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DATE

News (chronologically)

12/31/03

New Sauber fails crash test   Autosport reports that Sauber has suffered a setback in its pre-season preparations after its 2004 car failed a side impact test before Christmas.  The C23, which has already passed the much tougher roll-hoop test, will need to be strengthened and resubmitted for the test before it will be allowed to compete in the 2004 campaign. The new test is scheduled for later this month.   The side-impact test proved a headache for McLaren last season when its much-hyped MP4-18 failed it at least twice before a decision was taken for the car not to race.

12/31/03

Briatore cleared in corruption case   Autosport reports that Flavio Briatore has been cleared of any illegal activity in a corruption investigation in Italy that named 76 prominent figures. The judge leading the investigation in Potenza, Geraldina Romaniello, confirmed before Christmas that Briatore’s activities were no longer under the spotlight of the Italian courts. Speaking about the case, she said: “Related to the Disclosure of Business Secrets by Flavio Briatore, there is no evidence that Mr Briatore has in any way instigated the public officers who had originally revealed this information.”

12/31/03

Earnhardt and Stewart to drive in Rolex 24  Howard-Boss Motorsports and Crawford Race Cars announced today that veteran road racer Andy Wallace will team with NASCAR stars Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the No. 2 Crawford DP03 Daytona Prototype. "This is an exciting time for all of us at Howard-Boss Motorsports," Rick Howard stated. We have set our standards high with the new DP03 Daytona Prototype car. Our unique blend of driving talent with Andy Wallace, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes this event even more exciting, not only for our team, but for the fans of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. Our expectations are also high for our teammates in the No. 4 Boss Snowplow Dave Brule-owned car. The results of our recent test session at the Homestead-Miami Speedway are very encouraging and we're really looking forward to the Rolex 24 At Daytona." "From the manufacturer point of view, I'm elated to have three DP03 Daytona Prototype cars competing in the Rolex 24," commented Max Crawford, owner of Crawford Race Cars. "I'm also pleased to be associated with such a stellar list of drivers who I'm sure will do an outstanding job."

12/31/03

Ferrari team ready for Rolex 24 tests  JMB Racing USA Team Ferrari will participate in pre-season testing at Daytona International Speedway this weekend in preparation for the season-opening 42nd Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. JMB Racing USA Team Ferrari will enter one Ferrari 360 Modena in the GT class. The drivers' lineup for JMB Racing USA Team Ferrari #11 at the Rolex 24 tests this week at Daytona includes Iradj Alexander from Switzerland and Diego Alessi and Miss Eddi Gay, both from Italy.

"It feels good to go racing again with Ferrari. Daytona is one of the great racetracks in the world and one of our goals since we started JMB Racing USA has always been to win the fame 24-hour race," declared team co-owner Ludovico Manfredi. "2003 marked the first full season of racing in The United States for JMB Racing USA Team Ferrari. We are in the process of finalizing our American program for the 2004. Right now we are entered in the 2004 Rolex 24 at Daytona with one Ferrari 360 Modena in the GT class. Ferrari has been part of JMB Racing's program since 1998 and we certainly would like to continue our American program with the legendary marque that will celebrate 50 years of doing business in The United States this year. We are still working on our driver's lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and should be able to announce more details on the drivers' lineup for the Rolex 24 and our racing program later on this January."

At the eve of the 2004 season, JMB Racing is a leading, globally active and independent organization, competing with Ferrari cars in the most prestigious GT series in Europe and North America. Since its inception in 1995 JMB Racing Team Ferrari has won 13 titles, among which were three FIA Sports Car World Cups in 1998-1999-2000 with the Ferrari 333 SP and one title as FIA N-GT World Champion in 2001 with the Ferrari 360 Modena.

12/31/03

CART bankruptcy hearing update - Signed Court Order   2nd UPDATE  We promised to bring you the full court order signed by Judge Otte yesterday.  Click here (758 KB PDF format)   12/30/03 - As it turns out, today's proceedings were very positive. See story on home page. 12/30/03 - Judge Frank Otte held a preliminary hearing on December 19 for the CART bankruptcy filing and set today to hear from all involved parties.  Today, CART's lawyers and OWRS lawyers asked the judge to settle the bankruptcy filing as soon as possible.  They were hoping for a decision today, they did not get it.

Lawyers representing two race tracks: Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI and ISC for California Speedway in Fontana, CA. as well as several concerned stockholders voiced their objections.  Road America because they felt their contract with CART was not transferable and ISC because they felt CART should return the 2003 sanction fee after the race was cancelled due to the wildfires.

The teams, owners, drivers, promoters, tracks all need time to prepare for 2004 but the judge did not make a decision today, probably because of the objections raised, i.e. this was not a clear cut case.  January 28, 2004 has been set as the date that Judge Otte will give his decision.  OWRS attorneys stated that the final date to allow the Champ Car Series and the Atlantic Series to continue is February 13, 2004.

12/31/03

Ecclestone says London as dangerous as Bahrain   Reports emerged last week saying that the British Foreign Office had been informed of the possibility of a terrorist attack for the Bahrain GP. However, a spokesperson for the Bahrain International Circuit denied that they'd received any direct threat. He also said: "The threat that we face is similar to any grand prix anywhere in the world." Bernie Ecclestone agrees - "Many of us live in London which is constantly under threat from terrorists, but it doesn't stop us going around the place every day. I don't think it will be any more dangerous to race at Bahrain than in a lot of places we go to."

12/31/03

Red Bull drivers to attend the Sauber Petronas Formula 1 team launch   The winners of the 2003 Red Bull Driver Search, who are now the American members of the international Red Bull Junior Team, will be traveling to Salzburg, Austria next week for the launch of the Red Bull-sponsored Sauber Petronas Formula 1 Team. On January 12, the new Sauber Petronas C23 race car will be presented to a host of international media at Hangar-7, home of the Flying Bulls, the new spectacular aircraft museum at the Salzburg airport.

The launch will serve as a glimpse into the future for these young drivers, who are striving to attain a seat with a Formula 1 team. One of their colleagues, Christian Klien of Austria, recently was picked up by Jaguar Racing to compete for the 2004 Formula 1 World Championship, making him the first Red Bull Junior Team driver to achieve this feat.

While in Salzburg, the Junior Team drivers, Dominique Claessens, Colin Fleming, Matt Jaskol and Scott Speed, will spend a week at Red Bull’s performance diagnostics and athlete training center preparing for the demanding season that lies ahead. The head of the program, Danny Sullivan, will be in Salzburg surveying the drivers’ progress.

Key members of the American racing and karting media will also be attending the Sauber Petronas launch and visiting the driver training facility. This is an unparalleled opportunity for the media to be educated about Formula 1 and witness Red Bull’s commitment to the Driver Search program and their dedication to assisting young American drivers advance their professional racing careers.

The 2004 Red Bull Driver Search program aims to discover and support the "diamond in the rough," lacking the knowledge and contacts needed to embark on a career in racing, as well as talented young drivers already in racing. The long-term goal is to have a steady group of three to six American drivers racing in Europe, groomed to break into Formula 1 and compete for the World Championship.

12/31/03

French pay off 2003 debt   The FFSA (French Federation of Motorsports) has confirmed that via an official statement that the Burgundy region government, home to the Magny-Cours venue, has, through the sporting company of Nevers Magny-Cours, and in accordance with the financial provisions taken by the General Council of the Nievre, processed the last payment regarding the 2003 event, clearing the way for next year’s race to go ahead.  But will they pay the additional monies for an 18th race in 2004?

12/31/03

23 car needs a driver  Bill Davis Racing [BDR] crew chief Phillipe Lopez has two new cars ready for the second week of Daytona testing, which starts Jan. 13, and two additional cars for the Las Vegas test on Jan. 26. The only piece missing from the #23 car puzzle is a driver; sources say BDR has a sponsor lined up. Former Davis pilot Dave Blaney is on the short list, as is Johnny Benson. If a driver isn't enlisted this week, expect Kenny Wallace to test the car. Yahoo Sports/Sporting News

12/31/03

Dick Brooks injured in plane crash  According to this AP story, Former NASCAR Rookie of the Year Dick Brooks was in a plane crash, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday. The exact nature of Brooks' injuries were not immediately known. Brooks, 61, was taxiing a plane down the runway at his farm Sunday when a wheel caught in the grass and turned the plane over, his friend, Joe Whisenant, told the (Spartanburg) Herald-Journal. Brooks was taken to a hospital, and daughter Stacy Jackson told the newspaper doctors will keep him under observation for a few days.

12/31/03

Latest Formula One News Items 

India To Score Grand Prix By January
Webber Looks Forward To 'Hot' New Races
Coulthard To Be Dropped As McLaren Star
France Wins More Time To Save F1 Race
DC Snubs End-Of-Career Reports
Andretti Loses Mother
Fisichella Aims To Kick-Start F1 Career
McLaren Deny Coulthard Axe
Stoddart Adds Voice To Allay Terror Threat

12/30/03

CART bankruptcy hearing update   UPDATE As it turns out, today's proceedings were very positive. See story on home page. 12/30/03 - Judge Frank Otte held a preliminary hearing on December 19 for the CART bankruptcy filing and set today to hear from all involved parties.  Today, CART's lawyers and OWRS lawyers asked the judge to settle the bankruptcy filing as soon as possible.  They were hoping for a decision today, they did not get it.

Lawyers representing two race tracks: Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI and ISC for California Speedway in Fontana, CA. as well as several concerned stockholders voiced their objections.  Road America because they felt their contract with CART was not transferable and ISC because they felt CART should return the 2003 sanction fee after the race was cancelled due to the wildfires.

The teams, owners, drivers, promoters, tracks all need time to prepare for 2004 but the judge did not make a decision today, probably because of the objections raised, i.e. this was not a clear cut case.  January 28, 2004 has been set as the date that Judge Otte will give his decision.  OWRS attorneys stated that the final date to allow the Champ Car Series and the Atlantic Series to continue is February 13, 2004.

12/30/03

7th Annual Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Runoff This Weekend   The Skip Barber Racing star search system that over the past seven years has unearthed and then rewarded such talents as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Michael Valiante and A.J. Allmendinger gets under way again this week. The Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Runoff -- the annual judged competition that rewards the most young talented karters with more than $130,000 in racing cash -- will be held this Sunday and Monday, January 4 and 5, at Sebring International Raceway.

