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DATE

News (chronologically)

3/5/04

Notes: Saturday Practice   Ferrari's rivals got a bit closer to the scarlet juggernaut during the two 45-minute practice sessions prior to the qualifying-sessions at Albert Park. Michael Schumacher is still on top, but his fellow F2004-steerer Rubens Barrichello was pipped to the line by a couple of BMW-Williams cars.

The FW26, however, still doesn't look great over the bumps.  'No, it's ok [in that area],' tester Marc Gene insisted.

Cristiano da Matta (12th) had another poor session in the Toyota as he was forced, again, to pull over on the circuit but it wasn't another tire failure.

ANGRY CHAMPION

Before the young Brazilian halted, however, he annoyed a gesticulating six-times world champion at Turn Three by not giving him enough space to overtake.  Technical chief Mike Gascoyne hinted at an electrical glitch and, after the TF104 was brought back to the pits, mechanics started work on the front-end.

Minardi racer Gianmaria Bruni returned to the pits with a huge plume of smoke pouring from his Cosworth V10, sparking concern about the 'one engine' rule.

Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren (9th) had a big moment at the very-quick Turn-12.

Most F1 analysts in pitlane were talking about the increasing amount of understeer that had crept-into the Melbourne street-circuit since Friday.  One mechanic said his F1 team was making half-millimeter adjustments to chassis ride-height in a bid to counter the problem.

Minardi chief Paul Stoddart, whose best car (Gimmi Bruni, 19) was more than 5-seconds off the pace, lamented that the gap has increased to the front-runners.  But he is impressed with the pace of his Bridgestone tires.  'Everyone thought Michelin would struggle but those red cars are still ahead,' said the Aussie, who denied that Ferrari ran light on Friday.  'No they're not light. I think everyone's just got to face up to the fact that their new car is just mega. And it's also Schumacher's pure driving ability.'

3/5/04

Notes: Australian Grand Prix   Jordan's third-driver Giorgio Pantano had a baptism of fire in Australia.  The young German had a suspected terminal gearbox problem on Friday but, even before that, he had earned the wrath of race and F1 team officials.  'He made a classic mistake,' said boss Eddie Jordan.  'He went two kilometres over the speed-limit in pitlane and was fined seriously. I'll say no more. You don't like that.'

Not only did Timo fail visibly in the afternoon, however, the Silverstone-based team revealed that his EJ14 wasn't working properly in the morning, either.  'Maybe it was the gearbox,' said Glock on Friday evening.

NOT ACCEPTABLE

Head of race and test engineering James Robinson was still evaluating the failure-cause when he spoke to the press but he said it was 'not acceptable.'  'It can't happen to lose valuable time like that in both sessions,' he said.

Michelin boss Pierre Dupasquier played-down suggestions on Friday that his French-tyred F1 teams like Renault and BMW-Williams are lagging behind Ferrari.  He said the day's fastest Michelin ace Jarno Trulli completed a long-run at the same time as Rubens Barrichello and there was barely a tenth between them.

Bridgestone counterpart Hisao Suganuma, however, was enthusing about new tire-specifications that lifted Michael Schumacher to no-less than two lap-records.  'We've improved handling at the front,' he said, 'and traction at the rear.'  Asked what the improvement is from last season, he quipped: 'About a second.'

3/5/04

Notes: Saturday at Albert Park   Cristiano da Matta is on 'Full Attack' for his second season in Formula One.  The Toyota driver, born in Brazil, has those words printed on his airbox-filler and his steering-wheel at this weekend's Australian Formula One Grand Prix.  'It just reminds me to keep going all the time,' he told us.

Melbourne's crowd on Thursday and Friday broke previous attendance records.  Official figures stood at 51,000 for Thursday, before a grand prix wheel had even turned, and then swelled to 80,000 as Ferrari went fastest on Friday.

EXPENSIVE STUFF

Michael Schumacher's new 'six times' cap will set you back $61 Aussie dollars.  It's just one item that can be purchased from the new 1000-square metre marquee at Albert Park in which all ten F1 teams are selling merchandise this year.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone helped open the 'superstore' and grand prix chairman Ron Walker said it would collect around $4 million this weekend alone. 'I think it is reasonable to hope we'll have it elsewhere too,' said Mr. E.

A few drops of rain began to fall here at the Australian Grand Prix circuit, just south of picturesque Melbourne, before official practice on Saturday.  But a weather source said the rest of the day will stay dry.  Cloud hangs over the track at lunch-time and it should rise to 26-degrees later today, and some are worrying that the rain could switch to Sunday's race-day.

3/5/04

Schumacher fastest again, Juan 2nd   Michael Schumacher again topped the time sheets in the final practice session at Albert Park before qualifying for the first Grand Prix of the 2004 Formula 1 World Championship.  The German lapped in 1m25.093s, slower than his lightning fast Friday time of 1m24.718s.  For the first time all weekend, it wasn't a Ferrari 1-2. Second fastest this time was the Williams-BMW of Juan Pablo Montoya, the Colombian stopping the clocks at 1m25.255s. His teammate Ralf Schumacher was third on 1m25.628s , the pair of them only completing nine laps each as they preserve their engines under the new rules.  Rubens Barrichello was fourth fastest with a 1m25.649, with Fernando Alonso fifth in the Renault, and Olivier Panis an impressive sixth in the Toyota.  With the general dismay at the speed of the Ferraris on the opening day of practice in Melbourne, in the final session before qualifying it was interesting to see the top 10 covered by just 1.1s.

Position Driver Team Fastest Lap
1 Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1m25.093s
2 Juan Pablo Montoya Williams 1m25.255s
3 Ralf Schumacher Williams 1m25.628s
4 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1m25.649s
5 Fernando Alonso Renault 1m25.908s
6 Olivier Panis Toyota 1m25.916s
7 Jarno Trulli Renault 1m25.927s
8 Mark Webber Jaguar 1m26.066s
9 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren 1m26.127s
10 David Coulthard McLaren 1m26.133s
11 Jenson Button BAR 1m26.403s
12 Cristiano da Matta Toyota 1m26.597s
13 Christian Klien Jaguar 1m27.088s
14 Felipe Massa Sauber 1m27.172s
15 Giancarlo Fisichella Sauber 1m27.195s
16 Takuma Sato BAR 1m27.592s
17 Nick Heidfeld Jordan 1m27.755s
18 Giorgio Pantano Jordan 1m28.825s
19 Gianmaria Bruni Minardi 1m30.496s
20 Zsolt Baumgartner Minardi 1m31.763s

3/5/04

Louie Unser dies  Louie Unser, who was chief mechanic on two of his brothers' cars when they made their debuts in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, died March 2 in Anaheim, Calif. He was 71. Unser was the twin brother of Jerry Unser, who in 1958 became the first Unser to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Louie was his chief mechanic and then in 1965 handled the same duties for Al, the youngest of the famed Unser brothers. Al Unser went on to the win the race four times.

"If it wasn't for Louie, I wouldn't have made it at the Speedway," Al Unser said. "He pushed me."  Bobby, the other Unser brother, won the Indianapolis 500 three times. Jerry Unser was fatally injured in a 1959 accident at the Speedway.

Louie Unser, born 10 minutes after Jerry on Nov. 15, 1932, in Colorado Springs, Colo., moved with the family to Albuquerque, N.M., when he was 4. In 1955, Jerry Unser Sr. took his sons back to Colorado Springs for the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb.  Louie was driving a tour bus up the mountain, but his father refused to allow him to race in the wheel tracks of his famous uncle of the same name. So Louie slipped into brother Bobby's Jaguar on race day and placed third overall.

But Louie had greater skills as a mechanic, so in 1956 he went to work for Bill Stroppe's factory team that was based next door to brother's Jerry's DePaolo Engineering USAC racing team. Both teams folded in 1957, when factories withdrew their support. So the brothers purchased the equipment and went racing together. Jerry earned the 1957 stock car championship and presented his diamond ring to Louie, who wore it the rest of his life. Louie also was named mechanic of the year that season.

Jerry and Louie showed up at Indy in 1958, and Jerry jumped from car to car until he qualified the McKay Spl. in 24th place. Jerry didn't complete a lap as he got tangled in an accident in the north chute on Turn 1.  From 1960-62, Louie worked with Stroppe, Carroll Shelby's AC Cobra team and others building engines in the shop, and changing tires and refueling cars in the races. He worked on a car in the four-month East Africa Safari in 1964 despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Still, Louie managed the strength to act as crew chief with Al Unser in 1965 at Indianapolis before retiring from trackside involvement. He started an engine-building business in Southern California, and his powerplants helped brother Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti to race to victories at Pikes Peak. He also built strong, winning engines for sprint cars, sports cars and racing boats.

By the 1970s, Louie was confined to a wheelchair, but he continued working until the 1990s. Louie and his wife, Laverne, participated in many MS-related fund-raising and research events over the years. He was inducted into the Orange County (Calif.) Hall of Fame in 1997. His final visit to the Indianapolis was for the 1999 Brickyard 400.  Survivors are his wife; a daughter, Lynn; brothers Bobby and Al; and three grandsons.  A memorial service will take place later this month. Cards of condolence may be mailed to Laverne Unser at 500 Meadowbrook Place, Anaheim, CA 92801.

3/5/04

Pace Car team plays golf   Before the PGA Tour stars teed off for the second annual Ford Championship at Doral in Miami yesterday, Champ Car’s Pace Car Team joined the Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure Tour and a host of Ford NASCAR drivers to show PGA standout Phil Mickelson and a dozen other Tour professionals some high speed driving tips on the Homestead-Miami Speedway infield road course.

Ford, the official powerplant of the Champ Car World Series, sponsored the second-year event and offered PGA Tour stars a chance to take the driver’s seat with assistance from the Champ Car Pace Car team, along with Ford NASCAR pilots Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Elliot Sadler.

Allison Altzman, Linda Pobst, Gail Truess and Kelly Williams were all on hand to represent the Pace Car Team in Miami as Ford brought out an all-star lineup of performance cars highlighted by its 500-horsepower Ford GT supercar. The event may have provided one of the golfers with a glimpse of their future wheels, as the winner of the 2004 Ford Championship at Doral will receive one of the high-powered machines. The same Ford SVT Mustang Cobra and SVT Focus that are used at every Champ Car event were also on hand at the event, complementing a race-ready NASCAR Ford Taurus.

The Pace Car Team provided instruction for the golfers around the infield road course before taking them for a hot lap and then releasing them on their own. The friendly on-track competition culminated with an awards ceremony and reception with a trophy being given to Glen Day, the PGA Tour player with the fastest speed at 146 mph.

The Champ Car Pace Car Team is the only one of its kind in all of motorsports. A fleet of high-performance pace cars from Ford Motor Company are piloted by a team of professional women race car drivers, all of whom have earned recognition in various forms of motor racing. With 68 combined years of pace car experience woven throughout this nine-woman squad, their degrees in race car finesse are unparalleled.

3/5/04

Borkowski to drive for Miracle   Miracle Motorsports announced today, that veteran driver, Mike Borkowski (Scottsdale, AZ) will be joining forces with John Macaluso of Winter Haven, FL, as well as co-driver Ian James of Kissimmee, FL, for the 52nd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Mike brings extensive experience to the driving line-up for this event. Among his numerous accomplishments, he was Factory driver for both Brumos Porsche in 2003, as well as Oldsmobile Aurora GTRS-1 team in 1996. Mike has competed in various forms of racing ranging from Indy Lights with Rahal’s team in 1998, to the NASCAR Busch Series and Winston Cup testing in 1999-2000. In addition, Mike posses the 1997 Trans-Am Series Rookie of the Year award.

“I am excited to be joining both Ian James and John Macaluso for the 2004 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. I have known them both for years and truly feel like the three of us will have a solid shot at winning our class. I have to thank John for the opportunity to join his organization.” states Borkowski. “Ian is a great friend and an excellent driver. This will be my first opportunity to team with him and I am very confident we will do well together.”

“I am very excited to have Mike join our team. I am very confident in his ability, and look forward to a great race with the team we have assembled,” says John Macaluso, team owner/driver of the Miracle Motorsports/American Spirit Racing entry.

“Sebring is one of the premier Sportscar races in history. Every driver wants to win this one. I have dreamed of winning there since I was a kid. Maybe this will be the one,” stated Mike.

3/5/04

Briatore wants costs cut 50%   “The escalation of the price is completely crazy,” Flavio Briatore said in Melbourne, where the Australian Grand Prix weekend is underway. “I believe the team principals need to sit together and look at 2006, 2007 and 2008. If we are serious, we need to cut the costs dramatically…we need to cut 50 percent of what we spend and it is possible to do the same show. In 1994 we spent less than 50 percent of what we spend now and we had very good races.” Briatore agreed with Ecclestone: “With testing we spend money, when we are racing we make money because our business is racing. The more you test, the more you spend.”

3/5/04

Elliott in 91 in Vegas   Bill Elliott will make his first official Nextel Cup start of the season Sunday at Las Vegas. Elliott, who ran the non-points Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, will drive the No. 91 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports. The car is unique in that the chassis was built in-house by engineers from Ray Evernham's team and from Dodge Motorsports. The team hopes to have its regular drivers Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne in similar cars before the year's end. Elliott tested the new car earlier this year at Las Vegas. "We were pretty satisfied with how we came out," he said. "But we've got to get a dialogue with it and really understand it. "You can tell a difference between the Evernham chassis and what we were running. There are some things that are similar, but there's a lot that's different." Elliott hopes to make several more Cup races in his first season of semi-retirement, but so far there's no sponsorship in place for his car. "We have a couple of things in the works, but nothing is concrete yet," he said.

3/5/04

Key to the circuit handed over in Bahrain   The finishing touches to the home of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix reached a crucial stage today Friday, March 5th when main construction contractor Cebarco officially handed over the circuit keys to the US$150 million Bahrain International Circuit organisation ahead of schedule.

At the ceremony, the Chairman and CEO of the construction company Cebarco Mr Khalid M.A. Rahim presented Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa with a commemorative gold key in recognition of the historic event.

Accepting the key on behalf of the circuit Shaikh Mohammed said, "This is a momentous day for all of us involved in the construction of the Bahrain International Circuit. The past 16 months since the ground breaking ceremony have seen the realisation of a dream here in the desert at Sakhir. On behalf of His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa and everyone in Bahrain, I would like to congratulate the whole team that has worked so tirelessly to produce what is the most modern and technologically-advanced motor racing circuit in the world."

During the course of the construction period up to 3,000 engineers, designers and workers have focused their efforts on building the 5.441km track together with its impressive complex of buildings and grandstands. The desert circuit is unique in the world of Formula One and combines leading-edge technology with fine examples of Arabic architecture and iconic buildings such as the Sakhir Tower. In less than 30 days it will host the third round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the first time that a Formula One race has been held in the Middle East. when main construction contractor Cebarco officially handed over the circuit keys to the US$150 million Bahrain International Circuit organisation ahead of schedule.

During the course of the construction period up to 3,000 engineers, designers and workers have focused their efforts on building the 5.441km track together with its impressive complex of buildings and grandstands. The desert circuit is unique in the world of Formula One and combines leading-edge technology with fine examples of Arabic architecture and iconic buildings such as the Sakhir Tower. In less than 30 days it will host the third round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the first time that a Formula One race has been held in the Middle East.

3/5/04
Drifting

Bridgestone driver wins drifting race   Kei Office driver Yasuyuki Kazama picked up his first D1 Grand Prix victory on Feb. 28 during round one of the 2004 season, held in Irwindale, Calif. Sponsored at the event by Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT), Kazama won the 2004 D1 Grand Prix U.S.A. professional drift event in a 414-horsepower Nissan Silvia equipped with Bridgestone-brand Potenza® RE750 tires. This marks the second season that BFNT has sponsored Kazama for the Irwindale event. It is the only D1 event currently staged in the United States, with all other 2004 events taking place in Japan. The partnership with Kei Office will continue throughout the 2004 season through a sponsorship agreement between the team and Bridgestone Corporation in Japan. Drifting is a highly skilled motorsport in which drivers control a car using precise acceleration, steering and braking while it slides from side to side at high speeds on a closed, marked course. Participants are judged not only on the speed through which they navigate the course, but also on execution and style. Already a well-established motorsport in Japan, it took the U.S. sport compact world by storm at its debut at Irwindale Speedway in 2003. This year’s event attracted an estimated 10,000 spectators. Round two of the 2004 season will take place at Sugo Circuit in Japan on May 4-5. The Bridgestone Potenza RE750, with UNI-T® technology, is an ultra-high performance tire that has been engineered to complement the style and complex systems of today's finest performance cars. The Potenza RE750, with its unidirectional tread pattern, delivers rapid response, traction and outstanding wet and dry handling, taking performance straight to the top.

3/5/04

Some interesting F1 engine figures   This season’s engines are expected to be around 5-10% down on power, but they’ll still be under colossal pressure. Allianz calculates that they have to cope with an average of 2600 gear changes per race, as well as something like eight million ignitions per cylinder. Piston speeds reach 40 meters per second, the exhaust temperatures get up to 950 degrees Celsius, and each connecting rod has to cope with the equivalent of a three-ton load.

3/5/04

IRL is destroying the Indy 500  This table gives a complete history of the Indy 500 TV broadcasts since the USAC days in 1973. In 1979 CART was born and the 500 enjoyed excellent ratings until Tony George created the IRL in 1996.  Since then it's been all downhill for the once great America race.  Such is progress......Tell us one more time why we need the IRL?  Costs have risen, they are struggling to fill the 33-car field, just as many foreign drivers are in the field, attendance is down and the TV ratings are tanking.  Contrary to what the IRL propaganda machine would like us all to think, most long for the good old "CART" days at the 500.

3/5/04

Toyota struggles on first day   Toyota's preparations for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne were hampered by glitches with all three of its cars during Friday's practice sessions. Brazilian Cristiano da Matta finished 14th and 16th in the two sessions, suffered a couple of spins and failed to finish the second run thanks to a puncture in his rear-left tyre. He said: “In the first hour, the track didn't have much grip and we decided not to run much. In the second session, I experienced some brake problems. Not the best start to the weekend.” Meanwhile, fellow race driver Olivier Panis struggled with the set-up of his car and was held up by traffic during his quick laps on new tires, ending up 16th and 18th. “I had a difficult first day in Australia,” he said. “We were unable to complete many laps and I am not yet happy with the set-up.” Third driver Ricardo Zonta did manage to complete a back-to-back tire test for the team, giving them a clear idea of which rubber to choose for tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's race, but even Zonta's runs were not without their problems. Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne said: “Ricardo had a small electrical problem, which limited his running. Both race drivers had some little problems. Overall, the session panned out pretty much as expected and we got some good data.”  Autosport

3/5/04

Notes: Saturday Practice   Ferrari's rivals got a bit closer to the scarlet juggernaut during the two 45-minute practice sessions prior to the qualifying-sessions at Albert Park. Michael Schumacher is still on top, but his fellow F2004-steerer Rubens Barrichello was pipped to the line by a couple of BMW-Williams cars.

