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DATE

News (chronologically)

3/18/04

Audi UK teams lead night practice at Sebring  The two Audi R8 Prototypes of Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx set the pace Thursday night as American Le Mans Series teams had an hour of night practice for Saturday's 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The #28 Audi driven by Allan McNish, Frank Biela and Pierre Kaffer set the fastest time of the session with a lap of 1:50.053 on the 3.7-mile track. McNish was at the wheel for the fast lap as all drivers had to run at least three laps in order to be eligible to drive in the night portion of the 12-hour endurance race. The #88 Audi UK entry of Guy Smith, Johnny Herbert and Jamie Davies was second at 1:51.265, followed by the ADT Champion Racing Audi of JJ Lehto, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner at 1:51.404. Lehto qualified the car on the pole earlier in the day. The two cars from the factory Chevrolet Corvette team were 1-2 in the GTS class, with the #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen and Olivier Beretta first in class at 1:58.188. The class polesitting car of Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis was second at 1:58.669, followed by the ACEMCO Saleen S7R of Terry Borcheller, Johnny Mowlem and David Brabham at 2:00.406. Leading the LMP2 class for smaller Prototypes was the Rand Racing Lola B2K/40-Nissan of Marino Franchitti, Derek Hill and Andy Lally at 2:00.406. The Intersport Lola-Judd of Clint Field, William Binnie and Rick Sutherland was second at 2:05.165 with the American Spirit Racing Lola-Nissan of John Macaluso, Ian James and Mike Borkowski third at 2:05.885. Setting the pace in the GT class was the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Sascha Maassen, Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister at 2:05.307, followed by the BAM! Porsche of Mike Rockenfeller, Peter Baron and Leo Hindery at 2:05.530. Rounding out the top three was the other Job entry of Romain Dumas, Lucas Luhr and Marc Lieb at 2:06.339. ALMS teams will have one hour of practice on Friday morning and will then have the rest of the day off to prepare for Saturday's 12-hour race.

3/18/04

Hunter-Reay burning up the track in Fontana  UPDATE By the end of the day Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mario Dominguez were dead even at 57.0 but Dominguez (but not Hunter-Reay) went out one last time in that magical part of the day when the air cools and the track remains warm and grippy.  Test times - all unofficial:

Day/Time

Hunter-Reay

Domínguez

Junqueira

Tue AM

X

58.1

58.5

Tue PM

X

57.9

57.9

Wed AM

57.5

X

X

Wed PM

57.1

X

X

Thur AM

57.0

57.3

57.3

Thur PM

57.0

57.0

57.3

Junqueira lost a wheel at around 5 PM in a very fast sweeper, did a phenomenal job of keeping it off the wall, but tore up some curbing. After the track was cleaned up the track extended its time by a half hour to allow Dominguez to get in some laps during which he set his fast time on the very last lap.  3/18/04 - We told you this kid was quick if he got the right equipment.  At half day today in Fontana, Ryan Hunter-Reay was at 57.0, Mario Dominguez at a 57.3 and Bruno Junqueira at 57.8 sec. - all on new tires and without the button.  Stay tuned for an end-of-day report later.

3/18/04

Everclear to headline Tecate Rock-and-Roar Concert at LB  Popular rock band Everclear will bring its vibrant musical style to Long Beach when it headlines the Saturday evening Tecate Rock-N-Roar concert at the 30th Anniversary Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, April 16-18. The Tecate Rock-N-Roar concert, a Grand Prix tradition that began in 2001 and has featured acts such as Third Eye Blind, Gin Blossoms and the Goo Goo Dolls in past years, will begin at approximately 5:15 p.m. Saturday on the stage in front of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center facing Ocean Blvd. Everclear, led by Art Alexakis (lead vocals/guitar), was formed in 1992 in Portland, Ore. The band exploded onto the alternative music scene with its second album, Sparkle in Fade, in 1995, with hits singles like “Santa Monica” and “Heroin Girl.” That effort was followed up in 1997 with So Much for the Afterglow, another multi-platinum smash that had four hit singles: “Everything to Everyone,” “I Will Buy You a New Life,” “Father of Mine,” and “One Hit Wonder.” Three years later, the group released sister albums Songs From an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile and Songs From an American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude. The albums feature hit singles such as “Wonderful,” “A.M. Radio,” and “When it all Goes Wrong Again.” "We haven't played in a while so I’m excited,” said Alexakis. “Growing up in L.A., I always wanted to go to the Grand Prix. This will be two great things in one." Everclear hasn’t toured since last fall, and their appearance at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is their only tour date currently scheduled in Southern California. The Tecate Rock-N-Roar concert is free to all Grand Prix Saturday ticket holders. Tickets can be ordered via credit card by using the toll-free ticket hotline, (888) 82-SPEED. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at www.longbeachgp.com, at the ticket office at 430 East First Street in Long Beach, between Elm and Linden Streets in downtown Long Beach or at Ticketmaster locations throughout Southern California, including all Robinsons-May, Tower Records and Wherehouse stores.

3/18/04

Audi on pole at Sebring  For the fifth consecutive time, an Audi R8 sports car will start the 12 Hour race at Sebring (Florida) from the front of the grid. In Thursday's qualifying, the Finn JJ Lehto captured the pole position in the American endurance classic for Audi's customer Team ADT Champion Racing.   Ex-Formula 1 driver Allan McNish qualified in second position on his sports car comeback, allowing two Audis to start the race from the front row on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. local time. With the R8 of the new Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx, the Scotsman was just 0.111s behind Lehto. Johnny Herbert, driving the second "British" Audi R8, was demoted to fourth position on the grid by the fastest MG Lola shortly before the end of qualifying. 
Quotes after qualifying at Sebring
JJ Lehto (Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 #38): "I´m happy I got the pole, not only for myself but also for Team ADT Champion Racing. I've been really happy with the car so far. We didn't do any testing until we came here, but with all the preparation the team did, we obviously didn't need to."  

 

Allan McNish (Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx Audi R8 #28): "It's great to be back at the wheel of an Audi R8. I was on pole until seven minutes to the chequered flag. In the end it wasn't quite good enough. Our car was set-up more with the race in mind than out-and-out qualifying which bodes well for a successful race."

Johnny Herbert (Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx Audi R8 #88): "We've been fast since we arrived. In qualifying, I set my fastest time early in the session but got bumped down to fourth with three minutes to run. But that's not an issue in a race lasting 12 hours and I'm certain we'll be strong."
The starting grid (top 10) at Sebring
1 Lehto/Pirro/Werner (Audi R8) 1m 48.710s
2 Biela/Kaffer/McNish (Audi R8) 1m 48.821s
3 Weaver/Wallace/Leitzinger (MG Lola) 1m 49.887s
4 Davies/Herbert/Smith (Audi R8) 1m 49.944s
5 Field/Dayton/Connor (Lola-Judd) 1m 51.288s
6 Short/Barff/Barbosa (Dallara-Judd) 1m 52.407s
7 Dyson/Lammers/de Radigues (MG Lola) 1m 53.336s
8 Durand/Block/Forgeois (R&S-Elan) 1m 56.425s
9 Lewis/Drissi/Rice (R&S-Lincoln) 1m 56.817s
10 Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen (Chevrolet) 1m 56.858s

3/18/04

Champ Car statement on Rahal departure  The following is a statement regarding the departure of Bobby Rahal and Team Rahal from the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. The statement should be attributed to Champ Car President Dick Eidswick. “We were surprised to hear of Bobby’s decision to leave the Champ Car World Series at this time. His association and involvement with Champ Car have been considerable. Bobby grew up as a driver in our series and eventually served as the Chief Executive Officer, in addition to his role as a team owner. “He has, however, reaffirmed his commitment to campaign his two-car Toyota Atlantic effort as well as an entry in our new Formula BMW series so we can expect him to join us on Champ Car weekends. “Champ Car has worked diligently during the transition period in preparation for the 2004 season, in essence accomplishing six months of work in six weeks. We understand the complexity of the purchase caused some delays in planning for the teams. But the recent release of our 2004 race schedule and television package has allowed numerous teams, drivers, and sponsors to move forward with final negotiations. We fully anticipate a series of positive team and driver announcements within the next several days. “We believe we have and are acting in the best interests of everyone who has been a part of Champ Car history. We remain committed to bringing a full field to the season opener in Long Beach and we’re confident our teams and fans will be rewarded with a competitive and exciting racing season.”

3/18/04

Gigante and Jourdain dump Team Rahal, will remain in Champ Car  Gigante has ended their sponsorship of Team Rahal because of their move to the IRL.  Gigante will remain in the Champ Car World Series.  Look for Michel Jourdain and Gigante to land with another Champ Car team in the very near future.  One of the new breed of Champ Car superstars and a rapidly-rising hero in his native Mexico, Michel Jourdain Jr. announced Thursday that he would remain with the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford despite the departure of Team Rahal, with whom he competed for the last two seasons. “I will always be grateful for the opportunities and successes I had with Team Rahal,” Jourdain said. “I am sad to see them leave but I am excited about the future of the Champ Car World Series. It is extremely important to me to be able to continue to race in my homeland of Mexico in front of the passionate Mexican race fans.” Jourdain had a breakthrough year in 2003, claiming the first two victories of his Champ Car career. He set a series single-race record by leading 234 laps to win in Milwaukee and then climbed from fourth place on the starting grid to score a victory in Montreal. He is the youngest driver ever to start a Champ Car race and has seven career podium finishes including one in Monterrey, Mexico last season. “We are very happy to learn that Michel Jourdain intends to remain with the Champ Car World Series,” said Champ Car President Dick Eidswick. “Michel is poised to become one of the top drivers in all of open-wheel racing and has become one of the fan favorites not only in his native Mexico, but at every stop on the Champ Car schedule.”

3/18/04

Rahal makes it official  Team Rahal co-owners Bobby Rahal and Dave Letterman announced today that their open-wheel racing operation will expand its involvement in the 2004 IRL IndyCar® Series beginning with the Japan Indy 300 on April 15-17 at Motegi, Japan.  Subsequently Team Rahal announced it was ceasing operation of its Champ Car World Series program. Team Rahal and primary sponsor Gigante have mutually agreed to conclude this chapter of their partnership.  "The ever evolving and difficult nature of the racing business and the state of our sport today requires that we must evaluate our programs and determine what is in the best interest of our team and our sponsors," said Bobby Rahal. "The decision has been made that it is best for our team to concentrate on having two cars for the entire IRL season and adding the third entry for Motegi and Indy. We have stated before that running a multiple car effort in a single series not only provides competitive advantages, but certain economic benefits. It was simply becoming too much of a drain on our team in terms of resources and time to run championship caliber programs in IndyCar, Champ Car and Atlantics."  "I fully support our team's expansion in the IRL IndyCar Series," said Letterman. "Bobby and I believe the additional entry will increase our team's competitive level. "  Team Rahal will field two Honda G-Force Indy Cars for the remaining 14 races of the 16-race 2004 IRL season. The driver and primary sponsorship for the team's newest entry is being finalized and will be announced shortly. The team currently fields the No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Honda G-Force for Buddy Rice who is filling in for the injured Kenny Brack. The team will campaign a third car in the Japan Indy 300 (April 17) and the Indianapolis 500 (May 30) with Roger Yasukawa.  Team Rahal

3/18/04

Rahal to announce Champ Car departure  According to this SPEED TV article, Bobby Rahal, a three-time CART champion and former CEO of the series he helped grow into international respect, is throwing in with the Indy Racing League.  SPEEDTV.com has learned that Rahal will make the official announcement late Thursday afternoon from Sebring, Fla. where he's being honored for his road racing accomplishments at the annual 12-hour sports car race.  Rahal's defection comes on the heels of Adrian Fernandez' departure last week and leaves Champ Car in a mad scramble for cars a month away from its season opener in Long Beach.  There were 12 confirmed cars at last week's Champ Car media day, counting Fernandez and Rahal, and the contract with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach calls for 16 cars.   While it's expected Rahal will now field a two-car IRL team, it's not known whether Michel Jourdain will be part of it. Jourdain, sponsored by Gigante, was set to run the 2004 Champ Car season for Team Rahal and made it clear he didn't want to go to the IRL when Rahal told SPEEDTV.com last week he wasn't ruling out the IRL.  With Fernandez gone, the 28-year-old native of Mexico City would be the big draw in Champ Car's races at Monterrey and Mexico City. Even though he scored his initial CART win at Milwaukee in 2003 for Team Rahal, Jourdain prefers the mix of street, road courses and ovals opposed to an all-oval circuit. It's possible that if Gigante opts to stay with Jourdain, and not Rahal, another owner in Champ Car would gladly run him.  "I don't know what's going to happen, everything is so crazy here right now," said Jourdain on Thursday morning from Mexico City. "I think I may know what my future is later today." Rahal, who received a pep talk to stay in Champ Car from Paul Newman earlier this week, went to Mexico City to visit Gigante officials -- as did Paul Gentilozzi, one of the principals of Open Wheel Racing Series, owners of Champ Car. Buddy Rice is currently driving Rahal's G-Force/Honda in the IRL until the injured Kenny Brack returns. But, if Jourdain stays in Champ Car, Rice would likely get to run all 16 races and Rahal will have to find another driver to run Motegi and Indianapolis with Rice while Brack continues to recover.

3/18/04

Hunter-Reay fastest so far at Fontana  UPDATE We hear by the end of the day Hunter-Reay was down to 57.1 sec.  3/17/04 - We hear Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mario Dominguez have been the fastest in Fontana so far...both did a 57.6....we hear Hunter-Reay's time was set on old tires and without using the push-to-pass button whereas Junqueira's best time yesterday was a 58.1 or 58.2...obviously a different day but we will see where everyone stacks up tomorrow...should be interesting.  Would be nice to see the American youngster run up front with competitive equipment...would be very good for the series.

3/18/04

Drivers test push-to-pass button  Cosworth Racing and Champ Car developed a new push-to-pass function for the cars competing in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford in 2004, and the mechanism received favorable reviews following its first on-track test earlier this week. The push-to-pass function increases the boost in the engine to provide an extra 50 horsepower at the press of a button, helping a driver to make a pass in an otherwise tight situation. The drivers will have 60 seconds of the increased boost at their disposal during each race. The Herdez Competition and Newman/Haas Racing teams were the first to try the push-to-pass button at the track, using the system in their Champ Car tests on the infield road course at California Speedway in Fontana. Miami winner Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and 2003 series runner-up Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) were the first drivers to take their shots with the new device and reported that it made a noticeable difference in performance. “The new push-to-pass button will be a great tool, you definitely feel the difference,” Dominguez said. “Passing is still going to be a challenge, particularly on some tracks, but this is going to be good. I am excited about it.” Junqueira was also impressed with the push-to-pass apparatus, which completed a pair of demanding race simulations on the Cosworth dyno before making it to the race track. “It was very good,” Junqueira said of the new device. “The button will give you what you need to pass a car if you are close to it. It won't make it easy but it will help for sure. I think it will make the racing more exciting this season.” Engineers from Cosworth and Champ Car were equally pleased with the results of the test, but were mindful that it was only the first test of the season. “Everything worked as planned and I think the best endorsement came in the fact that the drivers could notice a change in performance with the use of the button,” said Cosworth Track Support Manager Ken Deagle. “The increase in power works as we’d hoped but we will continue testing to ensure that it works as advertised every time we use it.” Newman/Haas will continue testing with the new mechanism Thursday at the road course in Fontana.

