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DATE

News (chronologically)

3/31/04

Panther Racing to run three cars at Indy   Panther Racing has filed entries for three cars for May's 88th Indianapolis 500, for Tomas Scheckter and rookie Mark Taylor and another driver to be named.  Recall we told you they were after Michael Valiante for the third car.  That may still be an option for him if nothing pans out for him in Champ Car.

3/31/04

Scott Dixon comments on F1 test - "my neck was done"   Q&A: Scott Dixon on his debut F1 test for Williams
What were your first impressions of Formula 1?  Very different and very cool. The car handles a lot better than an IRL chassis; it is a lot more nimble. The biggest obstacle in going fast is getting over the braking.
What about the g-forces?  They were huge. I lasted about three runs before my neck was done. You just can’t hold it up. The acceleration isn’t too bad because your head is resting, but under braking and turning your head goes down and you have to slowly bring it up.
And the gear changing?  It’s like somebody punching you. It’s very strange. I thought it would be a little smoother with the shift. 

What about the steering wheel?  It’s a mess. There is crap everywhere. There are probably 40 buttons on the wheel. Just leaving the pits is so different to the IRL.  Autosport Magazine

3/31/04

NASCAR fines Earnhardt $10,000  Yielding to public pressure, NASCAR had little choice. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was hit Wednesday with a $10,000 fine and the loss of 25 NASCAR Nextel Cup points for purposely causing a caution flag in the race at Bristol. Earnhardt had fallen behind because of a tire problem and was in danger of going down a lap when he spun, bringing out a yellow flag that allowed him to pit for tires and stay on the lead lap during the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway last Sunday. He wound up finishing 11th.

After the spin, Earnhardt was heard telling his team on the radio that he had never spun on purpose before. "The driver of the No. 8 car was quite vocal in admitting he intentionally spun out his car to cause a caution condition on the track, which is clearly prohibited in the NASCAR rule book," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "We have several rules that have been in place for quite some time to prevent someone from altering the outcome of an event. This was a clear cut case of that."

Teresa Earnhardt, owner Earnhardt's Chevrolet, accepted NASCAR's decision. "We regret what this has cost us in our pursuit of the Nextel Cup Championship," she said in a statement. "In the heat of battle, a lot of things can happen and decisions can be made that come at a high cost. "It was a mistake we've all learned from and we have to move past it."

3/31/04

2004 Toyota Atlantic schedule finalized   Officials from the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama today announced the 2004 series schedule has been finalized, with Portland International Raceway hosting a Toyota Atlantic "doubleheader" on the weekend of June 19-20.

As previously announced, the 2004 season gets underway on April 18 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, with Round 2 slated for May 23 at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico. On June 5, Toyota Atlantic will conduct its only oval event of the season at The Milwaukee Mile, followed by Rounds 4 and 5 at Portland on June 19 and 20. The Portland twin-bill will be Toyota Atlantic's first doubleheader since the series opened its 2000 season with a pair of races at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

All 2004 Toyota Atlantic events will once again be televised in the United States and Canada on SPEED Channel. More information on the series' television broadcasts will be announced shortly.
Round Date Event Title & Location
1 April 18 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Long Beach, California - Street Course
2 May 23 Fundidora Park Monterrey, Mexico - Road Course
3 June 5 The Milwaukee Mile West Allis, Wisconsin- Oval
4 June 19 Portland International Raceway Portland, Oregon - Road Course
5 June 20 Portland International Raceway Portland, Oregon - Road Course
6 July 3 Burke Lakefront Airport Cleveland, Ohio - Road Course
7 July 11 Molson Indy Toronto Exhibition Place - Toronto, Ont., Canada - Street Course
8 July 25 Molson Indy Vancouver Concord Pacific Place -B.C., Canada - Street Course
9 August 8 Road America Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin - Road Course
10 August 15 Grand Prix of Denver Denver, Colorado - Street Course
11 August 29 Molson Indy Montreal Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve - Montreal, Canada - RC
12 September 12 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Monterey, California - Road Course
NOTE: All 2004 events will be broadcast on SPEED Channel.

3/31/04

Gentilozzi places St. Pete blame on Tom Begley  This St. Petersburg Times article says, Champ Car series co-owner Paul Gentilozzi said the second Grand Prix of St. Petersburg would have run as scheduled through downtown streets in May had former general manager Tom Begley not demanded a cash payoff in exchange for his consent to stage the open-wheel event.

Begley claims in a lawsuit that promoter Dover Motorsports owes him more than $700,000 for expenses incurred setting up the inaugural running in February 2003. Because Begley had a contractual right in Dover's contract with the city to approve any reassignment of the Grand Prix to a new sanctioning body, Champ Car could not take over the race from the bankrupt Championship Auto Racing Teams and race without his blessing.

The blessing, Gentilozzi said, had a price tag.

"He told us if we gave him money, he'd go away," Gentilozzi said.

Gentilozzi made a personal call to Begley in February, shortly after Champ Car won CART's assets in bankruptcy court. He did so when it became apparent that Begley was going to exercise his right of assignment. Gentilozzi did not specify how much Begley requested.

"I've raced every St. Pete Grand Prix there has been between Trans Am and everything else, and I have huge affection for the market and the spirit of the fans," Gentilozzi said. "When Trans Am was the feature, we got good crowds and I just had to shake my head at Begley. Everyone was scurrying around and I thought, "I've known Tom a long time, and I know he loves motor racing.' I thought, "I'm going to call Tom and try to settle this so we can have a race.'

"I was never so disappointed. It was about him. It was never about having a race."

The city voted this month to void its contract with Dover, effectively ending Begley's control over the market and making the city market a free agent. But that came less than two weeks after ChampCar announced it had to cancel the race.

Begley's attorney, Jonathan Alpert, said Gentilozzi mischaracterized the conversation.

"It was an effort to work things out," he said. "It was totally unfruitful because of a lot of issues they needed to address."

Begley did not return a call from the Times.  Begley has contended he did not want Champ Car to stage a poor race that could damage the viability of the market. But Gentilozzi said the best way to maintain viability, and for Begley to recoup money, was to continue the race.