This year, 35 of the best young karters from the United States and Canada will each spend the bulk of two days in a Formula Dodge R/T 2000, in both test and race conditions, in hopes of making an impression on a panel of judges in order to earn one of six scholarships to compete in the 2004 Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER, the Official National Amateur Championship of Champ Car. The majority of the drivers in the Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Runoff come from the ranks of the World Karting Association (WKA) and the Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow series. One karter will be awarded a full season of FDNC -- $38,150 -- while five more will each earn 50 percent ($19,075) of the entry fee.

"We truly feel there is no better opportunity for the serious young karter than the Skip Barber system, if the desire is to get into open-wheel racing's topmost ranks," says FDNC Managing Director Divina Galica. The equal-car premise behind every Skip Barber auto racing championship, the coaching, the huge amounts of seat time, the furious competition, the simple stark value of our racing -- all that has been attracting the best karters for a number of years." Galica noted that there is no minimum age for drivers to compete in FDNC or the four Regional Formula Dodge championships, provided they pass muster with Skip Barber's chief instructors.

The judging panel is comprised of noted coaches and drivers such as Galica, Kelly Collins, Jim Pace, Barry Waddell, Gregg Borland, Jason Holehouse and R.B. Steiwing, as well as a former karter who took advantage of the Skip Barber system before it was officially formalized -- Bryan Herta. Known for his strong and active advocacy of North American karting, Herta joins the karting scholarship panel for the first time. In prior years, he's judged the Big Scholarship runoff, where the most promising drivers in FDNC are rewarded with significant scholarship money to race in the Champ Car-sanctioned Barber Dodge Pro Series.

Note: For a complete list of the 2004 Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Runoff candidates, please go to www.skipbarber.com.

12/30/03
Team USA

Americans Display Great Promise in First New Zealand Test   Three talented young American racers enjoyed a very promising first test session today in preparation for the forthcoming six-race Talley’s New Zealand International Formula Ford Series. Joe D’Agostino, 18, from Plantation, Fla., Charlie Kimball, 18, from Camarillo, Calif., and Ryan Millen, 19, from Newport Beach, Calif., put the trio of Team USA Scholarship-entered Stealth/Van Diemens through their paces at Ruapuna Park Raceway and left local team owner John Crawford astounded by their speed and attitude.

"I’m really impressed -- extremely impressed," declared Crawford, himself a former New Zealand Formula Ford Champion whose Canterbury Motor Racing School team will oversee the preparation of the Americans’ cars. "The boys settled in very quickly and were on the pace right away. They’ll be a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure."

In very warm weather and far from ideal track conditions, D’Agostino turned the fastest lap of the day at 1m30.2s, an average speed of 85.31 mph, which is within a half-second of the lap record for the 2.14-mile (3.44 kms) track. Kimball also turned some very competitive times during the hotter afternoon period, while Millen was equally impressive despite getting started a little bit later and ending his day early due to an engine problem.

"It was a really good first day of testing," said D’Agostino. "The team did a good job and it was great to start working with our engineer, Andy Neale [also a leading Formula Ford contender in the early 1990s who later worked as a chief mechanic with 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve and the BAR Honda team]. We all got along very well and were able to compare data and learn from each other."

"It took me a little time to reacclimate myself with a carbureted engine," added Kimball, who finished third in this year’s Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship in the U.S. and more recently placed third in the British Formula Ford Zetec Winter Series. "It has a big flat spot compared to the fuel-injected motors I’m used to, but I’m getting there. It’s good that I can sit down tonight and think about things, then get ready for our next test tomorrow morning.

"This is a great track," continued Kimball. "It’s really technical and it’s got a little of everything – some long, sweeping corners, some fast tight stuff and some tight, twisty hairpin corners. There’s a little bit of elevation change too; just enough to make it interesting."

Said Millen, who won last year’s New Zealand South Island Formula Ford Championship, "I didn’t get much time in the car and we still have an older-spec engine in it right now. All things considered, it was good to get back in the car, and I’m looking forward to getting some more miles tomorrow."

The Americans will test again for half a day at Ruapuna tomorrow, then enjoy the New Year celebrations before going on to test at Levels Raceway, Timaru, on Saturday. The first two races of the International series will take place at Timaru on January 11, with subsequent events at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park Raceway (for the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix) on January 18 and then a return to Ruapuna for the final two races on January 25.

For more information, please contact: Jeremy Shaw, 949-766-9504, jeremyshawracer@cox.net

12/30/03

India hopeful of landing 2007 F1 race   This Reuters article says, India's chance of hosting a Formula One race by 2007 was "pretty good," a senior official involved in the project said on Tuesday.  A team of Indian officials are scheduled to meet Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone around the middle of January to bring the event to the southern city of Hyderabad.  P.V.Rao, who will lead the team, said: "Discussions are going on and we have to discuss a lot of issues.  "But we are most hopeful. Our chances look pretty good.  "We are aiming for a race in 2007."  A preliminary meeting was held with Ecclestone earlier this month, Rao added.  Hyderabad, an information technology hub and the capital of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, has been the front-runner to host a Formula One race after Ecclestone showed interest in taking the sport to India, Asia's third largest economy. The Andhra Pradesh government has pledged to provide land to build a track besides a new airport.

12/30/03

Latest Formula One News Items   UPDATE: Added 3 new items

Montoya Caught In Race Of F1 Mind Games
Coulthard To Drive For F1 Career In 2004
McLaren Extend Henkel Sponsorship
Button: My Playboy Days Are Over
F1's Schumacher Is 'Champion Of Champions'
Pay If You're Late: Schu's Ferrari Scheme
Ecclestone Cools Bahrain GP Terror Threat
Sauber To Launch C23 On Internet
Carmakers Won All Demands In GPWC Spat 
Coulthard: 'No Decision' On McLaren Future
Flavio, Alonso, Will Never Forget Budapest
Button Fails To Rule-Out Williams Return

12/30/03

Purex renews with Dreyer and Reinbold team  With their eyes firmly centered on their team's preparation for the upcoming 2004 Indy Racing League season, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announces the return of Purex Detergents as the co-primary sponsor of the team's #24 entry for the sixth consecutive year. Team co-owner and driver Robbie Buhl will again ride with a Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone package for the 2004 season. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Purex have enjoyed one of the longest and most prosperous sponsor relationships in the IRL. According to team co-owner Dennis Reinbold, the continuation of the productive business relationship with Purex is a key to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's growth plans. As a business, it is important for us to continue to grow our sponsor relationships each year, Reinbold said. .Since the end of last season, the primary objective of our team has been to focus on improving the funding level and competitiveness of the #24 car.  Our renewed support from Purex has allowed us to attain our corporate goals and places us in a better position than ever before to compete for wins in the IndyCar Series. We made a commitment to Chevy, our sponsors, and team members to solidify the position of the 24 car before considering the possibility of running a second car at DRR.  We are now in a position to explore running two cars in 2004 if the circumstances provide a good fit for us.   Purex has been recognized by many business and motorsport experts as one of the leaders in sponsorship activation.  For Purex, the relationship with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and the Indy Racing League has helped support the brand's incredible growth as the detergent industry's value sector leader. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and the IndyCar Series have been excellent business partners for the past five years,. said Todd Gatzulis, Director of Marketing.  Laundry Care for the Dial Corporation.  As we embark on our sixth consecutive year as a sponsor, I am very proud of the consistent growth that Purex, DRR, and the IndyCar Series have demonstrated and look forward to a successful 2004 on and off the track.

12/30/03
Formula BMW

Matt Champagne getting early 2004 start  Matt Champagne (www.mattchampagne.com), Canada's top ranking shifter kart pilot and 2003 Bridgestone F2000 Series presented by Formula Car Magazine winner will attend the BMW USA Scholarship Qualifying/Licensing Course in Valencia, Spain. Matt was one of 24 drivers selected from all the qualified applicants to the program.

"Never sitting back and waiting for things to happen, after learning of the Formula BMW opportunity, I made plans to apply for the training course in Spain." states Champagne. "I am excited about being one of the 24 drivers selected to be part of this amazing program. The Formula BMW program is an excellent way to start the 2004 season," continues the 19 year-old student on winter break from Brock University, where he is studying Sports Management.

In selecting drivers for the run-off, BMW USA looked at a number of parameters, which included, but were not limited to: Previous competition experience, Success in racing, Presentation

 

"Formula BMW USA will provide the young entry-level racer, particularly from the kart racing ranks, the opportunity to experience all the demands of professional motorsport," said Tom Purves, CEO of BMW of North America, LLC. "This is an exciting way to develop promising drivers by showcasing their talents and preparing them to compete in the higher ranks of international motorsports.

Each of the candidates will be eligible for scholarship support from BMW of North America, which includes a $40,000.00 US contribution and BMW training and support for the 2004 racing season. As part of the total Formula BMW USA program, drivers will participate in the Motorsport Professional training program. The BMW USA Qualifying/Licensing Course will take place from January 6th to 8th, 2004.

The program will be run on the Circuit de la Communitat which is located in Valencia on the eastern coast of Spain approximately 2.5 hours from Barcelona and 4 hours from the capitol city of Madrid. The circuit is the headquarters of the Formula BMW Racing Center, a school dedicated to the development of racing talent in single-seater racing cars.

"We have a number of great opportunities to evaluate for 2004,"comments Champagne. "As much as I have enjoyed the many accomplishments of the 2003 season, I can't wait for next year to get underway and look forward to my participation in the Formula BMW North America Series."

12/30/03

Michael Shank names drivers for 2004  Michael Shank Racing (MSR) announced that it has finalized its driver lineup for the 2004 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series' season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, to be run January 29 - February 1 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Piloting MSR's No. 6 Toyota-powered Doran JE-4 Daytona Prototype in North America's premier sports car racing event will be Americans Brent Martini, Cort Wagner and Kelly Collins (substitute driver), Great Britain's Mike Newton and Brazil's Thomas Erdos. Sponsoring the efforts of Martini, Wagner and Collins will be Rx.com, with Dedicated Micros, NetVu and TransVu providing support for Newton and Erdos. Martini and Wagner teamed together to win the 2003 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series' GT class championship, while Collins has driven factory backed Corvettes in the American LeMans Series (ALMS) for the past several seasons. Newton and Erdos competed in the FIA GT Championship as teammates in 2003 driving a Saleen S7R. Erdos captured the British GT championship in 2002.

