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3/25/04

Denver: Dover and OWRS make it official   Dover Motorsports, Inc. (NYSE: DVD - News) today announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, Inc. ("Grand Prix"), has reached an agreement with Open Wheel Racing Series, LLC ("OWRS"), the successor to CART, Inc. and owner of the Champ Car World Series, to transfer to OWRS certain assets and rights that Grand Prix has relative to the organization and promotion of the Grand Prix of Denver, subject to certain conditions and approvals. Grand Prix has a multi-year agreement with the City of Denver pursuant to which it is entitled to stage an annual auto racing event in and around the PepsiCenter in Denver. Grand Prix has assigned to OWRS its rights in its agreement with the City, subject to the consent of the City. Economic terms were not disclosed.

3/25/04

Olympian hurls allegations at Villeneuve  UPDATE This Canada.com article says that Jacques Villeneuve didn't receive $12 million US under the federal sponsorship program, the driver's camp said Thursday. "It's all false," said Barbara Pollock, wife of Craig Pollock, who represents Villeneuve. "I don't know who invented it." She defended the integrity of Villeneuve and her husband. "They have never negotiated any deal with the Canadian government and have never received any funds from the Canadian government," she said in an interview from Villars, Switzerland. Former Olympic gold medalist Myriam Bedard made the allegation when she testified Wednesday at the Commons public accounts committee, which is looking into the sponsorship scandal. Craig Pollock, couldn't be reached for comment Thursday. Bedard cited her agent, Jean-Marc St-Pierre, as the source of her "top secret" information about Villeneuve but admitted she couldn't confirm if it were true. St-Pierre has denied telling her any such thing. Barbara Pollock said Villeneuve is at a ski resort so may not have heard about Bedard's allegations. "As far as I'm aware he probably has not put on the TV or picked up the phone." More.....  3/24/04 - Former Olympian Myriam Bedard made some startling allegations in regard to the federal sponsorship scandal Wednesday, including that she heard Jacques Villeneuve was secretly paid $12 million US to wear the Canada logo on his racing suit. Bedard, who was appearing before a Commons committee probing the sponsorship scandal, also said she had been told that Groupaction - one of the ad companies at the heart of the scandal - was involved in drug dealing. Canadian Press

3/25/04

Overheard at Sebring   Herdez guys said they never stopped working since they got back from Australia except for the holidays... had more work then previous 'off-seasons'.  Expanded the shop by 60% and never had any doubt that there would not be 2004 Champ Car season or at least the team management never indicated that they may be considering alternate plans.........Word at Sebring is that there is a shortage of Lola chassis and one of the reasons is that Team Rahal and Fernández Racing's Lola chassis (and all the bits that go with it like the gearbox, etc.) were acquired by Honda so as to prevent other Champ Car teams from using them. Honda claims they are for their museum.  Eric Bachelart confirmed the shortage on today's teleconference when he said he has to use a Reynard for his 2nd car.  We hear six new Lolas are being ordered from England.......The hot babe crew member with American Spirit team was seen strapping Ryan Hunter-Reay into the car, much to his delight, we are sure, is now with the Herdez team so Ryan can look forward to having the best looking crew member in Champ Car.   We wonder if he requested that she be employed there........PKVR has NEXTEL on the sidepods and driver suit and not N1 Holdings (like we saw at Long Beach), though that is on the nose of the car, however only Gonzalez' car and suit had that, Vasser's suit and sidepods were blank (where NEXTEL is on the other car) and team members had nice hats that had NEXTEL Racing embroidered on them.........RuSPORT were very busy working on the car after today's test session. Did not recognized any of the crew members, wonder if they are the same guys that ran the Atlantic's team.   No sign of another chassis under their tent however it may have been in the transporter.........Jourdain Jr. was at the track, dressed in civilian clothes, very casual, with about a 5 day shadow on his face, talking to Bruno and Tag and Vasser.......Newman/Haas guys say they know nothing about the third car, however they said the same thing about the Dallara in their shop at the end of last season........Nelson Philippe (left) has tongues wagging.  This 17-year old is plenty fast and he's just a rookie up from Barber Dodge Pro Series.  Everyone wrote him off as a rich kid who bought his way into Champ Car.  His family may be wealthy, but there is no question this guy can wheel a car.  Mark C. (Photos courtesy of Champ Car)

3/25/04

Sophomore Bourdais sets fast lap  Newman/Haas Racing co-owner Paul Newman came to Sebring International Raceway to watch the second day of Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford testing, and his second-year driver Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald’s Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) decided to give him something to watch.  Bourdais strapped on a set of new tires in the last hour of today’s cloudy afternoon session on the 1.2-mile Sebring test course and put up the best time of the two days, stopping the unofficial clocks at 50.55 seconds. Bourdais was the only driver of the day to break 51 seconds according to Cosworth Racing engineers, leading a day that saw seven Champ Cars on track.

The rest of the field picked up speed after two full days of testing, with six of the seven cars moving into the 51-second bracket. Jimmy Vasser (#12 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) each made their first appearance of the test, putting in laps in advance of the season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 16-18.

“It was my first day in the car since Australia last year so I just wanted to knock the rust off,” Vasser said. “We weren’t going for times, we just wanted to follow the testing plan. We ran over 100 laps and didn’t have any mechanical trouble so that’s a plus.”

“We tried a lot of things with the car today, changed a lot of different combinations and were still able to be fast,” Dominguez said. “I feel very good about how things are progressing with the team and our testing.”

The Rocketsports squad ran a pair of cars for the second consecutive day, with Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) running in the low 51-second bracket. Rookie Nelson Philippe (#17 Lease Plan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also hit the 51 range for the first time, before taking the last part of the afternoon off.

“We spent the day throwing a lot of things at the car, running diff tests, geometry testing, and working on things we need to learn at Long Beach,” Tagliani said. “We aren’t trying to be the champions of Sebring. We learned a lot for later on.”

RuSPORT spent the afternoon working on the car under the garage tarp, giving reigning Toyota Atlantic champion A.J. Allmendinger (RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) a chance to talk to his engineers face-to-face. Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) fought painful blisters on his hand to complete a full day of testing, while also performing some exhibition laps at the end of the day for a commercial film crew from his native Mexico.  The third and final day of testing will take place at Sebring on Friday.

3/25/04

Thursday test times from Sebring  UPDATE  We have updated the chart below with the afternoon times.  Bourdais remained fastest with a 50.55 sec lap - tops for the two days so far. Mario Dominguez jumped to 2nd quick.  Nelson Philippe gets faster with each session, lowering his time to 51.5 sec., 9/10th clear of American rookie AJ Allmendinger.  Testing continues Friday. 3/25/04 - Sebastien Bourdais has been consistently fastest all morning, but the guy that has everyone talking is 17-year old Nelson Philippe who is just 0.1 sec behind teammate Alex Tagliani and 3rd fast overall.  At right Philippe wheels his LeasePlan Lola around the short Sebring circuit.  Photo courtesy Champ Car.
  Wednesday Thursday
Driver Team Morning Afternoon Morning Afternoon
1. Sebastien Bourdais Newman/Haas 51.7 50.8 51.2 50.55 sec
2. Bruno Junqueira Newman/Haas 52.3sec 50.8 No Time No Time
3. Mario Dominguez Herdez No Time No Time 52.0 51.0
4. Ryan Hunter-Reay Herdez 51.7 51.2 No Time No Time
4. Alex Tagliani Rocketsports 51.8 51.5 51.5 51.2
6. Nelson Philippe Rocketsports 53.0 52.2 51.6 51.5
7. Jimmy Vasser PKV Racing No Time No Time 51.9 51.7
8. AJ Allmendinger RuSPORT 52.6 52.1 52.6 52.4
9. Roberto Gonzalez PKV Racing No Time Unknown 52.9 52.5

3/25/04

Carpentier officially joins 3-car Forsythe team  Patrick Carpentier joined the top 20 last season in terms of career starts made in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, and will continue adding to that statistic as part of a three-car Forsythe Racing squad in 2004. The French-Canadian pilot was officially named to a third car for Forsythe Racing yesterday, joining Paul Tracy and Rodolfo Lavin at the Indianapolis-based team. The effort marks the first full-time three-car Champ Car team in the last 10 years and gives team owner Gerald Forsythe a driver lineup with 353 Champ Car starts, 30 wins, 23 poles and 75 podiums to its credit. Carpentier will return for his eighth Champ Car season and is coming off two of his best years in the championship. He has won at least one race in each of the last three seasons, including a win from pole last season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Carpentier has ended his season in the top five in each of the last two years, and helped Forsythe Racing to its first-ever 1-2 race finish when he placed second to Tracy at Mid-Ohio last season. Tracy will drive the #1 Indeck Forsythe Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Carpentier will carry his familiar #32 on his Indeck Forsythe Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry and new team member Rodolfo Lavin will pilot the # 3 Corona Forsythe Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine during the 2004 season. “Now that the final details of running three cars has been worked out by the team I’m really looking forward to testing next week and the first race,” Carpentier said. “We have a lot of veteran leadership in this team and we expect to be challenging for the championship.” The drivers will undertake a busy testing schedule, beginning with visits to Sebring, Homestead and Fontana to shake down the race cars and to prepare for the season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 18. “It’s been a long winter,” said defending Long Beach winner Tracy. “I’m fit and ready to go racing and determined to defend my championship. Champ Car is the greatest series and I look forward to racing in front of full grandstands at Long Beach on April 18th and to repeat my winning streak in California.”

3/25/04

Button tops Thursday in Paul Ricard 

Pos Driver Car Time Laps
1 Jenson Button BAR-Honda 1m11.047s 119
2 Antonio Pizzonia Williams 1m11.201s 129
3 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren 1m11.390s 30
4 Takuma Sato BAR 1m11.422s 80
5 Ralf Schumacher Williams 1m11.520s 104
6 Alexander Wurz McLaren 1m12.358s 31
7 Franck Montagny Renault* 1m12.468s 134
8 Ricardo Zonta 1m12.585s 94
9 Ryan Briscoe Toyota** 1m12.726s 110
*2003 car
**hybrid car

3/25/04

Champ Car Series lands Justin Wilson  Eric Bachelart, co-owner of Conquest Racing, announced today from Sebring that they had signed ex-Jaguar F1 driver Justin Wilson to drive their Lola Ford in the 2004 Champ Car Series.  Bachelart stated that "with a driver of Wilson's caliber and a Lola chassis their goal is to become one of the top teams in the series." Wilson said, "I have always followed Champ Cars since Nigel Mansell came over to compete.  I think this is the logical step to keep my career moving."  Bachelart also stated he will announce his 2nd driver by week's end.  The 2nd car will be a Reynard because of a shortage of Lola chassis's. See story on Home page.

3/25/04
Nissan World Series

Firman signs on to drive in Nissan World Series  This Autosport.com article says that former grand prix racer Ralph Firman will contest the Dallara Nissan World Series this season for the two-time championship winning Gabord Competicion team. The ex-Jordan driver starts his campaign this weekend at Jarama in Spain. The 28-year old, who won the Formula Nippon title in 2002, drove for Jordan in Formula 1 last year, scoring a point in the Spanish Grand Prix. This year's 18-round Dallara Nissan World Series schedule boasts rounds in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, France and China. "I am delighted to join Gabord Competicion as the team aims to capture a third successive Formula Nissan World Series title," said Firman. "The team has clearly dominated the championship in previous seasons so although I have little preparation time before this weekend's opening events I know they have everything in place to give me the chance to do well. There are very few prestigious championships outside Formula 1 but the Nissan World Series is one of them and to have been offered this drive comes as a great boost to me. I would like to thank Gabord Competicion and the Mazel Group for their support." Firman had previously been linked with a drive with Dale Coyne Racing in the US-based Champ Car World Series. Gabord won the series last year with Renault F1 test driver Franck Montagny.

3/25/04

Crashes accelerated IRL's move to reduce speeds  The slowing speeds at this year’s Indianapolis 500 will come a year ahead of schedule. That estimate was revealed by Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of racing operations for the Indy Racing League, on March 24 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during remarks made on the first day of the 2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour. He said three things came into play in speeding up the process that will result in the engines used in the IndyCar® Series being reduced from 3.5 to 3.0 liters starting with the 500. The first of these was driver Kenny Brack’s crash in the IndyCar Series season finale at Texas Motor Speedway followed by the death of Tony Renna at the Speedway in a testing crash, both last October. “I think that accelerated the program by six months,” Barnhart said. “We were anticipating making this change in 2005, but with the competitive nature of Honda and Toyota joining Chevrolet as our manufacturers, the R & D (research and development) and acceleration of the technology into the series probably was more than we anticipated. Speeds started going quicker more rapidly than we thought they could.”  [Editor's Note:  Toyota recommended to the IRL when they came into the series to go to a 3.0 L formula at that time.  Barnhart rejected that idea then but now he's making it sound like it was his/their idea to go to the reduced engine size now.  Two years too late Brian - just admit you should have listened to Toyota back then and gain some credibility.]

3/25/04

Junqueira & Bourdais top Wednesday testing at Sebring  2nd UPDATE We have corrected Bourdais' fast lap time from Wednesday.  Press Release - PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira and teammate Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the McDonald's® racecar each completed the first of a two-day test at the 1.65-mile road course at Sebring International Raceway late yesterday. A total of seven Champ Car drivers took to the track. The team is preparing for the 2004 season-opening round of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18.

While it was the third test day of the season for Junqueira, Bourdais got behind the wheel of his race car for the first time since the season-ending event in Australia on October 26, 2003. Under cloudy and windy conditions in Sebring both drivers were able to complete many miles of testing despite a morning set back that was resolved before the afternoon session. By the end of the day, both drivers set a 50.8 lap time around the course.

"We didn't run much in the morning, but we were able to get a lot accomplished in the afternoon," said Junqueira who completed 180 miles on his first day of testing at Sebring. "We worked on our race setup and made some long runs. The car was okay but we still need to improve our race setup. I'm looking forward to running again on Friday."

"It was great to finally get back in the car for the first time in four months," added Sebastien Bourdais, who completed 219 miles of testing. "I took it slow when I first got on track so I could shake the rust off. As the day went on, I felt more and more comfortable in the car. We were able to make some progress on Day 1 so we hope to continue this on Thursday."

Bourdais will run again today while Junqueira will undertake his second day of testing at Sebring on Friday. Photos courtesy of Champ Car  3/24/04 - We have added the afternoon times to the table below. Newman/Haas driver Bruno Junqueira turned the fastest lap of the day at 50.8 seconds around the Sebring short course.  His teammate Sebastien Bourdais ended up 2nd quick, tied with Herdez driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.  Perhaps the surprise of the test was the very respectable times turned in by 17-year old Nelson Philippe of France.  After a not so stellar season in Barber-Dodge Pro Series, Philippe ended up just 1/10th of a second behind the highly regarded American, AJ Allmendinger who has a highly respected engineer in David Brown. Some people were writing this kid off early.  We were not.  With Philippe's crew just being put together weeks ago, the team came away plenty satisfied with today's results.  Mark Cipolloni 3/24/04 - Champ Car test times from Sebring Wednesday morning.  Ryan Hunter-Reay was by far the fastest all morning and then in the last half hour Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Tagliani brought their times down substantially. (All times are unofficial)
Driver Team Morning Afternoon
1. Bruno Junqueira Newman/Haas 52.3sec 50.8sec
1. Sebastian Bourdais Newman/Haas 51.7 50.8
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Herdez 51.7 51.2
4. Alex Tagliani Rocketsports 51.8 51.5
5. AJ Allmendinger RuSPORT 52.6 52.1
6. Nelson Philippe Rocketsports 53.0 52.2
7. Roberto Gonzalez PKV Racing No Time Unknown

3/25/04

Oastler steps down as Jaguar Chief Engineer  After a successful twenty years in motorsport, Jaguar Racing's Chief Engineer Malcolm Oastler has announced his retirement from the sport to concentrate on setting up a rural venture with his family in his native Australia. Malcolm joined Jaguar Racing in 2002 as a consultant on the 2003 racing car, Jaguar R4, and has since played a critical role in the development and rollout of this year's challenger, Jaguar R5. Malcolm will work his notice period and remains with Jaguar Racing until mid June.

