, providing expertise in the areas of electronic engine control systems, telemetric systems, electronic power distribution, sensor technologies, and high-speed measuring systems. Through its activities in motor sport Infineon is able to optimize products before mass production. “We are pleased to partner with the present Formula 1 world champion. This co-operation underlines our leading position in automotive electronics and builds on our record of outstanding success in motor sport co-operations,” commented Dr. Reinhard Ploss, CEO of Infineon’s Automotive and Industrial Group. “The co-operation with Ferrari will further strengthen our automotive expertise and thus increase our innovative capabilities as well as future business opportunities.” Working with Ferrari, Infineon will develop technologies that set new standards in automotive electronics, and apply the ideas and experience gained from this collaboration in future product developments for its worldwide customer base. Infineon is Europe’s largest and the world’s second largest provider of semiconductor solutions for automotive electronics and is considered a pioneer in key future technologies, such as telematics, safety management, engine control and sensor technology.

3/5/03

Berger decides to retire   BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger will retire from his current role at the end of September. The Austrian says that the decision has come because he wants to spend more time with his family. "This decision was far from easy for me," Berger said. "My job as BMW Motorsport Director means a great deal to me, especially as I have a deep-rooted and special relationship with the company. After all, BMW gave me the opportunity and its trust to prove my entrepreneurial capabilities as well after my active career as a racing driver. My relations with the decision-makers at BMW have been excellent, and working together with Mario Theissen as a directing duo has not only functioned extremely well but has also been very successful. Our target was to build up a powerful team, and we managed to do that. But it's a very time- and labour-intensive job and demands the life of vagabond, such as I've now been living since my early motor racing days in 1979. For the future I would simply like more time for my private life, for my family and myself."

3/5/03

Target Ganassi files first Indy 500 entries  Target Chip Ganassi Racing filed two entries for the 2003 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on March 5, becoming the first team to officially enter the 87th running of the world’s greatest auto race. The Indianapolis-based team named 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year Tomas Scheckter and fellow IRL IndyCar™ Series driver Scott Dixon, who will be a rookie at Indy, as drivers of the team’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone entries. Current IndyCar Series points leader Dixon will drive the No. 9 car, while Scheckter will be in the No. 10 entry. Team owner Chip Ganassi and managing director Mike Hull filed the entries along with Dixon and Scheckter at IRL headquarters in Indianapolis just a few hours after the entry invitations were mailed earlier in the day. The 87th Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Entries must be postmarked by midnight April 2. Qualifications for the elite 33-car starting field begin on Pole Day, May 10.

3/5/03
Super Trucks

Elan to build Super Trucks  [Editor's Note: NASCAR has its "oval" racing truck series, perhaps CART should hook up with this group to run as support "road" races.  Probably would be a big hit with the fans, though we hate to think what damage they will do to barriers or guiderail in the event of an accident. STRANA must deal with that issue regardless.] Elan Motorsports Technologies is already the largest producer of racing vehicles in the world in terms of volume, but in 2003, the Georgia-based company will also manufacture the biggest racing vehicles in the world in terms of size. The Super Truck Racing Association of North America (STRANA) has selected EMT to manufacture the spec rolling chassis for the Super Truck Racing Championship Series. As part of the exclusive, multi-year agreement, Elan also will provide technical support to the series as well as teams. The construction of the Super Truck chassis is a unique addition to EMT manufacturing capabilities. EMT already builds the Panoz G Force IRL IndyCar Series chassis as well as the world-renowned Van Diemen Formula Ford and spec series open wheel class cars. EMT was also selected earlier this year to produce the new high-tech spec chassis for the Formula Star Mazda series. The EMT facilities feature full in-house design, fabrication, machining and composite construction capabilities and includes specialist services companies Elan Power Products, Elan Precision and Elan Composites. The manufacturing of several race trucks will begin immediately and will be completed by late spring, after which Elan will supervise testing, modifications and set up prior to this summer’s Super Truck Celebrity Challenge events. "The opportunity to join forces with STRANA in this project is an outstanding opportunity for our organization," said David Bowes, Chief Executive Officer of Elan Motorsports Technologies. "This relationship came to fruition because we share STRANA’s vision and belief in its long-term viability. "While we are well known for the construction of open wheel racing cars, this project really highlights what this company is all about. EMT is a specialist engineering organization which prides itself on achieving success in the high pressure world of motorsport. "The attention to detail required for success on the track for projects like the super truck program is carried over to all our other non-racing projects." Based in suburban Columbus, Ohio, STRANA is the governing body for class-8 super truck racing in North America. Its mission is to promote super truck racing and the trucking and transportation industry.