12/30/03

Ferrari fines its employees  Michael Schumacher recently told F1 Racing Magazine that the Ferrari team is so determined to excel that everything runs perfectly and precisely that they even charge their team members who are late for technical briefings. The fine is ten Euros for every minute the person is late.  Even Schumacher, who won his sixth World title in 2003 and his fourth with Ferrari, has to pay into the kitty.  "Absolutely," he answered when asked if he too had to abide by the rule. "Of course! But I'm not the biggest contributor to the scheme."  Explaining the logic behind the kitty he said: "Every part of an F1 car has to be perfect, and to achieve that level of excellence, it's first things first - like being on time."

12/30/03


Mario Andretti's mother dies  Rina Andretti, the mother of auto racing great Mario Andretti, died at a personal care home on Monday. She was 90. After immigrating from Italy in the 1950s, Andretti settled with her family in Nazareth, Pa., where she raised twin sons and a daughter. Family and friends said she supported her son Mario's career choice. Mario's brother, Aldo Andretti, was seriously injured in a 1959 crash and retired from racing 10 years later.  "She understood our passion. She would always defend us," said Mario, who retired from the CART series in 1994 after winning 67 Champ Car poles, 52 races and four championships. He won the 1969 Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 in '67 and the Formula One championship in 1978.  Born in Montona, Italy, in 1913, Rina Andretti and her family spent seven years in an Italian refugee camp before coming to the United States. Rina Andretti is survived by three children, 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Funeral services and a mass are scheduled for Friday.  Mario's father died about a year ago.  Our condolences go out to the Andretti family.  AP contributed to this story

12/30/03

DEI ready to start testing    The roar of engines will once again permeate the air around the 2.5-mile superspeedway when Pre-Season Thunder 2004 starts Monday, January 5 and goes through Wednesday, Jan. 7. It will be the first, ever, session under the new name of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the No. 8 Budweiser team out of DEI will be one to watch.

For the past few weeks, or more, they've been preparing for their test session set by virtue of owner’s points finishes from 2003. With Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finishing third and Michael Waltrip 15th, they will take part in the first session set up for the odd-finishing teams.

Tony Eury, Sr, crew chief, talked about the upcoming test and what he and the team are looking to accomplish.

“We’re taking down two cars for this test,” Tony, Sr. said. “We’re taking one car for the Budweiser Shootout and the other we are looking to make our primary car for the Daytona 500. We’ll have three days to get those cars dialed in.

“With the new rules package from NASCAR, the raised spoiler is supposed to slow the cars down from the speeds that they were going. But, like any other team, we’re going to see just how fast we can go.”

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the Budweiser team roll into Daytona as the defending champions of the Shootout. The race is for any NEXTEL Cup team that earned a Bud Pole Award in 2003 or is a past winner of the exhibition race. Without a Bud Pole last year, which was the first time that's happened in three years, Dale Jr. is entered in the race via the past winner’s rule.

“When we won that race last year, it set a tone for the entire Speedweeks for our team,” Tony, Sr. said. “We went on to earn an outside pole for the Daytona 500, won our Twin 125 and led a bunch of laps (22) in the 500.

“This year, we’re going back to do the same thing but the only difference is we want to win it all and bring back that Daytona 500 trophy.”  Excerpts from DEI Insider

12/30/03

F1 teams go all-out to promote China race, Tung shunned   UPDATE:  The F1 teams are all doing whatever they can this winter to try and capture the attention of the Chinese ahead of the Shanghai Grand Prix next September. Renault and BAR brought drivers to tour China and meet with prospective sponsors and government dignitaries; Ferrari had their own “Schumacher” marketing blitz; Toyota and Sauber cars can be seen in many high-profile corporate marketing campaigns throughout the country; and McLaren handed out marketing proposals to so many Chinese companies the rumor was that they distributed them by throwing them out of the corporate jet as they flew over Beijing and Shanghai.

The Williams F1 team has pinned some of their Chinese marketing hopes on Dutchman Ho Pin Tung. Tung, who has already had a much publicized test drive in the Williams F1 car, is set to compete in F3000 next year, that is, if he can come up with the money. To acquire the funds for F3000, the Dutch citizen of Chinese dissent, who was born and raised in the Netherlands, has decided to let as many people as possible know that although he is a foreigner in China, he’s still Chinese. On his recent Williams sponsored tour of China, while wearing Williams’ colors, Tung marketed himself as being on a quest to become China’s first F1 driver. Unfortunately for Williams and Tung, Yu Zhi Fei, the General Manager of the Shanghai Circuit, threw water on that dream with his comments this week to “Shanghai Youth” newspaper.

“Ho Pin Tung called me recently and asked for a meeting to see if I would be willing to fund his efforts to become China’s first F-1 driver. Deciding not to meet with him was difficult for me, and it wasn’t difficult just because of the money. I have already provided significant financial support to two Chinese in their driver training programs overseas – but what made the decision difficult concerning Tung Ho-Ping is his nationality. As everyone knows, Tung is not a Chinese citizen; he is a citizen of the Netherlands, so how could I support him? Only Chinese drivers can be successfully marketed. This is only a joke, but if he is ready to give up his Dutch citizenship, I will reconsider.”

Yu Zhi Fei went on to say that even if Tung is the closest Chinese driver to reaching F1, in the end, from a pure marketing standpoint, his citizenship will be a problem. Only drivers who can be completely integrated into the Chinese motorsports environment will be able to attract the Chinese fans’ attention, and ultimately, generate the marketing dollars necessary to make it to F1.  Unfortunately for Tung, he might be forced to make it to F1 the hard way – prove himself on the track.  12/11/03 -   But is he really Chinese?  According to this Dutch website, Ho Pin Tung was born and raised in Holland...which makes him Dutch. This link is a newspaper article from his website. The fact he was Dutch born is openly admitted.  It even says he isn't a Chinese citizen, but he would move to China and apply to be a Chinese citizen if that's what F1 wants or needs.

12/30/03

CART goes to court today  CART will seek court approval for its sale today in federal court in Indianapolis.  Their goal is to have the court approve the bankruptcy of the operating company (Michigan Company) and the sale of the holding company (Delaware Company) to Open Wheel Racing Series LLC (OWRS).  Two motions were approved December 16th 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 today at which time CART will ask the court to approve procedures for sale of the company. CART's board of directors has already voted to sell the company to the Open Wheel Racing Series group.

12/30/03
F-3000

Heylen signs with Astromega  Next season, Jan Heylen will participate in the International F3000 Championship at the wheel of one of the cars of the Astromega Team under the watchful eye of Mercedes Motorsport.  As the winner of the Formula Ford Festival in 2002, Jan Heylen was selected as an F3 junior by Mercedes Motorsport for 2 seasons. In spite of the somewhat less than bright results in the F3 Euroseries, the sports directors of "the brand with the star" wanted to prepare Jan with a few tests for the coming season but also allowed him to practice with a F3000. After these tests, Jan indicated his preference for the F3000 single-seater that would be renamed F2 in 2005. This name change is being done to make it clear that it is the real waiting room for F1.  The matter was settled and the contract was signed. In 2004, Jan Heylen will line up for the International F3000 championship with the Belgian Team Astromega in the footsteps of Fernando Alonso, Justin Wilson and others.  It's only just over a year since he was racing in Formula Ford, losing the title to teammate Westley Barber, but winning the prestigious Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival. This year the Belgian has been racing in the new F3 Euroseries, which was created out of the German F3 championship. But the year turned to disaster with the poor-performing Kolles team. Tenth place at Pau was his best of the year, and Heylen was offered a move to Mucke Motorsport for 2004, replacing Christian Klien. However, he decided he would prefer to race in F3000. Now 23, Heylen first tested a Formula 3000 car in 2002, when he tested for Astromega at Hockenheim. On that occasion he was nearly two seconds a lap faster than the more experienced Tony Schmidt and Alex Sperafico.

12/29/03

2004 French GP all but dead  This grandprix.com article says that most of France is on holiday at the moment and there is virtually no hope of the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile being able to get the problems surrounding the French Grand Prix sorted out before the FIA deadline of January 1. The FFSA announced before Christmas that it had the money needed to do a deal with Formula One Administration but then the regional council of Burgundy blocked the planned 2004 budget and this will not be discussed again until January 2 at the earliest, the day after the FIA deadline. Even if that problem can be solved the FFSA must still get the agreement of the 10 Formula 1 teams for them to take part in what would be an 18th race in the Formula 1 World Championship. The only hope is that Bernie Ecclestone will be able to convince the teams to take as part of the settlement currently being discussed over the future of Formula 1. Ecclestone will obviously gain if there is a French GP but having to pay the teams $2m apiece is not something he will be keen on doing. The French have already said that they have no intention of paying any money to the teams. In the circumstances it is hard to see how any deal is going to be possible.

12/29/03

Tobacco net tightens  This grandprix.com article says that although there has been little happening in racing circles during the Christmas holidays, the anti-tobacco forces continue to tighten the net on tobacco advertising, with three more countries committing themselves to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Admittedly, the signatures of Slovakia, Bulgaria and Burkina Faso may not be of any particular importance but they bring to 83 the number of countries now committed to the treaty. They are also adding to the pressure which exists for the United States of America to become a signatory to the agreement. At the moment the treaty is being reviewed by various US agencies and after that is completed President George W. Bush will have to decide whether to sign it and send it on to the Senate for ratification. There is much argument as to whether or not the treaty would conflict with the US Bill of Rights, the first amendment of which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances".