The FW26, however, still doesn't look great over the bumps.  'No, it's ok [in that area],' tester Marc Gene insisted.

Cristiano da Matta (12th) had another poor session in the Toyota as he was forced, again, to pull over on the circuit but it wasn't another tire failure.

ANGRY CHAMPION

Before the young Brazilian halted, however, he annoyed a gesticulating six-times world champion at Turn Three by not giving him enough space to overtake.  Technical chief Mike Gascoyne hinted at an electrical glitch and, after the TF104 was brought back to the pits, mechanics started work on the front-end.

Minardi racer Gianmaria Bruni returned to the pits with a huge plume of smoke pouring from his Cosworth V10, sparking concern about the 'one engine' rule.

Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren (9th) had a big moment at the very-quick Turn-12.

Most F1 analysts in pitlane were talking about the increasing amount of understeer that had crept-into the Melbourne street-circuit since Friday.  One mechanic said his F1 team was making half-millimeter adjustments to chassis ride-height in a bid to counter the problem.

Minardi chief Paul Stoddart, whose best car (Gimmi Bruni, 19) was more than 5-seconds off the pace, lamented that the gap has increased to the front-runners.  But he is impressed with the pace of his Bridgestone tires.  'Everyone thought Michelin would struggle but those red cars are still ahead,' said the Aussie, who denied that Ferrari ran light on Friday.  'No they're not light. I think everyone's just got to face up to the fact that their new car is just mega. And it's also Schumacher's pure driving ability.'

3/5/04

Notes: Australian Grand Prix   Jordan's third-driver Giorgio Pantano had a baptism of fire in Australia.  The young German had a suspected terminal gearbox problem on Friday but, even before that, he had earned the wrath of race and F1 team officials.  'He made a classic mistake,' said boss Eddie Jordan.  'He went two kilometres over the speed-limit in pitlane and was fined seriously. I'll say no more. You don't like that.'

Not only did Timo fail visibly in the afternoon, however, the Silverstone-based team revealed that his EJ14 wasn't working properly in the morning, either.  'Maybe it was the gearbox,' said Glock on Friday evening.

NOT ACCEPTABLE

Head of race and test engineering James Robinson was still evaluating the failure-cause when he spoke to the press but he said it was 'not acceptable.'  'It can't happen to lose valuable time like that in both sessions,' he said.

Michelin boss Pierre Dupasquier played-down suggestions on Friday that his French-tyred F1 teams like Renault and BMW-Williams are lagging behind Ferrari.  He said the day's fastest Michelin ace Jarno Trulli completed a long-run at the same time as Rubens Barrichello and there was barely a tenth between them.

Bridgestone counterpart Hisao Suganuma, however, was enthusing about new tire-specifications that lifted Michael Schumacher to no-less than two lap-records.  'We've improved handling at the front,' he said, 'and traction at the rear.'  Asked what the improvement is from last season, he quipped: 'About a second.'

3/5/04

Notes: Saturday at Albert Park   Cristiano da Matta is on 'Full Attack' for his second season in Formula One.  The Toyota driver, born in Brazil, has those words printed on his airbox-filler and his steering-wheel at this weekend's Australian Formula One Grand Prix.  'It just reminds me to keep going all the time,' he told us.

Melbourne's crowd on Thursday and Friday broke previous attendance records.  Official figures stood at 51,000 for Thursday, before a grand prix wheel had even turned, and then swelled to 80,000 as Ferrari went fastest on Friday.

EXPENSIVE STUFF

Michael Schumacher's new 'six times' cap will set you back $61 Aussie dollars.  It's just one item that can be purchased from the new 1000-square metre marquee at Albert Park in which all ten F1 teams are selling merchandise this year.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone helped open the 'superstore' and grand prix chairman Ron Walker said it would collect around $4 million this weekend alone. 'I think it is reasonable to hope we'll have it elsewhere too,' said Mr. E.

A few drops of rain began to fall here at the Australian Grand Prix circuit, just south of picturesque Melbourne, before official practice on Saturday.  But a weather source said the rest of the day will stay dry.  Cloud hangs over the track at lunch-time and it should rise to 26-degrees later today, and some are worrying that the rain could switch to Sunday's race-day.

3/5/04

Schumacher fastest again, Juan 2nd   Michael Schumacher again topped the time sheets in the final practice session at Albert Park before qualifying for the first Grand Prix of the 2004 Formula 1 World Championship.  The German lapped in 1m25.093s, slower than his lightning fast Friday time of 1m24.718s.  For the first time all weekend, it wasn't a Ferrari 1-2. Second fastest this time was the Williams-BMW of Juan Pablo Montoya, the Colombian stopping the clocks at 1m25.255s. His teammate Ralf Schumacher was third on 1m25.628s , the pair of them only completing nine laps each as they preserve their engines under the new rules.  Rubens Barrichello was fourth fastest with a 1m25.649, with Fernando Alonso fifth in the Renault, and Olivier Panis an impressive sixth in the Toyota.  With the general dismay at the speed of the Ferraris on the opening day of practice in Melbourne, in the final session before qualifying it was interesting to see the top 10 covered by just 1.1s.

Position Driver Team Fastest Lap
1 Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1m25.093s
2 Juan Pablo Montoya Williams 1m25.255s
3 Ralf Schumacher Williams 1m25.628s
4 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1m25.649s
5 Fernando Alonso Renault 1m25.908s
6 Olivier Panis Toyota 1m25.916s
7 Jarno Trulli Renault 1m25.927s
8 Mark Webber Jaguar 1m26.066s
9 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren 1m26.127s
10 David Coulthard McLaren 1m26.133s
11 Jenson Button BAR 1m26.403s
12 Cristiano da Matta Toyota 1m26.597s
13 Christian Klien Jaguar 1m27.088s
14 Felipe Massa Sauber 1m27.172s
15 Giancarlo Fisichella Sauber 1m27.195s
16 Takuma Sato BAR 1m27.592s
17 Nick Heidfeld Jordan 1m27.755s
18 Giorgio Pantano Jordan 1m28.825s
19 Gianmaria Bruni Minardi 1m30.496s
20 Zsolt Baumgartner Minardi 1m31.763s

3/5/04

Louie Unser dies  Louie Unser, who was chief mechanic on two of his brothers' cars when they made their debuts in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, died March 2 in Anaheim, Calif. He was 71. Unser was the twin brother of Jerry Unser, who in 1958 became the first Unser to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Louie was his chief mechanic and then in 1965 handled the same duties for Al, the youngest of the famed Unser brothers. Al Unser went on to the win the race four times.

"If it wasn't for Louie, I wouldn't have made it at the Speedway," Al Unser said. "He pushed me."  Bobby, the other Unser brother, won the Indianapolis 500 three times. Jerry Unser was fatally injured in a 1959 accident at the Speedway.

Louie Unser, born 10 minutes after Jerry on Nov. 15, 1932, in Colorado Springs, Colo., moved with the family to Albuquerque, N.M., when he was 4. In 1955, Jerry Unser Sr. took his sons back to Colorado Springs for the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb.  Louie was driving a tour bus up the mountain, but his father refused to allow him to race in the wheel tracks of his famous uncle of the same name. So Louie slipped into brother Bobby's Jaguar on race day and placed third overall.

But Louie had greater skills as a mechanic, so in 1956 he went to work for Bill Stroppe's factory team that was based next door to brother's Jerry's DePaolo Engineering USAC racing team. Both teams folded in 1957, when factories withdrew their support. So the brothers purchased the equipment and went racing together. Jerry earned the 1957 stock car championship and presented his diamond ring to Louie, who wore it the rest of his life. Louie also was named mechanic of the year that season.

Jerry and Louie showed up at Indy in 1958, and Jerry jumped from car to car until he qualified the McKay Spl. in 24th place. Jerry didn't complete a lap as he got tangled in an accident in the north chute on Turn 1.  From 1960-62, Louie worked with Stroppe, Carroll Shelby's AC Cobra team and others building engines in the shop, and changing tires and refueling cars in the races. He worked on a car in the four-month East Africa Safari in 1964 despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Still, Louie managed the strength to act as crew chief with Al Unser in 1965 at Indianapolis before retiring from trackside involvement. He started an engine-building business in Southern California, and his powerplants helped brother Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti to race to victories at Pikes Peak. He also built strong, winning engines for sprint cars, sports cars and racing boats.

By the 1970s, Louie was confined to a wheelchair, but he continued working until the 1990s. Louie and his wife, Laverne, participated in many MS-related fund-raising and research events over the years. He was inducted into the Orange County (Calif.) Hall of Fame in 1997. His final visit to the Indianapolis was for the 1999 Brickyard 400.  Survivors are his wife; a daughter, Lynn; brothers Bobby and Al; and three grandsons.  A memorial service will take place later this month. Cards of condolence may be mailed to Laverne Unser at 500 Meadowbrook Place, Anaheim, CA 92801.

3/5/04

Pace Car team plays golf   Before the PGA Tour stars teed off for the second annual Ford Championship at Doral in Miami yesterday, Champ Car’s Pace Car Team joined the Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure Tour and a host of Ford NASCAR drivers to show PGA standout Phil Mickelson and a dozen other Tour professionals some high speed driving tips on the Homestead-Miami Speedway infield road course.

Ford, the official powerplant of the Champ Car World Series, sponsored the second-year event and offered PGA Tour stars a chance to take the driver’s seat with assistance from the Champ Car Pace Car team, along with Ford NASCAR pilots Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Elliot Sadler.

Allison Altzman, Linda Pobst, Gail Truess and Kelly Williams were all on hand to represent the Pace Car Team in Miami as Ford brought out an all-star lineup of performance cars highlighted by its 500-horsepower Ford GT supercar. The event may have provided one of the golfers with a glimpse of their future wheels, as the winner of the 2004 Ford Championship at Doral will receive one of the high-powered machines. The same Ford SVT Mustang Cobra and SVT Focus that are used at every Champ Car event were also on hand at the event, complementing a race-ready NASCAR Ford Taurus.

The Pace Car Team provided instruction for the golfers around the infield road course before taking them for a hot lap and then releasing them on their own. The friendly on-track competition culminated with an awards ceremony and reception with a trophy being given to Glen Day, the PGA Tour player with the fastest speed at 146 mph.

The Champ Car Pace Car Team is the only one of its kind in all of motorsports. A fleet of high-performance pace cars from Ford Motor Company are piloted by a team of professional women race car drivers, all of whom have earned recognition in various forms of motor racing. With 68 combined years of pace car experience woven throughout this nine-woman squad, their degrees in race car finesse are unparalleled.

3/5/04

Borkowski to drive for Miracle   Miracle Motorsports announced today, that veteran driver, Mike Borkowski (Scottsdale, AZ) will be joining forces with John Macaluso of Winter Haven, FL, as well as co-driver Ian James of Kissimmee, FL, for the 52nd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Mike brings extensive experience to the driving line-up for this event. Among his numerous accomplishments, he was Factory driver for both Brumos Porsche in 2003, as well as Oldsmobile Aurora GTRS-1 team in 1996. Mike has competed in various forms of racing ranging from Indy Lights with Rahal’s team in 1998, to the NASCAR Busch Series and Winston Cup testing in 1999-2000. In addition, Mike posses the 1997 Trans-Am Series Rookie of the Year award.

“I am excited to be joining both Ian James and John Macaluso for the 2004 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. I have known them both for years and truly feel like the three of us will have a solid shot at winning our class. I have to thank John for the opportunity to join his organization.” states Borkowski. “Ian is a great friend and an excellent driver. This will be my first opportunity to team with him and I am very confident we will do well together.”

“I am very excited to have Mike join our team. I am very confident in his ability, and look forward to a great race with the team we have assembled,” says John Macaluso, team owner/driver of the Miracle Motorsports/American Spirit Racing entry.

“Sebring is one of the premier Sportscar races in history. Every driver wants to win this one. I have dreamed of winning there since I was a kid. Maybe this will be the one,” stated Mike.

3/5/04

Briatore wants costs cut 50%   “The escalation of the price is completely crazy,” Flavio Briatore said in Melbourne, where the Australian Grand Prix weekend is underway. “I believe the team principals need to sit together and look at 2006, 2007 and 2008. If we are serious, we need to cut the costs dramatically…we need to cut 50 percent of what we spend and it is possible to do the same show. In 1994 we spent less than 50 percent of what we spend now and we had very good races.” Briatore agreed with Ecclestone: “With testing we spend money, when we are racing we make money because our business is racing. The more you test, the more you spend.”

3/5/04

Elliott in 91 in Vegas   Bill Elliott will make his first official Nextel Cup start of the season Sunday at Las Vegas. Elliott, who ran the non-points Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, will drive the No. 91 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports. The car is unique in that the chassis was built in-house by engineers from Ray Evernham's team and from Dodge Motorsports. The team hopes to have its regular drivers Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne in similar cars before the year's end. Elliott tested the new car earlier this year at Las Vegas. "We were pretty satisfied with how we came out," he said. "But we've got to get a dialogue with it and really understand it. "You can tell a difference between the Evernham chassis and what we were running. There are some things that are similar, but there's a lot that's different." Elliott hopes to make several more Cup races in his first season of semi-retirement, but so far there's no sponsorship in place for his car. "We have a couple of things in the works, but nothing is concrete yet," he said.

3/5/04

Key to the circuit handed over in Bahrain   The finishing touches to the home of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix reached a crucial stage today Friday, March 5th when main construction contractor Cebarco officially handed over the circuit keys to the US$150 million Bahrain International Circuit organisation ahead of schedule.

At the ceremony, the Chairman and CEO of the construction company Cebarco Mr Khalid M.A. Rahim presented Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa with a commemorative gold key in recognition of the historic event.

Accepting the key on behalf of the circuit Shaikh Mohammed said, "This is a momentous day for all of us involved in the construction of the Bahrain International Circuit. The past 16 months since the ground breaking ceremony have seen the realisation of a dream here in the desert at Sakhir. On behalf of His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa and everyone in Bahrain, I would like to congratulate the whole team that has worked so tirelessly to produce what is the most modern and technologically-advanced motor racing circuit in the world."

During the course of the construction period up to 3,000 engineers, designers and workers have focused their efforts on building the 5.441km track together with its impressive complex of buildings and grandstands. The desert circuit is unique in the world of Formula One and combines leading-edge technology with fine examples of Arabic architecture and iconic buildings such as the Sakhir Tower. In less than 30 days it will host the third round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the first time that a Formula One race has been held in the Middle East. when main construction contractor Cebarco officially handed over the circuit keys to the US$150 million Bahrain International Circuit organisation ahead of schedule.

During the course of the construction period up to 3,000 engineers, designers and workers have focused their efforts on building the 5.441km track together with its impressive complex of buildings and grandstands. The desert circuit is unique in the world of Formula One and combines leading-edge technology with fine examples of Arabic architecture and iconic buildings such as the Sakhir Tower. In less than 30 days it will host the third round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the first time that a Formula One race has been held in the Middle East.

3/5/04
Drifting

Bridgestone driver wins drifting race   Kei Office driver Yasuyuki Kazama picked up his first D1 Grand Prix victory on Feb. 28 during round one of the 2004 season, held in Irwindale, Calif. Sponsored at the event by Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT), Kazama won the 2004 D1 Grand Prix U.S.A. professional drift event in a 414-horsepower Nissan Silvia equipped with Bridgestone-brand Potenza® RE750 tires. This marks the second season that BFNT has sponsored Kazama for the Irwindale event. It is the only D1 event currently staged in the United States, with all other 2004 events taking place in Japan. The partnership with Kei Office will continue throughout the 2004 season through a sponsorship agreement between the team and Bridgestone Corporation in Japan. Drifting is a highly skilled motorsport in which drivers control a car using precise acceleration, steering and braking while it slides from side to side at high speeds on a closed, marked course. Participants are judged not only on the speed through which they navigate the course, but also on execution and style. Already a well-established motorsport in Japan, it took the U.S. sport compact world by storm at its debut at Irwindale Speedway in 2003. This year’s event attracted an estimated 10,000 spectators. Round two of the 2004 season will take place at Sugo Circuit in Japan on May 4-5. The Bridgestone Potenza RE750, with UNI-T® technology, is an ultra-high performance tire that has been engineered to complement the style and complex systems of today's finest performance cars. The Potenza RE750, with its unidirectional tread pattern, delivers rapid response, traction and outstanding wet and dry handling, taking performance straight to the top.

3/5/04

Some interesting F1 engine figures   This season’s engines are expected to be around 5-10% down on power, but they’ll still be under colossal pressure. Allianz calculates that they have to cope with an average of 2600 gear changes per race, as well as something like eight million ignitions per cylinder. Piston speeds reach 40 meters per second, the exhaust temperatures get up to 950 degrees Celsius, and each connecting rod has to cope with the equivalent of a three-ton load.

3/5/04

IRL is destroying the Indy 500  This table gives a complete history of the Indy 500 TV broadcasts since the USAC days in 1973. In 1979 CART was born and the 500 enjoyed excellent ratings until Tony George created the IRL in 1996.  Since then it's been all downhill for the once great America race.  Such is progress......Tell us one more time why we need the IRL?  Costs have risen, they are struggling to fill the 33-car field, just as many foreign drivers are in the field, attendance is down and the TV ratings are tanking.  Contrary to what the IRL propaganda machine would like us all to think, most long for the good old "CART" days at the 500.