3/18/04
Industry News

Dover personnel change  Dover Motorsports, Inc. has announced that Gary Camp has joined the Company as Director of Public Relations for Dover International Speedway. Camp replaces John Dunlap, who recently left Dover International Speedway to serve as Sr. Manager of Public Relations for the NEXTEL Cup Series in Charlotte, N.C. Prior to joining the Dover International Speedway team, Camp spent several years as an account executive and public relations representative with Shipley Associates, Inc. of Wilmington, Del., the Speedway's agency of record for more than 30 years. While at Shipley, Camp worked on the Speedway account, but also handled the day-to-day public relations functions for Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment, along with several other clients. "We are pleased to have Gary Camp as part of the Dover Motorsports, Inc. family," said Denis McGlynn, President and CEO of Dover Motorsports, Inc. "Because of his role at Shipley Associates, he will be able to quickly assimilate to his new position at Dover International Speedway." "I'm thrilled to have this opportunity," said Camp. "My working relationship with Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment and Dover Motorsports will make for a smooth transition, and I look forward to proactively promoting the two race weekends at Dover International Speedway."

3/18/04

Sebring: Thursday AM practice  The Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx entry led the way Thursday morning at Sebring International Raceway as American Le Mans Series racing teams had their last pre-qualifying practice for Saturday 's 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Official qualifying for the race will be held at 1:50 p.m. Thursday. The #28 Audi R8 driven by Allan McNish, Pierre Kaffer and Frank Biela led the way in the one-hour morning session with a lap of 1:49.419 on the 3.7-mile track, while second was the ADT Champion Racing Audi of JJ Lehto, Marco Werner and Emanuele Pirro at 1:50.013. The second Audi UK entry of Jamie Davies, Johnny Herbert and Guy Smith completed an Audi sweep of the top three overall (and LMP1 class) spots with a lap of 1:51.311. Leading the GTS class was the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R of Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen and Olivier Beretta with a lap of 1:57.545, followed by the other factory Corvette of Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis at 1:57.980. The ACEMCO Saleen S7R of Terry Borcheller, Johnny Mowlem and David Brabham was third at 1:59.030.

3/18/04

Ralf promises to run Juan off the track  An angry Ralf Schumacher has promised to drive teammate Juan Pablo Montoya 'off the track' if he repeats his Melbourne overtaking maneuver. The two Williams teammates clashed wheels when the Colombian forced his way past Ralf on lap two of last week's Australian GP. Schumacher had to run wide to avoid a race-ending collision, but says that next time he'll be running Montoya off the track. "It was a pretty strong move and next time I will have him off the track," Ralf told reporters at the Thursday press conference in Malaysia. "The move was based upon me making space for him, which I did that early in the race, on the basis of scoring as many points as possible and getting the most out of the weekend. But I didn't think it was the right thing to do. If someone brakes into a corner with the intention of either crashing into somebody or assuming that he will give space then that is the wrong move," he added. "I overtook five cars today and Ralf was the only one I hit," Montoya said. "He changed direction when he saw me coming through. It was not clever - it could have taken both of us off."

3/18/04

Death threats against Jordan  Eddie Jordan has revealed that he has been the target of death threats after he snubbed Jos Verstappen from his F1 team lineup. The Jordan team boss received hundreds of threatening e-mails, some wishing death on Jordan, his wife Marie and their children. Others said they hoped Jordan drivers Nck Heidfeld and Giorgio Pantano crash during Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. Messages started arriving soon after Jordan ditched Dutch star Verstappen in favor of untried Pantano.  "I have been absolutely stunned by the menace and vitriol these messages have contained," Jordan said.  "At first I shrugged them off but they became stronger and stronger and I feel it's time to speak out and make these comments public.  It's become really unpleasant to think there are people in this world who could even think of sending these dreadful messages just because I didn't sign a driver.  I really wanted Jos because he has great experience and knows how to bring a car home," Jordan explained.  "But his manager asked for sky-high commission and, after lengthy talks, enough was enough and I went for Pantano."

3/18/04

Centrix reviewing Denver purchase  2nd UPDATE This Denver Post article says, The Grand Prix of Denver was sold Wednesday, but not to the company that had announced its intentions to buy it. The Champ Car World Series, the sanctioning body for the annual street race, bought the event from Dover Motorsports in a deal that allows former prospective buyer Centrix Financial to concentrate on serving as title sponsor.  "It's a phenomenal deal for the community because it saves an asset that a lot of people enjoy," said John Frew, who served as general manager the first two years of the race.

Champ Car partner Paul Gentilozzi bristled at suggestions the race or series might fold. "The people saying that we're not going to be around are the ones trying to put us out of business," Gentilozzi said. "We've put our money where our mouths are, and this is an example."

Champ Car and Centrix teamed with Frew, a Denver lawyer, to create Colorado Motorsports, a Denver-based company that will handle management for the race. "There are a lot of moving parts and an enormous amount of detail involved," Frew said. "What we finally agreed to do, rather than having Centrix be the lead, we said to (Champ Car): 'You figure it out. You go to Dover and get all this done. You take the ultimate financial risk, and you show up in Denver to run the race. We'll do everything else.' So we're all putting something into this."

Centrix previously offered to buy the race from Delaware-based Dover and had extended its due diligence through Wednesday. Champ Car was purchased by Open Wheel Racing Series, a group comprised of Gentilozzi and two other Champ Car team owners, after previous owner CART declared bankruptcy late last year.  Centrix spokesman Brandon Borrman said it became important to ask Champ Car to financially back up its intentions to race in Denver.  "This was the deal that made the most sense with all the talent involved, (and) this arrangement allows this race to go forward," Borrman said.

Gentilozzi said Champ Car, part owner in races in Portland, Ore., and Cleveland, would not have bought the race without Centrix's sponsorship commitment. Because Dover wanted out, a new owner was needed to keep the race alive. "That's why we did it," Gentilozzi said. "It just all worked out in the end. We have more control over our destiny, and that's important."

Frew, who sought new owners after learning Dover was not interested in staging a third race, said Gentilozzi and company still have "a lot to prove."

"This structure says, 'You bring the circus to town, and we'll put up the tent,"' Frew said. "We'll sell the tickets and do everything, but they have to continue to move forward.  "I've spent a lot of time with these guys in the last five days, and there is no question in my mind that their hearts are in the right place, and they're well capitalized to do all of what they said they're going to do."

Gentilozzi said he is pleased to work with people interested in keeping the Denver event running.  "(Dover executives) changed their business model and wanted to go another direction," Gentilozzi said. "That created confrontation, and in confrontation, nobody wins."

Said Frew: "Working with Dover, I had to answer to one group of people in the East Coast and another on the West Coast, (none) of whom lived here. We no longer have an absentee owner. (Centrix CEO) Bob Sutton lives here. I live here. We are stepping up to take over the management of this race.  "In the past two years, very little about what this race represented had to do with Denver and Colorado. It was a generic application controlled from thousands of miles away. What you're going to see now is what the sports fan in Colorado expects and deserves."  3/17/04 - According to a report on Yahoo, after its investigation, Centrix won't buy the Denver race and OWRS will serve as the race promoter, run by a new management company that will be formed to run the operation.  Centrix will still sponsor the event.  Also see Denver Post article3/15/04 -  Centrix Financial in Denver, CO, has arranged to extend the due-diligence period with regard to its pending acquisition of the rights and assets associated with the GP of Denver round of the Champ Car World Series. Centrix, the event's title sponsor, has agreed a five-day extension with Dover Motorsports, which owns the rights through its Grand Prix of Long Beach subsidiary, and will now announce its final decision on or before Wednesday (March 17).  Autosport

3/18/04

Forsythe would be wise to field car for Carpentier  A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1, I have been reading a number of Patrick Carpentier's recent interviews and am interested in some of the logic surrounding the business of reestablishing the Champ Car series. Perhaps it would be wiser for Gerald Forsythe to field a third car for Carpentier, thus preventing Pat from extensively publicizing his doubts about the future of the series? Forsythe, who presumably has a vested interest in the public image of Champ Car and who holds the contract on Carpentier, might be able to afford the cost, call it an investment in the future. As a side benefit, it would help the car count, a major issue cited by the departing Fernandez organization. Undoubtedly, it may all be part and parcel of the grand plan to restore the Champ Car series by businessmen who obviously have an excellent past success record. Paul Walter, Columbus, Ohio  Dear Paul, While we are not privy to all the reasons why the owners of OWRS each hired one driver who brought money to the team, thereby depriving another needy team of that driver's money, we're willing to bet there is a good explanation in each case, the negative PR it has generated for the series has been most damaging.  In one case we did hear that the driver's sponsor wanted to be with a top team or they were gone.  In a situation like that, what would you do?  Mark C.

3/18/04

Morgan Freeman to drive Indy 500 pace car  Academy Award-nominated actor Morgan Freeman will drive the 2004 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Pace Car to lead the field to the start of the 88th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on Sunday, May 30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Freeman will pace the starting field of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" to a green-flag start at 11 a.m. (EST). The race will be broadcast live by ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network.

"We're thrilled that Morgan Freeman is driving the Pace Car for the 88th Indianapolis 500," said Tony George, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "He is an ideal person for the role since the theme of the event is 'Lights, Camera, Traction!' This theme highlights the connection between the excitement and stars of the Indy 500 and the glamour and stars of motion pictures, and Morgan is one of the most popular and respected modern film stars. "And the fact that he'll be behind the wheel of a Corvette, an American automotive icon from Chevrolet, is even more exciting."  Freeman has received numerous awards for his performances in films, television and the theater, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for "The Shawshank Redemption" in 1995 and "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990, and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for "Street Smart" in 1988.

"Right next to acting, my childhood dream was to drive on a Speedway track," Freeman said. "I'm thrilled to just be an observer but especially thrilled to be a part of the racing logs as the Pace Car driver for the Indianapolis 500 this year."  The 2004 Corvette that will serve as the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car is virtually identical to the convertibles available today through local Chevrolet dealerships.  A white-and-blue, two-tone paint treatment incorporates Americana-themed graphics, tying into Chevrolet's new "An American Revolution" marketing theme. The theme captures Chevrolet's pride and passion for innovation, and for success not only in motorsports, but also as it launches 10 new car and truck products in 20 months.

3/18/04
Industry News

Police probe Long Beach foundation  According to a report in the Long Beach Press Telegram, police have begun a probe into the possible misuse of funds by the nonprofit Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach. The foundation has also cancelled its 2004 Toyota Grand Prix Charity Ball and the Toyota Grand Prix Charity Golf Tournament, two fund-raisers traditionally hosted in the week prior to the race.

Foundation President Rick DuRee told the newspaper that the foundation asked for the police investigation to "make sure some things were looked at by the appropriate authorities." He did not elaborate.  A police spokesman told the newspaper that misappropriation of funds is "one aspect" of the investigation, but he, too, declined to elaborate.  The state attorney general's office has confirmed that a complaint against the foundation has been received, the newspaper reported.

The loss of the two charity events is expected to cost the foundation between $125,000 and $150,000 in net revenue, the newspaper reported.

The foundation is in the midst of an ongoing reorganization, having replaced all its executive officers and two board members last July.  DuRee told the newspaper that he expected the charity events would return next year.  One other obstacle this year is preventing the events. "It was discovered that certain permits the foundation is required to have in order to solicit funds had expired," DuRee said in a statement. "It now appears that the review of the permit re-application process will extend beyond mid-April when the Charity Days were to have taken place."

3/18/04

Toyota wants Long Beach to become IRL race  UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, All of a sudden, Toyota has the capacity for 3 or 4 more cars at Indy? I thought they were at capacity right now and couldn't provide more engines for Indy. Funny, less than two weeks ago, Honda and Toyota were gnashing their teeth about not having enough engines for the IRL, now with the possibility of new teams from CART, all these engines are popping up. Notice how quiet Chevrolet has been about it as well? I smell a rat. Joe Angers, Boston, MA  3/18/04 - Toyota sponsors the Long Beach Grand Prix and said they would like to bring that race to the IRL. "It only makes sense to have the series that you participate in sanction that race," Toyota's Jim Aust stated according to National Speed Sport News. OWRS co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven believes that Tony George and Honda and Toyota are attempting to entice teams to abandon Champ Cars for IndyCars, with the goal of preventing Champ Car from assembling a competitive field for Long Beach and the rest of the season. "I think that's true," Kevin Kalkhoven said. "They are doing everything they can to try to stop it from happening. That is their goal. But we're going to get out of the gate at Long Beach."  "Adrian examined with great detail what was to be seen with the present situation at Long Beach and he made a business decision," said Toyota's Lee White. "It's very difficult for us to even comment on. They (OWRS) went to court and won and celebrated greatly, but now it's their horse and they have to ride it. We've talked to Carl Haas about joining the IRL. We have capacity to add more teams than we have at the moment. We're prepared to support 13 or 14 cars for the Indy 500."   Jim Aust is the president of Toyota Research and Development and believes OWRS could be in serious trouble. "It's quite a surprise for Adrian to make his announcement two days after saying he would run in OWRS," Aust said. "They are running short on cars. If you look at the overall picture, you can certainly understand why he has made that decision. Bobby Rahal is a strong businessman and he has to make the decision that is right for his team, also. If he leaves, the car count will be extremely short for OWRS."

3/18/04

WKA and Champ Car Stars announce agreement  Snap-On Stars of Karting and the Word Karting Association (WKA) announce additional methods for qualification to race at the Stars Season Finale. In an effort to make the Snap-On Stars of Karting Finale as competitive as possible, and open to more drivers for participation, the Stars organization and the WKA have announced that racers who compete in WKA's famed Manufacturer's Cup Series are now eligible to compete at the Stars Finale later in the year. Along with the Manufacturer's Cup series, many of WKA's premier Divisional programs also meet the eligibility requirements.  Full detail of the regulation can be found under Competition Regulations Appendix 1, at www.starsofkarting.com

"We are thrilled to again be working with the strong programs that WKA offers," said Kevin Williams of Stars. "Their level of competition, and series' locations throughout the country present a well-rounded program, allowing drivers to have a chance to participate in the Snap-on Stars of Karting Finale."

Only the following WKA events are approved Stars qualifying events. A complete list of races, rules and contacts for each can be found thru the WKA Link on www.starsofkarting.com , or at www.worldkarting.com . Only the core Stars classes, (ICC, ICA, JICA, 80cc Jr. Shifter, and Cadet), offered at the following WKA events are applicable to this regulation.
Manufacturer's Cup East Manufacturer's Cup West
(participate in 3 of 4 Races) (participate in 4 of 5 Races)
Empire State Sprint Series Florida Champ. Sprint Series
(participate in 3 of 4 Races) (participate in 4 of 5 Races)
Great Lakes Sprint Series Rocky Mountain West Divisional Sprint Series
(participate in 4 of 6 Races) (participate in 5 Races)
Maryland Divisional Sprint Series Midwest Sprint Series
(participate in 4 of 6 Races) (participate in 4 of 5 Races)
Northwest Sprint Series
(participate in 4 of 6 Races)

3/18/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

F1 stars drive Bahrain circuit
Some like it hot - even Ferrari
FIA propose qualifying 'tweak'
Dixon lands BMW-Williams F1 test
Williams will put up a fight: Ralf
Sepang Is Ferrari's true test: Schu
Michelin might be in 'deep trouble'
What is Pantano worried about?
Cars to do more laps at F1 races
Webber supports two-lap qualifying
Rubens has praise for F1 rivals 

Schu can't wait for Bahrain race
Sato out to boost Asian interest
Toyota target top-ten qualifying
'Quick Nick' eyes Sepang hat-trick
Stoddart sacks airline workers
F1 prepares for seven-race spread
Schu not bothered by Malaysian heat
F1 news: brief

3/17/04

LB Toyota Pro Celebrity field set  Today’s hottest stars from film, television, music and sports will attempt to outpace and out-maneuver each other to the checkered flag in the
28th annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race.