12/29/03

Odds to win the 2004 Nextel Cup    Early Las Vegas odds to win the 2004 Nextel Cup are out:
Odds-Name
3/1-RYAN NEWMAN
4/1-JEFF GORDON
4/1-DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
7/1-TONY STEWART
7/1-JIMMIE JOHNSON
8/1-KURT BUSCH
10/1-KEVIN HARVICK
12/1-MATT KENSETH
18/1-BOBBY LABONTE
20/1-RUSTY WALLACE
25/1-MARK MARTIN
30/1-JAMIE McMURRAY
35/1-MICHAEL WALTRIP
35/1-DALE JARRETT
40/1-JEREMY MAYFIELD
40/1-JEFF BURTON
50/1-STERLING MARLIN
50/1-ELLIOTT SADLER
60/1-GREG BIFFLE
75/1-ROBBY GORDON
75/1-RICKY RUDD
75/1-KASEY KAHNE
75/1-TERRY LABONTE
100/1-WARD BURTON
100/1-JOHNNY SAUTER
100/1-BRIAN VICKERS
150/1-RICKY CRAVEN
150/1-CASEY MEARS
150/1-SCOTT RIGGS
150/1-SCOTT WIMMER
20/1-FIELD (ALL OTHERS)  LasVegas Insider

12/29/03

India venue to be decided next month  Hyderabad's fate as a Formula One venue would be decided during the next round of talks between F-1 administrators and a special negotiating team here on January 15-16.   "We have been negotiating with F-1 chief Bernie Ecclestone and the next round of talks are scheduled for January 15-16 during which the entire issue could be settled," according a source in the negotiating team.  "The talks would be held between F-1 administration, legal, media and technical groups including McKinsey and Company. Media and television rights are expected to take a prominent place in course of the negotiations," the source said.

F-1 organizers sent a draft agreement which covered the legal and infrastructure part of the project, he said and expressed confidence that Hyderabad would be the chosen venue for one permanent leg of F-1 racing starting 2007.   "This arrangement will continue for a period of seven years," he added.   "Ecclestone has given the assurance that the Indian leg would start in 2007 and we are confident of completing the task well in time."

12/29/03

NASCAR reality show infiltrates Spike TV    [Editor's Note: Just when CART thought it might get out from under NASCAR's domination by moving to CBS and Spike TV, here comes NASCAR.  They are everywhere]  The most unique television show in motorsports premieres Saturday morning, January 3, on Spike TV.  “The Reality Of Speed,” a weekly national television program, will run at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time (9:30 a.m. Central) every Saturday morning beginning January 3 on Spike TV. The show will follow Holigan Racing and its NASCAR Busch Grand National and Holigan Walters Racing AMA Motocross teams throughout the 2004 season, following the lives of drivers, riders and members of both teams as they prepare to compete on the grueling circuits.

The day-to-day efforts behind both teams will be featured, the first time such an attempt has been made in motorsports. Holigan Racing’s Team Enzyte with driver David Starr will run 15 NASCAR Busch Grand National races this year, while the motocross team will run the full 16-event AMA Supercross schedule and the full 12-event AMA Outdoor Nationals schedule.

“This show is an opportunity for race fans to see everything that goes on behind the scenes at a race team, everything that is done to get the cars and people ready and prepared,” said Michael Holigan, owner of Holigan Racing and the star of his own nationally-syndicated television show on home building.

“The basis of the entire program is showing people the intricacies of stock car and motorcycle racing, and doing so in an entertaining fashion. I’d say we’ve squarely hit the mark with ‘The Reality of Speed’ on Spike TV,” Holigan added.

Lifekey Healthcare, Inc. is sponsoring the Busch team through its brand of Enzyte, a once-a-day tablet for natural male enhancement. “We are proud to break ground with this exciting new series on Spike TV, and bring a new sponsor into NASCAR,” Holigan said.

Holigan Racing LP is a newly-formed motorsports team created by Holigan, a former NASCAR Winston Cup team sponsor. Spike TV, the first network for men, is available in 86 million homes and is a division of MTV networks.

Enzyte is the non-prescription, once-a-day tablet for natural male enhancement. Its proprietary blend of natural ingredients enables men to reach their full potential, achieving stronger, fuller, better quality erections. As part of a man’s daily regiment, Enzyte is not situation specific, promoting spontaneity. Enzyte is a brand of Lifekey Health Care, Inc. (www.enzyte.com; 1-800-ENZYTE)

12/29/03

Larry Carter named Crew Chief for Wallace    Larry Carter, a 14-year veteran in NASCAR racing’s highest level of competition, has joined Penske Racing South as crew chief for driver Rusty Wallace and his Miller Lite Dodge racing team.

“We’re extremely excited to have Larry join us as our new crew chief,” said Wallace, the 1989 Winston Cup (now Nextel Cup) champion and 54-race winner. “Larry brings an abundance of talent and experience to our program and he is a perfect fit to accompany the qualified staff we already have in place. We can’t wait to get the ball rolling in 2004.”

Carter comes to Penske Racing South from BACE Motorsports, where he served as crew chief for rookie driver Tony Raines during the 2003 NASCAR season.

“This is a great opportunity and I am certainly thrilled to have the chance to work with such a successful organization as Penske Racing and a champion-caliber driver like Rusty Wallace,” said Carter. “This is a top-notch team with great people and ample resources. I am delighted that they have the confidence in me to lead their team and I’m really looking forward to this new challenge.”

12/29/03

Sauber to launch live on the internet  The Sauber Petronas team will unveil their new 2004 car, the C23 at Hangar-7 at the Salzburg Airport on Monday, the 12th of January 2004. The presentation of their new challenger will be broadcasted live on the Internet. Peter Sauber and his drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa will be presenting the new car which will be followed by a show that will include a live performance by The Sugababes. Fans can see the show at 17:30 GMT, on either www.redbull.com or the team’s official website, www.sauber-petronas.com.

12/29/03

Don't forget other talent says Button  British American Racing driver Jenson Button has reacted to all the hoopla surrounding McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen and Renault’s up and coming young Spanish star, Fernando Alonso, who are constantly being referred to as F1 champions of the future.   "Some people are lucky when they come into F1. They are in the right place at the right time," Button told the BBC. "Kimi, for example. He had a good first year, but nothing staggering. Then in his second year he's in a McLaren. What a step. They say a lot about Kimi and Alonso especially and they forget a lot of the other talent in Formula One. What about Juan Pablo? They don't even mention him much and he's been the main title rival with Michael Schumacher. Webber's done a good job this year as well, so there's a lot of talent there.   For me it's been a little bit more difficult, but I think the way I've done it is probably the best way," he explained. "I've experienced so much in Formula One. I've hardened up quite a lot after being at Renault. And I've got a lot of experience of working with different people, and different teammates."

12/29/03

Webber and Jaguar putting Michelins to test  "The big phase we're working on is trying to understand what our tires are going through. It sounds pretty straightforward but it's not," Webber told jaguar-racing.com. "Michelin are doing an amazing job for us and all the other Michelin teams but we need to understand what we're putting the tire through a little more so we can make them behave better during a grand prix.  That's one of the big things - and to understand our vehicle dynamics, push forward with the engine side, especially with the one engine per weekend regulations, and work on aerodynamics. Those things are big, deep programs that will take months."

12/29/03

Latest Formula One News Items 

Alonso Has 'Lot In Common' With Schu
Irish Group Asks For Formula One Ban
Button Has 'No Reason' To Leave BAR
Montoya In For Difficult Year: Ross Brawn
Here Comes Kimi In A New F1 Racer
Red Bull Won't Overpower Leaping Cat: Jaguar
Frentzen Gets First Taste Of DTM Car
Ralf Turns Attention To FW26
Brawn Defends Montoya Tirade
Stewart Changes Tune Over Button
McLaren Don't Miss A Trick In F1 Design
Tire Furor Didn't Fuel Ferrari Charge 

12/28/03

Danny Sullivan gets first taste of new Ferrari  Barron Connor Racing have tested the first of their two Ferrari’s 575 GTC at Ferrari’s own test track in Italy last Tuesday. Both John Bosch (NL) and Danny Sullivan (USA) drove the new car at the Pista di Fiorano next to the Ferrari factory in Maranello. PHOTO (by Mark Koense) John Bosch (right) and Danny Sullivan with the new Barron Connor Racing Ferrari 575 GTC at the Pista di Fiorano, Ferrari’s own test track.

“Conditions were just perfect”, John Bosch explains. “It was cold, but dry and sunny, and the car ran without any problems. This was quite a special moment, to be honest, to see the car for the first time and then drive it at Fiorano… It was shaken down on Friday before the test and both Danny and I did quite some laps on Tuesday. The support from Ferrari and the people that have built the car was fantastic. Everybody was there to make sure all went well. The car was remarkably easy to drive. Of course this was just the first test, but all felt well and to see the quality of the car and how it has been built, really is very encouraging. This is the first of the two Ferrari’s 575 GTC that we will enter in the Sebring 12 Hours, the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Le Mans Endurance Series this year. We are nicely on schedule. We are now finalizing our pre-season testing program, while the second car will be ready in time for Sebring. We are a new team, but I believe we have brought together a lot of expertise and experience. As for drivers, interest is high and we are talking to many people at the moment.”

Danny Sullivan was equally pleased with the test: “To go to Maranello and to experience the ambiance was so incredible. Of course you know of the magic that is Ferrari, but to see, feel and be a small part of it is something else. I always felt that the 312 PB was the coolest racing car ever, so to now drive a new Ferrari at their own test track was like a dream come true. Being there was really moving and made me feel like a kid again. The car was fantastic. We just turned it on and it ran all day without any trouble. The potential is definitely there and I feel that we have the right car for what promises to be the most competitive class in sportscar racing.”  The official launch of the team will be staged prior to the team leaving for Sebring.

12/28/03

Richards warns to lay off Button  BAR boss David Richards has warned Williams to keep their hands off star driver Jenson Button. Button, who started his F1 career with Williams back in 2000, has been linked with a return to the team as a replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya.

He told the Sunday Mirror: “It's a compliment to Jenson and also to us that there is so much speculation about Williams and other teams wanting him.

“It shows what an exceptional driver Jenson is and proves our judgment was sound. We could see his capabilities all along and now everyone else can.

"We signed Jenson because we were convinced he had the potential to become world champion and we're committed to giving him that opportunity.

“We genuinely believe we can achieve that. I am certain you will see a significant improvement in our performance next year and then we expect to be challenging the familiar contenders in 2005.

"Jenson is going nowhere because he has no reason to leave. He can realize his ambitions with us."

