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News (chronologically)

12/22/03

Grand-Am team jumps to ALMS   American Spirit Racing President, Jon Lewis announced today that Miracle Motorsports of Winter Haven, Florida who represents drivers John Macaluso and Ian James has signed on for the 2004 ALMS season with the Team’s second LMP2 prototype entry.

John Macaluso is slated to drive the entire season with Ian James driving in at least the two long events (Sebring & Petit Le Mans). A second full-season driver will be named soon.

“I’ve known John Macaluso for several years both as a competitor in Trans-Am and as a well respected individual. He’s a very consistent driver and experienced in prototypes,” stated Lewis. “John is a welcome addition to our driver lineup and brings a certain maturity to our driver team. I am also excited about having Ian James driving with us in at least the long events. Ian is very fast in these cars and I am sure that with these two talented drivers that our team has a strong opportunity to finish 1-2 in the 2004 LMP2 Championship.”

“It's exhilarating to announce Miracle Motorsports’ return to Sports Car racing for the 2004 season,” said John Macaluso. “It is also with great enthusiasm that we announce our partnership with a great name in racing such as American Spirit Racing. I've known Jon Lewis for many years, and look forward to the great things to come this year. We have great potential and will be legitimate contenders for the LMP2 Championship.”

" I am very excited to be back as John's teammate at Miracle Motorsports this season,” comments Ian James. “It is exciting that we are teaming with American Spirit Racing in what I am sure will be a very successful 2004 ALMS LMP2 season campaign. I can't wait to start our testing in preparation for the first race."

Miracle Motorsports (MMS) has been heavily involved in many forms of racing including prototypes and brings support to the operation with event support personnel and public relations. Christy Moynihan will handle Public Relations for the Team. Christy has been involved with MMS for several years as well as with driver Bobby Sak in Trans-Am. “I am pleased to have Christy on our Team,” comments Lewis. “She is very talented and will provide American Spirit Racing and its sponsors with a powerful presence in the media.”  American Spirit Racing will unveil its two Lola/AER prototypes at the 12 hours of Sebring in March 2004.

12/22/03

Barber Dodge announces Sebring opener  The Barber Dodge Pro Series will open its 19th season of competition with a return to Sebring International Raceway March 17 - 19, 2004, in support of the 52nd running of the Mobil 1 12-Hours of Sebring. Under Barber Dodge's new double-race format, race one will green flag Thursday afternoon, Mar. 18, with race two the following afternoon, Friday, March 19.

The Barber Dodge heritage is strongly linked to the historic 12-hour event; the Champ Car- sanctioned series has run there every year since 1992, and in fact was the series' season opener for five straight years (1998 through 2002), the exception being this past season. Prior winners include Kenny Bräck (1993) and rising star A.J. Allmendinger (2002), while the Sebring Barber Dodge podium has been visited by the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Jerry Nadeau (twice), the late Tony Renna (also twice), Michael Valiante (yes, twice), 2002 Toyota Atlantic champion Jon Fogarty, and 2003 Champ Car race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Barber Dodge Series Director Rick Ratajczak says, I can't tell you how pleased I am to announce that we're coming back to Sebring for 2004. It's been a traditional opener for us over the years. Barber Dodge typically puts on a terrific show here, and great drivers always seem to rise to the top at Sebring."

"It's great to have Barber Dodge back after its one year 'hiatus,' said Tres Stephenson, Sebring International Raceway President and General Manager. Our fans love seeing the open- wheelers go at it, and most of them know they're seeing the big stars of the future, right at the point when the drivers are just making a name for themselves." Regarding TV, Barber Dodge officials are in discussions with SPEED Channel to again broadcast the races (as it has since 2002), including the Sebring openers.

12/22/03

Sauber & Jordan to benefit from new engine rule  Prior to now, Sauber was always given the prior year's Ferrari engine to use.  Ditto with Jordan and Jaguar.  However, with the new engine rules that stipulate an engine must last an entire weekend, Sauber and Jordan will get 2004 engines from Ferrari and Jaguar respectively.  There are no prior year designs that will last an entire race weekend.  One would think that Minardi will enjoy the same benefit from Jaguar.

12/22/03

Government backs Baumgartner, assures him of Minardi ride  The Hungarian government on Monday announced it would step in to sponsor the nation's first Formula One driver, Zsolt Baumgartner, clearing the way for him to sign a contract with Minardi. Italian-based Minardi last week offered a contract for Baumgartner, conditional on the driver guaranteeing sponsorship funds for the racing season. "The Hungarian government is ready to sponsor Zsolt Baumgartner's participation in next year's Formula One season," sports minister Ferenc Gyurcsany told a press conference on Monday. Gyurcsany said the government's sponsorship is worth four million dollars. Baumgartner's manager Tamas Frank said: "The contract (with Minardi) will be signed Tuesday." The Hungarian government will spend US$4 million to support Baumgartner. Baumgartner's management will be responsible for raising an equal amount of money from private sponsorship, sports minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has announced. "This is a crazy amount of money," Gyurcsany said. "But we're talking about a great talent here." "This is a fantastic opportunity," Baumgartner told reporters as the deal was announced.

12/22/03

Ralf waits for new Williams deal  Ralf Schumacher's contract negotiations with Williams are still hitting a few stumbling blocks as the two parties attempt to reach an amicable agreement. "I'm not in a hurry. For sure we won't come to an agreement before the beginning or the middle of the season, but it's nothing to worry about,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “In 2004 I'll drive for BMW-Williams. After that we'll see.”

12/22/03

Newman wins Driver of Year award    Ryan Newman dominated the voting for SPEED Channel presents the DRIVER OF THE YEAR 2003.  The last time a series champion did not win was in 1985 when Bill Elliott beat NASCAR Winston Cup Champion, Darrell Waltrip – a three-time Driver of the Year – based on wins and poles. Newman finished sixth behind series champion, Matt Kenseth.

In only his second full year in Winston Cup racing Newman, winner of the voting in the third and fourth quarter for DRIVER OF THE YEAR was a little stunned when he learned of the final vote, “it’s awesome. Not only the award, but, the honor of all the drivers that have gotten it, to be on that list and to be able to compete against all the drivers this year and beat them.”

Newman, a 25-year old from Indiana who drives the Alltel Dodge, easily beat all of his rivals with nine first-place votes. Other drivers garnering votes were Paul Tracy (CART), and Steve Kinser (World of Outlaws) who had two. Drivers getting one vote each were Kenseth, Greg Anderson (NHRA), Kenny Bernstein (NHRA), Scott Dixon (IRL), Sam Hornish, Jr. (IRL), and J.J. Yeley (USAC). The Penske Racing South driver also carried the fan vote, on www.speedtv.com, with 44 percent.

Responding to that vote, Newman said, “That’s cool too. This sport is driven by the fans not just the media panel. To win the fan vote is an honor also. It shows a couple of things (1) the impact of NASCAR racing on the world of motor sports (2) how driven and dedicated the fans are.”

In its 37th year the DRIVER OF THE YEAR title is unique because it is the only award that encompasses all of the racing series in the United States and fan participation. A panel of 18 leading journalists and broadcasters from across the U.S. and a cumulative fan vote on Speedtv.com determine the winner. The final vote is made up of a secret ballot of the experts each selecting one driver and the winner of the fan vote.

In recognition of this honor Newman will receive a trophy and a Maurice Lacroix Swiss Watch at a special presentation in Talladega, Alabama next April.  Further information on the award may be obtained from the DRIVER OF THE YEAR Foundation, PO Box 49827, Sarasota, FL 34230 or from (941) 953-6209. SPEEDTV

12/22/03

Latest Formula One News Items  

Andersson Gets Boot As Toyota Boss
Formula One's Future Back On Track
French Grand Prix Hopes Rise, Then Fade
McNish Secures Backing Of Ford
Raikkonen Sees Future At McLaren
New Minardi, Not Old Arrows
BMW-Williams Rue Loss Of Montoya

Bernie Full Of Praise For Bahrain F1 Track
Jordan Heralds Stability In Formula One
Wilson To Revive Racing Career In States
Ferrari To Offer Barrichello One-Year Stay
Chinese F1 Tickets Soar To $4000
Schumacher Finishes Second Again 

Sauber Won't Run 'Third' Car In 2004
Minardi 'Buy Out' Has Failed
Andersson Will 'Never Forget' Toyota Debut
Briatore May Sell Webber To Williams
Le Mans Is More Fun Than F1: Herbert
Bernie Plays Down Hotel Crisis In Bahrain

12/21/03

CART & CBS/Spike TV, perfect together   The IRL has ABC/ESPN locked up, NASCAR has NBC/ Fox/SPEED in their back pocket and now  it looks as though CART will be solidly aligned with CBS/Spike TV, both owned by Viacom.  Finally CART will get the promotion it needs from a TV partner.  When they were with ABC/ESPN that network showed favoritism toward the IRL because they had the coveted Indy 500.  When CART went with SPEED, it quickly found out that it was becoming a lot like NASCAR TV, which was the original rumor for SPEED's future a few years back.  Now CART has a partner in Viacom that will do it justice.  From the Spike TV (formerly TNN) web site: "SHOWS: HORSEPOWER TV, "HOLD YOUR HORSEPOWER "Mention the word motorsports and many people will think of their favorite NASCAR or NHRA heroes. However, the majority of America's motorsports enthusiasts are the everyday gearheads and weekend racers who live out their high performance passions in home garages and local strips. Horsepower TV has become the nation's No. 1 motorsports show for that very reason. Created and produced by RTM Productions for Spike TV, it's a program viewed by an average of 1.3 million people every weekend. The show's goal is to deliver a mixture of how-to segments, tech tips, racing event highlights and lifestyle features in a format that's entertaining as well as informative." 1.3 million per weekend! Imagine what a little cross-promotion could do for a Champ Car race...and for the series in general.  They have other car-related shows too, like Popular Hotrodding and Car and Driver TV.  Through MTV, a Viacom company that actually owns Spike TV, you have a pretty exciting platform for growing the young fan base.  Spike TV is already in 87 million households, whereas SPEED is in only 60 million households.  Spike TV also has better channel positioning in almost all markets. 

12/21/03

CART needs to find its niche   This Florida Today article says, There will be two major league open-wheel racing series based in the United States in 2004 as the Champ Car World Series plans on going forward -- bankruptcy judge willing. Once known as CART, the Champ Car series plans to hold 16 races, but only one in Florida (St. Petersburg, likely in the fall). The street-course race in Miami was dropped. The Champ Car series, which will race on ovals, street courses and road circuits, hopes to continue to compete directly with the open-wheel Indy Racing League, which stages the Indianapolis 500 and competes exclusively on ovals. Both will remain in the giant shadow cast by NASCAR. [Editor's Note:  There really is no need for CART to remain in the shadow of NASCAR.  That's a place the IRL can lurk in, perhaps forever.  CART needs to establish itself as the premier road racing series in the world behind F1.  If there is any shadow CART should be lurking in, it's Formula One's.  NASCAR and IRL form the oval track cartel and CART needs to work closely with F1 to strengthen the road racing cartel's position both at home and abroad.  CART was held in high regard worldwide, but lost a lot of its luster when it was split in two by the creation of the IRL.  The IRL tried to NASCARize open wheel racing with a lower cost dumbed down formula and CART was forced to respond with its own belt tightening to survive.  Now it remains to be seen whether the next generation of Champ Cars will be technically interesting enough to gain back much of the luster it lost.  A screaming V10 engine will take care of that.]

12/21/03

Formula BMW

Young Canadian heads to Spain for Formula BMW shootout   [Editor's Note: Formula BMW will run in conjunction with CART events in 2004 and officially or unofficially be another rung on its ladder].  16 year-old karting champion and aspiring racecar star James Hinchcliffe will head to Spain in early January to compete in the North American Formula BMW scholarship program. This program has been designed to further advance Canadian and US drivers, as it will look to be the stepping-stone to Formula One in North America.

Selected from over 50 drivers, the Oakville, Ontario resident will have the opportunity to compete in this shootout for one of six $40,000 scholarship programs towards Formula BMW in North America in 2004. This new event will take place at one of the most beautiful race tracks in the world and legendary Formula One circuit Valencia, Spain. The three day test will occur over Thursday, Friday and Saturday (January 8-10, 2004) with the winners being announced on Sunday (January 11, 2004). This is not just a test of on track ability as head instructor and BMW factory touring car driver Jorg Muller will be taking into account personality, public speaking and media work as officials will be training and evaluating the complete driver.

The former karting champion, who has his own personal BMW Mini Cooper, is ecstatic about the test. “I am really looking forward to this great opportunity” explained Hinchcliffe. “To drive these cars at such a beautiful track will be incredible. I am very lucky and grateful that BMW has chosen me. Over the next month I will be doing as much as I can to get acquainted with the track and the cars online.”

Hinchcliffe, who has no fear of speed, brings a long racing resume and plenty of experience to the table. The 16-year-old will look to use the knowledge he has gained from his extensive karting background and especially this year's Bridgestone/FormulaCar Magazine F2000 series and his recently completed Fran-Am Test.

The Oakville Trafalgar High School student is widely considered one of Canada’s up-and-coming racecar stars. Showing total support in his racing career, Jeremy Hinchcliffe, father of James, will travel overseas with his son to view this much anticipated shootout. “When an opportunity like this presents itself, you have to jump at it and James will have to work hard. This is the chance of a lifetime for him and, if anything, it will provide him with experience and help him in his future racing career. I would like to thank BMW for this terrific opportunity.”