Part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend, this world-renowned, 10-lap charity race will be held on the 1.97-mile downtown Long Beach street circuit on Saturday,
April 17, in Long Beach, Calif.

The expected field of seventeen includes the following eclectic group of entertainment personalities, internationally known celebrities, and figures from sports and media:
• Sean Astin – ‘Samwise Gamgee’ in the Oscar-winning film “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
• Lil’ Kim – Rap/Hip Hop Recording Artist
• Frankie Muniz – “Agent Cody Banks” films; FOX’s “Malcolm in the Middle”
• Andrew Firestone – ABC’s “The Bachelor”
• Laila Ali – Female Super Middleweight Boxing Champion
• Carlos Bernard – ‘Tony Almeida’ on FOX’s “24”
• Andrea Parker – ‘Lydia Weston’ on ABC’s “Less Than Perfect”
• Chris McDonald – ‘Ted Shackleton’ on the new FOX series “Cracking Up”
• Melissa Joan Hart – ABC’s “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”
• Liza Snyder – ‘Christine Hughes’ on CBS’ “Yes, Dear”
• Tony Potts – “Access Hollywood” Correspondent

Returning this year is the 2003 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race champion, Peter Reckell (‘Bo Brady’ on NBC’s daytime soap “Days of Our Lives”). As the 2003 winner, Reckell will now compete with four other drivers in the “Pro” category.
In addition to Reckell, the professional drivers competing for the checkered flag are:
• Dara Torres – Olympic Gold Medal-winning swimmer; 2002 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race Winner
• Max Papis – Professional Open Wheel and Lexus-powered Sports Car Driver
• Mike Follmer – 2002 International Jet Sports Boat Association Offshore Endurance Champion
“The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is renowned for attracting celebrity and professional drivers because it offers the high-speed challenge of real racing,” said Les Unger, Toyota’s national motorsports manager. “With stars from film, television, music and sports, this year’s race is sure to provide thrills for fans.”

Also racing in this year’s event are Cliff Cummings, owner of Toyota of San Bernardino; and Jill Pasant, who earned a spot by making the high bid of $60,000 for the 2004 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race seat at last year’s Toyota Grand Prix Charity Ball auction.

As part of the event, Toyota will help raise more than $100,000 for “Racing for Kids,” a non-profit program benefiting Southern California children’s hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County. Toyota will donate $5,000 in the name of each participant, and another $5,000 to the race winner’s charity of choice.

Finally, a $15,000 donation is made in conjunction with the seventh annual “PEOPLE Pole Award.” Sponsored by PEOPLE magazine, the award honors the pole-position winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race qualifying session on Friday, April 16. In the past 13 years, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race has generated more than $1 million for charity.

3/17/04

Bridgestone the official tire of Long Beach  For the third consecutive season, the Bridgestone brand is the Official Tire of the famed Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, one of the country’s premier auto racing events. Bridgestone first appeared as the Official Tire at Long Beach in 2002, the same year that the brand debuted as the Official Tire and sole supplier for Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, an annual stop on the Champ Car World Series circuit, features world-class competition in open-wheel racing. This year, every Champ Car competitor will again be equipped with Bridgestone Potenza racing radials.

In addition to the main event, the Bridgestone brand will also serve as the Official Tire for the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race for the eighth straight year. Participants in that race will compete in specially prepared Toyota Celicas equipped with the popular Bridgestone Potenza RE750. “This is certainly a very busy week for us, but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Bridgestone Motorsport. “We’re proud to be so closely associated with the Grand Prix of Long Beach, which is certainly one of the country’s premier sporting events. It’s the perfect place for us to showcase our Bridgestone brand to a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience. We look forward to it every year.” The Bridgestone brand first appeared in auto racing more than four decades ago and has appeared in many of the world’s top forms of motorsports. In 2004, in addition to Champ Car, the Bridgestone family of companies serves as supplier to many teams in various types of competition, including MotoGP, AMA Supercross/Motocross and the FIA Formula One World Series, where Bridgestone-equipped drivers have won the last six consecutive world championships.

3/17/04

Wishing Fernández adios  Dear Autoracing1.com, We all understand and heard that in Long Beach Fernandez Racing was expecting the "Commitment to the Fans" and "a set TV Schedule" and many other things from OWRS yeah right!!!  Fernandez Racing is well known to be after the money from its sponsors just like the rest of the teams that have left to the IRL. They have prepared to make the move since last year, maintaining IRL sponsorship, moving to a new building, etc,. I was in Long Beach last week and I did not see Adrian at all at the Sports Arena, his car was there but Adrian never showed up. I met with Paul Tracy, Bruno Junqueira, Rodolfo Lavin, Roberto Gonzales, Nelson Philippe, Alex Tagliani, Michel Jourdain, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mario Dominguez, AJ Allmendinger, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser. They were all very confident about the series and future years. We did not see Adrian at the sports Arena simply because he knew he was leaving. Fernandez talks about all these excuses that for someone not familiar with the racing industry may sound drastic, no TV deal, other drivers sponsorship, money promised etc, unfortunately racing is like that and that has been like it for a while. About two years ago I wrote about Adrian Fernandez and how he became a better businessman rather than a better driver in the series, this the proof, after all Fernandez Racing to CART/OWRS was one team with one car and a below average driver that won only one race in two years of its existence in the series. Yes Adrian was a key element for the Mexican races in Mexico City and Parque Fundidora in Monterrey, but let's keep in mind that Mexican fans love the sport and we still have great drivers in the series including Michel and Mario. We must go on with the show, new drivers and venues. CART Fans let's keep supporting our series and wish Adrian and Fernandez Racing the best on their future endeavors...or the return to CART next season we shall see...adios amigo. Ivan Arias-Los Angeles CA 

3/17/04

Herdez team tests out west  Preparing for the 2004 Champ Car World Series, Mario Dominguez completed the first of three scheduled test days on the infield road course at California Speedway Tuesday. 2004 will mark Dominguez’s third season in Champ Car and Herdez Competition team manager Vince Kremer is pleased with the team’s improvements, “we made steady progress today, there were no hiccups and we walked through the test plan which included suspension geometry and various options to tighten up what we want to run this year. Mario ran a time in the mid 57-second range and we made positive strides forward. At the end of the day we completed a series of pit stops, practicing for the season and finalizing our over-the-wall crew. The team is excited and pumped up for the season; it is good to be back on the road.”

Dominguez completed 132 miles (88 laps) in warm, windy conditions on the 1.488 – mile road course, “Michael (Cannon – race engineer) was keen to try a variety of set-ups today. Some worked and some didn’t but that is how we learn and I am pleased with the progress we made. We tried some things that Michael is experienced with but that are new to me and at the end of the day I think we put in a very respectable time. We are learning a lot from each other, the engineer-driver relationship is very important and I think we are starting off on the right foot.”

3/17/04

Junqueira completes test, likes push-to-pass button  PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira, 27, got behind the wheel of a Champ Car yesterday for the first time since the 2003 season finale in Australia for the first of a two-day test in preparation for the 2004 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season. After running 80 laps around the 1.5-mile road course at The California Speedway, Junqueira was pleased with Newman/Haas Racing's (NHR) first test day of the season.

"It was good to get back on track after such a long off-season," said Junqueira, who finished second in the overall 2003 Champ Car point standings for the second consecutive season. "I'm quite happy with the amount that we learned on the first day. I also was able to use Ford-Cosworth's new "Push to Pass" button for the first time and it was very good. I think it will make the racing more exciting this season. The button will give you what you need to pass a car if you are close to it. It won't make it easy but it will help for sure. The team is working on the car today and I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel tomorrow."

NHR's General Manager Brian Lisles was also pleased with the progress. "Everyone is happy to get back on track," said Lisles. "We were able to run 120 trouble-free miles yesterday and evaluate the new rule changes that the Champ Car series passed over the winter."

3/17/04

Bob Osborne Named Crew Chief Of 99 Roush Racing Team  Roush Racing announced that Bob Osborne has been named the crew chief of the No. 99 Roush Racing team, effective immediately. “I think Bob will make a great addition to the No. 99 team,” said Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford Taurus. “He's an engineer by trade but he's a racer at heart. And, he shows a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and excitement about the opportunity presented to him. He's been with Roush Racing for several years and has exhibited all the skills necessary to be a leader and I believe he can help the No. 99 team get back to the top."

Osborne had been serving as director of engineering for the Roush Racing NEXTEL Cup teams. Osborne is a graduate of Penn State University and a native of Chester, Pennsylvania. He graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Osborne joined Roush Racing in 1999 as the head engineer on the No. 6 team then quickly moved his way up the ranks within the company. "I'm excited about this opportunity," said Osborne. "Jeff Burton is one of the best drivers in the business, the No. 99 team is made up of some of the best people in the business and I'm looking forward to working with all of them."

3/17/04

ESS claims excellent sponsor response to Formula One According to this Indiantelevsion article Sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports (ESS) has that this seasons Formula One is a big hit with the sponsors. The broadcaster issued a release stating that Honda had extended its existing relationship as the sponsor of the live coverage. This represents the sixth season partnership between the two parties. Toyota is the presenting sponsor of Race Day along with associate sponsors Panasonic, Exxon Mobil and Philips. ESS' show Chequered Flag is jointly co-presented by Mobil and Mercedes and associate sponsor UPS.

ESS ad sales and multimedia senior VP Greg Hayes added, "For the 2004 season we have taken significant steps to enhance the live coverage of the race through strengthening our auxiliary shows Race Day and Chequered Flag. Our aim is to not only add greater enjoyment and insight knowledge for the audience, but also provide our advertising partners with the opportunity to become more closely associated with Formula One".

The 2004 Formula One season is broadcast live on Star Sports throughout Asia and claims to be reaching over 56 million households. It is estimated that each championship round of the Formula One is watched by a global audience of 350 million people, making it the second most popular television sport behind soccer.

3/17/04

Foyt seeking sponsor  Despite the lack of a primary sponsor, #14-Larry Foyt plans to return to the Cup tour at TMS next month. The team owned by his father, open-wheel legend A.J. Foyt of Houston, has not entered the #14 Dodge in the past two events. And Foyt does not plan to enter this weekend's event at Darlington Raceway. "We got to talking and I said if we're going to try and race a couple of races, I'd really like to run Texas," said Foyt, a graduate of TCU. "We had a bad run at Rockingham [32nd on Feb. 22]. I said if we can't test on these new tires and get caught up, I don't want to go run around last all day. Let's test somewhere and try to do it right."(Fort Worth Star Telegram)

3/17/04

Carpentier unsure about racing future  According to TSN.ca Carpentier tells the Toronto Sun he is still reeling from the decision last week to replace him on the team with Rodolfo Lavin, who brings considerable sponsorship from Corona beer. Carpentier has a guaranteed contract with Forsythe but the team plans to field only two cars in 2004 for Lavin and defending series champion Paul Tracy. Forsythe is attempting to place Carpentier with another Champ Car team, but most of the top competitive rides are already spoken for, leaving him with few options.
 
Eric Bachelart and Kevin Kalkhoven, one of the series co-owners, spoke to Carpentier about possibly driving for them this season. Kalkhoven's PKV Racing team has since agreed to field cars for Jimmy Vasser, who holds a minority stake in the team, and Roberto Gonzalez, who is bringing Mexican sponsorship with him.
 
Bachelart's Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team is still searching for a driver as is Dale Coyne Racing and Walker Racing. Bobby Rahal may be interested in expanding to a two-car team but his future in the series is currently undecided.
 
Carpentier's agent Alan Labrosse says his deal with Forsythe allows him to reject any move to an uncompetitive team. Both admit it may be too late to find a competitive ride for this season. Carpentier says the events of the last few weeks have left him with doubts about the future of the Champ Car series. "I don't even know if there is going to be a CART series," he tells the Sun. "When Adrian (Fernandez) left to go to the Indy Racing League it was a big blow."

3/17/04

The FIA changes the qualifying format  According to this GrandPrix.com article FIA has issued a statement indicating that the Malaysian GP qualifying format will be the same as in Melbourne - but will be different! The difference comes in the scheduling of the second part of the session, which will be at 14.00. The first part of the session will start at 13.00 and will be over by around 13.45, giving the teams the chance to get a few extra minutes to prepare for the final dashes. The change has been made in order to "facilitate television scheduling" and the change has been made at the request of the Commercial Rights Holder. It is not clear whether or not the FIA has the right to change the qualifying at will or whether the move is going to upset the Formula 1 teams, who were most upset a year ago when the FIA chose to alter the interpretation of the regulations. This led to a legal challenge from Williams and McLaren which was later put on hold. The FIA was careful to say that " if the competing teams agree unanimously to this revised schedule, it will be put to the Formula One Commission by a fax vote. If the Commission is in favour and the World Motor Sport Council confirms the decision at its meeting on March 24, the new schedule could be introduced from the Bahrain Grand Prix."

3/17/04

Michelin admits to tire concerns  According to this Slam Motorsports article hopes of a swift end to Ferrari's Formula One domination look remote after tire supplier Michelin admitted Tuesday it faces a difficult time this week in Malaysia. Ferrari scored a crushing 1-2 finish at the opening race of the season in Australia, but many hoped the expected high temperatures in Malaysia this weekend would level the playing field. Ferrari's Bridgestone tires are thought to work best in cooler conditions, with Michelin tipped as the top hot-weather performer. But Pascal Vasselon, Michelin's Formula One manager, sounded a note of caution to those expecting an immediate change in fortunes for the likes of Williams and McLaren.

3/17/04

Fernandez to Make IRL Series Debut at Phoenix  Adrian Fernandez will take his first laps aboard the #5 Quaker State/Telmex/Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone this weekend as he prepares to compete in his first IRL IndyCar Series event – the Indy 200 Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR).

Following a recent decision to enter IRL competition, Fernandez Racing has had just 11 days to prepare for Sunday’s event, the second of 16 races on the 2004 IndyCar Series schedule. Fernandez, who resides in nearby Paradise Valley, has made three starts on the one-mile desert oval. In 1992, Fernandez won at Phoenix in his Indy Lights debut. He also contested two CART events at PIR in 1994 and 1995. His best finish was 10th in 1994.

The Fernandez Racing team is led by veteran team manager Gustavo Del Campo, with Mike Sales as Chief Mechanic. Noted engineer John Ward, who served as chief engineer for Fernandez in the late ‘90s at Patrick Racing, returns to Fernandez Racing, teaming with race engineer Chris Finch and data acquisition engineer Matt Huth. Jeff McComb will be the spotter for Fernandez.

Note: The #5 Quaker State/Telmex/Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone will be run with an interim paint scheme this weekend due to the quick turnaround time. The 2004 paint scheme will be unveiled at the Indy Japan 300 in April.

Adrian Fernandez, #5 Quaker State/Telmex/Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone:
“The past week has been a hectic one, and I’m sure the weekend will be as well. The team has done an amazing job to get everything put together in such a short amount of time to allow us to participate at Phoenix. Obviously, for me, this will be a learning weekend with no testing beforehand. We have the benefit of the experience of the Super Aguri Fernandez Racing team, which we will rely on quite heavily this weekend. Down the road, having a two-car team will definitely be an asset and Kosuke [Matsuura] and I will be able to help each other.”

3/17/04

Ferrari will use Shell Fuel for Sepang  Ferrari and Shell will use Shell V-Power F1ULG58 fuel at Sepang. This is the same fuel as used in Melbourne with such success. With the high probability of rain at some point in the weekend, teams will look to use the slower running to optimize fuel efficiency. With slower running and therefore lower revs, Ferrari will look to Shell V-Power F1ULG58 to provide them with the most effective fuel blend possible.