12/28/03

Minardi has money for 2004  After paying out millions of dollars from his own fortune, Australian Formula One team owner Paul Stoddart has just banked $13.0 million from its two new drivers. Minardi confirmed that Hungarian Zsolt Baumgartner would be its second driver, just 10 days after first naming Italian Gianmaria (Gimme) Bruni. Both are 22 – Bruni is an F1 rookie and Baumgartner has driven just two GPs, when he briefly replaced injured Briton Ralph Firman this year. Bruni's backers, a group of Italian businesses, are believed to have paid $5.0 million for him to break into F1, while Baumgartner reportedly has $8.0 million – half of it from a Hungarian Government keen to keep its flagging round of the world championship in Budapest. Along with an estimated $18.5 million from F1's pool of television rights money, that should guarantee Minardi sees out another season since typically their annual budget is in the $30 million range. Add to that sponsorship on the car and the low-budget team might actually turn a profit in 2004.

12/28/03

Schumacher 2nd behind Tiger for best paid athlete  UPDATE  Michael Schumacher has disputed these figures saying that journalists need to 'check their sources'. "My salary is a long way from the estimates that get published. I'm from a modest background and I do have values," Schumacher said.  12/26/03 - These numbers include salary and all other forms of income, like advertising.

1. Tiger Woods (Golf): $100 million

2. Michael Schumacher (Auto Racing): $62 million

3.  David Beckham (Soccer/Football): $35.2 million

.

.

11. Ralf Schumacher (Auto Racing) $20.9 million

12/28/03

F1 launch dates 
BMW Williams FW26: January 5 (Valencia)
Sauber-Petronas C23: January 12 (Salzburg)
Toyota TF104: January 17 (Cologne)
Jaguar R5: January 18 (Barcelona)
Renault R24: January 29 (Palermo)
Ferrari: January 26 (rumored date)
BAR: February
Jordan: Febraury

Minardi: February

12/28/03

Top-10 NASCAR stories of 2003    The Charlotte Observer's Top 10 NASCAR stories of 2003 were:
1. As the smoke clears, who's Next(el)?  Freed from tobacco advertising restrictions placed on RJR, NASCAR will be able to market the Nextel Cup Series to a broader base of consumers. Despite the limitations it had to deal with, however, RJR's contributions to the sport are unquestionable. Nextel officials have kept a low-profile so far, choosing to let the final Winston Cup season play out, but that is about to change in a very big way.  In other words, now it's Nextel's call.
2. OK, son, it's your turn to take the wheel  NASCAR founder William H.G. France turned over the helm to his son, Bill France Jr., in 1972 just after R.J. Reynolds became the title sponsor of the top series. So there is a symmetry to the transition taking place after Bill Jr. announced in September that his son, Brian, had been named chairman and chief executive officer of the family business.
3. If it's Labor Day, this must be Fontana   The 2004 phase of realignment takes a race away from North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham and, more jarringly to NASCAR traditionalists, moves the Southern 500 off Labor Day weekend in Darlington, where it has been since 1950. Now, Fontana, Calif., gets the Labor Day weekend race and the Southern 500 moves to November into Rockingham's former date.
4. The Young and the Relentless  The average age of a Winston Cup race winner in 2003 was 32, the lowest since 1968 and 3.5 years lower than the average age just two seasons ago. The top seven drivers in the final standings were all 32 or younger, and drivers older than 35 won only nine of the 36 races in Cup.
5. Points, counterpoints  If it were already a done deal, the plan to establish a 10-race postseason to determine a Cup series champion would be higher on this list. As it stands, though, it's still just an idea. But it's one that seems to have momentum. 
6. Hats off to the points champion  Matt Kenseth won just one Cup race in 2003, but his consistency carried the day as he raced his way to a 90-point margin over Jimmie Johnson in the final standings.
7. Top series takes safety precautions  Steel-and-foam energy reducing barriers were installed at Richmond, New Hampshire and Homestead in 2003, and NASCAR president Mike Helton says the goal is to have them up at all tracks where they're recommended by the beginning of the 2005 season.  NASCAR also eliminated the practice of racing back to the yellow flag, but instituted a controversial policy to give a lap back to one driver on each yellow.
8. Sponsorship troubles   While Nextel signed a huge title sponsorship deal and Sunoco was signed to replace the 76 brand as the sport's official fuel supplier, not all of the news was good on the sponsorship front.  Roush Racing's No. 99 Fords, driven by Jeff Burton, have no primary sponsor for 2004, and Dale Earnhardt Inc. is trimming its Cup fleet from three to two full-time teams. Other teams are struggling, too, but when Roush and DEI have trouble landing sponsors, there's a problem.
9. Tempering some of those emotions  Jimmy Spencer's post race punch of Kurt Busch at Michigan in August was the most notorious incident in which driver demeanor and behavior emerged as an issue.  The photo of an enraged Kevin Harvick standing on the hood of Ricky Rudd's car following the September race at Richmond is one of the season's enduring images.
10. Some veterans are not going quietly  While the sport's younger drivers tried to hog the spotlight, veterans Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott showed they still have some fight left in them. Both worked their way into the top 10 in the final standings and both won races in the Carolinas. Labonte was just shy of his 47th birthday when he got a victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington and Elliott had turned 48 by the time he won at Rockingham in the season's next-to-last race, and he would have backed that win up with another victory at Homestead the next week had it not been for a flat tire on the final lap.

12/28/03

Anti-Smoking group now pressuring TV to not show F1  Anti-smoking group, ASH, says RTÉ TV in Ireland should stop showing Formula One racing on television until its use as a vehicle to advertise tobacco is stopped.  The direct advertisement of cigarettes has been banned worldwide, with the exception of Auto Racing sponsorship.  ASH Ireland says it’s unacceptable that RTÉ is allowing cigarette ads to be shown, virtually one every second, to young Irish people.  The group’s professor, Luke Clancy, is telling the national broadcaster to reconsider its decision: “They have to care enough about the health of the people not to show them these images which we know lead children to smoke.  "This is the last vestige of the industry as regards advertising and they’re pouring money into it.  "RTE are, disappointingly, playing their game for them”.  With F1 trying to pressure governments to allow tobacco brands on race cars through 2006, the anti-tobacco groups now have F1 on their radar screen and they are fighting back.

12/27/03

St. Pete adds Festival of Speed This MSNBC article says, An outdoor luxury auto display that was originally intended as a sideshow for the city's annual street race in late February is now being expanded to become the main event. RPM Registry Inc. has scheduled its first-ever St. Petersburg Festival of Speed for Feb. 21-22 in Vinoy Park, featuring a variety of high-end cars, boats and motorcycles. The exhibit is free to the public, though a limited-admission Saturday evening reception also is planned at the city's Museum of Fine Arts. David Raber, president of Tampa-based RPM, said the show would go on despite the cancellation of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race that same weekend. The second-annual race was postponed earlier this month after efforts to sell the race's sanctioning body hit a snag...........Another Festival of Speed could be held to coincide with the rescheduled race, depending on the success of the inaugural event, Raber said. The first festival will feature more than 100 rare and exotic cars, along with luxury boats and motorcycles. A glass display will be inside the museum commemorating Rolls Royce's 100th anniversary, he said. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Porsche are among other automakers to be represented. Harley-Davidson and Ducati motorcycles will also be part of the mix, as will boats by Donzi and Sonic. The Festival of Speed will help St. Petersburg fill a perceived void in its downtown event schedule after the indefinite postponement of next year's CART race, Raber said. Dimmitt Luxury Motorcars has signed on as the event's primary sponsor, and other local businesses are being sought to participate, he said. "It is expanding so quickly that it's filling up that vacuum," Raber said. "St. Petersburg is absolutely throwing us the keys."

12/27/03

2004 Standing Start Lights This web page explains how the 2004 F1 starting lights will work.  With CART talking about giving standing starts a try in 2004 we see no reason why CART should not use the same exact starting light procedures.  While implementing such a system may be cost prohibitive for CART at this time we can see a low-cost system being implemented for now, with a more sophisticated in-track asphalt embedded jump-start detection system implemented when they can afford it.  The most expensive part of the F1 system is the technology used to determine if a driver jumped the start and involves detection sensors embedded in the track.  For the time being CART can simply work with the TV broadcaster to set up 3 crane or overhead mounted cameras that provide video of the start grid from different angles. In the video would be a picture-in-picture view of the start lights. After the start a panel of three judges can view the video to determine if it appeared a driver jumped the start.  If 2 of the 3 camera angles show a driver jumped the start, he would be either given a stop-and-go penalty, or be instructed to fall back in line the number of positions he gained by jumping the start.  Although a visual system is not as accurate as F1's electronic detection system it is far less expensive making it quite affordable for 2004. As far as the lights themselves, it would be quite simple to erect two poles, one on each side the track behind the barrier and elevated perhaps 20 feet.  There can be a short cantilever arm with the light panel mounted on it so all drivers can see them.  The driver can look at whichever one they prefer. In the illustration to the right we show how the lights can be mounted at places like Montreal that have an existing overhead structure across the track, but in the background you can see the type of cantilever structure that can be erected to overhang from each side of the track (flipped the other way of course).  The track promoter would be responsible for this one-time cost. A third option is to erect a temporary cantilever support from a bucket-truck mounted boom that can be driven away after the race concludes.  In conclusion, the start light system does not have to be cost prohibitive and there is no reason for CART to use that as an excuse to give standing starts lip service for 2004.  Kevin Kalkhoven stated we would see some fan-enhancing changes like push-to-pass and standing starts in 2004.  While we know Cosworth is working on the push-to-pass button already, let's hope CART's technical staff is working on this simple solution to standing starts so the fans can enjoy at least a couple of standing start races in 2004.  Mark C.

12/27/03
ETCC

See Zanardi race tonight  Alex Zanardi will be featured on SPEED Channel tonight at 6:00PM EST when he drives his first full race since losing his legs in a violent crash in 2001 at EuroSpeedway.  He returns to racing in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) race at Monza, Italy driving a BMW with special hand controls.

12/27/03

Jaguar won't drop their branding  Jaguar has signed Christian Klien to drive for them next year, partnering Mark Webber. The Austrian is bringing with him a lucrative sponsorship deal courtesy of Red Bull, which is believed to be around $15 million.  However, although Jaguar are obliged to display the energy drink company's logo they won't be dropping their own Jaguar branding in order to make space on their 2004 contender, the R5.

