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It's the drivers stupid, Earnhardt Jr. connecting with fans  This AP article says, At the moment of the biggest triumph of his blossoming career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made sure to spend time connecting with his fans. He drove slowly back around the 2-mile oval at Daytona International Speedway, waving to fans out the window of his car, then stopped at the finish line to celebrate instead of driving straight to Victory Circle.

``I just wanted to shout at the fans, wave at them, hear what they had to say,'' Earnhardt said. The fans, many of them clad in red and white, the colours on Junior's No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, waved and roared back at their hero after his Daytona 500 win last Sunday. And there were plenty of them. He has so many fans, in fact, they've been dubbed by some as Earnhardt's Army.

``When I walk around with Junior, I feel like I'm with Elvis,'' said Martin Truex, whom Earnhardt hired to drive the Busch Series car he co-owns with stepmother Teresa Earnhardt. As Earnhardt wins more races and becomes a legitimate star on the track, his popularity is soaring - even outside racing circles. He's showing up in lots of commercials, on billboards, in MTV videos and documentaries about his life, at rock concerts and in numerous television interviews. This week alone, he went from NBC's Today show and ABC's Regis and Kelly, to sitting down with David Letterman.

Earnhardt inherited a lot of fans from his father when the Intimidator - easily the most popular driver of his era in stock car racing - was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500. "I was his daddy's fan and now I'm his fan,'' said William Donovan, a carpenter from Indianapolis who was among more than 1,000 fans waiting to get into the building where Earnhardt's No. 8 car would be put on display.


No. 13 won't run blank sidepods   Access Motorsports has yet to secure a primary sponsor for the 2004 season, but team owner/driver Greg Ray said his team won't display blank sidepods for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "We have a lot of great new partners with Renovac, CapGemini and Frontier Packaging, but to date we have no primary sponsor," said team owner/driver Greg Ray. "We're working on that, but because Renovac is launching a new product, we'll probably run Renovac colors as primary at Miami just as an extra benefit to them."


2003 Nextel results  Nextel Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTL), today announced record financial results for 2003 including income available to common stockholders of $1.47 billion, or $1.41 per share. Revenue was $10.8 billion in 2003, a 24% increase over 2002 and was $3.0 billion in the fourth quarter. Operating income before depreciation and amortization, (OIBDA) was $4.2 billion in 2003, an increase of 35% over the prior year. During 2003, Nextels free cash flow grew to a record $1.3 billion, compared to $122 million for 2002. Nextel retired $7.8 billion in debt and preferred stock in 2003 and issued $4.7 billion in new lower cost debt, resulting in net debt and preferred retirements of $3.1 billion. Year-end debt and preferred stock, net of cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments was $8.2 billion. Nextel added approximately 2.3 million new subscribers during 2003 with 553,000 subscribers added during the fourth quarter, bringing total subscribers to 12.9 million at year-end.

In 2003, Nextel set the pace for the wireless industry exceeding all of our financial goals, said Tim Donahue, Nextels president and CEO. We delivered $1.3 billion in free cash flow, which is more than a billion dollar increase over 2002. We increased OIBDA by 35% over last year to $4.2 billion. We grew subscribers 21% to 12.9 million by adding 2.3 million subscribers. In addition, we added 385,000 subscribers using Boost Mobile service in 2003. Nextel has a keen focus on operational excellence and a drive to aggressively pursue opportunities to build on our record of profitable growth. We will continue to invest in long term growth opportunities that expand Nextels reach, enhance our differentiation and build on our success.

In 2003, strong customer demand helped drive revenue growth of 24%, while a long term focus on smart growth strategies allowed our operating margin on service revenue to grow to approximately 44% in the fourth quarter. At the same time, Nextel launched a new campaign to enhance our corporate brand, signed an exclusive sports marketing arrangement with NASCAR, and improved our industry leading customer satisfaction while making Nationwide Direct Connectsm a reality, said Tom Kelly, Nextels executive vice president and COO. In 2004, we will expand the Nextel National Network and broaden our reach by adding an additional 2,200 coverage sites. In addition, we will increase our targeting of high-value customer segments, like the millions of NASCAR fans. We will also expand our Boost Mobile service to new markets, while continuing to deliver industry leading results.


Earnhardt, others to test at Texas  Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of two-dozen drivers scheduled to test at Texas Motor Speedway prior to the Samsung/RadioShack 500 race week.  In addition to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series teams, the Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) Series and Toyota, the newest NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series manufacturer, are also slated during the 12 days of testing at the 1.5-mile superspeedway.   "We find ourselves pretty busy each year at this time," said speedway general manager Eddie Gossage. "Not only are we getting ready to host these drivers and more than 200,000 fans for the Samsung/RadioShack 500 race week, we also see many of the drivers testing here prior to the event. It's not unusual to see a handful of teams booking the track for tests and then have a dozen more guys show up to take part. We're glad they put so much importance on doing well at our events."
Following are teams/drivers scheduled as of Feb. 19 - subject to change:
2/26/27 Crown Royal IROC Series (9a-5p) Dave Marcis, Jay and Jim Sauter
2/28-3/1 Toyota (9a-5p) (Trucks) 42/Mike Skinner, 24/Travis Kvapil, 22/Bill Lester, 21/Hank Parker, Jr.,  17/David Reutimann, 12/Robert Huffman, 23/Shelby Howard & Joe Ruttman
2/28-29 Holigan Racing (5-10p) 50/David Starr (Busch)
3/8-9 FitzBradshaw/Richard Childress (9a-5p) 12/Tim Fedewa, 14/Casey Atwood, 82/Randy LaJoie & 21/Clint Bowyer (Busch)
3/16-17 DEI/Evernham/Joe Gibbs (9a-5p) 8/Dale Earnhardt Jr., 91/Bill Elliott (Cup) & 18/J.J. Yeley (Busch)
3/22-23 Roush Racing (9a-5p) 60/Greg Biffle (Busch)
3/23-24 Bill Davis/Penske/Hendrick/Labonte (9a-5p)  22/Scott Wimmer, 2/Rusty Wallace, 5/Terry Labonte (Cup) & 44/Justin Labonte (Busch)

Industry News

Gossage promoted  Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (NYSE:TRK) today announced the promotion of Eddie Gossage to president of Texas Motor Speedway.   Gossage has served as the executive vice president and general manager of Texas Motor Speedway since 1995.

"Eddie has done an outstanding job bringing Texas Motor Speedway from nothing more than an idea to one of the top sports facilities in the world," said O. Bruton Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports. "There is a big difference between a race organizer and a race promoter. Eddie is a true promoter who understands the urgency and effort required to be successful.

"Texas Motor Speedway, under Eddie's leadership, has set the standard that other speedways must now follow in regards to entertainment, value and customer satisfaction."

Prior to Texas, Gossage served as vice president of public relations at Lowe's Motor Speedway from 1989 to 1995. Gossage previously worked at Miller Brewing Company in its motorsports public relations program and served in various public relations and managerial capacities at two other NASCAR-sanctioned speedways.


Bahrain opener cancelled  The first race this season in the SUPERFUND Euro 3000 is scheduled for 2 May 2004 in Pergusa (Italy). The original season opening that was scheduled to take place on the new circuit in Bahrain on 19 March 2004 was cancelled.

The SUPERFUND Euro 3000 schedule for 2004 consists of ten races from May until November 2004. The races will be held in cities throughout Europe and the season finals, to take place in Dubai, are guaranteed to be an enthralling end to a spectacular season.

The construction of the Formula One circuit in Bahrain is well under way. However, top-priority is given to F1 and the circuit has to be in a perfect condition for the upcoming F1 events. Therefore the decision-makers of the SUPERFUND Euro 3000, in accordance with the decision-makers of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), have decided to cancel the SUPERFUND Euro 3000 race in Bahrain.

SUPERFUND Euro 3000 racing schedule 2004:
2 May 2004 Pergusa/Italy
30 May 2004 Estoril/Portugal
6 June 2004 Jerez/Spain
27 June 2004 Monza/Italy
18 July 2004 Spa/Belgium
30 August 2004 Donington/UK
12 September 2004 Dijon/France
19 September 2004 Zolder/ Belgium
31 October 2004 Cagliari/ Italy
28 November 2004 Dubai/United Arab Emirates

SUPERFUND Euro 3000 is an international Formula Race Series with 450 HP. Drivers such as current F1 racers Felipe Massa and Gianmaria Bruni both competed in the SUPERFUND Euro 3000 earlier in their careers. The winner of the SUPERFUND Euro 3000 will be awarded with the Super License for Formula 1.


Toyota extends sponsorship of Atlantics series  Officials from Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc. and the Toyota Atlantic Championship announced that the automobile manufacturer has agreed to extend its title sponsorship of the series through the end of the 2005 season.
"Toyota is pleased to extend its involvement as the official engine supplier and title sponsor of this prestigious series," said Les Unger, Toyota national motorsports manager. "The cumulative list of graduates from the Toyota Atlantic Championship series to the upper rungs of both American and international open-wheel racing becomes more impressive each year."  The agreement extends Toyota's long-standing association with Toyota Atlantic, a relationship that began in 1989 and is the company's longest-running open-wheel racing program. As a result of the agreement, the current 240-horsepower Toyota 4A-GE engine and Swift chassis will remain as the series' chassis and engine package for the next two seasons.


Cheerios and STP to share hood of #43  History will repeat itself this weekend in Rockingham, N.C., when long-time Richard Petty sponsor, STP, will join Cheerios and Betty Crocker on the hood of the famed No. 43 Dodge. Following Rockingham, STP will remain on the car as an associate sponsor and General Mills will continue as the teams primary sponsor. The special STP/Cheerios paint scheme kicks off a celebration of 2004 Petty family anniversaries by sponsors STP and General Mills. North Carolina Speedway, located near Petty Enterprises well-known race shop in Level Cross, is a raceway that the Petty family has traditionally dominated and where many Richard Petty records still stand. Richard and his son, Kyle, have won 14 races combined at the legendary track a trend that Petty hopes will continue this weekend with current No. 43 car driver Jeff Green. Having my long-time sponsor STP back on the hood of the No. 43 for Rockingham feels like a homecoming for me, said Richard Petty. Rockingham has always felt like a home track to the Petty family and we are really looking forward to seeing the No. 43 STP/Cheerios car do well there this weekend.


PDM signs Englishman   The Indy Racing League IndyCar Series could soon welcome a fifth driver from the United Kingdom.  PDM Racing is finalizing a deal with the British Tourism Board to have 2003 ASCAR champion Ben Collins run a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. If he passes his rookie test and a 3.5-liter engine can be secured, Collins could make his debut in the Indy 200 Copper World Classic on March 21 at Phoenix International Raceway.  We have the funds to run Phoenix, but it's now a supply and demand issue with the engines, PDM Racing co-owner Larry Arnold said. Wed like to have Ben in a car in a race before the (Indianapolis 500).  Arnold said he has a commitment from Chevrolet to provide a 3.0-liter engine, which will be used in the IndyCar Series beginning with the 500-Mile Race.  Collins, 28, would join Mark Taylor of London, Darren Manning of North Yorkshire, England, Dan Wheldon of Emberton, England, and Dario Franchitti of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the circuit.  A British tourism-British driver concept in the IRL has been on the drawing board for a few years, according to David Chapman of Go Britain Racing.   PDM was the appropriate team to approach, said Chapman, who noted that Go Britain Racing was a minor sponsor of the PDM car with Ed Carpenter for the final three races of the 2003 season. PDM needs something like this, but theyre also a capable team. They just seem to try hard. They need to succeed; we need to succeed.  Obviously, were looking at two or three years with this. It is a little unique in what were trying to do. But if we can make it work this year and learn, I think next year and the year after this program could be expanded into a two-car Go Britain team with another British driver or maybe an American driver promoting British tourism.


Champ Car voted most popular series   The Champ Car World Series has called Indianapolis home for less than two years, but is already gaining widespread acceptance among the residents of the Hoosier State. A recent week-long poll on the website of the Indianapolis Star, one of the leading daily newspapers in the country in terms of motorsports coverage, gave fans a choice of four racing series and asked which of them they followed more closely. Over 10,000 votes were cast in the survey and the Champ Car World Series was voted as the most closely followed by Indianapolis Star website visitors Champ Car paced the field, receiving 36.7 percent of the vote, followed by the Indy Racing League scoring 31.1 percent and NASCAR netting 27.5 percent. Formula 1 racing received 4.7 percent of the votes. "The results of this poll further illustrate the passion that the Champ Car fans have, and their desire to let their feelings be known at every opportunity," said OWRS partner Paul Gentilozzi. "The fact that this poll was done in the most competitive motorsports market in the United States gives us further reason to be proud. It's nice to finish first in our own backyard."


Glock secures Jordan drive   Timo Glock will be Jordans third driver in 2004, the team has confirmed. The young German, who has been testing for the team several times this winter, will drive the teams spare car in Friday practice sessions. Glock said: Im very happy and proud that I can be part of Jordan Ford with a place in Formula 1 for the 2004 season. I thank the Jordan technical staff who made it possible for me to give a good performance at the Barcelona and Silverstone testing sessions recently. We have worked together successfully already and Im looking forward to a fantastic time with them this year. Eddie Jordan is convinced he has a hot property on his hands. He said: Timo Glock is one of the most promising young driving talents in Germany at the moment and Im delighted that we are able to offer him a regular F1 testing role. Hes come up through the junior categories quickly and this will give him an invaluable opportunity to learn every grand prix circuit on the calendar. Its a perfect training ground and will also help the team in terms of having another cars data to assist with our preparation for each race. Timo has really impressed our engineers with his testing feedback and we are now hoping to guide him through this next stage of his career with the ultimate aim for him to become a grand prix driver of the future.


Button says BAR times are real   Jenson Button has insisted that BAR's continued impressive pace in testing is not being faked by low-weight glory runs and that the team can deliver on its promising form when the season kicks off in Melbourne, according to this week's AUTOSPORT magazine. Speaking exclusively to AUTOSPORT, Button said: "Apart from Barcelona, both with the new car and the interim model, we haven't really gone out to break the lap record. Now it's just happening that we are quick because of our work and that is great and helping to lift everyone in the team. "I don't know where the others are compared to us, but at the moment we are just running through all our testing programs and somehow we always manage to be quick, which is good news. The times have come as a consequence of the speed of the car, not because we are going out with fuel loads to set quick times."


Gordon the good guy  Last August, 9-year-old Killian Owen lost his three-and-a-half-year struggle with leukemia. But in the gym of his east Cobb elementary school, a climbing wall on a giant mural of a phoenix - a legendary bird that rises from the ashes to live on - flying triumphantly over a mountain will keep the youngster's memory alive for generations of students to come. Dubbed "Killian's Climb," the wall and the mural were dedicated Tuesday in a ceremony that included heartfelt remarks by Killian's mother, Grainne Owen, who expressed her gratitude for the support her family received throughout her son's illness. Killian Owen was a month shy of his 6th birthday when he was diagnosed in December 1999 with the cancer that eventually took his life. In October 2002, a relapse put Killian back in the hospital and introduced him to a new hero, NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, who drives the #31 Cingular Wireless car. Owen, who lives with his family in the east Cobb subdivision of Johnson's Landing and works for the Atlanta-based Cingular, asked Gordon one day if he would mind dropping by the hospital to say hello to his son. "He came over that day and we couldn't get him to go away. He visited every room on the cancer ward," Owen recalled. Gordon, who was a special guest at Tuesday's dedication ceremony, came back many times to see Killian. "We'd play games, like Dragonstrike, anything to cheer him up and make him smile," Gordon said. "Every time I was in town, I'd go see him for three or four hours." When the child was out of the hospital, Gordon made sure Killian and his family attended races in which Gordon was competing or that they were with him when he made special appearances in the community. "Killian didn't know much about racing before he met Robby, but he became a huge fan," Mrs. Owen said. For Gordon, Killian's illness and eventual death was a reality check. "I had a friend whose daughter had cancer, but she survived," he said. "I live in such a fantasy world that (losing Killian) really makes my life more real." Gordon is very special to the Owen family, "not because of how famous he is or how exciting his job is, but because he's a kind, generous person who made a great difference in our lives, and Killian loved him," Mrs. Owen said.  Marietta Daily Journal


Aschenbach secures test for Pacific Coast  Bloomfield Hills, Michigan based management and marketing firm Sports Management Network, Inc. (SMN) announced today that the firm has reached an agreement with top Toyota Atlantic outfit Pacific Coast Motorsports for race car driver client Lawson Aschenbach to test for the team. Aschenbach, a twenty-year old native of Gaithersburg, Maryland, is the 2002 US Formula 2000 Zetec Series Road to Indy Oval Champion and multiple race winner in the Zetec series. Aschenbach, who has also scored championships in karting and Formula Ford, is currently a sophomore student at Vanderbilt Universitys prestigious School of Engineering in addition to his motorsports activities. At this stage of my driving career, it is all about seat-time and keeping my name out there, said Aschenbach. This is a great opportunity for me to turn some miles in an Atlantic car and develop a relationship with one of the top teams in the paddock. Aschenbach will first test for Pacific Coast Motorsports on February 25, 2004 at Button Willow Raceway. A subsequent test is tentatively scheduled for March 13, 2004 at Firebird International Raceway. Lawson comes highly recommended and widely regarded as one of the sports top up-and-coming drivers, said Pacific Coast Motorsports President and Team Director Tyler Tadevic. We know of his ability to provide meaningful feedback on car set-up and characteristics. We are excited to put Lawson in the car.