"I've had a fantastic 20 year stint playing racing cars, but I don't think it's something you should do forever. As much as I love the technical aspects and the people, the lure of the southern sun and the beach have won the day." said Malcolm. "I owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone I have had the pleasure of working with throughout my career. In particular, I want to express my sincere appreciation to everyone at Jaguar Racing. This was far from an easy decision for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Jaguar in helping to make the team competitive. My key challenge over the past year has been to ensure we produce a competitive racing car and in the Jaguar R5, I believe we have achieved that result. A comprehensive development program over the course of this season will ensure that remains the case," said Malcolm.

Jaguar Racing's Managing Director, David Pitchforth, commented: "We are sad to see Malcolm leave given his valuable input to our program and wish him the very best for the future. He has contributed an enormous amount to motorsport over a twenty year period with his designs having graced everything from Formula Ford to F3000, Indycar and Formula One, added Pitchforth. "Since joining Jaguar Racing in 2002, we have benefited enormously from Malcolm's input into the R4 upgrade program and the design and development of our 2004 challenger, Jaguar R5. We had agreed from the onset with Malcolm that his tenure with Jaguar Racing would be relatively short-term and focused upon what were critical short-term objectives aimed at ensuring the competitiveness of the Jaguar R4 and R5," continued Pitchforth. "Malcolm's role as Chief Engineer allowed him great autonomy and freedom between various departments and it is a role that worked very well indeed for both parties. His engineering experience and acumen have manifested themselves clearly in this year's racing car. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of everyone at Jaguar Racing in wishing Malcolm all the very best of luck for the future" concluded Pitchforth.

3/25/04

Monterrey, Mexico reduces grandstands  The number of grandstands for this year's Monterrey, Mexico race have been reduced significantly.  They seat the same number of people as last year, because each grandstand is much larger than in the past.  The redistribution was the result of a survey conducted of the fans as to where they preferred to be seated.  Of course the track still has the two ridiculous Mickey Mouse chicanes that has ruined the racing and made it virtually impossible to pass.  And you wonder why attendance was down last year?  There's only so much follow-the-leader racing one can watch before even the rabid Mexican fans have had enough.  The excuse has been inadequate runoff at the following corner.  Then cut the corner short and lengthen the runoff area!

2003 Seating                                  2004 Seating

3/25/04

Forsythe-Racing press release on Carpentier  Forsythe Championship Racing confirms the detail of its three car assault on the 2004 'Bridgestone presents the ChampCar World Series powered by Ford'

Defending World Champion, Canadian hero Paul Tracy will drive the # 1 'Indeck Forsythe Racing' car, Canadian Patrick Carpentier the # 32 'Indeck Forsythe Racing' car and new team member Rodolfo Lavin the # 3 'Corona Forsythe Racing' entry.

Before the Season's first race at Long Beach California on April 18th, the Team and Drivers will undertake a busy testing schedule, visiting Sebring, Homestead and Fontana to shake down the race cars and to prepare for the start of the Season and the demanding street course at Long Beach California.

Paul Tracy is looking forward to getting back into his race car. "Its been a long winter. I'm fit and ready to go racing and determined to defend my Championship. ChampCar is the greatest Series and I look forward to racing in front of full grandstands at Long Beach on April 18th and to repeat my winning streak in California."

"Now that the final details of running three cars has been worked out by the Team I'm really looking forward to testing next week and the first race, and working for the Series and challenging for the Championship" says Patrick Carpentier.

Rodolfo Lavin had his seat fitting last week, "I'm so impressed with the race shop and the Team's engineers and crew guys. This is a great opportunity for me to work with the best Team in the Series and with such experienced drivers, Champion Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier. I look forward to the first race in Long Beach and doing my best for the Team and my Sponsor Corona - and of course to racing at home in Mexico very soon."

3/25/04

Sponsors getting harder to find in NASCAR  This TheStar.com article says that it may be too soon to call it a crisis, but there is definitely a financial crunch facing NASCAR's teams. Sponsorship, the lifeblood of racing, is getting harder to come by. So much so that close to half the field in Saturday's Busch Series race and as many as seven cars in Sunday's 43-car Cup lineup at Bristol Motor Speedway won't have primary sponsors. Oh, there will be names emblazoned on the rolling billboards. But the money that put the ads there won't be enough in most cases to pay the driver or crew, nor cover the expenses of getting them to the racetrack. With the unsteady economy and increasing costs of racing, even teams with winning cars and star drivers have had trouble securing sponsors this season. "There's people out there talking about 2005, but next week is not so good," said John Andretti, who lost his ride with Dale Earnhardt Inc. when the team could not find a season sponsor for its third car. "You need to get enough races so you can hold your people to go into '05 with. But that takes at least a 10-race commitment and that's hard to find right now.'' More.....

3/25/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Renault vow to work-on small errors
Pre-Bahrain F1 testing: Day two
FIA green-lights qualifying tweak
Villeneuve paid $12m to wear Canada logo
Barrichello chose the wrong-tires
Was Button's debut-podium a one-off?
Barrichello 'upset' by Montoya accusation
Trulli made trip to Stewards' room
Brabham backs Webber's F1-title quest
Wilson set for Champ Car switch
BAR podium timely for Honda talks
McNish wins on sports-car return
Sauber can't wait for Bahrain race
Barrichello bemoans badly-behaved backmarkers 

3/25/04

Massive construction project planned for Daytona  UPDATE  Added artist renderings of the planned work. 3/24/04 - The Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL reports that Daytona Int’l Speedway today is expected to announce a “massive construction project, which will dramatically change the look of the entire infield.” The redevelopment includes a “new Nextel Cup Series garage area, a tunnel under Turn 1 and a different location for Victory Lane.” Sources said the speedway “may use this opportunity to create a premium grandstand/suite area along pit road.” The Speedway has canceled its fall schedule of events “with the hope of completing all this work in time for Speed Week 2005”  Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL

3/24/04

Newman/Haas team leads Sebring testing  Newman/Haas Racing earned five wins, seven poles and put a pair of drivers in the top four of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford standings last season, but came up 27 points short in pursuit of its fifth series title.  The first day of testing at Sebring International Raceway saw the Newman/Haas squad declare its intentions to run at the front this year, as both 2003 runner up Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and 2003 Rookie of the Year Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald’s/Lola/Bridgestone) put their Champ Cars in the 50-second bracket to lead Wednesday’s action. Both Bourdais and Junqueira broke 51 seconds on unofficial time sheets for a lap around the Sebring test course on a day that saw seven Champ Cars putting in laps. Five teams hit the track in Wednesday’s 10 hours of action, which was the first of three days of testing in preparation for the season-opening April 16-18 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“It was really good to get back in the McDonald’s car and do some laps,” said Bourdais, who also drove for a series of pit-stop practices along with Junqueira. “I hadn’t been in the car in four months, and that was too long for me, I was itching to get back. I took a little time to get the rust off and I felt pretty good my second time out of the pits.”  "The track was faster than normal because of the rubber put down by the 12-hour sports car race last weekend,” said Bourdais’ engineer Craig Hampson. “We had some work to do on one of the cars but we turned a lot of laps and got a lot done today.”

Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Nelson Philippe (#17 Lease Plan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) joined the Newman/Haas duo on Wednesday to test at the Central Florida layout. It would be the most crowded test session in the young Champ Car careers of Allmendinger and Philippe, but both drivers put in full days of testing on a cloudy and breezy Wednesday.  "We have already done some testing but it was nice to get out here with some other people and see where you stand,” Allmendinger said. “I feel good in the car and get more comfortable with it every lap. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to Long Beach and that first race.”  “I am feeling better in the car every time I get out,” Philippe said. “This track helps because you can really recognize when you make changes on the car here. You feel a lot more of what the car is doing at this track because it moves so much.”

Jimmy Vasser (#12 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will join testing on Thursday. Both were at the track today to observe the testing, along with fellow 2003 Champ Car combatants Michel Jourdain Jr. and Oriol Servia.  (Photos courtesy of Champ Car World Series)

3/24/04

Target Chip Ganassi Racing - Looking ahead to Indy 500  Target Chip Ganassi Racing certainly knows what it takes to win races, championships and the “most famous race in the world”. The team won unprecedented four straight championship titles (1996-97-98-99,) and added a fifth with the crowning of Scott Dixon as Indycar Series Champion in 2003. This year, Dixon is looking to do what Juan Pablo Montoya did in 2000 with the Target team; win the Indy 500 following a championship series win.

“There’s a certain amount of confidence that comes with a championship and I think every member of the team feels it,” says Dixon who will take his second run at the coveted Indy 500 crown. “It’s about knowing what it takes to win and making it happen on the track. This team has that and we’re going to try to harness that for this year’s Indy 500.”

Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s British driver Darren Manning is also looking to make his mark at the Indy 500. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Graham Hill, who won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 1966.

“Eight rookies have won this race and I hope to be the ninth,” says Manning, a newcomer to Indycar series. “But to be the first Brit since Graham Hill would definitely be an extra honor. I’ve always put this race up there with Le Mans and the British Grand Prix. My first visit to the Indianapolis Speedway was last year’s 500. I watched it from the grandstands and saw first hand what it was all about from a fan’s point of view. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see it from a driver’s point of view this time and have my name included alongside other Great Brittons like Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart.”

The journey to the Indianapolis 500 is different for every driver, team, owner and race fan. But one thing will always remain a certainty: the road to the 500 is always a memorable one.

“It’s a personal thing,” says team owner Chip Ganassi, who himself has competed in five races at Indianapolis (1982-86) and was co-owner of the team that won Indy with Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989. “Indianapolis is the crossroads of America, and everyone takes a different road to the Indy 500. For Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Juan Montoya’s win in 2000 was the result of a very strong group of people working together and bringing the best out in each other. I honestly believe that as strong a team as we were then, I feel we have that same package now. The circumstances may be different, as are the people, but we definitely have the personnel, the team, the drive and the confidence. Perhaps all those strengths are more amplified when you win a series championship.”

3/24/04

Long Beach race picks up Imperial Bank sponsorship  The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach today announced that Imperial Capital Bank has signed on to become Official Bank and Financial Services Provider of the 30th Anniversary Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. In addition, Imperial Capital Bank will be the title sponsor of the Historic Grand Prix race, set to take place Sunday morning, April 18, at approximately 9:45 a.m. The Imperial Capital Bank Historic Grand Prix will feature vintage racecars from all three eras of Long Beach racing – Formula 5000, Formula One and early Champ Cars – competing on the track at the same time. Held in conjunction with the Historic Motor Sports Association (HMSA), the Imperial Capital Bank Historic Grand Prix will hold its qualifying session on Saturday, April 17, at 3 p.m. Like the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Imperial Capital Bank is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Imperial Capital Bank provides its customers with personal and business banking products and services through its branch locations in California and Nevada. Through its commercial real estate lending division, Imperial Capital Bank fills an important niche in the income property lending area. Imperial Capital Bank also services the business community through its entertainment and franchise lending divisions. “Our partnership with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach gives Imperial Capital Bank the opportunity to capitalize on one of Southern California's most successful events allowing us to promote our company message to an audience in a unique environment on the variety of banking services available to businesses and consumers,” said George W. Haligowski, President CEO and Chairman of the Board of Imperial Capital Bank. “Our respective organizations are rich in heritage and the fact that both are celebrating 30th Anniversaries makes for a logical partnership. The Historic Grand Prix race will showcase the various eras of racecars that competed at the Grand Prix over the years and Imperial Capital Bank is extremely excited and proud of being involved with an activity that is expected to be one of the highlights of the weekend.”

3/24/04

Molson's Bob Singleton reassures Champ Car fans  Dear Molson Indy Fans – It's been a challenging year for open wheel racing... from the OWRS buy-out at the end of last year, to the Indianapolis courtroom in January, to the massive task of compiling teams and drivers, in a very short period of time I might add, to put together a competitive field of quality drivers for the 2004 race season… well let’s just say it’s been quite a ride!  I feel it’s important for our fans to know that the Molson Indy is in full support of Champ Car. I have been working very closely with Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkhoven and I am confident that these guys have developed a smart business plan for the future of the Champ Car World Series. More......

3/24/04

Paul Ricard Wednesday test times 

1. Antonio Pizzonia Williams-BMW 1m 11.501s 94 laps M
2. Anthony Davidson BAR-Honda 1m 11.728s 127 laps M
3. Takuma Sato BAR-Honda 1m 11.806s 115 laps M
4. Marc Gene Williams-BMW 1m 12.060s 89 laps M
5. Pedro de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1m 12.126s 67 laps M
6. Alex Wurz McLaren-Mercedes 1m 12.317s 98 laps M
7. Ricardo Zonta Toyota-Toyota 1m 12.740s 134 laps M
8. Franck Montagny Renault-Renault 1m 12.989s 112 laps M
9. Ryan Briscoe Toyota-Toyota 1m 14.987s 23 laps M

3/24/04

Hunter-Reay on Wind Tunnel  Fresh off his signing with Herdez Competition and his first official test at Sebring International Raceway, American Champ Car hotshot Ryan Hunter-Reay will appear on SPEED Channel's popular "Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain" on Thursday, March 25.   Hunter-Reay will share his thoughts on teaming with Mario Dominguez at Herdez Competition, the future of Champ Car racing, and his expectations for the upcoming Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season. On-track footage from Hunter-Reay's test at Sebring will also be shown. "Wind Tunnel" airs at 10:00 p.m. ET on SPEED Channel. Viewer participation is encouraged, and questions for Hunter-Reay may be e-mailed in advance to windtunnel@speedtv.com. During the broadcast, viewers may also call 1-866-W-TUNNEL to ask a question.

3/24/04
Star Mazda

Moses Smith - New team, sponsor, & car Moses Smith headed to Sebring for the first of 10 events to take place in the hunt for the 2004 championship title.  The theme for Sebring this year can be summed up in one word - - -NEW. Moses is joining a new team, has a new title sponsor and the biggest new of all, he is competing in a new car. All of these elements came together two weeks before the Sebring event; except for the new car, which arrived only one week before the event. Moses’ new team is American Speed Factory, located in Florida. The American Speed Factory will be supporting Moses’ efforts throughout the season. The new title sponsor on the car is 3 Dimensional Services. Along with this new title sponsor, HASA Pool Products has signed on again for another exciting season of racing.

3/24/04

NASCAR comes to Manhattan On any given weekend, more people in New York watch NASCAR races on TV than virtually every other market in the U.S. However, with the nearest NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series track hours away, many New Yorkers find it difficult to experience America’s number-two spectator sport.  NASCAR is now starting its engines to bring the sights and sounds of stock car racing to the Big Apple. Stock car racing’s sanctioning body is partnering with Buster’s Garage, a new bar/restaurant located on 180 West Broadway, which will be NASCAR’s New York meeting place. Buster’s Garage will show televised NASCAR races each week and run special race-themed promotions to provide local fans with a place to gather and cheer for their favorite drivers in the 2004 season. The first fan party is slated for the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2004 (FOX, 1 p.m. Eastern).  More.....