3/5/04

Toyota struggles on first day   Toyota's preparations for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne were hampered by glitches with all three of its cars during Friday's practice sessions. Brazilian Cristiano da Matta finished 14th and 16th in the two sessions, suffered a couple of spins and failed to finish the second run thanks to a puncture in his rear-left tyre. He said: “In the first hour, the track didn't have much grip and we decided not to run much. In the second session, I experienced some brake problems. Not the best start to the weekend.” Meanwhile, fellow race driver Olivier Panis struggled with the set-up of his car and was held up by traffic during his quick laps on new tires, ending up 16th and 18th. “I had a difficult first day in Australia,” he said. “We were unable to complete many laps and I am not yet happy with the set-up.” Third driver Ricardo Zonta did manage to complete a back-to-back tire test for the team, giving them a clear idea of which rubber to choose for tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's race, but even Zonta's runs were not without their problems. Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne said: “Ricardo had a small electrical problem, which limited his running. Both race drivers had some little problems. Overall, the session panned out pretty much as expected and we got some good data.”  Autosport

3/5/04

Centrix buys Denver race from Dover Motorsports   UPDATE This Denver Post article sheds a bit more light on this story. Interestingly, the race almost died.   3/4/04 - CENTRIX Financial, LLC (CENTRIX), a financial management and services firm, announced today that a wholly-owned subsidiary intends to enter into an agreement to acquire assets and rights to the Grand Prix of Denver from the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, Inc. (Grand Prix), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dover Motorsports, Inc. [NYSE: DVD]. CENTRIX’s subsidiary is currently conducting a due diligence process and will announce its final decision with regard to the acquisition of rights no later than March 12, 2004. Financial terms were not disclosed. As part of these discussions CENTRIX is also seeking to retain John Frew and his staff to continue the management the Grand Prix of Denver.

Open Wheel Racing Series, LLC (OWRS), owner of the Champ Car World Series, has consented to the assignment of OWRS’ Sanction Agreement with Grand Prix to the CENTRIX subsidiary. Subject to consent of the City of Denver, the CENTRIX subsidiary will also accept all rights contained in Grand Prix’s multiyear agreement with the City, which entitles Grand Prix to stage an annual auto racing event in and around Denver’s PepsiCenter. The CENTRIX subsidiary will also be assigned the rights to Grand Prix’s agreement with Kroenke Sports Enterprises, LLC (Kroenke), subject to Kronke’s approval.

CENTRIX Financial Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Robert E. Sutton said:  “Last year we clearly stated our commitment to the long-term presence and success of a motorsports event in the heart of Denver. The process that led to this point began the day after 2003’s event came to a close.  This is a positive step for the City of Denver. This helps to ensure that both the City’s reputation and its business community will continue to benefit from the attention and economic gain such a high-caliber event brings.   I am pleased that we are in a position to do this, and that this outstanding event will continue to be part of our company’s broad range of motorsports activities.”

OWRS Partner, Paul Gentilozzi said:  “Obviously, CENTRIX was an outstanding partner in making last year’s event a success. We are very pleased that Bob and his team will be playing an even greater role in the Grand Prix’s future. I cannot think of a better development for the event itself, the City of Denver, Champ Car and racing fans everywhere.”

In addition to serving as title sponsor of the 2003 CENTRIX Financial Grand Prix of Denver, CENTRIX sponsors the CENTRIX Financial Ultimate Baja Challenge at the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, sponsored multi-car Team CENTRIX in the 2002 and 2003 Baja 1000, sponsored Team USA Powered by CENTRIX Financial at the 2003 Michelin Race of Champions Nations Cup and has an agreement with Champ Car driver Michel Jourdain, Jr.

3/5/04

FIA rejects Leinders   Newly signed Minardi test driver Bas Leinders was forced to watch from the sidelines while his team-mates Gianmaria Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner put their PS04s through its paces at Albert Park on Friday morning. Although Minardi are allowed to run a third car during Fridays practice sessions at grand prix weekend's, Leinders was unable to take part after his request for a super license was rejected by the FIA. "Basically he didn't have the necessary mileage in Championships that the FIA recognizes," a Minardi spokesman told Reuters. Leinders will now return to Europe where he will complete necessary 300 km of testing needed for his super license.

3/5/04
ETCC

Zanardi aims for title   Alex Zanardi is returning to racing full time this season in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC).  In 2001, Zanardi lost both legs in a horrific crash during a CART series race in Germany.  ``I'm going to race the entire season,'' Zanardi said Thursday at the presentation for the season. ``I'm not scared, I'm excited. I'm not doing this for second place, I want to win.''  Zanardi will be taking part in the series for BMW's Italian team in a specially modified car that has its accelerator and clutch attached to the steering wheel.  The season begins March 28 in Monza and includes 10 races, nine of which are in Europe. The championship concludes in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Oct 8.

3/5/04

Expert predicts F1 to have good TV year   The new Formula One season gets underway in Australia this weekend – with one leading TV ratings expert predicting the sport is back on track.   After rule changes prior to last season, and a championship which went to the wire, TV figures showed encouraging signs of improvement in 2003.  Now the new season – with races in a number of new markets – seems set to see TV viewing figures soar again.  Jacques Braun, international director of Mediametrie, the company which produces Eurodata TV Worldwide, the international databank covering TV audiences across the world says,  “Courtesy of a new TV format and a number of new drivers coming through with the ability to beat Michael Schumacher, Formula 1 has started to once conquer its TV audience.”

With races in both Bahrain and China on the schedule for 2004, the new markets are likely to offer considerable new commercial opportunities, as well as increasing audience.  Last year saw TV figures in Italy, France, Finland and the UK all increase.   Said team principal Frank Williams: “The prospect of racing in China was attractive in itself, but this newly announced partnership will provide an extremely strong proposition for our sponsors who are looking for conduits into this marketplace, and as such, is very welcome."  CCTV is the official domestic broadcaster of Formula One to a population of 1.4 billion, with CCTV audience penetration amounting to over 90 percent of households.

3/5/04

Trans-Am testing gets underway  Testing got underway for the 2004 Motorock Trans-Am Series at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC yesterday, as top series driver Randy Ruhlman prepares to return for a full season in Trans-Am with the front running Derhaag Motorsports team. The team spent two full days testing in preparation for the April 18th Trans-Am season opener at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Randy Ruhlman will return to the series with the familiar #49 blue and white Chevrolet Corvette sponsored by Cleveland based Preformed Line Products. Ruhlman finished sixth in the series in 2003 with a podium at Trois Rivières. Derhaag Motorsports has developed the reputation of putting together fast, reliable cars that give their drivers every chance of winning. I saw that first hand last year," said Ruhlman. "I am excited once again to be part of this team and to be working with Jim and his crew in 2004. We are out here to win races and be on the podium each and every race. The fact that we have the same people working together again and that I have Mike Dreith back as my crew chief, I believe is the winning combination in Trans-Am this year. The car was great in testing here at Kershaw. We made a lot of progress on shocks and springs and I am really pleased with our development."

3/5/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

F1 Drivers Hit Melbourne Town
Schu Has Eye On Barrichello
Rain To Fall On Albert Park
Ecclestone Wants More F1 Races
Button Wriggles On F1 Future
Out And About In Melbourne Town
Notes: Friday Practice 1

JPM And McLaren No 'Heaven' Match
Shorts: Jordan Promotes Peace
Shorts: Fans Brought Closer To F1
Notes: Friday Practice 2
Shorts: Montoya Denies Gearbox Flaw 

Shorts: Melbourne To Fall-Off Schedule
It's Not Over Yet: Formula One Bosses
Shorts: 'Back To School' For Schu?
Shorts: You're Not Perfect, Jenson

3/5/04

Williams BMW announced Chinese TV deal   The BMW WilliamsF1 Team today confirmed a major marketing and promotional partnership agreement with the Shanghai International Circuit (SIC) and the region's leading television network, CCTV ahead of the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on September 26, 2004. The partnership agreement includes on-car branding benefits for SIC & CCTV which will be visible on the FW26 race cars from the start of the 2004 Formula One season, which commences this weekend in Australia. This highly visible presence for SIC/CCTV with one of the leading Formula One teams in the 2004 Championship will assist with the promotion of the first ever Grand Prix on Chinese soil. Aside from providing SIC & CCTV with a global medium to communicate and promote the first race, the agreement also provides the BMW WilliamsF1 Team with extensive promotional and media benefits and opportunities in the region, which are regarded as invaluable to Western companies looking to establish a toe-hold in such a key emerging market. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team was the first Formula One team to visit China in an official capacity following the formal confirmation of the Chinese Grand Prix, and a delegation from SIC was received by Frank Williams at the team's headquarters in summer 2003. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team Principal, Frank Williams, commented, "The prospect of racing in China was attractive in itself, but this newly announced partnership will provide an extremely strong proposition for our sponsors who are looking for conduits into this marketplace, and as such, is very welcome." Mr Mao Xiaohan, President of the Shanghai International Circuit Company confirmed this sentiment and reflected "This strategic alliance between Shanghai International Circuit and the BMW WilliamsF1 Team is excellent for Shanghai and of course the whole of China too. Bringing Formula One to Shanghai has opened the door for high profile companies like the BMW WilliamsF1 Team and this will benefit us as well as them." BMW Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen added "As a global player the BMW Group welcomes the worldwide expansion of Formula One. The Grand Prix of China will enable us to discover a new market for Formula One. Currently the country probably hosts the fastest growing economy of the world. BMW is very much looking forward do demonstrating it's technology performance in Shanghai." The construction of the 5.45km Shanghai circuit is well advanced, with essential groundworks complete after 2million m3 of rock and substrata moved to create the track's foundation. The 12,000 tonne steelwork structure for the enormous main building is also well underway, and when complete will provide extensive facilities including the press centre and restaurants, control rooms etc. The top floor of this building will have a completed floor area equivalent of four football pitches. Six lane service roads to and from the track are complete and the construction of distinctive lotus leaf shaped pavilion stands are underway. CCTV are the official domestic broadcasters of Formula One to a population of 1.4 billion, with CCTV audience penetration amounting to over 90% of households.

3/5/04

Ferrari draws first blood in Melbourne free practice   Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s 2004 campaign got off to a positive start this morning, with Michael Schumacher topping the time sheet at the end of the first one hour of free practice. The German lapped Albert Park in a time of 1.25.127. Rubens Barrichello was right behind him in 1.25.361. The Scuderia pairing was considerably quicker (by 1.898 seconds) than third placed Jarno Trulli in the Renault (1.27.025.) McLaren-Mercedes’ only representative in the top six was David Coulthard with a time of 1.27.264. Fernando Alonso ensured that Renault and Ferrari were the only teams to get both cars in the top six with a time of 1.27.359. Rounding off the top six was the BMW-Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya (1.27.462.) Schumacher and Barrichello worked on car set-up and initial investigation of the right tire choice. As expected, one result of the new one engine per driver per weekend rule was that all drivers did far fewer laps than in past years: Michael completed just four, while Rubens did 9. The fact that this track is only used once a year means that even less laps were completed as the surface is still 'green,' offering little grip and covered with a layer of dust. It is quite possible that all the drivers will do rather more laps in this afternoon’s second free practice session which gets underway at 14h00. Another 1-hour session follows.

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 25.127secs
2. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 25.361secs
3. Jarno Trulli Italy Renault-Renault 1min 27.025secs
4. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1min 27.264secs
5. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault 1min 27.359secs
6. Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW 1min 27.462secs
7. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW 1min 27.675secs
8. Jenson Button Britain BAR-Honda 1min 27.867secs
9. Anthony Davidson Britain BAR-Honda 1min 27.921secs
10. Mark Webber Australia Jaguar-Cosworth 1min 28.089secs
11. Ricardo Zonta Brazil Toyota-Toyota 1min 28.118secs
12. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 1min 28.233secs
13. Takuma Sato Japan BAR-Honda 1min 28.874secs
14. Olivier Panis France Toyota-Toyota 1min 28.955secs
15. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Sauber-Petronas 1min 29.120secs
16. Cristiano da Matta Brazil Toyota-Toyota 1min 29.169secs
17. Nick Heidfeld Germany Jordan-Ford 1min.29.826secs
18. Bjorn Wirdheim Sweden Jaguar-Cosworth 1min 30.033secs
19. Christian Klien Austria Jaguar-Cosworth 1min 30.046secs
20. Giorgio Pantano Italy Jordan-Ford 1min 30.100secs
21. Timo Glock Germany Jordan-Ford 1min 31.626secs
22. Zsolt Baumgartner Hungary Minardi-Cosworth 1min 32.886secs
23. Gianmaria Bruni Italy Minardi-Cosworth 1min 33.236secs
24. Felipe Massa Brazil Sauber-Petronas no time

3/4/04

NASCAR pouring it on to monopolize USA motorsports   With many of its Nextel Cup drivers already household names, Adweek Magazine reports NASCAR has initiated a $5-$10 million advertising campaign to make household names of its Busch and Craftsman series drivers. The initial TV spots produced by Charlotte agency Boone/Oakley aired in mid February.  As the recent Valvoline article asked, is the USA a NASCAR-only nation?  If not it may soon be.

3/4/04

Hornish bowls with the pros  Two-time IRL IndyCar® Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. rolled with a different group of competitors on March 3. Hornish, who bowls regularly with his friends in his hometown of Defiance, Ohio, participated in a Pro-Am event held in conjunction with the PBA Uniroyal Tire Classic in Indianapolis. "I like to think I'm better at racing than I am at bowling," Hornish said. "I'm not giving up my day job. I don't think I ever will." Hornish, who rolled games of 164, 171 and 203, said he got into the game after meeting with professional bowler Mike Aulby nearly three years ago. "Sam doesn't do anything just halfway," said Aulby, an Indianapolis native who was an honorary starter for Indianapolis 500 practice last May. "He wants to be good at whatever he does, and he's a real competitor. He's out there working at it. He takes instruction real well, obviously. He's a good guy."

3/4/04

Toyota Atlantic Series set for premiere   The teams and drivers of the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama will convene for the first time next week as the series is slated to participate in Champ Car "Season Premiere" activities in Long Beach on Monday, followed by on-track testing on Tuesday and Wednesday at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix. Media will get their first look at top contenders for the Toyota Atlantic title during a media luncheon at the Westin Long Beach on Monday at 12:15 p.m. Drivers scheduled to attend include 2003 championship runner-up Ryan Dalziel of Sierra Sierra Enterprises; 2002 Toyota Atlantic champion Jon Fogarty and his new Pacific Coast Motorsports teammate Alex Figge of nearby Santa Barbara, Calif.; Team Rahal drivers Danica Patrick and rookie Chris Festa; Transnet Racing driver Alex Garcia; and Lynx Racing pilot Bryan Sellers. Toyota Atlantic managing director Vicki O'Connor will also participate in the luncheon. The Toyota Atlantic participants will then make the short jaunt to Phoenix for a two-day test session on the 1.2-mile East course at Firebird. The test will provide the first opportunity for 2004 Toyota Atlantic participants to measure themselves against their competition as they begin to dial-in their cars in anticipation of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will kick off the 2004 Toyota Atlantic season on the weekend of April 16-18.

3/4/04

Max Lagod to campaign 2004 T/A series  Max Lagod confirmed he has re-skinned the No. 83 Chevrolet Camaro he drove in 2003 as a Chevrolet Corvette and plans to compete full time in this year’s Motorock Trans-Am Series season. Lagod will move up from the GT-1 ranks to run Trans-Am specs.

Lagod drove the same chassis part time last year under GT-1 rules. Lagod’s best 2003 finish of third came at Cleveland. Lagod’s car will continue to wear Hypermax Diesel Turbo Systems livery in 2004, but will sport a new, bright-yellow paint scheme.

Lagod has competed in the Trans-Am Series for 11 years, and last raced full time in 1997 and 1998. In all, Lagod has posted two podiums, six top fives and 24 top-ten finishes in 66 career starts.  “We finally used up all of our old bodywork,” quipped Lagod, whose father and crew chief, J.A. Lagod competed in Trans-Am from 1969-1972. “We’re switching to the SB2 engines this year for reliability. We had some bad luck last year. So, we are starting out fresh this season and are looking for good results.”

Lagod has been a fixture in the Trans-Am paddock since his first start in 1993 at Detroit. He has long been known as one of the few drivers to select hard-compound tires as they suit his hard-driving style.  "I like to be able to go out there and run hard,” said Lagod. “I don’t leave anything on the track.”  And Lagod will continue the family legacy this year: “I’ve always liked road racing, and Trans-Am is the way to go,” concluded Lagod.  The Motorock Trans-Am Series kicks off its 2004 season April 16-18 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in California.

3/4/04

Gordon to announce Indy/Charlotte double   Robby Gordon is scheduled to be Dave Despain's guest Monday on Wind Tunnel (10 p.m. ET), where he will detail his plans to run both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 30.

3/4/04

Dalziel focused on 2004 title   With the start of the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship a little over a month away, last year’s runner-up, Scotland’s Ryan Dalziel, is channeling all his energies into preparing an all-out attack on the title with Sierra Sierra Racing.

Next week Dalziel and Sierra Sierra Racing commence their pre-season test program following a brief shakedown of the team’s chassis last month. Before Ryan gets behind the wheel on Tuesday (9 March) he headlines the Toyota Atlantic driver representation at the OWRS Media Day on Monday (8 March) at the home of the series opener – Long Beach, California. The 21-year-old race ace will attend the Toyota Atlantic Media Lunch at the Westin Long Beach Hotel before flying to Firebird International Raceway for several days testing.

Commenting on the week ahead Dalziel enthused about his return with Sierra Sierra Racing:  “Our test at Firebird will be our first productive outing of the year as last time out it was really to shakedown the cars and blow some of the cobwebs off. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and working with the team to further improve our set-up and performance. There are a couple of new specifications we need to try and out and we’re now only allowed two sets of tires per day so we really have to extract the most from each session!  It goes without saying that we are looking to improve this season. Together with everyone on the team I have no other goal other than to win the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship. I believe we can carry the momentum from the end of last season and start this year well placed to fight for the title.”

3/4/04

Krauss moves to PK Racing   The likeable Kelby Krauss will be moving from CART's Communications Department to the Communications Department at PK Racing as that organization expands.

3/4/04

NASCAR IMAX film debuts  The new IMAX 3D film debuted in Hollywood last night.  It's officially called NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience. Look for it in an IMAX near you starting March 12th.

3/4/04
Industry News

Big brewery merger   I read this news item in the business section of the Courier - Journal newspaper this morning. Interbrew (Belgium) and AmBev (Brazil) announced a merger plan, to form the largest brewing company based on volume, as reported by Alan Glendenning of the Associated Press. The merger will also make them the second largest brewer in gross dollars generated, second to Anheuser-Busch. Interbrew markets 200 brands in 21 countries, and AmBev sells two-thirds of the beer in Brazil's 2.1 billion gallon market, plus AmBev has a newly expanded presence in the Caribbean. David Smith, Louisville, KY.  Dear David, We read that story two days ago.  It is pure speculation right now as to whether this means anything at all for racing. Interbrew owns Labatts, so it will be interesting to see if they decide to use racing in a big way as part of their marketing campaign. They are a big rival to Molson in Canada.  With Champ Car aligned closely with Molson it certainly would create a great rivalry like Lowe's vs. Home Depot in NASCAR, if Labatts entered the series in some capacity. You also have South African Breweries who might come into Champ Car if the race in Durban happens.  Mark C.