"You can't keep turning the fans on and off, and I worry about that," Gentilozzi said. "St. Pete has had three or four different races (in different series) over a period of time. You get fans built up and then you go away. Fans wonder if they want to get attached. That was what we were trying to prevent. That's why I was willing to reach out to Tom. A couple of my partners met with him and came back and said there's no negotiating with him. He was not going to be rational. Now he's Dover's problem."

Dover replaced Begley as GM in June and appointed him as head of the Grand Prix Foundation charity, a "figurehead position," according to Begley. He claims Dover and former CART CEO Chris Pook were unscrupulous in attaining the race rights from him and misled him about potential financial gains.

3/31/04

Gentilozzi calls Tony George, the IRL, and Honda insecure   In this St. Petersburg Times article, Paul Gentilozzi says, "Most of the negative energy (against Champ Car) has been caused by a small group of people that feel we have to fail for them to succeed and that's really unfortunate," he said. "I really think it's a combination of Honda and the IRL. I think that their compulsion to say and do bad things about Champ Car shows their insecurity. We don't care what they do. We don't care where they race. We're not talking to their promoters or their teams, we're just doing our own deal. If they're so good, why are they so obsessed with what we're doing? I don't get it."

But even though Champ Car won a battle with the IRL in bankruptcy court over CART's assets, it still must fend off challenges in the marketplace. Those battles are fought everyday, Gentilozzi said.

IRL president Tony George last week admitted discussions with Toronto Molson Indy general manager Bob Singleton, saying the venue would be "high on our list to pursue" if it became available. The IRL hopes to add some road courses in 2005.

"If we lose one event to them, it's because they bought their way in and we think the push back from the fans will be strong," Gentilozzi said. "They are actively hustling everything we do, throwing money at it to avoid competing with us."  [Editor's Note: The conspiracy theorists think that Honda and Toyota have been asked to pay their dues in the IRL (an oval track brethren to NASCAR) before being granted access to NASCAR and ultimately the lucrative Nextel Cup Series.  The oval track cartel wants to monopolize racing in the USA, and Champ Car, a road racing series, just stands in their way.  No one will admit to that of course, so they remain conspiracy theories.]

3/31/04

NASCAR has two sets of standards for Earnhardt  This Las Vegas Sun article says, There are perceptions from both inside and outside of racing that NASCAR treats Dale Earnhardt Jr. differently than it does its other drivers.  The conspiracy theorists have gone so far as to maintain that the sanctioning body fixes races and/or gives Earnhardt "special" restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega in order to improve his chances of winning. Those claims are ridiculous, of course, but it became clear on Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway that NASCAR apparently has a different set of rules for its biggest star.  Earnhardt admitted that he purposely spun out late in the race in order to bring out a caution flag that prevented him from having to make a green-flag pit stop. Series director John Darby told the Charlotte Observer that he would not penalize Earnhardt based on his admission.  " 'I spun a car out' -- that's a great excuse for spinning a car out, but proving that is another story," Darby told the Observer. "To brag about it is not enough for me to make a move on it."  But that's exactly what NASCAR did in 2002 when it fined Kurt Busch for saying he intentionally spun out Robby Gordon in order to bring out a caution flag in The Winston all-star race in Charlotte. Busch insisted that he was joking, but NASCAR nonetheless slapped Busch with a $10,000 fine.

3/31/04

Dalziel turns circles in California   With the start of the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship at Long Beach just over two weeks away, Ryan Dalziel was back behind the wheel of his Sierra Sierra Enterprises #28 ProWorks entry yesterday (Tuesday 30th) continuing the team’s busy pre-season test schedule, this time preparing for the only oval race on the 12-round race calendar – The Milwaukee Mile.  The team headed west from their base in Nevada to California and the Irwindale Speedway, just 25 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. While the half-mile super speedway was new to Dalziel, runner-up in the 2003 championship, and his rookie team-mate, Canada’s Andrew Ranger, the test afforded both drivers the opportunity to put pedal to the metal and turn some seriously fast laps on the L.A. oval.

The team’s latest pre-season outing followed a successful road-course test earlier this month where Ryan blitzed the field at the Firebird International Raceway. The 21-year-old Scottish charger was evidently pleased with a return to oval running.  Ryan enthused post-test: “It was great to be back on oval! My car was awesome today and the team, as ever, have worked really hard to ensure we’re competitive no matter what type of circuit we’re running on. We’re certainly up to speed on the oval and as it’s our one and only test prior to the race at Milwaukee I think we’re looking good to return there and defend my race win from 2003!”

Dalziel’s victory at the Milwaukee Mile last May marked his first career Toyota Atlantic win and the first trip to victory lane for Sierra Sierra Enterprises, just six races into the team’s short history. Having captured pole position for the event earlier in the weekend Ryan went on to dominate the race around the 1-mile oval, the oldest circuit of its kind in America. Ryan’s Milwaukee victory was soon followed up with a return to the top step at Portland, with seven additional podium visits steering the Scot tantalizingly close to the title.

3/31/04

RuSPORT about to launch website   The new 2-car Champ Car team, RuSPORT, is about to launch their new website.  You can find it at www.rusport.com.

3/31/04

Papis to drive Toyota at Long Beach   Max Papis, who recently won in a Chevy Corvette at Sebring, will make the switch from Lexus to Toyota for one weekend in April. The Lexus Grand-Am driver will take part in this year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, a part of the 30th Champ Car Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend. Papis will spot a 30-second advantage to such celebrities as singer Lil Kim, actor Sean Astin, of "Lord of the Rings," Frankie Muniz, of "Malcolm In the Middle" fame, champion boxer Laila Ali and Olympic swimming gold medallist Dara Torres. Papis will need a victory to match the exploits of current Ganassi Racing Lexus teammate Scott Pruett, the 2001 race winner who's already made certain that his Grand-Am teammate is aware of that fact. In addition to Pruett, Papis joins a group of the world's finest professional drivers who have participated in the race over the years including Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Al Unser, Gordon Johncock and Rick Mears. Should Papis win, he'd hold an advantage over one other former pro racer who participated in the event in 1986 - none other than his team owner Chip Ganassi.