3/24/04

Plane from Darlington missing  UPDATE  Rescuers searched into the evening Tuesday for signs of an aircraft that was carrying six people when it was last heard from on Sunday as it flew from South Carolina to Illinois. Air patrol rescuers had already flown the entire Kentucky flight segment in search of wreckage and were continuing those efforts, said 1st Lt. Michael Brown, public affairs officer for Kentucky Wing Civil Air Patrol. "We are trying to find these people and bring them home alive," Brown said. Tuesday night, a crew spotted debris near Harlan. It's not clear if it's the debris from the plane. The search will resume Wednesday. wkyt.com 3/23/04 - A private plane bringing six people back from a NASCAR race [Darlington] in South Carolina disappeared on its way to Bloomington, IL Sunday. Emergency crews continued to search for the plane early this morning. The six-seat, single-engine Piper Saratoga II was carrying pilot Curt Piercy [used to drive ARCA] and his wife, Linda Piercy; Don Maurer Jr. and his wife, Amy Maurer; Amy Maurer's brother, Brad Webb, all of Carlock; and Webb's girlfriend, whose name wasn't available, according to family friends. They were returning from NASCAR races, friends said. The Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 race was Sunday in Darlington, SC. Curt Piercy has more than 475 hours as a pilot and 50 to 55 hours flying planes with retractable gear, like that of the missing plane, he said. Curt Piercy owns Piercy Auto and Truck Body in Carlock, and Don Maurer Jr. runs Don Maurer Wrecker Service in Carlock with his father. The Pantagraph

3/24/04

Oval tracks to be re-measured  Size does matter -- especially when it comes to racetracks. And with the SAFER barriers installed at many NASCAR tracks, the dimensions of the circuits have changed. "We're going to have to re-measure all the tracks where we've put in the SAFER wall," says Jim Hunter, V.P. of corporate communications. "I don't have any idea how it will affect it, but I'm sure it will affect it to some degree." The SAFER walls at Darlington come out 30 inches from the outer wall. NASCAR measures tracks 15 feet in from the outer wall, but it doesn't expect changes in dimensions to be significant enough to affect records. FoxSports/Sporting News

3/24/04

F1 cars too fast now  Formula 1 drivers have called on motor racing’s chiefs to curb the speed of the current generation of cars because they are too fast according to this week's Autosport Magazine.   Advances in aerodynamics allied to performance gains caused by the
tire war between Bridgestone and Michelin have led to a dramatic escalation in the speed of cars this season.   Michael Schumacher’s pole position time, set with 10 laps’ worth of fuel on board, was four seconds faster than Fernando Alonso’s best from last year – and more than six seconds better than that achieved during the inaugural race at Sepang in 1999.

Jarno Trulli, one of the directors of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, believes action must be taken before the cars get too fast for the current generation of tracks.  “Normally as racing drivers we are happy to go faster, but now the cars are too fast,” said Trulli. “It’s something that the technical people have to sort out.”   Jaguar’s Mark Webber added: “A lot of it’s to do with the tires. Also, a lot of teams have done a good job aerodynamically.”

3/24/04

Bahrain bosses tried to cancel GP  Autosport Magazine reports that Bahrain bosses were so worried about the lack of progress at their new track that they tried to get the grand prix cancelled two weeks ago.   But circuit boss Philippe Gurdjian revealed last week that his request to have the event dropped for a year was rejected by Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.  Gurdjian said: “The race will go ahead but we will not be 100 per cent ready, although the track is finished. Two weeks ago we thought there was no way we could hold the race and we decided to cancel it, but Bernie said no. So we just had to get more people in to get the job finished.”

3/24/04

Interview with Leonardo Maia and Al Unser Jr.  CART Barber Dodge transplant Leonardo Maia and Al Unser Jr. were guests on this week's IRL media teleconference.  Both drivers talk about the upcoming season.  Transcript

3/24/04

Williams team set for Paul Ricard test  On Wednesday the BMW WilliamsF1 Team will begin a three day test program at the Paul Ricard Circuit in France with four drivers on hand for testing duties.  After the obvious improvements made in time for the second race of the season in Malaysia, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team lies in second position in the Constructors' Championship with 17 points. Ferrari, however, still appear to be a step ahead.  More...

3/24/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Fisichella can recover: Peter Sauber
F1 track-testing resumes in Europe
Schumacher to sign podium-bonus contract
Ferrari wants to run on Shanghai circuit
Wind-tunnel did not catch fire: Sauber
BMW-Williams is F1's biggest improver
F1 cars must be color-coded
When's it an advantage to be 10th?
Something was wrong with Jarno's R24
No comfort for cautious Schumacher  

Bridgestone to dominate in Bahrain
Jaguar does not intend to lose Webber
BAR set winning-sights
Schu is sport's second-highest earner
Security at top of agenda: Bahrain GP
Tusked-car should soon win: Marc Gene
Stoddart sues former Minardi-sponsor 

3/24/04

Tony George eyes Toronto for 2005 OWRS moves to lock IRL out of Canada and Mexico  UPDATE We have it on good word that OWRS is working closely with Molson to lock Tony George completely out of Canada for a very very long time. Now that Molson sees a full grid set for Long Beach, it's curtains for the IRL in Canada.  Ditto for Mexico - OWRS has moved swiftly to lock the IRL out of that country as well. Of course the cartel could build an oval track out in the suburbs somewhere and go racing, but we doubt anyone would pay to watch.  Oval track racing is strictly an American thing.  3/21/04 - Choosing his words carefully, and emphasizing again and again that all the conditions had to be right, Indy Racing League founder Tony George said Saturday that the IRL would love to race through the streets of Toronto in 2005.  George, who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and promotes the three biggest races in the world, attendance-wise - the Indy 500, Brickyard 400 for NASCAR stock cars and the U.S. Grand Prix for Formula One - insisted that the IRL was not interested in challenging the Champ Car series for the rights to sanction the race.  But "if there was an opportunity, it would be one that would be high on our list to pursue,'' said George, who has said four or five road or street course races will be added to the all-oval series' 2005 schedule.


The Champ Car series (formerly known as CART) has sanctioned the downtown Toronto street race sponsored by Molson's since 1986. Through the years, fans have watched some of the world's top open-wheel drivers race in Toronto - Danny Sullivan, Mario and Michael Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Nigel Mansell and Canadians Jacques Villeneuve and Paul Tracy among them.  But in recent years, many of the drivers and teams have left Champ Car to race in the rival IRL, including fan favorites Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan. More important, engine manufacturers Toyota and Honda also went to the IRL, taking their massive promotional budgets with them.

Champ Car's schedule calls for it to open the season next month in Long Beach, Calif., and race in Toronto in July. Whether it will be able to is anybody's guess: high-profile owners Adrian Fernandez and Bobby Rahal have defected in recent days and Champ Car has only 12 confirmed drivers and cars - 16 to 18 are needed to fulfill most contractual obligations.

George, speaking to the Star in Phoenix where the IRL's Copper World 200 is scheduled for Sunday, talked during the interview as if he was walking on eggs. It is apparent that he does not want to be seen as publicly undermining Open Wheel and/or their race partners in any way.


George said, however, that there had been contact with Molson Sports and Entertainment Vice-President Bob Singleton, who is general manager of the Molson Indy.  "From time to time, we've been contacted by Bob,'' George said. "It's always been a little bit uncomfortable having conversations because of, you know, the general political climate that we've been in the last two years.  "Again, I would think it would be up to him to decide when would be the appropriate time to contact us and, hopefully, he would be understanding of the sensitivity we have to it being the right timing.''

George knows that Champ Car is full of people who are passionate about the series - he suggested, for instance, that Tracy might not be eager to drive in the IRL - and that it will not go away all that quietly.

Having said that, he has announced that the IRL will expand next year and he wants to go to geographical locations that will be best for his series. And although he bobbed and weaved throughout the interview, it is clear that he is intrigued by Toronto.

"We're interested in expanding the IRL into new markets, and that would certainly be a new market for us. We're also interested in associating ourselves with promoters and organizers who are committed. Certainly, Molson has demonstrated a strong commitment to open wheel racing over the years.  Toronto Star

3/24/04

Kalkhoven challenges Tony George  During the press conference that took place in Monterrey, Mexico Tuesday, the green flag was waved to a whole series of promotional and media activities all focused on the Tecate-Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. One of the owners of OWRS, Kevin Kalkhoven made everything clear about all the doubts of the future of the Champ Car World Series and said, “to make everything very clear and to finish once for all with all of these different declarations, I want to make a public challenge to Tony George today. I bet him $100,000 USD that on the 18th of April in Long Beach there will be at least 18 Cars” after this declaration he emphasized by saying "and I am completely sure that is the way it will be (there will be at least 18 cars competing at the beginning of the season on April 18th), and if I win, I will give the money to charity” he concluded.  TV Azteca also announced that they will televise the race in Mexico.

3/23/04

Karting series ink 5-year deal  The Snap-on Stars of Karting and the World Karting Association (WKA) announced today a 5-year alliance. Officially, through the “2008 season, the Stars Of Karting recognizes the WKA as the official feeder, and support program for all of its series” championships. With the new cooperative effort between the two organizations, WKA officially recognizes the Stars Of Karting program as the highest level of Professional Sprint Karting competition that a WKA member can compete in. Randy Kugler stated, “WKA’s relationship with the Stars of Karting has been beneficial for both parties. Stars of Karting offers an opportunity for our Manufacturer’s Cup drivers to step it up to the CIK International style of racing. The high profile and visibility offered through the Stars of Karting benefits not only WKA, but also our entire sport. Television coverage in “2003” was unprecedented thanks to the Stars program. The future looks very bright for karting.  The entire WKA organization has been a great help to the Stars series, and we want to continue to be able to rely on the experience and infrastructure their organization provides, said Stars Of Karting’s Paul Zalud. “Adding another grass-roots regional racing program to the schedule would not be in the best interest for the karter,” continued Zalud. “The Stars organization doesn’t want to operate its own regional program, especially when forming an alliance with WKA makes so much more sense for both organizations. We want to help bring the WKA out west, and look forward to being a significant part of a true National Championship series, where there is a clear, and concise structure from first introduction to our sport, all the way to top.”

3/23/04

Lowe's to add SAFER Barrier  Lowe's Motor Speedway will have steel and foam energy-reducing barriers, known in the motorsports industry as SAFER barriers, installed in time for its NASCAR events in May. The SAFER barriers, which utilize foam blocks positioned behind rolled steel tubing for a total thickness of 30 inches, will cover approximately 6,100-linear feet of concrete walls around the 1.5-mile, high-banked superspeedway. As the most extensive installation of the SAFER barriers to date at any speedway, the Lowe's Motor Speedway project will include placing the energy-absorbing barriers in front of approximately 4,000 feet of outside retaining walls in the turns; 1,351 feet along the frontstretch quad-oval; and 796 feet on the insides of Turns 2 and 4. Materials for the SAFER barriers were ordered Monday and are expected to arrive for installation on April 22. Speedway officials estimate the installation will take approximately three weeks to complete. A majority of the work will be performed at night to minimize the impact to the speedway's track rental customers.

3/23/04

Vasser labels Tony George a hypocrite  This Champ Car interview with Jimmy Vasser says, Vasser is outspoken in declaring his disgust for much of the rhetoric coming from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Tony George has said so many incredible things, like it was always his vision to have road racing. I about died when I read that!  Of course, he’s also made some comments about the number thirty-three not meaning anything to his big race anymore. What does that say to all the guys who worked and struggled so hard over the years and hung it on the line to be one of those thirty-three guys? “I’m afraid I have to say, can you please stop this hypocrisy?  Does he really think we’re all that stupid?  Does he really think the fans are that stupid? The other hypocrisy from Tony was this talk about there needs to be one series. What happened three years ago and all the other times we tried to find a way to do that? Everyone else was saying that and Tony was saying no. Let’s remember, he started his series. He’s the guy who split it into two series.”

3/23/04

Forsythe decides to field 3 cars, including Carpentier  UPDATE In case you doubted this report - you can now read about it on the Forsythe-Racing website 3/22/04 - In an AutoRacing1.com exclusive, we have learned from Gerald Forsythe that Forsythe Racing has decided to field three cars for the 2004 season for Canadians Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier, and Mexican Rodolfo Lavín.  Expect an announcement from the team in a few days.  The news will certainly be welcomed in Canada where everyone was upset that Carpentier was being cast aside.    We also understand that the sponsorship picture is looking up.  This news item is not on our rumors page for a reason.

3/23/04

Tecate Thunder Thursday kicks off LB weekend Downtown Long Beach will gear up for the 30th Anniversary Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with the “Tecate Thunder Thursday on Pine,” an exciting street party to be held along Pine Avenue between 1st and 3rd streets on Thursday, April 15 from 3 p.m – 10 p.m. From 3 p.m. – 6 p.m., ESPN Radio 710 AM will broadcast live with the “McDonnell – Douglas Show” from the patio at Mum’s Restaurant, 144 Pine Avenue. Meanwhile, the Grand Prix Association will stage an exciting pit stop demonstration with the Newman/Haas Racing team. The festival atmosphere on Pine Avenue will be fueled with a specially choreographed dance troupe and drum line beating down the street amidst displays of Grand Prix race cars, Trans-Am Series race cars, and classic and custom cars. In addition, there will be live performances by Zander and Cinderglass, bands known for their eclectic mix of rich vocals and funk rock, and D.J. Tony Remix will provide entertainment. Sponsored by the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA), the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, Tecate, 689 Design, and King’s Fish House, Tecate Thunder Thursday on Pine serves as a kick-off to the racing action and excitement of the April 16-18 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach which attracts approximately 200,000 visitors annually to the Downtown area.

“The event planned for Downtown’s Pine Avenue will provide an opportune way to attract more visitors to the central business district and have them experience first-hand the wide array of restaurants, retail and entertainment options there are to enjoy along the lively corridor,” said Kraig Kojian, DLBA President & CEO. “This is a great way to kick off our race weekend,” said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association. “We’re looking forward to seeing a large crowd on Thursday evening and bringing the cars and stars of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to Pine Avenue.”  Tecate Thunder Thursday on Pine is free to the public. For more information, please call 800-452-7829, ext. 501 or visit www.downtownlongbeach.org.

3/23/04

Carpentier tries out Ford Focus Midget  UPDATE  Here are some quotes from Patrick Carpentier on his upcoming Midget race.  3/23/04 - Recently Champ Car driver Patrick Carpentier went to Irwindale Raceway in California to test a Ford Focus Midget in preparation of this Saturday's race at the same track. He will be joined by fellow Champ Car driver Michel Jourdain Jr.  Jimmy Vasser was also supposed to compete, but other responsibilities prevented that from happening.  Both drivers will be at the track on Friday as well.

3/23/04

Family owned business outlook bleak  We found the following comment in a McKinsey report. We thought we'd leave you to your own conclusions, which you might find somewhat thought provoking given the family owned business of the IRL and NASCAR.....Family-owned businesses-companies in which a family has a controlling stake-face a sobering reality: the statistical odds on their long-term success are bleak. In fact, a number of studies, taken together, suggest that only 5 percent continue to create shareholder value beyond the third generation. This statistic should come as no surprise, given the business challenges any company faces in increasingly competitive markets, to say nothing of the difficulty of keeping growing numbers of family shareholders committed to continued ownership. One kind of risk for these businesses comes from the generations that follow the founder, whose drive and business acumen they might not match, though they may insist on managing the company. By the time the third generation takes over, the scene is set for squabbles among members and branches of the ever-expanding family. Rather than looking after the interests of the business, they may fight over the size of the dividend payouts, the composition of the board, or who gets to be chief executive officer.

3/23/04

What's the story with TV?  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Have you noticed that so far there has been no TV promotion for Long Beach?  I have yet to see any of the cross promotion by the Viacom's MTV Networks as promised by the new Champ Car TV deal. There is no mention of the Champ Car shows even listed on Spike TV's web site. I've tried to watch some Spike TV (very painful) but I have yet to see any promotional spots. I mean we are only twenty five days away from the first show. It's like starting to promote a race the week before it is run.  Without some very strong and creative cross promotion by Viacom's MTV Networks I'm afraid Champ Car is going to have another Speed Network on its hands. I had an office from 1984 to 1990 at the old TNN. In those days we had a very loyal group of motorsports fans that watched TNN. Since Viacom purchased TNN in 2000 there has been a major change in the viewership. I hope I'm wrong for the sake of the series, but I have my doubts the ratings are going to be very good. Champ Cars need as many shows as possible (live or tape delayed) on CBS. This is costly but the series and the teams need something to work with to gain and keep sponsorships.   I have also heard very little as to a strong international TV package. I get the feeling that the international side of things is getting a back seat to the US domestic TV package. If Champ Car is going to be an international series they must have a strong international package. Look at the money F1 brings in the door with its TV distribution deals. These guys don't seem to grasp the concept that TV is their biggest marketing tool. Without it the series is doomed.  Doug Parr  Dear Doug, While we agree OWRS needs to engage the entire Viacom family, one must not forget that the TV deal was not finalized until days before the Long Beach Season Premiere.  They have a lot of work to do in a few short weeks before the season opener in Long Beach.  If they advertise too soon, people will forget the date and time - short term memory.  They must ramp up their cross-promotion ads the two weeks prior to LB. As for international TV, we could not agree more.  Supposedly that's coming together.  Again, time is not on their side.  Mark C.