Pit Walkabout returns to USGP   The United States Grand Prix pit walkabout, one of the most popular, fan-friendly features at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in recent years, will return Thursday, June 17, kicking off the USGP weekend, June 17-20.

The walkabout will take place from 8 a.m.-noon (EST, local time) and is free to all 2004 USGP ticket holders. This is one of the few fan walkabouts available on the 18-event, global F1 schedule in 2004.

The inaugural walkabout last September was a resounding success, as thousands of fans packed the Formula One garage area and pit road to get an up-close look at the exotic cars and sophisticated teamwork of Formula One.

Were excited about the return of the pit walkabout to kick off track activities during the United States Grand Prix, said Joie Chitwood, Indianapolis Motor Speedway senior vice president of business affairs. The fan response last year was overwhelming, and we learned many lessons. We will be better prepared to handle the vehicle and pedestrian traffic associated with this event.

All of the F1 teams also were greatly impressed with the turnout, and many team officials asked us after the event how their teams could become more involved in this fantastic event this year. We are planning additional activities this year to enhance the day for the fans.

During the pit walkabout, fans can walk the pits and stand adjacent to the open garages, providing a clear view of the sleek cars, high-tech equipment and skilled personnel of all 10 Formula One teams, including standouts Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, BMW WilliamsF1 Team and West McLaren Mercedes. Those top teams from the 2003 season will lead the field into the fifth annual Formula One race on the 2.605-mile road circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


Minardi offered Narain a ride   Indian F1-hopeful Narain Karthikeyan claims back-of-the-grid team Minardi offered him a full-time seat at the pinnacle of motor sport this season. He said he turned it down because he couldn't raise enough sponsorship.  Karthikeyan, who raced in the World Series by Nissan in 2003, tested a Formula One Minardi last December and got a chance to secure the full-time seat.  He told the press: 'They waited for me to raise the necessary amount before they signed on [the] others. But I just couldn't get the money together.'  "His lure to sponsors stays his visibility. If he does not get an F1 drive he'll disappear from the corporate radar for a whole year. He can't afford that," mentor Sanjay Sharma explained.  [Editor's Note:  With so many Indians living in the USA and in Durban, South Africa, one would think Champ Car would be after this guy.  It would bring enormous popularity to the Champ Car series even if they never race in India.]


Latest F1 news in brief  

F1 Test Notes: Imola And Valencia
Verstappen To Revive Career In States
Why Is F1 Boss' Girlfriend So Glum?
Ralf: No More Braking For Big Brother
Badoer Unhurt After Big Imola Crash
Michelin Teams Charge For F1 Victory
Ralf Reckons He Can Shade Montoya
Pantano Thanks Cash For F1 Debut
Klien To Learn Tracks On PlayStation
Is Montoya Worried About Raikkonen?

Lauda: No Pressure To Emulate Father
Sheene Cheers For Brits And Aussies
F1 Must Cut Costs Or Die: Industry Expert
Ralf's Never Had A Better F1 Racer
Webber's Ego Kept In Check 'Down Under'
Bernie Doubts Success Of 'New' CART


Infineon seeks tie-up with Ferrari and F1   INFINEON Technologies AG, a top 10 global semiconductor company, is looking to gain more ground in the motorsport industry by initiating technical cooperation with Ferrari and F1 as well as sponsoring racing events like the Porsche Michelin Supercup in Europe since 2000.

Infineon Technologies Asia Pacific Pte Ltd vice-president of Asia-Pacific business unit for automotive and industrial, Andrew Chong, said besides raising the company's profile as a leader in the automotive semiconductor industry, Infineon's motorsport engagements also offered an excellent testing ground for its automotive electronics solutions to make their way to mass-produced cars.

We will play an increasingly active role in the promotion of motorsport in Asia and provide leading edge automotive technology to enhance the success of our motorsport partners in Asia Pacific, he said after the launch and test day of the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia in Sepang on Saturday.


Andretti added to Subway 400 entry list  John Andretti has been added to the Subway 400 Entry list. Fox Sport Net's Totally NASCAR reports that DEI spokesperson says a full time sponsor is not far away from happening for the team.


Badoer crashes at Imola, unhurt   First day of testing this week for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola. Luca Badoer took to the track today, at the wheel of an F2003-GA. The Scuderias official test driver was working on a tyre test program. The session ended earlier than planned because of a heavy crash at the Variante Alta corner, from which the driver emerged unscathed. Up to that point, he had covered 58 laps, the quickest in a time of 121412. As a precaution, following the accident, Badoer underwent some checks which ruled out any problem and confirmed that he was fit to drive. Testing continues tomorrow, once again with Luca Badoer on track.


Daytona 500 overnight TV rating up 13%   UPDATE   NBC's coverage of Sunday's Daytona 500 earned a final 10.6/24 national Nielsen rating and was watched by 33.5 million viewers, making it the second-most watched and second-highest rated in the 26-year live TV history of the event. This year's rating represents an 8% improvement over the 9.8/21 rating for Fox's rain-shortened broadcast last year. In '02, NBC's inaugural Daytona 500 set a record with 35 million viewers and a 10.9/26 national rating during the middle Sunday the Salt Lake Olympics (THE DAILY). NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer: "This reflects the continuing growth of NASCAR, but also the ratification of the Daytona 500's status as one of sport's premier events"  2/17/04 - NBC's coverage of the Daytona 500 Sunday from 1:30-5:15pm ET earned a 10.4/21 overnight Nielsen rating, up 13% from last year's 9.2/18 overnight for Fox's rain-shortened telecast, which was rated from 1:00-2:15pm ET and 3:15-4:15pm ET. But Sunday's 10.4 was down 4% from NBC's 10.8/23 overnight in '02, the net's previous Daytona 500 telecast.  Compare this to the Indy 500's rating of 4.8 (and dropping) and you begin to realize how much the creation of the IRL has damaged the Indy 500, which had 7 and 8 ratings under CART.  Tell us one more time why the IRL was created?  Certainly not to help the Indy 500 or open wheel racing.  When are those responsible for the destruction of Indy Car Racing going to be held accountable?  The problem is that most journalists are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their Indy 500 media credential -- a sad state of affairs indeed.


Tracy on Wind Tunnel tonight   Preparations continue in earnest for the 2004 Champ Car World Series campaign, with drivers, teams and sponsors putting their plans into place for the April 18 season opener on the streets of Long Beach.   All of these plans are geared toward holding the Vanderbilt Cup at the end of the season, and the man currently in possession of it will share his thoughts with race fans tonight on Speed Channels popular Wind Tunnel program.  Defending Champ Car titlist Paul Tracy will join host Dave Despain tonight on Wind Tunnel to discuss preparations for the 2004 campaign. Tracy, who won seven races and six poles last year on his way to the title for Forsythe Racing, will call into the program and be on the air at approximately 10:45 p.m. Eastern Time. The Speed Channel show, which had been airing at 9 p.m., was recently moved to a 10 p.m. time slot.


Montoya smashes records in Valencia   Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya once again showed the potential and promise of the Williams FW26 by setting the unofficial track record in testing at Valencia today. Jenson Button came home second quick for the day and again looked impressive but the surprise was Jaguar newcomer Christian Klien who posted the 3rd quickest circuit. Noteworthy was also the fact that Klien's Jaguar ran 110 trouble-free laps in his test program.
(Pos, Driver, Team, Tires, Best time, No. of laps)
1. Juan Pablo Montoya Williams-BMW M 1m09.103s 85
2. Jenson Button BAR-Honda M 1m09.467s 98
3. Christian Klien Jaguar M 1m09.514s 110
4. Takuma Sato BAR-Honda M 1m09.893s 67
5. Mark Webber Jaguar M 1m09.894s 144
6. Kimi Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes M 1m10.219s 101
7. Ricardo Zonta Toyota M 1m10.250s 126
8. Anthony Davidson BAR-Honda M 1m10.299s 80
9. Marc Gene Williams-BMW M 1m10.301s 81
10. David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes M 1m10.412s 92
11. Cristiano da Matta Toyota-Toyota M 1m10.532s 74


Grand-Am to sanction Formula Renault in NA   Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson recently announced that Grand American has reached an agreement with Race Team Promotions to become the sanctioning body of the North American Formula Renault Championships.

"Grand American is pleased to announce our sanctioning of the Formula Renault Championships. It is our goal to provide American race fans with exciting, competitive road racing in all forms - sports car, production car and open-wheel," said Edmondson.

The North American Formula Renault Championships are comprised of three classes, each utilizing different Formula Renault platforms. The North American Formula Renault 1600 Championship provides the entry-level category for young drivers graduating from the karting ranks, with the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship providing the next step up with its increases in power and grip creating new challenges for the drivers to master.

"This agreement with Grand American is very important to the series and our drivers, said Brett Ross, General Manager, North American Formula Renault Championships. "Having a sanctioning body like Grand American behind the Formula Renault program gives this new series an unprecedented amount of credibility. I look forward to working with their front office on a regular basis.

The top rung of the North American Formula Renault Championships is the Renault V6, which features the latest in open-wheel technology, employing paddle shifters mounted on the steering column for the sequential gearbox, which handles the impressive (370bhp) output of the Renault V6 engine.

RaceTeam Promotions is in the final stages of finalizing a 2004 schedule, which is likely to involve a number of race events with the growing Grand-Am series, as well as possibly including dates with both Champ Car and Formula One. The first race meeting is scheduled for April 8th on the road course at Phoenix International Raceway with the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. The schedule will give the teams and drivers the opportunity to race on some spectacular tracks, in front of very large crowds.


Pennzoil to sponsor #99   Roush Racing announced today that Pennzoil will be the primary sponsor on the No. 99 Ford of Jeff Burton for the Las Vegas race on Sunday, March 7, 2004. "We're real excited to have Pennzoil on the No. 99 Ford for Las Vegas," said Burton. "Pennzoil is a primary sponsor on the No. 9 Busch car but it's great to have them on the Cup car as well. They are a great partner for Roush Racing and they provide us with a product that is second to none. We look forward to running up front with the No. 99 Pennzoil Ford in a couple weeks." Pennzoil is also a primary sponsor on the No. 9 Busch car which is shared by Burton, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth. In addition, Pennzoil will be the primary sponsor on Greg Biffle's NEXTEL Cup car for the first Pocono race. The addition of Pennzoil as the primary sponsor for the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford in Las Vegas is the latest in the continued search for a full-time sponsor on the No. 99 Ford. This announcement comes at a time when interest in the program is increasing each day. "There is a lot of interest in the program right now," said Burton. "The team needs to stay focused on the racing right now while our marketing department does their job. We have a lot of irons in the fire and I feel confident that we'll have more announcements in the future."


Arden team completes 3-day test   The Arden Team have today in Jerez concluded their first test of 2004 with new drivers, Vitantonio Liuzzi (IT) and Robert Doornbos (NL).  After the three days of running at the Spanish circuit, 22 year old Vitantonio Liuzzi recorded the second quickest time of the test, 0.05 from the fastest time recorded. The Italian was closely followed by Robert Doornbos where he set a time of 0.02 slower thus completing the test in second and third positions.  Seventeen drivers took part at this test including former Arden driver, Tomas Enge who recorded the seventh fastest time.  Vitantonio Liuzzi commented, I am very happy with my first major test with the Team. During the three days, we have done a lot of work and I feel very comfortable within the car. I was a little unlucky with traffic and red flags but feel sure there is a lot more time to come.  Robert Doornbos commented, This test has been really interesting and I am pleased with the times I have managed to achieve both in qualifying and race specifications. I am really enjoying working with the Team and am looking forward to the season ahead.  Christian Horner commented, We have had three very productive days and covered a lot of mileage with both cars working to specific programs. Vitantonio has been consistently quick throughout the testing and I am especially pleased with the positive start that Robert has made. It is also very encouraging to see seventeen drivers competing at this test and 2004 looks set to be another very competitive year.


NASCAR erases Mario Andretti from their database   UPDATE The explanation from NASCAR is that not all the data was moved over to the "media" historical database yet and Mario's information will eventually appear.  2/18/04 - We have been documenting the oval track cartel's efforts to snuff out CART, a road racing series.  Perhaps this little tidbit will underscore just how bad it is.  We were looking at the NASCAR media historical database. Mario Andretti's name has been erased completely from the data even though he won the 1967 Daytona 500.   For example, every lap of that race he led shows no data for who led the lap. In fact it shows lap 158 as the last lap of the race, which was the last lap Andretti did not lead.  I guess Bill France Sr. was THAT pissed a "Damn Yankee" won his crown jewel and beat their Golden Boy Fred Lorenzen with ease.  A sad state of affairs and a real stab in the back to America's all-time great driver Mario Andretti, and to open wheel racing.


Champ Car safety innovations on History Channel tonight   The science of Champ Car racing is every bit as vital to the success of the series as anything that happens in the cockpit of a 750hp turbocharged open-wheel race car. The science of safety is one of the key elements in making the Champ Car World Series one of the premier racing series in the world, and the History Channel will give viewers an in-depth look at how technology helps keep drivers safe in tonights episode of its Modern Marvels series. The episode titled Race Track Tech, will premiere this evening at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. The hour-long show will feature Champ Cars along with other racing series in a behind-the-scenes look at how technicians create the safety innovations that protect drivers. A feature interview with Champ Car team owner Derrick Walker will take viewers through what happened to his teams Reynard machine during a 2002 crash at Surfers Paradise, Australia. The episode will display how all of the safety procedures in place helped keep the drivers safe through a violent multi-car crash.


Kenny Brack rehab update   Team Rahal's Kenny Brack gave a giant sigh of relief last week when he threw away the crutches and rolled the wheelchair into the closet.  Brack, seriously injured last October at Texas Motor Speedway in the IRL IndyCar Series finale, continues his rehabilitation near his home in Upper Arlington, Ohio.

Brack suffered fractures to his back, breastbone, ribs, right leg and both ankles and later had his gall bladder removed due to the horrific crash. But the popular Swede, who hopes to return to the wheel of the No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Honda G-Force later this year, has turned into a "workaholic" at Ohio Orthopedic Center of Excellence in his five-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week rehab sessions.

"It felt so great to walk again and without the crutches," said Brack, the 1998 IRL champion and 1999 Indy 500 winner. "It was great to see my daughter Karma grow this last month and even changing diapers hasn't been that bad. I'm just glad I'm able to do it right now."