3/17/04

Dale Earnhardt Jr. To Drive Corvette In ALMS Event At Infineon Raceway  Dale Earnhardt, Jr., winner of the 2004 Daytona 500 and one of the biggest stars in NASCAR racing, will bring his skills to a different form of the sport when he drives a Corvette in the July 18 American Le Mans Series event at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

A two-time winner already in the young NASCAR Nextel Cup season in the Budweiser Chevrolet, including the most recent event at Atlanta, Earnhardt will make a rare foray outside of stock car racing when he joins the General Motors Chevrolet Corvette racing team in the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma. He will co-drive with veteran road racer Boris Said in a third Chevrolet Corvette C5-R fielded by Corvette Racing, the car carrying Earnhardt's famous #8.

The three-car team for the event will reunite Earnhardt with the Corvette team, a bond that began at the 2001 running of the 24 Hours of Daytona where Earnhardt, Jr., and his father, the late Dale Earnhardt, finished fourth overall in their first-ever sports car race.

"I am really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Corvette C5-R because it is such a great race car," said Earnhardt, Jr. "I'm happy that Chevy has given me the chance to cross over and take part in its sports car program, which has been a huge success. Boris Said has a lot of experience at Infineon Raceway, and I'm getting better there, so it should be a fun weekend."

"It will be great to have Dale Jr. back into the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R and Boris will be an excellent partner for him," said Gary Claudio, GM Racing Marketing Manager. "The relationship we have with Dale Jr. highlights the depth and breadth of Chevrolet's racing program. This commitment to compete across the entire spectrum of major league motorsports is why Chevy is the most successful manufacturer in racing."

"We greatly appreciate this demonstration of the commitment that GM and Corvette Racing have to the American Le Mans Series and we thank Dale Jr. for his enthusiasm," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series. "Having one of the most popular drivers in the world as part of our event at Infineon Raceway is a spectacular opportunity and we look forward to it. Dale Jr., like his father, is known to have always had an attraction to state-of-the-art, world-class sports car racing - in particular Le Mans. We look forward to his debut with the American Le Mans Series and are confident this is only the start of his participation in the ALMS."

The Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma will get the green flag at 11:30 a.m. (PDT) on Sunday, July 18, and will be televised live in North America by CBS Sports and in Europe on MotorsTV. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.

3/17/04

Sebring first practice  Defending American Le Mans Series champion Marco Werner got his new relationship with ADT Champion Racing off to a good start Wednesday morning by setting the fastest time in the first official practice session for Saturday's 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Werner, who will share the Audi R8 with Emanuele Pirro and JJ Lehto in Saturday's race, turned the 3.7-mile track in a time of 1:50.722 to lead the LMP1 class and the field overall, barely edging the 1:50.798 time posted by the #28 Audi UK Team Veloqx entry. Allan McNish, Frank Biela and Pierre Kaffer are sharing the Audi UK car. Third-fastest in the session was the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-AER/MG of James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace at 1:51.684. Fastest in the LMP2 class was the Intersport Lola B2K/40-Judd of Clint Field, Bill Binnie and Rick Sutherland, with Field at the wheel when the car was clocked at 2:00.943. Second-fastest in the class for smaller, less-powerful Prototypes was the Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam MP91 of Chris McMurry, Jeff Bucknum and Bryan Willman at 2:02.184, followed by the Rand Racing Lola/Nissan of Mike Fitzgerald, James Gue and Bill Rand at 2:06.115. The two factory Chevrolet Corvette C5-Rs of Corvette Racing were first and second in the GTS class, with Oliver Gavin setting the fastest time of the session at 1:58.524 in the car he will share with Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen. The Corvette of Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis was second at 1:58.826, followed by the Barron Connor Racing Ferrari 575 GTC of Mike Hezemans, Ange Barde and Jean-Denis Deletraz at 2:02.471. The Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Romain Dumas led the GT class with a fast time of 2:05.895. Dumas will co-drive with Marc Lieb and Lucas Luhr, with Luhr seeking to win the GT class at Sebring for a record fourth straight year. Second in class was the Risi Ferrari 360 Modena of Ralf Kelleners, Anthony Lazzaro and Matteo Bobbi at 2:06.537, followed by the Cort Wagner, Patrick Long and Kelly Collins Porsche of The Racer's Group at 2:06.779. ALMS cars will have another hour of practice today at 2:40 p.m. (Eastern)

3/17/04
Industry News

GM triples profit at its Chinese ventures According to this Detroit Free Press article General Motors Corp. said its profit from joint ventures in China more than tripled to $437 million last year as the company's market share in that nation increased. Profit from the Chinese ventures, led by Shanghai General Motors, increased from $142 million in 2002, the automaker said in an annual report filed with U.S. regulators last week. The Detroit-based company also said its loss from affiliates in South Korea widened to $74 million from $45 million in 2002. Market share in China rose to 8.5 percent last year from 7.8 percent the previous year and has more than doubled from 4.1 percent in 2001, GM said. GM counts on investments in China, which became the company's fourth-biggest vehicle market last year, and South Korea to help boost earnings to $10 a share by 2006. Profit from its Asia-Pacific vehicle operations last year rose threefold to $577 million while automotive income in North America, its biggest region, fell 73 percent to $811 million. The U.S. company owns 50 percent of Shanghai General Motors. GM's major venture in South Korea is a 44.6-percent stake in GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Corp. GM also said profit from ventures in Japan, where it owns stakes in Suzuki Motor Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., rose 47 percent to $196 million. Earnings from a power train joint venture with Italy's Fiat SpA increased 19 percent to $95 million, GM said. The automaker's shares rose 55 cents to $45.52 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has declined 15 percent this year.

3/17/04

Danny Sullivan to Compete in ALMS  According to this USA Today article, Sullivan is expected to get ride in a Ferrari for the 12 hours of Sebring. Most of the time, Danny Sullivan spends his time traveling around Europe and the USA searching for the next great American race car driver in hopes of developing a U.S. star in Formula One. This weekend, however, Sullivan will trade in his scouting reports for a racing helmet. Sullivan, who turned 54 this month, will drive in the American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

3/17/04

NASCAR fan stabbed at Atlanta  A man is accused of stabbing a fellow NASCAR fan Sunday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Henry County Magistrate Robert Godwin set a $15,000 bond for Guy Landrum, 42, after hearing police testimony that Landrum stabbed a man after stumbling through his campsite. Deputy Mike Haralson told Godwin that Landrum was drunk Saturday night when he knocked over a trash can, kicked around trash and had an argument with another man at a campsite. Landrum came back Sunday, Haralson said, and renewed the argument, then pulled out a knife and stabbed the man on the left side of his torso. The man was treated and released at a local hospital. Landrum is scheduled to appear again before the court April 7. Henry County Sheriff's Maj. Keith McBrayer said this was the most serious of about 15 arrests at Sunday's Golden Corral 500, which drew more than 100,000 fans.

3/17/04

Gigante and Jourdain remain in Champ Car  According to this Toronto Sun article, Champ Car has won a major battle as both the Gigante team and Newman/Haas will remain in Champ Cars as AutoRacing1.com reported days ago, contrary to other articles being written.  Whether Team Rahal goes to the IRL without Gigante, remains to be seen.  Gigante can easily sponsor Jourdain in another team, which we also rumored could happen days ago.  However, we think they will stay in both series.

Mexican supermarket colossus Gigante will tell Bobby Rahal that it wants to stay in the Open Wheel Racing Series, two independent sources have told The Toronto Sun. Both sources -- one inside the Indy Racing League and a second inside OWRS -- said Gigante, which puts up the more than $10 million US it costs Rahal to run Mexican driver Michel Jourdain Jr., is determined to remain in the series that races twice in its back yard.

After the defection of Mexican icon Adrian Fernandez to the IRL a week ago it was generally felt OWRS would not be able to withstand losing another top Mexican driver.

Jourdain, enormously popular in Mexico, is reported to have met Monday with Gigante brass in Mexico City where he was told the company has no interest in bolting to the IRL.

CART, the predecessor of OWRS, has a long history of racing in both Mexico City and Monterrey and in fact is the title sponsor of the Grand Prix of Mexico.

"Talk in the IRL is that Gigante sat Jourdain down to tell him the company wants to race where it sells its groceries," a source said.

It is expected to deliver a similar message to Rahal later this week.

The IRL is an all-oval series that does not hold races either in Mexico or Canada.

Rahal has been a big CART/OWRS booster most of his career, but last season he fielded a team with Kenny Brack in the IRL at the behest of his sponsors, Pioneer Electronics and Miller Lite beer.

"Gigante is definitely not interested in following Rahal to the IRL," a second source said. "Indications are that if push comes to shove Gigante would take its money and driver to another OWRS team rather than move to the IRL."

NEGOTIATIONS

Rahal couldn't be reached yesterday to comment on negotiations with Gigante, but a team spokesman said nothing has changed since a statement late last week that talks with the sponsor were continuing.

Meanwhile a story yesterday in the Detroit Free Press that OWRS powerhouse Newman/Haas Racing was mulling a move to the IRL has been denied by team officials.

"We are spending a lot of money to send both Newman/Haas teams (Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais) to test on the road course at Fontana (Calif.) this week in preparation for the season opener at Long Beach," team spokesman Kathi Lauterbach said yesterday.

"We are committed to racing in the OWRS this season."  Newman/Haas announced earlier this year that it was interested in entering the Indianapolis 500 -- the IRL flagship race -- but that it would be a one-race-only deal. . 

3/17/04

Bridgestone confident in Malaysia  Tire manufacturer Bridgestone are confident that they can equal their astonishing result at Melbourne two weeks ago by dominating this weekend's Malaysian GP, revealing that an intense winter program to improve their tires in extreme temperatures has proven to be successful.

"We have tested long and hard for races like Malaysia and the time has come to see if we have done our homework," said Technical manager Hisao Suganuma. "A significant part of our winter development program was dedicated to making sure we are competitive in the heat.

"We know we have made important improvements and I'm looking forward to showing off our progress just as we did in Melbourne," he warned. "We finalized the tire specification during testing in Spain and, although weather conditions did hamper us a little, we got some excellent data which suggests our teams should be competitive in Malaysia."

Meanwhile, Michelin's thrashing in Australia has clearly put them on the back foot and have, surprisingly, taken a cautious approach ahead of Sepang - a race they dominated last year.

"Preparing suitable tires for Sepang presents one or two obvious difficulties," said Michelin's F1 program manager Pascal Vasselon. "This is usually the hottest race of the year and track temperatures can reach 55 degrees. This isn't a problem in itself but it is not practical to test in Malaysia and we have to develop tires for these conditions while running at European circuits during the winter.  "This makes it difficult, as conditions are very different."

Renault Technical Director Bob Bell was also far from inspiring in his race preview: "A question mark remains over tire performance, but we will have a clearer picture once we have run in the hotter conditions."

3/17/04

NASCAR teams test at Texas  Three Nextel Cup and two Busch Series teams tested a total of eight different vehicles on the 1.5-mile Texas superspeedway, with latest race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr running in two Budweiser Chevrolets, Bill Elliott in a Dodge Dealers Dodge and Larry Foyt in the family-run Dodge. Busch Series drivers testing two cars apiece were Martin Truex Jr (Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and rookie JJ Yeley (Vigoro Chevrolet).

Earnhardt continued on a roll following his triumph in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta on Sunday with a solid day in the Bud machines.

“We were just as fast off the trailer as we were at the end of the day,” observed Earnhardt, winner of both a Nextel Cup and Busch race at Texas in recent seasons, “We're happy with our car.

"Most of the day we were working on carburetors and intakes, trying to see what was the best for the car. We changed some set-up things and learned a little bit, but, overall, the car was real comfortable.

"The track is in great shape too - there is a little more grip with this year's tire, which I like,” he continued, “Last year, I thought the tire that was brought here was a little hard for the track, but this is really good, very comfortable.”

Elliott, meanwhile, prepared for the 4 April Samsung/RadioShack 500 in Ray Evernham's creation, while Foyt sought extra speed at his home state speedway.

“We are just throwing a bunch of things at the car to see what happens today,” the veteran commented ahead of an occasional outing in his part-time schedule, “We are going to look at the data in the morning, see what works best on the car and try to improve.”

“We are working on a lot of things,” Foyt echoed, “I haven't been in a car for a couple of weeks and it is the first time on a mile-and-a-half this year on this new Goodyear tyre. We went out earlier and tried to get a feeling for that. The car feels pretty decent and I think we're okay.

“I didn't notice a difference in tyres from last year here at Texas as I did at Daytona and Rockingham. The car feels pretty stable here, where I noticed more of a difference at Daytona.”

3/17/04

Long Beach ticket office opens  Tickets for the 30th Anniversary Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which takes place April 16-18, are now available for purchase in downtown Long Beach.  The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach’s downtown ticket office, located at 430 East First Street in Long Beach, between Elm and Linden Streets, will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Race posters and merchandise – including shirts, hats and jackets – are also available for purchase downtown.  The centerpiece of this year’s Grand Prix will be the cars and stars of the Champ Car World Series, led by two-time Long Beach winner Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Michel Jourdain and Bruno Junqueira.  The action-packed weekend also includes the Imperial Capital Bank Historic Grand Prix, featuring vintage Formula 5000, Formula One and early Champ Cars. All of these cars actually ran in Long Beach between 1975 and ’90.  The popular Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race returns for a 28th year as does Champ Car’s highly competitive development racing series in the Argent Mortgage Challenge for the Toyota Atlantic Championship, which always showcases the future stars of road racing. North America’s longest-running race series, the Motorock Trans-Am Series is back to feature racing’s top “muscle cars” and their “slam-bang” racing style.

3/17/04

Sewell to oversee Trans Am tech  As part of his joining the Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, Support Series Director of Technology Steven Sewell will oversee the Motorock Trans-Am Series’ Technical Committee in 2004. All Trans-Am technical operations have been brought under the Champ Car banner. Sewell will be joined on the Committee by returning Trans-Am technical staffers Dennis Kazmerowski and Jim Burke.

Sewell reports to Champ Car Director of Technology Lee Dykstra. Kazmerowski will build upon the role he filled last season, supervising all aspects of technical inspection with additional administrative responsibility and authority. Burke will become the primary liaison between Trans-Am teams and the Committee, as well as further assisting in documentation and research.

The Committee’s first initiative will be to evaluate the rules governing the various manufacturers, marques, engines, chassis and bodies in Trans-Am Series competition. The Committee will continue the successful technical program started prior to the 2003 season, building upon the wind-tunnel testing undertaken by the Series last year with the assistance of Champ Car’s vast technical resources.

“I’m privileged to have a key role in the future technical direction of Trans-Am,” said Sewell. “We plan to stay the course taken last year toward competitive balance among the marques, while using new technology to continue to ensure that a level playing field remains in place.”

Sewell brings more than two decades of motorsports experience to Trans-Am, during which he worked in roles ranging from mechanic to crew chief to series administration. Sewell comes to Champ Car after 18 years at Skip Barber Racing, during which he held several senior managerial posts. Sewell began his career in racing in 1978.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of Trans-Am and the Champ Car organizations,” said Sewell. “Trans-Am is a series that is steeped in history and heritage, and it plays a significant role in North American motorsports.”

“Steve will be a welcome addition to the Trans-Am team,” said Motorock Trans-Am Series Executive Director John Clagett. “He has substantial experience working in a series environment, and possesses both the technical expertise and communication skills required to be an effective technical director. He will be a tremendous asset to the Trans-Am Series.

“Merging Trans-Am technical operations with the Champ Car Technology Department is a key factor in Trans-Am continuing to provide a competitive environment for all manufacturers and marques,” added Clagett. “The addition of Champ Car’s sophisticated equipment and experienced team members will prove invaluable and will have a profound effect on Trans-Am Series rules.”