3/31/04

Renault series announces Michelin program   North American Formula Renault officials announced today an agreement which will see teams and drivers benefit with support from Michelin as the series is working to keep the costs associated to a minimum, and is making the most of relationships with series partners make that happen. The agreement will see Michelin providing tires as part of the prize package for each race, as well as contributing to the season-ending awards. In addition, Michelin will provide a significant reduction in the tire costs for participants in the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship, creating a big break on an important budget item for the teams as they fight for the recently announced prize package, which is valued at $315,000.

“We are working hard to create a cost-effective championship, and part of that equation is the prize fund, and looking at costs is another important way to address the issue, and this will be an effective addition to our efforts,” said Brett Ross, North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship General Manager. “It's exciting to have Michelin step up this way, and our teams are naturally quite excited about the news!” The new agreement will work well with the rules format, which is focused on parity as well as cost-containment, and requires that the teams use just one set of tires per race weekend, which contributes to cost savings over the season. In addition to the cost reductions afforded by Michelin, there will be frequent opportunities for drivers to eliminate the cost entirely during each race weekend. There will be two random draws at every event, with the names of all the drivers entered, and two names will be selected to score a free set of Michelin tires, a welcome bit of fortune for the teams. Those who are not selected might still find themselves the proud owner of a free set of tires, should they finish in fourth position in the race. In addition, Michelin tires will also be part of the season-ending awards, as three sets of tires will be among the prizes given to the three drivers earning the “Hard Luck” awards at seasons end.

3/31/04

USGP news   The Porsche Michelin Supercup will return as a support series for the United States Grand Prix for the fifth consecutive year in 2004, Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials announced March 30. Two Porsche Michelin Supercup races will take place on the 2.605-mile road course at Indianapolis during the United States Grand Prix on June 18-20. The schedule of events for the series will be announced later.........After a successful one-day event in 2003, the Indy Jazz Fest Presented by Kroger will return to its original three-day, multi-stage format, the American Pianists Association recently announced. The 2004 festival will take place June 18-20 in Military Park and on the IUPUI Library Lawn in downtown Indianapolis. The Indy Jazz Fest again takes place on the same weekend as the United States Grand Prix, as the event has proven very popular in the past among worldwide visitors for the Formula One race. The artist lineup and ticket information for this sixth annual event will be announced April 14 at The Jazz Kitchen and will include the best in national, regional and local jazz, blues, roots, rhythm and blues and gospel acts. The complete lineup also will be available at www.indyjazzfest.net.......The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is to resurface the oval later this year. The work will take around two months to complete and will use 36,500 tons of asphalt. The infield section of traffic used by the Formula 1 cars will be not resurfaced.........Tickets for the 2004 United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 20 are on sale, and the IMS ticket office encourages customers to place orders early to ensure the best possible opportunity to acquire good seats. Tickets can be purchased online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

3/31/04

Champ Car race a gold mine for Queensland   Australia’s Queensland government subsidizes the annual Surfers Paradise Lexmark Indy 300 Champ Car street race with $11 million (Australian Dollars), reports the race has become the state’s biggest tourist attraction, making them $42 million on the $11 million investment.  They also get an extra 160,000 visitor hotel nights. The Queensland study reveals visiting Champ Car teams spend $1.7 million annually while there. The Aussies can’t wait for the Champ Cars to return.

3/31/04
Industry News

SMI gives Bruton a raise   Bruton Smith, who chairs Speedway Motorsports, Inc.(SMI), which owns six tracks, was given a 26% raise by the SMI board, which included a $1 million bonus. His 2003 pay totaled $1.4 million versus 2002’s $1.11 million. The SMI proxy statement also revealed company president and CEO H.A. (Humpy) Wheeler’s 2003 salary was unchanged at $881,000 but he did receive 20,000 in stock options.  SMI’s 2003 profit rose 4% to $58.5 million, almost $10 million per track underscoring just how lucrative it is to own a Nextel race contract. 

3/31/04

Latest F1 news in brief 

No champagne in Bahrain
'A1' is not rival for Formula One
Schu plans scooter-ride in Bahrain
BAR warns against complacency
Dubai launch F1-style circuit
Crown Prince to unveil Jordan message

Webber to get armed-guard in Bahrain
Jordan urge Pantano to improve
McLaren eyes performance-gain
Ferrari find Bahrain advantage

Panis thought he had an engine problem
Schumacher ready for Toyota switch
Button's hands are 'quite dainty'
Work on 2005 Toyota V10 is underway
Third drivers on duty in Bahrain
Massa wants another championship-point
Bahrain is not typical 'Tilke' track 

3/30/04

Rocketsports completes 2-day test at Homestead  Rocketsports Champ Car drivers, Alex Tagliani and Nelson Philippe completed two days of testing in Homestead, Florida today. The second year Rocketsports team made steady progress as they experimented with various new equipment and concepts in preparation for the 2004 Champ Car World Series. Tagliani, driver of the No. 8 Rocketsports/Johnson Controls Lola, was especially impressed by the determination of the team at the conclusion of the Florida sessions. “This is a team on a mission,” claimed Tagliani. “From all that I’ve seen and experienced in these test days, I’m confident of Rocketsports’ success and the ability to be championship contenders this season.

“There have been tremendous changes to the team, and we were all very prepared. Everyone seemed to work well together and they were excellent at pit stops. The additional personnel from running two cars and having a year’s experience will be a great advantage to us this season. “We developed different ideas for the set-up of the cars, for road and street courses. We used information that we gained from new equipment and programs to do this, and the results were very positive. Brian Ma, Alain Clarinval (lead engineers), and the data engineers were thoroughly planned, and it paid off. We were able to learn a lot in a short time, and the quick response from the Lola was just what we anticipated,” said Tagliani, who posted a lap time of 1:07.9 on the 2.14 mile Homestead track.