Brack knows he is lucky to workout and lucky to see his daughter after the 193-G Load crash that ended the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series.

"It feels a little strange not to be able to be in the middle of the action and instead follow everything from home," said Brack. "But I have made very good strides in rehab the last couple of weeks and feel more and more energized for each week that goes by. It is weekly that the improvements come. Mondays I feel the best and then by Friday I feel really tired after having worked out to the maximum everyday. Then I get a couple of days rest over the weekend and then we start over again."

Brack's goals are little ones for now but he does believe he can get back to normal.

"I am still not sure when I will be back to "normal" but I can tell you that I am very determined to make as fast a recovery as possible and am working as hard as I can," he said. "In one month, I have gone from being "wheelchair bound" to walking on my own without any aids. My level of energy has also greatly improved, I can manage everything I need on my own now and be up all day."

Kenny knows he must continue to improve his physical strength by working hard.

"Last week we started to workout with heavier weights as my bones, or more precisely, the right ankle now can take it," Brack said. "My right ankle was the worst as we have stretched and pulled it in an effort to get the mobility and full movement back after four months of nearly no activity. But like the saying goes 'no pain no gain.' It was a great feeling walking again."

(Brack will be featured on SPEED CHANNEL's "Wind Tunnel" on Wed., Feb. 18, at 10 p.m., EST.)


Latest F1 news in brief  

Focus On Imola Circuit: Test Report
Sponsor Severs Trust In Verstappen?
Montoya's In For A Tough Ride: Williams
Palmer Sacks Race-Track Workers
Wirdheim Claims 'Third' Jaguar Seat
F1 'Bulldog' Aims For Toyota Top-Four
Firman Disappointed To Be Out Of F1
Schu Doesn't Fear McLaren
No 'Number One' At F1 Team Minardi
Watch Out Ferrari, Here's Renault
Jordan Gives Up Cost-Cutting Quest

BMW Chief: German Driver Is 'Bonus'
Ferrari and McLaren Test Privately
Verstappen To Stick By Slated Manager
Wirdheim To Use Role As Shop-Window
New Toyota Engine Is Best In F1?
Baumgartner's F1 Seat Is Guaranteed


Alex Yoong to do TV   Malaysia's first-ever Formula 1 driver, Alex Yoong, has reached an agreement with Asia's number one satellite sports broadcaster, ESPN-STAR, to host a series of Formula One Preview and Review shows for the 18-race calendar of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship.   Yoong revealed the arrangement in Kuala Lumpur today saying, "TV broadcasting work offers up a whole bunch of new challenges, and I am looking forward to seeing how this whole project works out. With my Formula One experience, I hope to bring a new dimension to the viewers about what is the greatest show on earth. It is great to be associated with ESPN-STAR which has the longest experience of bringing the F1 shows to the Asian audience."   "The deal also allows me to record the programs from wherever I may be, which is important as I will still be racing this year," added Yoong.  Yoong will be heading to ESPN-STAR's studios later this month to record the preview for the opening round, the Australian Grand Prix, which will kick off the new season in Melbourne on March 07, 2004.

Industry News

Toyota ponders expansion   Toyota is beginning to contemplate where to build its next plant -- or plants -- in North America.    While most automakers see the U.S. market as overcrowded, Toyota sees long-term growth potential beyond expanding its annual capacity to 1.66 million cars and trucks by 2006. President Fujio Cho noted last week that the U.S. population is expected to double by 2050.   But as Toyota, Lexus and Scion brand sales continue to grow -- they captured more than 11 percent of the U.S. market last year -- the automaker will need more plants to sustain the fact that 62 percent of North American sales are vehicles produced in North America.   "It would be wrong to say we are already looking . . . but I think this is just about the time that we have to start thinking about what is next," Yoshimi Inaba, Toyota Motor Corp. senior managing director in charge of the Americas, said in an interview last month.   Dennis Cuneo, senior vice president of Toyota's North American holding company, reiterated last week that "no specific search" has begun.   The location and timing of Toyota's next plant will be driven by the company's sense of what products are most needed for the United States, Canada, Mexico and potential export markets, Inaba said. Toyota may wish to build a plant within easy access of suppliers that make parts for similar Toyota vehicles -- such as Camrys made in Kentucky or pickups in Texas and Indiana.   Access to a deep and largely untapped labor pool would be another key factor in the decision, said David Cole, director of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research.  "I think they will be looking for a large pool of educable workers where they (Toyota) would be the highest-paying employer," Cole said.   A leading candidate would certainly be Arkansas, which has no auto assembly plants.  Detroit Free Press


Dyno tests show HP variation   NASCAR's chassis dyno runs after Thursday's 125-mile qualifying races showed the gap between the winners and the others to be sizable. Elliott Sadler's Ford engine pulled 422 horsepower at the rear wheels, a bit more than the Chevy motors of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Tony Stewart's motor was at 409.  Roger Purcell, Stewart's engine man, said he's surprised by the gains rivals made over the winter in friction reduction in the motor and drive train.  "The bigger plate holes should mean about 30 more horsepower, but we've been surprised, got a little egg on our face," Purcell said. "The gap between 422 and 409 is pretty big; that's over two percent.  "So we're at a little disadvantage. But Tony did a good job driving, and they did a good with the car."  Winston Salem Journal


J3 Racing announces 2004 drivers   J3 Racing, based in Buford, Georgia, is pleased to announce British FIA GT Championship driver Tim Sugden as co-driver with Justin Jackson for the 2004 ALMS season. The J3 Racing team will debut its new, 2004 Porsche 911 GT3RSR at the upcoming Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on Saturday, March 13, 2004.

Tim Sugden comes to J3 Racing with impressive racing credentials that include participation in the FIA GT Championship from 1997 through 2003 including a British GT Championship in 1997. Tim has also competed in the 24 Hours of LeMans, finishing 4th overall in 1998.


The J3 Racing team recently moved into its new state-of-the-art racing facility close to Road Atlanta in Buford, Georgia and has begun testing the new car in preparations for the upcoming season. As previously announced, J3 Racing will also campaign a second Porsche 911 GT3RS for as yet-to-be-determined drivers. That second car will be the same car that the team campaigned in 2003 in the GT Class.

We are very excited about Tim joining J3 Racing for the entire 2004 season, said Jaye Jackson, owner of J3 Racing. Added Jaye, We have had several very talented drivers contact us about the 2004 season but we felt that Tim with all of his experience would be a great partner for Justin to compete for the GT Championship this year.

About J3 Racing: J3 Racing, based in Buford, Georgia, is a family owned and operated racing organization. Team owner, Jaye Jackson, along with his two sons operate the business on a daily basis in a 11,000 square foot racing facility located about 10 miles Southwest of Road Atlanta.

The J3 Racing facility also serves as a Porsche race-car repair and maintenance facility for many Porsche racers within North America in various classes. J3 Racings goals are to win the 2004 GT Class Championship in the American LeMans Series and they have hired some of the best Porsche racing mechanics to assist them in their endeavors.


Sun and not all fun for Haberfeld  For those of you who expected Brazilian driver Mario Haberfeld to spend his off-season back in his homeland, laying on the beach sipping on coconut water, guess what? You were wrong! Haberfeld has spent most of his time preparing for the upcoming Champ Car World Series season undergoing some heavy-duty physical training. The physical demands of a Champ Car race are tremendous, commented the Brazilian, adding that in order to perform at my best, it is vital that my body and mind are always functioning at 100% capacity.

Haberfelds arduous training regimen consists of a daily mix of running, cycling, weight-lifting and swimming, all of which is closely monitored by his long-time physical trainer J.R. Delia. In addition to all the training, Haberfeld also recently submitted himself to something called a VO2 Max test. Technically speaking, VO2 Max is the maximum volume of oxygen consumed by the body each minute during exercise, while breathing air at sea level. It is fascinating how technology is able to pinpoint exactly where you stand with regards to your physical condition. There is no way to cheat the machine, joked the Brazilian.

It is expected that Haberfeld will make an announcement regarding his team for the upcoming season within the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, he continues with his training regimen, anxious for the new season to start. I have been diligent at preparing myself for the new Champ Car World Series, and look forward to having a great sophomore year in Champ Cars, concluded the driver.


IndyFest set for Homestead race   The Toyota Indy 300, the IRL IndyCar Series season-opener, Feb. 27-29 at the NEW Homestead-Miami Speedway, is just around the corner. In celebration of one of the biggest race weekends in motorsports, Toyota IndyFest in Coconut Grove's Peacock Park kicks off the festivities on Thursday, Feb. 26 from 5 - 11 p.m.

This free-to-the-public outdoor extravaganza will feature an exclusive pre-season IndyCar Series Preview, driver autograph sessions, IndyCar showcars, the SunTrust Media Challenge, interactive racing displays, a live performance by Gainesville, Fla. natives Big Sky, food and beverage and much, much more.

"We invite all of South Florida to feel the excitement of the IndyCars up close and personal at this year's Toyota IndyFest at Coconut Grove's Peacock Park," said Curtis Gray, President Homestead-Miami Speedway. "What better place to throw a party than the Grove to kickoff the big race weekend?"

Toyota IndyFest will include an exclusive introduction to the entire IndyCar driver line-up hosted by local radio legend Paul Castronovo followed by a driver autograph session. Fans can also enjoy a multitude of IndyCar Series showcars, interactive displays, and entertainment. Interactive displays at Toyota IndyFest include:

Indy Car Challenge, Race against your friends and family on this high-performance racing mobile racing simulator using real IndyCars on real IndyCar tracks including Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Indy KidZone, Where Kids of all ages can experience IndyCar racing first-hand.

IndyRacing Live, Home to the Exclusive Pre-Season IRL IndyCar Series Driver Preview; Driver Autograph Sessions; and Live Entertainment.

Indy Racing Pit Stop Challenge, Where you and your friends can compete against each other in a simulated IndyCar pit stop.

Toyota IndyFest will also be the site for the fourth annual SunTrust Media Challenge where South Florida media personalities square off in a hilarious IndyCar pit crew competition. The winning team will receive a $5,000 donation to their favorite charity.

The Coconut Grove area is known for its eclectic attitude as well as a flair for fun, and the local business community is highly anticipating the Toyota IndyFest event on Feb. 26. The event is sure to bring more patrons to the area, while generating significant exposure for Coconut Grove. Select retailers throughout the Grove are providing special offers for patrons who stop by the IndyFest info booth to pick up their "GroveBucks."

"Toyota IndyFest promises to be a successful event for Coconut Grove and all its merchants bringing South Florida race fans to the Grove and providing our patrons with a new, entertaining experience," said David Collins, President Coconut Grove Merchants Association. "It's a win-win for everybody involved."


Record SPEED ratings   The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series kicked off its second exclusive season with SPEED Channel in grand fashion, scoring a Nielsen Rating of 1.61 (980,000 households). SPEED's household delivery was up 70 percent from just a year ago, when the season opener scored a 1.03 with 576,000 households.

"A little more than a year ago, NASCAR and Craftsman put a lot of faith in SPEED Channel in moving the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to the network," said SPEED Channel President Jim Liberatore. "The series immediately became a top priority for SPEED and these numbers are commensurate with the effort everyone involved has given over the last year."

The Florida Dodge Dealers 250 peaked at a rating of 1.90 from 9:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. ET, putting the race in more than one million households (1,156,000). Capturing a younger audience, the Men 18-49 rating was 1.31, with a peak of 1.69 (629,000 households) -- the highest rated M18-49 and HH telecast on SPEED since the network started receiving daily overnights and up 82 percent from a year ago.

"SPEED Channel's promotion and coverage of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has been outstanding," said Jeffrey Pollack, Managing Director of Broadcasting and New Media for NASCAR Digital Entertainment. "This television partnership delivers a superior viewing experience for our fans, and is creating more value and exposure for drivers, teams and tracks in the series. Thanks to SPEED's efforts, our ratings are growing strong."

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finished off a string of strong SPEED Channel ratings from Daytona, including a 1.36 Nielsen mark for the ARCA race and a .77 (466,000 households) for the inaugural Crown Royal International Race of Champions on SPEED Channel. The replay of the IROC race later in the evening scored a .81 (493,000 households).

A lot went into SPEED Channel's Daytona effort that gave race fans more than 70 hours of programming from NASCAR's season-opening Speed Weeks.


Panoz Batmobile to race at Sebring   The ultra-popular Panoz GTR1 coupe, affectionately known to sports car racing fans as the "Batmobile," will return to competition for two races in the experienced and capable hands of the championship-winning French racing team Larbre Competition. The Larbre team will make its racing debut with the Panoz GTR1 in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening race of the 2004 American Le Mans Series season, Mar. 17-20 at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. Drivers for the team will be Christophe Bouchut, Jean-Luc Blanchemain and Roland Berville, all of France. The team also plans to race the Panoz in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France June 12-13. "We are very pleased to be able to compete at Sebring with the Panoz GTR1," said Jack Leconte, owner of Larbre Competition. "The history of the car is very well-known as is the popularity it has achieved with race fans in Europe and in America. With the advances that have been made with both the car and the Elan Power engine, we feel that the car has the potential to achieve very good results in an endurance race and we look forward to racing it." The Panoz GTR1 "Batmobile" was an enormous crowd favorite and formed the basic platform of the Panoz LMP-01 that raced in the American Le Mans Series from 1999 through 2003. The GTR1 raced in 1997 and 1998 before being converted to Le Mans Prototype spec for the 1999 season. Originally run in what at the time was called the GT1 class, the Panoz has been upgraded and homologated and will compete at Sebring and Le Mans in the LMP1 class, racing against such cars as the Audi R8 and Lola-MG. After a competition hiatus since 1998, the Panoz GTR1 was brought out of retirement by owner Don Panoz and competed in last November's inaugural Le Mans Endurance Series event at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit. "When we raced the car at Le Mans last year, we hoped that someone would take notice and want to do some more races with the car," said Panoz, who has leased the car to Larbre and is not involved in the Sebring entry. "It's gratifying that a racing team with the credentials of Larbre saw that the old girl still has a lot of potential and wanted to race her again. The Panoz has a lot of loyal supporters and I'm sure they will be very happy to hear that the car will be racing at Sebring." Larbre Competition, which most recently has raced Chrysler Vipers in selected endurance races and in the FIA GT Series, has a successful history dating back to 1993 when it won the GT class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.


OWRS completes purchase of Champ Car  Open Wheel Racing Series, LLC, and Champ Car today announced that it has finalized the acquisition of the assets formerly held by Championship Auto Racing Teams and will now commence with the operation of the Champ Car World Series.  We are pleased that the deal has finally been completed and that we can shift our focus to the racing, said OWRS partner and Forsythe Racing team owner Gerald Forsythe. This process has given us a better appreciation of the passion within the Champ Car community and we intend to reward everyone by conducting the finest racing series possible.  The formal agreement has now reached completion, with all parties signing required documents and transferring appropriate contracts to the OWRS. The contracts include those signed with race promoters and selected manufacturers as well as with employees of the series. I have been through a number of business dealings in my time, said OWRS partner and PK Racing team owner Kevin Kalkhoven. But this has been one of the toughest. It took a great amount of work and commitment from a lot of people and we are very pleased with the result. We could never have done this deal and kept Champ Car alive without the dedication, cooperation and spirit of everyone involved with the series, said OWRS partner and Rocketsports Racing team owner Paul Gentilozzi. We are at the threshold of taking the series to a whole new level and we look forward to many great years with the Champ Cars.  The Champ Car World Series will now look ahead to its season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 18, which will kick off a 2004 campaign that culminates with the awarding of the Vanderbilt Cup to the series champion. Defending series champion Paul Tracy will headline a driver roster that will include drivers from around the world including Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais.