"The main reason for the F1 project is to expand the identity of the Jaguar brand," Jaguar Managing Director David Pitchforth told Motorsport News.  There might be minor Red Bull branding on the cars, but we would only get rid of the 'leaping cat' logo as a last result."

12/27/03

Brawn predicts difficult year for Montoya  With Juan Montoya having made an early announcement regarding his move to McLaren in 2005, his final year at WilliamsF1 won't be the easiest of years, predicts Ferrari's Ross Brawn.

Brawn, was interviewed by BBC Radio FiveLive, said, "It's a little unfortunate. It's going to be a difficult year for Montoya and the people around him," Brawn told FiveLive. "A lot will depend on how competitive Williams are and the competition between their two drivers.

"If Williams are extremely competitive and run away with the championship Juan Pablo could get on well.” He continued. "But if it's a tense championship and there's tension between the two drivers [Montoya and Ralf Schumacher] it's hard to see the situation not surfacing frequently."

"When Michael Schumacher announced he was leaving Benetton to join Ferrari things were not so easy,” explained Ross. "You wonder where his mind is - is his mind on the future, or on now? And you can't build things because you're not building with him for the future."

A lot will depend on whether Ralf Schumacher also leaves the Williams team.  He wants more money than the team is willing to pay him and talks have broken down.  If both drivers are leaving, Williams will have no choice but to treat both equally if it has any chance of winning.

12/26/03

Three hour CART Stars broadcast   Wheel-to-wheel racing action that rivals any motor racing series this year is featured this Sunday (Dec. 28) at 12 p.m. (EST) on the SPEED CHANNEL when the Snap-on Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow presented by RACER karting tour is highlighted in a three-hour segment of the top 2003 events.

"We are pleased to show some of the exciting Snap-on Stars of Tomorrow racing to the viewers of the SPEED CHANNEL," said Bobby Rahal, a principal in the Stars program. "We believe the fans who watch the SPEED CHANNEL this Sunday will be very entertained by this spectacular competition. They will get to watch some of North America's best young racing talent battling wheel-to-wheel. The Stars series produces some of the best racing on this continent. We invite everyone to witness the next stars of North American motorsports."

The first televised hour Sunday will be the competitive ICA (100cc direct drive) division from the Stars' Western Division at the Bridgestone Grand Prix at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Canada's Kevin Glover, a 22-year-old veteran, takes on California teenagers Joel Miller, Joshua Harris and Andrew Alfonso as well as Ecuador's Sebastian Andrade and New Jersey's Chris Giumarra.

The second hour (1 p.m. EST) features the ICC (125cc shifter) category in the Bridgestone Grand Prix from July on the popular Northern California track. Hard-charging ICC veteran drivers such as Jason Bowles of Ontario, Calif., Brett Buckwalter of Novato, Calif., Jordy Vorrath of S. Surrey, B.C., Canada and Tom Dyer of San Rafael, Calif., are challenged by a contingent of teenagers led by Alan Sciuto (age 15) of Orange, Calif., Lorenzo Mandarino (16) of Burnaby, B.C., Canada, Nick Halen (17) of Carson City, Nev., Jake Thompson (17) of Calgary, Alta., Canada and 14-year-old Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio, son of three-time Champ Car champion Rahal.

The final hour (2 p.m. EST) of Stars of Tomorrow competition on SPEED CHANNEL will highlight the Stars Karting Championships from the state-of-the-art, newly constructed Moran Raceway in Beaumont, Calif., recorded in November. Highlights from the ICA and ICC divisions at the national finale produced some of the most spirited racing seen in any form of motorsports this year in North America.

12/26/03

***Reader Comment***IRL changes questionable   A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Some Holiday food for thought:

When the IRL engine manufacturers make the changes that they will need for this drop in size, there are numerous other things that need to be changed. You don't just shorten the crank or sleeve the cylinders, it requires balance throughout the complete package.

The intake and exhaust runners in the heads will most probably need to be changed, the injection, the exhaust system, the valve timing, combustion chamber shape, electronic system update, all these things are just what the doctor ordered for the two big engine manufacturers who were not happy with the success of the Chevworth and requested the opportunity to make midyear changes but were denied by the IRL management. They now have an open door to:

1. Spend all the money they can, and they will.
2. Make all the changes that they want, and they will.
3. Kick ass on Chevworth, and they might.

Next, I have heard some inane statements over the years however, this beats them all. "To make the racing safer" we will drop the engine size. Hogwash!  All that will do is make it easier to drive one of those S&#@ boxes. They run most tracks flat out now, take away power / speed and everyone will be flat all of the time. Open Wheel Restrictor Plate Racing is inherently dangerous that is a known fact, proven by the past history of injuries in the IRL.

What they have done in fact is make it more dangerous in all areas except possibly for one. The stated 10 MPH slower just may make a single car accident safer because of the angle of impact that occurs at different speeds.

Take away the aero give them all the power they want and the brave, talented guys will go fast and the rest will go home, some in a bag. Passing will once again be something of an everyday occurrence at a race.

The Tony Renna crash should be proof enough for the IRL that it's time to enlist a group of the $250,000 a year team engineers and go to work on NASCAR type release flaps for the rear wing, floor and possibly the side pods. Heck, if NASCAR (the slowest movers in racing) can see the light why can't they?

Renna is not the cause of his last flight. The aero on the car is. Once he spun and turned backwards the wing started to "lift" the car and once the 200 MPH wind was able to get fully under the floor it was a giant kite. To make much of the reason for the accident Renna's fault is once again Hogwash. If they think he is the only driver to make a mistake that leads to an accident then they are less intelligent than I ever imagined.  Mordichai Rosen, LA, California

12/26/03

Scenes from Bahrain  Work continues at a record pace on the construction of the Bahrain International Circuit being built in the middle of a desert.  Here are some photos of the construction and circuit visits by Jenson Button, Bernie Ecclestone and others.

12/26/03

Earnhardt's burial place remains a secret    This Charlotte Observer article says, It's at the bottom of a hill, near the edge of a pond where he liked to go fishing. He never had time to do enough fishing. In the morning, light reflects off the water as the sun burns off the dew. In the evening, there's shade from a tree he loved to sit against and listen to the rare sounds of silence in a life that was hammer-down, running wide open.

It was Dale Earnhardt's own private place, his refuge.

It is a perfect place to rest.

Perhaps it's not like that at all. Only the people who were closest to the seven-time Winston Cup racing champion know the location of his final resting place. If you knew him well enough to be taken there, nobody has to tell you not to talk about what you saw.

That is as it should be.

In life, Earnhardt belonged to NASCAR and its fans.  More....

12/26/03

Man of The Year: NASCAR Dad    This Orange County Register article says, He's got a number, in white, pasted somewhere on the back of his car, an homage to his favorite racer and a secret-handshake-style sign to others in the know.

His car, by the way, might actually be a car, not a truck or an SUV. It might even be a non-Detroit brand.

He's got a bit more money in his pocket than the average American, and his level of education is virtually average. Both characteristics outpace his old image.

He does not run moonshine.

He's younger than you might think. He's likely to be white - no surprise there - but it's no longer a given. He's still a he, but in at least one context even that's only a 60-40 proposition.

He is NASCAR Dad.

And, a year from now, he might be the political yang to Soccer Mom's yin.

He's not a person, of course; he's an idea, a huge swath of mythical male voters (about 45 million, by most estimates) who happen to be fans of NASCAR, one of the few TV sports more popular today than it was five years ago.

And, like the equally mythical Soccer Mom, who swung elections in the 1990s, modern NASCAR Dad is a huge player where auto racing is hot and voting is a big deal.

12/26/03

Latest Formula One News Items 

Button Blasts Over-Hyped Young-Guns
Wilson To Be Handed F1 Lifeline?
Bahrain Rejects GP Terror Threat
Alex Zanardi: Inspiration Of The Year?
Santa Visits Schumacher Household 

Head Defends Tough Stance On Drivers
Schu Cools F1 Salary Estimates
Webber's Pace A Tall Order: Ousted Wilson
BAR, Button, To Trounce Renault In '04
BMW-Williams Ready For F1 Titles: Theissen

12/25/03

Bahrain GP taking terror threats seriously  Bahrain International Circuit is taking all necessary precautionary measures. The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) has recently been the focus of news that claims a possible threat to the Grand Prix taking place next year. A BIC spokesperson said, Nobody is immune from such claims and we must take all threats within the region of the Middle East seriously. The Bahrain International Circuit did not receive any direct threat. The threat that we face is similar to any Grand Prix anywhere in the world. Bahrain recognizes that hosting a Formula One event is like hosting any international games such as the Olympics in terms of its profile. Accordingly, all precautionary measures have been taken with the relevant authorities and these will continue during the build-up to the event. Bahrain takes its national security as a matter of paramount importance and is working very closely with its regional and international allies to follow any possible leads. All threats of this nature are taken seriously.

12/25/03
Reader Feedback

Dear AutoRacing1.com    It's certainly been a year of highs and lows for people like me. And your Website took me both to the point of despair and gave me hope for the future. This autumn I was to the point where I was contemplating what I would do to fill the void if the series couldn't make the bell for 2004. On the one hand, it wouldn't be all that difficult. I have two sons under the age of 18 months -- one just 2 months -- that occupy massive amounts of time. Beyond that, I am still a stick-and-ball fan -- including world football, as well as Texas Longhorn football. Still, it was going to be tough.

I suspect it's been a long hard slog for you, as well. First, from a business point of view I suspect it was a bit disconcerting. Still, what you have going for you on your site that others don't is that you don't pull any punches, regardless of who is the target, and that has become extremely rare in the coverage of the sport these days. It was selective criticism that finally led me to let my Racer subscription lapse. Yes, Haymarket heard from me, too, after they sent me a subscription form for Indy Car racing. I let them know that I didn't appreciate how the pub had changed, to where the only criticism was poured on Champ Cars, while the devastation to man and machine in the IRL was never even mentioned. It became a triumph for ad revenue over editorial independence.