Nelson Philippe, driver of the No.17 Rocketsports/LeasePlan Lola, also came away from the test sessions feeling positive and prepared for the upcoming season-opener. “The Homestead tests went very well. We concentrated on long runs and pit stops. We were also able to learn more about the Lola and various set-up packages that we’ll need heading into the season. “I spent a lot of time with the engineers and crew, and got a good handle on how the team will work together. These have been long, hard days, but I needed the seat-time, and feel ready for the Long Beach race, which is just around the corner,” said Philippe eager for the season-opener, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 16-18, 2004. (Photo courtesy Champ Car World Series)

3/30/04

Fernández completes first IRL test  Adrian Fernandez gained valuable seat time toward his IRL IndyCar Series campaign today, returning to Phoenix International Raceway for his first test day in the #5 Quaker State/Telmex/Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone. Fernandez turned a total of 157 laps around the one-mile oval during a manufacturer’s test day which also included fellow Honda-powered drivers Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta, Roger Yasukawa and Buddy Rice. This was the first testing opportunity Fernandez has had since Fernandez Racing announced its IndyCar Series program on March 11.

“We had a really good test. We had the opportunity to learn more in a relaxed manner. We did a lot of work for Honda and some for ourselves with the chassis. I was able to practice restarts, and the issue like we had at the Phoenix race. The gearbox is very critical and you have to be careful; I learned what areas to be careful. It was very hot but it was good to test under these conditions. We were also able to work more on adjusting my seat and, while this is not the final seat, it is a good improvement and I am sitting probably an inch-and-a-half to two inches lower in the car now. “This was our last test before Japan. On the whole, we are not quite there yet but we learned a lot today and I think we will be competitive in Japan.”

3/30/04

Brazilian GP renewed through 2009  Formula 1 will race at the Interlagos Circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil until 2009, as they have confirmed a new contract for the track ending the rumor F1 was going to switch and race at the Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

3/30/04

F3 standout Bremer joins Brooks Associates  Danish driver Ronnie Bremer has committed to Brooks Associates Racing to run the 2004 Toyota Atlantic season. "I've been talking to and watching Ronnie's career for over a year. The team is excited to have this top driver from F3 in our series and on our team. He did a great job testing during in March. I'm certain he'll be a contender in the championship from Long Beach on." said John Brooks, team owner. "I am looking forward to the competition in the United States in the Atlantic series. I have tremendous support from my sponsors and country. I had not been to the United States until my test in March and was impressed with the competition level. I hope to show well in this new endeavor." said Ronnie Bremer. Ronnie ran with Carlin Motorsport in British Formula 3 in 2003, finishing sixth in the Championship with two podium finishes. In 2002, he ran British Formula 3 with Manor Motorsport, finishing 5th in the Marlboro Masters and 11th in the Championship. Prior to that, Ronnie competed in British Formula Ford and International Karting, winning the Championship in Karting in 1998 and 1999. "We're extremely pleased to welcome Ronnie Bremer to Toyota Atlantic for the 2004 season," said Toyota Atlantic Championship managing director Vicki O'Connor. "Ronnie was extremely quick a few weeks ago when we saw him during the test at Firebird, and he will certainly be a welcome addition to the series. Coming from the highly competitive British F3 series, I know that Ronnie will be able to adapt quickly to our style of racing and I'm sure he'll be battling at the front throughout the year." Team sponsor, Port-a-Cool, confirmed its return earlier this spring and UPR.com will also continue its product support. Supporting Ronnie's effort will be Peter Jacobs as chief engineer, Mark Murano as lead mechanic and returning team mechanic, Duarte Fidalgo.

3/30/04

Marco Andretti wins another title   [Editor's Note:  It appears Marco has some real driving talent.  What a shame it will be if his father makes him waste it by driving in circles in 100% throttle IRL cars someday rather than stay in road racing, where real talent matters.] With a win in the first of two weekend races at Daytona International Speedway, Marco Andretti clinched the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Southern Region Race Series championship. It was his second Skip Barber title, Andretti having won the Eastern Region laurels in 2003. Andretti, 16, son of Michael, won 10 races in 14 starts and finished off the podium just once (eighth place, in the Daytona weekend's second race) to score a total of 242 points. Going into the weekend, rookie Victor Ramos had a mathematical chance of earning the title, but only if Andretti went scoreless. Unfortunately, Ramos had a torrid weekend: An off-course excursion coupled with a throttle cable hang-up resulted in an uncharacteristic 12th in race one, putting the end to any championship hopes, slight as they were. For the year, Ramos won six times and had just two non-podium results, finishing second in the title chase with 206 points. At 182, Jeff Relic took third, thanks to four victories and five other podiums. Both Ramos and Andretti have entered the 2004 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER. The $190,000 series opened mid-March at the Sebring 12- Hour; Ramos had a win and a third and leads the points standings with 35, while Andretti notched a seventh and a third to sit fifth, 12 points behind Ramos.

3/30/04

NASCAR penalizes McMurray Jamie McMurray was fined $10,000 by NASCAR on Tuesday and placed on probation until the end of August for spinning out Matt Kenseth at Bristol Motor Speedway. McMurray, the 2003 rookie of the year on NASCAR's top circuit, was penalized for actions detrimental to stock car racing. He is on probation until Aug. 31. On the final lap of the Nextel Cup's Food City 500 on Sunday, defending series champion Kenseth bumped past McMurray on the way to a fifth-place finish. McMurray recovered to finish eighth, then caught up with Kenseth after the checkered flag. He first rubbed along the side of Kenseth's car, then backed off and bumped him from the rear, sending Kenseth sliding sideways near the entrance to pit road.

3/30/04

IRL takes leadership role in driver marketing  In an effort to build a lasting connection with the public, the Indy Racing League has launched a marketing plan designed to showcase its drivers’ personalities and lifestyles.

The plan, developed in conjunction with the IRL’s drivers, teams and sponsors, is a three-pronged initiative geared at expanding driver exposure through non-motorsports media, appearances in TV shows, movies and music and product promotion utilizing the IRL IndyCar® Series as a backdrop for products and services.