One more Boss in Champ Car  The Champ Car World Series community grew by one member on Monday when 2003 Dale Coyne Racing driver Geoff Boss and his wife Monica announced the birth of their daughter Charlotte Boss. The first child for the family, Charlotte came into the world at 10:50 a.m. Monday, weighing seven pounds and three ounces. Both mother and daughter are fine and resting comfortably. Boss completed his rookie season in the Champ Car World Series in 2003, competing in 11 races in the #11 Cross Pens/Lacoste Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. He had his best-ever Champ Car finish in the season finale, gaining 10 spots from his grid position to place ninth in Surfers Paradise. Prior to joining Champ Car, Geoff competed in the Indy Lights series for four seasons, winning in Toronto in 1999 while with Lucas-Place Motorsports


Tuesday Imola and Valencia test times  

Valencia day 1

Pos Driver Car-Engine Time Laps
1 David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes M 1m09.844s 69
2 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes M 1m10.072s 70
Imola day 1
Pos Driver Car-Engine Laps Time
1 Alonso Renault 78 1:20.480
2 Trulli Renault 85 1:20.736
3 Massa Sauber 69 1:22.001
4 Fisichella Sauber 62 1:22.302
5 Heidfeld Jordan 61 1:22.419
6 Pantano Jordan 61 1:24.265


Workman to drive for American Spirit Racing team  American Spirit Racing announced today a marketing partnership with M3 Motorsports in its American Le Mans Series Lola/Nissan operation in LMP2. Jason Workman joins American Spirit Racing as driver. The marketing partnership of M3 Motorsports and American Spirit Racing will produce one of the most powerful operations in endurance racing, claims Jon Lewis, President of American Spirit Racing. Alex and I became acquainted last year while he was representing Jason Workman with Tony Dowe as Chief Engineer at Essex Racing. I have the highest respect for Alex and his intensity for the sport, and I look forward to a great future from our association. I am very pleased to finalize this partnership with American Spirit Racing, added Alex Graas. Jon (Lewis) runs an exceptional racing operation and continues to expand its capabilities. I also think that bringing Jason Workman and Tony Dowe back together to the team was a great move. This partnership worked extremely well in 2003 and, now with the help of American Spirit Racing, I expect an even stronger campaign this coming season. M3 Motorsports is a management and marketing company that was set up by Alex Graas in 2003 to oversee his growing involvement in motor racing here in the United States. Graas, from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a veteran sports management and consulting executive. He has managed the career of young American driver, Jason Workman, for several years and has been instrumental in Workmans continued success on the race track. The daily operations of M3 are run by marketing director Francis Perfetto. We have made some exciting changes to our driver line up from our original entry, stated Lewis. Jason Workman will drive the #11 entry for American Spirit Racing in 2004. I am extremely excited about having someone as talented and professional as Jason on board for the 2004 season. This is a tremendous addition for our operation and I am extremely optimistic about our performance and results this year. I cant wait to get back in that cockpit, said Workman. The Lola-Nissan proved to be an exceptionally reliable package last year. For 2004, I think we can improve upon the already superb results we attained last year. I want to thank American Spirit Racing for adding me to their team roster. It is a great opportunity and I plan on taking every advantage of it!


Jim Beam and Wheldon could deliver $1 million  Jim Beam, the world's number-one bourbon, is offering one lucky person the opportunity to attend the Indianapolis 500 and a chance to win a $1 million grand prize if Indy Racing League IndyCar Series standout Dan Wheldon wins the 88th Indianapolis 500 on May 30, as part of its Jim Beam/Indy 500 Sweepstakes.  Fans can enter the Jim Beam/Indy 500 Sweepstakes now through April 15 at

Jim Beam will fly the lucky fan and three guests to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch Wheldon, the 2003 IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year, compete in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Jim Beam is a co-major sponsor of Wheldon in the IndyCar Series and an associate sponsor of his Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti.  "Jim Beam, the world's number-one bourbon, is proud to partner with Andretti Green Racing, Dan Wheldon and the Indy 500, the world's largest one-day sporting event, to provide someone a chance to experience the excitement first hand," said Adam Dettman, brand manager for Jim Beam. "Dan is a first-class race car driver and is sure to give the lucky fan a winning chance for the million-dollar prize. We hope to celebrate with them both in the winner's circle."
The grand prize package includes:
Round-trip airfare for the winner and three guests to Indianapolis
Hotel accommodations for three nights
Ground transportation, per diem and four Indy 500 race tickets
Chance to win $1 million

No purchase necessary. This sweepstakes is open only to U.S. residents 21 years of age or older. This sweepstakes is void where prohibited. Sweepstakes is subject to complete official rules.  Complete details can be found at The winner will be announced May 7.

Formula Renault

FR2000 drivers get first taste of V6 power   After watching in anticipation the debut rollout of the Formula Renault V6 at the hands of official Renault Sport development driver Emanuel Clerico this weekend, several FR2000 Winter Invitational drivers got the opportunity to experience first hand the new machine for themselves, as the powerful machine was put through its paces in testing.  Gustavo Sondermann was the first driver to take the controls, having earned the opportunity as part of the comprehensive prize package for the FR2000 Winter Invitational, and was up to speed right away despite never having driven the car before, setting lap times on the road course that threatened previously set track records.

It was really, really good, said a smiling Sondermann. It has a very strong engine, and there is a lot of downforce on the car. The tires are also very good, with lots of grip in the slow corners so you can carry so much speed. I am really very happy to have had this opportunity, I cant wait to get back into this car!  Sean McIntosh and Marc-Antoine Camirand were next to take the wheel, and both emerged from the cockpit with a similar enthusiasm to Sondermann.  McIntosh, who had driven the car briefly once last season in testing in Europe, felt as though his previous test had taken place so long ago that it hadnt prepared him as well for the V6 as had the time hed spent in the Formula Renault 2000 had.

It was awesome! said McIntosh It didnt take that long to get used to it at all. It has much more grip than the 2000 car does of course, but I think the two liter is good preparation for this carif you can be fast in the 2000, you can really do well in the V6. I just wish I could have done more laps!

Gelles Racing pilot Camirand, who has raced previously in FF2000, Atlantics, and in the LMP675 class, as well as having tested the Panoz P900 roadster, adjusted quickly to the car and was well suited to compare the new machine to a variety of other cars.  It was a very nice car to drive, with better power than the Atlantic, and a very smooth delivery with all the torque available all over the powerband, observed Camirand. The carbon brakes were very, very, strong, and I know that there could be much better lap times once I get used to the braking power of the car. It was really fast, but not brutal, and I also loved the paddle shifting.  The FR2000 Winter Invitational will conclude this weekend, with the fifth and final round of the championship slated to take place this afternoon.


Industry News

Brands Hatch slashes staff, no Champ Car return  More than 40 jobs from the 120 person work force at the Brands Hatch circuit were eliminated as new owners Motorsport Vision headed by former Formula One driver Jonathan Palmer started restructuring the business.  Palmers company bought Brands along with other UK race tracks, Cadwell Park, Snetterton and Oulton Park, last month in a deal worth an estimated 40m from US advertising giant the Interpublic Group (IPG) parent company of Octagon.  Palmer was quoted in the UK media saying: The key issue with Brands Hatch is that it has not been making money recently. The group [prior to the sale] had been losing 3m a year for the last couple of years, and it has also lost Silverstone.   The Brands Hatch head count was also servicing Silverstone as part of the group that is not now part of the group, and those extra staff have only now been reduced.   Palmer said operational and maintenance staff at the track had not been affected by the cuts, but that the retail sales force had seen sizable cut-backs. Middle management positions were also heavily hit.  What we are doing is taking the prudent steps that any sensible person would to ensure the future success of Brands Hatch as a venue.  It cannot continue as a successful venue if it keeps losing money. I am absolutely committed to a successful motor racing future at Brands Hatch, but in order to achieve it, it is essential we have a workforce that is appropriate for the level of business.   He also confirmed what many assumed was a foregone conclusion that CART would not be returning to the UK for 2004 or 2005.  More than 58,500 fans gathered for the CART weekend at Brands last year but that wasn't nearly enough to offset the huge costs to bring the series overseas.


Where are all the announcements? A reader writes, Dear, I thought we were going to see some announcements after OWRS took control of Champ Car.  Aside from a few incidental rules change announcements, I have seen nothing substantive, like a 2004 schedule for example.  Doug Williams, Long Beach, CA.  Dear Doug, We have been asked that question by a number of people. Here is the situation.  OWRS principals are going all-out traveling around the globe to complete deals.  As you can imagine, the task ahead of them is monumental, but quite doable.  They have still not finalized all the paperwork required by the courts.  In an AP story today, it was reported - "Apparently the money has changed hands, apparently the deal's pretty much done," CART spokesman Eric Mauk said. "It's just that everybody's scattered all over the globe. ... They're just trying to get guys to put pen to paper and get all the papers in one place."  The deal was to have been finalized on Friday. Except for the final paperwork, however, there is nothing holding up the sale, Mauk said.  "From what I understand - I've been talking to lawyers pretty much every hour trying to see what's up - they're waiting on one or two papers to be signed," he said.  There is nothing to be alarmed about, they just need to stand still long enough to sign everything.  Meanwhile, now that Spring Training will not have any on-track time for the cars, the Sneak Preview slated for March 8 & 9 in Long Beach will now be a 2-day series of press conferences where OWRS and the teams will fill two days with announcements and press conferences.  As we understand it, most of the announcements we expect will happen then, though we do anticipate a possible schedule announcement before then.


Jaguar signs Wirdheim   Jaguar Racing has today announced that Swedish driver Bjorn Wirdheim has signed to join the team as official test driver and 1st reserve driver. Bjorn successfully completed a series of tests with the team and has immediately started work in his new role in preparation for the forthcoming Melbourne Grand Prix. Speaking from Sweden, Bjorn said: "I am delighted to be joining Jaguar Racing in my new role and look forward to helping the team in achieving its goals this season. There are some really good people in the team and I have settled in quite quickly. There is a lot of work ahead but I am excited about this and look forward to contributing to the continued development of the R5". Managing Director, David Pitchforth added; " I am pleased to be able to welcome Bjorn to the team at this time and I know that he will be a great asset in the team moving forward. We have all been working incredibly hard on the R5 and the added benefit of a third driver will be a great help both to the development team and of course to our drivers Mark Webber and Christian Klien".


Todt receives honorary degree   The University of Florence has conferred on Ferrari's General Director of the Gestione Sportiva, Jean Todt, an honorary degree in mechanical engineering.

Todt accepted the academic title, awarded for 'the work done in the development of advanced technology in the sports automobile sector conducted with the contribution of university-industry research collaborations.' The ceremony formed part of the celebrations to mark the 80th year of the Florentine academy's founding. Augusto Martinelli, the rector, was on hand to bestow the degree. He underlined how important the link between Ferrari and the faculty of engineering at Florence University was, considering how many ex-students went on to work at the Maranello headquarters.

"I am the third in the Ferrari-Maserati group to receive such an honour," stated Jean Todt during his talk. "I follow in the footsteps of President Montezemolo, who was recognised by the University of Modena, and Ross Brawn, who was awarded his degree by the University of Ancona."

"Motor-racing has always been my great love. Ever since I was a boy, my dream has been to be a part of motor-racing. I began with rallying and then moved onto Formula 1, with Ferrari, in 1993. For me, Ferrari has always been mythical. Many people believed that I would not have lasted long, that it would have been even harder for a foreigner. I, myself, would not have said that I would have been here so long, but, on the contrary, I am still here almost eleven years later."

"The success of a team or an athlete, whatever the sport, is indisputable: the result speaks for itself. Among the tasks of a manager is the ability to deal with defeat but also with victories. Right from the beginning it is important to learn the lessons of the first and to learn to come back from defeat; from the second, the motivation has to be found to repeat a victory," reflected Todt. "At Ferrari we have worked very hard to achieve our success."

"For three consecutive years between 1997 to 1999, victory in the Drivers' championships eluded us at the very last moment while the Constructors' title arrived in 1999, after a drought dating back to 1983. 2000 was the turning point, followed by success in 2001, 2002 and 2003. We don't want to stop here. The laws of sport state that it is impossible to always win and we are prepared for defeat."

"However, we will do all that we can to extend what can be defined as 'the Ferrari era'. We have been at the top of Formula 1 since 1997 and we intend to stay there for as long as possible. When I arrived at Ferrari in 1993, I began to plan a project that had numerous objectives: gather all the activities related to Formula 1 under one roof at Maranello; set up cutting edge facilities; seek out the very best staff for all positions; find the economic resources necessary to reach our goals and to select top grade partners."

"Then, there is the ingredient that no successful manager can create without the contribution of others: team spirit. I think that my main job is exactly that of funnelling everyone's energy in the same direction because a ship sailing into an opposing wind will not go anywhere, or even slip backwards."  Ferrari


Renault heads to Imola   The Mild Seven Renault F1 Team is preparing for a three-day test this week at one of the toughest circuits on the calendar.

Pre-season testing at Imola hasnt been fashionable for a number of years, but the Italian circuit poses some unique challenges: not only is it similar to Melbourne in its stop-start nature, with medium- length straights punctuated by chicanes, but it also gives the cars one of their toughest challenges of the year: between 2001 and 2003, only Canada featured a higher percentage of mechanical retirements than Imola, with engines and transmission put through a particularly severe workout. Just the place for checking pre-season reliability ahead of departing for Melbourne...

On the chassis side, the coming test will mark the first time that the team has run two R24s side by side. Chassis 02 was completed ten days ago at Enstone and will make its track debut this week. The presence of the new car also means race drivers Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso will attend, with both looking to further improve their knowledge of the R24, and continue the progress of recent weeks.

As for the RS24 engine, Imola will see the introduction of the A spec that will race in Melbourne. Last week at Jerez, the team reached maximum mileage with two units of the preceding Z specification, and this week will provide the opportunity to confirm the dyno results on track. On Wednesday and Thursday, the focus will be on completing race distances with both cars, while the rest of the program will focus on general set-up work with the new car, and tire testing for the opening races of the season. A busy week awaits. Press Release


McNish gives up on F1 career   Speaking to British newspaper, The Sunday Mirror Sunday, Allan McNish said that it was 'unlikely' now he would get another F1 drive, adding that it was no point, getting worked up about it.   The Scot had been in the frame for the drive at Jordan Ford, however, the Silverstone based squad eventually opted for Nick Heidfeld, and Giorgio Pantano, the latter mainly due to financial reasons.   "You never know what's around the corner in this business but I have to recognize that it's unlikely that I'll get another Formula One drive," reflected the Brit. "It's been frustrating but there's no point getting bitter."  McNish will now concentrate his energies on endurance racing with Audi.


Ferrari team to miss Sebring  Care Racing Development has elected not to take up its two entries for the opening round of the American Le Mans Series. The scarlet Ferrari 550 Maranellos which last year enjoyed such success in North America's premier sports car series will not therefore be seen at the 2004 12 Hours of Sebring, Florida in March.

Care Racing's Director of Business Development, Dominique Falque, explained: We have been in negotiation with a number of teams throughout the winter months and have tried many different ways to bring these negotiations to a conclusion. Unfortunately there remains a substantial lack of budget at this stage. We have therefore taken the difficult decision not to be at Sebring.

We know this will be disappointing not only for the many Ferrari fans in North America, but also for the Series and the other GTS competitors as we had some really great and exciting track battles last year. We would still very much like to be in the American Le Mans Series and build on last year's successes, and are therefore continuing to work on seeking a team and the budget to be in place from the end of June.

In the meantime, we are focusing our attention on the start of the European and Japanese Championships as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans for which we have four entries thanks to our victories in the ALMS, the FIA GT Championship and at Le Mans itself.


Industry News

California Speedway lighting project update  Light poles, like these in Turn One of California Speedway, have been placed around the exterior of the speedway's two-mile oval. Construction continues on the massive lighting project around the Southern California Speedway in anticipation of the September 5 "Finish Under the Lights" Pop Secret 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race.

Forty-eight light poles have been placed along pit road to light the way for pit crews. A late race pit stop could be crucial in the September 5 "Finish Under the Lights" Pop Secret 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at California Speedway.