3/23/04

Rocketsports drivers to test at Sebring  Rocketsports Champ Car World Series drivers Alex Tagliani and Nelson Philippe will head to Florida to test both the No. 8 Johnson Controls Lola and the No. 17 LeasePlan Lola. The Rocketsports duo will spend three days testing in Sebring, followed by two days in Homestead. “I know the Sebring track well and look forward to getting a better feel for the Lola on a longer track,” said Philippe, who recently tested the Lola on the shorter Firebird track in Phoenix with Rocketsports. “This will also be my first opportunity to work with the entire team and have both Rocketsports cars as well as other Champ Car drivers on the track. “I began working with my engineer, Alain Clarinval at the Phoenix test and feel very confident of his guidance,” added Philippe. “We’ll have the advantage of working together for five solid days on two different circuits before the season starts, so we’ll be well prepared.” Philippe’s senior teammate, Alex Tagliani in the No. 8 Johnson Controls Lola, anticipates good results at the Florida tests, and a successful season for Rocketsports. “This season promises to be a great one for Rocketsports. As a team, we have more experience together, we know what we want and how to get it. Rocketsports has grown and changed as well. We have the benefit of two cars to develop and the input of different engineers,” explained Tagliani. “I met with my new engineer, Brian Ma, several times between the seasons. I’m eager to get into the car and put all of the concepts we discussed into practice,” said a very confident and sure Tagliani.

3/23/04

PacifiCare renews Long Beach sponsorship  The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach today announced that PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. will return as the Official Healthcare Insurance Provider of this year’s 30th Anniversary race. PacifiCare, which is also the title sponsor of Bruno Junqueira’s #6 Newman/Haas Racing entry, will donate $150,000 to the Dream Foundation and grant "Race Dreams" to terminally ill guests at six of the race events this year, including the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The company also sponsors the 2004 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. "This partnership with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Paul Newman, Carl Haas and Newman/Haas Racing helps us extend the PacifiCare brand – both in name and meaning - by being associated with a sport and team of quality and achievement" said Howard G. Phanstiel, president and CEO of PacifiCare. "PacifiCare is evolving into a leading consumer health organization. After a successful 2003 season on and off the track, it is essential that we continue to pursue a variety of mass marketing initiatives. We believe this partnership with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Champ Car and Newman/Haas Racing is one of the most cost-effective means of generating product awareness to a large, diverse audience in a very short amount of time."

3/23/04

Tickets go on sale for Monterrey  A press conference was held today in Monterrey to announce the pre-sale of tickets for the 2004 Tecate/Telmex Monterrey GP in Mexico.  In attendance were the four Mexican drivers Michel Jourdain Jr., Rodolfo Lavin, Roberto Gonzalez, and Mario Dominguez.  The pre-sale tickets are discounted 30%.  After April 17th the discount is 15%.

3/23/04

McLaren tops charts at Paul Ricard testing Tuesday 
Name Team T Laps Time Gap
Alexander Wurz McLaren M 100 1:12.825 127.687 mph
Pedro de la Rosa McLaren M 37 1:12.857 0.032
Ricardo Zonta Toyota M 90 1:14.003 1.178

3/23/04

Formula Renault to run with Champ Cars in Vancouver  North American Formula Renault announced today that it has expanded its 2004 schedule and will see the series bring its exciting standing starts and close racing to Vancouver to race at the beautiful Concord Pacific Place during the Molson Indy Vancouver event, on the weekend of July 23-25 with the Champ Car World Series.   “This is a fantastic addition to our schedule,” said North American Formula Renault General Manager Brett Ross. “We are excited about the opportunity to be in Vancouver, as the race is a fantastic event that the entire city gets behind. We are looking forward to putting on a great show for the very enthusiastic Canadian race fans.”  The 1.781-mile temporary street course set with Mt. Garibaldi in the background, and the ocean close by, provides a scenic background for the race fans, who attend the event in droves. The track poses a significant challenge for the racers, with a variety of high-and low-speed corners forcing the teams to find the best compromise in their setups, with the drivers speeding through the course lined with concrete walls, which offer no compromise at all.  The Formula Renault V6 Championship is the top rung on the North American Formula Renault Championship ladder, which also includes the North American Formula Renault 1600 Championship and the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship. The Formula Renault V6 is expected to make its North American competition debut in the latter stages of the North American Formula Renault 2004 season.

3/23/04

Rooting for OWRS  After reading the scads of "Hot News" and "Rumors" sections over the past few years it has impressed upon me in a heavy-hearted way to write to you at this time. Having been involved with a company that WAS a very integral sponsor (Simple Green) of CART for 3 years... it pains me, yet, inspires me, that valiant individuals such as Gentilozzi, Kalkhoven, and Forsythe have stepped up and shown themselves. The pain I feel is because I wish that there had been more individuals with the drive, competitiveness, ethics and loyalty. These 3 are good individuals that are trying to do some GOOD for Open Wheel racing in America. I applaud them and thank them!

I have known Mr. Gentilozzi from the Trans-Am days before CART entered my professional life and will say that he is one of the BEST people I have ever known! He is one that understands what it takes to bring VALUE to a sponsor's dollar and I will NEVER forget that...apparently all too many do! Whatever the rift that has taken place to lose such big names to the IRL does not matter to me...the fact that HE and his partners are doing what they are doing to keep the series going will have me rooting, and helping in ANY way I can forever.

Also...Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser, YOU guys are gold and are ALWAYS going to be heroes in my heart!  ve dealt with you both and am thrilled that I had the honor to do so...BEST of luck to you BOTH this year. AS far as the others who went for the money...may your luck run out. I will NOT feel your pain! Good Luck to Champ Car in 2004 and BEYOND...I will be rooting for you at EVERY turn....yes, EVEN the right hand ones! Mark Carter, (EX-VP Marketing Simple Green)

3/23/04

More on Penske vindication article  Another reader writes with regard to the Penske feeling vindicated about moving to the IRL article that appeared on the SPEED TV website.  Dear Autoracing1.com, Yes, he must certainly feel vindicated by all 10,000 or 15,000 fans in the stands yesterday. Of course, that number amounts to about 10% as many as will show up in Long Beach, 5% of the Surfers' crowd and 3% of the Mexico City crowd will only add to that vindication. In fact, the lowest attended races on the OWRS calendar this year will likely draw three to four times as many fans, all of whom will pay.

It is the ultimate irony that the series started by the team owners is the one that over its 20+ years of existence has given the fans what they wanted most - a diversity of tracks, cars, drivers and owners. On the other hand, the one supposedly created for the fans and the promoters - the guys who supposedly know the fans - has failed to capture the public's imagination, even 8 years after its first race.

There is no evidence that interest is gaining, either. There didn't appear to be anymore people in the stands in Phoenix this year than were there in 1996. Of course, I am only guessing based on video footage on Speed News because I didn't waste my time watching it - I had weeds to pull in the yard. In fact, the IRL has not only failed to capture the imagination of fans, but they have actually ruined the Phoenix race, which used to routinely draw 60K to 70K. They ruined New Hampshire - used to get 40K or so - so that neither the IRL nor OWRS goes there anymore. They've done the same in Miami as they've done in Phoenix. Michigan was worse off last year under the IRL than it was before under CART. And demand for seats at Indy, itself, has declined to the point where there is no longer a backlog of years for fans to get seats, but actually empty seats on Memorial Day Sunday. Now they are threatening to do the same thing to Long Beach, Toronto and Mexico City.   Haven't they done enough damage to vindicate Tony's and Roger's decisions? Jim Allen, Virginia

3/23/04
Industry News

Mario Andretti featured in new Firestone commercials  With a hip new rendition of its popular theme song and images that evoke America, Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT) today announced that it will launch a new, national advertising campaign for Firestone as part of its commitment to the nearly 104-year-old brand.

The national television blitz rolls out March 21 and brings back a completely revitalized and modernized version of the theme song, “Where the Rubber Meets the Road,” which last ran as part of a Firestone brand ad campaign in 1988.
“The Firestone brand is back through the loyalty shown by our consumers, our dealers and our employees. This campaign is just one more example of how we continue to energize the brand,” said John Gamauf, BFNT president of consumer replacement tire. “We are excited about this new initiative which draws on our heritage while reaching out to the next generation of Firestone consumers. It was a great brand ad back then and it’s even better now.”

Some of the highlights include the following: The ad shoot used four-and-a-half miles of film, took five days of filming, and used five different cameras, 22 models, 30 extras, four stunt drivers, one helicopter pilot, 98 crew members, 14 vehicles, 56 tires, 123 hours of edit time and one world-renowned Indy 500 winner. Champion race car driver Mario Andretti is featured in two of the three new spots, which were produced by New York City-based Grey Worldwide.
“It’s an exciting challenge to reinvent a classic ad campaign,” said Ron Castillo, creative director and managing partner of the Fresh Grey unit of Grey Worldwide, NY. “You have to find a balance between respecting the original while modernizing the look and feel of the spots. Updating the theme song was key to this process. We created numerous demos before finding the appropriate mix of nostalgia and current musical influence. With the support of an incredibly enthusiastic group of clients, we feel we delivered a campaign that takes Firestone confidently into the future while tipping its hat to the brand’s proud heritage.”

The three variations of the 30-second brand spots are designed to emphasize the company’s heritage, quality and value. As opposed to taking a product-focused approach, Firestone has developed a brand campaign to support its Firestone image across its many product lines.

3/23/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Schu was not fastest in Sepang
Who's better - Webber or Alonso?
Ferrari reject Montoya accusation
EJ defends Ferrari-domination
No improvement until Barcelona: McLaren
Alonso: R24 not as good as F1 thinks
Ferrari at Bahrain disadvantage?
Only a mistake can halt Ferrari's charge
No special security for Bahrain GP
BAR expects repeat performance
Montoya: I can still win F1-title
Coulthard races for helmet-safety
Who'll dominate in Bahrain?
Ferrari thank Bridgestone for win
'Good job' - Schumacher tells Button
Webber fell-out a very tall tree

Richards reckons Sato is overdriving
Button's podium-dream nearly ended
Head proposes 'aggregate' qualifying
Irvine takes delight in F1 driver-spat
Ferrari's rivals should go-home
Elections blamed for lower F1 turn-out
Brawn wants single-engine clarification
BMW-Williams admit Bahrain advantage
Luck did not fly to Malaysia with Ralf  

3/22/04

Tracy one of most important in history of Champ Car  A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1.com, I just wanted to say how much I admire guys like Paul Tracy. Granted, Paul hasn't always been perfect in his career. The spinout at Fontana on the restart a few years back, and his run-ins with Dario when they were teammates come to mind. However, we all know this guy is plain fast and you have to feel for him after the scam at Indy in the 497.5. Also, you know he could have taken the Honda/Toyota/Oval Cartel cash and jumped ship with all the others. But Paul has stayed true to ChampCar and given them a "name" to build around. If ChampCar comes through this current down spell, I think Paul Tracy has to go down as one of the most important figures in the history of the series. Brian Carroccio, Lugano, Switzerland

3/22/04


***Reader Comment***Dumbed Down Driving  UPDATE We were reminded that Kasey Kahne tried his hand at Toyota Atlantics in 2001, failed miserably, and decided on a career in oval track racing which requires far less driver talent.  He's becoming a future star on the ovals.  3/22/04 - Dear AutoRacing1, Your comments and those of your readers are spot on regarding how easy and dumbed down racing in the US has become.  Ponder for a moment the drivers in NASCAR that are a making a rapid rise i.e. "Young Gun status" in the Nextel Cup Series.  Kasey Kahne has quickly mastered the Nextel Cup car along with Kyle Busch. With a limited racing resume and experience, how easy has it become to step into a stock car and go fast right out of the box? Granted he is with a tremendous racing organization with factory sponsorship, but I would wager that Kasey Kahne would not have mastered the Champ car without paying his dues in the ladder series for open wheel racing. I can guarantee he would not step into an F1 car and and sit on the front row, nor could he sit in John Force's funny car and go out and dominate the way he has in stock cars. There are a host of young gun drivers from Champ Car, Toyota Atlantics, and other ultra competitive series that would eat Kahne, Busch, Gaughan, Vickers, and others for lunch!   It's a scary thought, but run this scenario through your thought process:  Take an attendee at any NASCAR driving experience school, strap him or her in a full blown top of the line "Cup Car" and turn him loose on the track.  I will theorize that this person could get this car around the track in a time comparable with some of the current field fillers. Take this same person and put them in a Champ Car, F1 car, a fuel dragster or funny car, and watch them flounder!  The real racers like Tony Stewart, Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, and Robby Gordon have to be concerned about these kids coming in and mastering the cars so quickly! These young kids are very talented and will be great racers, but I cannot see them at such a young age being challenged by motoring around in dumbed downed slug mobiles for very long.  They will want to go faster and seek a higher degree of difficulty and you are not going to get that in the oval racing series that includes the IRL and Nextel Cup, or as you refer to them as the oval cartel. Just a thought. Bill Kinsey. Kingman, Az.

3/22/04

TMS to install SAFER Barrier  Texas Motor Speedway will install the new Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers this summer in an effort to improve driver safety. "This is a step in the right direction where safety is concerned," said speedway general manager Eddie Gossage. "The safety of both our drivers and fans is always our number one priority and we will take every possible precaution to ensure that. "We are currently wrapping up a $400,000 upgrade to our crash fence. We have reinforced the existing fence on the outside crash wall and have constructed a new 10-foot fence on top of the inner crash wall."  The speedway's parent company, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. has placed Wes Harris, SMI vice president of development, in charge of the project. Exact dates for the installation have yet to be determined. The steel tube and foam SAFER barrier was developed by the University of Nebraska, the Indy Racing League and NASCAR. John Rohde, associate professor of civil engineering for the University of Nebraska, met with speedway officials in late January to do a site survey. "The meeting went quite well," said Gossage. "We are all on the same page here. We want to do all we can to improve safety in an inherently dangerous sport."

3/22/04

Trans-Am announces engine builders challenge  This year, CRD Engine Development, Huffaker Engineering and Rocketsports Racing will sponsor the Engine Builders’ Challenge, a new contingency program for Motorock Trans-Am Series competitors. Each engine builder will offer a contingency award to those drivers using the companies’ respective engines. Each engine builder will post race contingencies of $1,000 in cash or product certificates at each race, as well as a year-end bonus of $2,500 in cash or product certificates. Teams must display contingency decals on both sides of their cars to be eligible. “This new program will showcase one of the most important parts of a Trans-Am race car—its V-8 racing engine,” said Motorock Trans-Am Series Executive Director John Clagett. “Creating a competitive engine program requires great skill, care and expertise. CRD Engine Development, Huffaker Engineering and Rocketsports Racing all have decades of experience in supplying some of the most powerful and competitive engines in motorports. We’re excited this year to recognize both their dedication to Trans-Am and their long-standing commitment to excellence.”

3/22/04

IMS to induct 5 drivers  Five legendary names from the Indianapolis 500 will assume their place among racing legends May 21 at the 2004 Auto Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The event is taking place at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown in conjunction with the annual "500" Oldtimers' Club Banquet. Indianapolis 500-winning drivers Emerson Fittipaldi and Tom Sneva, and team owner John Zink are expected to attend the ceremony, while driver Mark Donohue and team owner Lindsey Hopkins will be inducted posthumously. The Auto Racing Hall of Fame honors drivers, team owners, mechanics and event officials who have made significant contributions to the success and colorful history of the sport of open-wheel racing.

3/22/04

Formula 1 gets big TV ratings in Germany  Sunday's Malaysian GP, shown in Europe in early morning, pulled in 9.62 million viewers in Germany alone.   And the NASCAR folks think NASCAR is popular?  Germany has a small fraction of the population of the USA.  The share was 62.1% of the households in Germany.  Worldwide, the average F1 race gets over 100 million viewers.