3/17/04

FIA tweaks F1 qualifying format  Qualifying at the Malaysian Grand Prix will follow the same format as in Melbourne. In order to facilitate television scheduling, the Commercial Rights Holder has requested that:
(i) the qualifying procedure should begin at 13.00 local time instead of 14.00; and
(ii) qualifying proper (ie for the grid) should begin at 14.00 local time rather than immediately after the end of the timed laps which determine the order in which cars qualify for the grid.
The schedule would then be:
(1) Qualifying procedure begins 13.00
(2) Qualifying for the grid 14.00
If the competing teams agree unanimously to this revised schedule, it will be put to the Formula One Commission by a fax vote. If the Commission is in favor and the World Motor Sport Council confirms the decision at its meeting on 24 March, the new schedule could be introduced from the Bahrain Grand Prix. In all other respects, the qualifying procedures would remain as published.

3/17/04

2 for 1 ticket sale at MIS  UPDATE  The 2 for 1 tickets for the IRL race that are being offered are for Jackson and Lenawee County residents only. Not only are they 2 for 1, but they only cost $40.00. So for 40.00 two people can sit anyway in the center section from the top (best rows) to the bottom, only in the center section.... no other section is available in the grandstands at any price!!!. Friday is free for everyone. Can't wait to see the crowds this generates. Yeah right!  Loretta Joyce  3/16/04 - To help offset low ticket sales despite NASCAR Nextel Cup races always being sold out, Michigan International Speedway has sent out flyers to ALL area residents offering 2 IRL tickets for the price of 1 for the August IRL race.

3/17/04

Gulf Air lays out F1 packages  Since announcing its sponsorship last year, Gulf Air has put its extensive marketing resources behind the promotional campaign in order to attract the maximum number of spectators and at the same time to ensure that the all race fans visiting the Kingdom will have a memorable experience.

A major part of this support comes in the form of a range of all-inclusive packages which will allow Grand Prix fans from outside Bahrain to visit the Kingdom to take in the sensational Formula One experience.

Packages include return economy class flights, visa fees (if applicable), a meet and greet service on arrival, return coach transfers from Bahrain International Airport to the Grand Prix Circuit, and Grand Prix tickets.

Gulf Air President and Chief Executive, James Hogan said: 'Gulf Air is delighted to be part of this milestone event in the history of Bahrain and the region. Over the last year we have put our weight behind a number of initiatives designed to boost awareness of and interest in all the things its owner states have to offer, in particular tourism attractions. The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix provides an attraction of the highest order and at the same time, unprecedented opportunities to put Bahrain on the world map.'

'For Gulf Air, and for other businesses involved in the travel and tourism industry, such as hotels and car hire companies, it provides an opportunity like no other, to showcase the traditional Arabian hospitality and warmth for which the island is famous to the people who will be visiting Bahrain for the Grand Prix,' he said.

'An event of this scope and size is good for Bahrain. In addition to creating thousands of employment opportunities, it is driving rapid infrastructural development that will also benefit the region in the longer term. By aligning ourselves with an event, which will generate economic opportunity and growth in the Kingdom of Bahrain, we have an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the well being of the community and the region,' Mr Hogan said in conclusion.

3/17/04

Indy Racing League gets game update  [Editor's Note: This is the sort of thing that the IRL has all over Champ Car.  It is this sort of product for consumers that builds new fans, and makes for great gifts during the Christmas Holiday. We have heard rumors of a new Champ Car game for years, but they have been unable to bring one to market. In fact, we have seen almost zero marketing being done for Champ Car at any level.  Meanwhile, the IRL will have its 2nd game in as many years and is marketing the heck out of its series.]  Codemasters, a global interactive entertainment software publisher and premier developer of racing video games, today announced the return of the fastest race on earth with "IndyCar (R) Series 2005." Shipping this summer for the next generation console systems, "IndyCar Series 2005" is officially licensed by the Indy Racing League (R) and gets a boost with a host of all-new features, including head-to-head online play, improved graphics and more.


"Now racing fans everywhere can compete online against their friends and real drivers from their own living rooms," said Steven Lux, senior vice president of U.S. marketing for Codemasters. "Imagine meeting up online with Dan Wheldon or Sam Hornish Jr. and racing against them at the Indianapolis 500(R). We've made that all possible in 'IndyCar Series 2005.'"

It is the only game to feature the full IndyCar Series season including the Indianapolis 500, allowing drivers to compete from Pole Day to Bump Day to race day as one of the 33 drivers in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing (R). Racing action is realistic, accessible and authentic down to the very last detail, including TV-style presentation with race introductions by ABC Sports broadcasters.

A completely authentic and realistic IRL (R) racing experience, "IndyCar Series 2005" features:

Head-to-head online play with up to 12 players simultaneously

  • 15 IndyCar Series tracks, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R), Texas Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, Pikes Peak International Raceway and the newly featured Twin Ring Motegi Speedway in Japan

  • All-new steering wheel support

  • Realistically functioning rear-view mirrors so drivers can watch their back

  • Official drivers, tracks, rules and sponsors of the IndyCar Series

  • Ability to re-create a full season competing as a favorite driver, including Sam Hornish Jr., Gil de Ferran, Al Unser Jr., Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Sarah Fisher and more

  • Up to 33 cars on the track simultaneously

  • Updated Masterclass training mode narrated by 2003 IndyCar Series Bombardier and Autosport Rookie of the Year Dan Wheldon

"IndyCar Series 2005" features an advanced and updated genetic "AI" system that renders each race as a unique experience. The "AI" drivers actually race and make dynamic strategic decisions, defend their position, draft to pass other drivers and even make mistakes.

3/17/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Ferrari factory on fire
Schu nominated for Laureus Award
Exclusive sponsor (Sinopec) for Chinese GP
Raikkonen gets ready for heat
F1 and the House Of Commons
Michelin face-up to Malaysian tire-duel
McLaren has fingers crossed
Head: More to Ferrari's pace than tires
Bahrain sky hums to sound of F1
New Bridgestones are 'excellent': Schu

FOM has done a deal with F1 Racing
Wirdheim 'makes a difference' at Jaguar
Drivers turn-up at Sepang F1 Track
F1 chiefs play down terror threat
F1 teams want 20-day test limit

3/16/04

In defense of Adrian Fernández  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I'm sure that this is a minority opinion among the people who subscribe to your website, but I don't see how people feel that Adrian is such an evil person for doing what he did. As I'm sure many of your readers agree, TG is a SOB, his "vision" was nothing more than a power grab for control of open wheel racing, and I will never forgive nor forget what he did. In fact, I won't even consider going to the F1 race in Indy because of him.

That being said, anyone who saw Adrian on Wind Tunnel could see that his decision was a painful one. He did what any other businessperson would have done in his situation; he secured not only his future, but the jobs of everyone in his team. He did what anyone has to do to support his family (his team being an extension of his family in this sense.) Does that suck? Obviously. Do I wish TG would have lost the war? Of course. Do I want to see one series that can seriously compete with NA$CAR? Most definitely. But what we have to realize is that as fans, we have very high levels of emotion about this, but for the most part, this is not our business nor our livelihood. Adrian was in a position where his main sponsor left and he didn't see any concrete assurances from OWRS management that the series would be viable. Hopefully, OWRS can pull something out of the hat, because I too would like to know the answers to some of the same questions that Adrian posed. Namely, where are the cars, who are the drivers, what manufacturer involvement are you pursuing for the coming years, etc. I want to be optimistic, but unfortunately, the time came where Adrian could not afford my optimism.  Robert Reeves

3/16/04

Kansas Speedway to install 'Safer' Barrier  According to Motor Sports Forum Kansas Speedway® officials announced today that SAFER barriers will be installed at the track in the coming months. Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers are scheduled to be in place around the 1.5-mile trioval in time for the track’s Banquet 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race Oct. 10.

3/16/04
Industry News

Judge OKs Firestone settlement  According to this Detroit Free Press article a Texas state judge on Monday approved a $149-million settlement of 30 class actions filed on behalf of tire owners against Bridgestone-Firestone North American Tire. The settlement, approved by State District Judge Donald Floyd, comes more than three years after the 2000 recall of 14.4 million Firestone tires amid safety concerns. More than 100 objectors had contested the settlement.

3/16/04

Indy Racing League Brings Licensing In-House  The Indy Racing League marketing department has brought the licensing of the League, IRL IndyCar® Series, IRL Menards Infiniti Pro SeriesTM and their respective teams in-house with a dedicated licensing division. The results of this new focus are already being felt with the addition of three new licensees for the 2004 season: Pacific Trading Cards, Victory Wheels and American Grand Prix.

Pacific Trading Cards, Inc., is one of the leading manufacturers of sports and non-sports trading cards in the world. Plans are for the initial product to be in-market for the Indianapolis 500 in May. The sets will feature both event-used and autograph elements.

Victory Wheels, Inc., headquartered in Chicago, will be manufacturing an exclusive IRL Logo line of "after market" wheels and hubcaps. The custom wheels and hubcaps, which will be available in sizes ranging from 13-26 inches, are of top quality with state-of-the-art graphic imaging and will be available shortly in mass distribution.

Grand Prix, Inc., a media solutions company based in Malibu, Calif., will introduce event discs, which gives fans access to entertainment content that provides exciting insight into the Indy Racing League. With Internet connectivity and links to sponsor sites, IRL fans will be able to get updates on all their favorite drivers and races.

3/16/04

Roush Racing mourns loss of Charlie Roush  F.C. “Charlie” Roush, father of NASCAR team owner Jack Roush, passed away early Tuesday morning in Manchester, Ohio following a lengthy illness. Roush was known to many in the NASCAR garage as a regular and loyal supporter of the Roush Racing teams. He is survived by his wife, Georgetta; and sons, Jack and Frank. Private family services will be held Friday in Manchester, Ohio. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the “Charlie Roush Memorial Fund” to benefit the education of disadvantaged youth. All donations can be sent to the “Charlie Roush Memorial Fund” in care of Roush Racing, 4600 Roush Place, Concord, N.C., 28027.

3/16/04

Fernández quotes on Wind Tunnel  Below are select quotes from Monday's Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on SPEED Channel. Adrian Fernandez, who recently announced his last-minute decision to move from the OWRS-owned Champ Car series to the Indy Racing League, explains his decision.

Fernandez on what prompted his decision to move his team to the IRL: "We realized in Long Beach. As you know, there were a lot of months of uncertainty about whether we were going to have a series or not because CART, the one that we used to know, went bankrupt. ... From that process up to Long Beach, our spring training, where we get all the drivers, all the owners, all the media, all the promoters, everybody -- we were there to get a lot of answers -- a business plan, drivers, etc., etc. We came to a big surprise that a lot of things were a lot worse than we thought. At some point, you've got to make a decision and you can't go by just 'trust me,' you've got to go by facts. And when you have 12 drivers that are confirmed and that the champion driver, Paul Tracy, doesn't have any sponsorship, even though they have three races in Canada, it just doesn't make sense. When you hear that the owners of the series are taking drivers with money from other owners, it just doesn't make any sense. When you hear all these things and you see that there is really nothing out there -- there is not an international or Mexican TV contract yet, there is no contract that we have yet from the engines, from the tires, from the series. We have nothing. So, how long can you by trust -- trusting in situations that you cannot control? We have too much invested here. At the end of the day, if wait until the end, it will be the end of Fernandez Racing. It will be the end of Adrian Fernandez. It would be the end of everything. It was a tough situation, and I am very sad about what is happening, but there was no choice."

Fernandez on what is the worst case scenario for Champ Car: "The series we all know and the series we all participated in is well gone. That doesn't exist -- 70 percent of the people that were part of Champ Car are gone. Teams like Penske, like Ganassi, like Mo Nunn, like Green/Andretti are gone. Patrick Racing, which I raced with for three years, they are gone. Walker Racing doesn't have plans in either series right now. Stefan Johansson lost his team. So, then you go to Long Beach and there are 12 drivers confirmed, and with all of these other things I am telling you, what do you expect? It is just too clear. If you don't see facts, if you don't see a business plan, if you don't see confirmation and you hear problems here and problems there, then you don't feel that security. For how long do you want to wait there and see when the thing is going to explode? We have an investment here. ... Things that were supposed to be happening were not happening. The confidence level that they should have been giving to the owners was not there. Do you think they have ever been to me or that they have approached Fernandez Racing in the last month to say, 'Adrian, how are you doing? Can we help you with your second car? Can we help you with Tecate?' They knew Tecate was gone. They never called us. In all the time we were in Long Beach, they never approached me -- they never talked to me about our plans, about what we had. There is a new president, a new CEO, I don't even know him. I have never met him and he's been there for a month or something like that. ... So, what type of level of confidence do you go into a series where you have millions of dollars invested and long-time sponsor commitments, to a series that is no longer the CART that we all knew? For how long do you wait?"

Fernandez on whether money from Honda or IRL leader Tony George influenced his decision: "If that was true, don't you think I would have done this a long time ago. I've been in contact with Tony George and Honda for a long time. Honda's interest in getting me to go to the IRL is not new. They wanted me to go before and the support from Honda has been there a long time. ... Any issue with money that could have happened was well known before December. If I was going to do something like that, I should have done it a long time ago and not put my team in a hurry to prepare a race car to be ready in 11 days to be ready for Phoenix. All that is untrue. The situation - the real reason that Fernandez Racing changed - is because we didn't see the facts of things that were supposed to be. We didn't have the confidence in the new group to be able to take us all through the year. And the risks are huge."

3/16/04

Veteran NASCAR Drivers in favor of new rules NASCAR officials ended the practice of racing back to the caution flag last season, and now during cautions they are closing pit road for an additional lap in order to sort out the field. More...

3/16/04

Newman to run at Indianapolis  According to this Mercury News article actor Paul Newman isn't pulling the plug on Champ Car just yet. But his team might end up competing in this year's Indianapolis 500, showpiece of the rival Indy Racing League.

3/16/04

Carpentier to be replaced at Forsythe  According to this Slam! Sports article Patrick Carpentier may be the first casualty of the Open Wheel Racing Series death spiral as the talented Canadian ponders his racing future at his Las Vegas home. Carpentier, in an exclusive interview with The Toronto Sun yesterday, said he's still reeling from being told he's out at Forsythe Racing where he teamed last year with Toronto's Paul Tracy. Carpentier was packing to go to a team promotional event in California a week ago when a phone call from Tracy alerted him to a rumor that he was about to be replaced at Forsythe by Mexican driver Rodolfo Lavin.

3/16/04

Gentilozzi speaks to Mexican media  Paul Gentilozzi was interviewed yesterday by El Norte`s Sandra Becerril, in Mexico City. This article doesn't mention Kevin Kalkhoven being in Mexico City just Gentilozzi (as we have reported all along). It says that Gentilozzi met with Gigante, Herdez, and the sponsors of both Mexican races. First thing Gentilozzi said in the interview is that there will be 18 or more cars in Long Beach, in fact this is exactly what he said "Can you hear me okay? We will have 18 cars, not 10, not 14, but 18, maybe more. The interview says he talked with a lot of executives from Gigante and with Enrique Hernandez Pons owner of Herdez and Herdez Competition. When asked about Michel staying in Champ Cars he said, "saying Michel is staying is something that corresponds to Gigante I can tell you that we have some business together and business is good, it`s an honor to have this guy in Champ Cars."