3/4/04

Call me ignorant  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I just read in your latest news that the IRL ratings are off by 50% for Homestead.   Please explain to me the logic of  companies such as : Marlboro, Target, Honda, Toyota, etc.   What do they get from their investment in IRL racing?   I also read that Marlboro bought 20,000 tickets and attendance was 32,000.  These ratings on TV and at the gate does not add up.  If I recall correctly Mr. George said about 2-3 years ago that the IRL was going to be bigger than Formula 1 and NASCAR or maybe I'm just quoting Mr. George about something he never said.  Call me "IGNORANT" but I would like to get to understand what investors get back from the IRL. Marta Campos, Los Angeles, California.  Dear Marta, Our contacts dispute that Marlboro gave away 20,000 tickets.  As for the low TV ratings, Tony George wanted his own series, now he has it.  As for the IRL being bigger than F1 and NASCAR, yes Tony George did indeed say that.  What can we say, he is entitled to dream.  As for what sponsors get back from the IRL - they are there for one thing, and one thing only - the Indy 500.  Mark C.

3/4/04

Big crowd for opening day in Melbourne   A crowd of 51,385 for the first day of the 2004 FAGP weekend was the best seen at Albert Park on day one since 1996 – the year the FIA Formula One World Championship first came to Victoria.  Also on the bill was the opening of a new merchandise outlet, the first F1 Superstore, at the heart of the circuit.  It was opened by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.  “Fantastic day, great crowd, great racing - and a giant new Superstore as well!” said a very happy Steven Wright, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.

3/4/04

Superfund reinvests in Minardi   Minardi Cosworth is very pleased to announce that the distinctive logo of valued commercial partner, Superfund, will once again be displayed prominently on the team’s cars in 2004. This marks the successful hedge fund management company’s third season of involvement with Minardi, clearly demonstrating its continuing belief in, and commitment to, the hard-trying Faenza squad.

Superfund’s bold “bull” will be even more visible on this season’s Minardi Cosworth PS04B than previously. It appears on the bargeboards, the leading edges of the sidepods and the engine cover, providing a visual indication that the Austrian-based company has stepped up its involvement with the team.

Sports sponsorship, and in particular, motor racing, continues to play an important role in Superfund’s marketing strategy, having clearly helped to establish the brand as a major player in the international investment market.

“It is both heartening and a source of pride for the team that, once again, one of its existing sponsors has elected to continue, and in fact enhance, its relationship with Minardi Cosworth,” says Team Principal, Paul Stoddart. “I sincerely want to thank Christian Baha, and everyone at Superfund, for their loyalty and for this vote of confidence in the team, at a time when we are trying hard to increase our overall competitiveness in what remains a very challenging commercial environment.”

Quadriga CEO, Christian Baha, comments, “Superfund’s involvement with the Minardi Cosworth Formula One team represents the top level of a ‘pyramid’ of motor racing involvement for our company, as we will again have a number of teams and drivers competing under the Superfund banner in 2004. This is a very deliberate strategy on our part, as we continue to feel strongly that motor racing reflects many of the challenges of the world of investing. As such, it provides an excellent way in which to promote the company and to generate awareness of its products. It is fair to say that we are very pleased with the results we have achieved in these areas over the last two years.

“On a personal level, we are proud to continue our association with Minardi, which is famous both for its fighting spirit and for its ability to discover and nurture young talent. These are both worthy attributes, and ones with which our company strongly identifies. Superfund is therefore very pleased to confirm its continuing support for the Minardi Cosworth team in 2004, and looks forward to a great season of racing.” Minardi

3/4/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Iceman Can Melt Schumacher
Minardi's Spare-Car Vacant In Oz?
On Your Bike, Mike
Storm Brews Over F1 Team 'Collusion'
Coulthard Eyes Toyota, BMW-Williams
Ferrari Eye Alonso
Mum And Dad Miss Mark
Walrus Made Montoya Gasp
Want To Feel F1's Rush?
Minardi Stand Firm On Threat 

Changes To F1 Rule-Book: Symonds
What Do F1 Drivers Do In Spare Time?
Ecclestone: New Rules Were 'Mistake'
Glock Nervous About F1 Debut

3/3/04
Industry News

A big mess in South Africa  This Grandprix.com article says that any hopes there might once have been of a government-funded Formula 1 race in South Africa have gone out of the window with the news that the legislature of the Free State has instructed its Public Accounts Committee to investigate into the loss of public money at the Phakisa Freeway Racing Circuit. Phakisa, located near the sleepy town of Welkom, was built in 1998 at a cost of around $14m. It was seen as a way to boost the tourist trade in the Goldfields area, which had suffered badly from cutbacks in the gold mining industry. The facility was designed with Formula 1 in mind and featured a 2.6-mile road course inside a 1.5-mile oval. It had the capacity to cater for only around 60,000 fans. The facility hosted a motorcycle Grand Prix in 1999 but each event cost more than it generated and the government began asking questions last summer, when it was announced that Phakisa had cost $72m but had raised only $7m. The organizers argued that most of the money spent on construction had gone into local companies and created jobs and that the racing had attracted 5000 foreign tourists to the region each year. An independent survey showed that the event injected $18m annually into the Free State economy. The organizers argued that the government recouped $7.5m in taxes from the first three events and that the notional value of exposure generated by the race was worth around $75m. The losses at Phakisa may not be over yet as the authorities are contracted to pay an additional $5.3m in licensing fees to Dorna Sports, the promoter of the MotoGP motorcycling series, for a race that is planned for next month. The government has refused to pay and at the moment Dorna is planning to run the event itself. This however will almost certainly be the last South African Grand Prix. Phakisa's chief executive Bobby Hartslief stepped down several weeks ago as the controversy intensified. He recently spent several hours being grilled by the Public Accounts Committee and resigned his position soon afterwards and returned to his home in Colorado Springs in the United States, where he has been living since 2000. Phakisa's defense is that the payments should have been authorized by a board of management appointed by the state government but no such body was ever appointed. The result of this is that all costs were unauthorized. The collapse of Phakisa does not come as a surprise to some in South Africa who warned about the scheme back in 1997 before construction began. Judge Mervyn King, then the chairman of the Automobile Association of South Africa, warned the state government that the track would lose $60m if it went ahead. The government thought otherwise and followed Hartslief's plan, paying to build, maintain and promote the track but allowing income from TV rights and from the gate to go to the promoters of the events. Hartslief, who was paid $80,000 a year as part of the deal with the Free State, told the committee that he did not believe that living in Colorado Springs had any impact on the efficiency of the company. It is not clear whether he will return to South Africa to answer further questions. While recriminations may continue for months ahead, the loss of taxpayers money is going to be a huge problem for the credibility of the motorsport community in South Africa.

3/3/04

Bracks named honorary chairpersons  1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack and his wife, Anita, have been named honorary chairpersons of this year's CARA Charities Indianapolis 500 Fashion Show on Friday, May 28, at the Indianapolis Westin Hotel.

Brack, 1998 Indy Racing League champion, is making an impressive recovery from serious injuries suffered in a crash during the IndyCar Series season finale last October at Texas Motor Speedway in a Team Rahal entry.

During his recovery and rehabilitation, Brack also is enjoying fatherhood. Anita Brack gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Karma, on Dec. 31.

"Anita and I are honored to be hosts for this year's Fashion Show," Brack said. "CARA has been very good to us, and we want to support their task. CARA promotes the family aspect of auto racing as well as raise funds for needy causes. That is something that is very important to Anita and me.

"Racing is a family sport, and we are pleased to be a part of it."

One of the most popular social events surrounding the world's largest auto racing event, the Indy 500 Fashion Show is named "Lights, Camera, Traction!" and will celebrate its 23rd edition with many of the Indianapolis 500 starting drivers and their families assisting in raising funds for local and national children's charities.

The annual fashion affair, featuring fashions provided by The Secret Ingredient, Day Furs and J.S. Marten Jewelers, will open with a social hour at 11 a.m., followed by a noon luncheon. The fashion show is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Tickets are now available, with individual tickets priced at $60 per person. For more information on tickets, corporate tables or event sponsorships, contact the CARA Charities headquarters at (317) 299-2277 or e-mail carachar@aol.com.

3/3/04

IRL TV rating off 50% for Homestead  Last weekend's Homestead race came in with a 0.9 TV rating (809,000 households) on ESPN, down 50% from last year's 1.8 rating on ABC.  Outside of the Indy 500, the IRL's first race of the year typically gets their highest rating.  However, a drop was expected because the race moved from network TV to cable.  What remains to be seen is whether the IRL's ratings will continue to spiral downward out of control for the remainder of the season or, after two years of decline, make a turnaround.

3/3/04

Diaz confirms 2-car assault   2003 Motorock Trans-Am Series Rookie of the Year Jorge Diaz, Jr. confirmed plans to compete in the 2004 Trans-Am Series as part of a two-car effort with rookie teammate Felix Serralles. The Puerto Rican driving duo will compete in Jaguar XKRs backed by Don Q Rum. Diaz will drive the No. 8 car, while Serralles will wheel the No. 88 mount. Diaz competed with a single-car team last year.

Diaz set the standard in 2003 for future rookies, finishing on the podium twice—at Lime Rock and at Cleveland—and earning nine top-ten and four top-five finishes in 11 starts. Diaz finished fourth in points.

“We are going for the championship this year,” said Diaz. “We have a two-car team and we’re hoping that will work in our favor. Last year, we were gunning strictly for Rookie of the Year. We ran well-paced, conservative races. This year, we’re going to risk a little bit more and plan to be right there in the end.

“We’ve taken a lot of time to organize our team in the off season,” added Diaz. “We have been working with suspension, braking and all of the rest of the data to gain a greater edge.”

Serralles finished sixth in his Trans-Am debut, last season, at the Puerto Rico Grand Prix finale. He is looking forward to his first full Trans-Am season and is hungry for the Rookie of the Year title.

“I’m really looking forward to racing in Trans-Am with such a high-quality team and a great teammate,” said Serralles. “I can’t wait for season to start at Long Beach. Winning the Rookie of the Year Championship would be really great this year. But I just hope to do well and finish in the top ten in or even the top five in points.

“I love to drive,” added Serralles. “I believe in my team and I think we’re going to do well.”

The team will be run out an Orlando, Fla. shop. Serralles’ car will utilize a Huffaker chassis and engine. Diaz’s car is the former Rocketsports Jaguar XKR driven by 2003 Drivers’ Champion Scott Pruett to seven victories early last season. Diaz purchased that mount prior to the final two races of the 2003 season.

3/3/04

Jim McGee returns to Newman/Haas   Jim McGee, widely recognized as one of the most successful team managers or chief mechanics in Champ or Indy car history, has returned to Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) as the director of special operations. McGee served as team manager for NHR in 1993 and 1994 while Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell drove for the team and Mansell won the series championship (1993).

"Motor racing is changing, and we need to make the best of the new opportunities being presented to us," said Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing with Paul Newman. "Jim McGee will add to our ability to maximize these opportunities."

Most recently McGee served as general manager for Patrick Racing since 1995. With 45 years of experience in the racing industry, McGee has amassed the most victories by a Manager/Chief Mechanic with 90. His record also includes four Indianapolis 500 titles and nine series championships - including one of NHR's four to date (Mansell '93).

"For me, this is like coming home," said McGee. "The years I spent with Newman/Haas Racing were two of the best, most enjoyable years I have had as a team manager in racing. We had a lot of success and fun along the way. Carl Haas and Paul Newman are probably the best car owners that I have been associated with over all of my years in racing and many of the people I respect and enjoy working with are at Newman/Haas Racing. I feel that Carl has always been able to pick the best drivers in the business and to me that was a real factor in my decision. Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais are top caliber drivers and it's with great pleasure that I'm returning to the team. I look forward to many years of success here."

3/3/04

AMD extends Ferrari relationship   In 2003 Ferrari entered the record books once again with its fifth consecutive Constructor’s Championship, while legendary Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher made history by winning his sixth Driver’s World Championship. Ferrari looks to continue their dominance in 2004 with expanded use of AMD products, including solutions based on AMD64 technology.

"What we love about AMD is that they, like Ferrari, have a passion for performance, an aggressive spirit of competitiveness and a determined commitment to be the best," said six-time defending World Champion Michael Schumacher. "AMD64 technology is a testament to those qualities, and it's AMD64 technology that helps to give Ferrari its competitive edge."

AMD64 technology improves performance for many applications by evolving industry-standard technology from a 32- to a 64-bit architecture. 64-bit computing allows operating systems and software to process more data and access a tremendous amount of memory. AMD64 is an industry-standard approach to 64-bit technology that combines innovation, simplicity, and foresight to deliver the next generation of performance today.

“Trust, hard work, innovation, reliability and a constant desire to be the best are the key elements of a successful Formula One team, and this perfectly mirrors our philosophy at AMD,” said Henri Richard, senior vice president, world-wide sales and marketing at AMD. “As the official technology partner, AMD is pleased to supply the high-performance computing solutions that help Ferrari win. We look forward to working with Ferrari in making 2004 another record-breaking year."

The driving force behind the success of this technical partnership lies with the implementation of AMD’s cutting-edge technology. AMD supplies Ferrari with powerful and reliable mobile PC systems and workstations based on the AMD Opteron™, AMD Athlon™ 64, mobile AMD Athlon 64, and AMD Athlon 64 FX processors for faster real-time performance diagnostics, fluid dynamics simulations, and telemetry applications.

The AMD logo will maintain its familiar place on the tail fin of the Ferrari cars, as well as on the clothing of two IT specialists, steering wheels, driver overalls, pit wall, and within the telemetry computer area.

3/3/04

Budweiser extends Williams relationship   The BMW WilliamsF1 Team today confirmed that after a successful debut season, team sponsor Budweiser has extended its commercial relationship for the forthcoming season, and the "Bud King of Beers" identity will be more extensively visible on team assets. The Budweiser identity will appear not only on the airbox of the FW26, but also on the monocoque tops and on the driver gloves of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. Budweiser joined the team sponsor community at the British Grand Prix in July 2003. Tony Ponturo vice president, global media and sports marketing, Anheuser- Busch, Inc., reflected, "Our first season in Formula One has been a great experience, and the BMW WilliamsF1 Team continues to be a valuable partner for Budweiser. The brand's increased visibility on the cars and driver's gloves will reach even more adult beer drinkers this season through Formula One's worldwide viewing audience of more than 350 million." Frank Williams, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team Principal said, "I am truly delighted that such a ubiquitous and global brand will be gracing the team with an extended partnership agreement. The Budweiser brand is consistent with some of the world's greatest sporting events and teams, and it is a great privilege for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team to carry its identity." Budweiser is also making extensive use of its sponsorship with the announcement of the 25 winners of the "True Racing" promotion in March. Winners will be invited to contest a simulator race off in the WilliamsF1 Conference Centre to compete for 25 trips of a lifetime to international Grands Prix in Australia, Malaysia, China, Japan, the US, Spain, Italy, Monaco & the UK.

3/3/04

Champ Car Season Premiere to feature Fan Fest   The fans of the Champ Car World Series that continue to flock to the race course in record numbers will get their first chance to see the cars and stars of the 2004 series at next week’s Champ Car Season Premiere in Long Beach, California. 

The season premiere event begins on Monday, March 8 and will feature two days of press conferences where teams, sponsors and drivers will unveil their 2004 plans to the media. The media may get first crack at the stars of the series, but the two-day event will wrap up with a tribute to the Champ Car fans. 

“Our fans are always incredibly supportive of our series and we want to give them a chance to get a little closer to our teams and drivers,” said Champ Car President Dick Eidswick. “We are also very excited about doing this in Long Beach, where we will kick off the 2004 Champ Car season on April 18 with the 30th anniversary of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which has long been one of our marquee events.” 

The fan gala will take place in the arena of the Long Beach Convention Center from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9. The festivities will include a chance to meet and greet the drivers of the series, along with a chance to see some of the cars that will do battle along the 2004 campaign. Series partners Bridgestone, Ford and Cosworth will be on hand with displays as well, as will the Toyota Atlantic Championship and Motorock Trans-Am Series. 

“We're delighted that Champ Car chose Long Beach as the site for its Season Premiere," said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. "This will be a great opportunity for all our fans to get a close-up look at many of the exciting things that Champ Car has to offer in 2004.” 
Giveaways and autograph sessions as well as interactive displays will be available. Engineers from the teams and manufacturers of the series will be on hand to educate the fans while drivers will also participate in interview sessions throughout the event. There will also be a pit stop demonstration from 5:00-5:30 outside the arena where fans can get a first-hand look at the action.

3/3/04

Bernie:  More races (20), less testing   According to this week's Autosport Magazine,  Bernie Ecclestone has stepped up the pressure for the series to adopt a 20-race calendar in the next few years, despite some current resistance from teams.   Ecclestone’s plan requires intensive talks this year to expand the calendar beyond the maximum 17 laid down in the Concorde Agreement (which governs F1) and depends on reductions in testing.

“I hope we can have 20 races,” said Ecclestone. “If the teams stop testing, which costs them money, and do more races, which they get paid for, then there is no reason why we cannot have 20.”

New events in Bahrain and China have been added to this season’s 18-event calendar, while it is almost certain that Turkey will host its first race next season, possibly at the expense of the San Marino Grand Prix.   Ecclestone has made no secret of the fact that he wants India on the calendar by 2007, while South Korea has already signed a preliminary agreement for 2009.

The proposal has been given a cautious welcome by Renault F1 chairman Patrick Faure, who said: “We have a moderate stance. It is better to do races than tests.  “I would prefer to run 20 races and 20 days of testing over 18 races and 50 days of testing.”