When I was in grad school in journalism and mass communications at the Univ. of Wisconsin, one of the things I studied was how different publications reacted to the Great Depression and World War II and how that affected their long-term health. Some, like the New York Herald and the New York Tribune, responded to the decline in advertising by cutting back on their editorial product -- i.e., shrinking the news hole and making the reduced number of ads account for a greater share of every day's paper. The Times, on the other hand, maintained the size of its news hole, despite the reduced ad revenues to support it. And, as history has shown, it is the Times that thrived and the Herald and Tribune that died. The lesson was that while it may appear to make sense from a business point of view to abandon integrity for revenue, in the long run it doesn't help because your readers eventually lose faith in your product and choose one that is perceived as independent.

The analogy is that you have maintained the strategy of the Times and, as a result, have survived. I'm not sure how well you've done, but you're still there and you're still the primary -- accounting for about 98% -- source of motorsports intelligence for me. And while some people may not like what you have to say sometimes, the one thing they can't do is criticize your integrity. For that I thank you greatly.

Hopefully, though, things are on the way back, and hopefully we will all be happier about the state of motorsports in a couple of years.  In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and keep up the stellar work. Jim Allen

12/24/03
Renault Sport

Renault may launch new single seater series in North America    As part of its international strategy, Renault Sport Technologies is currently considering the possibility of appointing a race promoter based on the American continent to organize a single-seater championship in the United States and Canada. As designer and constructor of competition cars, Renault Sport Technologies produces a comprehensive range of single-seater cars engineered to develop drivers' racing skills all the way up the ladder to Formula 1. This modern range features the FR 1600 (112 bhp), the FR 2000 (180bhp) and the FR V6 (370bhp). Thanks to a commitment to motor sport promotion that dates back 35 years, Renault Sport has enabled a long list of drivers to reach Formula 1 status and its promotional formulae are currently organized in 22 countries across the world. Renault Sport Technologies will take its decision within the next few weeks.  Renault Sport

12/24/03

Reutimann tests Toyota truck    All David Reutimann wanted for Christmas was two days to test his Waltrip Racing Toyota truck for the first time, but inclement weather limited him to half a day of lapping the USA International Speedway track in Lakeland, FL on Monday. Reutimann will drive full time in the NASCAR Truck series in Toyota's first year. "The truck was great. It was running fast," Reutimann said. "The only thing that got us was the dadgum weather." Toyota, trying to compete quickly with established Chevrolet and Ford teams, arranged a test Jan. 3-4 at Talladega, six weeks before regularly scheduled sessions at Daytona International Speedway. "They're trying to get the speedway program up, and we're a little behind," Reutimann said. "We would have been ready for Daytona, but it'll be pushing it to be ready for Talladega." Team owner Darrell Waltrip last week signed a sponsor for Reutimann's truck, but no announcement was made. Waltrip saw Reutimann drive for NEMCO Motorsports in the Busch series, but Waltrip's brother, Michael, suggested he put him in a truck for the first time. "I had talked to Michael and asked him to give me some idea who I should be looking at, and he immediately mentioned David," Darrell Waltrip said. "I didn't know much about him, but I started checking into him and I like him a lot. He's a hands-on guy, he doesn't mind getting his hands dirty." And then there a couple of traits Waltrip especially admires. "He comes from a racing family," he said. "And it always seems like those guys do well. Plus, he's good-looking and young. I think he can help us, and we can help him." St Petersburg Times

12/24/03

CART gets some TV exposure   Just a quick note, last night I turned on the Discovery Wings Channel and caught a program about air freight. It profiled several stories showing the variety of what is carried on air freight (particularly Fed Ex). One of the stories profiled what had to be done to transport the Champ Cars (and specifically Mark Blundell's Pac West car--the program was probably from 3 years ago) from Indianapolis to Surfers Paradise. Very good scenes of how the packing and loading are handled and the logistics involved. It included a few scenes of the race itself and how it only took the Pac West crew 2 hours after the race to break down everything and have it loaded on their pallets ready to be trucked to the airport and loaded on the planes. Though a couple of years out of date, it was nice exposure. There is a good chance that it will rebroadcast a couple of times in the next week or so. Check the Discovery Wings web site. Mike Weyhrich, Orange, CA

12/24/03

Newey says not so fast  Despite the fast laps set by the new MP4-19, McLaren technical director Adrian Newey has warned that at this stage people need to keep things in perspective and not become too complacent.

Speaking to the BBC, Newey stated:  "Last year in general we were on pace slightly behind Michael [Schumacher's Ferrari] and Juan Pablo [Montoya's Williams-BMW],” Newey told the BBC. “So obviously we have to catch that up and cover whatever gains Ferrari and Williams make with their new cars."  The new car has already shattered track records in early winter testing, however these figures aren’t the be all and end all as far as Newey is concerned.

"It's nice to be out and running. David and Pedro like the car. But it's the usual problem. It's very difficult to judge lap times because this is a good time of year to set fast times - the conditions are right,” he explained. “Compared with 17D, we've definitely made a step forwards, but it is difficult to judge exactly how much.  There is one other factor that is just as necessary as speed, and that is reliability. In 2003 we saw a high percentage of cars finishing races and in the top few teams, especially Ferrari, the reliability record was exemplary and that is the standard McLaren need to rise to with the new MP4-19, hence the early start to testing.

"We hope it will help," Newey said, "but the standard of reliability last year in the top three teams was outstanding. Both Ferrari and Williams were running new cars, and they had a very high level of reliability. We've got to rise to that level - reliability is so important, especially with the new points system that was introduced in 2003."

12/24/03

Marco Andretti hopes CART & IRL mend ways   According to this mcall.com article, Michael Andretti didn't buy an IndyCar race team for the expressed interest of one day giving his son a job.

But that son, 16-year-old Marco, may be putting the pressure on his dad before too long.

In fact, Michael said Wednesday, ''He's way ahead of me already. I was still in go-karts when I was 16. I wasn't allowed to race cars until I was 18.''

Marco got his first taste of car racing this year and won eight of 14 starts en route to the championship in the Skip Barber 2.0-Liter Formula Dodge Eastern Region series...........''He learned a lot,'' Jeff Andretti said of his nephew. ''His driving got better as the year went on. He got even smarter. Then as points came into play, he started to drive with the championship in mind. He matured very well.''

Marco said he learned more about patience than anything else this year. He has an aggressive driving style that is much like his dad's, and he said, ''In our series, they have a four-off rule, where if you get all four wheels off the course, you have to do a stop-and-go. I did that a few times. They have a contact rule as well, so if you even touch another car, you have to come in. I'm looking forward to the national series because I'll be able to drive even harder.''

Michael Andretti was able to see Marco race only twice — including the clincher. He said spotters in the corners were amazed by some of the moves made by the teenager during the race.

''He drives really aggressive, but smart,'' Michael said. ''He pushes as hard as he needs to. I was thoroughly impressed. He's driving way beyond his years. He's very mature. When he makes a mistake, he corrects it. When areas need improvement, he works on it. Everybody who worked with him was impressed.''

''Basically, he needed to learn wet driving because he didn't have a whole lot of it,'' Jeff Andretti said. ''He would try to force the issue too much. I had to calm him down a little bit, and then he really got ahold of it. He was very much an open book. When I told him something, he didn't argue, but he tried to apply it.''

Marco's dad and his uncle, as well as Adam Andretti, the younger son of Aldo Andretti, Mario's brother, have all been through the Barber series. Jeff Andretti won the same Eastern Region championship in his rookie season 20 years ago, and Marco said he was happy to be able to match that achievement.

Marco and his dad have mapped out a tentative strategy that calls for the national Barber Dodge series next year, the pro series in 2005, Toyota Atlantic in 2006 and then on to Indy cars.

''Hopefully, the IRL and CART will have things sorted out by then,'' Marco said. ''I'd love to drive for my dad, but I don't want to end up on all ovals. A combined series would be the ultimate, and I'd be totally fine with ovals, but I'd rather not. They have three years to work it out." Marco Andretti is a kid in a hurry.

12/24/03
Industry News

Ford takes back Visteon's burdens   According to this Detroit Free Press article, Three and a half years after spinning off its parts division as Visteon Corp., Ford Motor Co. took back responsibility for $1.65 billion in the supplier's future retiree benefits -- and plans to eventually reassign up to 20,000 highly paid workers from parts plants to auto plants.

HIGHLIGHTS OF AGREEMENT
Ford is to assume $1.65 billion of Visteon's future retiree benefits.

Ford plants may get up to 20,000 reassigned Visteon workers.

Visteon is to pay Ford $150 million and take steeper price cuts for the next four years.

Ford is to pay Visteon's bills 10 days earlier than it pays other suppliers for two years.

Ford is to put $1 billion in pension funds, $6 billion in retiree-benefit funds.

Ford's future salaried employees will have 401(k)-like "defined-contribution" pension and health care savings plans.

"Visteon's weak performance has been symptomatic of its high cost structure and reliance on one customer," said Martin King, who studies auto suppliers for Standard & Poor's.

12/24/03

December 30th key date in CART bankruptcy   According to this Autoweek article, A federal bankruptcy court in Indianapolis is set to review CART’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan at length on Dec. 30. That plan includes the sale of most of CART’s assets—transporters, pace cars, race engines, intellectual property and most of its race contracts—to Open Wheel Racing Series LLC (0WRS). The court’s approval would allow OWRS to operate the race series in 2004.

What about the stockholders?
CART’s bankruptcy plan, and its sale to OWRS, applies only to CART Inc., the Indianapolis-based operational wing that actually stages races. It does not involve Championship Auto Racing Teams, the publicly owned parent company incorporated in the state of Delaware. The distinction is crucial to OWRS’ buyout proposal, which surfaced after OWRS withdrew its offer to buy the Delaware corporation for 56 cents a share.

OWRS, formed by CART team owners Paul Gentilozzi, Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven, hopes to acquire the assets it needs to continue the Champ Car World Series without assuming the baggage associated with the parent company. But the question remains: Will there be anything for the shareholders who have invested in CART for the better part of a decade?

“The answer is, we believe so, but this is really a question that you’d have to ask the board of [the public corporation],” said Kalkhoven. Which is another way of saying it’s not OWRS’ problem, at least for now.

Presumably, once bankruptcy proceedings are complete, CART’s board of directors will begin liquidating the public company, and then distribute the proceeds on a per-share basis. If there are any proceeds.