3/5/03


Reader feedback  Dear AR1.Com, I also agree with Name Withheld that both Mark Cipolloni’s “If I Were Bernie” and Scott Morris’ “Is It Really About CART vs. IRL” were excellent and well focuses pieces. There really is a pervasive “school of thought” that comes together through the pages of AR1. You help bring to the forefront and facilitate what we, the sports most knowledgeable (and demographically affluent as we must pay to be here, unlike most motorsports sites) fan base, believe to be the current issues effecting the sport we love and support. I admire and respect AR1’s willingness to consider all this input then synthesis it into the current “state of the art” as we perceive it at this time. I only hope the powers that be, Messrs. Pook, Ecclestone, Panoz, France and of course Tony George, CBS, Disney/ABC, Speedvision, Ford, Toyota, Honda, etc. consider the thoughts you publish. What priceless market research they can obtain from the subscription price to AR1.Com! If I may expand on Name Withheld’s thoughts on the eventual expansion of NASCAR to locals across the great pond (has anyone told The * Grandson that the world is in fact round and that the center of the universe is NOT 16th and Georgetown?). Your points are well taken. At sometime in the future NASCAR might actually develop a fan base off shore however I take issue with your time frame. I think any mass fan support approaching what we see in the U.S. is YEARS down the road. Maybe not in my lifetime, and I’m 21. Like the WWF the NASCAR phenomenon is cyclical and highly dependent on the economy. Here in the U.S. I have speculated that NASCAR may be approaching a critical crossroad that will play out this year and next. A soft global economy, the threat of war, the unemployment rate slowly rising. These conditions impact the core fans of NASCAR in a profound way. The cost of taking a family of 4 to watch a NASCAR Cup race is almost equal to their mortgage payment yet I don’t see ticket prices moving down. As to the rest of the fan base, well, they tend to be a bit fickle. They may support NASCAR today but may just as easily switch their financial support to golf, tennis, stamp collecting, what ever Yuppie craze is sweeping the land. Frankly, I’d like to see more of these up-scale NASCAR fans catch the racin’ bug and spend that disposable motorsports dollar on a good Kart racing program (another CART fan is born!) instead of Cup tickets! Stop Watchin’ – Start Doin’! NASCAR is gradually pricing their core fan out of the NASCAR experience. Forcing them to stay at home and watch it on FOX. In my opinion NASCAR still has a lot of work to do in their own back yard before they go flying off to where ever. In addition, how would they fit additional “off-shore” events into an already over-stuffed schedule (without running 52 weeks a year)? I can only imagine the fan backlash should the France posse decide to drop Richmond or Bristol to do a race in Japan . . . or France (yes, pun intended. Maybe the frogs would crown him “King Bill”). Second, I give European and Pacific Rim motorsports fans a lot of credit for their support of road racing. From Karts to F1 these are ROAD RACING fans. NASCAR, and oval style racing in general, is a uniquely American product. Has our form of football threatened soccer? I could see a few NASCAR demo events in Europe as “novelty” or PR events. I really don’t see European motorsports consumers “dumbing down” to support something as stupid as low speed oval style racing. Unrestricted CART or F1 machinery running at their most awesome potential top speeds MIGHT capture their imagination (it still does mine). But 190 mph, silhouette bodied heavy Americun iron . . . I just don’t see it catching in a big way “Over There.” Like Hulk Hogan they’re to smart to fall for it. Respectfully, J.N. Anderson, Chicago, Illinois

3/5/03

From the oops department  CART's website has a giveaway for a Pacificare/Newman Haas water bottle. There is a questionnaire that the participant must complete it in order to register. Question # 9 refers to CART as the Fed-Ex Championship series. We can hear Ford and Bridgestone ringing the telephone now.