James would like to thank his current supporters, Mobil 1 and NOCO Racing for their continued partnership and support. James is actively seeking sponsorship dollars to move up the motorsports ladder and advance his career. For more information and sponsorship opportunities on James Hinchcliffe and NOCO Racing please contact James at 905-337-2450 or via e-mail at james@jameshinchcliffe.com or visit him online at www.jameshinchcliffe.com

12/21/03
Industry News

Autosport 2003 Top-10 drivers  4th UPDATE  Yet another reader responds to this topic, and we promise the last on this topic. Dear AutoRacing1.com, I am still fuming over the sarcastic remarks about Michel Jourdain, Jr.  Obviously Autosport wasn't watching when he dominated the Long Beach, Milwaukee, Montreal, and Miami races and qualifying at Laguna Seca.  If it weren't for a couple of very controversial calls on the part of CART, he may well have won the championship. Although it's taken a few years for him to get on a world class team like Rahal's, he has since proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a racer's racer. I challenge them to watch him. He is amazing. Nothing against Dixon, I think he's a great driver. But to say there was no competition in CART this year is just plain ignorant. Ask Paul Tracy if he felt he didn't have any competition this year. Bill Gerken, Norwalk, Ohio Dear Bill, After watching some in-car shots of Jourdain Jr. this year at Denver, working the steering wheel full lock-to-lock there is no question this guy is driving the heck out of the car.  As is the case with many drivers, you don't really know how good they are until they drive for a top team.  Mark C.  12/20/03 - And a response to the response from another reader.  Dear Autosport Guy, To merely swipe this away and justify all the negative responses as a political motive is sad, to say the least. Yes, I can see where you would come upon that conclusion considering all the division in open wheel racing in the USA. Yet, to surmise that Scott Dixon is a better driver than Barrichello, let alone Paul Tracy, Junqueira, or Bourdais is nothing short of someone who clearly either has a real odd way of judging driver skill, or really is not in touch with the challenges of open wheel racing. The IRL, with the exception of maybe NASCAR, is probably the worst format to showcase a driver's skill. I like Dixon and Kanaan, but I vehemently disagree that somehow their driver skills have increased since moving to a full throttle around the track, no braking, left turning only series. If they were so good, why weren't they given any consideration when they drove in CART a year or so ago, in a much more demanding and challenging championship. Furthermore, you spoke of a watered down CART series last year. I agree that some of the bigger teams have left for Honda/Toyota money. I find it even more interesting that a guy, who won only one race, basically by default, in CART, can come over to the IRL and win the championship the first year! Maybe my logic is screwed up, but to me, that appears more like Dixon went to the more watered down competition. Finally, you justified your decisions because many of those drivers had already proven themselves previously in Europe. Well, why didn't you consider the last two F3000 champs, Junqueira and Bourdais, who had great seasons in CART? These are the best two drivers over the past two years from the European F1 feeder series. And when did Hornish prove himself in Europe? Last I remember he came up through CART's ladder system and was a middle of the pack driver until he moved to the IRL. You said negative press was better than no press. Well, to me, this debacle has only made me lose complete respect for whatever was there for your magazine in the first place. Seriously, you guys, get a clue. Derek Hughes, Florida Derek, It should be noted that Dixon's CART win was at Nazareth, also an oval.  So Dixon has proven he can win at the top level on ovals, but F1 and CART are all about road racing. His lack of road racing wins may hamper his F1 aspirations. If he wants to get a seat in F1, he has no business driving in the IRL.   Mark C.  12/20/03 - Here is a response to our readers from one of the compilers of the Autosport Top 50, Marcus Simmons.   Dear AutoRacing1.com, Great to see a lot of response to the Autosport Top 50 on Autoracing1. Even getting negative response is better than none at all - a magazine can't wish for anything better than provoking debate.

But what seems to be a recurring theme is this CART versus IRL stuff. OK, there are a lot of politics going on between the two organizations that have deeply scarred American motor racing, but the odd thing is that a lot of American fans seem to think it's only correct to enjoy watching one type of racing and to rubbish the other. That's odd to us in Europe. We like watching Formula 1. AND CART. AND IRL. AND touring car racing. AND sportscars. We get a thrill from any kind of competition that takes place on four wheels.

So... We get a lot of flak from CART fans for placing several IRL drivers highly in our Top 50. Many of these drivers have proved themselves capable alongside future Formula 1 stars when they were racing in Europe - Castroneves, de Ferran, Kanaan, Scheckter. Scott Dixon is clearly a major talent for now and the future - yes he won only one CART race, but give him a break, it was his rookie season. Sam Hornish had a donkey called a Chevrolet in the back of his Dallara for much of the season - yet still remained in contention for the title against all these quality drivers.

On the other hand, Paul Tracy won a championship in which the great Michel Jourdain Jr (who took considerably longer than Scott Dixon to win his maiden CART race) finished third. Tracy's a good driver - but his competition wasn't really up to much in 2003. Sorry, but it's true.

Yes, we admit that CART's schedule is much more challenging to the drivers than IRL's oval-only format. But don't forget that many of these IRL stars - de Ferran, Castroneves, Kanaan - won races in CART. And yes, they even beat Paul Tracy.

So to accuse us of bowing to the PR of the IRL is amusing to us - presumably we're in the FIA's back pockets as well for placing six stars from the Formula 1 and World Rally Championships ahead of Dixon - but simultaneously it's a pleasure to have sparked so much argument!  Marcus Simmons, Teddington, England Haymarket Publications 12/18/03 - I read your hot news piece about 2003 Autosport top 10 drivers and would like to congratulate the P.R. staff of the Indy Racing League for being influential on getting two of their drivers on the top 10.   I mean, do we really think that a series 100% throttle and that races on ovals alone and throws yellow flags when the leaders are getting too far ahead of A.J. Foyt, Jr., or when Sam Hornish comes out of nowhere and starts passing people high and low and ends up winning the race not only remind me of the World Wrestling Federation but I think is an insult to the sport!   Dixon and Hornish having better credentials than Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais Michael Valiante, etc. in 2003? I don't think so!  What's next for 2004? The stepson (Carpenter) of the grandson (Mr. George) being in the top 10 in 2004?.....or Andretti Green (Him whom "MARIO" and "CART" made him what he is in motorsport) getting the most dominant team in 2004?  Thank God for people with respect to their profession as Mr. Cipolloni, Mr. David Phillips, Mr. Miller( ESPN) as they give you the news as they are and are not sellouts a la Paul Page, Jack Arute, Gary Gerould, etc. Happy Holidays! Sincerely, Marta Campos, Los Angeles, CA. Dear AR1, I noticed no PT or other CART drivers in the Autosport list. Haymarket must be seriously in bed with TG's Race SCAR series.  Jeff Teravainen, Toronto. Dear AR1, Autosport 2003 is now officially the biggest joke of a magazine. Seriously, Scott Dixon, who won one race in Champ Car by fluke, rated higher than Ruben Barrichello and just behind Juan Pablo Montoya, now that he won the no driver skill required IRL championship (can you really call it a championship)? Also, Sam Hornish Jr.? Wasn't there two or three other drivers who finished higher than him in his own championship? Finally, the obvious, no mention of any CART driver, which shows a blatant lack of knowledge of the racing world. Does anyone seriously believe Scott Dixon is a better driver than Paul Tracy? He certainly showed he wasn't in his two years driving against Tracy in CART. But, now Dixon goes to another less skilled series (IRL) and wins the championship, while Tracy does the same in the series (CART) in which Dixon never really ever achieved much success, yet Dixon is now magically a better driver according to Autosport. Ha ha, nice logic.....I'll be sure to pay a lot of attention to Autosport in the future.....really. Doug Ferguson, Florida   Dear AR1, Well, I have to say Autosport just lost a bit of their luster to me. No PT? Dixon and Hornish? Are they serious? Barrichello and Webber? Get real. I could compete if someone put me in a Ferrari. And Webber did a nice job, but Top 10? Ugh... Tony Olufson, St. Paul, MN   12/17/03 - Autosport Magazine has named it's top-50 drivers of 2003.  Here are the top-10.

1. Michael Schumacher - F1
2. Fernando Alonso - F1
3. Kimi Raikkonen - F1
4. Peter Solberg - Rally
5. Sebastien Loeb - Rally
6. Juan Montoya - F1
7. Scott Dixon - IRL
8. Rubens Barrichello - F1
9. Sam Hornish Jr. - IRL
10. Mark Webber - F1

12/21/03

Ecclestone latest to praise Bahrain   Bernie Ecclestone is the latest F1 personality to visit the new Bahrain grand prix track, and was full of praise for the venue. "The return on this investment will come in the development of commerce, business and tourism," Ecclestone told the GDN. "The race in Bahrain will be the first in the Middle East and will attract much interest from business and television audiences alike. The Bahraini organizing team has done a magnificent job. They have the right attitude towards Formula One and the race will make a significant contribution to the color and spirit of the Championship."

12/21/03

BMW promises equal treatment for Juan   BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen has promised Juan Pablo Montoya that he will get the same equipment and help towards his 2004 Championship campaign as his teammate Ralf Schumacher. "He will get the same treatment as this year, the same treatment as his teammate. We need him, as we need Ralf, to secure as many points as possible,” he told the Williams supporters’ website. "Taking know-how from the team is not a problem for us either. I would be much more nervous about a leading engineer moving on because a driver knows how the car behaves but he doesn't usually know why. And if you look how fast moving Formula One is today I am not really concerned. Even if he gets knowledge of some technical issues at the end of the season this will be outdated already before our competitors can use it. We would have preferred to keep Montoya after 2004. I have talked to him several times in the past weeks and I would say he is more motivated than he was before. It is an unusual situation but I prefer to have it open on the table and visible to everyone. I have no doubt about his motivation,” Theissen added. "He wants to achieve something and he knows he has a chance so there is no way he would want to stay at home and do nothing. We want to win the Championship, he wants to win the Championship and it would be much better for him to go to another team as the world champion than to go as number two."

12/20/03

***Reader Question***Skeptical about no Renna Video  Is it just me or are you skeptical of the Speedway’s claim that there is no video footage of Tony Renna’s shunt? What are they hiding?  The one track that I am quite familiar with in comparison is Road America. As a matter of course their safety crews are present for every event (certainly tests) and those crews are dispatched and controlled from the race control facility. The control facilities at RA monitor closed circuit video cameras mounted in every corner – covering virtually the whole course. That video feed is downloaded automatically into a computer for review immediately or later. The track uses this footage to obviously scrutinize incidents and I wouldn’t be surprised if their insurance carrier requires it.   How is it that the mighty Indianapolis Motor Speedway does not use the same professional procedures and processes?   How are Indy’s crews dispatched for an incident?  “Hey fellas…I heard a big BANG a moment ago, will you go drive around and see if anything’s wrong?”   Mark McConkey, Chicago, IL

12/20/03

***Reader Feedback***Inferior car design killed Renna  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com,  As a race fan I am insulted that the IRL report on the fatal Tony Renna accident laid blame on driver error.  Sure Renna lost control (a lot of drivers lose control of their race cars), sure he may have hit the grass, but the reason why Tony Renna is dead is because he was driving an IRL Crapwagon.  He was all by himself (i.e. he was not launched over another car's tire)  and the car took off in the air like a jet fighter, flew over the SAFER Barrier and into the fencing above the wall, which killed him.  Had he been in a CART Champ Car or a F1 car, the car would not have flown through the air and Renna would have hit the SAFER Barrier and likely survived.  Mario Andretti went flying through the air, Davey Hamilton, Dan Wheldon, Kenny Brack and others.  The Crapwagons the IRL calls race cars have got such big wings to keep them planted to the ground and create artificial pack racing, that when air gets under them they fly.  The Wings are spec wings specified and designed by the IRL.  If anyone is to blame for Tony Renna's death it's the IRL and their artificial racing series. You won't catch me at a Crapwagon race.  I would be afraid one of those butt ugly poor excuses for a race car would come flying over the fence and kill me.  How come OSHA hasn't shut this baby down a long time ago?  Never in my life have I seen so many workers (drivers) injured on the job in six years and OSHA not do anything about it.  It's time to put the Grandson's little folly to bed before he kills and severely injures more hapless drivers.  Mordichai Rosen, LA, California

12/20/03

Bridgestone runners in trouble    Ferrari's chances of retaining its world championship titles could be jeopardized unless tire supplier Bridgestone can turn around its testing form ahead of the 2004 Formula 1 season, according to a report in this week's AUTOSPORT magazine. The final test of the year at Jerez in Spain underlined a gulf between the Michelin and Bridgestone supplied teams. The Michelin-shod McLaren of Pedro de la Rosa lapped the new MP4-19 in 1m16.210s, over 2secs faster than Ferrari's Luca Badoer on Bridgestones.  One engineer from a Bridgestone team, who wished to remain anonymous, told AUTOSPORT: "Looking at the tires of Michelin during the Jerez test session I am rather worried for 2004. Simple mathematics lead to the conclusion that Ferrari, Sauber, Jordan and Minardi will not be in a position to answer the six Michelin teams. More kilometres means more data and more data leads to better tires."  In another blow to Bridgestone, Sauber has also revealed that it does not have enough budget to field test driver Neel Jani in a third car for all grands prix on Fridays next year, which would reduce the Japanese tire manufacturer's pool of cars yet further.

12/20/03

Childress on new proposed point system    Richard Childress, who won six Winston Cup championships with Dale Earnhardt under the points system in place since 1975, said he was hesitant about a proposed playoff format for NASCAR's top series, but has since gained a better understanding of it. NASCAR plans to announce by the middle of next month whether it will adapt a 26-race "regular season" and 10-race playoff format. Only the top-10 drivers in points after 26 races would be eligible to race for the championship over the final 10 races. "From a purely selfish standpoint I would prefer the system stay the same," said Childress, who won Cup titles in 1986, '87, '90, '91, '93 and '94 with Earnhardt, the late seven-time champion. "When I first heard about it around the time of the (Cup awards) banquet in New York, I didn't think much of it." Childress said he recently spoke extensively with NASCAR officials, looking for answers to several questions he had about the proposal. "I think I have a better understanding now of what NASCAR is thinking. Sometimes you have to step back and take a look at the big picture," he said. "I can certainly see where the added media exposure and excitement surrounding a playoff atmosphere would help grow the sport and continue its success." Nextel, which takes over sponsorship of the Cup series in 2004, has been meeting with NASCAR over the proposal. Many fans have mistakenly cited Nextel as the reason for the change, when in fact it has been heavily promoted by new NASCAR chairman Brian France. ThatsRacin.com

12/20/03

Montoya voted athlete of the year    F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya is the Latin American 'Athlete of the Year.'  Held at the New Radisson Hotel in Miami (USA), the Colombian was honored by the inaugural edition of the Fox Sports awards.  Montoya, 28, also received the 'Best Latin American Driver,' award voted by television viewers.  His mother and father, Pablo Montoya and Libia Roldan, accepted the awards on Juan's behalf while Montoya sent a video message of thanks to his supporters.  'It was a good year,' said the BMW-Williams star, 'but I'm going to make it better [in 2004]. Thanks to everyone all over the continent.'