“The Indy Racing League is focused and committed to increasing the awareness of our drivers, as exhibited by the addition of a dedicated director of driver marketing position for the sanctioning body and a director of public relations focused on non-motorsports media outlets,” said Bill Long, vice president of marketing for the Indy Racing League. “Fans come to cheer, not just watch, and creating that connection with fans is critical to our growth and is the key focus of this driver marketing initiative.”

Under the guidance of the IRL marketing department and led by the director of driver marketing, the plan includes the development and creation of driver profiles which capture the driver’s unique personality and lifestyle. The IRL also has enlisted the help of Creative Artist Agency (CAA), one of the world’s largest entertainment agencies.

Together, the IRL, CAA and Michael Voorhees, a top sports lifestyle photographer, have directed lifestyle photo and video shoots to capture a driver’s fan appeal. The photo images will be used by the IRL, teams, tracks, sponsors and driver representatives to promote drivers to a broader reach of fans.

The driver marketing plan includes athletes from the IndyCar Series and IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series™ who have been identified within specific demographics, lifestyles and cultures in hopes of attracting new fans, and increasing attendance and television viewership.Drivers will be aligned to race markets as well as top television markets based on their relevance to the demographic make-up within the market, which increases the likelihood of creating a connection between a driver and fans.

Additionally, the IRL will work with its marketing partners as well as those partners of drivers and teams to use drivers as spokespersons for products and services.

“As in 2003, the IRL will feature drivers as the focal point of its overall brand marketing activities,” Long said. “Drivers will be visible in our TV spots, our collateral, and on the Indy Racing League Fan Experience as it follows the IndyCar Series on its national tour.”

3/30/04

Earnhardt admits to foul play  UPDATE NASCAR is reviewing the post-race comments made by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in which he admitted intentionally spinning out to cause a caution, NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said Tuesday. "This issue is still being looked at," Zizzo said. Following Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. admitted repeatedly he spun out on purpose on Lap 431 of 500 to prevent from having to pit under green and lose one or more laps. In the 2002 Winston all-star race, Kurt Busch admitted after the race he intentionally spun driver Robby Gordon to bring out a caution. Later in the week, NASCAR fined him $10,000 for intentionally wrecking another competitor. Sunday, Nextel Cup series director John Darby said initially he didn't think Earnhardt Jr. deserved a penalty. However, on Tuesday Zizzo said Darby had heard only Earnhardt Jr.'s comments over his two-way radio after the race, not any comments Earnhardt Jr. made to the media. NASCAR should reach a decision on Earnhardt Jr. by Wednesday.  Kansas City Star   3/29/04 - A reader writes, Earnhardt admits to foul play . . . His admission of intentionally causing a caution - an act which has been penalized previously by NASCAR . . . " Am I missing something here? Earnhardt ADMITS publicly to something that is, to my perception anyway, tantamount to taking a dive or shaving points and NASCAR will do nothing about it? The motorsports press will not decry his act as evil and contrary to good sportsmanship. No one will editorialize what a bad example this sets for the young impressionable fans? Major corporate sponsors in NASCAR will just let this slide on by. Budweiser will just let this slide by!? Is this not the pinnacle of what managed competition stands for in this sport? Are NASCAR fans so dimwitted they can't see how they're being used? Motorsport has not seen as sorry as day since Paul Tracy was robbed of his 500 win. All I can hope for now is the NASCAR TV ratings to join the IRL's, in the toilet. A sign that at long last NASCAR fans have also FINALLY wised up. Hopefully we'll see many of them at Long Beach! J.N. Anderson, Chicago, Illinois  3/29/04 - Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted repeatedly after Sunday's race he spun out on purpose on Lap 431 of 500 to prevent from having to pit under green and lose one or more laps. "I had a loose wheel and I didn't have any choice but to spin the car out to get a caution. So I went down in the corner, had some clear room behind me, and I just spun it out," Earnhardt Jr. said after the race. The caution came out, I put the clutch in and got going. What the hell else was I supposed to do? Go a lap down? Go two laps down?" Earnhardt Jr. also engaged in a profanity-laced exchange with his crew over his radio regarding NASCAR's decision to extend cautions late in the race to blow debris from the track. That earned Earnhardt Jr. a trip to the NASCAR hauler. His admission of intentionally causing a caution - an act which has been penalized previously by NASCAR - did not seem to raise the ire of series director John Darby. " 'I spun a car out' - that's a great excuse for spinning a car out, but proving that is another story," Darby said. "To brag about it is not enough for me to make a move on it." ThatsRacin.com

3/30/04

Marlboro Team Penske News  Marlboro Team Penske was in Indianapolis last week to participate in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Indianapolis 500 Mile Race media day. The Team held a press conference to discuss their goal of earning an unprecedented fourth straight win at the Brickyard in May.

Both two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and two-time Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series winner Sam Hornish Jr. were on-hand for the press conference. In addition, Tim Cindric, President Penske Racing, Inc. was also in attendance to discuss his thoughts on the “May Classic.”

“We’re certainly looking forward to coming back to Indy this year,” said Cindric at the press conference. “We’ll be going for our fourth straight win with what will be relatively the same personnel. I’d say that most of the guys at Marlboro Team Penske have been here since we returned to Indy in 2001, and I think that’s a big testament to the efforts we’ve put forth. Not only are the guys looking forward to the race, but they’re also excited about the pit stop competition as well. That’s always one of the highlights of the month of May for them and they always seem to be two of the Teams to beat.”

“I definitely echo what Tim said, in that when you have an entire crew that knows what they’re doing everyone can be so well synchronized,” said Castroneves. “The three times I’ve been here, I’ve done pretty well (Castroneves won in 2001 & 2002 and finished second in 2003), but it’s still a place that you have to respect. We’ll have to work very hard this year, that’s why I think they give us an entire month - so we can make sure all of our bases are covered. With Sam driving for us now, I think we’ll have a big boost going into the Indy 500 - hopefully we’ll be able to get that fourth in a row!”