3/22/04

Champ Car media teleconference  Here are some highlights from today's Champ Car media teleconference with Herdez team Keith Wiggins and Ryan Hunter-Reay, full transcript later.

  • 3 days of testing this coming week (starting Wednesday) at Sebring: 10 to 11 cars will be there

  • Hunter-Reay: Lola is easier to drive than Reynard, which was plagued by understeer everywhere

  • Hunter-Reay: This year we will see some F1 talent in the series plus we have back all the best drivers from last year

  • Wiggins: A lot of issues have been created by the competition but the series left itself vulnerable because of the bankruptcy and the way it was run in the past. The series has come out stronger now. Some people make business decisions based on money, we feel Champ Car is still the best series in the world. We have a stronger group of drivers this year.

  • Wiggins: How do you address those people who spread muck saying the series is dead? Does that make you more determined to see the series succeed? Absolutely.

  • Hunter-Reay: Champ Car is the top level of road racing in North America and I like the diversity of drivers from other countries.  I look forward to racing for the USA.

  • Wiggins: Even though people were saying series was dead, we had more calls from drivers in the off-season than ever before - we were talking to 10 drivers, some very good drivers.

  • Hunter-Reay: Push-to-pass - can definitely feel the extra HP of the button, more so if you push it coming off a corner than if you push it half way down the straight. It should make for some interesting situations and you have to be smart about when you use it.

3/22/04

Paul Tracy featured in DUB Magazine  The current issue of DUB Magazine features Paul Tracy.  This magazine usually features rappers and athletes with their pimped out cars.  The article focused on Tracy's SL500 Lorinser, his H2 Hummer, and Ferrari. The title of the article reads Paul Tracy-Think You Can Beat Him, and throughout the article Champ Car car racing was mentioned several times -- Winning the Indy Lights title in 1990, he made his CART debut in 1991 driving for Dale Coyne Racing, then signed with Team Penske as a test driver, taking part in three more races that season. His first full year of CHAMP CAR competition came in 1993 and he made the most of the opportunity......As the number one bad boy of CART, you have been the topic of more commentators and fans for the greater part of your career. Has this edge and image worked for you or against you?   Mark C.

3/22/04

Kyle Petty: Bristol like a big TV screen  “You hear all of the talk about adding new tracks and adding new markets, and that is something NASCAR – all of us – should be concerned with. This series has grown tremendously, especially over the past few years, and we’ve added a lot of new markets, and brought in new fans along the way. That’s been a good deal for all of us. Adding places like southern California and Kansas City and Chicago is a big deal, and it adds greater value for sponsors like Georgia-Pacific or Brawny or Coca-Cola or Cheerios. “Bristol, let’s face it, isn’t exactly Los Angeles when it comes to market size but it’s an important place for the series too. This is one of those tracks that really grabs the race fan’s imagination, and it has some great shows. Look at Bristol as a giant television studio. The studio audience just happens to be 130,000 people or so – but this crowd doesn’t need ‘applause’ signs. They know who they love and they know who they don’t. They are into the race, into the whole ‘Bristol experience,’ well before race time.

“The race itself, well, it can get pretty wild. At times, it can be kind of fun. Other times – like this race last year – it’s not so much fun. It’s hard to believe you can go that fast at a half-mile, but you are really moving. When you stop like I did, it hurts. Man, it was one of those hits that I was still feeling a week or so later. But as fast as we run there, it’s easy to see how those kinds of wrecks could happen. Running well at Bristol is fun, a lot more fun than being the Sports Center highlight that evening. It’s a constant of turning left, turning left, turning left. You never seem to straighten the car out. I know they have two straightaways there because I’ve seen them, but after 500 laps there you are hard-pressed to remember ever actually being on them. It’s a constant of turning lap, staying low, getting what you can get.

“The ‘bump-and-run’ is probably the preferred passing method. You tap the guy in front of you a little bit, maybe get him a little loose in the corner and then duck underneath. By the midway point of the race, you have moved from the ‘bump-and-run’ to the ‘hit-and-get-out-of-my-way.’ The passing hits seem to get a lot harder the later you get into the race. Guys get frustrated and tempers start flaring.

“Keeping your temper is pretty important. Guys are going to rub and beat and bang at Bristol. It’s just the way the place is. If a guy hits you and you can kind of let it go – or at least not let it dictate the way you drive and the way you run your race – you’re a lot further along than most everybody else. It’s hard to do, believe me. But it’s pretty key to having a good race and a good finish. We’re progressing and we’re doing some good things with this Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge. We think we can have a good car at Bristol and, with a little bit of luck, a pretty good finish too. It’s a place where Petty Enterprises cars have run well, especially in the last few years, and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do this week.”

3/22/04

***Reader Feedback*** Penske SPEED TV article  Dear AutoRacing1.com, "America will never produce another World Driving Champion if the Oval Track Cartel is allowed to monopolize racing in the USA." -AutoRacing1.com. I fully agree, but I say, what difference does that make to the OTC? They're a big fish in a small pond. That alone should make them happy. If you don't have to compete against someone who can beat you, then you can't be beaten, right? TG and the Frances don't have to worry about producing a World Driving Champion, because they've got all they need in the good ole US of A. But we'll never know how the OTC might compete on the world stage, because they won't bother to risk it.  Another point I'd like to make from the same article is about our buddy Roger Penske. He's now saying, "I don't want to be the one who says they won't survive," according to the SPEED article. What a change of tune from the days of "There will be one OW series in 18 months." Sounds to me like he's running a bit scared. Rich McGuigan  Dear Rich, We don't see the oval track cartel ever giving up trying to kill the Champ Car Series.  It remains to be seen whether the rumors of an OWRS lawsuit to stop them pan out to be true.  We believe  Mark C.

3/22/04

Penske says he's vindicated  In this SPEED TV article, Roger Penske says that he made the right move switching to the IRL years ago and recent defections by Rahal, Fernández and Patrick support that notion.  He goes on to say, "It’s an expensive dance to support OWRS just to run a couple of cars," Penske said. "They could come over here and run with the best guys in the business."  That's right Roger, they could, but as each of the three OWRS owners have told AutoRacing1.com, they firmly believe in what they are doing because they want to preserve road racing in North America, in particular Champ Car racing.  They are in it for the long haul despite attempts by the oval track cartel to put it out of business.  Sure the IRL is going to run some road races, perhaps 4, maybe 5, but the IRL, which is part of the oval track cartel, is never going to do justice to road racing because their focus is the ovals where they own tracks and make their money.  Watching the F1 race from Malaysia yesterday underscored how pathetic NASCARized American racing is - slow and lethargic.  As Lauda says, "lazy racing."  The F1 cars are super fast.  Their cornering speeds on the road courses almost defy physics.  To drive those machines takes extra special talent.  America will never produce another World Driving Champion if the oval track cartel is allowed to monopolize racing in the USA.  Their idea of dumbed-down slow cars will produce drivers with slow "lazy" reflexes who will embarrass themselves and the USA when they try to step into a F1 car for a proper test.  America's only hope to produce an American World Champion is the Champ Car road racing ladder system.  With that said, the current Champ Cars are overweight Sherman Tanks (same weight as an IRL car) that look pathetically slow compared to a F1 car.  It's so noticeable now that soon Champ Car drivers will lose the ability to step into a F1 car and be competitive.  OWRS must take significant weight out of the next generation Champ Car, add a screaming V10, and distance itself as much as possible from the overweight and slow NASCARized IRL cars and its low-revving, uninteresting to road racing fans, V8.  In Champ Car's heyday, we saw comparisons drawn between Champ Cars and F1, bragging rights if you will. Now F1 cars have leapt so far ahead of the 4-year old Champ Car design that there isn't much to compare anymore.   And the tire war in F1 has led to soft sticky tires that some would say should produce a lot of marbles and ruin overtaking.  We saw more overtaking in the Malaysia race (except for the lead, dominated by Schumacher) than you will ever see in a Champ Car or IRL race, both of which run on hard spec tires.  To watch the F1 drivers manhandle their cars on proper sized wheels and tires is quite noticeable and interesting to the spectators.  The cars really dance around and you can see the drivers REALLY driving the cars.  Contrast that to American drive-around-on-rails racing.  The sooner Champ Car gets back to a proper tire war, with F1 size wheels and tires, the sooner we will see the drivers be able to overtake as the tire performance changes throughout the life of the tire.  The current Bridgestones are so good, so consistent, that we have lost some of the entertainment value produced by drivers racing on tires of varying degrees of performance.  The next generation Champ Car must be lighter, a bit smaller (F1 size), use F1 tires and wheels, be noticeably faster than the current generation car, and scream like a son-of-a-gun to bring some real excitement back to American road racing.

3/22/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Webber admits Jaguar 'stuffed' Sunday
Schu doesn't expect dream F1-season
Bridgestone no longer second-best in heat
Struggling team McLaren has improved
Jaguar to investigate start-line fault
BMW failure due to 'defective' part
Montoya accuses friend of 'dirty' racing

Button and father embrace in F1-paddock
Minardi gets welcome cash-boost
Renault expected to fight up-front
Toyota unimpressed by Panis' contempt
Montoya bemoans the 'blue Ferrari'
Alonso blames team for lost points
Ralf, Webber, accuse each other
Don't expect much of Dixon: Montoya
Bahrain should get F1 sell-out
Renault promise engine evolution by Imola
Nothing can stop Schumacher: Michelin
Ferrari praise look-alike Sauber

3/21/04

Has NASCAR peaked?  NASCAR is taking an in-depth look into why television ratings for the past two Nextel Cup races have dropped off significantly over last season. Ratings for the March 7 race at Las Vegas on Fox were down 16 percent from 2003, while last weekend's race at Atlanta on Fox was down 10.9 percent. "We're monitoring the TV ratings and trying to figure out what has caused the drop. We know that other sports are down as well in the last two weeks, but we want to figure out if it is more than what's out there in TV land, or if it is specific to the sport itself," said Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for corporate communications.

3/21/04

Montoya blames Ferrari tactics  On Sunday in Sepang Juan Montoya had closed to within 3.7s of Michael Schumacher's leading Ferrari just prior to their third and final pit stops. Montoya stopped on lap 39 with Schumacher pitting a lap later, but unfortunately for the Colombian, he rejoined just behind Rubens Barrichello in the second Ferrari, who ran another five laps before stopping. From a regular pace in the low 1m36s bracket, Barrichello slowed to 1:37.2 and then 1:37.9 before speeding up again just prior to his last stop. By this time, Schumacher was 9.2s in front of Montoya. Montoya tried to pass Barrichello and said: “I got a run on him, I think it was into Turn 4, but as soon as I moved he closed the door straight away and his pace backed off. I was on new tires and there were 12 laps to go, but there was no point even trying to pass. It was a shame because even cruising I could lap in the 1:36s no problem, but I just backed off. It was better to go home with eight points than to be out of the race. It's a good result for me and for the team.”

3/21/04

Papis helps Corvette team to dominate win at Sebring  The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team took an impressive flag-to-flag GTS victory at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday. Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis claimed the class victory in the #3 Corvette C5-R. “This is an historic race and it is great for us to win here three times in a row,” said Doug Duchardt, director of GM Racing. “Sebring was our nemesis in the beginning of our program and we’ve really put a lot of effort into developing the Corvette for this track. I believe we showed this weekend that we had the fastest car. This is a great win for the team and we are really looking forward to going to Le Mans and being competitive at La Sarthe.”

The #3 Compuware Corvette C5-R of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis started Saturday’s race from the GTS pole position, 10th overall, after qualifying at a record-setting 1:57.052. The trio briefly surrendered the lead to the partner #4 Corvette C5-R, but again took over the lead on lap 30 and held on for the remaining 299 laps. “The quality, determination and work ethic of this team never ceases to amaze me,” said Doug Fehan, GM’s program manager for Corvette Racing. “All winter this crew absolutely dedicated themselves to improving what we do and today was the culmination of that. It was just an amazing performance for Chevrolet and Corvette.”

Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell notched their third straight win together at Sebring; new teammate Max Papis recorded his first win in his first ever drive in the Corvette C5-R. “Today we did not just win, we dominated,” said Max Papis, driver of the #3 Corvette C5-R. “To be able to win here and finish fourth overall is amazing. This is the best welcoming the GM family could ever give me. I give thanks to everyone on the crew for working very hard in the wintertime and I am excited for Le Mans.”

3/21/04

Foyt IV still a moving chicane  Last year AJ Foyt IV, in his rookie year, was usually the slowest car on the track and crashed on numerous occasions.  Then his grandfather started dialing more downforce into his car so he would not crash and the extra drag just led to an even slower car.  The good drivers trim the car out for speed.  This year, Foyt continues to be a moving chicane, finishing laps down.  Today at Phoenix he finished three laps down again.  Meanwhile, rookies like Ed Carpenter, Mark Taylor and Kosuke Matsuura (who never saw an oval in his life before this year) are easily faster than Foyt.  Nice kid, but clearly, he either didn't inherit his grandfather's driving talent or his team is dreadful.

3/21/04

Fernández breaks gearbox, finishes dead last  Adrian Fernandez’s fast-paced learning curve in the IRL IndyCar® Series came to an early end today with a gearbox problem in the Indy 200 Copper World Classic. Fernandez, who first drove an IRL car on Friday, made a mistake while downshifting prior to the start which, in turn, broke the gearbox. The team immediately returned to the garage, but would have been unable to make the necessary repairs in time to return Fernandez to the race track. “Obviously, we are not happy about what happened but that’s racing. This was a big part of not being familiar with the car. I made a mistake on the downshift prior to the start of the race. The throw [distance the shifter moves] is a lot longer than what I am used to (in the more sophisticated Champ Car gearbox), so when I went down the gears I actually didn’t go down the amount I should have. I stayed in the middle of the gearbox and that is really what broke the gearbox. I’ve never had to do that before because I always came into the pits; I never had to do that on the race track. It seems that you have to be a lot more positive with the gearbox when you are in very low revs, which was something I didn’t know. It’s just learning. Even though we didn’t finish, I learned something which is positive, and I learned a lot of things through the weekend. We learned a lot of things to prepare better for Motegi. The guys did an amazing job and it was just unfortunate that we couldn’t finish the race to at least get the miles.”

3/21/04

Chevy to power Patrick and Unser out of Walker Racing shop  UPDATE Here is the Patrick Racing press release3/21/04 - Partnerships that produced a total of 26 open-wheel victories, two Indianapolis 500 titles and two national championships will be renewed when Chevrolet powers Patrick Racing and driver Al Unser Jr. in the IRL IndyCar Series. GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri announced today at Phoenix International Raceway that Patrick Racing will use Chevy Indy V-8 engines in 2004, starting with the team's IRL debut at the Indianapolis 500. "GM Racing and Chevrolet are pleased to add a team owner and driver who are proven winners to Chevy's IRL lineup," said Negri. "Chevrolet and GM have enjoyed great success in the past with Pat Patrick and Al Unser Jr., and we look forward to an even more successful future with this championship-caliber combination."  Chevy Indy V-8 engines propelled Patrick Racing to 10 CART victories, the 1989 Indy 500 crown, and the 1989 Indy Car World Series championship with driver Emerson Fittipaldi. Al Unser Jr. won 14 CART races, the 1990 national championship and the 1992 Indianapolis 500 with turbocharged Chevy Indy V-8 powerplants. Unser also scored his first two career IRL victories with GM engines. The Patrick Racing team will use a new 3.0-liter version of the naturally aspirated Chevy Indy V-8 that will be introduced at the Indy 500 in May.  Indy Racing League veteran Steve Newey will be a vice president and technical director for the team. Most recently, he was Vice President of Racing Operations for Kelley Racing. He said the team, with garage space and equipment leased from Walker Racing, expects the car to arrive in about a week. “We are about three-quarters fully staffed,” Newey said. “We hope to be on track mid-April to do a shakedown test prior to attending the Indianapolis Open Test.”