3/16/04

A letter from Adrian Fernández  UPDATE  A reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I read the letter from Adrian and do not agree with him when he says that he did it because of his sponsors, fans, Mexico, etc. How could he replace an all oval series that doesn't go to Mexico at all to give his best for his sponsors, fans, Mexico? Adrian, you turn your back on us, you are taking the "MONEY" and are blaming OWRS to cover yourself! Adrian, T.V. Azteca was in Long Beach and you were interviewed by them. Also my dear Adrian, in life if there is something you need to know you ask! 70% of people that used to be in Champ Car are not there now, but you missed all the fans at the Fan Fest last Tuesday evening. That turnout was better than or equal to what the IRL gets on race day! I have seen you racing since Phoenix when you were in Indy Lights and were sponsored by Amway of Mexico and Aeromexico. However, your timing on all this and trying to save face has taken my "LOVE" and "RESPECT" for you to a very low point and convinced me that you have joined the IRL propaganda machine! May God and La Virgin de Guadalupe keep you safe while racing in IRL and hope that you are able to sleep at nights. If not, ask Mr. Tony George and the rest of the ""TRAITORS" how they do it. It was GREAT FUN to see you racing, however, your decision has left me with no choice but not to follow your career anymore as I have with Penske, Ganassi. Andretti, etc. I hope you enjoy the empty grandstands at the IRL and make good use of the money given to you by the "OVAL CARTEL"! Betrayed in California, Marta Campos. 3/15/04 - The following is a letter from Adrian Fernandez that addresses his reasons for leaving Champ Car and joining the Indy Racing League. This letter can be found on his website, fernandezracing.com:  More.....

3/16/04

Redneckjunk.com changes website address/name 2nd Update Don Arnold, owner of Arnold Motorsports, says he's appreciative of NASCAR's decision to not allow the website address RedneckJunk.com on his #50 Dodge driven by Derrick Cope. NASCAR didn't say anything about the sponsorship at the race in Las Vegas two weeks ago but told Arnold, at this past weekend's Atlanta race, they can no longer have RedneckJunk.com as a sponsor. "We didn't think it would be controversial but we defer to them. We would like to have a sponsor but we understand the decision and I don't have a problem with it," Arnold said. He understands how the term 'redneck' might suggest a racial attitude or undertone, however, he said NASCAR did not offer a reason for their decision. With or without an outside sponsor, Arnold says the #50 will make a qualifying attempt at Darlington this weekend. Tom Connelly, CEO of RedneckJunk.com, says he has changed the website's domain name. The web address RJunk.com should be active and working within a day or two. "When we chose the name (RedneckJunk) we understood there was some potential controversy associated with it but we liked the name, it was very catchy, we didn't think NASCAR would disallow it," Connelly said. On the bright side, Connelly said the shorter name will allow them to almost double the size of the graphic on the car's hood. Of course, that's assuming NASCAR will okay the compromise.(nascar.alanjones.us) 1st Update According to this article NASCAR officials on Saturday told Arnold Motorsports that it would have to remove the logos of its primary sponsor, Redneckjunk.com, from Derrike Cope's #50 Dodge. NASCAR said through spokesperson Herb Branham: "We just didn't feel like that projected the proper image of our sport." Redneckjunk.com sells used sporting goods and auto parts. NASCAR has become increasingly image-conscious as it attempts to broaden its demographic reach beyond the Southeast, shame it has come to this, teams are hurting for a sponsor and Redneckjunk.com is basically a classified ad site, check them out, at least they tried to support the sport.

3/16/04

Fire at Maranello  According to reports coming out of Italy, part of the Ferrari factory was damaged by fire in the early hours of this morning.  The fire affected part of the the road car division and not the race car factory which is situated in another part of Maranello.

3/16/04

HD Net to telecast all USA and Canadian Champ Car races live  Champ Cars are among the most technologically-advanced race cars in North America, and will now be seen in 2004 in an equally-advanced television broadcast format courtesy of HDNet.

Champ Car today announced that HDNet, the first full-time high-definition cable and satellite network in the U.S., will be the exclusive home of live HDTV telecasts of the 2004 Champ Car World Series. Beginning with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18, fans can catch the turbocharged racing action of the Champ Car World Series on HDNet in cutting-edge 1080i HDTV.

“We are very pleased that HDNet has licensed the rights to air Champ Car World Series racing action,” said Champ Car President Dick Eidswick. “Our fans have always been among the first to adopt new technology, so high-definition programming is a great fit for our series and our fans.”

In addition to the high-speed racing action of the Champ Car World Series, the HDNet telecasts, which will be produced by the award-winning Betelgeuse Productions, will also feature live final-round qualifying events and live coverage of the Motorock TransAm Tour at Champ Car venues.

HDNet became the first network to broadcast an auto race in high-definition format last year when it aired the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America Presented by Briggs & Stratton. The network used 16 high-definition cameras and two HD mobile units to capture all the action of the race won by Bruno Junqueira.

“HDNet is thrilled to add Champ Car racing to our network,” said Mark Cuban, co-founder and president of HDNet. “Thanks to the incredible picture and sound quality, our audience will feel the excitement in every turn and experience every pit stop like they were there. Once again, HDNet is leading the television industry in applying HDTV to yet another deserving sport.”
The schedule below lists the live 2004 Champ Car World Series telecasts on HDNet (all times are Eastern and are subject to change). A complete schedule is available at www.hd.net or at www.cart.com.
Date Event Time (ET)
Sunday, April 18 Grand Prix of Long Beach 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 5 Milwaukee 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 20 Portland 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 3 Cleveland 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 11 Molson Indy Toronto 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 25 Molson Indy Vancouver 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 8 Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 15 Grand Prix of Denver 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 29 Montreal 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 12 Grand Prix of Monterey 4:00 p.m.

3/16/04

A lap around Sepang  McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa, has been busy pounding the tarmac at the Valencia circuit in Spain this past week as the Woking squad look to correcting problems faced in the season opening Australian Grand prix a week ago.   Next on the agenda is the Malaysian Grand Prix and while the Spaniard hasn’t had a lot of experience here he gives his opinion on the Sepang circuit.  More....

3/16/04

45-year old files Indy 500 entry  Marty Roth, an owner/driver in the Indy Racing League's Pro Series, has entered a car for the 88th Indianapolis 500. Roth, of Toronto, will try to become the first driver to compete in the two May races in the same year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- the Freedom 100 for the Pro Series and the Indy 500 for the Indy cars. Roth, whose team is Roth Racing, has not finished in the top three of any of his Pro Series races, so let's hope he doesn't hurt himself.

3/16/04

Adrian Fernández comment  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, After listening to Adrian Fernandez explain on Wind Tunnel why he made the move to the Indy Retirement League, I've finally figured out the truth about the Champ Car World Series. It is so simple. He said Champ Car is not what it once was because 70% of the people involved in it are not there anymore. Yet, if I remember correctly, two years ago Champ Car set their highest attendance record and last year was second highest. All this occurred without the "big name" teams and drivers. This made it all clear to me. All of those "70%" who are not there anymore just don't get it at all. All of them "think" that Champ Car is or was about them! They STILL don't understand Champ Car is, and always will be, about the series and the fans. It is not about them at all. Regardless of how much Tony George wants the IRL to become Champ Car with all the old drivers, the damage has been done to the fan base. We know what it is all about, and it is about something that can't be bought, like the teams and drivers.  Derek Hughes, Florida  Dear Doug, You are partially correct.  NASCAR is successful because the drivers have become household names and are heroes to their many fans.  As in every successful sport, it comes down to heroes that make a sport a success, be it a Michael Jordan in basketball, a Babe Ruth in baseball, a Joe Montana in Football, or a Mario Andretti in auto racing.  The sport lost its way when it no longer understood that it's all about the fans, yes, but it's the fans who worship the heroes that matters most.  Champ Car has the great events, now it must figure out how to market its drivers.  Then and only then, will the TV ratings grow, which in turn grows sponsorship, which in turn grows more advertising, which in turn grows new fans.  As we see in NASCAR, it feeds upon itself.  They understand the model, hence they are successful.  Mark C.

3/16/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

No Substitute For Preparation
Things Can Only Get Better: Panis
Barrichello Expects Fight In Heat
Villeneuve To Toyota?
Ecclestone Pursues 'Formula One'
Fisichella: One Of The Best In F1
Schu Aflame For Next F1 Challenge
Alesi To Drive Fangio's Car In Bahrain
McNish: Pay-Drivers Devalue F1
Klien Heats-Up For Second F1 Race
Ron Dennis Comes Under-Fire
Rivals Cast 'Envious Looks' At BAR 

Rain Set To Fall On Malaysian GP
Theissen Expected More Blow-Ups
Renault Back On Pole-Position?
Toyota Says 'Sorry' To F1 Fans
Jaguar Chip-Away On Gearbox Glitch

3/15/04
Industry News

Memorial Service for Louis Unser  A memorial service for Louis Unser will be held Tuesday, March 30th from 5:00pm to 8:00pm at Joe's Garage, 36 Auto Center Drive, Tustin, CA 92782

3/15/04

Gentilozzi responds to reader   [Editor's Note:  This letter is a response from Paul Gentilozzi to a letter to the editor sent by a race fan who challenges the motives of the team owners and leaders of open wheel racing.  It reveals how Paul came to be involved with Champ Car and what his goals are.  It is reprinted here with Paul's approval.]

Dear David,

Your letter to the editor was sent to me today and I wanted a chance to respond.

About 18 months ago I was prepared to start an IRL team. I have been racing for more than 30 years and felt it was time to take the next step full time.

In the process I went to two IRL races and then Paul Newman invited me to join him at Montreal for the CART race. On the way there he sparred about the benefits of both and why I was making my choice.

The two days I spent in Montreal changed my mind. The energy of the people involved on and off the track was a multiple of what I had seen in the IRL. The "event" was about the fans and their love of racing. I knew that I had spent my life in the sport with that same motivation and wanted to support that emotion.

I went to CART to be a team owner. I went without any idea of getting involved in the ownership. It was only in May of last year that I learned the company had financial issues. I met Kevin and Jerry after they had started the process of analyzing the purchase. They asked me to join them and I agreed to think about it.

If you have ever watched me race you would know that I have never quit. I may have been two laps down but always wanted to make another pass or another fast lap. With CART in trouble I just did not want to quit.

In my racing career I have spent a lot of miles driving the truck after I built the engine and prepped the car. It was a lot more years looking in than looking out. I realize today how fortunate I have been to be able to participate at the levels I have, I don't forget what it is like to dream.

You only think you know about our motives. If you knew the three of us you would find that we are only concerned about saving what so many dream about watching and participating in. If that is the wrong motive then we are bad guys.

What we want is to be left alone to do our thing, to follow our dream. The others are not yet willing to let us succeed for their own reasons. We only want to do what so many fans around the world want, to preserve the Champ Car tradition.
Sincerely,
Paul Gentilozzi

----------------------------------------------

Original Letter to Editor

For the last 3 years or so, I've been a dedicated CART fan. I watched almost every race on ESPN and then Speed Channel. I did road trips to 4 different races and 2 fan "town meetings". I followed the news, features, and rumors on the Internet almost daily. And I bought a lot of merchandise from SpeedGear and proudly wore my CART t-shirts.

But now I've had it... No more.

The amount of politics, ego trips, backstabbing, etc is appalling. This is a SPORT. It's supposed to be ENTERTAINING. Instead, starting in 1996, it became a really bad soap opera. And the events of the last few months have left me thoroughly disgusted.

Yes, Tony George is at the heart of the problem... But many of the team owners are just as bad. Together, they've reduced an awesome sport to obscurity.

Open-wheel racing is nothing more than a "gentleman's club" with a bunch of rich owners who just want to play in their own sandbox... They don't care about the fans... They don't care about the sport... They just care about themselves.

You can argue that the politics in open-wheel racing is just like in baseball, but with one crucial difference... Baseball is much more accessible to the average fan (starting with Little League, etc) and is a much deeper part of our sports tradition in general.

Tony George and the team owners don't "own" the sport... They are caretakers. They are responsible first and foremost to the tradition, the fans, and the sport itself... But this is obviously not the case.

And the fans? Where are they? Look at the new generation of car fanatics... They drive sport compacts like Hondas and Toyotas, but shun "established" racing. They turn instead to drifting and rallying and modifying their own cars. I believe even NASCAR demographics are skewing older.

So to heck with all of them. Perhaps someday, many years from now, everything will settle down and the drama of open-wheel racing will be back ON THE TRACK. But until then, I've got better things to do with my spare time, money, and energy... It's just not worth it anymore.
David Chao

3/15/04

Hyper Sport withdraws from Sebring  In keeping with the junk sports cars Panoz produces (our words) the Hyper Sport Racing Team announced today it will withdraw the Panoz Esperante GT-LM from the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Brad Nyberg, Principal of Hyper Sport said, " The new version of the GT-LM that has just been constructed at Elan Motorsports Technologies (EMT) looks like it will have what it takes to be up front in the GT class this year. However, we have to agree with the people at Panoz Auto Development and EMT, the racing car needs more testing before the worlds most grueling endurance challenge." EMT will continue further development of the car through testing phases over the coming months. David Bowes, CEO of Elan Motorsports Technologies said, "For a number of reasons, we have decided to slow the car's final testing and development. Instead of its first outing being a 12-hour race, we have opted to continue testing at a reasonable pace and with very specific goals in mind. As recently as yesterday we ran the car and all indications are very promising to everyone involved. Our hard work over the winter is paying off."

3/15/04

NASCAR looking at the #25 Nextel Cup series director John Darby said officials at NASCAR's research and development center will look into an incident involving Brian Vickers' car during a practice session at Atlanta on Saturday. The driveshaft on Vickers' car broke, apparently punching a hole in the bottom of the car and sending a small chunk of metal through the catch fence and into an unoccupied area of the grandstands. A broken driveshaft is relatively rare in NASCAR, and it certainly got Vickers' attention. "When it comes apart, it's pretty big," Vickers said. "But luckily I wasn't hurt, nobody else was hurt. I could have sworn it sounded like a bomb went off. I thought we were under attack." USA Today

3/15/04

Adrian Fernandez guest on Wind Tunnel tonight  Former Champ Car driver Adrian Fernandez will be Dave's guest on Wind Tunnel tonight. Fernandez made news last week by announcing he was leaving Champ Car to drive in the Indy Racing League for the remainder of the season. With Fernandez's departure, rumors persist that others are to follow. Will Open Wheel Racing Series have the 18 cars they require to run their 2004 schedule? Adrian will share his thoughts on the situation as he prepares to run this week's IRL race in Phoenix.

3/15/04

Toyota does not anticipate offering Valentino a ride  As reported on our rumors page, the Toyota Formula One team has told Crash.net that they have 'no plans' to give MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi an F1 test. The latest Rossi/F1 rumors were fuelled by the Italian superstar's appearance at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 7, where Rossi took a tour of the F1 grid, visited several teams and met high-profile members of the F1 community, including Bernie Ecclestone and Michael Schumacher. It was while at the GP that rumors of a Toyota test emerged, the theory being that existing links between Toyota and Rossi's current employer Yamaha would overcome potential sticking points such as branding and contractual issues that usually prevent such 'crossovers'. However, Toyota has stated that while Rossi did visit their race team, he had no contact with company executives and the subject of an F1 test hasn't been discussed.

"Valentino visited some Formula 1 garages last weekend in Melbourne - Ferrari, Williams and Toyota if I am not mistaken," a Toyota spokesman told Crash.net. "Due to the existing links between Toyota and Yamaha, some journalists reported that Valentino is planning to test our F1 car," he continued. "The reality is that Valentino did not meet any Toyota executives and this matter has never been discussed between Toyota and Yamaha."