“A lot of people have been asking me how I feel about driving for Marlboro Team Penske this year at the Indy 500,” said Hornish Jr. “I think I’m just as hungry to win this year as I’ve ever been. No one puts more pressure on me than I do, so I think that while my chances seem to have greatly improved it’s mostly because of my experience at the track. Marlboro Team Penske also has a tremendous history here, so I think that always helps. I mean, two years ago Helio kind of came out of nowhere - he was on pace all day long, but he certainly proved you don’t always need the fastest car to win the race. I think we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re definitely looking forward to the month of May.”

CASTRONEVES ADDS TOYOTA COMMERCIAL TO RESUME

Helio Castroneves can now add another commercial to his list of accomplishments as the 28 year-old Brazilian completed his first shoot for Toyota Motorsports last Monday in Phoenix. After earning his second top-ten finish of the 2004 season (he finished sixth), Castroneves stayed in Arizona to participate in the filming at Phoenix International Raceway.

The spot, slated to air later this spring around the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, combines racing action with humor to deliver Toyota’s message.

“I had a lot of fun filming last week,” said Castroneves. “It was my first commercial for Toyota and it was a great experience. I’m usually racing when I’m on TV, so it’ll be nice to be able to see myself on the screen when I’m just sitting on my couch.”

CASTRONEVES FEATURED IN espn360 MAGAZINE DEBUT THIS WEEK

This week, espn360, will be making its national debut and will feature an article about two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Launched by ESPN - the Magazine, espn360 is a new and innovative lifestyle magazine about today’s A-list professional athletes and action sports stars. The quarterly magazine will celebrate where they live, how they dress, what they collect and what motivates them, bringing readers a full view of their private lives. The inaugural issue will be inserted in ESPN - the Magazine and distributed to 500,000 specifically targeted subscribers.

Castroneves’ office and home in Miami will be featured in the article.

3/30/04

Senna special on SPEED Channel 

SPEED CHANNEL EXAMINES
TRAGIC 1994 SAN MARINO GRAND PRIX ON F1 DECADE
MATCHETT: '...THE WORLD OF GRAND PRIX RACING WAS VISITED
BY SOME SORT OF EVIL PRESENCE THAT WEEKEND'

Ten years removed from one of the darkest days in motor sports history, SPEED Channel will re-visit the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix on April 3 at 1 a.m. ET and again at noon ET as part of F1 Decade, a yearlong look back at Formula One races from 1994.

The current SPEED Channel on-air team will offer unique perspective on the events of San Marino, as SPEED F1 analyst Steve Matchett was a Benetton team mechanic for championship-winning driver Michael Schumacher in 1994 and pit reporter Peter Windsor penned the definitive article on the cause of F1 legend Ayrton Senna's death for the London Times.

Said Matchett: "I'm not normally taken by such thoughts, far from it, but I can't help feeling that the world of Grand Prix racing was visited by some sort of evil presence that weekend. It was a black time, and God forbid that such things should ever befall us again."

Veteran motor sports broadcaster Bob Varsha, who called the race from the United States with Derek Daly, will offer a retrospective on Senna's career and Brazilian F1 driver Rubens Barrichello, involved in one of the accidents on the Imola circuit, also will comment.

To summarize the list of incidents from San Marino:

  • On Friday, Barrichello crashed his Jordan. Though his injuries turned out to be relatively minor, it didn't look that way immediately following the crash.

  • On Saturday, a young Austrian driver, Roland Ratzenberger, was killed when his front wing came off at high speed sending his Simtek into a concrete barrier. This was the first fatality at a Formula One race weekend since 1982.

  • On Sunday, at the start of the race, J.J. Lehto stalled his Benetton and was hit from behind at great speed by Pedro Lamy's Lotus. Debris was sent in to the stands injuring four spectators.

  • The race was not red flagged; instead the safety car was brought out. On the second lap after the race was restarted, three-time F1 world champion Senna crashed his Williams-Renault in the Tamburello corner while leading the race. He left the road at 180 mph, hit a concrete barrier and was killed when a piece of suspension pierced his helmet.

  • The race was resumed and there was another accident in pit lane when a wheel came off Michele Alboreto's Minardi. Several crew members on the Lotus and Ferrari teams were injured.

 

There are no graphic or gratuitous shots included in the program, but viewers will see the accidents as millions of people worldwide saw them 10 years ago.

"It is our belief that these events are a part of history," said Frank Wilson, SPEED Channel Sr. Coordinating Producer. "A three-time world champion and a rising star were lost, and we will present these events as they were shown at the time."

Much like the safety moves to head and neck restraints and soft walls after the Daytona death of NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt in 2001, the incidents at San Marino led to changes as well. The cockpits of Formula One cars look drastically different now than they did in 1994. The driver's head and shoulders are better protected. There is now a pit lane speed limit, and the mechanics must not stand in the pit lane until it is time for their car to pit.

F1 Decade kicks off a weekend of F1 racing from Bahrain on SPEED Channel. Live practice begins April 2 at 6 a.m. ET, with live qualifying April 3 at 7 a.m. and live race coverage April 4 at 7 a.m. ET.

3/30/04
F3000

Coloni signs Lauda and Lopez  Coloni Motorsport has confirmed its FIA Formula 3000 International Championship line up for the 2004 season. Turkish driver Can Artam and Belgian Jeffrey van Hooydonk will drive under the Coloni Motorsport banner, while the Coloni-managed CMS Performance operation will field Austrian Mathias Lauda and Argentine Josè Maria Lopez. "We have signed four very talented drivers who all have the potential to achieve their respective objectives this season," said team principal Paolo Coloni. "This is the strongest line up we have been able to secure during our history and the whole team is very eager for the season to get underway and for our drivers to start realizing their potential. "The drivers all possess differing levels of experience but they all have the right attitude that is necessary to succeed at this level and I am very optimistic that we will have an extremely successful year," Coloni added.