3/5/03

Indy 500 invitations mailed  Entry invitations for the 87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race were mailed March 5 to race teams eligible to compete in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Entries must be postmarked by midnight Wednesday, April 2. All drivers named to an Indianapolis 500 entry will compete for one of the 33 starting spots in the world’s most prestigious auto race. Indianapolis 500 rookies will participate in the Rookie Orientation Program on April 22-23 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while Opening Day for Indianapolis 500 practice is Sunday, May 4. Pole Day

3/5/03

Replacing "Winston" Cup can be tricky  Over three decades, the name "Winston Cup" has become synonymous with top-level stock-car racing. So why would any company pay millions to be the second act to one of American sports' most enduring sponsorships? "That's one of the challenges that NASCAR's facing in bringing in a replacement sponsor," said William Chipps, senior editor of the IEG Sponsorship Report, a sports industry newsletter. "It's going to take a long time before people stop calling it the Winston Cup." According to an informal survey of sports-business sources, candidates range from the predictable - major fast food chains and soft drink companies - to the unexpected. Dean Bonham, head of Denver's The Bonham Group, believes a financial services or high-technology company would be well-served by the association with NASCAR, which would offer a chance to interact with potential customers in a sophisticated way. Marc Ganis of Chicago's Sportscorp Ltd. leans toward traditional mass marketers, particularly those with a large presence in NASCAR's southeastern stronghold. He named Home Depot and Lowe's, Coca-Cola and Pepsi as natural candidates. Car owner Felix Sabates floated the name of a retailer that already has close ties with many NASCAR teams. "It would be a natural for a company like Wal-Mart, the biggest corporation in the world, to sponsor one of the biggest sporting series in the world. It's a consumer product company, it could be called the Wal-Mart Challenge and it would be a perfect fit" Sabates said. "But it is just speculation." And several sources said they see a Wal-Mart deal as unlikely, given that the company has not been known to spend at that level in the sports marketing field. Finally, just as RJR has attributed its decision to leave NASCAR to financial difficulties, similar problems might keep a company like McDonald's from anteing up the tens of millions of dollars NASCAR will expect for the sponsorship. Many have speculated that in the wake of RJR's departure, NASCAR will want to avoid revolving-door sponsors and will rename the series after a top racing figure like Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt. The series would then be "presented by" a title sponsor. Charlotte Observer/AP

3/5/03

Ryan Newman unhappy with NASCAR safety  Ryan Newman was not satisfied with the response time of the fire crews to Jamie McMurray's burning Busch Series car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway following a practice crash with Michael Waltrip. Newman stated "He (McMurray) was out of the car and Michael Waltrip had pulled his car away way before they ever got there, and that was pretty poor there." McMurray's car burst into flames when it hit the wall after being collected by Waltrip during the Busch Series happy hour. He made these comments on PRN's Garage Pass Radio Show

3/5/03

Patrick Head wants to see cars sliding again   "In days gone by watching Formula One cars sliding on opposite lock through the corners, you could look at them and know that there was just no way you could do the same," Patrick Head told The Guardian. "But when you watch a modern Formula One car go round, even though you're wrong, you look at it and think 'I could do that, it looks easy.' I want to see cars racing like they used to. But getting rid of traction control alone isn't going to do that." "If you want to see dramatic-looking racing you've got to have different tires on the car, you've probably got to change the regulations that cause you to have much smaller front tires and much bigger rears which will in turn cause us to change the overall weight distribution of the car. There's a lot more than just banning traction control, and anybody who thinks that banning traction control and launch control will suddenly make cars go around the place in big slides is basically not understanding the limitations of a current Formula One car."

3/5/03

Haberfeld comments on St. Pete controversy  Some CART drivers thought Mario Haberfeld's moves at St. Pete were reckless and unnecessary when referring to him taking Bruno Junqueira to the pit wall down the St. Pete main straight.  We found it refreshing.  It's about time CART had drivers who are willing to use "all" the track, as long as it does not cause an accident or is reckless.  The CART rules allow one move.  Haberfeld responded on yesterday's CART teleconference.  “First of all, I read some comments on the press of the things Bruno said which I think we should end it here and not start making a big war on the press like he’s trying to do, saying if I want to keep alive I need to change my act, that I had a lot of crashes in the past, which I didn’t,” Haberfeld explained. “I really didn’t want to get into that, start commenting on these things, because I don’t think that’s the way to go. If he has a problem with me, he should come and talk to me and sort it out.” “I talked a lot with Chris Kneifel after the race.  He said that he wasn’t sure if I had squeezed him because I’m allowed to do one move to the inside, and in my mind that’s what I did. Chris wasn’t sure at the time if Junqueira was beside me when I did that. We didn’t talk at length about it." "After that I think Eric Bachelart has been to CART and maybe he can comment on that later, watch the tape with Chris, prove that he was never beside me when I closed the door. I just watched the race yesterday on the tape, as well. From all the footage I can see, every time I went to the inside, he was never beside me. For sure until someone can show me some footage that shows that he was beside me, I still believe I’m right because I’m allowed to do one move to the inside. Why should I let him through? I was going for position. I’m allowed to do one move to the inside, and that’s what I did. In my mind, I don’t think I did anything wrong.”