3/21/04

New aerodynamics leads to safer, more boring races  The IRL changed the downforce on the IRL cars over the winter so the cars don't run in packs as much, which had led to numerous accidents in the past.  Now the cars are strung out more and we are seeing less accidents so far this year.  However, this means less NASCAR-type artificially contrived finishes, but the drivers are not getting hurt as much, so the changes are doing their job.  The cars also looked slower this year, the result of less downforce and less HP.  Kanaan led all but 9 laps today and yesterday in the IPS support race, Thiago Medeiros led the entire race and lapped the entire field in yet another yawner.  Leon Skowronski

3/21/04

Jeff Gordon takes hard hit in Darlington, saved by HANS Device  Jeff Gordon is having a pretty miserable year so far in 2004 and it got significantly worse today, and he might have been killed had it not been for the HANS Device.  Gordon plowed headfirst into Andy Hillenburg's spun out car just 28 laps into Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400. Hillenburg was running well off the pace, and had already been lapped when Tony Stewart tapped him entering Turn 2 on Lap 28. Hillenburg spun, and came to rest sideways in the track's high racing lane, and was stationed there as Gordon entered the corner. Gordon's spotter advised him to go low, but Elliott Sadler occupied that groove. Forced high with no alternative, Gordon experienced the hardest head-on collision of his career. "I'm OK. I'm gonna be pretty sore tomorrow," said Gordon, a six-time Darlington winner who finished 41st Sunday. "I haven't taken a hit like that, possibly ever, and certainly not a head-on shot."  That is exactly the kind of hit the HANS Device was made to protect against.  Though sore, Gordon escaped virtually unscathed. "The HANS device did its job, thankfully. The belts did their job," Gordon said. "It's just unfortunate. I don't know what happened with Andy getting spun, but I'll tell you what, there's a bunch of cars out there than don't belong. They're way off the pace and in the way." Non-competitive "field-fillers" have been a hot topic all year. Often, these under-funded teams are forced to park early after being deemed incapable of reaching the required speed.

3/21/04

Lola gets 1-2-3 at Sebring  The American Spirit Racing team took a surprise victory in the new Prototype 2 category at the Sebring 12-hours at the weekend when John Macaluso, Ian James and Mike Borkowski raced to a 16-lap victory over the similar Rand Racing Lola B2K/40 of Bill Rand, Mike Fitzgerald and James Gue. The ASR team, founded just two weeks before the big race, nursed an ailing gearbox from early on. "The gearbox started acting up real early in the race, and we didn't think that we would make it," said Macaluso. "We just paced ourselves. It wasn't a pretty win, but we were there at the end." Clint Field, William Binnie and Rick Sutherland made it a Lola 1-2-3 when they took the final step of the podium in their Judd-powered Lola B2K/40 to round out an impressive day for Lola, as this car was undertaking its first ever race with a Judd engine.

3/21/04

***Reader Feedback*** Letter to Adrian Fernández  A reader writes, Dear Mr. Fernandez, There are a few things missing in your decision to leave Champ Cars. Integrity, loyalty, honesty, and COMMON SENSE! The reasons you've given for leaving to the press, lack all of these as there are too many questionable points in your story! And if you considered real facts, what's best for your sponsors, your fans, and the series you were in, based on just the facts, not the passionate opinions your decision doesn't make sense!  For instance the IRL TV ratings are low and the trend of the last year was they were going lower which has already continued into this year. This means that nobody is watching and there is little exposure value. Compound this with the IRL's attendance figures. 4 of the 16 races are well attended (one of those-Indy 500 is now losing attendance). Well now we see there are not really many IRL fans! This equates to poor sponsorship value since there isn't any exposure. Now Champ Car's TV ratings may be low also but they were cumulatively higher than the IRL's. Attendance figures show that out of 18 races held, 13 races were of high attendance the remaining five showed at least half capacity, and the cancelled Fontana race would have been half attendance which is a big number still. This shows a higher value for your sponsors. It becomes more obvious that Champ Car is better viewed than the IRL when you look at the track attendance at the races where Champ Car used to go and the IRL goes to now. Fontana, Gateway, Homestead, Nazereth, Michigan. They don't get more than 10,000 paying customers! It also shows that fans do not follow the big teams over to the IRL.  NASCAR owns the market the IRL is in. This market will not embrace the IRL in a sustainable way. The Open Wheel fan is a different breed of fan and appreciates the Champ Car. They don't like the "dumbed down draft catchers". They like the high tech and super skill of Champ Car and Formula1. Now Tony George has stated the IRL will go road racing. Do you really think people want to see this kind of racing on road and street courses if they don't show up for the oval races this league was originally designed for?  Furthermore Americans don't like the bully. The press coming from Tony George and the IRL faithful will only make the Champ Car fans more passionate. The World's fans don't like to be lied to which Tony is famous for. You're going to find that the reason the IRL appears to be winning this war is only because of the money invested into it by even the IRL's own enemies! The truth is with all the big name drivers and teams moved to the IRL, the fans didn't follow. The IRL is losing and has been losing.  They just spend a lot of money and time to make it appear as they are winning!  So now why did you leave for the IRL?  Rick Main

3/21/04

Seen in Phoenix  Those looking for rides in Phoenix this weekend include Buddy and Jaques Lazier, Felipe Giaffone, Vitor Meira and Oriol Servia.  We see less of the USACers wearing Road To Indy hats this year, finally coming to the realization that the road to Indy is through road racing and the Champ Car ladder system, not through the small ovals that USACers race on.  They were fed a line of baloney for years and fell for it.

3/21/04

Champ Car talent much higher for 2004  While some keep focusing on the big names that have moved from Champ Car to the IRL in recent years, they are overlooking the fact that in 2004 the Champ Car driver talent pool will actually be much higher.  Let's overlook the negative PR hype being thrust upon Champ Car and do an honest assessment. 

Confirmed or rumored drivers

Mario Haberfeld  - Plenty fast, just needs a Lola, which he should have in 2004
Justin Wilson - Lighting fast.  F3000 Champion.  Will challenge for wins first year
Michael Keohane  - This Irishman was fast in Europe.

Ralph Firman - In F1 he more than once outqualified highly regarded teammate Fisichella

Gastón Mazzacane - Had a disastrous F1 career driving for terrible teams.  Questionable
Ricardo Sperafico - Very competitive in F3000.  Will open a few eyes if he gets a ride
Patrick Carpentier - A proven Champ Car winner
Paul Tracy - A proven Champ Car Champion
Rodolfo Lavín - Questionable.  Must prove himself
Jamie Melo - If he lands a ride, this Brazilian will open some eyes
Mario Dominguez - A proven Champ Car winner now that he is in the right team
Ryan Hunter-Reay - A proven Champ Car winner, this kid is going to bust out big time in 2004
Bruno Junqueira - A proven Champ Car winner
Sebastien Bourdais - A proven Champ Car winner
Michel Jourdain Jr. - A proven Champ Car winner.  Driving for Newman/Haas - look out
Jimmy Vasser - A proven Champ Car winner and champion
Roberto Gonzalez - Questionable.  Must prove himself
Alex Tagliani - Plenty fast.  Can win more races
Nelson Philippe - Questionable.  Must prove himself
AJ Allmendinger - This rookie has winner written all over him
Michael Valiante - A true superstar talent if only he can land a ride
Jonathan Macri - A proven Toyota Atlantic race win contender, still questionable

Conclusion:  Certainly the talent can be better, but 2004 looks to be quite exciting indeed. Lost to the IRL for 2004 are Fernandez (close to retirement age) and Manning (a loss for sure). If Champ Car makes it through 2004 with a successful season, more drivers will look at Champ Car as a viable place to race.  OWRS is just going to have to counter the negative aura that surrounds the series right now.  Leon Skowronski

3/21/04

Ralf blames Webber  For the second race in a row, Ralf Schumacher has defended himself after being blamed for a collision. After banging wheels with Juan Pablo Montoya during the Australian GP, Ralf was described as 'not clever' by his Williams teammate. Ralf's response was to blame Montoya and warn the Colombian that next time he would drive him off the road.  Now, having been blamed by Mark Webber - who could be his Williams teammate next season - for their collision in Sunday's Malaysian GP, Ralf has once again responded by insisting that the clash was anything but his fault.  According to the Aussie, " Ralf drove into the back of me because he was pi**ed off that I'd overtaken him", but the German has a rather different interpretation of events.  "At the third lap I had contact with Webber and my front wing was damaged, causing massive understeer, especially in sector two which was obvious from my times," he said. "I was trying to overtake Mark but then I realized there was not enough room and I backed off, trying to avoid the collision, however Mark didn’t give me enough space."

3/21/04

More public embarrassment for Toyota  After the debacle of Melbourne, there was yet more public embarrassment for the beleaguered Toyota in Malaysia. Having promised points in every race when they launched the TF104 in January, there were red faces in Cologne two weeks ago when, at the season-opening Australian GP, the two Toyotas could only lap at the same pace of the Minardis and approximately two seconds shy of the Ferraris. But if those problems weren't obvious to the naked eye during the race, the team's shortcomings were all too obvious in Malaysia.

With Olivier Panis and Cristiano Da Matta struggling in the midfield, the first prolonged sight television viewers had of a Toyota was when Panis drove into the pits. Alas, it wasn't for a stop. Apparently called in by mistake due to a 'radio communication problem', the Frenchman simply carried on past the Toyota garage and down the pit-lane straight without stopping - but not without making his feelings clear by gesticulating angrily to team personnel on the pitlane wall. And if that wasn't embarrassing enough for Cologne executives, two laps later Panis was called back into the pits - but only by race stewards penalizing Olivier for speeding when he drove along the pit straight remonstrating to his team bosses. On this occasion, Panis merely settled for a mournful shake of his head.  Planet F1

3/21/04

Brack badmouths Champ Car  It's clear the press is on by the IRL to badmouth Champ Car and bring it to its ultimate demise.  Two articles in the Toronto Star, who appear out to help kill the series, assures us the newspaper is now in the IRL camp.  In this article (see article below too) Kenny Brack does his best to belittle the Champ Car series.  The IRL is winning the media war and Champ Car has been unable to respond because it has had far too little good news to report.  However, that is expected to change soon.

3/21/04

Goodyear has lost their way  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com,  Regarding your blurb about the Corvette race team dumping their Goodyears. It is truly sad when an American company of Goodyear's stature can't stand the heat of competition and instead decides to focus in a market where they know they'll never be challenged (NASCAR). It used to be when Goodyear was in F-1, I took tremendous pride as an American that Goodyear's F-1 tires where manufactured in Akron, Ohio. They withstood the challenge from Pirelli, and Michelin's first foray into F-1, and they didn't shy away when Michelin shod McLarens won the championship in the mid-80's, they just simply stepped up their game. Now...at the first hint of competition they simply wither away. Unfortunately, this has severely tarnished their image as a producer of high performance tires. I used to be a hardcore Goodyear supporter, and would buy nothing but "Gatorbacks" for my Mustang GT's. Not anymore, I just replaced the OEM Goodyears on my Mustang with Michelin Pilot Sports, and the extra cost is definitely worth it. Joe Angers  Dear Joe, Goodyear has clearly lost their way as the best tire manufacturer in the world, be it race tires or passenger car tires.  There needs to be a culture change at the company if we are going to see them return to the top.  Leon Skowronski/AR1

3/21/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Were Renault playing games?
Webber doesn't dream of Sepang-podium
Ferrari charge to second 2004-win
Montoya hopes for better manual-start
Alonso's new engine to start from pitlane
Renault can't live with Ferrari: Alonso
Head marvels at Ferrari progress
Gap is 'bigger than expected': Ferrari
Has Trulli shelved dream of victory?
Sunday at Sepang: track-notes
Williams has 'quiet word' with F1 drivers
Qualifying is two-hour tedium
Michelin thinking about Bahrain
Race-fans can't vote for Schumacher
Jordan 'fight back' still on track
F1-banks sue Ecclestone
Alonso won't abandon Renault
Not only terrorism threatens Bahrain
Davidson didn't look great
Who's plumped for a three-stopper?
Jordan loses key F1-sponsorship 

3/20/04

Observations from Sebring  We spotted Toyota Atlantic President Vicki O'Connor making the rounds at Sebring, as well as ex-CART and IRL driver Richie Hearn who was there because he owns a Star Mazda team.  Star Mazda ran as a support race to the 12 Hour event.   With up-and-coming drivers like Michael McDowell, Luis Schiavo, Moses Smith and others, the series is much more competitive than most other development series in America.  Joey Hand, Jeff Bucknum, Chad Block, Scott Bradley, Guy Cosmo and a very long list of others have all come from Mazdas. Since the cars are only $70k to own, a season runs around $180k to run and the cars are almost as quick as an Atlantic car, we may find more drivers coming from there in the future......There were Fran-Am people there joking casually that they were all looking for jobs.  Justin Wilson was interviewed and said he is staying on in Sebring and would be testing a Champ Car later in the week (Thursday and Friday - rumored to be Conquest Racing).  Pierre Kaffer, who would have been driving a Champ Car this year if they didn't drop Germany from the schedule, looked most impressive in his Audi debut.  He shared the winning car and was slicing through the field with some daring moves.  This German appears to be a real racer....Champ Car's loss.......The Corvette is super quick now that it has dumped its junk Goodyear tires. The drivers were heard raving about their new Michelin tires, winning by a massive 22 laps.  Time and time again we have seen Goodyear get beat by its rivals, in all series.  They love NASCAR, where they are the exclusive tire.....At the Hall of Fame Induction Bobby Rahal made a quick exit, and did seem to be a bit on edge.  About twenty minutes after Rahal left, a shiny Gulfstream took off and headed north. Just guessing that was him. Oh yeah. Howard Turner, President of HSR,  sat at the table with his baseball hat on the entire time. It was a tablecloth affair with wine and dessert. We were not the only one to comment on this. Mario was his usual amiable self. Sterling Moss was exchanging racing stories from back in the day with everyone and signing autographs 30 minutes after all the other guys had left. 

3/20/04

Foreign road racer laps IPS field at Phoenix  Demonstrating once again that road racers reign supreme, in today's Menards Infiniti Pro Series Phoenix 100, Brazilian road racer Thiago Medeiros dominated the race, lapping the field en route to his second career victory. Medeiros' Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate, Arie Luyendyk Jr., finished second. Rookie Leonardo Maia finished third in his Menards Infiniti Pro Series debut. Medeiros became the first Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver in history to win a race by more than a lap.

THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): "After Homestead, I said that I wanted to win at Phoenix and lap the field. It was a joke between me and my manager, and fortunately, it came true. The car was awesome for the whole race. We had a very good balance, and I'm very glad with the result that we got. The car was unbelievable. We had a little push, but I could keep a good rhythm. As soon as I started the race, I knew I could stay at the front because it's a very tough track, and it's hard to overtake. It was the same with me last year with Mark Taylor. When you are underneath somebody, the car has a big push. I just tried to get a good start and have some distance to negotiate good passes on the other guys." (About being the only Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver to lap the field): "We made history here. I'm very happy. We were quickest here in the Open Test, and now I'm looking forward to Indy. I'm very happy to be leading the championship."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone): "I knew from the very first lap that my car wasn't as good as Thiago's (Medeiros). We were struggling with a car that had an overall grip loss. The back end wasn't any good, and the front end wasn't good, either. Entering the corner, we had a lot of push, and coming out, it was really loose when I was on the throttle. I knew it was going to be a handful, so I was just trying to conserve my tires and wait for a yellow, but it never came."

LEONARDO MAIA (No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I'm still a little dizzy. I'm not used to these ovals. It was really fun. I think a couple of cars went to an understeer. We started our car off expecting that, so I had plenty of adjustments I could make inside the cockpit to counteract that. I tried to get some clean air as I was going through traffic. I wanted to be able to run the last 10 laps with a good car. I had a good car, and I was able to pass my teammate. I'm sure we (Maia and teammate Jesse Mason) gave Brian (Stewart) a little bit of a heart attack. It's clean and really good racing against Jesse. It's really clean. He won't give me an inch, but he'll give me a half-an-inch."