3/30/04

More Indy 500 entries filed  Panther Racing and Patrick Racing, teams with winning pedigrees in open-wheel racing, were among those who filed entries March 29 for the 88th Indianapolis 500. Panther Racing entered six cars, two for 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year Tomas Scheckter, two for 2003 Indy Racing League(R) Menards Infiniti Pro SeriesTM champion Mark Taylor and two for a driver to be named later. Panther won IRL IndyCar(R) Series titles in 2001 and 2002 and a Menards Infiniti Pro Series title with Taylor in 2003. Patrick Racing entered two cars for two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. Patrick-owned cars won the Indianapolis 500 in 1973 and 1982 with driver Gordon Johncock and in 1989 with driver Emerson Fittipaldi after a stirring, wheel-banging duel with Unser. Team Gordon also entered two cars for driver-owner Robby Gordon.

3/30/04

Peterson/White delighted about LeMans invite  When invitations for the 72nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans were issued last week, no racing team in the world was more excited and relieved to have been selected than American Le Mans Series regular Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing.  The team, based in Las Vegas, Nev., will field a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the GT class of the world's most famous endurance race when it is run at France's Le Circuit de La Sarthe June 12-13. Running in conjunction with ALMS rival team Alex Job Racing, the team won last year at Le Mans, and hopes to do so again this year as it runs on its own. The team will announce its driver lineup in the very near future.

3/30/04

Bristol overnight TV rating  Nielsen Media Research's overnight numbers from the nation's largest television markets show Fox's broadcast of Sunday's Food City 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway drew a 5.2 rating and 12 share, today's Sports Business Daily reports. The 5.2 represents a 2 percent increase over the 5.1 reported overnight in 2003, when ratings for most sports events were down from a year earlier because of coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq (meaning the final Bristol rating may continue the recent downward trend). NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter

3/30/04

Patrick Carpentier 5th in first Midget race start  UPDATE  Following several hours of open practice Friday afternoon, all 24 Focus drivers ran group qualifying at noon Saturday, with eight cars on the track simultaneously and all laps timed electronically via on-board transponders. Carpentier, driving one of the SCREAM, Inc. house cars, set the third fastest qualifying time of 14.812 (only 0.066 seconds behind quickest qualifier Bobby McGowen's 14.746). Jourdain, with little practice time in the second SCREAM house car, was 19th fastest of 23 drivers who posted times. With a six- car inversion for the feature, Carpentier started fourth and dropped to sixth position on the third lap. He regained one position by passing fastest qualifier McGowen during the ninth lap on the inside at turn two. Carpentier finished fifth (4.208 seconds behind the winner) in an impressive debut. Smiling Carpentier later told the media, "It was fun. I really liked it. I wasn't happy with my start. I want to do more of this racing." Jourdain lined up 19th on the 24-car grid, but he dropped out on the first lap with "a broken fuel pump". Nineteen drivers finished and 15 drivers completed all 25 laps in the 6:15.223-timed race.  3/28/04 - Canadian Champ Car driver Patrick Carpentier started 4th, fell to 6th but finished 5th in his very first Ford Focus Midget race at Irwindale Speedway in California Saturday night.  Fellow Champ Car driver Michel Jourdain had car problems and did not start.  More to follow....

3/30/04

Surfers GM resigns  James Ashworth has resigned as general manager for the Lexmark Indy 300, and also as director of IMG Motorsport, in order to focus on other areas of his personal ambition.

James O'Brien, in his role of event director, will oversee the Gold Coast-based Champ Car event on a daily basis until the board of directors confirms a full-time replacement.

Ashworth took up the role of general manager in March last year, and headed up the team working on the 13th annual event, which teams the visiting Champ Car series with the phenomenally successful Australian V8 Supercars around the streets of Surfers Paradise. He leaves the event - which had its most successful year in 2003, attracting a crowd of 306,184 - just a couple of months after speaking on behalf of OWRS' bid for ownership of the Champ Car series during the court battle for assets with the IRL.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working on Queensland's premier event, which has been extremely challenging and rewarding,” Ashworth said after tendering his resignation, "It was a career highlight to work on last year's Lexmark Indy 300 – the most successful in its 13-year history - and also to play a part in continuing the future of Champ Car racing.

“The event is in great shape and has a fantastic team to continue its resounding success. It has been a privilege to work with such a talented group of people.”

Ashworth said he will now take time out to focus on his career direction, complete his MBA at Macquarie University and base his family full-time in Sydney.  www.indy.com.au

3/30/04

Latest F1 news in brief 

Bahrain 'amazed' Button
Ferrari about a second-per-lap in front
Rubens learns circuits in 'old-fashioned' way
Dixon 'definitely' desires F1 switch
Bridgestone to resume streak in heat?
Where does Jenson's future lie?
Schu says sand is the 'real worry' 

Opposition groups promise no disruptions
Toyota want a point or two
Sauber brings F1 closer to fans
Renault has learned from its mistakes
Jaguar miles ahead compared to last year
Ecclestone slams British government
Drive a Formula One car ... blindfolded
Can Ferrari be beaten this F1-season?
Renault advance plans for engine-step
Williams to attend Formula BMW opener
Button 'felt sick' on first F1-podium
Cristiano has an advantage ...?
Bahrain is 'severe' test of reliability
First fruits of Sauber wind-tunnel are ready
We're a long-way from Ferrari: Schumacher
New rules not compatible with new F1-tracks
Bahrain's King has best F1-view  

3/29/04
Americans in Europe

That's racing  Whoever coined the phrase “That’s Racing,” the blanket explanation for the unexplainable whims of the racing gods, could well have had this race weekend in mind for the 2003 Red Bull Driver Search winners, who are now part of the Red Bull Junior Team in Europe.   Between penalties, spins, and bad tire selection, there was a lot to be learned for Scott Speed, Colin Fleming and Dominique Claessens this weekend at Monza for the first round of the Formula Renault Eurocup. But, that’s racing, and these three drivers will take what they learned this weekend, and look to turn it to their advantage next time they line up for a race in just under a month’s time in Spain.  More....

3/29/04

Champ Car in high-definition in Canada too  TSN in Canada just put up their April program schedule and we noticed the Long Beach race is shown as being available in High Definition. Let's hope they pick up the other races in HD as well.