12/20/03

Tickets on sale for 30th LBGP   It was a different world on Sept. 28, 1975 when the first Long Beach Grand Prix roared through downtown Long Beach.

Gerald Ford was President. A first class stamp was 10 cents. “Saturday Night Live” made its debut on NBC. And “Jaws” was scaring millions in movie theaters.

One thing, however, has not changed: The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is still America's premier street race. And, tickets for the gala 30th Anniversary celebration of Southern California's Official Spring Brake, April 16-18, 2004, are now on sale.

The 2004 Grand Prix will again feature the cars and stars of the CART Champ Car World Series, expected to be led by two-time Long Beach winner Paul Tracy, ’96 winner and series champion Jimmy Vasser and Bruno Junqueira.

“Our 30th anniversary race weekend will be a celebration of everything that has made this event the ‘crown jewel’ of open-wheel racing in the West and an indelible part of the sports landscape in Southern California,” said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “We expect to make some exciting announcements in the near future that will ensure 2004 as the best Grand Prix weekend yet.”

Also scheduled for the action-packed weekend is the always-entertaining Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, now in its 28th year, as well as the Toyota Atlantic Championship showcasing young driving talent. There will be additional races announced in the coming weeks.

As always, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will feature much more than top-notch racing. There will once again be a variety of family-oriented activities throughout the weekend, including the Automobile Club of Southern California Lifestyle Expo, free to all race ticket holders. Every year the Lifestyle Expo features the latest high-tech products and services, racecars, games, and simulators. For the younger crowd, extreme sports demonstrations will return, as will the Kids' Fun Zone. After the races on Friday and Saturday nights, race goers can enjoy the immensely popular Rock-N-Roar concerts, which have featured internationally known acts like Third Eye Blind, the Gin Blossoms and the Goo Goo Dolls in the past.

For the fifth consecutive year, the 1.97-mile, 11-turn race circuit configuration on the downtown streets of Long Beach surrounding the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center is unchanged. Nineteen grandstands line the circuit, which include reserved seats, limited general admission seats and seating for various club ticket packages.

Ticket prices for the three-day event range from $30 for a Friday/Saturday general admission ticket to $110 for a three-day ticket that includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating in upper levels of the grandstands. Pre-paid parking packages are available and can be purchased when ordering tickets through the Grand Prix ticket office.

Credit card orders for the 2004 event can be placed by calling the ticket hotline toll-free at (888) 82-SPEED. A ticket brochure for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach can also be obtained by calling the ticket hotline. The ticket brochure includes a circuit map with grandstand and parking locations as well as ticket prices and a ticket order form.  For updated Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ticket information, news or announcements of special race week activities, visit www.longbeachgp.com.

12/20/03

2004 Minardi to be all-new car    Despite speculation that the Minardi Formula one team will be running with a revised version of the Arrows A23 that Paul Stoddart bought in the 2004 season, the Faenza based squad’s new PS04 will be a new car.  “Next year's Minardi will not simply be a "rebadged" and repainted Arrows A23,” Graham Jones told GP 2003.com. “It will be a new car, based on this year's PS03, incorporating lessons learned from the A23. This course of action will not lead directly to the team carrying out more private test sessions.”

12/20/03
Industry News

Autosport International Auto Show news  This site contains information on the Autosport International Auto Show that will be held in Birmingham, England on January 8-11, 2004. Among the exhibits will be a F1 Racing Grid that will offer visitors the chance to get some pre-season fever with this authentic recreation of a typical grid formation as they would see at the start of an F1 Grand Prix. With F1 cars, tire warmers and even the noise will give you an idea of what it feels like to walk down the grid. Jenson Button opens the show on January 10. Tickets are now on sale.

12/19/03

BMW enters Grand-Am   BMW Team PTG today announced its entry of two GT class BMW M3s in the 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series of the Grand American Road Racing Association. Racing for BMW of North America, LLC, BMW Team PTG is one of North America's premiere sports car racing teams and has raced the BMW M3 exclusively since 1995. Having delivered eleven championships in the past nine years, this coming season will mark the debut of Team PTG in the Rolex Series.

Constructed and prepared in-house at PTG's Winchester, Va. headquarters, the first M3 is planned to run at the January 3-5 test at Daytona International Speedway with a second M3 to be built.

"We are always looking for new challenges and to see where we can showcase the BMW M3," said Team PTG owner, Tom Milner. "PTG's roots are in endurance racing and we have seen our greatest success in the long distance races. Some of the tracks we will see next season will be familiar and a few will be new to us, but we look forward to getting back to what BMW Team PTG does best."

12/19/03

SCCA retains Trans-Am name, not OWRS   Below is an official release from SCCA:
TOPEKA, Kan -- With the announced agreement this week regarding the acquisition of Trans-Am Racing, LLC by Open Wheel Racing Series, LLC, Sports Car Club of America, Inc. has issued the following statement clarifying its ownership, and the current and future use of the Trans-Am® name:

Trans-Am® is a registered trademark of Sports Car Club of America, Inc. (SCCA), and it has been since 1970. In that time, SCCA has entered into licensing agreements with companies including, but not limited to, General Motors, Spalding, Panoz/Sanchez Group and Trans-Am Racing, LLC.

The agreement with Trans-Am Racing, LLC, the organizer of the 2003 Trans-Am® series, was for use of the name Trans-Am® and its operational and marketing rights for the 2003 season. That agreement expires after December 31, 2003.

SCCA is open to a future agreement and there have been discussions between SCCA and Trans-Am Racing, LLC regarding this. However, at this time, there is no such agreement in place for 2004.

12/19/03

Tracks ponder CART's bankruptcy   This Milwaukee Journal Online article says, Presented with the news out of CART this week - a bankruptcy filing and an agreement with Open Wheel Racing Series to purchase the company's assets - the answers of the two Wisconsin tracks on the circuit couldn't be more different than the racetracks themselves.

At the Milwaukee Mile, the general manager for the state-owned facility says the transactions offer hope for the future as the first real turning point for a financially troubled series.

"In a strange way, this makes it more comfortable," Mark Perrone said Thursday. "With the group that is coming in, they have cherry-picked the assets, including the promoter agreements. . . . I don't think they assumed any debt, which makes it more viable. "In essence, they've tightened the series up."

But 65 miles up the highway in Elkhart Lake, at Road America, Perrone's counterpart wrings his hands and shakes his head. To George Bruggenthies, president of the twisty, 4-mile road course, CART's future remains as cloudy today as it was two weeks or two months ago.

"It's not in their hands," he said, referring to Gerry Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkhoven, the team owners who joined together as Open Wheel.

"They may want to do something, but it really comes down to what's a judge going to say. They've got shareholders and creditors. And I'm not an attorney, but when things are in court, you never know what's going to happen."

12/19/03

GPWC and SLEC sign F1 agreement    It was reported last week they had reached a verbal agreement.  Now it's a signed memo of understanding.  The major engine manufacturers reached an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone and the shareholders of the company that owns F1's rights. The key points of the agreement include:

  • Teams will benefit from "significantly" increased revenue over that currently provided by the Concorde Agreement.

  • Three GPWC directors will be represented on the board of SLEC, enabling the manufacturer group to "contribute its expert knowledge to the sport and to support its long-term success."

  • Ecclestone will continue to serve as the CEO of Formula One Administration, ensuring that he will continue to run the sport for the foreseeable future.

  • A definitive agreement between the parties is being prepared, and is due to be signed in the middle of next year. As part of the overall solution the current Concorde Agreement, which expries in 2007, will be extended.

"Obviously my main interest has always been to secure the long-term future of Formula 1," said Ecclestone. "With an amended and extended Concorde Agreement about to be signed, and a general consensus on the key issues, I am very optimistic."

GPWC chairman Professor Jurgen Hubbert said: "This memorandum of understanding incorporates GPWC's core objectives and is in the very best interests of the teams and the fans."

12/19/03

French GP contract signed, but wait!  The French Motorsports Association (FFSA) said that the necessary financial backing had been secured for the Formula One race but that optimism was soon dashed when the regional authority, where the Magny-Cours track is based, then rejected its proposed budget.

"The FFSA has today signed and sent to the Formula One Management (FOM) the contract for the organization of the French Grand Prix in 2004 including the financial guarantees stipulated," said a statement by the FFSA.

However, the regional councilors at Burgundy, who it had been hoped would supply two million euros (2.5 million dollars) for the staging of the race, then threw out next year's budget. "In refusing the budget for 2004, the leftwing and the National Front together have rejected the plan to ensure the French Grand Prix," said opposition politician Jean-Pierre Soisson. "It is a bad blow for Magny-Cours and for Burgundy."

12/19/03

Court approves CART bankruptcy motions   Two motions were approved this morning in the initial hearing in Championship Auto Racing Team's chapter 11 bankruptcy filing at the Birch Bayh Federal Building and Courthouse. CART was allowed to pay ordinary business expenses to employees and was given until Jan. 30 to prepare bankruptcy schedules. A hearing was set for Dec. 30 at which time CART will ask the court to approve procedures for sale of the company.  Indy Star

12/19/03

Rocketsports re-signs Tagliani   Rocketsports Racing team owner Paul Gentilozzi today announced the return of Champ Car driver Alex Tagliani to the Rocketsports team for the 2004 Champ Car World Series. Tagliani joined Rocketsports in January, 2003 for its Champ Car debut season, and led the team to three podium finishes and two pole starts. With 77 career starts, Tagliani will return to Rocketsports for his fifth year racing Champ Cars. “I have a huge amount of respect for Alex’s desire and talent,” stated Gentilozzi. “I am happy to welcome him back to the Rocketsports team for next season. He was with us in the beginning, when we first entered the Champ Car World Series and he has helped build this team,” said the three-time Trans-Am champion turned Champ Car team owner. “We’ve learned a lot in the past year and plan to use this experience to our advantage to become more competitive. I have confidence in Alex and I’m excited about stepping up the challenge in 2004,” concluded Gentilozzi, revealing his competitive edge. Tagliani, who was recently in Lansing for a seat fitting, matched Gentilozzi’ s enthusiasm. “I am thrilled to be returning to Rocketsports for the 2004 Champ Car season. I’m proud to drive for Paul and appreciate the confidence he has in me,” said Tagliani. “We knew this first season was going to be a tough year of learning for everyone,” explained Tagliani. “As a team, we brought our experiences together for the first time and built something new. We have collected important data in our first season and are becoming more consistent. Our strength was not always reflected in our results, but this too will improve as we become more confident. We plan to go racing and win!” declared Tagliani. Tagliani finished the 2003 Champ Car World Series in tenth place with 97 points. In 2002, Tagliani earned a career-best eighth in the championship with 111 points. The 2004 Champ Car World Series promises to be an action-packed season, which kicks off with the Long Beach Grand Prix in April, 2004.

12/19/03
Industry News

TMS finally fixes fencing   We pointed out two years ago when Davey Hamilton was severely injured at Texas Motor Speedway that the fencing was installed on the grandstand side of the fence poles instead of the track side.  Then Kenny Brack was severely injured in October by the same improper fence construction.  Today TMS put out this press release.  No mention of the backward fencing, but you can bet they are fixing that too. - Work is underway on a $400,000 improvement and upgrade program to the catch fence at Texas Motor Speedway to better ensure fan safety. A three-phase project has been undertaken by the speedway after engineers studied ways to improve the fence surrounding the 1.5-mile track. "We try to constantly make improvements in the area of safety," said speedway general manager Eddie Gossage. "We had a spectacular crash involving the catch fence during October's Indy car race and were pleased that the fence performed perfectly and kept all the debris on the race track and out of the grandstands. "But we have studied ways to make the fence even more effective for all different cars that run here, including the much heavier stock cars," he said. "We also saw the need to install a fence along the inside wall of the speedway to protect fans in the infield. Overall, we are significantly improving safety measures here at Texas Motor Speedway." The first phase involved repairs and re-design of the back stretch fence where Indy Car driver Kenny Brack was involved in October's crash. Brack continues to improve and expects to return to racing in 2004. The cost for repairs from the October incident and re-design total approximately $50,000. The second phase will double the number of steel cables found in the catch fence on top of the track's concrete outside wall. When phase two is complete, a total of 12 steel cables located eight inches apart will fortify the strength of the fence. The cables are designed to keep the car on the racetrack side of the fence while chain link fence is designed to catch smaller pieces of debris. The cost for the second phase is estimated at $71,000. The third phase calls for a 10-foot high catch fence with steel cables to be installed on top of the three-foot inner crash wall surrounding the infield of the speedway. This new fence will protect spectators located in the speedway's infield and is expected to cost approximately $279,000.

12/19/03

Get rid of the grass!  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com,  I have been saying now since Greg Moore was killed that one of the best safety moves a race track can make is getting rid of ALL grassy areas between the concrete walls. This is especially important on ovals - but even road courses should consider it in certain areas.

There is no place for grass on an oval track. After Greg Moore died they paved the area where his accident occurred - but what about the rest of it?  The following year, Christian Fittipaldi lost it at Michigan and went onto the grass halfway between turns 2 and 3. As the car approached the turn 3 infield, he went over an access road, and the change in surface nearly caused his car to get airborne and start flipping.

I just don't understand why others are not seeing this - to me it is so obvious. Grass has three major problems: 1) First of all, it is impossible to get a high speed race car to slow down once it is on grass - it is like ice. 2) Grass surfaces are of course not perfect, they are uneven which can cause cars do dig in and get airborne or flip. 3) Access roads from the infield to the race track obviously pass through these grassy areas, making the uneven surface even worse.

Greg Moore got airborne when he hit the access road after bouncing across the grass. My bet is that the transition from grass back onto pavement played a part in Renna getting airborne too.

The solution is to pave all grass areas with a rough asphalt surface. The surface could be painted with sponsor logos if a track so chooses. But, the benefit would be enormous. A rough asphalt purpose would serve the purpose of grinding the car to a stop - or at the very minimum reduce the speed drastically. An asphalt surface would also (hopefully!) be even and help to keep the cars from digging in and flipping.

This is an area of racetrack safety that to me, as a fan, seems pretty obvious. I don't understand why the tracks are missing the boat on this. At Fontana, paving one area of the track where an accident occurred is the same thing as putting a stop light up in an intersection that a bad accident occurred. Are they going to wait until someone else has a problem in a different area of the track to pave the other areas? Mark Bette Chicago, IL  Dear Mark, You are spot on, but unfortunately when it comes to safety, the oval track cartel is reactive instead of proactive.  Mark C.