3/3/04

Testing at Atlanta  In a day full of testing for the March 12-14 Golden Corral 500 weekend, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup rookie #10-Scott Riggs led the speed chart Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ten drivers from the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series tested Tuesday in preparation for the upcoming race weekend at NASCAR ’s fastest track. Driving the #10-Valvoline Chevrolet, Riggs was caught on the unofficial stopwatches at an average speed of 185.915 mph (29.82 seconds) around the 1.54-mile superspeedway. Just behind Riggs on the speed chart was fellow Raybestos Rookie Of The Year candidate #9-Kasey Kahne at 29.85 (185.728). Rounding out the top five were #99-Jeff Burton and #22-Scott Wimmer, both clocking a lap of 29.91 seconds (185.356 mph), and #30-Johnny Sauter at 30.18 seconds (183.698 mph). Most drivers said they used Tuesday’s test to get comfortable with the new tire and spoiler rules. Testing is expected to continue at AMS Wednesday. Test sessions are open to the media and closed to the public.
Unofficial Speeds:
Car#-Driver,Speed

#10-Scott Riggs, 185.915
#9-Kasey Kahne, 185.728
#99-Jeff Burton, 185.356
#22-Scott Wimmer, 185.356
#30-Johnny Sauter, 183.698
#01-Joe Nemechek, 182.368
#23-Dave Blaney, 182.910
#77-Brendan Gaughan, 181.473
#40-Sterling Marlin, 180.351
#5-Terry Labonte, 179.012. AMS PR

3/3/04

McLaren ready for new season    As the FIA Formula One World Championship gears up for another exciting season, which will see revised technical and sporting regulations and inaugural events in Bahrain and China, the West McLaren Mercedes team arrives in Melbourne for the first race of the year, the 2004 Australian Grand Prix.  The event marks the start of David Coulthard's ninth and Kimi Raikkonen's third seasons with the team, the 150th Grand Prix of the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz relationship, which is entering its tenth season, and sees the race debut of the new West McLaren Mercedes MP4-19 car.  More.....

3/3/04

Seen at Homestead - III  Seen at the IRL Homestead race Sunday morning dining in the Marlboro hospitality area were the leaders of The Oval Track Cartel Roger Penske, Bill France Jr., Jim France and Tony George.  We would venture to say the conversations centered around the cartel's next strategic moves.

3/3/04

Off-track activities in Melbourne for Jordan    Giorgio Pantano's first media duty at a grand prix brought out the animal in him, when he visited Melbourne Zoo on Monday. It was an all-Italian affair as the Jordan rookie teamed up with Minardi new-boy, Gianmaria Bruni for a photocall. Stroking Koala Bears and feeding Kangaroos was the order of the day, as Pantano adapted to the sometimes strange demands made on a Formula 1 driver's time. (Nick Heidfeld with Giorgio Pantano and members of the Melbourne Giants basketball team. Photo by Jordan Grand Prix.)

Appointment number two for Pantano involved teaming up with Nick Heidfeld for a spot of basketball. The two Jordan men were the guests of top local team, the Melbourne Liberty Giants and indulged in a spot of hoop play. It was not exactly an even contest as the two appropriately named Giants were 7 foot and 6 foot nine tall respectively, giving them a slight advantage over the two Jordan boys who both stand up at 5 foot 5.

Nick actually turned out to be something of a natural at the game, admitting that he actually likes it and has played in the past. He caught out the opposition a few times by scuttling between their legs, but he didn't turn down the offer of help when one of the Giants lifted him off the ground to improve his slam dunking technique. They also brought out a ladder to make life easier for Giorgio.

Third driver Timo Glock joined the two race drivers for a pre-GP beach trip when they visited the global headquarters of new team partner, Quiksilver. Located in Torquay, about a hundred kilometers south of Melbourne, the company is based at the start of on the scenic Great Ocean Road, near Bells Beach, the birthplace of surfing back in the Fifties.

All three drivers were given some rudimentary instruction from an archetypal surfing dude, before paddling out to catch a few waves. Not surprisingly, considering their talent at the wheel, they all proved to have a great sense of balance. "I really enjoyed myself," said Heidfeld. "It was my first time surfing, but it definitely won't be my last." He obviously meant it, as he "accidently" forgot to give his wetsuit back at the end of the day!

3/3/04

SunTrust returns as race sponsor  SunTrust returns as sponsor of Richmond race: SunTrust will return as title sponsor of the IndyCar Series' visit to Richmond International Raceway.

"Each year, the IRL IndyCar Series and the SunTrust Indy Challenge continue to grow," said Doug Fritz, president of Richmond International Raceway. "For the fourth consecutive year, we are proud to have SunTrust sponsor the race and we look forward to another exciting, first class event."

SunTrust has served as sponsor of the June night race since its inception in 2001. The race is the only IndyCar Series event held on a track that is less than 1-mile in length. The fourth SunTrust Indy Challenge will be held June 26.

"SunTrust Mid-Atlantic is committed to supporting the communities and the public we serve through the sponsorship of entertainment, educational and cultural events," said Michael Newbrand, Director of Marketing for SunTrust Mid-Atlantic. "We are pleased that we are able to partner with Richmond International Raceway to bring Indy racing to the Mid-Atlantic region with the SunTrust Indy Challenge. With our renewal for a fourth consecutive SunTrust Indy Challenge in 2004, SunTrust looks forward to providing our customers and all fans the best experience yet."

3/3/04

Montoya: Reliability key to championship    Speaking just days before the start of the 2004 season, the Williams driver has predicted a strong showing from rivals Ferrari due to their superb reliability record – the Prancing Horse have not had an engine failure since Indy 2001.

He told Reuters: "I think that Ferrari are going to be strong again, like every year. Their reliability has always been very impressive, especially Michael's car, and I think that they will be as reliable as us.  Our car is a big step forward from last year," he added. "I think that if they are quicker than us in the first race it doesn't mean they are going to win the Championship. I think if we win the first race it doesn't mean that's it.  It's a long season, we have two more races than before and consistency in scoring points is going to be one of the keys."  But Montoya was philosophical when speaking about his championship challenge last year when he finished third behind Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.  He said: "When it's your time, it's your time and it wasn't meant to be.”

3/3/04

Minardi announces Wilux as primary sponsor    Minardi Cosworth is today delighted to confirm that Wilux Benelux has become title sponsor, with the Faenza-based team to be known officially as Wilux Minardi Cosworth during the 2004 Formula One season. Wilux manufactures shower cubicles and baths for the medium- and top-class segments of the market, and is headquartered in the Netherlands, with design facilities in Italy.  Photos

The company first tasted the benefits of involvement with Formula One last season as a commercial partner of Minardi. An increase in Wilux sales of 40 per cent in 2003, however, and a measurable improvement in brand recognition registered during the same period, prompted Wilux Managing Director, Ruud Wildschut, to shift up a gear in terms of his company’s F1 involvement for 2004.

“Sponsorship activities are nothing new for Wilux, as the company has been involved with motorcycle racing and Dutch Premier League football in recent years,” observes Mr Wildschut. “Significantly, however, last year’s co-operation with Minardi marked the first occasion that our company had been involved at the highest level of sports sponsorship – Formula One – and the results have been truly amazing. It is impossible to ignore the increased sales of Wilux products during the relatively short time we have been involved with Minardi, or the huge levels of goodwill that have very clearly been generated with our customers as a direct result of this sponsorship.

“Therefore, this increase in our commercial co-operation is a further logical step in the development of our relationship with Minardi. Having observed the team members at work first-hand, I can confirm that we believe 100 per cent in their capabilities and potential, and are pleased to continue to support them in their efforts.”

3/3/04

Another CART Champ Car driver to F1, Monteiro signs with Minardi   Yet another CART Champ Car driver has made it to F1.  The Minardi Cosworth Team is today pleased to announce it has signed Tiago Monteiro as an official test driver for the 2004 season. As such, the 27-year-old, from Portugal, will assist the team with its test and development program in the course of the year, “dovetailing” these commitments with a full season competing in the Super Fund World Series, where he will be driving for the highly regarded Carlin Motorsport organization. He will not take part in Friday test sessions during Formula One weekends.  Photos

Monteiro has certainly not trodden an “accepted” route to the top levels of motor racing, having started his career in 1997, in the French Porsche Carrera Cup, after being inspired by his father, who was also a competitor in the series. Since then, Monteiro has raced successfully in a wide variety of categories, including the French F3 Championship, French GT Championship, Andros Trophy (ice racing), and FIA International F3000 Championship, while also competing in a number of significant one-off events, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Macau Grand Prix, Korea Super Prix and Marlboro Masters. In 2003, he joined Fittipaldi Dingman Racing for a season in the hard-fought Champ Car World Series, once again proving himself to be both versatile and highly competitive, having achieving a Pole Position in Mexico City and having leading the St. Petersburg and Mid-Ohio races.

“We're very pleased to have signed Tiago as a test driver,” says Minardi Cosworth Team Principal, Paul Stoddart. “It is precisely because of his extensive motor racing experience, and his obvious adaptability to widely differing types of machinery, that we felt he could be of real assistance to us in developing the Minardi Cosworth PS04B this year. The new car has shown distinct promise in pre-season testing, but we are very aware that nothing in F1 stands still – we need to have a solid test program in place in order to work on steadily improving the new chassis. We believe that Tiago, and fellow tester, Bas Leinders, will be able to help us achieve our goals in this area.”

“I am truly pleased for having been chosen as an Official F1 Test Driver for Minardi, which will give me the opportunity to participate in the development of the new car. I will certainly take the most out of this opportunity, evolving the car and, as a driver being a close observer of Formula 1 cutting edge technology, during the 2004 season. I consider this occasion to be of paramount importance for me and for Portugal, which has once again a foot in the F1 world”, explained Tiago Monteiro. “Along with the F1, being able to participate in the World Series by Nissan, in such a renowned Team as Carlin, is a great honor for me. I have the opportunity to come back to Europe and join a Team that will be fighting for a top spot. I want to thank Paul Stoddart (Minardi) and Trevor Carlin (Carlin Motorsport) for this opportunity, and also my partners Santogal, Brose, Iberotel, Cheers, Brisa and Elf for their support.”

3/3/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Coulthard As Comedian On 'Rove'
Webber Pulls Doughnuts
Best Drivers Not In Formula One
Lauda Predicts Winners And Losers
Around And About In Melbourne

Lauda: Last Year's Jaguar Was Mine
How Badly Does Williams Want Button?
F1 Rookies Gear-Up For Melbourne
DC Surprised At McLaren Dump
BMW-Williams Unlikely To Set Pace 

Schu Writes-Off McLaren
Coulthard Attacks Rule-Changes
Jaguar Knows What It's Doing: Webber
Mosley, Senna, Made F1 Safer
Montoya Has Lost His Rag

3/2/04

'My little sister can do it'  Arie Luyendyk Jr. didn't say exactly that but he might as well have according to his following quote to the Miami Herald "...it's way easy to go flat out now" when asked about the new banking at Homestead.  [Editor's Note:  Way easy to go flat?  We have criticized the IRL for easy flat cars in the past.  If they are now "way easy" flat they should pull the plug on the Infiniti Pro Series now.  The series lacks many cars and if it does not challenge the drivers like a development series is supposed to, and teach them how to be better drivers, pull the plug and put it out of its misery.  Is the oval track cartel's idea of racing a sport, or a PT Barnum circus "show?"  Racing is supposed to be a sport where the skill of the athlete, you know, the driver (remember him?), shines through.  The day, which may already be upon us in America, that the show is all that matters, is the day racing ceases to exist as a sport.  Perhaps the event reports (can't call them "race" reports anymore), should appear in the business section right alongside sponsor and stock news.  Thank heaven OWRS saved Champ Car Racing and its support series ladder structure, for it represents the only open wheel racing series in America that is still a sport, where driver talent is a very important part of the winning equation.]  Mark C.

3/2/04

Chevy to sponsor Petit LeMans  Road Atlanta and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) announced today that Chevrolet Motor Division, with the support of the Atlanta-area Chevrolet Dealers, has signed a multi-year agreement to become the title sponsor of Petit Le Mans, the famous 1,000-mile endurance racing event. The title sponsored event, “Chevy presents Petit Le Mans,” is a long-distance ALMS sports car race held annually at Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA. For 2004, “Chevy presents Petit Le Mans” will run on an earlier date, Saturday, September 25.

The new agreement with Road Atlanta extends Chevrolet’s exclusive Official Car status and adds Official Truck as well as title sponsor rights for “Chevy presents Petit Le Mans.” Chevrolet’s sponsorship of Road Atlanta will be visible to ALMS fans through signage, interactive display properties, Pace Cars and safety vehicles as well as significant consumer promotions in the Atlanta market through the Atlanta-area Chevy Dealers. Current plans include for Chevrolet to pace the famous event with the all new 2004 SSR which is prominently featured in the new American Revolution advertising campaign.

“Chevrolet’s sponsorship of Road Atlanta is a logical extension of our motorsports marketing strategy and will provide an opportunity for the Atlanta-area Chevy Dealers to better leverage Corvette Racing’s on-track success towards the sale of new Chevrolet cars and trucks,” said Gary Claudio, group marketing manager for GM Racing. “Chevrolet and GM Racing look to build mutually beneficial relationships with world class events and facilities that allow us and the Chevy dealers to provide unique and exciting experiences for Chevy owners and our target customers. Based on the past success of this relationship, we are confident that Road Atlanta will continue to deliver positive results for Chevrolet.”

In addition to its sponsorship of Road Atlanta, Chevrolet and GM Racing field the two-car Compuware Corvette C5-R team which has won the GTS class Manufacturers’ and Team championships in the ALMS for the past three seasons and two straight Drivers’ titles.

"We are delighted that Chevrolet has expanded its relationship with Road Atlanta and become the title sponsor of our premiere event,” said Mike Swaine, president and general manager of Road Atlanta. “Chevy presents Petit Le Mans occupies a special place on the international motorsports calendar, and with the support of Chevrolet and the Atlanta-area Chevy Dealers, the event will only become more important and exciting for the ALMS and our fans.”

3/2/04

New Champ Car TV partners to be announced March 9th  At a 2:30 PM PST press conference in Long Beach on March 9th, OWRS will announce their new TV partners for 2004, rumored to be SPIKE TV and HD Net.

3/2/04

Papis and Magnussen fined  Grand American Road Racing Association has fined Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype drivers Max Papis and Jan Magnussen $5,100 each for "unacceptable driving tactics" following a review of the final stages of last Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In addition to the fines, each driver will also be required this year to spend a day of community service at one of the U.S.-based Hole in the Wall Camps, the world's only network of camps for children with life-threatening illnesses founded by actor and racer Paul Newman in 1988. The $10,200 in total driver fines will be paid directly to Camp Boggy Creek, Newman's Florida camp, to fund six campers for the 2004 summer sessions. Battling for the lead with less than 10 laps to go in Miami, Papis, driving the CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing No. 01 Lexus Riley XI, and Magnussen, behind the wheel of the Doran-Lista Racing No. 27 Lexus Doran JE4, made repeated contact for nearly an entire lap around the 2.3-mile road course. The door-to-door banging ended with both drivers spinning off course in turn one just after completing lap 101 of the 109 lap race. Magnussen was eliminated on the spot while Papis nursed his damaged Daytona Prototype to a seventh-place finish. The race was won by Andy Wallace and Milka Duno, who co-drove the No. 2 CITGO Pontiac Crawford to the first Rolex Sports Car Series win for Howard-Boss Motorsports. Papis and Magnussen met with Grand American officials immediately following the race and were advised then of the pending review and penalties.

3/2/04
Industry News

California Speedway to get SAFER Barrier   California Speedway is joining the list of motorsports facilities adding the SAFER walls to its safety features. Speedway president Bill Miller announced Monday that installation of the barriers will begin in early April, following the AMA Yamaha Superbike Challenge. The process is expected to be completed in time for the 2-mile oval's first NASCAR weekend April 30-May 2. "We all know that safety is paramount in our sport," Miller said in a press release, "and this is another positive step going forward. We applaud all those involved in constructing this system and its installation at California Speedway." The speedway will have three sets of barriers installed. One will start at the entrance to Turn 1 and continue through the exit of Turn 2 on the outer wall of the track. The second, also on the outer wall, will extend from the entrance of Turn 3 through the exit of Turn 4. The third set will be on the inside retaining wall from the exit of Turn 2 to a point approximately two-thirds the length of the back straightaway.

3/2/04

Best drivers not in F1   This The Australian article says, Rising star Fernando Alonso yesterday exploded the belief that Formula One has the best drivers in the world, saying he came across better racers in go-karts.  The Spaniard, who ignited interest in F1 in his homeland with a brilliant season with the fast-improving Renault team last year, said making it to the top level had more to do with luck than skill.

"I raced in go-karts with maybe 15 to 20 better drivers than we have now in Formula One, and they are not here (in F1) because they didn't have the luck," Alonso said in Melbourne, where he is preparing for Sunday's grand prix.

The 22-year-old is rated alongside McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya, NSW's Mark Webber and Briton Jenson Button as F1's new generation.  They are expected to fill the void when Michael Schumacher does retire.   "I don't think we are the best drivers of the new generation," Alonso said.  "The best drivers of the new generation are not in Formula One because they did not have the luck."  What he means by luck is money and sponsorship.

3/2/04

Paul Tracy wins Racer Magazine's Racer-of-Year award  Forsythe Racing’s Paul Tracy put together one of the best seasons in Champ Car World Series history in 2003 on his way to winning his first Champ Car title, cementing his status as one of the top drivers in all of auto racing. 

The readership of RACER magazine, as well of its Internet news arm www.speedtv.com, agreed that Tracy’s 2003 season was one to remember as they voted the Canadian Champ Car driver as the Racer of the Year.

Tracy, who won seven races, six poles and 10 podiums on his way to the 2003 title, was named the top driver of the year over such racing luminaries as Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher, NASCAR title winner Matt Kenseth and USAC record-setter J.J. Yeley.

“This is a very nice accolade, especially because of the company of drivers included in the voting,” Tracy said. “When you are on a list with Michael Schumacher who just won his sixth F1 championship and some of the other great drivers in the world, and the fans consider you to have had a better year than he did, that’s quite an honor.”

The award was one of many for the 2003 Champ Car World Series title winner, as Tracy also received first-team All American status in the voting by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. He was the only finalist other than eventual winner Ryan Newman to receive more than one vote for the Driver of the Year Award presented by SPEED Channel and was also voted as the WorldCom Most Popular Driver for the second consecutive season.

“Paul certainly deserves every honor awarded to him after his great 2003 Champ Car season,” said Champ Car President Dick Eidswick. “Not only is the RACER magazine award a great tribute to Paul, it is a tribute to the level of competition in the Champ Car World Series as well as to what it takes to be a champion in our series.”

The nominees for the RACER awards were developed through suggestions of the magazine’s editorial staff along with other racing insiders. The nominees in a number of categories were then voted upon by racing fans either through RACER or via the speedtv.com website.