Here are some general facts about the Musco lighting project:  The lighting process, once completed, will tower above California Speedway. Around the exterior of the two-mile oval, 127 poles will light the track including 74 freestanding poles reaching 70-to-120-feet into the air, 29 grandstand poles towering an additional 50-feet into the air (the top of the grandstand is approximately 110-feet from the ground level) and 24 skybox poles stretching an additional 9-feet into the air above the speedway's luxury suites on top of the grandstands.

Approximately 1490 light fixtures (1500 watt and 2000 watt metal halide bulbs) will light the racing surface giving out 2.5 million watts of power. As well, 250 tons of concrete and 200 miles of wire will be placed at the conclusion of the lighting project.

Construction began in October and is expected to take a few more months. Light poles in Parking Lot One, behind the speedway's main grandstand, have also been placed. These light standards will eventually be used to illuminate the NHRA Street Legal Drag Racing nights at the quarter-mile California Dragway.

Turn 2 lights.  Photos courtesy California Speedway


Andrew Craig knew best  Say what you might about CART's former President Andrew Craig, the series was at its peak under his regime. Here is a little tidbit we bet you did not know - CART had first shot at the failed Disney World oval race, but Andrew Craig, being the smart businessman that he was, turned it down.  He was quoted back in April of 1995 as saying, "As I have said many times before, we are not in the business of promoting races.  Just so we're clear, IndyCar (Champ Cars former name before the oval track cartel took it back) did indeed have discussions with Disney - quite substantial discussions - about a year ago I guess is when the discussions began.  For various commercial reasons those discussions came to an end June of last year when we called them off.  There's no ill feelings there, it just did not make sense for us based on what was being proposed." Tony George and the IRL then did the deal with Disney, lost their shirts and the race went away.  Andrew did indeed know best.  Why is he no longer at the helm?  Some blame him for taking CART public and he was up against the oval track cartel who were intent in putting CART out of business in our opinion.


Latest F1 news in brief  

Williams Want Webber
Jordan Slam Verstappen Agent
Schumacher Eyes Jump On F1 Rivals
BAR's Pre-Season Pace Is Real: Button
Montoya: Radio-Row Didn't Trigger Switch
Williams Cool Gearbox-Gremlin Fears  

Mosley Detests F1's Tire-War
Williams Roast Schumacher
Minardi Vote For Reliability Over Power
Button Predicts Five-Way F1 Battle
Montoya Eyes Albert Park Victory 

Minardi Shakes Streets Of Budapest
Todt Handed Honorary Degree
Toyota Simulate Grand Prix
Williams Will Look After Montoya
Another Champion's Son Eyes F1
Aussie Accents At Albert Park
Jordan To Keep Building Own F1 Car


More tests await Matsuura  Kosuke Matsuura will be traveling in different circles starting Feb. 29. An audition in November and eight testing sessions have been the extent of oval racing experience for the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series rookie driver for Super Aguri Fernndez Racing. "I have raced formula cars in both domestic and foreign championship series, but this is my first time to race on oval tracks for 16 races, so I am very excited," said Matsuura, 24, from Aichi, Japan. "I think everything for this year is different. The oval circuits are completely different from road circuits. Even the speed is completely different." Oval experience wasn't the deciding factor for team co-owners Adrian Fernndez and Aguri Suzuki when Matsuura tested at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 12. Matsuura's aggressiveness the first time he drove an IRL IndyCar Series machine confirmed their impressions. "I think he has what it takes to be very competitive, and I am excited about the season," Fernndez said. Matsuura had been part of the driver development program (Autobacs Racing Team) founded by Suzuki, a former Formula One driver. Matsuura finished third in the 2003 Formula Renault V6 Eurocup, claiming three victories and five additional podiums for the ARTA-Signature team. He also was a force in German Formula 3 competition, finishing second in the 2002 championship with two victories and six pole positions. He began racing in karts 10 years ago. "He is very decisive and clever when driving, and he is very fast," Suzuki said. The 2004 season will mark the second of IRL IndyCar Series competition for Super Aguri Fernndez Racing. Roger Yasukawa was the driver for the team in its inaugural season, finishing 12th in the point standings. He had six top-10 finishes, with a best of seventh at Kansas and California.


Long Beach construction underway  In the beginning, 29 years ago, cars racing in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach took the green flag on Ocean Ave., in front of seedy adult movie houses and boarded-up storefronts, leaped down Linden Ave. to Shoreline Dr., then roared back up Pine Ave. to Ocean. This year, the most famous street circuit in American racing measuring 1.97 miles and 11 turns - will wind around a bustling Convention Center, past the Aquarium of the Pacific and the gleaming new Pike at Rainbow Harbor, then under the windows of soaring new apartments and high-rise hotels. Construction on the Grand Prix race circuit began Monday morning, with the first concrete blocks being put down at Linden and Shoreline (Photo credit: Andy Witherspoon/Grand Prix Association of Long Beach). Over the next two months, Grand Prix workers will install 14 million tons of concrete blocks, three miles of fencing, 16,000 of bolted-together tires not to mention the building of 19 huge spectator grandstands, seven pedestrian bridges and eight giant vision boards for full-circuit TV coverage. Once completed, the facility will be able to comfortably accommodate more than 200,000 people. Despite all the new construction downtown, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit will remain unchanged for the fifth consecutive year. Overseeing the construction for the 24th straight time is Dwight Tanaka, director of operations for the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach (GPALB). Tanaka and his staff of more than 40 have already put in the first of more than 30,000 working hours to get all the creature comforts (including porta-johns, hospitality suites and tents and trash containers) in place for the April 16-18 weekend. Theyll be at it right up through race weekend. Then, Tanaka said, the minute the race is over we start taking it apart, inspecting everything, making repairs and storing it again for 2005. Through all those years, weve managed to keep the circuit safe for the drivers and exciting for spectators, said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the GPALB. For this, we owe a debt of gratitude to the many Long Beach city departments and private entities who have assisted us. Without their help, we would never have been able to make the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach the best street race in America. Ticket prices for the three-day Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach range from $40 for a Sunday-only general admission ticket to $110 for a three-day ticket that includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating in upper levels of the grandstands. Pre-paid parking packages are available and can be purchased when ordering tickets through the Grand Prix ticket office. Tickets for the 2004 event can be placed by calling the ticket hotline toll-free at (888) 82-SPEED or logging on to Copies of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ticket brochure can also be obtained by calling the ticket hotline. The ticket brochure includes a circuit map with grandstand and parking locations as well as ticket prices and a ticket order form. Handicapped seating, Bosch Champ Car Garage passes, super photo tickets and hospitality club packages are also available. For updated Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ticket information, news or announcements of special race week activities, visit


Lauda lands Coloni ride  Mathias Lauda, son of former F1-world champion Niki Lauda, has been confirmed as one of the drivers of the Coloni-run CMS Motorsport team.   "We are very pleased to have signed Mathias as I believe he is a very talented driver," said team owner Paolo Coloni. "He did very well when he completed his first F3000 test particularly as he does not have very much experience. From analyzing his performance more closely I believe he is going to be very good and improve every time he gets into the car and I am really looking forward to working with him."

Lauda will partner Belgian driver Jeffrey van Hooydonk in the two day test in Spain as he prepares for the 2004 season.  "Coloni is one of the best teams in the field and so this is a very good move for me," said Lauda. "For sure F3000 is a very tough series and there is a lot to learn but I have a very good team around me to help. I am confident I will be competitive and the test in Jerez will see how my times compare to the other drivers."

Salzburg-born Lauda made his racing debut at the age of 21 when he contested the Formula Nissan 2000 series in 2002. He also raced in the Formula VW Championship in Germany and the UK Formula Renault Winter Championship.   "There are some circuits I dont know but there are some tracks I know quite well," Lauda continued. "I dont really worry about that because I think I am a quick learner and my team-mates obviously have some experience so we can work together.   The step up to F3000 doesnt bother me either, because I have already driven in a few tests."

Lauda is likely to race in both the International F3000 and Euro3000 championships this season, it emerged today.  It is thought he will drive for the Italian-based GP Racing operation.    "We will know more about this soon," Lauda confirmed. "Doing both series will mean quite a lot of racing but this will only be good for helping me learn and improve." 


Champ Car rules changes announced  Known throughout motorsports for its commitment to safety as well as its passion for competition, the Champ Car World Series continued to make improvements in both areas with the release of its 2004 Rule Book.

The mandatory pit-stop rule has been adjusted for 2004 to bring more strategy into play, especially when combined with the new point system which awards points for leading a race lap. Teams will be required to perform either two or three green-flag stops during a race and must have those stops completed by a certain point in the event. Champ Car Racing Operations will determine the number and at what point those stops must be completed prior to the race weekend. All green-flag stops must include a four-tire change in order to meet the series requirements.

We really wanted to do something that allowed the teams more flexibility in their race strategies and also allow them to take advantage of the new point system, said Champ Car Technical Director Lee Dykstra. At the same time, we needed a system that discourages fuel-economy runs and challenges the drivers, and we think we have been able to accomplish that.

Many rules addressing safety on the track and in pit lane have been added or enhanced, including a mandate penalizing drivers that initiate avoidable contact with another car. This season, any driver causing an incident that negatively affects a competitor will be immediately subjected to a drive-through penalty. In addition, if the contact results in the immediate retirement of a competitor, the offender will serve a stop-and-hold penalty on pit lane.

Further enhancing a rule introduced in 2003, any driver blocking a pursuing competitor or failing to yield to an approaching competitor while lapped, will also receive a drive-though penalty. To aid in the enforcement of the new rules, Champ Car Stewards will have the power to enact more stringent penalties on teams and drivers this year, including the loss of championship points for specific rule violations.

Pit-lane safety has been addressed with a rule stating that contact between a car and any person in pit lane results in an automatic fine of $1,000. The protocol for the start of a race has also been revised, requiring the polesitter to be the first car across the start/finish line at the start of the race. Previously, the second-place qualifier was allowed to pass the polesitter once the green flag had waved to start the event.

Fans will benefit from the rule changes as well, as teams will no longer be allowed to scramble their radio transmissions during a race weekend, meaning that fans that have scanners will be able to experience all the conversations between a team and driver during every Champ Car session during a weekend.

Formula Renault

2004 Formula Renault 2000 schedule  North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship officials announced their 2004 schedule today, with ten race dates confirmed for the inaugural season. The series will begin the season in the Valley of the Sun, on the weekend of April 8-10, racing on the 1.51-mile infield road course in conjunction with the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series at Phoenix International Raceway.

The North American Formula Renault 2000 Championships will then head north to Canada on May 21-23, for the first of two visits for the series to beautiful Mont-Tremblant, with the second Tremblant event slated to take place at the renown Fall Classic in September. The series will also feature events at Watkins Glen, Trois Rivieres, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Homestead Miami Speedway, Virginia International Raceway, and Barber Motorsport Park, with the season finale slated to take place on the road course at California Speedway in Fontana.

We are very excited about our 2004 schedule, said Brett Ross, General Manager, North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship. Racing at these venues will give our drivers not only experience on some fantastic tracks, but will also give the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship a strong presence on some very big race weekends. This is an international series, and to have the opportunity to race in the United States as well as Canada is a great opportunity for our teams and the drivers.

The 2004 schedule has ten confirmed race events, and North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship officials are currently in negotiations with several properties to possibly add up to four more events for the season.
North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship2004 Schedule
April 8-10 Phoenix International Raceway w/Grand-Am
May 21-23 Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant w/Grand-Am
June 18-20 Watkins Glen International w/Grand-Am
July 30-31 Trois Rivieres w/Trans-Am
Aug 6-8 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course w/Grand-Am
Sep 10-12 Homestead Miami Speedway w/Grand-Am
Sep 24-26 Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant Fall Classic
Oct 1-3 Virginia International Raceway w/Grand-Am
Oct 8-10 Barber Montorsports Park w/Grand-Am
Oct 29-31 California Speedway w/Grand-Am


Toyota Atlantic switches to single-supplier for engines   Officials from the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama confirmed today that Berkeley, Calif.-based Hasselgren Engineering Inc. has been designated as the exclusive engine builder for the series. All teams competing for the overall Toyota Atlantic title must use Hasselgren-prepared Toyota 4A-GE engines. In addition, the series has instituted an engine parity program with Hasselgren in an effort to contain costs and ensure all teams are provided with similar engine performance parts. Led by founder Paul Hasselgren, Hasselgren Engineering has won the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) Engine Builder of the Year Award every year from 1995-2003, and last year, Hasselgren-built engines powered every race and pole winner in the Toyota Atlantic Championship. "I have the utmost confidence in the abilities of Paul and the entire team at Hasselgren Engineering," said Vicki O'Connor, Toyota Atlantic president. "With the vast majority of our field using Hasselgren engines last season, it just made sense to go ahead and work with Hasselgren to institute our engine parity program. I strongly believe that teams will realize a significant cost savings under this new program, allowing everybody to compete on a level playing field." Since the 2003 season finale in Miami, Hasselgren Engineering has been working diligently to rebuild all of the engines to the same specification. The company has already rebuilt several engines for the 2004 season, and in dyno testing, all of the engines have performed within parameters. Hasselgren aims to increase mileage between rebuilds, and all competitors will have similar engines when the 2004 season opens on the weekend of April 18 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. "I appreciate this opportunity to work closely with TRD and the Toyota Atlantic Championship in the upcoming 2004 season," Hasselgren said. "We are optimistic that the new parity program will add to the appeal and excitement of our growing series. We look forward to continuing success of both the Toyota Atlantic Championship and the teams involved." While Hasselgren Race Engines will be the exclusive supplier to teams competing for the overall 2004 Toyota Atlantic championship, other series-approved engine builders will be eligible to compete through the recently-announced C2 category. Regardless of the builder, all cars will use Toyota 4A-GE engines.


Shanghai looks for records   Under China's drive for modernization (interestingly enough, driven by the Communist Party that once disowned commercialism and the drive for personal wealth) Shanghai has once again stepped into the financial fore front, where it can reclaim the title of "The Paris of the Orient". China has embarked on an ambitious program of financial growth and building projects such as the Shanghai World Financial Centre. When complete (as early as 2005) the building will be the tallest structure in the world.

Shanghai International Circuit will be serviced by 6 express ways and 2 underground metro stations-on each ends of the track-designed to meet the demands of moving the expected 200,000 viewers for this inaugural event.

Along with this magnificent ground breaking project, Shanghai may end up in the Guinness Book of World Records for its construction of the circuit for the upcoming Formula One race to take place on 26 September 2004. The track is being considered for the record books as the largest Chinese character on the Earth.

When the track is viewed from above, or after one completes a lap of the circuit, the character produced is the Chinese figure for "Shang". Shang being one of the two characters that make up Shanghai, Shang meaning "Above" and Hai translating to "The sea".

The theme of the Shanghai Formula One circuit is that of traditional Chinese influences as China tries to introduce a new tradition, one of Chinese dominance in Asian Racing.


Penske and Sony unveil new pit cart for teams   Sony Electronics today announced the completion of the Sony Tech Box, Penske Racings newest race day pit cart for its NASCAR teams.  The result of six months work by Penske Racing with technology support from Sony, the Tech Box features a state-of-the-art electronics package designed to enhance the teams pit performances on race day, and serve as an entertainment center, highlighted by a Sony LCD WEGA television, to entertain and inform the teams trackside guests.

The Tech Box features an array of Sony professional and consumer technology, including two DSR-25 DVCAM digital video recorders and two DSR-DR1000 DVCAM video disk recorders. Also used are eight Sony LCD DeluxePro Series flat-screen computer monitors, four fully integrated Sony VAIO notebook computers, three ultra-compact color cameras and a Sony XPLOD mobile audio-video system with two P5 mono D-class amps and a pair of 10-inch P5 subwoofers driving 100 watts of power to a CD/DVD receiver, complete with XM satellite radio tuner control and an accompanying seven-inch motorized monitor.