CART the public company might liquidate with somewhere between $1 million and $6 million in the bank. If there is anything left after obligations are settled, the balance could be distributed to existing CART shareholders.

12/24/03

2004 Jaguar launch date set  Jaguar Racing will launch its 2004 challenger, the Jaguar R5, at the Circuit de Catalunya (Barcelona), on Sunday 18th January. The launch will begin with a press conference at 11:00AM (CET), followed by the car's first appearance on track at approximately 12:30PM

12/24/03

Herbert glad to be away from F1 bs  Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert has admitted that he is glad to be out of the F1 paddock and away from all the b*****it that it generates. "I had my time, I started in 1981 and had ten years. I was not enjoying it as much as I should have been," he told Sky Sport. "I now race sports cars, Le Mans-type cars - there's not so much pressure and b*****it - it's good. I came second at Le Mans after a great battle. It's a great thing to be involved in," he said.

12/24/03

IRL Renna report incomplete  According to this rpm.espn.com article, The Indy Racing League's 19-paragraph explanation of Tony Renna's fatal accident didn't provide any definitive conclusions. It leaned toward driver error but didn't totally rule out mechanical failure in the crash that killed Renna last Oct. 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It pointed out how difficult the investigation was because of the lack of eyewitnesses or video tape. It dissected the angles and velocity of the car and the role of the Accident Data Recorder. It also paid tribute to the IMS spectator debris fence.

But what it didn't mention was the dead gull-sized bird found lying on the track in the entrance of Turn 3 -- where the 26-year-old driver lost control at 227 mph.

A relative of Renna's, who asked not to be identified, told ESPN.com of the discovery and questioned why it wasn't included in the IRL press release.

"We didn't know if it played a role in the accident," replied John Griffin, IRL vice president of public relations. "We also don't know how long it was there.

"But Brian talked about unforeseen circumstances in his report."

12/24/03

AJ always wanted to race in CART   Reigning CART Toyota Atlantic champion AJ Allmendinger has gone on record that he only wanted to run in the Champ Car World Series next year, despite the uncertainty surrounding the series and speculation that the RuSPORT team may opt for the Indy Racing League instead.

Rumors are circulating that the Californian is already out testing a RuSPORT Lola, so things appear more promising by the day.

“Since day one, I've said that my heart lies in open-wheel road racing," he insisted in an interview with www.cart.com, "Since day one, when I was karting - and especially over the last three or four seasons as I've gotten closer and been around the facilities and the excitement there is at the races - there's no place I'd rather be next season than in a Champ Car.

“Thank God for Forsythe and Kalkhoven and Gentilozzi, and everyone who's working their butts off to make this happen. I don't want to be anywhere else and I can't thank them enough for putting their butts on the line to do what they're doing to make it happen. There would be a lot of disappointed drivers out there if CART went away. To be honest, I'd probably be one of the most disappointed because it's been a dream that I've had. That's where I want to be.”

“My first goal was to move up to the top level - my goal is to make it to the series and to win races and win championships, and that's what I'm going to do," he said, "The first step is learning as much as possible, and taking everything that I've learned - contending, then race victories and championships.

“I don't think there's anybody in this world who's more excited about next season than I am, because it's been a dream that I've worked so hard for. It's a pleasure to be here and I'm going to show my emotions. This is the most important thing in my life and it should be like that for every race car driver. I can't thank Carl Russo and RuSPORT enough for the opportunity they've given me this past season - and [those] we're going to have for some years in the future.

“I'm going in with the same opinion as every year. Learn as much as possible, finish every race, win a couple of races and see where it goes. That's worked for me the past two seasons. I'll be honest, I'm so thrilled about next season and very nervous too. After the last two seasons, I don't want to lose. You get kind of used to winning. But we know it's going to be a lot tougher.

“Nobody will ever put any more pressure on me than I do myself. As I keep winning, I want to keep winning that much more because I hate losing in anything I do. No matter what series I'm in, that's never going to change.

“To be able to do what I've done over the past two seasons [is something] I never thought I could live up to but, to be honest, now it's given me so much confidence in myself that I can take any race car that I get in and do that."

12/24/03

Unser Jr's son arrested on DUI, drug charges  This USA Today article says that the son of second-generation IndyCar star Al Unser Jr. has been arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence and possession of methamphetamine. Al R. Unser, 21, was arrested shortly after midnight Saturday at a checkpoint, according to a Bernalillo County sheriff's report. He had dilated pupils and showed other signs of impairment. Unser, in keeping with family tradition, has been racing as part of the Skip Barber Dodge Pro Series. He started karting when he was about 10 and moved up to the Skip Barber race series when he was 17. Deputies conducted a field sobriety test and arrested Unser on suspicion of driving while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or drug. According to the report, Unser admitted to the officers that he had been using marijuana. Deputies found a clear blue container with a green leafy substance that field tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. Unser's attorney, Timothy Padilla, said allegations that Unser was in possession of methamphetamine are false. He said there was only a small amount of marijuana in the container. Unser was given a blood test. The results were pending. Unser was released from the Metropolitan Detention Center after posting a $2,500 bond.

12/24/03

Latest Formula One News Items 

Verstappen Wishes Minardi Well
McLaren Aim Sights At 2004 F1 Crown
Baumgartner Signs Minardi Deal: It's Official
Bahrain GP Warned Of Terrorist Attack
Rubens Starts To 'Worry' About Michelin Pace
Ralf, Williams, To Take Fight To Ferrari

Ferrari Enjoy Christmas At Test Track
India Wins Tentative Formula One Race Deal
Karthikeyan Lines Up '04 Minardi Test Seat
Blundell: Give Rising F1 Brits A Chance
Jaguar Work Hard To Understand Tires

Webber Is Tenth Best Driver In World
F1 Will Miss Snide Champion: Button
McLaren: First Or Last To Run 'New' F1 Car?
Williams Sanguine About Bahrain Threat
Ralf Thumps Early Bahrain Criticisms 

12/23/03

IRL statement on Renna accident  As a follow up to the Tony Renna release issued by the IRL last week, the following is a statement from Brian Barnhart, the IRL’s senior vice president, racing operations:

“The Indy Racing League® never mentioned driver error in its press release that reviewed the Tony Renna accident and to see that highlighted as probable cause has been very disappointing.

“As we noted in our original release, reviews of accidents are critical for the future safety of all drivers. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of the accident. If there was an obvious cause for the accident, that would be good because it would help bring some closure for Tony’s family and friends.

“The important thing is for the IRL to continue to learn more about what happens during these crashes so the results of future similar crashes won’t have the same result as Tony’s.

“It is unfortunate that the Renna family has had to deal with this at this time.”

12/23/03

Ralf says no Villeneuve at Williams  Villeneuve won't be returning to Williams in 2005 when Montoya makes his way to McLaren, leaving a seat open. Villeneuve made his F1 debut with Williams in 1996 and won the Drivers' title the following year with them. Ralf though, has said that these reports are not even close to the truth. "There are many rumors about the potential substitutes. Villeneuve? I can't believe that's a real possibility," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

12/23/03

Minardi confirms Zsolt  As expected, Minardi have confirmed that Zsolt Baumgartner will drive for the team in 2004.  Minardi boss Paul Stoddart said: "We are very pleased that we have been able to finalize Zsolt’s contract at this time.   "I believe he has considerable ability, and hopefully, the nurturing environment within Minardi, which has helped to launch the Formula 1 careers of so many talented young drivers in recent years, will also allow him to develop and hone his skills to the point where he firmly establishes his credentials at the very top level of motor racing."  For me, Christmas has definitely come early this year. The two races I did this past season made me more determined than ever that I wanted to be in Formula 1. I have now realized that dream, although I don’t think the reality of it has quite sunk in yet. "There are many people who have helped me to get to this point in my racing career, but I particularly want to thank Thomas Frank, for his unstinting efforts on my behalf, and Paul Stoddart, for giving me the opportunity to show what I can do in Formula 1.   "I just want to start working with the European Minardi team as soon as possible, so that I can be well prepared for the beginning of the season. It is a huge challenge, but I am really looking forward to it."

12/23/03

Sato follows Button into China  Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda returned to China last week for its second promotional visit of 2003, with Takuma Sato getting his first chance to experience the country prior to next year's Chinese Grand Prix (26 September).

The trip was an opportunity to build upon the business relationships B.A.R has established this year and also to meet with other commercial and political figures throughout the region.

The whistle-stop tour began on Tuesday in Beijing, where Takuma was introduced to Team Partner SINA and took part in a number of media events. He also managed to visit the historical former Imperial palace, the Forbidden City.

On Wednesday the team flew on to Shanghai, China's commercial capital to meet with Japanese businesses based in China and to take part in the Shanghai Automobile Race and Utility Vehicle Exhibition before returning home on Thursday.

Commenting on the visit, Takuma said: "The aim of this trip was to develop the team's flourishing relationship with China and to meet Japanese businesses within China. It was quite literally a flying visit, but we were able to pack in a lot of activities.

"Personally, the trip was extremely interesting. Being Japanese, my homeland is very close geographically to China, but I have never had the opportunity to visit before. Beijing and Shanghai are both very impressive but with two very different characters. Shanghai is very dynamic and full of energy, while Beijing is more serene but full of history.

"I think China will be a great location for a Grand Prix. There is such interest in Formula One and a rapidly growing understanding, which was pleasantly surprising. It's going to be a great race!"

12/23/03

Latest Formula One News Items  

Hungary Help Baumgartner Seal F1 Drive
Bahrain Track Is Best In World: Bernie
Contract Talks Put On Hold: Ralf Schumacher
Sauber Not Holding Breath For Carmaker
Barrichello Surprised At Schu Stability
Blame Britain For Wilson Demise: Minardi Chief  

Not Winning Won't Dim Frank's Desire
Wilson Ponders Season On F1 Bench
Barrichello Calls Time On Tire War Forecast
Malaysian GP Warns Against Complacency
Sato Can't Wait For Chinese Grand Prix
Jordan Won't Sign Team's Name Away
Bernie Handed Highest Honor In Bahrain
New McLaren 'Much Quicker' Than Old: Test Driver

  Much More...click on 2002 archives button below
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