3/5/03

Did you know?  Did you know that you can watch the entire international TV broadcast of each CART race online at CART.com, anytime, on-demand?  If you would like to watch a rebroadcast of the St. Pete season open right now on your PC, click here.  Brought to you by CART and SPEED Channel, millions of race fans worldwide can watch this broadcast after each race and the grossly inadequate USA Nielson TV rating system isn't capable of measuring the number of households.  Hence, while CART had a 0.2 rating on SPEED Channel for the USA broadcast, between this, Eurosport, and other countries, what is CART's cumulative worldwide TV rating?  Unfortunately, no one has a clue because there is no one adding up all the numbers. Mark C.

3/5/03

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- Firman's Unique Tour

3/5/03

No free F1 broadcasts in Denmark   UPDATE Danish Formula One fans will be treated to live coverage of all grands prix this year after Viasat Broadcasting announced its signed deal with Bernie Ecclestone and FOM.  A statement explained that each race will be broadcast live on the Viasat 3+ channel while live Friday and Saturday action will be seen on 'Viasat Sport'.  Hans-Holger Albrecht, Viasat CEO, said that Formula One is the 'world's premier motor racing franchise and one of the world's most popular and exciting sporting events.'   3/4/03 - Dear AR1, I just thought that you would like to know that in Denmark the National TV-station Danmarks Radio (DR) yesterday told the Danish viewers that it would not be transmitting Formula One to the Danish people. DR has been live-transmitting all races since 1996, and now four days before the first free practice we were told that we are not able to see Formula One. The broadcast is now going to Viasat. They are going to broadcast the practice sessions for free and that is all right for the people who can see Viasat, but Viasat is not broadcast to all the Danish viewers. Keep up the good work. Michael Larsen - Jubii F1