During a race, the Tech Boxs four integrated VAIO notebooks can distribute race information to any one of the eight LCD monitors. In addition, when the ALLTEL/Sony and Miller Lite/Sony Dodges enter the pit for service, the Sony cameras digitally record the actions of the crew from two different angles, allowing the team to analyze their performance later.   When the box was in the planning stages, the concept was impressive and, now that its actually a reality, its even more impressive, said Matt Borland, Penske Racing crew chief for driver Ryan Newman and the No. 12 ALLTEL/Sony Dodge. When we sat down to create the new pit box, we wanted to incorporate as many features as we could to help our team in the pits and keep us informed about our performance throughout the race. With the contributions of Sony technology, weve certainly accomplished that goal.

George Whitley, who heads Penske Racings technology department, was in charge of harnessing the electronics equipment in the Tech Box. Among the hurdles faced was designing a box to keep the equipment cool, especially during the hot summer months.

Weve made Tech Box look sharp and really something everyone at Sony and Penske can be proud of, Whitley said. One of our biggest feats was making sure everything stays cool. When we have all the monitors, computers and digital video recorders working, they create a lot of heat. We added several fans to route air from behind the componentry and out of the box in several different ways.

The Sony Tech Box can be seen in both the race day pits of Penske Racing drivers Newman and Rusty Wallace. For more information on the Sony Tech Box, visit and click on the Sony Tech Box icon for photos and specs.


Reporter: Why I hate NASCAR   [Editor's Note: This guy won't be getting a media pass to any more NASCAR races, not that he cares] This Cincinnati newspaper article says, They say the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of racing. I'll take the Super Bowl instead.  They say the Daytona 500 is the World Series of racing. I'll take the World Series instead.   In fact, if they said the Daytona 500 is the World Cup of auto racing, I'd even take the World Cup instead. As boring as I find soccer, I find NASCAR much more so.  The roar of the engines? Hah. It's the snore of the engines, if you ask me, watching a bunch of guys making left-handed turns, circling the same track hour after hour, ad nauseam.  Before we go any further, allow me to interject a disclaimer: Though I hate NASCAR, I still give it my all when I must cover it. Those who love the sport deserve nothing less. I do, however, remember a letter I received years ago, the author accusing me of being, and I quote, "a stick-and-ball weenie." He thought he was insulting me. I took it as a compliment.   And, you know, now that I'm thinking more about it, maybe hate isn't the word I should use here. I really don't hate NASCAR.  I loathe it, detest it, despise it.   What don't I like about racing?  First of all, I can't get into a sport where every time you watch, there is a very real possibility someone can die. I was there at Daytona the day Dale Earnhardt died.   The only good thing about having to stay at the track and write for a couple of hours after a race is that the streets are fairly clear by the time I head home.  There are other things I hate, too.   I hate the gratuitous shilling for sponsors. I hate that NASCAR's popularity and influence has infiltrated into the NFL and NBA and MLB, and that those leagues keep taking steps toward selling their souls to advertisers. It's unseemly.   But it's worse when it comes to NASCAR, because the sport was built on the back of tobacco. How can you have any measure of self-respect when you're promoting a carcinogenic product?   I hate that NASCAR was borne out of dishonesty - moonshine runners, remember? - and that it constantly has to police itself and comb cars for cheating because, if not, owners and drivers and mechanics wouldn't have the moral fortitude to do it themselves.


Minardi team thrills Hungarians   The Minardi Formula One team took to the streets of Hungary over the weekend with 2004 driver Zsolt Baumgartner chauffeuring some very lucky people through the streets of the countrys capital in a Minardi two seater.   The reason behind the day out was to thank the many fans that came to Baumgartners aid when one of his major sponsors Mol Rt opted to significantly decrease the funds they had promised to provide.  However, despite this team boss Paul Stoddart confirmed to the local media that their driver would definitely be behind the wheel of the PS04 for the entire 2004 championship season.


Mosley wants control tires   FIA President Max Mosley is looking for ways to control costs in F1.  One area is tires, where the tire war between Michelin and Bridgestone has led to a significant amount of testing, which is very expensive.  According to Mosley, one of the biggest wastes of money in the sport is the constant testing undertaken by most teams, and a major part of that testing is for the teams specific tire partners. By allowing just one tire manufacturer to supply the entire grid, a lot of that expense would disappear. The greatest controllable waste of money in F1 is testing, he told Autosport. If there was just one tire supplier, you could simply say: No tires for testing'. And that would be the end of it.  Of course having multiple tire manufacturers in a series has its benefits too; each spend a lot of money on the sport in the way of advertising and track signage.  Like the engine badging concept, and rather then lock out any company who may want to be in the sport, a control tire could be badged by any company who pays a tolling fee to participate.  Rather than pump a lot of money into R&D, they can pay the sanctioning body a tolling fee to enter and the remaining money saved on advertising.  If companies want to do some R&D, then the companies can pool their resources and develop the control tire together.  Both would benefit equally from the endeavor and you would avoid the high cost of a tire war and the resulting marbles and runaway speeds the soft tires create.  Mark C.


Latest F1 news in brief  

F1 Has Seen Last Of 'Jos The Boss'
Pantano Completes F1 Line-Up: Official
Williams Lose Chance To Land Button
Michelin 'Catch-Up' On Intermediates
Montoya In For A Shock At McLaren
Williams Say 'No' To Ralf's Cash-Demand
Trulli Plays Down Renault Hype
McNish And Firman Ride Out Of F1
Schu Shelves New-Ferrari Niggles
Only Ferrari Resist Test-Limits: Boss
Button: Who Says I'm Not The Real-Deal
Williams Doubts Middle East Exodus
Bridgestone: Brave Face On Pre-Season Defeat
Ralf Doesn't Try Hard Enough: Williams
Aussie GP Has Eye On ... Women

Formula Renault

First photos of Renault V6 on USA soil  Renault Sport Technologies and Race Team Promotions held a press conference today at Homestead to announce their Renault 1600 and Formula Renault 2000 championships in 2004, followed by the introduction of a Formula Renault V6 series from 2005 in the USA (see related article.)  The car was very fast even with the heavy rains at Homestead today. The exhaust note was incredible. Loud, deep and throaty.  Anthony Castaneira of South Florida Motorsports was on hand to snap these photos of the exciting 425-HP V6 car that will fill a void in the USA in 2005.


Oval Track Cartel: Changing Rules to suit one's needs  This July March 1997 Racer magazine article talked about the end of the IRL's 25/8 rule and also how they changed the rules on the fly to suit their purposes.  However, it contained an interesting quote at the end by one crew chief on the make-em-as-we-go-rules, "We still don't have a rulebook."  This quote was made 15 months after the IRL's first race.  Sort of reminds us of An Unappealing Appeal, George reigns in Georgetown episode.


Oval Track Cartel: Race track monopoly   We stumbled upon this March 1997 Racer magazine article which talked about the stranglehold the oval track cartel has on the big race tracks in the USA and how they decide who gets what piece of the lucrative pie.


Oval Track Cartel: What's it all worth?   We stumbled upon this April 1997 Racer magazine article which talked about how the oval track cartel makes its money and why it's so important to land a lucrative Winston Cup date.


Fate of #3 unknown  Dale Earnhardt's famed No. 3 can be found everywhere at Daytona International Speedway. On T-shirts, jackets, hats and watches. On flags, stickers, cups and cell phones. Even on cars with replica paint schemes. The number can be seen almost anywhere -- except on the track. It might be like that for a while longer, too. Although NASCAR has been reluctant to retire numbers, this one would be difficult to bring back. After all, who wants the burden of following The Intimidator? "I'd like to see it not get on the track for at least a few more years," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "Eventually, it's got to be on the racetrack. It's just a number. But I'm not ready for it to happen just yet." Neither is car owner Richard Childress, who first drove the No. 3 car in the 1970s. "I sometimes catch myself going through the garage and looking for the black No. 3," Childress said. "The race fans got to be thinking the same thing. But I don't ever see bringing a black No. 3 car back unless there's an Earnhardt in the car."   More at CBS Sportsline


Daytona 500 ads cheap compared to Super Bowl  Calling all advertisers who didn't get the message out on Super Bowl Sunday: NASCAR has a deal for you. For about one-sixth the price of two weeks ago, sponsors can get 30 seconds of air time to introduce a new commercial, or maybe replay one that was a hit during America's biggest sports holiday. NASCAR has long touted the Daytona 500 as the Super Bowl of racing. Buying into that hype, advertisers lined up and NBC sold out its commercial inventory. Even though the audience will only be about one-third of what it is for the Super Bowl - 35 million are expected to watch -- a Daytona 500 ad can still have plenty of impact. "It's the highest-rated sports program between the Super Bowl and the NCAA championship" basketball game, NBC Sports vice president Kevin Sullivan said. "The exposure is just phenomenal." Thirty-second ads that went for an average of $2.3 million during the Super Bowl cost an average of about $350,000 for the Daytona 500. Advertisers got better deals if they committed to buying time during races later in the season, as well.   More at CBS Sportsline


What of Ralph Firman?  UPDATE  Another reader writes, In response to David Stempf's question about Ralph Firman. At the Canadian GP last year, Ralph was easily the most exciting driver in the field. We were sitting at Turns 6 and 7, a medium speed corner, and Ralph had that Jordan dancing through those turns. In a time of traction control and F-1 cars that are on knife edge, it was refreshing to see somebody actually power sliding through the corner. I'd say his car control is second to Montoya's. He'd definitely make Champ Cars more exciting. Joe Angers, Boston, MA  2/15/04 - A reader writes, Dear, I read the rumors about Ralph Firman eyeing a possible move to Champ Cars in 2004.  I don't know much about him.  Is he any good?  David Stempf, Buffalo, NY  Dear David, Firman surprised us last year given how bad Jordan was. He was better than we first thought. He always qualified within 0.5 sec of the highly regarded Fisichella, and usually within 0.3 sec. That right there says a lot.  He certainly has the speed.  Compare that to Baumgartner who was always 1+ sec. slower than Fisi when he stepped in for the injured Firman. We think the guy would surprise a lot of people in Champ Car given the right team.  His father, Ralph Firman, Sr. (bottom right) can make it happen for Junior.  He has been a major player in racing for years. He has given many F1 drivers their start including the late great Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Many have slept on his sofa. He just received an award from Autosport for his contributions to the sport.  He started Van Diemen and now is the head of Panoz G Force.  He has been since July 1999 when Panoz bought G Force and Van Diemen.  Before that he was a mechanic for double World Champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi before founding the famous Van Diemen racing car business. Van Diemen chassis have been raced in junior formulas by many of todays top drivers.

More about Junior:  After a stunning karting career Firman made the step up to cars by winning the 1993 Formula Vauxhall Junior title. A year later he joined Jackie Stewart's team and finished fourth in the Formula Vauxhall standings. Firman moved up to Formula 3 with PSR in 1995 and narrowly lost out on the title after a tough battle with Oliver Gavin. However, he stayed with the team for a third year in '96 and sewed up that year's championship after tough battles with the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya. After winning the British F3 championship in 1996, Ralph went on to win that year's blue ribbon F3 event at Macau. Here he overtakes Jarno Trulli for the lead. Other Macau winners include Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard. Firman moved to Japan in 1997 and enjoyed mixed fortunes during his six years competing in the country. Dodgy equipment blunted his challenge in the early years but he finally triumphed in the 2002 Formula Nippon championship with the PIAA Nakajima team. Firman's Honda connections landed him a test with BAR at the end of 2002. The 27-year-old impressed team insiders with his pace and professional approach. He drove for the Jordan F1 team in 2003 before getting injured late in the season and being replaced by Baumgartner.   Mark C.


Papis prepares for Sebring   On Tuesday February 10th Max Papis and his Chevrolet Corvette C5-R Team completed the necessary preparations for the 12 Hours of Sebring, which is scheduled to take place on March 20. The Italian driver, who tested with teammates Ron Fellow and Johnny OConnell, focused mainly on the reliability of the car, We did a lot of work on the endurance engines, said Max and on the development of Michelins tires. Were ready. Papis will be in Sebring one week before the 12 Hours. After the race he will remain in Sebring, to attend two more days of testing in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.


Honda Civic race series to support F1 in Canada   The 2004 Canadian Grand Prix (13 June) will this year be supported by the Honda / Michelin Challenge Series. The single-marque road racing series, originally launched in 1975 with the Honda Civic Hatchback, will feature race-prepared Honda Civic DX Coupes.   The top-selling passenger car in Canada for the past six years, the Civic is the ideal vehicle for Honda to bring back grassroots racing to Canada. During its previous 17-year run, the series is estimated to have attracted more than 400 amateur racers into competition.  The 2004 series will comprise a minimum of 10 races to be held in Ontario and Quebec as well as the support race to the mid-June Formula One race weekend in Montreal.


Sato fastest at Jerez in the wet   BAR-Honda's Takuma Sato set the fastest time on the fifth day of Formula 1 testing at Jerez in Spain, when the track was artificially soaked for Michelin wet weather tire testing.  Sato lapped in 1m25.758s and was consistently faster than the Williams-BMW of Juan Pablo Montoya, who was driving an FW26. The third car present was Antonio Pizzonia, whose running in a Williams FW25 was hampered by gearbox problems throughout. Montoya stays on for another day at Jerez Sunday.
Pos Driver Car-Engine Time Laps
1 Takuma Sato (BAR-Honda) M 1m25.758s 102
2 Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams-BMW) M 1m26.674s 89
3 Antonio Pizzonia (Williams-BMW) M 1m28.540s 42


IRL champ Dixon has harsh words for Hornish   Reigning IRL Indy Car champion Scott Dixon has launched a scathing verbal assault on rival Sam Hornish Jr, questioning the two-time champ's ability to fit in at Team Penske after his big money move from Panther Racing. Speaking exclusively to, Dixon says he has his doubts whether Hornish can forge a decent working relationship with his new teammate, double Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. "Sam is obviously very talented, but you don't know what it was like at Panther because he was always by himself and it's hard to rate drivers when they are by themselves," said Dixon. "I think he'll struggle having to be a team player. You see that all the time. He and Helio don't like each other, and Sam is difficult enough to talk to anyway. He's a strange guy. Those two can probably feed off each other, which could be good." Dixon says he is also unsure how Tomas Scheckter will do as Hornish's replacement at Panther. "I thought Tomas would have shown a little better [in testing] at Homestead, but the problem is that you don't know what anybody is doing. Both guys should do extremely well with the teams that they've got because they are established, very good teams. I'm sure they are going to be up there."   Autosport


Pole sitter Biffle to start at back  Daytona 500 pole-sitter Greg Biffle will have to start at the back of the field in Sunday's race after being forced to change engines. Biffle's misfortune bumps up favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. to start from the inside of the front row when the green flag waves. Biffle noticed a loss of power during practice Saturday morning. Back in the garage, a valve defect and leaking cylinder were discovered. "We had to pull the motor out,'' crew chief Doug Richert said, standing alongside the No. 16 Ford while the crew made the change. ``We can still win from the back. The car is still good.'' Biffle will roll off pit road in the lead position, but will have to drop to the back of the line before the final pace lap. Also forced to drop to the back of the field after changing engines were Ryan Newman, Ricky Craven and Derrike Cope. Scott Riggs, who wrecked his primary car in the qualifying race Thursday, also must go back after switching to a backup.


Andretti and Stewart trade paint again  Despite having contact with Tony Stewart's car on two consecutive days of practice at Daytona International Speedway, John Andretti said any talk of a feud between the two drivers was silly.   "I think it's just a coincidence," Andretti said. "For whatever reason, the last two days he's gotten into the back of me so I don't know what the deal is."  Andretti said the two had not had a discussion after either incident.  "Just dropping it is entirely up to him," Andretti said. "If anyone was looking to get even, it would be me and I'm not. I'm looking to try to run good in the Daytona 500 and Tony Stewart, to me is a guy I've got to beat, not a guy I've got to crash.