Rossi - a renowned four-wheel fan who began his career in go-karts and more recently indulged in several rallying adventures - was a Honda rider from 2000-2003, where he won all three of his premier-class championships to date. It was while riding for Honda Racing Corporation that an F1 test was first rumored, with BAR Honda the obvious choice. Team principal David Richards was openly supportive of the idea, but it never came to fruition. Then, late last season - and while Rossi was in negotiations over his MotoGP future - Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo stated that he'd like to put Valentino, a 'hero of Italy', into a Ferrari Formula One car.

It was widely believed that the offer was linked with a move to Ducati – due to mutual sponsorship of the two teams by Marlboro – and with Rossi instead signing for the Gauloises backed Yamaha team the chances of a Ferrari outing are at best remote. Nevertheless, Toyota haven't ruled out giving Rossi a drive, but with the topic not even discussed - and the new MotoGP season starting on April 18 - it's likely to be later rather than sooner that the 25-year-old makes any F1 debut.

"From the PR point of view I agree that (Toyota giving Rossi an F1 test) could be a great opportunity, but so far there is no plan to organize it," confirmed the team spokesman. Cristiano da Matta was the top Toyota finisher at the Australian Grand Prix, in 12th, one place ahead of team-mate Olivier Panis.

3/15/04

Bernie makes move to secure F1 exclusive rights  According to Crash.net Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management has renewed its pursuit of exclusive rights to the use of the Formula One and F1 trademarks - and underlined its desire to acquire them by shutting down its own magazine.

The FOM-owned Formula One Magazine was axed at the end of January, leaving the rival F1 Racing as the only glossy monthly publication in mass supply. However, grandprix.com points out the addition of a notice - which states that 'Formula One, Formula 1 and F1 are trademarks of Formula One Licensing BV, a Formula One Group company, and are used under licence' - to the cover of the latest edition, suggesting that publisher Haymarket has had to acquire a license under which to use the F1 mark in its title.

The move comes in the wake of a failed previous attempt to secure exclusive use of the names, which was turned down by the World Intellectual Property Organization [WIPO] in 2000 because the FOM could not provide sufficient 'proof of considerable use' that would allow the marks to 'acquire sufficient distinctiveness to justify [their] registration'. The WIPO also ruled that the FOM had not shown that its reputation was 'so widely established as to give [it] the right to claim that any commercial use of [the marks]...' could be 'taken to imply a connection with them'.
The apparent deal between the FOM and Haymarket is likely to strengthen the former's case as F1 Racing has a number of international and foreign language editions, and could provide proof of 'considerable use'.

Should the WIPO now rule in the FOM's case, it would be able to pursue any individual or company using the names Formula One or F1 in relation to motorsport - and possibly other businesses - to force them to acquire a license for their use, effectively increasing the income for the FOM.

3/15/04

Kenny Brack Returns To Race Track, Bobby Rahal Inducted into Hall of Fame Team Rahal's Kenny Brack, the former IRL IndyCar® Series champion and 1999 Indy 500 winner, makes his initial return to a race track this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway when he attends the Copper World Indy 200 on March 19-21.  Brack, seriously injured last October at Texas Motor Speedway, has been in a tough rehabilitation program since the beginning of January after the birth of his first child, daughter Karma, on New Years Eve.  Working at five hours per day, five days a week clip, Brack has returned to within eight pounds of his Oct. 12 race day weight and has been walking on his own since Feb. 1.   Brack will hold a media conference on Friday, March 19, at 1 p.m. in the PIR media center to explain his recovery rate and his future racing plans. Brack will serve as a consultant for substitute driver Buddy Rice and his Team Rahal crew during the PIR weekend that gets underway on Friday with practice.  The Copper World Indy 200 will take place at 2 p.m. (MST) Sunday, March 21, and will be seen live on ABC-TV.

Rahal Honored: Team Rahal co-owner Bobby Rahal, the three-time series champion and 1986 Indy 500 winner, will miss the PIR event this weekend due to an important matter - he will be inducted into the 12 Hours of Sebring Hall of Fame. Rahal will be honored with many other inductees on Friday in a luncheon at the Chateau Elan Hotel near the Sebring Raceway.  Rahal also will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 22 in Talladega, Ala., and into the American Racing Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich., on July 29.

3/15/04

Dale Earnhardt Jr. to appear on SPEED Channel's Trackside Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won his 11th career NASCAR Cup race Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, will appear on SPEED Channel's Trackside live Friday night at 7 p.m. ET at Darlington Raceway. Hosted by Steve Byrnes with regular panelists Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds, Trackside travels to every NASCAR NEXTEL Cup in 2004. The show, done in front of a live audience, is shot on SPEED's new 53-foot, traveling stage truck.

3/15/04

Sponsor for the #50 squashed? According to this article NASCAR officials on Saturday told Arnold Motorsports that it would have to remove the logos of its primary sponsor, Redneckjunk.com, from Derrike Cope's #50 Dodge. NASCAR said through spokesperson Herb Branham: "We just didn't feel like that projected the proper image of our sport." Redneckjunk.com sells used sporting goods and auto parts. NASCAR has become increasingly image-conscious as it attempts to broaden its demographic reach beyond the Southeast, shame it has come to this, teams are hurting for a sponsor and Redneckjunk.com is basically a classified ad site, check them out, at least they tried to support the sport.

3/15/04

More Pit Road Rule Changes Coming?  According to this article NASCAR officials are asking for drivers' advice in devising a caution-period rule to deal with crews making extensive repairs on a car, such as occurred at Daytona when a driver, rushing back to the track to catch up with the rear of the pack after lengthy repairs, hit and killed a track worker. NASCAR has added a new twist to pit-road rules - when the caution comes out, pit road will be closed an extra lap to allow the field to close up. That is to keep the rear of the field from speeding up to hit pit road with the leaders, a potentially dangerous situation.

3/15/04

OWRS meets with Mexicans   According to this ESPN.com article, Kevin Kalkhoven, one of the three new owners who purchased the assets of the Champ Car World Series in February, believes that Honda and IRL president Tony George have contacted most current Champ Car teams in an effort to persuade them to switch allegiance -- and in the process, kill off the IRL's bitter rival.  "I think that's true," Kalkhoven said Sunday, prior to a damage-control flight to Mexico City. "They are doing everything they can to try to stop (our series) from happening. That is their goal. But we're going to get out of the gate at Long Beach."

Kalkhoven was on his way to meet with Rahal's driver, Michel Jourdain Jr., as well as representatives of Jourdain's primary sponsor Gigante stores and promoters of the two Mexican Champ Car races. Kalkhoven believes that even with their collective support, Bobby Rahal won't be dissuaded from abandoning the series that he starred in from 1982 to 1998 and served as CEO of in 2000, just when it needs him most.

After competing exclusively in CART from 1992 to 2002, Team Rahal entered a car in the 2002 Indianapolis 500 and began competing in the IRL full time in 2003 as one of Honda's original teams. Aside from running Jourdain's Gigante-sponsored Champ Car this year, Rahal is slated to campaign cars in the Champ Car-affiliated Toyota Atlantic Championship for Danica Patrick and Chris Festa. Rahal is also expected to field a car for his son Graham in the inaugural Formula BMW USA championship, which will be sanctioned by Champ Car. Those plans are likely to be unaffected.

"If we can keep Rahal, we're home and dry," Kalkhoven said. "If not, that will make it a little more exciting. Michel doesn't want to go to the IRL. He very much wants to remain in our series, and none of the other teams are going to go to the IRL despite the attempts to drag them over there. At this moment we're still OK on car count.  [Editor's Note:  Paul Gentilozzi flew down to Mexico Sunday and will be meeting with Gigante, and we believe Rahal today.  A decision should happen soon.] 

3/15/04

Mexicans are calling Fernández a traitor   A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I know that the rumor mill is working overtime right now, and I don't claim to have the insider contacts that many of you do. But I do want to say this; I have family in Mexico, and a lot of my family members are upset that the IRL and the media that shills for the IRL and treat the Mexican fans as unknowledgeable and assume that with Adrian leaving, the fans, and other Mexican based teams, will follow. Let me say that nothing could be further from the truth. Bobby Rahal's statement that Adrian is an "opinion leader" perhaps gives Adrian way too much credit.  I know what the media says, and I read the rumors, but I wanted to know how the people in Mexico really felt. After speaking with my family, let me say that the Mexican fans AND the Mexican media are crucifying Adrian. Mexicans know and love CART/Champ Car, they know all the drivers and are very passionate about the series. When news of Adrian's defection broke, it was definitely big news. But Adrian is being portrayed as a traitor and the fans and media are VERY upset with his defection. I think you'll find that there is a lot of support for Champ Car, and its lineup of Mexican drivers. J. Gonzalez, San Dimas, CA

3/15/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Michelin Improve Wet Product
NASCAR Driver Rejects F1 Talk
Qualifying System Could Still Be Tweaked
Sir Jack Down In The Dumps About F1
DC: My Engine Was Rev-Limited
Williams Must Get Act Together: Head  

FOM Denies 'Fudging The Figures'
Berger Doubts Williams Can Claw-Back
Drivers Not Worried About KL Heat
Imola Needs A $30m Facelift
Gascoyne To Be Fired?

BAR Car Is 'Even Better' For Malaysia
Montoya Supports F1 Tire-War
Da Matta Highlights Aerodynamics
Renault Charge For Race Victory
Schumacher Ready For Toyota Deal
Michelin Inspired To Improve
News Shorts: Race Or Vote?
Montezemolo Elected To New Role 

3/14/04

Vasser to race Ford Focus Midget   1996 CART Champion Jimmy Vasser will join Champ Car stars Michel Jourdain Jr. and Patrick Carpentier in a Focus Midget race on Saturday, March 27, at Irwindale Speedway.

Adrian Fernandez was also scheduled to race a Focus Midget, but was unable to make the event as a result of his switch from the Champ Car series to the Indy Racing League.

The race is a preliminary event that's part of the Mopar Twin 25's, which offers a unique racing format in a full night of frantic, wheel-to-wheel USAC Midget racing action, with two 25-lap feature races. ARP is offering a bonus prize of $50,000 to a driver who wins both of the night's feature races. The exciting challenge is that the winner of the first feature race starts dead last in the second 25-lap feature, and has to pass the entire field to claim the $50,000!

The 2nd Annual Mopar Twin 25's Irwindale is presented by Mission Foods. Associate Sponsors are Racer magazine, MSD Ignition, Calico Coatings, Gigante, Probe Industries, Vital Express, Corteco, Guerrero and Turbines Inc.

Eibach Springs Presents the Festival of Speed opens at noon. Race gates open at 4 p.m. The Drifting Exhibition begins at 5 p.m., with the first race at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $20 for General Admission. Reserved tickets are $25. Contact PRE at 800/515-8445, or go to www.twin25s.com. Eibach Presents the Festival of Speed is at no charge.

3/14/04

Rahal's plans to be known this week   Bobby Rahal has stated that he will know this coming week whether his sponsor Gigante will want to follow Adrian Fernández into the IRL. As reported on our rumors page, AutoRacing1.com has learned that huge amounts of money is being offered to Champ Car teams to switch to the IRL before the Long Beach race and force OWRS into a breach of contract for a shortage of cars. The oval track cartel failed to kill Champ Car in court, so now they are back to their underhanded tactics.  Tom Anderson of Fernández Racing blamed OWRS's failure to reveal a decent international TV package at the Season Premiere as the reason his sponsors wanted to jump ship.  However, TV Azeteca was in Long Beach for the event and was telling people they would again have the rights to broadcast Champ Car races in Mexico.  How could the Rahal and Fernández teams not know this too?  The reason they switched (or will switch) is because of money, free money, from the cartel.  When in doubt, follow the money......

3/14/04

Miller: Tony George has ruined the Indy 500  We have been saying for quite some time that Tony George is singlehandedly destroying the sport of Indy Car Racing.  It seems we are not the only ones who feel that way these days. This SPEED TV article slams Tony George and reviews his horrific legacy. Will the rest of the media continue to treat George with kid gloves, or will this be the start of a campaign to remove George from power?  As we have written, if you look at how much money the IRL has lost since its inception in 1996, how many drivers have been injured, and how many cars have been destroyed, any President of a company that was performing that badly for 8 straight years would have been fired five years ago.  We never win any fans in the IRL by stating how we see it, and we're sure we won't this time either.  However, we saw this tragedy coming 8 years ago, when nobody else would listen.  Look where the sport is now compared to where it was in1995. 

3/13/04

Hamilton prevents first Toyota win by inches  Mike Skinner, who came within inches of giving Toyota its first victory in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS), led a trio of Toyota Tundras to top-five finishes in the EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Skinner, who led a race high 68 laps in his Bang! Racing Toyota, was in the lead when a late caution flag set up a two lap dash to the checkered flag. Skinner, the 1995 NCTS champion, was still leading coming out of the fourth turn on the final lap, when eventual winner Bobby Hamilton pulled alongside Skinner. The pair bumped, sending Skinner sliding through the grass (photo right) and to a second place finish, while Hamilton drove to 'Victory Lane.' "I hated to see that last caution flag," Skinner said after the race. "Bobby had a great truck, but I think we were a little better on the long runs. He made a veteran move at the end, got up alongside me, and pulled the air off enough to spin my tires." Pole sitter and series rookie David Reutimann brought his Darrell Waltrip Motorsports Toyota home third. He was followed across the finish line by Travis Kvapil in another Bang!Racing Tundra. "I had the best seat in the house for the finish," said Reutimann, who led eight laps. "I looked over at Mike at the finish and he was going backwards. I think he just beat me by a tailgate." Toyota has now finished second in each of its first races in the NCTS. "Finishing second here sure didn't feel as good as finishing second at Daytona," said Jim Aust, vice president of motorsports at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "Once you finish second, you're looking to move one step up. But we're certainly ahead of where we thought we would be at this point in the season." Following the first two races of the 2004 season, Travis Kvapil leads the championship standings with 340 points. Rookie David Reutimann is fourth in the standings with 313 points, as well as the leader in among all series rookies.

3/13/04

Lammers joins Dyson team for Sebring  Dutchman Jan Lammers will join 2003-class winners Chris Dyson and Belgian Didier de Radigues in the #20 Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing Lola for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, March 20. And this year they’ll be looking for an overall win.

“Jan represents the final part of our plan for Sebring,” said Dyson, who serves as the team’s Sporting Director as well as one of its drivers. “Like Dyson Racing, Jan’s won twice at the Daytona 24-hour race, and like us, he’s still looking for his first overall win at Sebring. His vast racing experience is a positive addition to our effort.”

Indeed, the 47-year-old Dutchman is the reigning FIA Sportscar Champion, and a winner at the Le Mans 24-hour race for Jaguar in 1988 with current Dyson driver Andy Wallace. Lammers’ resume includes impressive results in both sportscar and formula car racing. His Daytona 24-hour victories came in 1988 and 1990, also with Jaguar. His latter Daytona victory also came sharing the wheel with Wallace.

“It’s a pleasure for me to join America’s best sportscar racing team for America’s oldest and most prestigious sportscar race,” said Lammers, who in addition to his European Sportscar driving title, also was named Europe’s top team captain as the owner of the Racing for Holland team. “Like my new teammates, I still have a score to settle at Sebring. I’ve won two of the top three sportscar races in the world, and I want to add the third. This is always a tough race; from the standpoint of physical demands on the car. Twelve hours here is more demanding than 24 hours at Le Mans or Daytona. But I think I’m with a team that has the resources to handle those demands. Dyson Racing has a great organization; I’ve wanted to run with them for years. I think we have an excellent chance for a good result.”

Dyson Racing’s #16 Thetford / Norcold Lola will be driven at Sebring by James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace.