3/2/04

Concern over Champ Car TV  A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1.com, I am hearing rumors that Champ Car races will not be on CBS next year and that all the races will be on Spike TV.  I have even heard HD Net mentioned.  This doesn't give me much hope for the series survival.  Is this true?  Joseph Daniels, Irvine, CA.  Dear Joseph, We received many letters on this topic.  Champ Car got decent ratings on CBS last year.  With the IRL having a lock on ABC and NASCAR a lock on NBC and Fox, CBS is the last hope for Champ Car to align themselves with a major network broadcaster that delivers reasonable ratings.  If they don't lock them in now, someone else will and the door will be shut for a very long time.  Last year CART announced a deal with CBS for 2004 that would see some of the races live, 6 to 8 if we recall.  If OWRS decided to go with a cable channel exclusively, while it might be good for hardcore fans to see more hours and races in a consistent time slot, unfortunately it won't deliver the TV ratings that CBS delivers.  Hence, the IRL and NASCAR will continue to steal sponsors away from Champ Car by presenting them with a better TV package.  In advertising, ratings generally rule, and most advertisers are counting eyeballs.  In a year when OWRS is looking to rebuild the series, the last thing it needs is falling TV ratings.  If that happens, they will have nothing to springboard into 2005 because sponsorship is the lifeblood of racing.  As for HD Net - novel idea whose time has not yet come.   Their ratings will be below 10,000 per broadcast and would drive the final nail in Champ Car's coffin.  If they want to offer HD Net in addition to CBS or Spike, that's another story.  We wrote numerous times last year that Champ Car must increase their presence on CBS because they were paying far less per eyeball on CBS than on SPEED.  CBS is the better investment in the future.  With all this said, we are not privy to the final TV schedule so all this speculation may be for naught.  Hopefully we will be pleasantly surprised.  Mark C.

3/2/04

Jeff Gordon on Late Late Show  Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Series champion and driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, is scheduled to appear on CBS' "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn" this Wednesday, March 3. The "Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn" is in its fifth full season and airs on CBS at 12:37 a.m. ET/PT, immediately following the "Late Show with David Letterman."

3/2/04

Elliott to return to action   How do you prepare for races when you aren't running every week?
"I don't feel like I've missed much yet. It's only been two races. We tested in Las Vegas in late January and we were pretty good out there. We are ready to go for Las Vegas."
How much difference can you tell about the car with the new chassis?
"We ran the new Evernham chassis when we tested at Las Vegas and I liked it pretty well. We were pretty satisfied with how we came out. But, we've got to get a dialogue with it and really understand it. You can tell a difference between the Evernham chassis and what we were running. There are some things that are similar, but there's a lot that's different. We'll just take it one step at a time."
How is the sponsorship search going?
"We have a couple of things in the works, but nothing is concrete yet."
How is it going in your new role as the coach and mentor for Kasey Kahne?
"Kasey has done pretty well on his own so far. He's got a lot of experience on his own. I can't tell him how every single track is going to change or how he needs to run every race, but there are some tracks where I can help him more than others. Like at Sonoma, I think I can really help him. Watching him run up front at Rockingham made me feel like a proud parent. When I saw him get up there and stay up there, I knew I had made the right decision. It was the right decision for me, for the team and gave him an opportunity. I knew then I had done the right thing."

3/2/04

Earnhardt Jr. in people magazine   Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, is the subject of a feature story in the March 8 issue of People Magazine. Dale Jr. won his first Daytona 500 two weeks ago and is currently leading the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. In the story, Dale Jr. discusses maturity, the dating scene, and of course, winning the Daytona 500.

3/2/04

A lap around Albert Park with Button   BAR's Jenson Button drives a lap of Melbourne's Albert Park.   "The Melbourne Grand Prix really is a great race to start the season with, I can't think of a better way. The circuit, however, is not one of the quickest and features a lot of short straights and very tight chicanes. We run a lot of downforce and pull a lot of Gs at various points on the track.   More...

3/2/04

New sponsor for McLaren   West McLaren Mercedes to paint the town silver and black with Eisenmann.   The German company Eisenmann, one of the world's leading suppliers for surface finishing systems, material flow automation, environmental technology, and ceramics firing technology, has signed a long-term agreement to become Official Supplier to the West McLaren Mercedes Formula One team and the McLaren Technology Centre.

The Partnership will see Eisenmann supply the complete Paint Technology System, which will be used to paint the West McLaren Mercedes Formula One cars, at the McLaren Technology Centre, the new corporate and production headquarters of the McLaren Group. The key elements of the paint facility will be three combined Paint, Spray and Drying booths.

The carbon-fiber surfaces of the chassis and body components of the Formula One cars will be pre-treated in two preparation booths which are equipped with a special dust extraction system. The high-quality painting process is based on a three-layer concept consisting of Primer, Top Coat and Clear Coat.

The combined paint, spray and drying booths are provided with gas fired air conditioning units and will accommodate the air supply for the spraying process as well as the re-circulation mode for the 80°C curing process. Full glass panel folding doors will provide spacious access to the booths and satisfy the aesthetic design approach of the McLaren Technology Centre. The Formula One team will begin to benefit from the advanced system in the McLaren Technology Centre at the end of May 2004, when production will begin in the new Paint Shop.

"We are proud to announce our Partnership with Eisenmann, who, as Official Supplier, will contribute to the constant demands of Formula One to reduce lead-times, whilst increasing efficiency and quality," commented Ron Dennis, Chairman and CEO of the McLaren Group.

"With the Group's move into the McLaren Technology Centre, and more specifically with the development of our new state-of-the art painting facilities for the West McLaren Mercedes cars, we need to have strong, dedicated partners whose philosophy of excellence and attention to detail reflects our own. In Eisenmann we have this." McLaren

3/2/04

New sponsor for Williams   In the week prior to the start of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team today announced a groundbreaking new commercial partnership with Hamleys - "The finest toys in the world."

The commercial alliance, signed today at Hamleys' flagship store in Regent Street, London, marks a major initiative by the world's finest toy brand to internationalize its operation.

Hamleys, a private company since 2003 following a successful management buy- out supported by the Icelandic retail investment company, Baugur, has ambitious plans to take its famous brand into markets across the US, Europe and Asia in a series of commercial partnerships with high quality retailers, concentrating on the unique range of Hamleys own brand toys and gifts.

Baugur's Chief Executive, Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson said, "Hamleys is the most famous toy store in the world. I am delighted to be able to support the company's management to maximise the strength of this brand, in particular by supporting their international expansion plans. A key part of our plans for Hamleys is to take the Hamleys experience to the four corners of the world."

"The global dimension to Formula One, and in particular the BMW WilliamsF1 Team relationship provides a strong platform on which to build our international expansion. The agreement also provides an important opportunity to build Hamleys range of own brand toys and gifts," he concluded.

The sponsorship partnership is unique insofar as it offers traditional benefits as well as a licensing agreement, providing Hamleys with an extensive opportunity to develop ranges of own-brand Formula One toys.

Frank Williams, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team Principal said, "I am delighted that we have been able to offer a relevant sponsorship opportunity to such a prestigious brand, and I hope our partnership makes a valuable contribution to Hamleys' ambitious retail strategy."

Hamleys ubiquitous brand identity will be visible on the WilliamsF1 BMW FW26s of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher to be raced throughout the 2004 season, commencing this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Williams

3/2/04

The next generation Champ Car: Heading for a train wreck?  A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1.com, Loved Mark's new article about the Champ Car train wreck.  Now I understand why Champ Cars look so boring to watch compared to F1 cars.  I love watching the F1 drivers saw like hell at the wheel compared to a Champ Car driver.  It's why I subscribe to AutoRacing1.com you guys tell it like it is.  Keep on hitting 'em over the head. Sander Lewis, Brooklyn, NY

3/2/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Late Ferrari On Back Foot
Wilson Lost Career In F1 Gamble
Millions Give Mike Enough Motivation
Mosley Moves House To Avoid Arrest
BAR Better-Off Without Villeneuve 

Be Like Mike, BMW-Williams Tells Drivers
Minardi Chief Issues Friday Ultimatum
Rookie Not Warming Minardi Seat
Give Me Sixty Million: Minardi's Stoddart
F1 Is Bleeding Passion: Former Driver

Schumacher Has Changed In A Decade
Raikkonen Isn't Thick: F1 Legend
Angry Ralf Was Not Misquoted
Ferrari Won't Survive Tobacco Ban
Gascoyne Puts New Parts On Toyota Car
Button Flattered By Top-Team Interest
Trulli Lines-Up Maiden Win

3/1/04

He said, she said  Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. either have no clue what setup the other was running on Sunday in Homestead, or there is clearly a language barrier.  So who REALLY was running the lower down force setup guys?  Post-race quotes

Castroneves:  I knew he had a little bit less downforce than me. Yesterday in qualifying, we tried low downforce. This morning, we tried low downforce. We kept having a little trouble. I said, "You know what, let's go on the conservative side.  Let's try not to take a chance, especially the first race of the season." [Note Helio spun with the low downforce setup Sunday AM and went back to his higher down force setting]. So I knew I was a sitting duck. When I was leading the last five laps, it was just a matter of time. I would try to move a little bit high, try to take his air in front of his car, but it seems his car was really solid.

Hornish:  Sometimes there's not a point to lead. I mean, there's no benefit of it. You know, there were three or four guys that were capable of leading that were running a little bit faster, and we had a little bit more downforce on the car so we could stay in behind them. I don't think we could run quite as fast when we were out front, so there was no point in doing it. I knew if I could stay right in behind somebody, we could sometimes slip away from the rest of the pack. And I knew we probably wouldn't be able to do that if I was out front.   Sometimes you make compromises. And we compromised a little bit more speed so we could have a handling car that we could run down bottom or up top or run right on somebody's gearbox.

3/1/04

Kelly Collins joins Sebring lineup  Two-thirds of the winning GT class driving team from the inaugural race of the American Le Mans Series in 1999 will reunite and join with a young rising star of road racing for the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Mar. 17-20 at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway.

Veteran driver Kelly Collins of Corona del Mar, Calif., has been named to join Cort Wagner of Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Patrick Long of Oak Park, Calif., in the lead Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for The Racer's Group/New Century Mortgage team in the opening event of the 2004 American Le Mans series season.

Collins, who was a driver for the factory Corvette team in the ALMS the past four seasons, joins season-long teammates Wagner and Long to form an All-California driving squad. Collins and Wagner drove together at Sebring in 1999, taking GT class honors in the first race for the newly-formed ALMS, and Collins tutored both Wagner and Long during his days as a racing school instructor.

3/1/04


Who is racing's wealthiest?   UPDATE Here is an updated racing billionaires list, their ranking in the world, and our notes:

 17. Carlos Slim Helu (Telmex) $13.9 Billion - He can't fund a 2nd Champ Car for Fernández?
100. Benetton family $4.5 Billion
136. Bernie Ecclestone 3.5
136. John Menard 3.5 - He could buy out Tony George and still be worth billions
205.. Garza-Laguera family 2.5 - As in Josele Garza
247. Richard Branson 2.2 - Virgin empire, F1 interests
406. Dietrich Mateschitz 1.4 - Red Bull baron
472. James France 1.2 - What about Lesa France?  Brian France?
472. Bill France, Jr. 1.2 - Collectively the France's must be worth over $3 billion
552. Bruce McCaw 1.0

2/27/04 - The list of the billionaires of the world was released yesterday.  A few racing figures made the list. 

Bernie Ecclestone: $3.5 Billion
France Family (collectively): $2.4 Billion
Roger Penske: Not there
Gerald Forsythe: Not there
Kevin Kalkhoven: Not there
It is interesting that CART managed to chase away the wealthiest person they have ever had in their business. Bruce McCaw is worth a paltry $1.0 billion. His wealth has dwindled seriously over the past few years as well. Dietrich Mateschitz is there, but we are not sure if that counts, as his involvement in the sport seems to be at arms length right now in the premium areas of the sport, and his driver search thing seems to draw a lot of criticism.

3/1/04
Industry News

Cotton Farmer suffers stroke   Sprint Car legend legend Al "Cotton" Farmer had a stroke and is now unable to talk and cannot have visitors. Please remember Cotton in your prayers. He will have a long recovery time, probably at least 6 months. One of the true GLADIATORS.

3/1/04
Formula Renault

Eurointernational announces 2004 V6 lineup  Eurointernational Group, which campaigned Juan Ponte of Argentina to second place in the inaugural Formula Renault Winter Invitational Championship, announced its driver line up for the 2004 Formula Renault V6 Eurocup Championship. Italian drivers Giorgio Mondini and Stefano Proetto will be behind the wheel of the two Formula Renault V6 cars for the entire 19-race championship. Euro International Inc. plans to enter up to two more Formula Renault V6 cars in selected Eurocup races in preparation of the 2005 North American Formula Renault V6 Championship.

“The work and research started during the 2003 Formula Renault V6 season, and continued during the winter start to show the first results with Giorgio and Stefano performances” said Team owner Antonio Ferrari. “Their talent will make both top contenders for the 2004 Formula Renault V6 title. We are planning to add up two more new Formula Renault V6 cars during this season for selected Eurocup races and then bring the cars in USA in preparation of the 2005 North America Formula Renault V6 Championship.”

The 2004 Formula Renault V6 Championship will start in Monza, Italy next March 25-28, with all races televised on EUROSPORT in over 50 Countries around the World.

The North American Formula Renault Championships are sanctioned by Grand American, and provide a ladder for drivers to develop their talent, with a full in-house open-wheel progression available.  The Formula Renault V6 Championship is the top rung on the North American Formula Renault Championship ladder, which also includes the North American Formula Renault 1600 Championship and the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship. The Formula Renault V6 is expected to make its North American competition debut in the latter stages of the 2004 North American Formula Renault 2000 season.

3/1/04

Allmendinger repeats as most promising  For the second time in as many years, readers of RACER Magazine and SPEEDTV.com have voted A.J. Allmendinger the "Most Promising Road Racer of the Year." Allmendinger first won the RACER title following a dominating season in the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series, a season in which he won six races and claimed the series championship. Allmendinger's performance in the 2003 Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama was equally as dominant, and enabled the youngster to repeat as Most Promising Road Racer. In 2003, Allmendinger won a Toyota Atlantic rookie record seven races and tied the all-time Atlantic record (set in 1976 by Gilles Villeneuve) for most poles in a single season when he placed his bright yellow RuSPORT machine on the inside of the front row a total of nine times. He outdistanced Scotland's Ryan Dalziel by 26 points en route to the 2003 Toyota Atlantic title. Allmendinger has parlayed his performance over the past two years into a Champ Car ride, as RuSPORT announced last month that it was entering the Champ Car World Series in 2004 with Allmendinger as its driver. "One thing that is so big in my eyes is that people like Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira and all these guys that-over the past two or three seasons I've really watched because I wanted to be a part of it and race against those guys-I'm going to get to do it now," said Allmendinger. "I'm part of them now. I think that's the most exciting thing out there. Those guys are the best in North American open-wheel racing in my belief, and I'm going to be a part of it now. When I beat them, and I will beat them at some point this year, that's going to be the most exciting thing." This is the second award of the off-season for Allmendinger. In January, he was named to the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) All-America First Team.

3/1/04

Rob Hill to Rocketsports  Rocketsports Racing welcomes Crew Chief Robin Hill to the 2004 Champ Car team. Hill has an impressive history as chief mechanic for some of Champ Car’s greatest champion teams and drivers. Hill experienced his first championship victory with Bobby Rahal in 1992 and was part of the record-setting run of four consecutive championships at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, which began with Jimmy Vasser’s title in 1996. Hill served as the chief mechanic for three of those four championships, earning titles in 1997/1998 with Alex Zanardi, and then captured the championship title and the rookie record for number of poles (7) and podiums (7) with Juan Montoya in 1999. Originally from England, Hill worked in European F2 and F3 series before beginning his career in America in 1985 with Jeff Andretti in the Super Vee series. Hill has also worked with drivers Danny Sullivan (Patrick Racing, 1991), Jimmy Vasser, Bruno Junqueira and rookie, Ryan Hunter-Reay.  [Above right: Hill was reunited with Zanardi in 2003 for the momentous completion of Zanardi’s run at the EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany.  Photo Credit: LAT]

3/1/04

SPEED Channel  to show entire F1 season   SPEED Channel's 2004 Formula One television season begins with same-day coverage of practice from the Australian Grand Prix at 11 p.m. ET on March 4. Veteran broadcaster Bob Varsha returns to the SPEED booth after a two-year absence to head up the five-star team of David Hobbs, Steve Matchett and Peter Windsor.

"My first full season covering Formula One began on Easter Sunday 1989 in Brazil, where my booth partner was David Hobbs," Varsha said. "In 1994, I called the German GP in Hockenheim when a miscue in the Benetton pits turned mechanic Steve Matchett into a poster boy for fire safety. And during those years, I wore out untold pairs of shoes looking for Peter Windsor to get a comment about whichever team he was helping run at the time. So you can see why I'm ecstatic about rejoining, David, Steve and Peter to bring Formula One to our SPEED viewers again. To paraphrase Darth Vader, it is our destiny."

SPEED Channel will air the entire 2004 F1 season live, beginning with the Australian Grand Prix on March 6 at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT. In addition, SPEED will begin this season's F1 Decade, featuring the 1994 Grand Prix season. The full Australian GP television schedule:

March 4 -- Practice (11 p.m. ET, SDD)
March 5 -- Practice (9 a.m., replay)
-- Qualifying (Midnight, SDD)
March 6 - Qualifying (9 a.m. ET, replay)

-- F1 Decade 1994 Brazilian GP (8:30 p.m. ET)
-- Live race coverage (9:30 p.m. ET)

March 8 -- F1 Decade 1994 Brazilian GP (4 p.m. ET)
Despite Varsha's contention that 'prognostication is a fool's errand,' SPEED Channel's experienced F1 on-air team makes its picks for the 2004 season:
Varsha
Top three drivers: Michael Schumacher; Juan Pablo Montoya, Rubens Barrichello
Surprise of the year: Cristiano da Matta at Toyota will earn his first victory
Best result by an unknown: Christian Klien at Jaguar
Matchett
Top three drivers: Michael Schumacher (brilliant driving and ultra-reliable chassis); Kimi Raikkonen (car will not be up to the job of winning the championship but McLaren will work like dogs to improve the MP4-19 throughout the season); Montoya (close call between him and Kimi. I suspect the FW26 will not be as quick as many think/wish/hope)
Surprise of the year: Minardi may pull off a surprise one-two finish at Monaco; all it needs is for the other 18 cars to drop out and they will be in with a fighting chance.
Windsor
Top three drivers: Rubens Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher, Michael Schumacher
Best result by an unknown: Takuma Sato will score a podium finish
Hobbs
Top three drivers: Michael Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen
Surprise of the year: Jenson Button will have a better year than people expect

In 2004, SPEED Channel is the exclusive U.S. cable home for many of the top motor sports series in the world. In addition, SPEED's weekly programming schedule brings car enthusiast television to Prime Time Monday through Thursday. Now available in more the 65 million homes in North America, SPEED Channel is among the fastest growing sports cable networks in the country and the home to NASCAR TV.