12/19/03

Signs point to driver error  This Indy Star article says, Tony Renna's fatal accident Oct. 22 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway occurred when his race car slid sideways through the infield grass and flipped into the spectator fence, according to an Indy Racing League report to be released today.  A copy of the report obtained Thursday by The Star indicated the cause of the third-turn crash was driver error.  Renna apparently lost control of the car, tried to correct the steering wheel and became airborne when he bounced over the uneven sod.  In 1999, CART driver Greg Moore was killed at California Speedway when his car flipped into a barrier after bouncing through the grass.  Renna's crash was different in that the car rotated an additional 30 degrees in the air, causing a rear-first lift. The car then struck a fence support post above the 4-foot-high wall with its bottom, splitting it at the cockpit area. The bottom is the weakest point of most cars as it is the least likely to be struck in a crash.  The impact was so fierce that the front half of the Ganassi Racing G Force/Toyota was caught in the fence when officials arrived at the scene.  Renna, 26, of DeLand, Fla., died of blunt force injuries to his head and chest, according to Marion County coroner John McGoff.  Renna was traveling at a speed of 227 mph, the IRL's report said, and there were no mechanical failures to his car.  That he skipped through the infield explains why there was grass on the track afterward.

12/19/03
IROC

IROC opener still up in air   The International Race of Champions [IROC] opener is still up in the air. The folks at IROC are apparently waiting to get the final, final, final OK from a new series sponsor. Daytona Intl Speedway is reserving them space on the Speed Weeks schedule (Feb. 13). Daytona Beach News Journal

12/19/03

Expensive VIP tickets for Shanghai  Tickets for next year’s inaugural Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai have gone on sale with reports in the Chinese press stating that they range in price from $50 upward to $4,000 dollars as organizers of the Shanghai circuit strive to fill the 200,000 seat grandstand.  $50 is roughly the same amount as a month’s wages for the average citizen,  while the more expensive seats are reserved for VIP’s.

12/19/03

Toyota replaces F1 boss  Ove Andersson is being replaced from his role as the principal of Toyota's Formula 1 team. The team's current chairman, Tsutomu Tomita, will take over the post, effective from January 1. Andersson has managed Toyota's European motorsport arm for 30 years, overseeing the manufacturer's world rally program and, since 2002, its F1 effort. He will now serve as an advisor to the company. "I want to thank Toyota for having given me chances in various motorsport activities and I am proud to continue to support the company in my new role," said Andersson. "Thirty years ago I started with three people in Belgium. Since then I have set a lot of targets and I have achieved them together with Toyota. Together, we manufactured Toyota's first ever F1 car. When it appeared on the grid at the Australian GP in 2002, it was an amazing feeling for me that I will never forget. I am sure Toyota will succeed in F1 and I look forward to seeing its first victory in the future." Tsutomo Tomita said: "We cannot thank Ove enough for his contribution to Toyota Motorsport's activities and achievements. From next season I will manage both the company and the race activities together with president John Howett. With the help and advice of Ove, my mission is to make Panasonic Toyota Racing one of the top F1 teams as soon as possible."

12/19/03

Latest Formula One News Items  

Verstappen Out Of A Drive At Minardi
F1 Car Spreads The Word In Saudi Arabia
Zanardi Confirms Full-Time Race Return
Barrichello Wants New Deal Before Melbourne
F1's Montoya Is 'Athlete Of The Year'
BAR Lead F1's New Race For Chinese Bucks
Bernie Played Hand In Baumgartner Drive
McNish Stakes Claim For Jordan Ride
Renault Boss: We Have An Option On Webber
Six Drivers Duel For Final F1 Seat
Prost Rues Loss Of All-Time F1 Records
Gascoyne To Toyota: Success Will Take Time
Klien Is Better Than Pizzonia, Wilson: Team
Tung Manager Cautions Early Rise To F1
Brawn Slams Head For 'Ferrari Bias' Claims
Bridgestone 'Worried' About Michelin Pace
Toyota Engineer Wants Cease-Fire In Tire War

12/18/03

Fernández recognized by Latino community   Winner of Round 9 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford earlier this year in Portland, Mexico’s ever-popular Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was recognized last night at the Premios Fox Sports Awards in Miami. The inaugural gathering of some of today's biggest names in the worlds of sports and entertainment honored the achievements of U.S. Hispanic and Latin American athletes for the first time.

The author of eight-career wins and the Champ Car World Series’ only current owner/driver received a special award in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to the world of motorsports.” Revered as one of his country’s most recognizable athletes with strong backing from sponsors Tecate, Quaker State and Telmex, Fernandez led a contingent of six Latino drivers competing for the Vanderbilt Cup in 2003.

“The award they presented to me means a lot,” said Fernandez. “To be recognized for helping others is a great reward for the efforts in my career, and I just hope it keeps building for our new generations in the future.”

In addition to the special award, Fernandez was also one of five nominees in the Most Outstanding Latin American Motor Sport Driver category. Other nominees included fellow Champ Car drivers Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal, Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Herdez Competition, and rookie Rodolfo Lavin (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Walker Racing, as well as 1999 Champ Car titlist and current Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya, who was presented with the award. Montoya was the evening’s only two-award winner, as he also was named “Athlete of the Year.”

Other honorees on the night included Chicago White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza (Latin American Baseball Player of the Year); San Antonio Spurs guard Emmanuel Ginobili (Latin American Basketball Player of the Year); Rolex Rookie of the Year, golfer Lorena Ochoa (Female Latin American Golfer of the Year); Boca Juniors forward Carlos Alberto Tevez (Latin American Soccer Player of the Year); and golfer Carlos Franco (Latin American Golfer of the Year). In total, more than 20 athletes were honored in their respective sports for their outstanding performance over the past year.

“The evening was a great recognition for all Latin athletes,” said Fernandez. “I have been able to meet a lot of athletes that I had not met before. This initiative by Fox Sports rewards the efforts that everyone puts into their sport. It is really nice that they do this for Latin athletes.”

The awards show will be televised this Sunday, December 21st at 10:00 pm ET on Fox Sports en Espanol and will reach more than 17 million households across the Americas. Fox Sports Latin America will also carry the event, broadcasting throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

12/18/03

St. Pete race gets new life   This Tampa Tribune article says, The group trying to purchase the assets of CART still plans to run the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, possibly in May or in the fall, one of the prospective owners said Wednesday.  Paul Gentilozzi, one of the three primary partners in Open Wheel Racing Series, said his group is ``working hard'' with the city of St. Petersburg to reschedule the race, postponed indefinitely from Feb. 22-24.

``At this point we're investigating May, but if it has to go to the fall, we'll go to the fall,'' Gentilozzi said. ``So there will be a rescheduling, likely, of St. Petersburg, and we're going to end up with 16 events.''

The Grand Prix, featuring CART's 750-horsepower Champ Cars, was postponed Dec. 1 after CART informed promoter Dover Motorsports it wouldn't be ready to run a race in February. Dover transferred the event's assets and rights to CART, and Open Wheel has agreed to acquire them.

``Dover had some conflicts and couldn't operate the race later in the year when we felt the window fit us better, so we made a business deal there to take the assets of that event,'' Gentilozzi said.

CART in November announced a 19-race schedule. That, Gentilozzi said Wednesday, will be pared to 15-17 races and will not include the 2-year-old Miami Grand Prix Americas, whose contract Open Wheel is not acquiring. The season will open April 18 with the Grand Prix of Long Beach, CART's most successful U.S. event.

Even if St. Petersburg's grand prix is rescheduled, the long-range future of the downtown street race looks hazy.

Gentilozzi's group faces major hurdles in getting CART on solid ground. The publicly traded company lost more than $80 million in 2003, doesn't have a title sponsor and doesn't have a TV contract. Many are questioning whether sponsorship can be found for the minimum of 18 cars required by some promoters.

One potential salvation is an eventual merger with the Indy Racing League, the rival open-wheel series headed by Tony George.

``We have had occasion to talk recently about the philosophies of open-wheel racing in North America and around the world,'' Gentilozzi said. ``They're always engaging, intriguing conversations. At this point, it's just two guys talking.''

12/18/03

CART breached Road America contract, still on 2004 schedule   Road America has notified CART that CART breached its 2004 sanctioning agreement when it attempted to assign its non-transferable contract with Road America to the Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS), according to George Bruggenthies, president and general manager. CART signed over its assets to OWRS on Dec. 15 and filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 16. CART alleges that the Road America contract now is part of the bankruptcy proceedings to be decided by an Indianapolis judge. Road America's attorneys notified CART on Monday, Dec. 15. "All of CART's assets are before a bankruptcy judge," said Bruggenthies, and resolution of the bankruptcy issues could take quite a while. Everything is up on the air, and again this year Road America's race fans can't make definitive plans. "No one can predict the future, and the future for CART at this point is uncertain," he continued, "because everything is in the hands of a judge who must make a decision on a complicated bankruptcy." "The Grand Prix of Road America's schedule will go forward with the notation 'CART to be determined'," said Bruggenthies, because of the uncertainty. Other series slated to compete during the Grand Prix of Road America Presented by the Chicago Tribune weekend include Motorock Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Cup, Toyota Atlantic and a Barber Dodge Pro Series doubleheader. Other series may be added. "We have a business to run, and at the most basic level, products to sell," Bruggenthies continued. "Our product is racing entertainment and all that involves, from race fans making summer plans and buying tickets to corporate relationships. "We need adequate time to market our schedule. This unexpected maneuver by CART has really placed things up in the air for 2004," he said. "We must be responsive to the motorsports business and work to deliver an excellent racing and entertainment experience for Road America's race fans, sponsors, riders and drivers."  In 2003 Road America negotiated, with race legend Mario Andretti's help, a two-year contract with CART to end in 2004. "It appears that there may be a new management group who may now define Champ Cars." Bruggenthies said. We'll keep the lines of communication open, and like other open-wheel race fans, hope for the best." Road America

12/18/03

SPEED Channel Reality Show  SPEED Channel, the fastest growing sports cable network in the U.S., has been granted full access for a planned reality series based in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2004. The show, with the working title NBS 24-7, will debut with back-to-back half-hours on Feb. 16.

The show will run for 40-plus weeks, chronicling the lives of multiple NASCAR Busch Series drivers and their teams. Designed to highlight the personalities of the participants, the program will focus on activities between events as well as each team's success or failure on the race track.

"There has been a lot of talk about NASCAR reality shows, but the key has always been the access," said SPEED Channel President Jim Liberatore. "With NASCAR giving this project its blessing, we think we are on to something special here. With full garage access and the ability to incorporate actual race footage, SPEED viewers will get closer to their sport than ever before, in ways that have never been possible before."

"We are excited about SPEED Channel's commitment to showcase and increase exposure of the NASCAR Busch series, the second most popular motorsport in the United States, and its drivers. SPEED Channel consistently provides well-produced, relevant coverage of our races and our sport, which brings value to our drivers, teams, track, sponsors, and fans," said Sarah Nettinga, director, film, television and music entertainment, NASCAR Digital Entertainment.

The show will be produced by Atlanta-based Kestrel Communications.

The home to NASCAR TV, SPEED Channel is the exclusive cable partner for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In addition to live coverage of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series qualifying, SPEED Channel takes NASCAR fans through the week with Trackside, NASCAR Edition SpeedNews and Inside NEXTEL Cup. Now available in more the 64 million homes in North America, SPEED Channel is the fastest growing sports cable network in the country.

12/18/03

OWRS teleconference transcript   Here is the full transcript from yesterday's media teleconference with Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkhoven

12/18/03

***Reader Comment*** What is a Champ Car?   2nd UPDATE Another reader writes, American Grand Prix Series? Hmmm, I like it but it could cause some problems with "American" being in front of it. It is a world series, correct? So why classify it as just an American series? It seems that would isolate or create some reluctance to embrace the series overseas. How about just Grand Prix Series? or World Grand Prix Series? For example, "hey, what kind of cars are those?" Oh, "those are Grand Prix cars." "What is a Grand Prix car, you mean like Formula one?"........yep. Derek Hughes, Florida  Dear Doug, We are not hung up on the American part and you make a valid point.  The key are the words "Grand Prix Series."  Since Open Wheel Racing Series is buying it, why not call it the "Open Wheel Grand Prix Series."  If that doesn't describe what it is perfectly, nothing does.  Mark C. 12/18/03 - Another reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, To me a Champ Car is an oversized sprint car that they now call the USAC Silver Crown Series. Champ cars are the front engine dirt cars that raced in the 1960s. Call it the "American Grand Prix Series" Terence Fischer, Northfield, New Jersey  Dear Terence, You are spot on. Just another reason why the term "Champ Car" is doomed for confusion and obscurity and should be abandoned by CART.  Mark C.  12/18/03 - A reader writes,  Dear AutoRacing1.com, OWRS is getting rid of the title "CART" because no one understands what a "CART" is, yet they are keeping the term "Champ Car" and I submit to you that 99.9999999% of the people on the street don't know what a Champ Car is.  What are they thinking?  Chester Wild, Pittsburgh, PA,  Dear Chester. You are absolutely correct.  Champ Car has no meaning except to the hard core race fan.  We thought calling them North American Grand Prix cars made a lot more sense because the term "Grand Prix" is understood by the majority of people on the street and it is a sexy name.  Grand Prix is associated with road racing and that is what CART/OWRS does. The movie Grand Prix did a lot to brand that term and many of CART's races are called "Grand Prix".   They are wasting their time with the Champ Car term. Now is their chance to clearly define what they are and what they represent.  Paul and Kevin won't like hearing this, but trying to hang on to something that does not click with the average guy on the street because of nostalgia is a serious error in judgment and will only hold them back. They need to grow the series with new race fans and race fans from other series with a name that leaves no confusion.  "Champ Car" is just as confusing and obscure as "CART"  to not only Americans, but to the rest of the world.   They would have been better off keeping the company name as CART and calling their series the CART Grand Prix Series or the CART American Grand Prix Series.  "CART" may be a tarnished name, but because of all the press it has gotten, good or bad, a lot of people now recognize it around the world.  In fact more people know the term "CART" than "Champ Car."   That is our opinion, but what do we know?  Mark C.