3/13/04

Barrichello: We were faster than expected  Rubens Barrichello’s 2004 season has got off to a very busy start. There was little time to celebrate Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s positive start to the season, as shortly after crossing the finish line in Melbourne in second place behind his team-mate, the Brazilian was on a flight back to Europe for a couple of days testing duties at the Valencia circuit in southern Spain.

'It’s a very long flight,' sighed the Brazilian. 'But that is all part of my job. I was really keen for the season to start. We had done so much testing that I really wanted to get back to racing. It was a nice feeling seeing the red lights go out on the grid in Melbourne, especially as I was watching them from the front row. It confirmed that the car was working the way we had expected. I felt proud that, at the end of the day, Ferrari still seems to be on top of its game. The F2004 is more complete as a car than last year’s and it shows great scope for improvement.'

Although Barrichello is not prepared to make predictions about the outcome of the championship after just one of eighteen races, the Brazilian was intrigued to face new opponents in Melbourne. 'There had been a lot of speculation before the start of the season that teams like Renault and BAR-Honda had made a step forward and that seemed to be the case in Australia,' said the Brazilian. 'In fact the only speculation that proved not to be true concerned Ferrari: we were faster than people had expected. In all the pre-season gossip, the F1 commentators appeared to be overwhelmed by the nose on the BMW-Williams, thinking that a car had to look different to be quick. At the launch of the F2004, observers seemed disappointed that it did not look so different to the 2003 car and therefore reached the wrong conclusion about our performance.'

While Barrichello had no problems with the new one engine per weekend rule, simply observing that you had to keep the thought in the back of your mind during the course of practice, he was less impressed with the new qualifying format. 'When we had the first qualifying on Friday, you had to push hard all the time,' he recalled. 'For example, at Silverstone last year, I had a spin in the first qualifying, but was able to recover to take pole the next day and then win the race. But with the new one-day format, the first half of the session is much less exciting. I think there was no point to the first half, with no one taking any risks, so it is not so entertaining for the public. Personally, I would like to see the format changed, possibly back to last year’s rules and I don’t think I am alone in that.'

So what lessons does the Ferrari man draw from the opening race of the season? 'I predicted that Renault would be quick this year and they are. It is nice to see other teams like BAR-Honda challenging as it provides some variety. But I am more excited about the fact that our car seems to be going well.'

3/13/04

Berger doesn't see Williams team beating Ferrari for awhile  Gerhard Berger has predicted that the Williams cars of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher will not be able to beat Ferrari until the middle of the season. "I don't think Williams will be able to close the gap on Ferrari in the first half of the season because it was really big," said Berger, former motorsport boss of Williams' partners BMW. "The team was really happy before the season with the balance and performance of the car, so I don't see they have any major problems with it. They just need to do development work. And development work usually takes a bit of time. So I don't see a big change in the next races apart from maybe the influence of heat and the tires. And then we will see - maybe from mid-season on we are going to see a strong competition," Berger told BBC radio.

3/13/04

To continue, Imola must upgrade  Bernie Ecclestone has told the organisers of the San Marino GP that if they even hope to enter into talks with him regarding the race's future, Imola needs to have a facelift. According to Franco Lucchesi, the president of the Italian Automobile Association (ACI), Ecclestone has said he will re-open talks but only if the ACI is able to get the funds needed to upgrade the circuit. Lucchesi has therefore written to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asking for his help. "We will reopen the talks with Ecclestone only if the government finds the resources for the 25 million euros ($30.74 million) of works sought by the FIA and FOA," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I have written to Prime Minister Berlusconi asking for the government to find the funding to improve Imola, a facility that remains within the public sector."

3/12/04

Toyota already flexing their muscle in NASCAR  The season is young but already Toyota is flexing their muscle and riding roughshod over the NASCAR truck series.  They will do the same thing in Nextel Cup.  Rookie David Reutimann put his Toyota on the pole Friday for Saturday's EasyCare 200 Craftsman Truck race at the fast, 1.54mi oval.  Reutimann, driving for Darrell Waltrip's Toyota-backed team, ran his round in 30.894sec (179.452mph) in the Truck inaugural here, capping a triumphant day for Toyota, which claimed four of the first five positions and six of the top nine. Only Daytona winner Carl Edwards, qualifying third in a Ford, broke the Toyota grip at the top of the grid.  All attention was on the Toyotas Friday, however, with most expecting the TRD effort to produce similar results in NASCAR as it has in CART and IRL.

3/12/04

New Century Mortgage expands ALMS role  New Century Mortgage Corporation has expanded its sponsorship within the American Le Mans Series and will sponsor an exciting new competition to present the New Century Mortgage “FastQual” Award to the fastest qualifier in all four classes of competition at all races for the ALMS in 2004. The award will also be presented to the driver who sets the fastest lap of the race in each class. In addition, New Century Mortgage has been designated an Official Sponsor of the American Le Mans Series as the Exclusive Mortgage Corporation. New Century’s new official relationship with the ALMS expands its presence in the series, which also includes primary sponsorship of The Racer’s Group Porsche driven by Patrick Long and Cort Wagner. “We are delighted that New Century Mortgage has chosen to expand its presence in the American Le Mans Series with this active and meaningful sponsorship investment,” said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the ALMS. “We expect the competition for the New Century FastQual Award to be intense throughout the season as the world’s best professional sports car racing drivers and teams battle it out on the track.” “We are very excited to be associated with the American Le Mans Series,” said Patrick Flanagan, President of New Century Mortgage. “We believe it is the premier sports car series in the United States. Giving out the ‘FastQual” pole award will be an honor and will provide additional excitement for our guests at the races.”

3/12/04

Legendary cars on display at Sebring  Race fans attending the 52nd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will be able to see some of the most historically significant cars ever to compete at the famed road racing circuit. The Gallery of Legends display, located in the paddock, will contain a diverse group of racecars seldom seen on public display. Gates open on Wednesday, March 17, and remain open 24 hours a day through Saturday. America’s premier sports car race kicks-off the 2004 American Le Mans Series, featuring the world’s best sports car racing teams. The winning car from the first race ever held at Sebring will be displayed this year. The little Crosley Hot Shot which soldiered to victory at the Sam Collier Memorial Grand Prix on Dec. 31, 1950, returns to Sebring 54 years after making history. Ralph Deshon, who co-drove the car with Fritz Koster, will be in attendance at Sebring this year. The OSCA MT-4 that carried Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd to a stunning upset victory in 1954 will be on display. As an added treat for race fans, Moss will take the OSCA on a parade lap prior to the start of the 12-hour classic on Saturday.  An original Shelby Daytona Coupe will be on display, in honor of 2004 Sebring Grand Marshal Carroll Shelby. The legendary driver and car builder will be inducted into the Sebring Sports Car Racing Hall of Fame along with Mario Andretti, Sir Stirling Moss, Bob and Al Holbert, Bobby Rahal, race official Ford Heacock Sr and the legendary manufacturer Ferrari. Two Porsches made famous by Bob and Al Holbert will be included in the Gallery of Legends. Race fans will be able to see the Holbert Porsche 962 (chassis #103), which won nine International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) races during the 1980s. In addition, a Porsche RS61 driven at Sebring by Bob Holbert will be included. A Jaguar XJR-7 racecar, designed and raced by Bob Tullius’Group 44, Inc., will round out this exciting attraction at America’s most prestigious road racing event. The Gallery of Legends display will be open daily throughout the Sebring event. Sebring International Raceway offers a wide variety of viewing, camping and parking options. For more information, visit sebringraceway.com or call 800-626-7223.

3/12/04

F1 driver Wilson and Duno team for Sebring  Recent Grand Prix of Miami overall winner Milka Duno will be joined by Formula One driver Justin Wilson and sports car specialist Phil Andrews for the CITGO Racing / Taurus Sports 2004 Sebring effort. The 52nd running of the famed 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida will occur March 17-20, 2004.  More....

3/12/04

Herdez set to announce 2nd driver   [Editor's Note:  We expect the 2nd driver to be Ryan Hunter-Reay.  Herdez, meanwhile, plans to stage a shootout between Formula One refugees Justin Wilson and Ralph Firman as well as Alex Sperafico for its open seat if the team is unable to come to terms with Hunter-Reay.] Herdez Competition expanded its effort in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford to a two-car operation in 2003 and was rewarded with a stellar season in which the team finished sixth in the driver standings. Second-year driver Mario Dominguez became a weekly contender in the Champ Car battles and the team claimed its first ever race sweep when Dominguez and Roberto Moreno finished 1-2 in Miami.   Buoyed by that success, the Herdez team announced Friday that it has chosen its second driver and will renew its attack on the Champ Car World Series title with a two-car effort in 2004. The team, which has won Champ Car races in each of the last two seasons, confirmed Friday that it will make its official driver and sponsor announcement early next week.   “We were satisfied with our results last season, however we have been expanding our program over the winter and we expect to do very well with the program we have built for 2004,” said Herdez Competition Managing Director, Keith Wiggins. We remain committed to Champ Car and are very eager to get the season started at Long Beach.   The Herdez squad had its best-ever Champ Car season in 2003, scoring five podium finishes with Dominguez and Moreno. The team also gave Roberto Gonzalez a one-off chance in Mexico City as a teammate to Dominguez where the rookie scored his first-ever top-10 finish.

3/12/04

Corvette to pace Indy 500 again  The 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 2004, will bring together two powerful symbols that stir the imaginations of enthusiasts around the world . . . Chevrolet and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway . . . as a 2004 Corvette Convertible will serve as the Official Pace Car of this year's Indianapolis 500. Corvette will perform Indy 500 pace car duties for a record sixth time. This also marks the third consecutive year and 15th time overall that a Chevrolet product has served as the official pace vehicle - the most appearances by any brand. "We're proud that this year's Memorial Day classic will showcase America's favorite sports car at the greatest spectacle in racing," said Brent Dewar, Chevrolet general manager. "As the 2004 model year is the last of Corvette's current design, pacing the Indy 500 acknowledges the significance the vehicle has played in American culture."

3/12/04

Davidson crashes  The BAR Honda team had planned to dedicate today to a Michelin wet tire test on an artificially-flooded circuit but, on the Briton's second run of the morning, the car aquaplaned off the circuit, damaging the chassis.

"We've had a really good week apart from today," test driver Anthony Davidson sighed, "The car has been very reliable and we have got through an enormous amount of tyre testing. We learnt a lot and had a particularly good day yesterday, when we worked on the Imola tyre choice.

"On Wednesday, we made the most out of the dry conditions, went out on new tyres and ended up fastest for the day - that was really good and we actually set some good times in the wet that day as well.

"Because of that, I was really looking forward to the wet test today, but unfortunately I aquaplaned and went wide off the circuit. I didn't spin, but I ran over a kerb which damaged the chassis. I was only on the out-lap and it was just a disappointing end to a really good test."

In the wake of the incident, in which Davidson was unhurt, the team decided that the test should be brought to an early conclusion in order to repair the damage, as the rest of its planned program had been completed satisfactorily.

"Apart from the final day, we've had a very productive test," confirmed chief test engineer Mark Ellis, "We've achieved all of our objectives and the car has been incredibly reliable. We've worked very hard with Michelin on tire choices for future grands prix and have also done further reliability work with the latest engine package, achieving well in excess of a race weekend's mileage on a single engine.

"This morning's incident was unfortunate, as we were looking forward to another positive wet test with Michelin, but we are now looking forward to the next test at Paul Ricard in a fortnight."

3/12/04

Car count not an issue even with Fernández loss  Kevin Kalkhoven, one of the three new owners of Champ Car, said while Fernandez's departure was unfortunate, he still believes the series can meet the required minimum. We had 18 cars in the bag and without Adrian now we have 17," Kalkhoven said. "I still honestly anticipate we will have 18 cars in Long Beach." Champ Car officials said earlier this week that the series will be making more team announcements in the weeks leading up the LBGP.   Long Beach Press Telegram

3/12/04

Fernandez to use G-Force  Veteran Mexican driving ace Adrian Fernandez has joined the Indy Racing League’s IndyCar Series effective today and will campaign a Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone entry in the 15 IndyCar Series events remaining on the 2004 calendar. Fernandez, 40, is the co-owner of the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda entry driven by Japanese rookie Kosuke Matsuura. “The news that Adrian Fernandez is joining the Indy Racing League is big,” noted David Bowes, CEO of Elan Motorsports Technologies, maker of the Panoz G Force chassis designed and built in the United States. “I expect we have not yet seen all the fall-out that may result from this decision,” he noted. “Adrian will be tremendously beneficial to the IRL paddock in many different ways, and I join with everyone else in extending a huge IRL welcome to him.”

3/12/04
Formula GP2

Formula GP2 to run some independent races  The new GP2 single-seater championship is set to join the FIA GT and European Touring Car Championships for selected weekends in 2005, according to Autosport this week. Renault-backed GP2 replaces the Grand Prix-supporting International Formula 3000 championship this season but Formula 1's growing trend for holding rounds outside of Europe means that GP2, which wants to hold 12-14 rounds, is being forced to look away from the F1 bill.  Satellite television channel Eurosport, which is a major shareholder in the Super Racing Weekend package which hosts FIAT GTs and the ETCC, has admitted it is in talks with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone about adding as many as five GP2 races to its '05 calendar.   Eurosport boss Angelo Codignoni revealed the plan at the SRW launch last week. He said: “GP2 won't always be able to race with F1 because there may not even be 10 grands prix in Europe in the future and it would be too expensive to do the flyaway races. If extra races are needed, it makes sense for it to come on the SRW package.”  GP2 manager Bruno Michel said: “We will be racing with F1 at most of the European grands prix, but there is no number set in stone. We could, for example, end up having eight races with grands prix and four elsewhere.”

3/12/04

To survive, Imola seeks government help  The president of Italy’s Automobile Association (ACI) Franco Lucchesi has asked the Italian government for support to save the San Marino GP.  Earlier this year F1’s Bernie Ecclestone said that Imola would host its final F1 race this season as the series gradually moves out of Europe.  Imola’s mayor Massimo Marchignoli later claimed the issue had not been finally resolved and was hopeful that talks would continue.  But now Lucchesi has said that talks with the F1 supremo will not resume unless changes are made to the circuit. This, he said, could only happen if the Italian government fund a revamp.  He told Gazzetta dello Sport: "We will re-open talks with Ecclestone only if the government finds the resources for the €25M development works demanded by the FIA and the FOA.  "I've written to Prime Minister [Silvio] Berlusconi asking the government to find the funds to upgrade Imola, as the structure is part of the public system."  ITV-F1

3/12/04

Several pre-race events canceled in Malaysia  According to reports in the Malaysian press, several programs, which would have run in conjunction with next weekend’s Grand Prix, have been cancelled to ensure that things run smoothly for the General election, scheduled for the same weekend.  Due to the fact that roads would need to be closed and police officers needed to patrol certain activities ahead of the F1 weekend, Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Mohmad Shaid Mohd Taufek has declared that some events will need to be sacrificed…  “We have decided to cut down the numbers of these activities for fear that they will affect the general election,” he told the Sin Chew Daily.

3/12/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Leinders Earns F1 Super-License
McLaren On-Top At Windy Valencia
Barrichello Amused By 'Tusked' Defeat
Schu Leaves Leg-Work To Team Cohorts
Stoddart Delays Traction-Control Crisis

Toyota Committed To F1
Brawn Warns Against 'Snap' Format Change
F1 Finds Rival In ... Swimming
Rossi To Test-Drive Formula One
Ford Backs F1 Budget-Cap 

F1 Was Fudging TV-Figures
Hopes Turn To 'B' Version McLaren
Barrichello Warns Rivals
Trulli As 'Launch Control' System
Fisichella Not Keen On Malaysian GP

  Much More...click on 2004 archives button below
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