3/1/04

The secret to Hornish's success?    A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, It seems like every time there is a close finish in the IRL Sam Hornish wins.  I know he is their poster boy, so does he get extra RPM's from the sealed IRL issued rev-limiter?  Casey Gilmore, Phoenix, AZ  Dear Casey, We have heard those rumors about Dale Earnhardt Jr. getting a slightly bigger restrictor plate and Sam Hornish getting extra RPM.  We believe the secret to Sam's success is his ability to run his car with a lower down force setup than the other drivers.  His teammate, Helio Castroneves, alluded to it in the post-race interviews yesterday.  Juan Montoya blew away the competition at the Indy 500 in his one and only try by running less down force and drag and used his skill to carry the car through the corners with less down force. Less drag means the car unloads quicker coming out of the final corner and reaches maximum RPM sooner, carrying him across the line in first.   While we are not suggesting Hornish is another Montoya (who excels on road courses too), on ovals he's much like Mears and Foyt were -- they have that touch, that feel, in the seat of their pants, to control a lower down force setup.  Mark C.

3/1/04

Williams on cost-cutting mission    Williams have shot another arrow across the brow of Ralf Schumacher as they negotiate his contract renewal in the media.  Technical Director Patrick Head has now warned that the team must cut costs - and that economizing will take priority over the wish to only replace one driver.  "That wouldn't be optimal but we have to keep the company operating and BMW, as we've already noted, will be transferring far less into our accounts in 2005," Head told Reuters when asked if Williams could afford to lose both their drivers in 2005.  "Thus, we've got to cut costs. Nevertheless, a slot in a Williams car is an attractive place to work for many drivers."  That should make Ralf Schumacher worry a bit.

 

Now, in an interview with The Guardian, 'Schumacher confirmed he had not been misquoted. He claimed the article had only been incorrect to suggest that he had threatened to leave Williams.'

"I had an agreement with Frank before the last race at Suzuka," an angry Ralf told the newspaper. "The contract was drawn up and I was ready to sign in Japan. But Frank didn't show up. I was told he'd changed his mind and wanted to talk more. He is a tough negotiator and always tries to get a better position for his team. I have no problem with that. But he changed his mind after we had reached agreement. So I said, 'OK, if you pull out of this contract then we shall have to wait and see what happens.' I stopped all negotiations. I don't want to talk about this contract now until later in the season."

"I'm sure Frank Williams has his reasons for taking all these decisions over the last few months," continued Ralf, "but I don't really understand them. I don't care about next year any more. Everything depends on this season."  

 

"I was very surprised that Williams didn't keep Juan," announced Ralf. "He is a top driver but they gave him the opportunity to leave. Juan felt he'd had enough and needed another challenge. But Williams didn't fight too hard to keep him."

"I think it's a shame to lose Juan. It's even more disappointing that he is moving to a strong team," he added.

Ralf's comments are bound to increase speculation that both of Williams' current drivers will be leaving at the end of 2004 - and he made no attempt to quell those suggestions.

"All that matters is that we have a very good car this year. I hope to stay at Williams, but you never know exactly what will happen in Formula One."

3/1/04

Ralf Schumacher: Dixon who?    According to this New Zealand newspaper article, Scott Dixon's name may be on New Zealanders' minds as a racing legend but the name means nothing to Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher.   The 28-year-old German made a typically speedy visit to Auckland yesterday to launch BMW's new 6 series coupe. He flew out last night to Melbourne to prepare for Sunday's Grand Prix.

But Michael Schumacher's younger brother has no idea who Dixon, winner of last year's Indy Racing League, is – shrugging his shoulders at yesterday's launch.   "He must be good anyway," when told of Dixon's success.

Asked what advice he would give to the younger man, Schumacher said it was difficult because he had never been in an American race car. Picking the right team was important, he said.   "Otherwise you might look to leave a winning situation for the sake of being in Formula One. Obviously winning in America, he should try to come to a top team, otherwise it's not worth trying."   Dixon's mother Glenys Dixon told The Dominion Post last week that her son was likely to have a Formula One deal sewn up within the next couple of weeks. He has been visiting Ferrari, Williams and McLaren over the past few months.  Dixon crashed in the first race of his 2004 campaign in Florida yesterday.  The Kiwi was leading when he spun into a barrier guarding the entrance to pit road as he slowed on the safety lane to make a scheduled stop on the 89th lap of the 200-lap race.

3/1/04

Decent attendance in Homestead  2nd UPDATE  According to the City of Homestead (the actual owners of the track) the grandstand capacity is 60,250.  Given that, yesterday's attendance figures of between 30,000 and 32,000 appear about right.  3/1/04 - The Indy Star estimated the crowd at 30,000, but we heard management say 32,000 tickets were sold as of Saturday (20,000 to Marlboro as giveaways), up 15% from last year.  2/29/04 - After dismal Friday and Saturday numbers (near zero), the IRL pulled in a surprisingly strong attendance today in Homestead as evidenced by the photos below.  Although the entire first end was empty what was open to fans was fairly full.  The grandstand seats 75,000 so a high estimate was 40,000 in attendance.  Perhaps there is some hope after all.


Photos by Getty Images

3/1/04

43 cars a myth   NASCAR chief operating officer George Pyne denies that NASCAR recruited drivers to race at Rockingham, where several field fillers completed the advertised 43-car field. Pyne says it's a myth that the TV contracts require 43 drivers to be in a Cup race. "I asked the question point blank to our group, and they reported that we're not recruiting people to show up," Pyne says. "That's my understanding." Pyne says decreasing the field in the future is not out of the question. Yahoo Sports/Sporting News

3/1/04

FIA and Mosley to move to Monaco    According to reports in the British press, FIA President Max Mosley is selling his London home and the FIA headquarters in order to relocate to Monaco to avoid any possible punishment resulting from the newly introduced European Arrest Warrant for both he and the FIA.  Under the new law, several high ranking Formula One officials, including team owners and members of the sports governing body, could be held responsible for a fatality on the circuit.  "This is not a snap decision. We have been discussing this legislation for some time and our advice is that this is the best protection,” he told the Times. “As long as I am president of the FIA I will have to live in Monaco for my own safety and to avoid a law which is not sensible when applied to Formula One. If some local policy authority wants a scapegoat for an accident at a circuit they could easily come after me or Charlie Whiting [Formula One's racing director]. They can come after you in your own home - but not if I am in Monaco."

3/1/04
Industry News

Ferrari to stay private for now    Fiat has announced that it is to shelve plans to take Ferrari public because of deteriorating conditions on the Italian stock market. Chief executive Giuseppe Morchio said that the IPO would be postponed indefinitely while the Maranello firm worked to improve sales of Maserati models.

3/1/04

Formula One feeling serious growing pains   This NY Times article says (excerpts), Television has turned Formula One into a massive, rich, worldwide sport, but can it survive as a television show alone?.....Formula One is still struggling with its transformation from a spectator sport to one built for a television audience, which provides another $350 million a year in contracts with broadcasters worldwide. For much of its history, the prime sources of revenue and exposure were the well-attended events supported by devoted fans, many of whom would travel around Europe to see races.

Television has created a much larger fan base. As more than 300 million viewers tuned in to watch the races, sponsors paid millions of dollars to reach them. Lately, those sponsors have been joined by nations seeking to attract television exposure — and tourism from the traveling fans — to build a racing industry.

China rates its Formula One race in importance with its 2008 Olympics, said Yu Zaiqing, deputy director of the State Sports General Administration of China and a member of the International Olympic Committee, on the circuit's Web site.

To win a spot on the exclusive calendar of 16 to 18 races, governments are investing in increasingly luxurious and spectacular facilities. Bahrain has spent $150 million in its track near the capital, Manama; Shanghai has invested at least twice that amount. Both must also pay the hosting fees. According to an article in the current issue of F1i, a Belgian racing magazine, China's promoters are paying Formula One $50 million a season for a package deal that covers the rights to the race and the broadcast rights within China.

How will these new sites pay it all back?

Bahrain, where the capital's population is only 175,000, is hoping for 100,000 people at the race over the full weekend. But with ticket prices starting at $100, only 40,000 have been sold so far. The racecourse has said that it aims to attract 20,000 spectators from Europe. But the goal will not be helped by fears of terrorism — fueled by a statement from the British Consulate that the race might be the target of an attack. Furthermore, there are only 13,000 hotel rooms in Bahrain, at least 4,000 of which will be used by Formula One teams, sponsors and journalists.

Another problem is that race day, which is always a Sunday, is a workday in Bahrain, where the weekend is Thursday and Friday.

Shanghai's is also unfinished and has 200,000 seats — and even if they attract the fans to fill the seats, how long will it take for the novelty to wear off? Or, conversely, for the sport to catch on?

The Hungarian Grand Prix, Formula One's foray into Eastern Europe that began in 1986, is still struggling for local spectators. Malaysia, where Formula One moved in 1999, has still not come close to filling its 130,000 seats.

Complicating matters further, Formula One's expansion comes at a time when it is losing trackside spectators in its home territory. Max Mosley, president of the International Automobile Federation, the sport's governing body, said earlier this month that this was because promoters were charging too much for tickets.

Yet they must pay Formula One's fees, and outside of government subsidies, seat sales are the only way promoters can recoup as they do not own the rights to trackside billboards, which are owned by a Formula One company.

3/1/04

Overheard at Homestead  What drivers thought about the Speedway and its new configuration - "Quite boring. Maybe tomorrow with traffic it will be better."...........Many of the IRL drivers where complaining about Darren Manning over their radios during the race - saying that he was all over the place. After the race he admitted that he almost spun out twice and that it wasn't until later in the race he felt comfortable.........Many of the drivers after the race were despondent with the fact that the Penske cars were so superior to the others. Scott Sharp bemoaned the fact that "it is getting harder for the little guys to compete."  Milka Duno was the inside joke of the weekend. She got her ride with the aid of CITGO sponsorship. CITGO of Venezuela. So in actuality she is receiving aid from the Chavez Government which does not make her popular among most Latinos in South Florida (Venezuelans, Cubans, etc.). In fact there were a smattering of boos. Once again a case of the powers that be not having a clue about what is the so-called Hispanic Market.  The other joke was that Milka was so slow out there. Watched follow almost 8 Laps behind a slower GT car. A car with 150 less HP and almost 1000 lbs more weight. When she finally did pass it was because the BMW was told to pull over and let her pass by a flagman. Even then she could not pull away from the much slower GT. Her stint was short. Only about 45 mins.  After that Andy Wallace took over and proved to everyone what a great driver he really is. Of course Milka got all the glory. The Grand-Am people were ecstatic. Can you blame them?.............Toyota reps where livid when the leading Toyota (Lexus) cars knocked themselves out of what should have been a 1-2 finish.....Word is that Marlboro sent out 20,000 free tickets for the event, which explains the decent attendance....Monday night there will be a reception for Emerson Fittipaldi in Miami. It is a send off for his 2 Indy 500 winning cars. They are going to a museum in Brazil........The bust of Emmo was back in its place at the HMS. For Marlboro of course. The workers there said it will be removed again by next week and sent back to storage in the warehouse. They no longer keep it there since Emmo supported the CART race in Miami.  How childish!

3/1/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Stoddart Threatens Spanner In Works
Four Drivers In The Fight
How Can Anyone Doubt Schumacher?
Only Raikkonen Can Beat F1's Veteran
Bernie Backs Test-Ban In F1

Williams Doesn't Want To Lose Ralf
Coulthard's Future Starts Here
F1 Can Survive Schu Domination
F1 Can't Take Its Eye Off 'The Nose'
Alonso On The Verge 

Rise Of The F1 Privateers: Eddie Jordan
Dixon Denies F1 Deal
Schu: No Plans To Slow Down
Davidson Would Rather Test
Tire War To Win F1 Season
Webber To Succeed Schumacher?
Button Wants To Win With Schu

3/1/04

Seen at Homestead - II  Ryan Hunter-Reay (looking for more sponsors to cement his Champ Car ride), Roberto Moreno (Always at the races in South Florida), and Barber Dodge Champ Leo Maia (Looking for a ride).  Leo Maia and Roberto Moreno watched the race as guests of Michael Shank Racing (Doran Daytona Prototype).

2/29/04

American road racer Giebler wins first time out in IPS  UPDATE AutoRacing1.com has learned the reason Giebler passed and pulled away from Medeiros over the last five laps was because Medeiros had a badly blistered right rear tire.  The race was red-flagged once and right side tires changed on all cars for that very problem.  Look for a slightly harder compound in 2005.  2/29/04 - Three weeks ago, Phil Giebler climbed into an IRL Menard's Infiniti Pro Series™ car for the first and only time. Sunday, he made his way to Victory Lane for the first time.

After living and racing in Europe for the past five seasons, Giebler, an Oxnard, CA, native who had a tryout with Keith Duesenberg Racing at the Open Test in Phoenix on Feb. 10 and didn't sign with the team until late this week, pulled away from Thiago Medeiros on the final two laps to win the Homestead-Miami 100 at Homestead-Miami Intl Speedway.

Giebler, driving the Western Union Speed Team Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, joined Mark Taylor in 2003 and A.J. Foyt IV in 2002 as drivers to win their first Menards Infinity Pro Series™race. Both went on to win the IPS Championship. It was the third victory for Keith Duesenberg Racing in the series.

“I was just trying to run a good race and learn a lot,” said Giebler, who competed in FIA F3000 last year. “I'm just very glad to get this under my belt and make a run for the title. This is my very first oval race, and I'm starting to like it already.”

Giebler had plenty to like from his performance, though he had to be push-started at the start and started from the rear of the field. He and Medeiros were sparring with six laps left, and Giebler got past him coming out of Turn 4. He won by 4.1372 seconds after Medeiros backed off.

“It was an amazing weekend,” said Giebler, who qualified sixth. “You know, we ran all weekend, and we were trying to improve the car the whole time. We ended up with a really consistent car, that’s for sure. We went into qualifying, and we had a few little problems. We changed the engine for the race. The team worked all night, so I was really pleased that everything just came together. You know, they wanted to give me the best equipment, and that’s what they did. They're great people"

“We couldn't get the car started on the pre-grid, so we had to start from the back. We had to push-start the car. Starting from the back was a bit of a problem for me at first, especially if we had stayed green the whole way. I just tried to be smooth, make smart moves and get up to the front as fast as I could. But, obviously, I wanted to make sure I stayed on the track in case a yellow came out. I wasn't sure what to expect, running with drivers I didn't know, on a track I'd never seen, in a formula I'd spent only 3/4's of a day in and in my first oval start. Everything worked out well and I'm overjoyed. I can't wait to get to Phoenix.”

1. (6) Phil Giebler, Dallara-Infiniti, 65
2. (3) Thiago Medeiros, Dallara-Infiniti, 65
3. (5) Jesse Mason, Dallara-Infiniti, 65
4. (7) Tony Turco, Dallara-Infiniti, 65
5. (8) Brad Pollard, Dallara-Infiniti, 64
6. (9) Rolando Quintanilla, Dallara-Infiniti, 63
7. (4) Marty Roth, Dallara-Infiniti, 62
8. (1) Paul Dana, Dallara-Infiniti, 23, accident
9. (2) Arie Luyendyk Jr., Dallara-Infiniti, 22, accident
10. (10) Matt Beardsley, Dallara-Infiniti, 0, mechanical.
Race Statistics
Winner's average speed: 111.089 mph.
Time of race: 52.08.0318.
Margin of victory: 4.1372.
Cautions: 2 for 15 laps.
Lead changes: 2 among 3 drivers.
Lap leaders: Dana 1-22, Medeiros 23-59, Giebler 60-65
Point standings: Giebler 50, Medeiros 42, Mason 35, Turco 32, Pollard 30, Quintanilla 28, Roth 26, Dana 24, Luyendyk 22, Beardsley 20.

2/29/04

PK Sport announces Sebring driver lineup PK Sport team owner Mike Pickup has announced the driver lineup for the British sports car racing team's two-car assault on the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening race of the 2004 American Le Mans Series season. The team will be in its second full ALMS season.   More....

2/29/04

Toyota welcomes ESPN Star Sports as new sponsor   Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motorsport GmbH announced today that ESPN Star Sports has become a sponsor for the Panasonic Toyota Racing Formula 1 team.  This new deal will see ESPN Star Sports logo appear on the side winglets of Toyota's TF104 race car from the first race of the 2004 season in Melbourne, Australia next weekend.

ESPN Star Sports is joint venture between two of the world's leading cable and satellite broadcasters, ESPN Inc. and STAR.

ESPN Star Sports is Asia's complete sports provider that reaches over 128 million households with ESPN and over 57 million households with STAR Sports. They bring the world's premier live sports and leading regional events to viewers 24 hours a day.

Rik Dovey, Managing Director, ESPN STAR Sports, commented on the sponsorship: "We are pleased and honored to become a part of the Toyota F1 Team for the coming season. ESPN STAR Sports and the Toyota Motor Corporation already have a strong business partnership across sporting events and broadcasting, and now, the extension of this into Formula 1 racing further strengthens the relationship between our companies".

John Howett, President of Toyota Motorsport GmbH, welcomed ESPN Star Sports by adding: "It is a great pleasure that ESPN Star Sports joins Panasonic Toyota Racing as our sponsor just before the new season is about to start in Melbourne. We are all set for the new competition, and we would like to keep showing our challenging spirit to motorsport fans".

2/29/04

Stoddart says engine manufacturers reneged   Minardi boss Paul Stoddart is once again on the warpath for affordable Formula One engines. The outspoken Aussie says he will withdraw his vote in favor of keeping traction control unless the five engine manufacturers live up to their promise of providing affordable engines to non-manufacturer teams. FIA, the governing body of motorsport, initially wanted to ban all forms of traction control and electronic driver aids last season. However, last April the F1 teams all agreed to ban launch control and fully automatic gearboxes but keep traction control. In return, teams such as Minardi, Jordan and Sauber would have the option to purchase engines from the major manufacturers at substantially reduced rates, believed to be $10-million. So far, only Mercedes has stepped forward to say they would be willing to supply a second team for that price. Ferrari, BMW, Renault, Toyota and Ford have yet to confirm their participation.