3/20/04

Skip Barber National: Moon Flies and Ramos Rambles  With two big changes for 2004 -- the 30 identically prepared Formula Dodges now on BFGoodrich tires and a new $190,000 championship prize fund -- the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER opened its season with a double-header at Sebring International Raceway, supporting the 52nd annual 12-hours of Sebring. More.....

3/20/04

Sebring dwarfs Rolex 24  UPDATE Officials announced a record Sebring crowd of 115,000.  3/20/04 - A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I just caught the beginning of the 12-Hours of Sebring on Speed Channel.  Wow, what a large crowd.  There looks to be well over 100,000 in attendance.  When I went to the Rolex 24 this year, I estimated the crowd at 10,000 max.  This goes to show you that road racing fans simply won't support dumbed down NASCARized road racing.  This is something the IRL doesn't understand, nor does NASCAR.  Dumb American goobers might like to watch dumbed down goobermobiles drone around in circles for hours, interrupted on occasion by the ambulance carting off another hapless crash victim (driver), but those with any intelligence, who understand what driving talent is, simply won't stand for it.  Marty Conway, Chicago, IL

3/20/04

The IRL has few real fans  A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1.com, I just got back from Phoenix.  Was there yesterday too.  I went with an open mind.  My first IRL race.  Hardly anyone was there both days.  I am used to going to Champ Car races where people come out Friday, Saturday and Sunday to watch their favorite drivers.  If the IRL has fans, they must not be very dedicated ones because they stayed away in droves both days I was there.  I now believe for myself that the attendance we see at IRL races is a facade of free race day ticket giveaways.  They have no real fans.  Just moochers who take a free handout every year.  OK, I admit, I am a Champ Car fan, and perhaps a bit biased, but this IRL thing is a complete joke of a series.  I hope the traitors like Fernandez, Rahal, Penske, Ganassi and Andretti feel good about staring up at all that bare aluminum.  The IRL can steal all they want from Champ Car.  The fans remain loyal to Champ Car, while the IRL gets to nurture the freeloaders.  The "real" fans like me have spoken.  As far as I am concerned I have been to my last IRL event.  I have a headache listening to those cars drone around in circles.  I have more important things to do with my time - my toilet bowl needs cleaning.  Henry Edwards, Phoenix, AZ

3/20/04

Transnet Racing announces 2-car effort  Transnet Racing announced today its driver line-up for the upcoming 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship. Alex Garcia will return for a second full season, driving the Transnet Racing #9 Swift 014 and he will be joined by Jonathan Bomarito, who will be driving the Transnet Racing #8 Swift 014.

Garcia, from Caracas Venezuela, started all 12 races of the 2003 Toyota Atlantic Season finishing in 11th position in the points race for the Championship, with best results of 6th at Cleveland and 8th at Laguna Seca.   Jonathan Bomarito hails from Monterey, California, and in the last few years has built quite a reputation as one of the top up and coming young American drivers. The year 2003 was highlighted when Jonathan came out on top of a super competitive field winning the U. S. Formula 2000 National Championship with a great display of speed and control while in the process beating some tough competition in that always ultra competitive series.

“These are exciting times at Transnet Racing” commented Team Manager John Hayes, “we feel that Jonathan has a bright future ahead of him and we are absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to work with him during this period of his career. I believe that he and Alex will make a great line-up of drivers for us this year and will complement each other very well. Next week we will be announcing the rest of the new members of the Transnet Racing squad in preparation for debuting two full race teams at Long Beach.”  

3/20/04

Reader claims industrial espionage against Champ Car  2nd UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I agree totally with Lino Manocchia.  Both the Orange County Register and the Long Beach Press Telegram have IRL shills for writers who appear out to kill the event that put Long Beach on the map and led to the revitalization of the city.  If those twits think that the IRL can come into Long Beach and replace Champ Cars, I suggest they remember Cleveland where the fans revolted when they tried to replace Champ Cars with Crapwagons.  Long Beach is a big race for Champ Car fans, and they simply would not come out to watch IRL Crapwagons race.  Adam Steinberg, Irvine, CA.   3/16/04 - A fellow journalist takes a swipe at the hack job done by Doug Krikorian of the Long Beach Press Telegram against Champ Car.  It is unfortunate that The Long Beach Press-Telegram tends to ignore the city's most famous annual event -- the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach -- for 11 months of the year. It is even more disappointing that columnist Doug Krikorian has taken a "doom and gloom" prediction for the 2004 race.

 

Sadly, Mr. Krikorian only presented this "imminent end of the world" scenario for the Long Beach race (and he did so without indicating the cause of the problem -- the greed of Indianapolis Speedway owner Tony George, supported by millions of dollars from automakers Honda and Toyota -- perhaps because of the continued financial support of the LBGP by Toyota). He failed to do what any good writer must do, he did not present the other side of the story. If he had taken the time to do so and made the effort to question representatives of the new OWRS sanctioning body, he would have learned that there will certainly be more than 12 cars on the grid for the LBGP.

 

The three principals in the new OWRS -- Paul Gentilozzi, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe -- are all millionaires who are committed to make the new series a success in the long run. If that requires additional expenditures to field additional teams, they will do what is needed. Neither Rome nor the Long Beach Grand Prix were built in one day, and OWRS will grow with time. Mr. Krikorian chose to take a negative approach to this year's event, a time of definite rebuilding. And though columns are supposed to express the author's opinion, the interest of journalistic fairness certainly requires that the facts be presented in a fair and balanced manner. Mr. Krikorian has not done this -- and from the words in his column it appears he has not even made the attempt. On April 18, I think he and those readers he has misled with his disillusioned view will see that the OWRS and the LBGP are quite a bit healthier than he indicated.- Lino Manocchia, US correspondent, Corsa News (Italy)   3/16/04 - A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, When I read articles like this in the Long Beach Press Telegram that cause uncertainty about Champ Car, and in particular the upcoming Long Beach race, it's clear to me that the Oval Track Cartel is up to no good behind the scenes. By causing uncertainty in the media, they will destroy ticket sales and destroy a key race for Champ Car with the ultimate goal of eventually taking over the race from Champ Car. I call it industrial espionage for lack of a better term. It's this continued uncertainty and Champ Car's inability to counteract it that has contributed to its downfall.  Larry Wilson, Los Angeles

3/20/04

Qualifying track-notes: Sepang  McLaren looks set to improve its pace in Sunday's Malaysian GP.  'Overall our speed is better than in Melbourne,' said team CEO Ron Dennis.  Kimi Raikkonen lines-up 5th, and David Coulthard is 9th.  'Our speed is even better in race conditions,' he promised.

DIFFERENT STRATEGY
Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher (pole) and Rubens Barrichello (3rd) are probably on different race-strategies, according to BMW boss Mario Theissen.  'The performance of Mark Webber is definitely to praise,' said the German.  It is the Australian's - and Jaguar's - first-ever front-row F1 start.  Fernando Alonso probably should be in Webber's spot on the Sepang grid.  'However, motor racing is not about ifs,' said Renault tech-head Pat Symonds in reference to the Spaniard's trip into the kitty-litter near the end of his run.

3/20/04

Pantano debuts one-engine penalty  What else can go wrong for F1-rookie Giorgio Pantano in Malaysia?  The Roman does not know why he's so slow at Sepang but to rub salt into the wounds, his EJ14 gearbox packed-up just before he was due to start qualifying.  'I went into the T-car but it wasn't the same [as the race version].

VERY SLIPPERY
'The rear was very slippery and we need to see if there is anything we can do.'  Worse still, because the car featured a different V10-unit, Pantano became the first driver to try-out a new penalty which drops him to the rear of the grid.  'The spare was set-up for Nick,' said Jordan engineer-head James Robinson.

3/20/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Schumacher 'went over the roof': Montoya
Jaguar is 'punching above' its weight
Bahrainis rip-off F1 clients
Only the brave bet against Ferrari
Leinders owns F1-superlicense
Ralf smiling despite stifling heat
Ecclestone resents F1-tobacco ban
Pitchforth puts his foot in it

McLaren resists test limitation
Rain on way for qualifying?
Not just pride that powers Sir Frank
Is there a secret to Schu's success?
The lap-records are tumbling
McLaren start Formula One 'fight-back'
F1 teams to green-light quali-change 

Bernie has solved F1's qualifying-bore
Ferrari admit performance-deficit
BMW-Williams get Bahrain advantage?
F1 bosses reject budget-cap idea
Dennis has signed new McLaren contract
F1 prone to terrorist attack: Bernie
Trulli bemoans Sepang 'cauldron'
Saturday in Malaysia: track notes
Richards slams Ferrari 

3/20/04

Schumacher tops Malaysia practice 3  Michael Schumacher returned to the top of the time sheets in the third free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix Saturday morning. The world champion set a time of 1m33.931s, 0.784s faster than second-place Fernando Alonso.  The Ferrari driver waited until halfway through the session, which until that point had been fought out between Renault and WilliamsF1, and with his first flying lap of the morning, set the quickest lap time recorded so far this weekend.  Schumacher attempted another run late in the session but spun at one of Sepang's tight hairpins before abandoning his lap.  Yesterday's top runner Kimi Raikkonen failed to record a lap time despite two warm-up runs.
P. No Driver Team - Engine Tires Times Ave/Gaps Laps
1. 1 M. SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1'33"391 213.669 Km/h 7
2. 8 ALONSO Renault M 1'34"175 + 0'00"784 12
3. 4 R. SCHUMACHER Williams BMW M 1'34"239 + 0'00"848 8
4. 2 BARRICHELLO Ferrari B 1'34"362 + 0'00"971 9
5. 5 COULTHARD McLaren Mercedes M 1'34"415 + 0'01"024 9
6. 7 TRULLI Renault M 1'34"482 + 0'01"091 14
7. 3 MONTOYA Williams BMW M 1'34"547 + 0'01"156 12
8. 14 WEBBER Jaguar Cosworth M 1'34"770 + 0'01"379 5
9. 9 BUTTON BAR Honda M 1'34"839 + 0'01"448 11
10. 11 FISICHELLA Sauber Petronas B 1'35"516 + 0'02"125 9
11. 16 DA MATTA Toyota M 1'35"678 + 0'02"287 4
12. 10 SATO BAR Honda M 1'35"697 + 0'02"306 16
13. 17 PANIS Toyota M 1'35"697 + 0'02"306 10
14. 12 MASSA Sauber Petronas B 1'35"813 + 0'02"422 10
15. 15 KLIEN Jaguar Cosworth M 1'36"106 + 0'02"715 8
16. 18 HEIDFELD Jordan Ford B 1'37"194 + 0'03"803 9
17. 19 PANTANO Jordan Ford B 1'38"302 + 0'04"911 11
18. 21 BAUMGARTNER Minardi Cosworth B 1'39"013 + 0'05"622 13
19. 20 BRUNI Minardi Cosworth B 1'39"209 + 0'05"818 11

3/19/04

Fernández turns first laps in IRL car  Adrian Fernandez turned his first laps aboard the #5 Quaker State/Telmex/Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone today in opening practice for the Indy 200 Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) this weekend. Fernandez, who was ninth quickest in the afternoon session, logged a total of 74 laps during his two hours of track time today.

Fernandez 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.

Adrian Fernandez, #5 Quaker State/Telmex/Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone:
“It was a good day. Obviously, we have a lot to catch up on. There are a lot of things to get used to – the car, the engine power… just so many things. I was trying to stay away from the other drivers and just focus on what we were doing. We were pretty lost this morning with the setup of the car. We came back a lot this afternoon. We caught up a second. We were more balanced towards the end. The temperatures are pretty high, but it is the same for everybody.

“We are just learning the car; John [Dick, race engineer – Kosuke Matsuura] and all of us are learning the car and trying to understand what it is doing. We made some changes and found a second so hopefully tomorrow, in preparation for qualifying, we can get a better car in that respect. It is too much to expect to have everything perfect for this weekend. My aim for this weekend, as it was today, was just to learn. The guys really did a terrific job in preparing the car over these few days and we haven’t had any mechanicals.

“The support of Honda and everyone in the series has really been good, and Brian [Barnhart, senior vice president of racing operations for the IRL] gave me the two [practice] sessions this morning to catch up on some time. It was a nice feeling to be welcomed, and they received us with open arms. Everybody has been very good in trying to explain the rules and other things, and get me up to speed as quickly as possible in the transition from one series to another. In general, I am very happy. Obviously we would like to be faster, but we are going in the right direction.”  Photos courtesy of Fernández Racing.

3/19/04

Coyne announces plans to field 2-car Champ Car team  Long-time Champ Car competitor Dale Coyne Racing today announced plans to field two cars in the entire 2004 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season. "When I came on board at Champ Car, many people told me the loyalty and dedication that Mr. Coyne had for our sport," said Champ Car president Dick Eidswick. "Dale Coyne Racing has been part of the Champ Car family for more than 20 years and has played a major role in recognizing and developing young talent through the years. We are pleased to have an owner the caliber of Dale Coyne continue our vision and growth for the future."

The team will announce the drivers of its two-car effort in the near future. The Plainfield, Ill.-based operation is also busy preparing its Ford-powered Lola chassis for testing.  "We have had a long, successful relationship with Champ Car since our beginnings back in 1984," said Coyne, a former Champ Car driver. "Now is the time that those of us who believe in the product must support the series. We plan to have our drivers finalized within five to 10 days, and will begin testing immediately thereafter."  [Editor's Note:  Drivers are rumored to be Irishman Michael Keohane and F1 driver Ralph Firman]

Last year, Dale Coyne Racing entered two cars in all 18 rounds of the Champ Car World Series, with drivers Gualter Salles, Geoff Boss, Joel Camathias, Alex Yoong, Roberto Gonzalez, and Alex Sperafico each making starts for the team. Salles earned the squad's best result of the season with a sixth place run at Surfers Paradise.

3/19/04

Retirement homes get hands on IRL tickets  Out of the max 200 - 300 people that were at Phoenix Friday to watch the IRL cars drive in circles, an awful lot of them were "suspiciously" old and seemed to be in groups!  One wag quipped, "It looked like a retirement-center got its hands on the Friday "tickets."  In photo at right, Adrian Fernández and Tom Anderson, co-owners of Fernández racing, stare up at the vast array of empty grandstands. Is anyone happy droning around at oval tracks with no one there to watch?  Why bother?  Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images

3/19/04

Tecate and Telmex confirm Champ Car commitment  Today OCESA Entertainment, a division of Group CIE, announced the culmination of a series of agreements with the Government of the State of Leon with Tecate Beer and Telmex - two sponsors who chopped Adrian Fernandez's budget so they can do more race and track signage marketing in the Champ Car series.  The Tecate-Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix will proceed while Fernández is at Indy preparing for the 500.

After these agreements being reached the OCESA Entretenimiento company, which acted as the operator of the race in the 2002 and 2003 versions,  take full control of all activities on behalf of all the parties involved.

George González, Director of OCESA Entretenimiento, stated: "Through the conclusion of these important agreements, all the parties involved will have the possibility to do what we know best, that is, the Government will be engaged in promoting tourism and economic development of its State through the projection achieved by a race of this level; CCM will promote its product associating its brands with such an important event; and we will be devoted to further expand the entertainment offer for all types of audiences, striving for more efficient operations to guarantee high quality shows" he said.

On the other hand, Erick Jurgensen, General Director of the Fundidora Park said that he feels "very pleased with the agreements reached, because they will allow us to focus on our tasks". Additionally, he commented that "we will grant all the logistic, safety, dissemination, and service support to offer the people of Monterrey the show they deserve this next May 21, 22, and 23."

To conclude, various movements were announced within the race organization, which will now be totally entrusted to OCESA Entretenimiento. These movements were:

Once the technical transfer period agreed with Forsythe Racing, which has been successfully carried out, is concluded, Joe Heitzler will return to the United States in order to establish and pursue new projects.

The promoter in charge of the two Champ Car races in our country, and who will represent the interests of all the parties involved will be OCESA Entretenimiento, through its sponsoring, promoting, venue management, ticketing and public relations areas.