"I don't do that stuff because I've got too much respect for the owners and I do have respect for the drivers' safety. Most drivers here don't have much respect for that and taking a guy out doesn't mean that much to them.  "I don't drive like that and maybe that's why guys might be more apt to hit my back bumper, because they feel pretty safe with it, but there's always other tracks that come along. But you can't concentrate on things like that -- that's a good way to waste your life."   Andretti said the last two days' circumstances were simple.

"Today we all were racing and trying to make it three- and four-wide, which was probably a little bit over-aggressive, but whatever. Yesterday, though, was just a flat hit in the back -- I'm lucky I have a racecar left after that."

The latest incident occurred Saturday morning between Turns 3 and 4 in the single Happy Hour practice that was held at 10:30 a.m. after the earlier 45-minute session was canceled due to fog.   "I don't know how it happened -- Tony would probably have a better description," Andretti said. "I don't know what to say to him about today (because) I'm not going to apologize for being in front of him."

After the left front fender of Stewart's No. 20 Chevrolet hit the right rear corner of Andretti's car, Andretti's No. 1 Chevrolet wiggled and continued, while Stewart contacted the wall with his car's right side.

Andretti calmly discussed the incident at his garage stall immediately after practice. He said he would welcome a talk with the 2002 NASCAR champion, but only if Stewart would be an adult about it.

Stewart did not comment on either incident. After practice his crew, including Joe Gibbs Racing team manager Jimmy Makar, stripped the decals from the right side of the car and did some major bodywork, particularly from the door to the back bumper.  "Obviously, there's nothing extremely wrong with the car," Makar said. "The initial prognosis is good. We didn't get the wheels because they're all straight.  Once we get the car on the ground we'll be able to tell if the rear end housing is straight, but right now we're looking at mostly cosmetic damage."

Andretti was somewhat perplexed from the circumstances of the two days.  "I should have spun out yesterday and was lucky I didn't," Andretti said. "Today, they were lined up two-wide beneath us and I'm sure I know how he (Stewart) ended up in the wall.   I had to move up to give them room and he was trying to get in there, above me. If he were in there it would have been really ugly. I guess we just clipped each other and he was closest (to the wall) so the wall stopped him from going any further."  I'm surprised I didn't hear from him yesterday, because that (contact) was pretty blatant. I just dropped it, didn't think about it again and went about my business.  Then, something happened again today and now it's like 'John and Tony have a feud,' and (that's ridiculous). I don't think it's an issue, I just think it's a bad set of circumstances."


Rain halts Hershey Kisses 300  UPDATE The NASCAR Busch Series Hershey's Kisses 300 has been postponed for the first time in its history, and will resume at 11 a.m. Monday. It will be televised live on TNT. Thirty-one laps are complete in the 120-lap event, which will resume under the red flag procedure, meaning teams may make only minimal changes to the car such as removing grill tape, opening the hood and changing spark plugs. They may not jack up the car or add fuel, among other things. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the race leader, followed by Robby Gordon, Mike Wallace, Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday in the top five. Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. is 13th. NASCAR impounded all 37 cars still in the event, and decided not to remove the restrictor plates or shocks on the vehicles.  2/14/04 - The NASCAR Busch Series Hershey's Kisses 300 has been red-flagged due to rain at Daytona. It took just 11 laps for the Big One to eliminate several cars from contention in Saturday's Hershey's Kisses 300 at Daytona International Speedway.   The eight-car pileup was triggered when Mike Bliss got a great run exiting Turn 2 and attempted to carry that surge of momentum between Mike Wallace, riding the low line, and Jason Leffler on the high side.   As he shoved the nose of Bliss' Chevrolet between the cars of his competitors, the rear end came around, spinning him out in the middle of the track -- not to mention the middle of a 25-car pack.   "I kind of moved up the track, got on high side and the rear tires unloaded real quick," said a dejected Bliss as his Joe Gibbs Racing team worked feverishly on his demolished ride.   "People need to learn to work on their cars," said Joe Nemechek, who was caught up in the melee. "Guys are sliding sideways. (Bliss) just got loose in front of me, took out half the field. There was nowhere to go. It's not good.  "People gotta learn. I already went and told Mike Bliss to fix his car. He said it was driving good before it spun out. It's the beginning of the race. People aren't using their heads. It's uncalled for."


Formula Renault

Gelles Racing First To Get V6  [Editor's Note:  Renault does not sell cars in the USA now, but we believe they are priming the pump with these racing series for an eventual 2006 to 2007 passenger car return.  Why the Champ Car logo?  Simply put, the Renault V6 series is a perfect fit in the Champ Car ladder and it makes zero sense for those cars to run in conjunction with any other series like Grand-Am whom Renault is currently associated with.]  Gelles Racing, the oldest team in Formula Renault in North America, will take delivery of the first Formula Renault V-6 this weekend. While the second phase of the FR2000 Winter Invitational series is taking place in Homestead, Race Team Promotions takes great pride in unveiling the V6 Renault single seater that will come to North America in 2005 as the North America Formula Renault V-6 series.  It is only fitting that Gelles Racing take delivery of the 1st Formula Renault V-6 in North America, as Bob Gelles has been a staunch supporter of the Formula Renault products since 2002. They currently own eight Formula Renault 2000 chassis. Gelles was the first team to own a Formula Renault 2000 in North America and continues their support by being the first V-6 team in North America said John Kolody. More.....


Benson & Hedges renews with Jordan   Cash-strapped Formula One team Jordan have received a major financial boost with news that Benson & Hedges will continue their sponsorship. Eddie Jordan's squad have endured financial difficulties in recent months and are the only Formula One team yet to confirm their driver line-up for this season. But the announcement that Benson & Hedges parent company Gallaher Group will extend their sponsorship - which dates back to 1996 - goes some way to easing Jordan's cash headache. Jordan has taken encouragement from the deal and was typically enthusiastic about his team's chances for 2004. He said, "The whole team is delighted that Benson & Hedges will be with us for a ninth consecutive season. Benson & Hedges have been an integral part of our success in the past and they have shown remarkable loyalty to us. I'm proud that we will be racing once again in their distinctive yellow colors and were looking forward to the season with excitement."


BAM! Racing seeks Sebring win   BAM! (British American Motorsport) has confirmed the participation of up-and-coming Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller for the 2004 American Le Mans Series season opener, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Rockenfeller, of Neuwied, Germany, will drive the No. 43 YES Network Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with Leo Hindery of New York and Peter Baron of Deerfield Beach, Fla.   "Mike Rockenfeller is a wonderful young man. It is a privilege to race with him, and he will certainly be one of the next great Porsche factory drivers," Hindery said.  Rockenfeller, 20, is starting his third season as a member of the UPS Porsche Junior Team, competing in the German Porsche Carrera Cup and in selected Porsche Michelin Supercup and American Le Mans Series races. He last drove with Hindery and Baron in the 2003 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, his first endurance race and his first race in North America. He is looking forward to driving with them again.   "I know the drivers and some guys from the team, and that's important. It's easier than driving with a completely new team because I know the people," he said. "In Atlanta, everything was new. But now it's like when I drive a Carrera Cup race. The [Sebring] track is still new, but I know driver changing, talking on the radio and everything, and I'm not that nervous. I can focus more on driving. It was such a great experience and a lot of fun in Atlanta, so it should be even better at Sebring."   The Sebring race will be the first for the new BAM! team, which is based in Stuart, Fla.


Truex wins pole for 300 miler  Martin Truex lived up to his billing Friday, starting his first full season in the Busch Series by winning the pole for the Hersey's Kisses 300 at Daytona International Speedway. Truex, driving for Chance 2 Motorsports, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt, turned a fast lap of 181.138 mph, barely beating the 181.108 of Ron Hornaday Jr. "We've got probably the best team out here and I think everybody knew that," Truex said. "It's just nice to go out and be able to do what we thought we could do." Truex, 23, has driven in 15 Busch Series races, including 10 in 2003. He closed out the season with a pair of career-best second-place finishes while driving for the Earnhardt team. Nextel Cup star and former Busch champion Kevin Harvick was third Friday at 180.832, followed by David Stremme at 180.563 and another Cup star, Robby Gordon, at 180.502. Earnhardt Jr., winner of three of the last four Busch races on Daytona's 2 1/2-mile oval and five of his last six Busch starts, qualified eighth at 180.310 in a second Chance 2 entry.


JJ Yeley gets sponsor  Vigoro, a leading brand of premium lawn and garden products for over 80 years, along with The Home Depot, will be the primary sponsors of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver J.J. Yeley during the 2004 season. Yeley will drive the #18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevy as part of an A-B-C schedule that will consist of ARCA, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races [#18 in Busch, supposedly #80 in Cup, not sure about ARCA]. His first race in the Vigoro/Home Depot machine will be the March 6 Sam's Town 300 Busch Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Vigoro is owned by St. Louis-based United Industries Corporation (which goes to market as Spectrum Brands) and is sold exclusively at Home Depot stores. Heading Yeley's effort will be veteran crew chief Doug Hewitt, who after being a crew chief in the Cup Series since 1993, joined JGR in late 2001 as crew chief for Coy Gibbs in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Under Hewitt's guidance, Gibbs finished 10th in points in 2001 and 2002. Hewitt continued as crew chief for Gibbs' Busch Series effort in 2003, and he takes the team he helped build to Yeley's rookie campaign in 2004. Vigoro is the number two selling brand of lawn and garden fertilizers in the United States. The company's household brands include Hot Shot , Cutter and Repel . The company's lawn and garden brands include Spectracide, Spectracide Triazicide , Spectracide Terminate , Garden Safe and Real-Kill in the controls category as well as Vigoro , Schultz, Bandini and Best brands in the lawn and garden fertilizer and organic growing media categories.


Edwards heir apparent to Mark Martin  A seemingly harmless post-race question turned into a startling revelation Friday night. During Carl Edwards' winner's interview in the press box at Daytona International Speedway following his victory in Friday night's Florida Dodge Dealers 250, Edwards' team owner, Jack Roush, was asked about Edwards' future. His response was rather matter-of-fact: "Carl Edwards is the heir apparent to Mark Martin in the No. 6 car." Roush continued; "I'd like to see Mark (Martin) drive three more years and then I think (Edwards) will be in the No. 6." Even Edwards, 24, seemed taken aback by the remark. Asked later about Roush's comment, he said: "It's an honor and motivates me to work harder every day to be the best driver I can be so that when we do come up with a marketing partner to run in the Nextel Cup Series in that car, I can ... win championships. The emotional part of me just can't believe it. It gives me chills. Mark Martin has been someone I have looked up to long before I even started racing for his determination and drive."


Strong worldwide TV growth for NASCAR  [Editor's Note:  More evidence NASCAR is priming the pump for an eventual international assault.  Champ Car/OWRS and Bernie Ecclestone/F1 beware.]  The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has more international appeal than ever.  NASCAR begins the 2004 season with an expanded global reach that includes weekly television broadcasts in more than 150 countries and in 23 languages each week. This year, NASCARs international broadcast partners will air more than 4,000 hours of NASCAR-related programming outside the U.S. NASCAR is starting the new season strongly, having renewed 13 broadcast partnerships and having added 10 new TV partners. Those new partners will bring new and expanded coverage to Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Italy, UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and throughout the Middle East.  More....


NASCAR debuts new Ad campaign  NASCAR announced that it will launch a new image advertising campaign the story of a fantasy race where, through computer wizardry, the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time compete against the stars of today. The first of six TV spots in the new Timeless campaign will debut during television coverage of the Daytona 500 on February 15th on NBC. The campaign, developed by The Martin Agency, features archive film and audio of NASCAR heroes of the past blended with images of hard-charging champions of today all set to Bostons classic rock ballad Long Time.  More....


Toyota 2nd in NASCAR debut  Toyota indicated it will be a contender in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series right front the start as Travis Kvapil led seven Toyota Tundras with a second place in the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 behind winner Carl Edwards. Kvapil, the defending series champion, put Toyota in the lead for the first time ever on lap eight. Kvapil led a total of four times for 15 laps in the No. 4 Line-X Toyota Tundra and edged Mike Wallace at the finish line for second. David Reutimann finished ninth and had his No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota Tundra in the lead for seven laps. Mike Skinner also led for six laps in the No. 42 Toyota Tundra before being knocked out by a 15-truck accident just past the race's halfway point. Skinner finished 28th overall. "We definitely had a truck that was capable of winning," Kvapil said. "I was doing alI I could to stay in line and pick up one place there at the end, and that's the way it worked out. I'm disappointed we didn't win, but we're focused on capturing the championship again, and it looks like we have the team, the manufacturer and the sponsor to make it happen." It was Toyota's first-ever race in the Craftsman Truck Series after capturing the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series Championship in 2002 with Robert Huffman. The Tundra race trucks did their first full tests at Daytona in January.


Testing at two tracks for Ferrari   The fourth and final day of testing this week for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro at the Mugello circuit. Once again, Michael Schumacher took to the track today, to continue with development work on the F2004. The German driver covered 92 laps (8 on the short version of the track,) with a quickest time of 118902. Testing at this circuit resumes on Tuesday 17th February with Michael Schumacher at the wheel of an F2004. Meanwhile, the fourth and final day of testing this week for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain saw Rubens Barrichello take to the track, alternating behind the wheel of two F2003-GA at his disposal. The Brazilian continued with Bridgestone tyre development work, completing a total of 83 laps, the quickest being a 118290.


What went wrong between Jordan and Verstappen?   The following is an interview conducted by Jos Verstappen's personal website that explains the way things turned out between he and Jordan resulting in Giorgio Pantano getting the ride.



Newman wins IROC opener   UPDATE  A reader writes, When are the IRL guys going to get a clue and start turning down invitations to the great American farce known as the IROC?  Even though I can't stand the IRL, I wonder why these guys want to go race stock cars against stock car drivers on tracks they are familiar with.  It would be like the worlds best soccer players going up against the New England Patriots in a NFL game at Gillette stadium. It makes no sense at all.  They need to turn the IROC into a total NASCAR event.  Do it the way it was done 30 years ago on road courses or get rid of it.  Doug Ferguson  2/14/04 - Once again the NASCAR drivers made the IRL drivers look like fools (why do the open wheelers subject themselves to looking like losers year in and year out in "stock" cars?).  Ryan Newman found a way to squeeze past Kurt Busch 100 yards from the finish line and won the season-opener of the International Race of Champions Series on Friday night.  "I could have leaned into him and spun him at the line, but that wasn't the way to win," said Newman, who waited several minutes inside his car parked in Victory Lane while IROC officials viewed tape of his pass.  To get by Busch, the defending IROC champion and a fellow NASCAR Nextel Cup star, Newman got two wheels under the yellow out-of-bounds line along the lower edge of the banked 2-mile oval at Daytona International Speedway -- generally considered an illegal move.  "He tried to push me off and I was at the point of no return," Newman said. "I went below the yellow line instead of spinning him out. Fortunately, it was the last lap.  I knew I was forced down there, but you never know how it's going to be called."  It was the end of a sensational run for Newman, who found himself last in the 12-car all-star field nine laps from the end of the 40-lap, 100-mile event.

1. (12) Ryan Newman, NASCAR Nextel Cup, 40 laps.
2. (97) Kurt Busch, NASCAR Nextel Cup, 40.
3. (17) Matt Kenseth, NASCAR Nextel Cup, 40.
4. (48) Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Nextel Cup, 40.
5. (11) Steve Kinser, World of Outlaws, 40.
6. (03) Helio Castroneves, IRL IndyCar Series, 40.
7. (29) Kevin Harvick, NASCAR Nextel Cup, 40.
8. (1) Scott Dixon, IRL IndyCar Series, 40.
9. (8) Scott Sharp, IRL IndyCar Series 40.
10. (24) Travis Kvapil, NASCAR Craftsman Truck, 40.
11. (80) J.J. Yeley, USAC, 40.
12. (20) Danny Lasoski, World of Outlaws, 40.
Race Statistics
Time of race: 39 minutes, 44 seconds.
Winner's average speed: 151.007 mph.
Margin of Victory: 0.035 seconds.
Lead changes: 14 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Newman 1-3; Kenseth 4-6; Johnson 7-13; Harvick 14-15; Busch 16-17; Kenseth 18; Johnson 19-21; Newman 22; Johnson 23-24; Harvick 25-32; Kinser 33-35; Busch 36-39; Newman 40.
Point Standings: Newman 21; Busch 20; Johnson 17; Kenseth 14; Harvick 14; Kinser 10; Castroneves 9; Dixon 7; Kvapil 7; Sharp 6; Yeley 4; Lasoski 3.