"A solid commitment by the manufacturers was made on April 29 to cut engine costs in return for myself and Jordan agreeing the continued use of traction control," Stoddart tells the British Sun newspaper. "But so far nothing has happened. Unless something is forthcoming, and the promises made honored, I will withdraw my vote on traction control. That will cause them major problems." McLaren boss Ron Dennis estimates such a move will cost him tens of millions of dollars in design and development to eliminate traction control at this stage of the year. Stoddart is unsympathetic.

"I voted it through in the belief that manufacturers would help us cut engine bill costs. But they appear to have had a memory loss and that's not the way to do business." Last year, Stoddart threatened to remove the electronic devices from his cars prior to the British Grand Prix, then lodge a formal protest against the rest of the field for running illegal machinery under the rules. Such a move would have thrown the Formula One championship into chaos. While he isn't threatening the same move for the season opening race just yet, he is looking for concrete results - not just words. "This isn't me whining or about our survival. We have our finances in place but, if we have to continue paying an extortionate amount for the engines, there's no money left to develop our cars." Unless the situation is resovled, next week's scheduled press conference in Melbourne on Friday involving Stoddart and four other team owners could prove to be an explosive one.

2/29/04

Magnussen and Papis crash while going for lead  Jan Magnussen was going for the lead with seven laps to go in the Grand Prix of Miami Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but unfortunately he and the driver he was battling, Max Papis, had contact which resulted in the Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus ending up spun out in turn one. The team ended up 19th overall and 14th in the Daytona Prototype class at the finish of the 250-mile, 109-lap race on the 2.3-mile, 11-turn road course.  Everyone there knew that the Lebanon, Ohio-based team was in contention for the victory, however.  Magnussen, who was making his first appearance with the team and competing in the Grand American Rolex Series and at this track for the first time, was critical of the driver he was racing against when the contact occurred.  "I can't believe that Max Papis took me out," he said. "He hit me on the frontstretch so hard that it broke the suspension. I spun around and just stopped on the grass; I couldn't get going again. I don't know if a tire is flat or not.  "He hit me maybe six or seven times, but I didn't once turn the steering wheel in on him."  Magnussen said the pair had contact earlier which may have provoked the problem.  "I passed him briefly on the restart and we had contact; maybe that is why he got emotional and hit me so many times when I got beside him again," he said. "But there is no excuse for hitting me like he did."

2/29/04

Seen at Homestead Saturday  In bottom left photo former Formula One drivers Eddie Irvine (L) and Christian Fittipaldi chat during qualifying for the IRL IndyCar Series Toyota Indy 300 on February 28, 2004 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida.  In bottom right photo Irvine surveys the 2nd straight day of near empty grandstands.


Photos by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

2/28/04

Entire front row in Homestead has roots in CART  Where are all those USAC short trackers?  With all the recent stories about Champ Car drivers making up most of the IRL field these days, it's interesting to note that both Buddy Rice and Alex Barron, who make up the front row for tomorrow's IRL race at Homestead, are not only both graduates of the Champ Car ladder system, but of the same team... Lynx Racing.  Barron won both the Toyota Atlantic 'Rookie of the Year' award and the series championship driving for Lynx in 1997.  That same year Buddy Rice drove for the team in the F2000 series, before moving up to the Lynx Atlantic seat when Barron was signed by Dan Gurney's All-American Racers in 1998. 

2/28/04

Milka Duno wins Grand-Am race  Milka Duno and her teammate Andy Wallace delivered stellar results for CITGO with a first place finish in the second round of the 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series - the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway February 26-28, 2004. With this win Milka becomes the first woman in the history of the Grand American Road Racing Series to achieve an overall win. The CITGO-sponsored Howard-Boss Motorsports team's #2 Pontiac Crawford Daytona Prototype, emblazoned with CITGO's distinctive red, orange and navy blue livery, built upon their success at the Rolex`24 at Daytona with a hard-fought and very skillfully run race.  Provisional race results for the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway with running position, (car number), drivers and hometowns, class, car and laps completed. 
Race Stats - time of race: 2:33:20.509, distance: 109 laps, 250 miles, average speed: 98.095 mph, victory margin: 1.9 seconds.
1. (2) Milka Duno, Venezuela; Andy Wallace, England, DP, Howard - Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford, 109.
2. (81) Cort Wagner, Los Angeles, Calif.; Brent Martini, Corona del Mar, Calif.; Kelly Collins, Newport Coast, Calif., DP, G&W Motorsports BMW Doran, 109.
3. (6) Oswaldo Negri Jr, Aventura, Fla.; Burt Frisselle, Kihei, Hawaii, DP, Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran, 109.
4. (59) JC France, Daytona Beach, Fla.; Hurley Haywood, Ponte Vedra, Fla., DP, Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, 109.
5. (10) Wayne Taylor, Altamonte Springs, Fla.; Max Angelelli, Monaco, DP, SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley, 109.
6. (54) Forest Barber, Fort Worth, Texas; Terry Borcheller, Gainesville, Ga.; Andy Pilgrim, Delray Beach, Fla., DP, Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran, 108.
7. (01) Scott Pruett, Loomis, Calif.; Max Papis, Miami Beach, Fla., DP, CompUSA Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley, 108.
8. (5) Justin Pruskowski, Woodinville, Wash.; Joe Pruskowski, Woodinville, Wash.; Ross Bentley, White Rock, B.C., Canada, DP, Essex Racing Ford Multimatic, 107.
9. (7) Shane Lewis, Jupiter, Fla.; Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., DP, Southard Motorsports BMW Fabcar, 106.
10. (39) Chris Hall, Port Orange, Fla.; Larry Huang, Ponte Vedra, Fla., DP, Silverstone Racing Services Pontiac Crawford, 105.

2/28/04

Kelly Collins to Drive Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring with TRG The Racer's Group announced today that longtime sports car star Kelly Collins will join the team for the 12 Hours of Sebring, driving the #66 New Century Mortgage/The Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Collins last drove a Porsche in 1999, when he and Cort Wagner teamed to win both the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. For the past four years, he has been a Corvette works driver, where he has many podium finishes, including wins at Petit Le Mans, Road America, Trois-Rivieres, and Laguna Seca, and two second place finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He joins Porsche factory driver Patrick Long, who begins his first full season of American Le Mans racing, and Cort Wagner, 1999 ALMS GT Driver's Champion.

2/28/04

Blundell: Mixed emotions on Champ Car survival This Crash.Net article says that former Formula One and CART star Mark Blundell has admitted that he is in two minds over the news that the Champ Car World Series has survived into 2004. Speaking exclusively to Crash.Net, the former PacWest driver - and multiple race winner - said that he was happy that Champ Cars continued to run as a stand-alone series, but expressed his concern that the Championship was a shadow of its former self. “I'm glad to see that, in one respect, it is still around, but sad, in another, that it is not going to be around in the same guise as what it was," Blundell, now a television analyst for British Formula One coverage, said, "When I was competing, it was definitely a great place to be. I just hope that they [OWRS] do the right thing, and make sure it starts to grow again because, at the moment, there is a diminishing grid, and a diminishing depth of drivers and teams out there." Despite his current downbeat view, however, Blundell was hopeful that the series would regain its former glory. “I think, if the future is going to grow, they've got to build their stars back up and get some resources in there," he reasoned, "And they have to make sure that they don't go head on with the IRL. They've got a lot to offer, but they got to make sure they position it right."

2/28/04

IPS Series in serious trouble   Only 9 cars (make that 10 today) showed up in Homestead this weekend for the Infiniti Pro Series race.  Not only is the IRL's top series in trouble, the IPS support series is in even worse shape.  Tony George is going to have to buy more cars to prop it up.

2/28/04


Is America a NASCAR-only nation?   This Valvoline article raises an interesting question, is America a NASCAR-only nation?  We think it pretty much is, and hence why Champ Cars must look outside the USA borders to cement its future.  Contrast that with domestic-only series like the IRL that have zero hope of making any inroads into the NASCAR stranglehold on America.  Champ Cars should limit their USA races to the very best 8 to 10 markets.  The rest should be international.  While some Americans may disagree with us, we respond with - if Tony George had not split Indy Car racing in two and killed it, thereby allowing NASCAR to become a monopoly, things could be different.  But we can't change history - it is what it is.  Mark C.

2/28/04

Verstappen threatens to sue Trust   Jos Verstappen and his manager (and former F1 driver) Huub Rothengatter are furious with former sponsor Trust. Trust is about to close a deal with the Jordan team, but according to Rothengatter a deal between Trust and the Jordan F1 team is impossible because the contract they have precludes it.  Trust is currently working on a deal with Jordan - without Verstappen.

According to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, Eddie Jordan has received a letter from Verstappen's legal advisors. The letter mentions the agreement between Trust and Verstappen and thus Jordan should not make a deal with Trust. Rothengatter personally didn't want to comment on the case. However, he did say he came to an agreement at the beginning of the season on certain issues with Trust.

Trust director Michel Perridon says there is no problem to sign a deal with the Jordan team: "I never closed a deal with Verstappen. I wonder what's wrong with them? I tried the best I could to get him in Formula One and now I get this as a 'thank you'."

2/28/04

Former NASCAR driver drowns   This AP article says,  Four-time NASCAR Winston West Series champion Roy Smith drowned when a commercial fishing trawler sank off northern Vancouver Island, rescue officials said. Smith, 59, of Malahat, was a crew member of the 80-foot Hope Bay, which foundered in heavy seas early Thursday about 60 miles north of Vancouver Island in Queen Charlotte Sound. Two other members died, and one was rescued, Dennis Kimoto of the Rescue Coordination Center in Victoria said. Smith competed in the Daytona 500 three times, and was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2002. His best finish at Daytona was 10th in 1982. The other victims were Derek Myers, 48, of Victoria, and Dennis Webber, 44, of Errington. Michael Slusar of Nanaimo, a Canadian Fisheries Department observer, was in good condition Thursday after being rescued and taken to Port Hardy, along with the bodies of two crew members. The body of a third man was recovered several hours later, Kimoto said. It wasn't immediately clear when Smith's body was found. "I know people in the trawl fleet are very upset. They were well-known and well-qualified,'' Stuart Nelson of the Deep Sea Trawlers Association said.

2/28/04

Happy Birthday Mario and Sebastien  Today is the birthday of current Champ Car driver Sebastien Bourdais and former driver, and racing legend, Mario Andretti, who turns 64 today.

2/28/04

IRL multicar crashes soaring  [Editor's Note:  Based on test speeds at Homestead Friday, where the entire field was separated by just 0.5 seconds, it appears that "pack" racing will continue in the IRL.  If it does, it's safe to bet there are going to be some horrific crashes again in 2004.  All fans should pray for the drivers, because (as Brian Barnhart admits below) the IRL is an artificially managed series to create close racing (no talent required) and the drivers are just sacrificial lambs in the quest for that next 0.005 sec photo finish.]   Excerpts from this Indystar.com article says that the Indy Racing League has built its reputation on racing closer and faster than any other motorsport. But that has come at a significant price. The frequency of multicar crashes has increased by at least 50 percent in each of the past three seasons, according to analysis of league box scores by The Indianapolis Star. Last year, the league had a record 21 multicar crashes compared with 14 in 2002 and nine in 2001. League officials hope to end that trend when new safety-motivated, speed-reducing rule changes go into effect this year. About 200 pounds of downforce is being removed from cars starting Sunday, when the 2004 IRL season opener unfolds at Homestead-Miami Speedway. By May, less powerful engines will be the norm.

The tug-of-war between technology and safety is similar to what occurred after Arie Luyendyk qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in 1996 at a record 236.986 mph. A year later, in a new, non-turbocharged car, he took the pole at slightly faster than 218. The changes are welcomed by drivers past and present. "The competition is keener now, and look at how much speed has been gained since my day," said Johnny Rutherford, whose career spanned 1963 to 1988. "There was a time when they went 121 miles per hour at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. Now they're going 231. As speeds go up, so do the probability of multicar crashes. When you slow the cars down, you give the driver a little more reaction time, no matter how minuscule it is." Rutherford, who works for the IRL, would like to see the IRL drop speeds to 200 mph.
Two-time IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. will take any relief that league officials can provide, which this year should be 5-10 mph at most tracks. "Running in packs at 220 mph is great, but sometimes it's too much," Hornish said. "It's a recipe for disaster."

Brian Barnhart, the IRL's senior vice president of operations, acknowledged the climbing rate of multicar crashes and is working to reduce the odds of them happening in the league's 16-race season. The engines will be reduced to a 3.0-liter configuration beginning with the Indy 500 in May. Barnhart also hopes to spread the cars out on the track with aerodynamic changes. "We put on arguably the best show in racing because of our close racing, but if something happens it tends to collect more cars," he said. "That's the Catch-22. These rules should open things up instead of stacking cars on top of each other."

Champ Car averaged just more than one multicar crash per race in the same three years. But the majority of its races were on road courses and street circuits, where speeds are lower. Critics have long contended that the IRL, like NASCAR, artificially created its competition by trying to equalize cars for the sake of entertainment. Barnhart doesn't dispute managing the competition, but he said "that's what rules do in every series."  In this case, Barnhart said, removing downforce, which should help plant the cars on the track and make them easier to drive, will challenge teams to make crucial decisions about wing angles and other setups. Theoretically, less talented drivers require more help from the wings to drive without lifting off the accelerator.

Keeping the cars on the track might have another side benefit for drivers who vividly remember two dramatic single-car test crashes at IMS last year. In April, Mario Andretti ran over debris and flipped his car twice before landing cleanly and walking away uninjured. In late October, Tony Renna died after his car flew into the fence. IRL President Tony George cautioned that the rule changes don't necessarily make the league safer. "(Racing) isn't tiddlywinks," he said. "It's dangerous."

2/28/04

Champ Cars back in Portland....for now  This Portland Oregonian article says, The contract hasn't been signed, but barring a last-minute snag, the Champ Car World Series has cemented Portland on its 2004 schedule.  The 21st Champ Car race at Portland International Raceway will be June 18-20, and the three-day program will include a Trans-Am race.

"I'm confident we're going to have an event, and I'm happy for all of the fans in Portland who have supported us," said Paul Gentilozzi, one of three Champ Car team owners who won a court battle with Tony George and the Indy Racing League for the assets of bankrupt Championship Auto Racing Teams.

It took some give-and-take by Champ Car series officials, a lot of work from city commissioner Jim Francesconi's office and the salesmanship of promoter Mike Nealy to keep the struggling Portland race from being dropped off the schedule.

Poor attendance, dwindling sponsorship and the uncertainty of CART's future made for a gloomy offseason in Portland. Things didn't begin to brighten until Gentilozzi's group beat the IRL in court.   Now, the two sides are close to finalizing a one-year agreement. The economic impact of the race -- the state's largest sporting event -- has been estimated at $8 million.

"We have the documents," Nealy said Thursday. "But for me to sit here and tell you it's a done deal . . . let's just say I'm extremely optimistic."   Nealy said he wasn't prepared to announce the sponsorship package for Portland but should have news of a major sponsor or sponsors soon.

After several delays, Champ Car is expected to announce its completed 2004 schedule next week, along with its TV package.

Portland's discussions with the rival Indy Racing League about a possible IndyCar series race at PIR in 2005 haven't helped Nealy's efforts to keep the Champ Car event alive, but Gentilozzi said it didn't affect his stance on keeping Portland in the fold.   "If they want to see an IRL race, I'll send them a ticket for Indianapolis," Gentilozzi said, joking. "It didn't bother me a bit. They've got to do what's best for the motor sports fans in Portland."

Whereas Nealy would favor signing an extension with Champ Car to continue the race in 2005 and beyond, others think Portland might get a better 2005 deal with the IRL, which will add road courses to its previously exclusive oval-track schedule next year. The rub is, there is no guarantee the IRL will include Portland, just some early talk that the IRL "is very much interested."

"If the (Champ Car) race is coming back this year, terrific," said Portland businessman Bob Ames, who helped bring the race to Portland in 1984. "But you don't want this to preclude you dealing with the IRL. From my point of view, it remains to be seen what these guys (Champ Car) are going to pull off.

"There's only so much sponsorship, media attention and TV coverage out there. And there's no question, purely from a business approach, the IRL is the stronger organization. As a business person, who would I sign with today, knowing what I know? There isn't any question. That's not to say I want to see the (Champ Car) race pulled, because having a race this summer beats going dark. But I don't want to see it interfere with future opportunities."

Bill Hildick, the former Portland race chairman, always has been a strong supporter of the former CART series, but he's not opposed to the IRL if the Champ Car event finally dries up.

"We've had 20 years of building (Champ Car) fans in Portland, and the reality is there's a lot of open-wheel racing fans out there, regardless of the political struggles of the two series," Hildick said, adding that if IRL founder George "decides to go road racing, why couldn't there be an IRL event here?"

2/28/04

Why bother?  These photos show the attendance at Homestead on Friday for the IRL cars.  If there were 50 to 100 fans there that would be a lot.  We have long maintained why bother to have 3-day race weekends for open wheel oval track events?  Clearly no one cares enough to sit and watch cars drone around for hours on a Friday or Saturday.  They should be 1-day events - practice, qualify and race on Sunday.  The IRL and its sponsors are going to have to give away a lot of tickets for Sunday, or use some trick photography, to make the crowd look decent on TV Sunday.  Like we have said - Open Wheel Oval Races - Stick a fork in them,  they're done.  NASCAR rules the ovals.

fpw_front_straight.jpg levitt_mikestand.jpg imscm0528.jpg fpw_wheldon_atspeed.jpg  fpw_dixon_turn1.jpg

2/28/04

Canadian ad agencies hit jackpot with Champ Car races  It looks like the Canadian's have a bit of a controversy on their hands over how much commission some ad agencies charged the government.  This Toronto Star article says, When the Molson Indy sought sponsorship money from the federal government, it was off to the races for four Quebec-based ad agencies. New documents obtained by the Star show that in Toronto alone, the four Liberal-friendly agencies collected $346,507 in commissions and production fees for handing over $1.2 million over five years to the Toronto Molson Indy car race. The firms got even more — $364,286 — in commissions and fees for handing over less — $1.19 million — to the Vancouver Molson Indy race over those same years. The Molson Indy example shows not just how far the Quebec-based agencies reached, but also how profitable the job of handling government funds was for them, especially from 1997 to 2002, before the auditor-general report raised real alarm. "In terms of the quantum of the fee relative to the size of the grant ... it does strike one as a bit generous," said Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough East). "I mean, it's essentially a third of the money. So that doesn't seem to be quite right."

  Much More...click on 2004 archives button below
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