3/5/03

Feedback on If I were Bernie  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Great article (If I were Bernie) as usual. Everything you've said makes perfect, rational sense. From the F1 engine rebadging for the NAFTA markets, to the TV package, to the Nissan/Dallara series (or something similar) as the feeder series for the F1/F1 America series, I am convinced that a CART/F1 tie-up is, indeed, the only possible solution to ensure the long-term survival of major league open wheel road racing around the globe.  Sooner or later (and I think it will definitely start within the next few years), the powers that control stock car racing in the U.S. will make a very strong push of their form of motor racing (dumbed-down though it may be) into overseas markets. Over time, it may catch on, it may not. But here is the most important point...WHY WOULD F1 WANT TO TAKE THAT CHANCE???
Point #1
NASCAR already has a financial advantage in that it doesn't have to rely on soon-to-be unrenewable economic resources in the form of tobacco company sponsorship. It only has to find a replacement for title sponsor Winston (a cigarette brand owned by RJ Reynolds) when the tobacco ban takes effect in but a few short years and, if rumors are to be believed, it already has powerhouse corporations such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds or United Parcel Service ready to fill this void.  McLaren, Ferrari, BAR Honda, Renault, and Jordan (if Eddie's team is even around in 2007) each will have to find a non-tobacco sponsor or sponsors willing to shell out tens of millions of dollars annually (and I'm speaking in today's 2003 budget dollars) just to continue as a going concern. Sure, some of the more profitable auto manufacturers may step up to fill the void. But the auto industry has done very well as a whole for quite some time. Isn't a slowdown inevitable? And, even if the auto industry does continue to prosper, is it not safe to assume that at least one (maybe more) of the current engine manufacturers may bow out of F1 within a few years time because of poor performance, be it on the track or on the stock exchanges?  What's more, there's only so many corporations out there willing to fund the enormous financial commitment as a title sponsor to a team in contemporary F1. Lets not forget that for every dollar that goes into a team title sponsorship there is at least an equal or greater amount being spent in advertising the fact that the company is the sponsor of an F1 team. And, nearly HALF THE CURRENT TEAMS IN F1 ARE GOING TO BE IN NEED OF SUCH SPONSORS AT THE SAME TIME in the near future. Allow stock car racing to gain ground in Europe, Asia, wherever, and now there's even more competition for the available sponsor funds.
Point #2
Perhaps it is difficult for those outside of the U.S. to comprehend or gauge just how big NASCAR has become in America. NASCAR is watched on TV by more people than hockey. Or basketball. Or, believe it or not, even baseball-America's pastime. It currently ranks second only to football. Several million people attend NASCAR races in person each year. In fact, the number is probably pretty close to double that of F1 race attendance. I don't want to open a can of worms here, but here I go: Overall, the average non-U.S. racing fan is more sophisticated (understands, appreciates and enjoys road racing) than the average U.S. racing fan (stock car majority, frenetic open wheel road racing fans but in much smaller numbers). But, hell, it happened to us (America). It can happen to you (Rest of the world).  It may seem silly but let's pretend for a moment: It's late 2007. Toyota has just come off its inaugural Winston Cup (or McDonalds Cup, or UPS Cup, whatever) season and showed well, although a Big 3 manufacturer (Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge) won the title. For 2008, there will be an exhibition event (sound familiar?) at Toyota's Fuji circuit. Honda, rumors running rampant throughout the 2007 season, confirms its intention to begin competing in select Cup races in 2008, with a points-paying event to run at its Twin Ring Motegi oval track that same year. Underappreciated and underutilized oval facilities in the U.K. and Germany get a call from a certain stock car racing organization in the U.S. that they can 1) host a race for little or no sanctioning fee, 2) a title event sponsor has already been lined up and, 3) said sponsor will be giving away approximately 60,000 tickets to the locals, race fans or not. Sound familiar?   Concurrently, here's Formula 1 late 2007: The Grand Prix Manufacturers Group (Toyota, Fiat, Ford, Renault, Honda, BMW, DaimlerChrysler) is in Week 186 in trying to formulate the most basic of ground rules for its inaugural breakaway 2008 season.   Ford, having developed a revolutionary direct fuel injection system in conjunction with Cosworth, wants DFI to be mandatory in the engine rules package. Voting results- 1 in favor, 6 against.  Renault and exclusive tire supplier Michelin have perfected an active camber/tire package and would like to see optimized contact patch systems legal for competition. Voting results- 1 in favor, 6 against.  BMW/Sauber are rumored to have developed a ceramic matrix engine that requires no air or water cooling-look ma, no radiators!- and they would like to see a slight change to the rules to make 1) radiators optional and 2) standing start lights to go out in 2 to 3 minutes instead of the customary 2-3 seconds. Brace yourself, the votes are in: 1 in favor, 6 against.   As the aforementioned examples illustrate, is it not unreasonable to expect a currently very healthy stock car racing to begin expanding its empire into foreign markets at the same time Formula 1 is experiencing a momentary lapse of reason on any number of fronts-teams going out of business, ludicrously high costs, potential series takeover by the manufacturers, "fixed" race results that mock the fans and the sport I hold so dear, waning TV viewership and fan support-you name it!   Formula 1 would be very wise to lower its costs and form a partnership with CART, right now! They (the F1 movers and shakers) probably think there is no way that the stock car phenomenon can develop a following outside of America.  Back in 1990, NASCAR didn't even have 1/10th of the following it does today. Now it's one of the most widely followed and recognized forms of entertainment in the United States.   Name withheld, Newport Beach, CA

3/5/03

Portugal gets excited about CART  Tuesday AutoRacing1.com asked Tiago Monteiro what the reaction to his surprising good run at St. Petersburg was in his home country of Portugal.  He told us he was front page news for days in every newspaper in Portugal, and there are still daily articles about him and CART.  He says his website hits have increased tenfold and his telephone has been ringing off the hook.  He also said bus companies in Portugal are already planning bus trips for race fans to the Brands Hatch, England and EuroSpeedway, Germany events in May. We asked him if this increased the chances of CART racing at Estoril and he said "for sure, but not until 2004" Mark C.

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