More improvements slated for Milwaukee Mile   In what is now the third phase of retrofitting The Milwaukee Mile, approval was granted yesterday by the Wisconsin State Building Commission to provide $1.4 million in non-tax supported bonding for multiple improvements to be done in time for the 2004 racing season at the historic facility. Race Sanctioning Body mandates for safety improvements required the following construction to be completed prior to the track's season opener, the scheduled June 3-5 Champ Car World Series race weekend:  More.....


Champ Cars to be featured on History Channel   The science of Champ Car racing is every bit as vital to the success of the series as anything that happens in the cockpit of a 750hp turbocharged open-wheel race car. The science of safety is one of the key elements in making the Champ Car World Series one of the premier racing series in the world, and the History Channel will give viewers an in-depth look at how technology helps keep drivers safe in an upcoming episode of its Modern Marvels series. The episode titled Race Track Tech, will premiere next Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. The hour-long show will feature Champ Cars along with other racing series in a behind-the-scenes look at how technicians create the safety innovations that protect drivers. A feature interview with Champ Car team owner Derrick Walker will take viewers through what happened to his teams Reynard machine during a 2002 crash at Surfers Paradise, Australia. The episode will display how all of the safety procedures in place helped keep the drivers safe through a violent multi-car crash.

Formula BMW

Formula BMW to kick off season at Lime Rock   [Editor's Note:  Expect an announcement in the near future in conjunction with the Champ Car Series for the remainder of the season]  BMW of North America, LLC has announced that its Formula BMW USA series prize package will amount to over $260,000. This purse is in addition to the $40,000 scholarships that it awarded six lucky drivers last month, bringing the total winnings to over $500,000. The first Formula BMW USA race will take place at Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day weekend. The 1.53-mile, 7-turn circuit in the hills of western Connecticut is considered as BMWs home track as it is only 60 miles from the Woodcliff Lake, NJ headquarters. In addition to BMWs commitment of training future champions, we believe Formula BMW USA is one of the most lucrative entry-level open-wheel road racing series in North America, said Alex Schmuck, Formula BMW USA series manager. And, while we are still finalizing the rest of the season we are delighted that the first races will be at Lime Rock. BMW has written many chapters of its motorsports history there and I could not be happier that we will add to it in May. Series championship prize monies total $81,000 with $20,000 going to the inaugural Formula BMW USA champion. Runner-up prizes are; 2nd-$15,000, 3rd-$12,000, 4th-$10,000, 5th-$8,000, 6th-$6,000, 7th-$4,000, 8th-$3,000, 9th-$2,000 and 10th-$1,000. A $50,000 scholarship will also be awarded to the 2004 Formula BMW USA Series Champion that can be applied to a year of participation in the 2005 Formula BMW Germany Championship. At each event, $5500 in per-race prize money will be awarded as follows: 1st- $1000, 2nd-$900, 3rd-$800, 4th-$700, 5th-$600, 6th-$500, 7th-$400, 8th-$300, 9th-$200 and 10th-$100. A separate Rookie Cup for those in their first year of racing will be a championship within a championship and will be based on the same scoring system. Rookie Cup monies will be in addition to the regular championship winnings and total $24,000. The inaugural Formula BMW USA Rookie Cup winner will receive $8,000, 2nd-$6,000, 3rd-$4,000, 4th-$3,000, 5th-$2,000 and 6th-$1,000. In addition, $2100 in per-race Rookie Cup prize money will be awarded as follows: 1st-$600, 2nd-$500, 3rd-$400, 4th-$300, 5th-$200 and 6th-$100. Each Formula BMW USA race weekend will include two rounds of the Championship and a separate qualifying session will determine the grid for each 30-minute standing-start contest. All rounds will count toward the overall championships and points will be awarded as follows: First-20, Second-15, Third-12, Fourth-10, Fifth-8, Sixth-6, Seventh-4, Eighth-3, Ninth-2 and Tenth-1.


Final 2004 F1 entry list   With Georgio Pantano confirmed at Jordan, the 2004 F1 driver lineup is complete.  Full lineup & test drivers


Unrest at DEI, Waltrip fires back  Below are select quotes from Thursday's Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on SPEED Channel. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Michael Waltrip spoke with Dave about the role of teammates and the new Goodyear racing tire.

Waltrip on comments made by Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief Tony Eury, after the Gatorade 125 race: "I was surprised -- I didn't know all of that went down. In a 125, we're just positioning ourselves, trying to learn about our cars -- trying to understand what we've got and what we have to do to win the Daytona 500. If Dale hangs me out early in a race or me him, that means nothing to me. But, evidently, Tony Eury went on some sort of rampage about my loyalty to our team. That really bothered me that he would question what I know is best for DEI after my assistance, my participation and my great finishes for our team.

"I didn't understand all that. I didn't even know there was a controversy until the race was over and they said 'They cussed you out over what you did.' Well, heck, I don't even know what I did. I was just racing. When Dale Jr. passed me to win the race, I was thinking 'Right on, brother.' The guy leading the race has the best chance to win, so I don't blame him for passing me. He did a great job coming through the tri-oval, got on my back bumper and I was turning left trying to block him. But he did such a good job with his momentum to push me out of the way, and was able to duck under me and get the lead. I was like 'More power to you Dale Jr. -- I'll be back later.' Then I get out of my car and hear they are talking about me. I don't think that's cool. I don't worry about how other people drive there car, I just drive mine and I don't appreciate other folks that aren't even out there on the track critiquing how I go about things.

(Despain asked Waltrip if Dale Jr. could have done anything differently to have protected Waltrip's position on the track.)

"I wouldn't have asked him to do anything differently. The only thing, I think, we are responsible for as teammates is to not cost each other something. If he makes a move and we both get hurt from it or if I make a move and we both get hurt from it, then that's not cool. But what he did is put his car in front of the race late in the going. I don't have a problem with that. We're racing -- we're not riding around trying to show off. I don't understand any controversy, nor do I appreciate anybody talking stuff about me.

"Now, I have to sit around and answer questions about this deal. If Tony had just been quiet and kept his dumb comments to himself, I could sit here and talk to you about winning the last two out of three Daytona 500s and having a fast car going into the Daytona 500. Instead I'm talking about something that doesn't even pertain to what we're doing here in Daytona. ... I just wanted to come clean with you and everyone watching that I didn't like what (Eury) said and it's neither here nor there with me. I am going to go on about my business just like I did before today. I know how to help my teammate be successful and my teammate knows how to help me. I love Dale Jr. -- we are buddies and we'll get our jobs done on Sunday, no matter what anyone says or thinks."

Waltrip on drivers complaining about the new Goodyear racing tires: "NASCAR called upon Goodyear to build a softer tire -- a tire that would stick early in the race and then fade late in the going, forcing us to pit and maybe forcing handling to come into the equation for success during the course of a Daytona 500. Goodyear, with all their engineers and ingenuity and experience, built that tire. They built the tire that NASCAR and the competitors asked them to build. And now you see cats getting on the TV griping about what Goodyear did. That really gets on my nerves. They did what they were asked to do. They proved today that they can build anything you ask them to. Today's tire was a result of the direction we sent them in. Now, do I think it's what's best for the Daytona 500? I'm pretty happy with it. I think that it will mix up the racing. You'll see a lot of stuff go on between the time they say go and the time we have to come in and get tires. That's good for racing at Daytona."


Schumacher tops Jerez charts on Friday   Ralf Schumacher set the fastest time during F1 testing at Jerez today. The German eclipsed his Williams teammate Juan Pablo Montoya by 0.258s.
Pos Driver Chassis-engine Tires Time Laps
1 Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW M 1m16.953s 66
2 Juan Pablo Montoya Williams-BMW M 1m17.315s 35
3 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes M 1m17.740s 93
4 Alex Wurz McLaren-Mercedes M 1m17.914s 39
5 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari B 1m18.369s 79*
6 Nick Heidfeld Jordan-Ford B 1m20.376s 54


Fever on the streets of Bahrain   The streets are alive with Formula One . at least they will be in the Kingdom of Bahrain on February 19th when the avenues of Manama will reverberate to the power and passion of a Formula One car. .F1 Fever. comes to Bahrain in the shape of a Sauber Petronas C22 Grand Prix car that will accelerate down Manamas sea front on the King Faisal Highway in the centre of the Kingdoms capital. The unique spectacle will be the first time that a modern day Formula One car has driven at speed in the Middle East. Grand Prix fever is at the centre of everything in Bahrain prior to the first Middle East Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit on 04.04.04. The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix is round three of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Before all that though, Manamas streets will vibrate to the sight and sound of Formula One in its purest form. The Sauber Petronas car will be driven by the teams official test driver, 20-year-old Swiss, Neel Jani. Jani will reach speeds of up to 300 kph on a road traditionally the venue for more sedate forms of transportation. In a specially designated area the car will demonstrate its raw speed and sound in front of an enthusiastic crowd enjoying the side shows of the .F1 Fever. event. The chance for Bahrainis to see a Formula One car in action will be the culmination of the .F1 Fever. event that will run from 1400 . 1700 on February 19th. On-track activity will include rally car displays from such luminaries as FIA Middle East Rally Champion Mohammed bin Sulayem, custom cars and hot rods while a DJ, racing simulators and competitions will keep spectators entertained in the dedicated spectator area. .F1 Fever. is an important element of the Bahrain International Circuits promotional strategy in the region as a taster of Formula One ahead of Aprils Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. The organizers hope to attract thousands of spectators to experience this preview from Bahrain and the Middle East region.


de Radigues rejoins Dyson team   Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing is pleased to announce that Belgian Didier de Radigues will be rejoining Chris Dyson for the 2004 12 Hours of Sebring.

De Radigues, who co-drove with Dyson in the two American Le Mans Series endurance events in 2003, will be piloting the same #20 Lola-MG that the pairing drove to a class victory at last year's 12 Hours of Sebring. De Radigues also helped the Dyson squad clinch the ALMS Team Championship at the 2003 Petit Le Mans.

De Radigues is no stranger to success in the American Le Mans Series, having won the LMP675 championship in 2001. Prior to his career in auto racing, de Radigues was a star in World Championship motorcycling events.

The Belgian is thrilled to be rejoining the team for the Sebring event. "I am so excited about coming back to the Dyson team," he said. "Last year we started a great relationship. It's a great family atmosphere. I'm really happy to drive with Chris again."

Chris Dyson is equally upbeat about the re-signing of de Radigues. "Didier's efforts last year at the long races helped us clinch the team championship," he said. "We work really well together and he fits into our team amazingly. He's fast, reliable, and relaxed, which is exactly what you need in endurance racing."

Team principal Rob Dyson was so impressed with de Radigues last year that when it came time to decide on drivers for the Sebring event, the Belgian was an easy choice. "Didier is one of the most unflappable individuals I've ever met," Dyson said. "It's probably from all the years he spent on motorcycles, but his attitude is a perfect fit for car racing. We are really pleased to have him rejoin us for Sebring."

Since entering the sportscar racing world in 1985, Dyson Racing has been North America's most successful sportscar team. For 2004 the team will campaign two of its MG-Lola EX257 prototypes in the nine-race American Le Mans Series. The series' first event is the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 20.


Pantano confirmed at Jordan   Giorgio Pantano has landed the second seat at Jordan.  He said: Im so happy. I want to thank Eddie Jordan and everybody at Jordan Grand Prix for giving me the opportunity to be in F1 and show my ability.  I will be giving my all as I really want to guarantee them good results.   There are a lot of people I have to thank for helping me get to this position and I hope I will make them proud.  Im looking forward to driving the car some more in the test sessions, and then of course, I am really excited about my first grand prix in Melbourne in just a few weeks time.

Team boss Eddie Jordan said: Giorgio performed consistently with accomplished race craft at the front of the field for three years in F3000 and hes ready for the challenge in F1.  In Jordan Fords driver pairing I believe we have the best possible combination of youth, experience and natural ability.  Giorgio and Nick are seriously quick, skilled and hungry for success, which is exactly what we need to rejuvenate the team and lead Jordans fight-back in 2004.  I cant wait for the first race!


Tracy glad IRL lost battle for CART  This Toronto Star article says, The new owners of the Champ Car World Series can make a success of the revived open wheel racing circuit if they stop chasing "the mirage" of the rival Indy Racing League, Paul Tracy says. The defending series champion was in town yesterday to help launch ticket sales for the Molson Indy in July.

"(CART) spent too many years chasing reconciliation with (IRL owner) Tony George when that option was never on the table," said Tracy, a Scarborough native. "It was always just a mirage placed in front of CART. I think they spent too much time chasing that and not enough time on their own business."  The two series have been arch-rivals since the end of 1995, when George broke away from CART and formed the IRL.

Tracy admitted he was "a little bit concerned" when the IRL made an 11th hour bid for CART's assets.  "Their intention was to grab CART's key races and put an end to CART," he said. "I'm glad the judge saw it (OWRS') way. OWRS' intention is to build this thing they have a five-year plan and I'm glad I'm going to be a part of it." Tracy said he believes Champ Cars can co-exist with the IRL if it doesn't renew its fight for dominance with the IRL.

"What they've got to realize is that we're not competing against the IRL for the corporate dollar," he said. "We're competing against everything. We're in the entertainment business. We're competing against baseball, football, hockey, NASCAR, basketball and extreme sports. We can't pigeon-hole ourselves and think we're only competing against the IRL.

"There's room in Toronto for the Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays and the Raptors. They're all fighting for the same entertainment dollars and they seem to be able to co-exist."

Forsythe has yet to confirm a sponsor for Tracy or teammate Patrick Carpentier. But Tracy said he's not concerned.  "I'm lucky that I'm driving for an owner who has lots of money," he said. "If we were a smaller team we'd be out of business.

"Both (Carpentier) and I have been told to get ready." Carpentier said by phone from Indianapolis that he's obtained a personal sponsor in Procter & Gamble, which would pay for a portion of his costs.  Tracy said he doesn't know what he would have done if the IRL had gained CART's assets.  But one thing is certain.  "I wouldn't have gone to the IRL," he said.


Open Wheel drivers at disadvantage in made-for-NASCAR IROC  This AP article says, Scott Sharp feels a little out of place.   He's taking a break from the Indy Racing League to compete with a bunch of NASCAR guys at Daytona International Speedway. "It's certainly a big challenge for us open-wheel guys," said Sharp, one of 12 drivers in Friday's International Race of Champions. "There couldn't be much more difference in a race car, and certainly for the stock car drivers, it's old hand."  Make no mistake: The IROC champion is likely to come from one of the Nextel Cup entrants - Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth or Ryan Newman. The last non-NASCAR champion in the series was Al Unser Jr. in 1988. More....


Latest F1 news in brief  

Renault Crack BAR's Grip At Jerez
Coulthard Is Too 'Intense': Former Boss
Williams And Button
Verstappen Back In The Running
Ferrari: A Tough Act To Follow
Test Uncovers 'Problems' With New BAR
Row Triggered Montoya Team-Switch
Toyota Shelved Bravery: Brunner
Rivals Worried About Renault
'Cranky' Law To Spark Imola GP-Boycott?
Raikkonen's Better Than Montoya
Teams Gamble Safety For Ballast: Former Chief
Is It Time To Write-Off McLaren?

Bernie Coughed Bucks To Get F1 Deal
Schumacher To Visit New Zealand
More Hope For Imola Survival
What Is 'Centre Of Gravity'?
Australia To Stay On F1 Map: Bernie

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