12/18/03

Denver race officials cautious This Denver Post article says, The Grand Prix of Denver overcame a major hurdle Monday when CART agreed to seek Chapter 11 protection and sell many of its assets to a group of car owners who promise to continue racing in 2004. But even though the prospective new sanctioning body is expected to obtain the contract for the Denver race, the event needs a green light from the city.

"It's good news for the first time, in a long time," Grand Prix of Denver general manager John Frew said of the expected agreement between CART and Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS). "But we're not out of the woods yet."

Last month, Dover Motorsports Inc., which owns the Denver race infrastructure, CART and Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which owns the Pepsi Center, moved the annual three-day event from the final weekend of August to the middle of the month. The 2004 race is scheduled for Aug. 13-15 on the Pepsi Center grounds.


The city of Denver, which is the event's fourth partner, has yet to agree to the new date or the new proposed sanctioning body. "We have a lot of work to do, even though (the 2004 race) is eight months away," Frew said. "There are some City Council members who are not supportive of us changing the dates. This is not a slam dunk with the city."

But it should be, City Council member Charlie Brown said.  "I can't imagine why anyone would object to this," Brown said. "This is a $17 million (economic) hit to the city."

Brown, who is the head of the public works committee, said the city received only two noise or traffic congestion complaints during the second race last August.  "We're making more than $8 million for every complaint. I can certainly justify that," he said. "I'm very optimistic. If we're going to grow with the city, we have to offer recreational outlets like this - everything from rock concerts to races.  "So I'm very much pro-Grand Prix, and I hope that excitement is shared by my colleagues."

Frew said he hopes to begin selling tickets Jan. 23. He said the CART-OWRS deal should be finalized by then, with OWRS maintaining relationships with almost all of the drivers and teams from 2003. His biggest concern is maintaining the city of Denver as a partner.  "It's another hoop we have to jump through, and until we do, nothing is certain," Frew said.

12/18/03

BAR leading charge for Chinese sponsors  As Formula One looks to Asia for new fans and future growth, the Lucky Strike BAR Honda team is leading the race for Chinese backers. BAR has already landed the first Chinese sponsorship from Internet portal Sina.com as it prepares for China's debut F1 event — the Shanghai Grand Prix in September. While not a multi-million dollar deal, it represents an important breakthrough for the team. Now the team is courting major Chinese state companies, said Andrew Couper, the team's director of new business. "It's a question of who will be first," Couper said Wednesday, speaking before the Shanghai Automobile Race and Sports Utility Vehicle Expo. "At the beginning of the year, we identified that the Asian market, especially China and Japan, was most important to us," said Couper. "There is a definite trend to migrate." Couper was making his fourth visit to China to meet potential sponsors. "We came here to China because we need very much to make our relationship better ahead of the race," said Sato, who was a test driver for BAR during 2003 and has been named to replace Canadian Jacques Villeneuve for 2004. The Hindustan Times

12/18/03

US Coast Guard to sponsor Labonte Motorsports  The United States Coast Guard announced today that it is entering into a partnership with Labonte Motorsports and driver Justin Labonte for a 15-race schedule in the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series. Justin's father, two-time Nextel Series champion Terry Labonte and his uncle Bobby Labonte, winner of the 2000 Nextel championship and 1991 NASCAR Busch Series championship, will participate in the program which is aimed at enhancing the Coast Guard's recruiting and outreach missions. Justin, 22, recently won the 2003 Late Model Stock Championship at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., duplicating the feat accomplished by Bobby Labonte in 1987. Justin posted impressive statistics in his title run with 7 wins in 24 starts, to go along with 19 top-five and 21 top-ten finishes. "This partnership offers a unique opportunity to showcase the Coast Guard and tell our story to an unprecedented audience of potential recruits and those that influence them," said Admiral Thomas Collins, commandant of the Coast Guard. We are delighted to welcome the Labontes to our Coast Guard Family." The 2004 Team Coast Guard Racing/Labonte Motorsports #44 Dodge will be powered by the Labonte Motorsports in-house motor development group, Labonte Racing Engines, Inc., headed by Freddie Turza. Bryant Frazier will be the team's crew chief. He was the crew chief for Steve Grissom during his Busch Series championship season in 1993 and later served as crew chief for Bobby Labonte in several of his Busch Series victories.

12/18/03

Kyle Busch to drive 6 Cup races  Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick today announced that 18-year-old Kyle Busch will attempt to qualify for six NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races in 2004 with support from primary sponsor CARQUEST Auto Parts, the official auto parts supplier of Hendrick Motorsports since 2002. "The folks at CARQUEST have been wonderful partners and we are excited about their expanded role with us in 2004," Hendrick said. "This is going to be a great chance for Kyle to gain some valuable experience by racing with and learning from the best drivers in NASCAR. I think it's really going to benefit his development." In conjunction with its support of Busch in the No. 84 Chevrolets (formerly the No. 60), CARQUEST will become a major associate sponsor of the No. 25 Nextel Cup team of driver Brian Vickers. CARQUEST backed Vickers and the championship-winning No. 5 NASCAR Busch Series team as a major associate in 2003. "All of us at CARQUEST Auto Parts are proud to continue our association with Hendrick Motorsports as their official auto parts supplier," said Art Lottes III, president of CARQUEST. "Hendrick Motorsports is a world-class organization and we look forward in 2004 to continued success with Brian Vickers and our new relationship with Kyle Busch." Busch will aim to qualify for his first-ever Nextel Cup event at his hometown track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, followed by efforts at Texas Motor Speedway in April and Lowe's Motor Speedway over Memorial Day weekend in May. During the second half of the season, the No. 84 CARQUEST team will enter races at New Hampshire International Speedway in July, Michigan International Speedway in August and California Speedway on Labor Day weekend in September.

12/18/03

Piquet Jr. to get 2nd Williams test  Nelson Piquet Junior will test with the BMW WilliamsF1 team again in January.  Piquet Jr. who tested for Williams earlier this month, driving the FW25 at Jerez, impressed the team, chief operations engineer, Sam Michael, commenting at the time, that: "Nelson and Nico Rosberg did a good job and worked well with the team, as well as showing themselves to be technically competent."  Piquet told Crash.Net Brazil / formula news: "If they, Williams, want me as a test driver, it will be a year to learn a lot. We can never say anything, but we never know.  The ideal situation would be to win the British F3 championship in 2004, have a good year as a Williams test driver and then, who knows, be prepared to replace Juan Pablo Montoya for 2005."

12/18/03

Dana to drive in IPS again  Paul Dana will return to the Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2004, moving to Hemelgarn/Johnson Motorsports, team owners Ron Hemelgarn and Roger Johnson announced last week.   Dana will compete in his second year in the Pro Series driving the #91 Ethanol Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.  "I'm thrilled that Ron has given me this opportunity," Dana said. "Hemelgarn/Johnson have shown they can win in the Pro Series, and it's amazing to have the chance to work with an organization that has won the IndyCar Series championship and the Indy 500.  As for next season, it looks like we'll have a chance to do some decent preseason testing, which I didn't have last year, so I think we'll be very well prepared," Dana said. "There's a winning tradition with this team, and I hope to be able to keep that alive."  "I'm confident we can help Paul further develop his racing skills in the Pro Series, and with a little luck we'll pick up a couple more wins," Hemelgarn said. "We're extremely excited to be associated with Ethanol."

12/18/03

Latest Formula One News Items  

Minardi Offer Race-Seat To Baumgartner
Jordan Poised To Sign Verstappen
Jaguar And Jordan To Race Same Engines
Ecclestone, GPWC, End F1 Breakaway Threat
Ferrari Will Try To Change Points System
Moscow Set Aside Land For F1 Circuit
Irvine Swerves To Dodge Arrest Warrant
Tung Spreads F1 Fever In China
Watch Out Schu, Here Comes Sato
Barrichello To Stay At Ferrari: Brawn
Ralf Vows Tough Time For Brother In 2004
IRL's Dixon To Race In F1 By 2005
Ralf And Santa Claus  

Wilson Can't afford Jordan Race-Seat
Rubens, Michael, Can't Wait To Race Again
Briatore Cleared In Italian Court
McLaren Defend F1's New Points System
Kerpen: A Living Shrine To Schumacher

12/17/03

IRL looks to control runaway costs  Plagued by costly crashes and runaway costs, the IRL is now copying the CART rulebook and implementing cost saving measures.  The elimination of private testing is a highlight of several 2004 rule changes for the Indy Racing League(R) IndyCar(R) Series aimed at controlling costs, IRL officials announced Dec. 17. Other rule changes involve engine changes on race weekends, engine manufacturer testing rules, fuel tank reduction, Open Tests and backup car use on race weekends. More....

12/17/03

Final CART Schedule 16 races On today's media teleconference Paul Gentilozzi stated that the final CART schedule is getting close and to expect 16 races when it's all said and done.

12/17/03

Valiante fastest in Walker test Lynx Racing’s latest graduate, Michael Valiante, 23, of Vancouver B.C. was the quickest of the four top young racing talents tested by the Walker Racing Champ Car team during the week of December 8 at Sebring International Raceway. He is expected to test with the team again in January. Also participating in the Walker test were Atlantic drivers Ryan Dalziel and Jonathan Macri, as well as German F3 driver Timo Glock. “I was mentally prepared for it to be a huge jump from Atlantics to Champ Cars, but once we got the track cleaned off and the tires warmed up, I got down to some competitive, consistent times pretty quickly,” said Valiante. “We kicked it up a notch the second day and knocked another half second or so off the time, and did a 30-lap run at the end of the day. It was a very comprehensive test program that was good for both the drivers and the team, and I think Derrick Walker deserves a lot of credit for being the one Champ Car team owner who’s out there during this unsettled time keeping a high profile and working toward the future.” Each driver went through a comprehensive evaluation program designed to provide the maximum opportunity to experience a wide range of disciplines required to drive a Champ Car, starting with two days in the shop for seat fittings and engineering meetings. On the track they experienced a full range of simulations, from qualifying runs, to pit stops, to full-tank runs. “We are investing in the future now, and these kinds of tests really provide both the team and driver with a lot of meaningful insight,” says Walker. “Michael and I have been working together for some time now to try to build a race program, and during the test he demonstrated that he is a highly focused young talent who is more than ready to take the next step in his career." Valiante, who won six races and finished on the podium 12 times in 28 CART Toyota Atlantic races with the Lynx Racing team, was scheduled to test and race with the Walker team in the CART season finale at Fontana Speedway in Southern California on November 2. However, the event was cancelled due to the devastating wildfires in the area. Valiante is a national and international karting champion, ‘Rookie of the Year’ and scholarship winner in the Barber Dodge series, and is widely regarded as one of the top prospects to become a star in the CART Champ Car World Series. He is the most recent graduate of Lynx Racing, one of the most unique and successful driver development programs in open wheel racing today. Created and owned by two women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, the Lynx mission is to seek out young drivers with the desire and potential to become champions at the highest level of the sport and provide them with funding, equipment and training that focuses on their mental and spiritual development as well as their on-track skills – a process the team calls ‘Destiny by Design.’

12/17/03

CART/OWRS cancels Miami and Fontana race  OWRS is not purchasing the rights for the Miami and Fontana races and neither will happen in 2004.  Would love to race in Miami but the existing location was too expensive and are looking at other, less costly sites.  The old track was too Mickey Mouse and disrupted downtown too much.  See our initial summary of teleconference for all the juicy stuff.  Mark C.

12/17/03

Baumgartner to drive for Minardi    This ends the hopes for many drivers of landing an F1 seat in 2004.  Minardi have offered Hungarian Zsolt Baumgartner a driver's seat for next season.   The 22-year-old raced in two grands prix for Jordan this year as a stand-in for injured British driver Ralph Firman.  "Minardi offered Baumgartner an official driver's position for the 2004 season," the team said in a statement. "We hope to complete the deal within a week." Baumgartner became the first Hungarian to compete in Formula One at his home grand prix in August, retiring with engine failure. In September, he finished 11th at Monza in Italy. Minardi owner Paul Stoddart said he looked forward to welcoming Baumgartner to the fold. "His performance last year, when with very little notice he replaced Firman, impressed me greatly," Stoddart said.  "We're all impatient to start the 2004 season with Zsolt."

12/17/03

F1 needs push-to-pass too  In the latest Autosport Magazine, Martin Brundle laments about current driver aides in F1 and the reduced reliance on driver skill.  “You’re going to spin off less,” said Brundle, “so you’re going to hit things less, so I guess you can’t dispute – factually– that traction control makes it safer. But, honestly, I don’t really perceive that F1 cars are too dangerous these days.

“It’s not about the Gilles Villeneuve way of hanging it out at the exit of a corner anymore, I’m afraid, because that looks after itself now, with traction control. The problem is you just don’t see a driver having to scoop it up, and that’s what people love. Traction control has taken away 50 percent of the spectacle.”

A good deal of the unpredictability, too. And the same has been true of launch control: if your system worked better than others, as in the case of Renault, you made up places before the first corner; if not, as with Williams in the latter half of the season, you lost them. In neither case did the drivers have much say in the matter.

Launch control has been banned as of now, but many suspect it will not make great deal of difference.

“Getting off the grid may not be a matter of pushing a button any more,” said Brundle, “but once the thing’s moving, you’ve got traction control coming in, haven’t you? So big deal.”

Fully automatic gearboxes are gone, too, but that merely means that the drivers revert to flicking paddles: it remains impossible to pass.

Formula 1 cars may now run in closer proximity in races, but they still lack the means to get past each other.  [Editor's Note: Yes, it's called push-to-pass like CART is doing in 2004].

12/17/03

IRS looking at John Menard, could be in a heap of trouble  John Menard didn't use aggressive shelters devised by a big accounting firm; in fact, Menard Inc. paid a lot of corporate income tax--$158 million in fiscal 2000. But the IRS contends that from 1998 through 2000, Menard Inc. improperly deducted $68 million too much in pay for Menard personally and $20 million in expenses for his auto-racing team.

The salary structure at Menard Inc. leaves no doubt as to who's in charge. In 1998 Menard's chief financial officer earned $55,700. Menard's younger brother Lawrence, who runs store operations and has worked for him for 40 years, rated a $45,000 salary and $180,000 bonus. Menard himself was paid $20.6 million under a 30-year-old formula awarding him 5% of pretax profits as a bonus.