Jorge Lozano will be responsible of the race in Monterrey, who has significant experience within the group and had been in charge of car racing and / or other sportive projects in companies like Tecate and Telmex, which are sponsoring this event.

"George González, Director of OCESA Entretenimiento, explained: "We are starting a new stage of Ocesa's international motorsport project. We would like to thank Joe Heitzler for his commitment and high level of professionalism, and he will always be linked to this project enriched by all the value added by him in recent times."

Gerald Forsythe, as a partner in this project with OCESA Entretenimiento said that "I am very satisfied with the results of this first phase in which we had reached high quality goals. Joe Heitzler leadership together with his team allowed the partners to have the highest attended races of the 2003 CART season. I personally thank Joe for the great achievements he reached for the partners during this period."

Finally, Joe Heitzler said, "It has been an incredible experience to live and work here in Mexico in the sport of auto racing. I believe that our team together with the Mexican pilots, Mexican sponsors and the fans presented a successful product. I thank everyone for the hospitality that has been extended to me and my family. It has been an honor to be part of the Mexico City business community and I look forward to continue with this relationship".

A press conference will be held next Tuesday 12:30 at the Cintermex Auditorium. Asia-Africa meeting rooms, to communicate more details about the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix 2004.

3/19/04

Phoenix IPS race qualifying results  Qualifying Friday for the Phoenix 100 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series event on the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver and chassis-engine and speed:
1. (11) Thiago Medeiros, Dallara-Infiniti, 156.836
2. (5) Arie Luyendyk Jr., Dallara-Infiniti, 152.513
3. (42) Billy Roe, Dallara-Infiniti, 152.460
4. (3) Jesse Mason, Dallara-Infiniti, 151.194
5. (10) Rolando Quintanilla, Dallara-Infiniti, 150.473
6. (12) Matt Beardsley, Dallara-Infiniti, 148.899
7. (33) Leonardo Maia, Dallara-Infiniti, 147.840
8. (24) Brad Pollard, Dallara-Infiniti, 147.625
9. (2) Phil Giebler, Dallara-Infiniti, 146.746
10. (91) Paul Dana, Dallara-Infiniti, 146.604
11. (4) Marty Roth, Dallara-Infiniti, 145.596
12. (27) Gary Peterson, Dallara-Infiniti, 143.920

3/19/04

Toyota joins forces with Toyoda  Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) today announced that it has signed a deal with Toyoda Mitsui Europe GmbH, one of the world leaders in high-performance machine tools.

The deal, which took effect shortly prior to the 2004 Formula 1 season opener in Australia two weeks ago, sees Toyoda Mitsui Europe GmbH become an official technical partner of the Toyota F1 team Panasonic Toyota Racing.

Through their know-how of automotive part machining, Toyoda Mitsui Europe GmbH will support Toyota Motorsport in the production of high quality components for its 2004 race car, the TF104.

Csaba Lerinc, President of Toyoda Mitsui Europe GmbH said of the deal, "As technical partner of the Panasonic Toyota Racing team, Toyoda Mitsui Europe GmbH and Toyota Motorsport are together able to meet the key F1 targets of speed, precision and quick reactions, whether on the track or in the factory."

"It is not just with the proximity of our similar sounding company names that brings Toyota Motorsport and Toyoda Mitsui together. In fact, Toyoda machine tools have effectively been working in Toyota automobile plants for over 60 years and it is an honour to take our relationship to this exciting new level."

3/19/04

Dixon fastest in Phoenix practice  Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon set the tone quickly for this weekend’s Copper World Indy 200. The defending IndyCar Series Champion was quickest overall in Friday practice on the short one-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway with a time of 20.5208 seconds and speed of 175.432 mph. Dixon’s fastest lap time was set in the morning session but kept him atop the leader board as the track got more slick and slowed as the temperature rose throughout the day.

“We had some issues with the car this morning and I didn’t spend very much time on the track but still put in some fast laps so we know we’re on the right path.” said Dixon. “The track was a lot slicker this afternoon with the heat and we went through the tires a little faster than expected. We concentrated our work on the race set up so it’s a little more difficult to compare to the others on track. I expect that the heat will be an issue all weekend long but as long as we take care of our tires in the race we should do well.”

Dixon’s teammate Darren Manning, who finished 6th in his race debut with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and the Indy Racing League in Homestead, also worked predominantly on setting up his Toyota-G Force for Sunday’s race. Manning ran his fastest lap in the morning session as well, with a time of 21.2723 seconds and a speed of 169.234 mph.

“I’m pretty pleased with the car already and ran in the top ten this morning.” said Manning of his ninth place overall in combined practice times on Friday. “This afternoon there was a lot less grip out there than when we tested here last month so you have to be more conservative with your tires. There won’t be any side by side racing this weekend but it’ll be important to get a run on guys in order to pass. We ran a race set up this afternoon that varied quite a bit from Scott’s and we’ll be comparing notes throughout the weekend and I expect us to be in good shape for the race.”

3/19/04

Junqueira completes 2-day test  PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira, 27, completed his first two-day test of the season on the infield road course of The California Speedway late yesterday. The 2004 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season will begin on April 18 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and Junqueira hopes to surpass his 2002 and 2003 season-ending rank of second place in the point standings. "We were able to run 41 miles in the spare car and 122 miles in the primary car and test many different things," said Junqueira whose best lap time was a 57.3 around the 1.5-mile road course. "We had a problem with the right front wheel after a pit stop and I went off track near the end of the day but overall it was a good test. I've been looking forward to getting back in the car for a very long time and I can't wait to test again at Sebring next week." "We had a set list of items to test and we were able to make a lot of progress," added Brian Lisles, general manager of Newman/Haas Racing. "We now have direction for the next test which will take place in Sebring next week with both Bruno and Sebastien (Bourdais)."

3/19/04

Paul Newman speaks  The following is a statement regarding Newman/Haas Racing's plans for the 2004 racing season. The statement should be attributed to Paul Newman, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing. "Any rumor that Newman/Haas Racing is leaving the Champ Car World Series is a figment of somebody's imagination. We remain committed to the series and are looking forward to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach season-opener on April 18."

3/19/04

Rahal comments on Wind Tunnel  Below are select quotes from Thursday's, Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on SPEED Channel. Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Team Rahal, announces his move away from the OWRS-owned Champ Car series and his plans to field a car in the upcoming Indy Racing League event at Motegi, Japan. Rahal was in Sebring for his induction into the Sebring 12 Hour Hall of Fame.

About what prompted the decision to leave Champ Car and move to the Indy Racing League: "It was certainly my most difficult decision in my professional life given the years of service to CART and Indy Car Racing but I felt as a business owner I couldn't rely on the passion that I have. I had to look at it in a little harsher light. I felt for the benefit of this team and the 65 people who work with me and their families that we had to commit ourselves to one category or the other and certainly no matter what you say the Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race in this country and certainly one of the biggest in the world. I felt like we really had to jump in with both feet and commit to it and do everything we could to help raise the stature once again of the (Indy) 500 and make it as popular as it once was and by doing so I think we will raise the level of open wheel racing as a whole."

About the positions of driver Jourdain staying at Champ Car and Gigante: "People shouldn't believe what they read on the Internet. I was not in Mexico this week. There is a number out there about what the budget was that is so widely over inflated that it doesn't owe any comment. We spoke to Gigante and they were fantastic and have been a fantastic sponsor of ours. We make this commitment to Indy Car racing and the IRL. Obviously, they had different opinions but we went about this in a very civilized way and a very classy way I thought. We are sorry to go our separate ways at least in this chapter but who knows what the future may hold."

Rahal on Honda incentives and return to Honda power: "There are a lot of things that are written that are inaccurate. What caused us to change direction is a realization within our team ... and some of our other sponsors. Last year, we had a foot in both camps and it was very difficult for us to do as a team. It made no sense financially; it was very expensive to do it that way. I think our Indy Car effort really suffered by being a one-car team. We felt for us to be successful and particularly successful at Indianapolis we had to commit 100 percent of our resources and that was the overriding reason for the making the change. Certainly we are proud and pleased to be with Honda. I never thought I would be with Honda again after 1994 when we left them three-quarters of the way through the year. But the reasons for making the change were reasons that we assumed to be in our best interest as a team and that meant being competitive all year long and especially at the Indy 500."

Rahal on the role money played in the decision: "We have never commented upon any of our financial arrangements with any of our sponsor contracts in the entire history of Team Rahal. Obviously, over the course of the years you develop relationships but as I said before I think there are a lot of people who want to think the worst and think that the reason you are there is because somebody has waved a lot of money in front of you. That is not the case. I have said several times this year during interviews that I felt for open wheel racing to capture the popularity that it once had it really needed to be one series and one series only. And I don't think I am the only one who has said that. There have been people on both sides of the fence that have said that. All credit to NASCAR, they have done a fantastic job but if you remember where Indy Car was back in 1995 and you see where it is today, I think we have an obligation to get back to that point in time and go beyond it as soon as possible and I think that is what drove the decision from our standpoint."

3/19/04

Lamborghini enters ALMS Lamborghini, a name that represents glamour, excitement, speed and raw power in the automotive world, will enter professional sports car racing competition in the American Le Mans Series this season with the newly-created Krohn-Barbour Racing team.

The team, which will campaign a pair of Lamborghini Murciélago R-GT cars in the GTS class, will make its debut in Round Two of the 2004 ALMS season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, June 25-27. Though a privateer racing effort, Krohn-Barbour Racing will be officially affiliated with the Lamborghini factory.

Krohn-Barbour Racing is co-owned by Texas businessman/racing driver Tracy Krohn and longtime sports car racing team owner/driver Dick Barbour, marking the return to racing as a team owner for Barbour for the first time since 2001. The announcement of the new team was made today at Sebring International Raceway on the eve of the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, a race that Barbour won overall three straight years as an owner, and one as a driver, starting in 1978.

"This is an exciting day for us and is the result of many months of hard work," said Krohn, who is driving at Sebring in a Porsche for PK Sport but will be one of the drivers for Krohn-Barbour Racing when the team makes its debut. The full driver lineup will be announced at a later date. "We're going to field a first-class racing team and we look forward to mixing it up with the other competitors in what we consider to be the finest professional sports car racing series in the world."

3/19/04

Friday notes from Sepang  The air was a stifling 37-degrees by the afternoon-session, but track-temperatures rose to no less than 56 at the Malaysian GP circuit on Friday.

Ferrari's boss is not getting down-in-the-dumps after Michael Schumacher (4th) and Rubens Barrichello (10th) slipped from the top of the times this afternoon.  'We don't know what fuel our rivals are running,' said Jean Todt.  'We expect to be on the pace but this should be a close contest.'  Tech-director Ross Brawn said neither driver is yet happy with the F2004 car.  A new-sticker featured on the Jaguar R5's nose-cone in Malaysia.  It belonged to sponsor YTL, a Malaysian infrastructure conglomerate that has secured a one-race deal with the Milton-Keynes based Formula One team.

COOL ASSESSMENT
McLaren boss Ron Dennis offered a predictably cool assessment of team-driver Kimi Raikkonen's leading-pace in the stifling heat at Sepang on Friday.  'So far we're pleased with the consistency and pace of our Michelin tires.  'But it's still early days.'

Cristiano da Matta's Toyota car was not damaged in his high-speed 'off' in the afternoon-session even if he didn't make it back out onto the Sepang track.  'We got the car back to the garage,' said technical director Mike Gascoyne.  'But we just couldn't clean it out in time to send him back out.'

Similarly, BAR driver Takuma Sato's brake-problem was not technically-based.  'He ran over some debris,' said technical director Geoff Willis, 'which meant his pedal was held on by some of the debris coming into the cockpit.'

3/19/04

3 of 4 pole sitters times disallowed  The pole sitters for the P2, GTS and GT classes all had their times disallowed following post-qualifying technical inspection in preparation for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. A total of five cars had their times disallowed for various infractions, and they will all have to start the race from the back of the grid.

In the P2 class, the No. 56 Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam MP91/Nissan was disallowed because the car failed the stall test. With the car heading to the back of the field, the No. 8 Rand Racing Yokohama ADVAN Lola B2K/40/Nissan assumed the pole position.

In GTS, the No. 4 Corvette C5-R of Corvette Racing was found to have wing end plates that were out of compliance. The No. 3 Corvette will now sit at the front of the GTS field.

The No. 71 Dodge Viper GTS-R of Carsport America qualified third in GTS, but their time was disallowed because of incorrect restrictors. The technical infractions of the Corvette and the Viper put both of the Barron Connor Racing Ferrari 575 GTC entries in the second and third spots on the class grid.

Because the No. 63 ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen S7R qualified last among the field, now half of the GTS class is starting from the rear of the grid.

In the GT class, the first and third qualifiers also had their times disallowed. The No. 43 BAM! Porsche GT3 RS was found to have their front splitter out too far. According to a representative of the team, the car was found to be in compliance during technical inspections during the morning and prior to qualifying. The splitter was found to be 2mm too long after qualifying.

The No. 24 McKenna/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which had qualified third, will be sent to the back of the field for having a front spoiler that is too low.

The No. 23 McKenna/Alex Job Racing Porsche had originally qualified second, but will now assume the GT pole. The new top three in class will include the No. 66 New Century Mortgage/Racers Group Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and the No. 45 Porsche GT3 RSR of Flying Lizard Motorsports.  The Race Site

3/19/04

Humpy proposes wider tires  Humpy Wheeler, who runs Speedway Motorsports for Smith, said he's looking at fatter tires as a possible solution for boring races at flat tracks. Winston Salem Journal

3/19/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Webber respects FIA decision
Coulthard waits on F1 future
Schumacher gets new Williams offer
Ralf threatens to have Montoya off
Stoddart regrets shedding workers
Jordan received death threats
Dixon excited about F1 test
Schu backs team-mate's claim for title
Sepang is Schumacher's favorite
Button still hunts for F1 podium
Alonso sports black arm-band
Schumacher unfazed by terror threat
'B-version' McLaren in pipeline
BMW-Williams needs a miracle: Montoya
First qualifying is 'pointless': Rubens
BMW-Williams to bounce back: Alonso 

Alonso stamps on launch-suspicion
Barrichello worried about Bahrain
Ralf vows to speed-up BMW-Williams
Is Mercedes' new engine rev-limited?
Jet-lagged Rubens deserves to win
Montoya's scared of heights
F1 notes in Malaysia
Iceman wants more horsepower
Schu wouldn't mind 20 grands prix
BMW-Williams stay out of driver-spat
Friday in Malaysia: track notes

3/19/04

Schumacher leads first practice in Malaysia 

Position |Driver|Team|Fastest Lap
1 |Michael Schumacher|Ferrari|1m34.437s
2 |Rubens Barrichello|Ferrari|1m35.380s
3 |Anthony Davidson|BAR|1m35.970s
4 |Ricardo Zonta|Toyota|1m36.147s
5 |Ralf Schumacher|Williams|1m36.229s
6 |Kimi Raikkonen|McLaren|1m36.314s
7 |Mark Webber|Jaguar|1m36.478s
8 |Juan Pablo Montoya|Williams|1m36.606s
9 |Jenson Button|BAR|1m37.018s
10 |Fernando Alonso|Renault|1m37.119s
11 |David Coulthard|McLaren|1m37.438s
12 |Olivier Panis|Toyota|1m37.590s
13 |Jarno Trulli|Renault|1m37.816s
14 |Giancarlo Fisichella|Sauber|1m37.995s
15 |Takuma Sato|BAR|1m38.023s
16 |Bjorn Wirdheim|Jaguar|1m38.086s
17 |Christian Klien|Jaguar|1m38.554s
18 |Cristiano da Matta|Toyota|1m38.734s
19 |Timo Glock|Jordan|1m38.788s
20 |Nick Heidfeld|Jordan|1m38.831s
21 |Giorgio Pantano|Jordan|1m39.860s
22 |Gianmaria Bruni|Minardi|1m41.149s
23 |Zsolt Baumgartner|Minardi|1m42.556s
24 |Felipe Massa|Sauber|1m42.718s
25 |Bas Leinders|Minardi|1m43.424s

  Much More...click on 2004 archives button below
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