The IRS cites such skewed executive pay as evidence that Menard, as owner, was really taking dividends in disguise. (Pay is a deductible business expense and so only gets taxed once, on John Menard's personal tax return, whereas dividends must be paid from Menard Inc.'s aftertax corporate income and so get taxed twice.) Forbes.com

12/17/03

Biela to lead UK charge  American Le Mans Series champion Frank Biela will lead an assault on the March 17-20 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring by a newly-formed British-based Audi sports car team.  A two-time winner of America's oldest sports car race, the 39-year-old Biela will drive an Audi R8 Prototype with fellow German Pierre Kaffer and England's Jamie Davies for Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx. Biela will also drive for the team later this year in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in search of his fourth win in the famed French endurance racing classic.  More....

12/17/03

Affleck to be Grand Marshal  Actor, director and writer Ben Affleck, who captured the 1997 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting and has starred in blockbuster films such as Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, will serve as Grand Marshal for the 46th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 15 - "The Great American Race." Affleck, who stars in the upcoming Paycheck, which will be released Dec. 25, will give the command "Drivers, start your engines" in NASCAR's biggest, richest and most prestigious stock car race in the world. His Grand Marshal duties also include leading the 43-car field in the pace laps from the Grand Marshal pace car. "We're excited to have Ben take part in Daytona 500 pre-race festivities to help start the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race of 2004," said Speedway President Robin Braig. "As a huge sports fan, I'm thrilled to serve as Grand Marshal for the 2004 Daytona 500," Affleck said. "I've heard about the excitement and competition of the Daytona 500 and I can't wait to be part of the festivities." Affleck continues the tradition of high-profile celebrities, athletes and politicians that have participated in or attended the Daytona 500, NASCAR's annual season-opening event for its premier racing series. International superstar actor John Travolta served as Grand Marshal in the 2003 Daytona 500 to join a list of esteemed past Grand Marshals including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw and Jim Kelly. Mariah Carey, the biggest selling female pop artist of all time, sang the national anthem during the pre-race festivities for the 2003 Daytona 500. Celebrities such as former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, American Idol judge Randy Jackson and action movie star Vin Diesel all have attended NASCAR's most watched race.

12/17/03

CART named to be phased out  This Indy Star article says, Paul Gentilozzi said plans are for the series to continue to be based in Indianapolis and operate under the Champ Car World Series banner, with the CART name being phased out (the CART name is damaged goods and confuses some people who think CART is a grocery shopping cart). Current employees, including key management personnel, will be invited to stay on. Included are chief operating officer David Clare, chief financial officer Tom Carter, vice president of racing operations John Lopes and director of technology Lee Dykstra.

Even after laying off more than 20 employees in mid-October, CART still has 50 full-time employees working out of its local headquarters.

Among the possible snags to the deal is the emergence of another bidder. The Indy Racing League might seem a logical candidate to get involved and perhaps put a competitor out of business, but IRL vice president Fred Nation said that's not going to happen.

"We continue to watch it but merely as spectators," he said. "We have no plans to get involved and the fact the agreement allows (OWRS) the final bid would seem to effectively rule out anybody else."

Kalkhoven said he and his partners would have been willing to step aside had another viable buyer come forward earlier. None did and he doubts one will now. And that includes the IRL.

"Tony George does not want to be the one to bankrupt any racing organization and close it down," Kalkhoven said. "That's just not his style."

12/17/03

Burton tests 2004 spec Taurus  Jeff Burton's #99 Roush Racing Ford team spent yesterday at Virginia International Raceway with their first 2004 specification Taurus.  Burton did back-to-back comparisons of different brake calipers at the 2.25-mile VIR North Course. According to crew chief Paul Andrews, this is catch-up work from the 2003 season.

"There are two different types of brake calipers we wanted to try," he said, "and another manufacturer's come along with a new one they're thinking about building, so we have their prototype for that. We just want to see what kind of things we can find."

The team usually tests a couple of times each year at VIR, which is just a two-hour drive from their shop in Concord, N.C.

"VIR is a great place," Andrews said. "We love coming here. It's obviously a real nice facility, and it kind of helps us a little bit with both road courses that we run, Watkins Glen and Sears Point, so it's a good place for us.  What's good about testing in the winter is that it keeps your driver really in tune with what's going on, and keeps all your crew members thinking about the race car instead of having to get cars built in the shop," he said. "Having to get cars built in the shop is a necessity, but it also doesn't help you run very good sometimes. You need to keep the ideas flowing.   We've got a lot of work to do," said Andrews. "Plus, NASCAR's changed a few rules on us again, tightened up the tolerances on some of the templates, which made us cut up a lot of our bodies. But we're looking forward to all of that."

12/17/03

F1 to look at more points for race winners  Ferrari President Luca Montezemolo commented on F1’s point-scoring system, saying that ‘it doesn’t make sense’. The system of awarding points to the top eight finishers, as opposed to the top six, was used for the first time in 2003 and handed F1 fans a closer battle, like NASCAR does. Although the top eight finishers in this year’s Championship would have remained in the same order under the old system the points-difference between the drivers was narrowed. This, though, did not please Montezemolo, who feels it was unjust for Kimi Raikkonen to finish the season only two points behind Michael Schumacher, when the McLaren driver didn’t come close to matching Schumacher for the number of wins. He told Gazzetta dello Sport: "The new rules are fine, but not the scoring system - Raikkonen can't end up just two points behind Schumacher having won only one GP compared to Michael's six. It doesn't make sense. From 2005 we'll try to change things."

12/17/03

Gentilozzi confident of CART car count  This Indy Star article says,  Paul Gentilozzi predicts his series will have more cars in 2004 than the Indy Racing League.

Gentilozzi said there will be at least 18 cars at his races when the season opens April 18 in Long Beach, Calif.

"I guarantee it. Absolutely. No hesitation," Gentilozzi said. "We're confident right now we've got more cars committed to a full season than our competition."

A survey by The Star shows the IRL with more confirmed cars at this point, 18 to 13. But many deals for both series won't come together -- or be abandoned -- until next month at the earliest.

Several CART teams are waiting to see how the bankruptcy reorganization unfolds. It is possible some will choose to switch to the IRL, which begins its season Feb. 29 in Homestead, Fla.

"Right now we've still got one (car in CART) and one (in the IRL)," said Tom Anderson, co-owner of Fernandez Racing. "But our main concern is what happens to CART. We'll have to see how it shakes out."

Gentilozzi's group, the Open Wheel Racing Series, is co-owned by Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven. They need 18 cars to fulfill current race contracts.

If CART/OWRS survives in 2004, roughly one-third of the cars are expected to come from the new owners, with each fielding a minimum of two cars. That would represent a gain of two cars from 2003 since Gentilozzi's Rocketsports Racing and Kalkhoven's PK Racing were one-car operations. Forsythe was a two-car team last season.  More....

12/17/03

Nextel to meet with NASCAR on points system  Nextel Communications, which takes over as sponsor for NASCAR's Cup series in 2004, is meeting with NASCAR this week to seek information about a proposed addition of a playoff format to its top series, officials with the sponsor confirmed Tuesday. Nextel, which signed a 10-year deal in June to sponsor the Cup series, was not informed of NASCAR's desire to change the current points system before its deal with NASCAR was completed, sources confirmed. NASCAR officials maintain they are seriously considering a plan that would create a 26-race "regular season" and 10-race playoff format. Only the top-10 drivers in points after 26 races would be eligible to race for the championship over the final 10 races. A decision is expected next month. Since the plan first became widely circulated during the annual Cup awards banquet weekend in New York, Nextel has received an "overwhelming" response regarding the proposal from fans, sources said. Fans have flooded Internet message boards and radio talk shows discussing the playoff system. Some have mistakenly credited Nextel with pushing for the change. The plan, however, has been promoted heavily by new NASCAR chairman Brian France. In two recent Internet polls - one which is still underway - race fans have overwhelmingly expressed their disapproval with the playoff format. A poll on ThatsRacin.com last week asked fans if NASCAR should adopt the "26-10" playoff-style points system in 2004. Of the nearly 4,600 responses, over 85-percent said 'no.' Another poll on jayski.com asking if the NASCAR points system should be changed has elicited nearly 20,000 votes, with 55-percent saying 'no.' Of the seven choices given to change the system, the playoff format currently under consideration had 924 votes, or 4.69-percent as of Tuesday. Cup drivers Kevin Harvick and 2002 champion Tony Stewart have recently expressed support of the current points system, with Harvick preferring a small points addition for winning a race. Ford Racing officials reached Tuesday said they would reserve comment on the playoff format until they received more specifics of the proposal from NASCAR.ThatsRacin.com

12/17/03

CART cancels stockholder meeting  Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. ("Championship" or the "Company") (OTCBB: CPNT.OB) yesterday announced that it has cancelled the special meeting of its stockholders that was scheduled to be held on Friday, December 19, 2003.  The special meeting had been called to allow Championship's stockholders to vote on a proposal to adopt the Agreement and Plan of Merger among Open Wheel Racing Series LLC, Open Wheel Acquisition Corporation and Championship. However, as announced today, Championship has entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement, pursuant to which, among other things, the Merger Agreement has been terminated by the mutual written consent of Open Wheel, Acquisition Corp. and Championship. As a result, Championship has cancelled the special meeting of its stockholders. It was reported previously that representatives of Open Wheel had advised Championship it did not believe that certain conditions to close the Merger Agreement were going to be met and, therefore, the merger would not be completed. Championship considered Open Wheel’s position and believes that the closing condition requiring the absence of a material adverse effect could not be satisfied because of a decrease in the number of teams planning on participating in the 2004 season.

12/17/03

***Reader question*** What now for CART?  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, The CART board approved the OWRS buyout offer, but how can these new owners keep the series alive?  Last year the series burnt through $80+ million to keep it going.  Unless they are going to turn it into a gentlemen's club series, what is going to be different in 2004 such that OWRS won't have to spend $80 million again?  I see no concrete business plan, I see no sponsor announcements.  I see no manufacturer announcements.  I see no 2004 TV schedule.  I see no final race schedule.  In fact, there isn't a whole hell of a lot I do see with regard to CART's future. Steve Smith, Indianapolis, IN.  Dear Steve,  On the surface you are correct, but the SEC requirements on the buyout prevented OWRS from saying much.  Now that the CART board has approved the buyout, there really should be no reason why OWRS can't reveal what they have planned for CART contingent on the bankruptcy courts giving final approval on the deal.  If OWRS has some big announcements lined up, now is the time to start publicizing them and start rebuilding confidence such that sponsors and manufacturers want to come into the series.  Without sponsors and manufacturers OWRS must be prepared to dig deep  into their bank accounts.  Mark C.

12/17/03

Latest Formula One News Items  

Sauber Present $55m Wind-Tunnel In Hinwil
Fisichella To Test A Ferrari In 2004?
Briatore's Model Girlfriend Is Pregnant
Renault F1 Drivers Put To Work In Kenya
Schu Jnr Impressed With Sandy Bahrain Track
Barrichello To Sign New Ferrari Contract?
Ferrari's Montezemolo: I'm Not Retiring
British MotoGP Race Postponed For Formula One
Karthikeyan Eyes Second Minardi F1 Seat
Wilson Still Talking to Jordan, Minardi
Rain 'Not Important' In Formula One: Michelin
France Won't 'Buy' 18th Race On F1 Calendar
Alonso: New F1 Breed Replaces Old
Symonds Wants More Freedom In F1 Regs

12/17/03
Industry News

SPEED Channel to air DOY  SPEED Channel will air a 30-minute program to announce the 2003 Driver of the Year at 7 p.m. ET on Dec. 20. Hosted by SPEED Channel analyst and Driver of the Year panelist Bob Varsha, the Driver of the Year show also will welcome other members of the media voting panel, including Mike Harris (Associated Press); Lewis Franck (Reuters) and Speedway Illustrated publisher Dr. Dick Berggren. The show will air again at midnight ET. This marks SPEED Channel's first year as the presenting sponsor of the Driver of the Year.

12/16/03

Longtime Indy 500 announcer dies  James R. “Jim” Phillippe, a familiar, friendly voice to millions of Indianapolis Motor Speedway spectators as a member of the track’s public address team since 1950, died Dec. 15 after a long illness. He was 84. Phillippe joined the legendary Tom Carnegie, a close friend, on the Speedway’s public address starting with the 1950 Indianapolis 500. Phillippe helped deliver information, news and interviews with drivers and celebrities to the fans during every race at the track through the Brickyard 400 in August 2003.  More.....

12/16/03

***Reader Response***IRL headed to CART engine  A reader writes,  Dear AutoRacing1.com, I read something to the effect in today's IRL press rhetoric, that Toyota, Honda, and Chevrolet are listed as engine manufactures to the IRL? Toyota is the only one of 3 listed that is manufacturing IRL engines, Honda and Chevrolet are engine IRL suppliers, since they out source their IRL race motors. I suspect that this time next year, the IRL engine package will be downsized to a CART 2.65 liter turbo engine, or it will be the engine of choice for Toyota and Honda's next 5 year business plan for racing in North America.  David Smith, Louisville, KY

12/16/03

***Reader Response***IRL engine reductions  A couple of readers responded to the IRL's engine reduction from 3.5 L to 3.0 L which will cut HP by about 100 BHP.  Dear AutoRacing1.com, Slower IRL cars? Slower = closer together. They may as well have cruise control. How many people have to die before they decide open wheel pack racing is a bad idea? Loren McCauley, Texas   Dear AR1.Com, Referencing the reduction in engine sizes in the IRL, just in time for the 2004 Memorial Day yawner . . . Once again The * Grandson degrades his once sparkling Crown Jewel!  Is not the reputation of the Indy 500 built on a long history of it being a race for the 33 fastest cars driven by the bravest of the brave? I didn't think it was possible to dumb the IRL down any further but leave it to Tony to do just that.  The solution is not reducing engine size to reduce speed. The solution is to give them all the engine they want and let them go as fast as they are willing (see: skill, bravery, talent) to go but have them do so in a chassis that is aerodynamically optimized and designed (greater safety) for high speed open wheel superspeedway racing! The rate of de-evolution the IRL is pursuing will allow Penske to further enhance the comfort of his bored to death drivers with the addition of leather seating and a tilt steering wheel to compliment the now standard equipment cup holders and 10 disk CD players! Given the IRL's attendance and TV rating maybe we should encourage Tony to make more changes like these. It can only hasten his eventual destruction. J.N. Anderson Chicago, Illinois  Dear Loren and JN, The IRL has itself in a real pickle, and the poor hapless drivers are the victims.  They are in bed with NASCAR and the oval track cartel.  They are in the superspeedway business.  NASCAR bumps and rubs in close quarters on the big tracks and if the IRL put on any less a show, they would sell even less tickets than they do now.  They are obligated to run side-by-side in packs just like the stock cars.  That is what the oval fans have come to expect.  The IRL is injuring drivers at an alarming rate, not because of the speeds they are racing, but because of the wheel-to-wheel action.  The slightest touch and the cars are in the wall and the driver to the hospital.  They are dropping the speeds at Indy from 230 to 220.  Ever hit a wall at 220?  Bones break, skulls fracture, spines sever.  They are putting a band-aid on the problem by slowing the speeds, but the band-aid is going to backfire in their face because the cars will be in even bigger packs than before, which means more wrecks and more rides to the hospitals.  The only solution is to string the cars out so they don't touch and crash, but that will send the NASCAR born and bred fans racing for the nearest exit in sheer boredom.  Already it is artificial, no talent required, 100% throttle racing.  With 100 less HP any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street will be able to drive an IRL car because they are already at 100% throttle all the way around the track.  With 100 less HP they may as well install cruise control and a coffee cup holder.  It won't be a sport anymore, just a show.  Mark C.

12/16/03

Wal-Mart and NASCAR  Wal-Mart shoppers will be able to race radio-controlled stock cars in the toy departments of 3,100 stores for one day in February as the centerpiece of a Fan Days program that NASCAR will run with the world's largest retailer as a lead-in to next year's Daytona 500. The NASCAR-licensed cars will run on tracks built using the products of sponsors and licensees that tie in to the program, with as many as 10 brands, including Coca-Cola, expected to participate. NASCAR Fan Days will run from Feb. 1 through Feb. 22, with participating brands receiving prime placement and point-of-sale support throughout the three-week span. The "retailtainment" event, slotted for Feb. 7, will include radio-controlled car racing and NASCAR-themed programming on Wal-Mart's in-store television and radio networks. NASCAR and Wal-Mart are discussing a "presented by" sponsorship with Gillette-owned battery brand Duracell, according to sports marketing sources. Gillette recently signed on as a NASCAR sponsor in multiple categories, including alkaline batteries. NASCAR and Wal-Mart declined comment on the program. Financial details were unavailable. This will be the fourth consecutive year in which NASCAR ties to Wal-Mart for a Fan Days promotion, but the first time that the two hook up on anything as extensive and attention-grabbing as in-store racing. Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal

12/16/03

NASCAR seeks computer partner  NASCAR marketers are formulating a package that would give a personal computer manufacturer or another tech firm access to its timing and scoring results, this week's Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal reports. Columnist Terry Lefton writes that the sponsorship package might also cover track scoring. "Laptops are in every [NASCAR] garage, so I feel like we have a real opportunity," Brett Yormark, NASCAR vice president of corporate marketing, told the magazine.

12/16/03

IRL makes engine reduction official  Key chassis and engine changes for Indy Racing League(R) IndyCar(R) Series cars, highlighted by a reduction in engine size from 3.5 liters to 3.0 liters, will be made in 2004 starting at the 88th Indianapolis 500 in May in an effort to reduce speeds and ensure safer and exciting racing, IRL officials announced Dec. 16.

Officials from Toyota, Honda and Chevrolet, the three engine manufacturers for the IndyCar Series, will use existing 2003-05 engine designs but will modify the engines from the current 3.5 liters to a smaller 3.0 liters. The manufacturers will not have to design new engines for 2004.

The rpm level will be maintained at its current maximum of 10,300, but the change to the smaller engine should reduce power output by as much as 100 horsepower.

Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of operations for the IRL, and other IRL operations officials hope to reduce speeds by nearly 10 mph. Helio Castroneves won the MBNA Pole for the 2003 Indianapolis 500 with an average speed of 231.725 mph.

“We have been gathering data and studying ways to slow the cars down without compromising the highly competitive racing we have in the IndyCar Series,” Barnhart said. “We believe these changes to the cars and engines will accomplish that goal. Our teams and drivers, as well as our engine suppliers, Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota, our chassis manufacturers, Dallara and Panoz G Force, and our official tire supplier, Firestone, have been extremely helpful and cooperative in assisting us as we make changes to the cars.”

At the first three races of the season, Homestead-Miami (Feb. 29), Phoenix (March 21) and Motegi (April 17), 3.5-liter engines will be used, but a 3-inch by 12-inch slot will be cut into the airbox and engine cover, behind the driver’s head. The slot will decrease positive airflow to the engine, reducing horsepower and reducing overall speeds. When the 3.0-liter engine is introduced at Indianapolis, the slot will not be used.

In July 2003, IRL officials alerted all manufacturers to prepare for the possibility of road-course racing in the future. For 2004, cars will be equipped with update kits that include road-course radiators and sidepods, which will increase drag on the cars, producing slower speeds.

“The Indy Racing League debuted in 1996 based on the principles for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500,” Barnhart said. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 have been at the forefront of safety since the early part of the 20th century, and the Indy Racing League is continuing that into the 21st century and beyond.”

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29, 2004, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN.

12/16/03

Ralf completes first laps around Bahrain  BMW WilliamsF1 Team driver Ralf Schumacher today became the first Grand Prix pilot to complete a lap of the new Bahrain International Circuit. Accompanied by members of the Bahrain International Circuit committee, Ralf was given a tour of the facilities at the new circuit and was able to experience the new track at first hand. Commenting on his visit to the circuit Ralf said: . This was the first time I have been to a racetrack at this stage of construction and I found the experience extremely interesting. There is clearly a lot of work being done and I think the Bahrainis are building a very exciting track. From my drive around this circuit it is obvious that it will be fast, challenging and very demanding. It has a combination of slow and very fast corners with a very, very long straight. The most important thing in Formula One is overtaking and today I have seen three opportunities for that, so this will be great fun for us, the drivers but also for the fans to watch. My only concern is sand getting onto the track, but the circuit officials have promised to build a high grip surface to avoid such problems.. Before leaving Bahrain, Ralf held a press conference and then went on to join members of the local media and BMW Williams F1 team sponsors in a pit stop competition where teams competed against the clock, changing all four wheels on a Williams BMW FW24.

12/16/03

Kelley brings investor in to help  Tom Kelley, owner of Kelley Racing, has announced that Rick Weidinger recently invested and acquired a minority interest in his premier Indy Racing League IndyCar Series team.

“We’re very excited that Rick is joining our team,” said Tom Kelley, founder and owner of Kelley Racing. “This is no ordinary business relationship, but an extraordinary partnership. I believe that Rick’s background and experience as a successful entrepreneur will be extremely beneficial to Kelley Racing. His enthusiasm for the IRL IndyCar Series and our tradition of racing is a great combination for success in 2004 and beyond.”

A successful businessman, Weidinger was Chairman, CEO and President of Pontio Communications Company (Austin, TX), which was acquired by a Fortune 100 company in November 2000. Prior to that he was Vice President of Corporate Development for MFS Communications Company, Inc., where he was one of the chief architects for MFS growth and acquisition strategy and had a key role in building it to a multi-billion dollar company. Mr. Weidinger joined MFS at its foundation in 1989. Rick holds an MBA and Law Degree from Creighton University. Tom Kelley said, “Rick’s background is in fiber networks but his future is in racetracks.”

“Tom Kelley is a leader in professional motorsport and has been involved at its highest levels since the beginning of the IRL. I am proud to call him not just a partner but also a mentor.” said Weidinger. “Tom and I share the same vision for the team; World class on track performance, first-class hospitality and best-in-class ratings for our sponsors. Looking at it from the outside, the IRL’s success has been outstanding and there is an enormous upside in growth and value, I like the business model.”

Passionate for the sport and its people, Weidinger plans to spend the majority of his time working with Tom and the Kelley Racing team. Weidinger resides in Great Falls, Virginia with his wife and their three children, who are all enthused about racing as well.

12/16/03

Sauber reveals new wind tunnel  At SAUBER PETRONAS a fresh breeze, in the literal sense of the word, will be blowing in the 2004 season. The Swiss team today presented the new, ultra-modern wind tunnel at the Hinwil headquarters to international media representatives.

"Aerodynamics is the primary factor affecting a modern Formula 1 car. Consequently, the wind tunnel is the primary tool for creating a successful racing car," said Team Principal Peter Sauber, explaining his decision to build this complex facility.

Sauber have invested roughly 70 million Swiss francs (US$ 55m) in this project, marking the largest ever in the company's history. The team is now at the point of systematically expanding the level of work performed in the wind tunnel. "With the top teams having made enormous progress particularly in this area in recent years, we have a lot to catch up on," Sauber added.

Sauber's plans for building a wind tunnel date back to the year 1999. Construction started on 14 January 2002, and the technical equipment of the facility was completed last Friday. Following completion of the calibration phase in February, the aerodynamics of the new SAUBER PETRONAS C23 can be improved for the first European races already.

The Sauber wind tunnel features the most advanced technology currently available. Regarding factors such as wind speeds, the size of the test section and the models, the dimensions of the "Rolling Road", and the "Model Motion System" as well as data acquisition technology, the Sauber facility will compare favorably with the existing Formula 1 wind tunnels.

The wind tunnel is of a closed-circuit design. The total length of the steel tube is 141 meters. A fan with a maximum power consumption of 3000 kW enables wind speeds of up to 300 kph to be reached. The same velocity is achieved by the steel belt of the so-called Rolling Road, simulating the relative motion between the car and the road. In order to simulate cornering or side-slip conditions up to a maximum angle of ten degrees, the entire rolling road platform can be rotated. Load cells underneath the steel belt enable constant measuring of wheel lift.

With a 15-square-metre cross-section and a particularly long Rolling Road, the test section is unusually large, allowing even road cars up to the size of vans to be measured. In most cases, Sauber's engineers will be working with 60% scale models, however, certain measurements will be made on full-size Formula 1 cars, as well. As an absolute novelty, the test section includes the possibility of performing tandem tests of 60% scale models to simulate air turbulences and slipstream conditions.

The overall concept of the Sauber facility is based on a completely novel approach. It combines the purposes of an industrial building with a hospitality section, which can be used by Sauber's partners and sponsors for exclusive special events. With a total length of 65 meters and a width of 50 meters, the building boasts impressive dimensions as well as appealing aesthetics, emphasized by the glass façade. Although presenting the exterior impression of a homogenous hall, the facility actually comprises two clearly separated elements. These are the wind tunnel hall itself and a multi-storey wing that accommodates work areas, a platform for special events and the Sauber museum. The two sections are separated by a glass wall that visually preserves the relation between them, while effectively keeping out the noise emanating from the wind tunnel.

"The new wind tunnel, in terms of its overall concept, is truly unique. It visibly documents our prime objective of continually improving the competitiveness of our team and of ensuring that Hinwil remains an attractive location over the long run," Peter Sauber said in his closing comments.  To see photos of the new tunnel, click here.

12/16/03
Industry News

Duane Sweeney in hospital  After helping at the CARA booth at the Performance Racing Industry Show, Duane left for home not feeling the best. He ended up in the hospital and after a really scary day or two, he is resting easy and improving. He is in Waukesha Memorial Hospital, 725 American Avenue, Waukesha, WI 53188. His room is 5717 and his direct phone number is 262-928-8147. Send him a card.

12/16/03

Andretti Green to run 4th car for Herta  Andretti Green Racing (AGR) announced today it is fielding a fourth Honda-powered Dallara entry in the Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series to be driven by 2003 Kansas Indy 300 winner Bryan Herta. Herta, who enjoyed an eight-year career in the CART series, started 11 races in 2003 for Andretti Green Racing in a substitute role for the injured Dario Franchitti. Herta made his debut with AGR at Texas Motor Speedway on June 7 and in his 11 starts, grabbed the Kansas win and a total of six top-five finishes. Those numbers included a string of three consecutive top-three finishes at Kentucky (Aug. 17), Nazareth (Aug. 24) and Chicagoland (Sept. 7). "It's very exciting for Andretti Green Racing to be able to add a fourth car," said Michael Andretti, who owns the team along with partners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree. "Bryan did such a great job for us last year and we really didn't want to lose him. The IndyCar Series is so competitive that you need every resource and advantage you can get. "We know it won't be an easy thing to do, but being able to run four cars and keep Bryan Herta in our lineup should give us a great shot to contend for the 2004 championship. We would like nothing better than to be able to deliver that to Honda and all of our partners in 2004."

12/16/03

Johnson Controls raises the Bar with new Mercedes  Hardly any other vehicle has captured the attention of as many people worldwide as the new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. The two-seater with the hallmark gull-wing doors and stylish Silver Arrows features of the Formula One model has rekindled the magic of the legendary SLR racing car of the fifties. CART team sponsor Johnson Controls, one of the world's leading suppliers of automotive interior systems and electronics, worked with DaimlerChrysler engineers to develop the majority of the vehicle interior.  More....

12/16/03

OWRS has rights to the last bid for CART This Indy Star article says, Paul Gentilozzi said that while it could take several weeks for the transaction to become final, the hard work (of the buyout) is done.

"I feel like a coal miner who finally has broken through to the light," he said by phone. "This whole thing has been a lesson to me."

Gentilozzi said the deal has been analyzed by bankruptcy attorneys and is structured so that if another bidder should come forward, the OWRS group has the last bid.

"It just depends on the court schedule now," he said. "But whether it's four weeks or eight weeks, it really won't affect what we're doing."

As for another buyer getting involved, Gentilozzi said, "It's been on the blocks for months now and nobody has stepped up besides us. There's no logic for somebody else to buy it unless they want to run it."

Informed of the OWRS announcement, team owner Derrick Walker called it a good first step toward relieving the pressure that everyone associated with the series has been feeling.

"(The uncertainty) has absolutely paralyzed the series the last couple of months. Nobody has been able to make any commitments," Walker said. "We've got to see what it says and what it means, but if this answers the question about what is going to happen to the series, then it should help relieve the stagnation and give us something to take to potential sponsors."

"It's all signed," Kalkhoven said by phone late Monday night. "We're funding the operation as of now."

Kalkhoven said there's always a chance for a late hitch in any business deal and admitted this one has proven to be more complex than others in which he has participated. But he said the probability of a problem now is relatively low.

"I expect a very quick transaction," he said.

12/16/03

Walker plans more tests “It is business as usual by preparing for the 2004 season, and that means investing our time and effort into finding the next driving superstar,” Derrick Walker said after the recent Sebring test, “We will be inviting other drivers to join us in January to continue the evaluation process. We are investing in the future now, and these kinds of tests really provide both the team and driver with a lot of meaningful insight.”

“In addition to their performance on the track, we are working with each of these drivers to enhance the commercial opportunities we collectively have available, so they can go racing with us in 2004,” he confirmed.   Based upon the success of the program, and the positive feedback from all of the drivers, Walker Racing is preparing to schedule additional tests, which also includes the possibility of an evaluation on an oval track.

12/16/03

CART files new SEC document  This SEC Form 13-D/A was filed by CART with the SEC.  It describes OWRS's deal to acquire CART and provides more detail than the press release put out last night.

12/16/03

***Reader Opinion***Bullish on OWRS  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have to believe for the first time in open wheel racing's history it will now be run as a REAL BUSINESS . I have to believe that for Kevin, putting this deal together was far more satisfying than any race or championship he could be involved in. This is his game!   I have to believe we will see more of his handiwork in putting OWRS deals together in the not too distant future. With the team of Forsythe, Gentilozzi, and Kalkhoven I have to believe this organization can be a match for F-1 someday.  Richard Bowden Dear Richard, One never knows, be we assure you, CART won't be surpassing F1 anytime soon. CART had two feet in the grave and they were backfilling the hole.  They have to walk before they can run, err......we mean stagger before they can walk.  We too are hopeful.  Mark C.

12/16/03

Bernie's Game - a must read  This biography tells how a street-sharp, working-class kid became one of the most powerful and wealthiest figures in sport. For more than 30 years, Bernie Ecclestone has ruthlessly exploited and dominated Formula One motor racing to become the third richest man in the United Kingdom with a family fortune worth £3 billion. To those within his elite circle, particularly those who have benefited from the labors of his wheeler-dealing, he is both feared and admired for the way in which he has masterminded the transformation of Formula One from an amateur sport of the Fifties into a global billion-dollar industry of the 21st century. But along the way there have been many, not only in Formula One but in motor sports at large, who have suffered at his hands - the weak and the gullible, the politically naive and unsuspecting. They have a different story to tell. "Bernie's Game" strips away the sexy veneer of Formula One to look behind the hype that sustains it. It opens the august portals of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, the body that governs Formula One, to discover the avarice, callousness and corruption of its rules.  To order and save 30%, click here.

12/16/03

OWRS will pay 2003 prize money, if.....  CART ran out of money before it could pay off $2.7 million in end-of-year prize money for 2003.  OWRS, in their signed agreement, has agreed to pick up the tab, but will only pay money out to teams that return in 2004.  If a team leaves CART, Inc., they will have to stand in line in bankruptcy court with hopes of getting their money.  We wish them luck.

12/16/03

Latest Formula One News Items  

Panis In 'Very Good' Physical Shape
Button, BAR, Keep The Momentum Going
Verstappen Opens Talks With Jordan Team
BAR Face Uphill Task To Retain Button
Williams Tester Pleased With New BMW Engine
Ferrari Party In Maranello
Montagny 'A Little Tired' After Winter Tests
Michelin Threaten To Find More Grip
Schumacher Can 'Keep Up' With Young-Guns
Fisi Warns Bruni To Expect Tough F1 Life

Minardi To Have '04 Budget Of $30 Million
Wilson Share-Scheme To Continue In 2004
Alonso Rides F1 Success Home To Spain
Mansell Reckons F1 'Wants' Schu To Stay
Webber Slams Barcelona Circuit Changes
Raikkonen Admires Fellow F1 Young-Guns

12/15/03

Dixon, De Ferran and Taylor earn first place votes  Indy Racing League drivers Gil de Ferran, Scott Dixon, Sam Hornish Jr. and Mark Taylor were selected to the 2003 Auto Racing All-America team, officials from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) announced Dec. 13.

De Ferran, who won the 2003 Indianapolis 500 driving for Marlboro Team Penske, and Dixon, who won the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series championship for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, were selected to the first team in the Open Wheel category. It was de Ferran’s third first-team selection, while Dixon was selected to the first team in the at-large category in 2000.

De Ferran received the most votes, while Dixon tied with CART champion Paul Tracy for second place in the voting, causing three members to be selected to the first team.

Members of AARWBA vote on the annual awards. The AARWBA All-America Team will be honored Jan. 10 at the 34th annual AARWBA banquet in Pomona, Calif.

Dixon won the series championship by scoring three victories and finishing second five times en route to his first major auto racing championship. He led 14 races and 748 laps, more than any other driver.

In addition to winning the 87th Indianapolis 500 in May, de Ferran scored wins at Nashville and Texas and finished second in points despite missing a race at Japan due to injury. In August, he announced he would retire following the season, and he finished his career in spectacular style by winning from the MBNA Pole at Texas in his final race.

Taylor, who won the 2003 Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship for Panther Racing, was selected to the first team in the At-Large category. He dominated the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2003, scoring a record seven wins and clinching the championship with one race remaining.

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. was selected to the second team in the Open Wheel category. He finished fifth in points in 2003 and scored three victories, including winning the fastest race ever, when he averaged 207.151 mph en route to a victory Sept. 21 at California Speedway.

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29, 2004 at Homestead. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN.

12/15/03

OWRS proposal approved by CART Board  Just hours ago, the CART Board of Directors approved the most recent buyout offer of Open Wheel Racing Series LLC (OWRS).  After days of negotiation the CART board signed the agreement that will see OWRS buy the pieces of CART necessary to continue the business, while the rest, namely the operating company, will be submitted to the courts for bankruptcy.  An official announcement will be out shortly.  More on our Home Page....

12/15/03

SPEED to air 2003 ALMS season review  Speed Channel will review the 2003 American Le Mans Series sports car racing season with a one-hour special to first air on Wednesday, December 17, on the cable television channel. Leigh Diffey, anchor for Speed's coverage of the American Le Mans Series, will host the show, which will take a look back at champions and winners from the nine-event season. The first airing will be at 9 p.m. (Eastern) on Dec. 17, with a second airing at 3 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18. A third airing will be at 9 a.m. on Dec. 18. Speed Channel will kick off the 2004 season for the American Le Mans Series with live, flag-to-flag coverage of the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 20. Coverage begins with a 30-minute pre-race show at 10 a.m. Speed will have live coverage of five American Le Mans Series races in 2004. In addition to Sebring, Speed will televise the debut race of the series at historic Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Ct., on July 5, as well as the return of the series to Portland (Ore.) International Raceway on July 25 and the Aug. 22 event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Sept. 25 will also be televised by Speed.

12/15/03

Maserati returns to North American racing  The Scuderia Ferrari of Washington will reintroduce Maserati to North American racing in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. The 2002 and 2003 Rolex Series GT champion will enter a Maserati Trofeo Light in the GT class for the 2004 season. “We wanted to return to the Rolex Series to defend our championships,” explained Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Team Manager Glenn Marquis, “And we wanted to have the right car for the 2004 season. We’ve just completed two weeks of very successful testing in France, including a full endurance test, and we’re absolutely delighted with the Maserati. The engine sounds just like the Maserati 450S of the past, and I think fans are going to love this car. It’s going to add a new element to North American racing.” Initial appearance for the Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Maserati Trofeo Light will be at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The driver lineup, both for the Rolex 24 and the balance of the 2004 season, will be announced in early January. The Maserati Trofeo Light is a development of the Trofeo coupe used in Maserati’s one-marque series, and is built by Maserati Corse, racing arm of the Maserati factory. The Trofeo Light makes extensive use of lightweight body panels to achieve the Rolex Series GT class minimum weight of 2550 pounds. The 4.2-liter V8 engine is rated at 430 horsepower.

12/15/03

More feedback on CART Champ Cars, the next generation  With regard to the Hot News item below, a reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Having attended the Dec 1st 2002 then "Telefónica World Series by Nissan" race in Curitiba, Brazil, I must say I came away impressed. The cars looked very nimble and fast on the track, and put on an interesting show even in the rain (which, by the way, didn't provoke the 15-car deep field to parade behind a pace car).   The event's two races were dominated by now Toyota F1 test driver Ricardo Zonta, and included the likenesses of Justin Wilson, Paul Edwards, Franck Montagny, Bas Leinders and Narain Karthikeyan, among others. There was only one on-track pass for the lead throughout the whole Sunday (Zonta over Karthikeyan on the 2nd race), but there was plenty of action elsewhere - Brazilian Jaime Melo overtook seven cars before spinning, also on the 2nd race.  As someone who's also attended the Brazilian F1 GP, the World Series race did leave me with the impression of a "ladder" series event, not only due to the lack of big-name drivers but mostly because of the raspy, low-revving (peak horsepower comes at only 8,500 rpm) sound of the street-based 3.5 V6 engine (the same basic power plant found all over Nissan's US product line-up).   But if CART can throw a screaming V10 into the Dallara chassis, and have them wheeled by drivers people will pay to watch (PT, Bourdais, Jacques Villeneuve?), the recipe does have winning potential. Cássio S. Côrtes, Brazil  Dear Cássio, Absolutely, we do recognize that CART would need a more powerful engine, preferably a screaming V10.  Mark C.

12/15/03

Toyota truck team signs sponsor  Bang Racing today announced Line-X will sponsor the No. 24 Toyota Tundra truck team with driver Travis Kvapil in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for 2004 and beyond. "LINE-X is a proven leader of spray-on bed-liners, and we feel their pioneering spirit combined with our innovative approach to marketing and passion to win is a perfect match," said Alex Meshkin, the owner of Bang Racing. "We have structured a package that allows LINE-X to participate as the primary sponsor for a large number of races and as an associate sponsor for the remaining races which will give other companies the opportunity to team up with the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion, Travis Kvapil." At 27, the Janesville, Wisconsin, native is the youngest driver to claim the truck title with a consistent performance completing all but one lap in 2003. He had 13 top-five finishes and 22 top-10s in 25 starts in the No. 16 IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet. Now as the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Champion, Kvapil joins Bang Racing with teammate and former inaugural truck champion, Mike Skinner.  "I was very allured with being involved with Toyota," said Kvapil. "I'm excited they're coming into the series and think they'll put a lot of effort into racing. Having the opportunity to work with Rick [Ren], Larry [McReynolds], our owner, Alex Meshkin, and with Mike Skinner as my teammate, I think we can win another championship. I'm extremely excited about Line-X coming on board. The company's products are dependable, durable and can successfully withstand the elements. . .characteristics that could also describe my performance on the track. I'm certain their support will make for an unbeatable alliance next year."

12/15/03

Gene happy with new BMW engine  Following the final test drives of the year, Marc Gené comments on the new BMW P84 engine with which the BMW WilliamsF1 Team will be competing in 2004.

Marc Gené could be quite satisfied following the final test drives of 2003. Between Wednesday and Friday, the Spaniard completed no less than 295 laps at the circuit in Jerez without encountering any serious problem with the car.

Gené, who came fifth in the Italian Grand Prix, was particularly impressed by the new components of the WilliamsF1 BMW FW25. "I'm really happy with the reliability of the new engine and gearbox. We have completed 800 kilometers with both pieces, which demonstrates that BMW and WilliamsF1 have worked really hard," Marc Gené commented.

Having built up this promising basis, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team is confident to compete for the World Championship title from the very first race of the season 2004. The launch of the new car is still awaited though, whereas the FW26 will already be introduced to the public on January 5.

As for Marc, he already looks ahead: "At the beginning of the new year, we are going to test with the new car. This will let us advance very well and, in addition, we will know exactly where we stand."

Before the first World Championship run in 2004 is due to be held in Melbourne, Australia, on March 7, a number of additional test drives with the WilliamsF1 BMW FW26 have been scheduled. Source BMW Motorsport

12/15/03


Future bleak for non-NASCAR racing in USA  [Editor's Note: This is one reason why CART must expand globally]  This Florida Today article says,  Veteran commentator Dave Despain forecast a gloomy future for professional open-wheel or sports car racing in the United States for one simple reason.

NASCAR.

"It's putting the rest of American racing in huge jeopardy to the point that I can foresee 10 years down the road if this continues, that (NASCAR) will be the only professional racing left in America," said Despain, host of SPEED Channel's "Wind Tunnel" motorsports talk show. "You won't be able to have major-league professional motorsports outside of NASCAR because there simply won't be any money to drive it."

Despain speaks from a deep knowledge base. He spent 10 years in American Motorcyclist Association public relations and publishing. He also worked for ABC's "Wide World of Sports" as an analyst for the Daytona 200 motorcycle race, spent five years as CBS pit reporter and motorcycle analyst, and eight years with ESPN as motorcycle host and host of top-rated "NASCAR Today" before moving to SPEED.

He has covered and appreciates many forms of motorsports.

"One of the beauties of motor racing, to me, has always been its diversity and the fact there are all these different things," he said. "All those different things are now being threatened by this 800-pound gorilla and I don't think that's a good thing."

Despain talks regularly with fans about the 800-pound gorilla and hears both good and bad.

"Generally, I guess the thing I most often hear is 'I love NASCAR racing and I love: fill in the blank, name of driver', most often that's (Dale) Earnhardt (Jr.)," Despain said. "What I hear from the other side is, generally, some twist on NASCAR the organization is corrupt, dishonest, manipulating the rules, turning it into wrestling."

12/15/03

Everything still on track for CART  Some have written to ask if Friday's no-vote by the CART Board on the latest OWRS buyout was a bad sign.  No, the Board is just being extremely careful that they do everything right and they have done all their homework.

12/15/03

Townsend Bell Q&A on Jaguar test role  Following a test with Jaguar Racing at Valencia Townsend Bell is working hard at landing an F1 opportunity for next season. With only the Jordan and Minardi race seats to be filled, the American's most obvious opportunity is as third driver at Jaguar. That will give him the chance to run on Friday mornings at races, providing both valuable experience and exposure. Townsend could in turn benefit the team with some obvious commercial benefits, as he would be the first American F1 insider since Michael Andretti's aborted season with McLaren in 1993.  More.....

12/15/03

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  Much More...click on 2002 archives button below
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