3/29/04

2004 Tecate Long Beach Pageant news The Tecate Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be selected for the first time during Grand Prix race weekend with a pageant that will take place Saturday, April 17, on the Tecate Rock-N-Roar stage following the concert featuring Everclear.  This year’s pageant, presented in association with Tecate, is being managed by Procon Leisure International, known for staging similar, successful events at the Molson Indy Toronto, Molson Indy Vancouver and Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia. "We’re pleased to join with Tecate and Procon Leisure International in staging this pageant for the first time on race weekend,” said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “We believe that this will enable many of our fans and sponsors to more fully participate in the selection process.” The 20 contestants will be judged in three rounds: interview, swimwear and eveningwear. The winners will receive cash prizes, jewelry and the opportunity to represent the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in race-related activities throughout 2004 and early 2005 until next year’s pageant. Contestants not selected in the top three will have the opportunity to be part of the Tecate Grand Prix Grid Team on the racetrack before Sunday’s races. To enter the Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pageant, call (604) 649-1714 or e-mail missgrandprix@usa.com. Must be at least 19 years old to participate.

3/29/04

Forsythe-Racing heads for testing After the tough 'off' season that everyone endured, the sight of the trucks pulling out today to go testing just ahead of the first race in Long Beach must have been a 'sweet' moment. You could hear the happiness in Phil LePan's (Team Manager) voice when he told us this afternoon, "the trucks are rolling as we speak". The Forsythe-Racing Team will be testing in Sebring on March 30, and April 1, 2 at the Homestead Road Course. Paul Tracy will be on track on April 2 in Homestead. Teammates Patrick Carpentier and Rudolfo Lavin, who will also take to the track in Sebring, will test in Homestead April 1,2. The drivers will be trying out the 'push to pass' button; but, the decision hasn't yet been made regarding which track they will carry out that testing session on. The new regulations governing the exterior aerodynamics of the car have, according to LePan, "loosened slightly and there are a few areas we can do some tweaking to improve our overall performance". Today, the team was hard at work with a 40% model in the wind tunnel.   Paul Tracy website

3/29/04

Herdez drivers fast at Sebring  Herdez Competition wrapped up their final test before the start of the 2004 Champ Car season Friday. Herdez drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mario Dominguez ran at the top of the charts throughout the test, Hunter-Reay clocked his best time Friday afternoon when he ran a 50.60 and teammate Mario Dominguez set his Friday morning when he clocked a 50.90 second lap, neither driver used the new “push-to-pass” feature when setting their fast times.

Preparing for his third Champ Car season, Dominguez completed 375 miles over Thursday and Friday. Dominguez is pleased with the progress his team, led by crew chief Daryl Fox made at the test and over the winter, “I can tell my team has worked very hard over the winter, they have done a great job at our tests and our pit-stops are even better, I think the consistency in our group is going to pay off when the season starts in Long Beach.” Sebring was Dominguez’s third test with his new race engineer Michael Cannon, “Mike has taught me a lot the past couple of months and we communicate very well. I have confidence in my car. We have developed some things in our set-ups over the winter that will benefit us this year for sure. It was a long off-season but I am glad we had this series of tests just before the season starts, it gave us a final opportunity for a systems check, to make sure everything and everyone is in top form and now I am warmed up and ready to go!”

Herdez Competition’s latest addition, Ryan Hunter-Reay feels well prepared for his debut as a Herdez driver, he tested Wednesday and Friday and completed over 450 trouble-free miles “it was a great test for me, I learned a lot, as a group we learned a lot. We spent a lot of time testing aero, dampers, geometry, everything you can think of. Will (Phillips race engineer) and Tom (Brown, technical director) are always several steps ahead of the game, I am lucky to have such a strong group to learn from. My crew spent a lot of time working on pit-stops, I am really impressed, they are very good at what they do. Even though I have not been with the team long, I feel very well prepared for Long Beach, I can’t wait, I am counting down the days!”

The 2004 Champ Car World Series kicks off at the 30th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 16th – 18th. For more information please visit www.TeamHerdez.com.

3/29/04

Sebring testing recap - Tagliani lights it up  The first major test session of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season took place last week on the short course of Sebring International Raceway, with nine drivers taking the opportunity to ready themselves for the April 16-18 season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  Reports from the teams and drivers were released from Sebring on each of the three days, and what follows is a brief notebook of items surrounding the Wednesday-Friday sessions.  More.....

3/29/04

Champ Car on the right track with TV/Internet package  This NY Times article talks about the decline in TV ratings in large part as the result of increased interest in the internet. Champ Car's new TV package is tightly integrated with a major internet presence.  In fact you will be able to follow every minute of every race weekend online, whereas TV will only broadcast the race.  OWRS gets it.     Leisure Pursuits of Today's Young Man.  By John Schwartz - (extracts) Note to the television networks: Pete Brandel is not missing. He's right here, but like a lot of other 20-something men he's just not watching as much TV. Mr. Brandel, a 24-year-old real estate agent in Chicago, says that these days he looks to the Internet for news and entertainment. Television, he says, is bogged down by commercials and teasers that waste his time.......The television industry was shaken last October when the ratings from Nielsen Media Research showed that a huge part of a highly prized slice of the American population was watching less television. As the fall TV season began, viewership among men from 18 to 34 fell 12 percent compared with the year before, Nielsen reported. And for the youngest group of adult men, those 18 to 24, the decline was a steeper 20 percent........In a world where fortunes are made and lost over the evanescent jitterings of fractions of audience share, the Nielsen announcement was the equivalent of a nuclear strike, a smallpox outbreak and a bad hair day all rolled into one........That is understandable, experts say, given that nearly 75 percent of males 18 to 34 have Internet access, according to the latest figures from comScore Media Metrix, making them the most wired segment of the population. By comparison, 57 percent of men from 35 to 44 are online, comScore found in research for the Online Publishers Association, which is releasing the results today.  The missing men "represent the most active Internet users by far, viewing more pages and spending more time online than any other age group," said Michael Zimbalist, president of the Online Publishers Association. "There is no doubt that the Web has become the dominant medium in their lives." ........Between the allure of high-speed Internet services, computer games and other activities, "you begin to have the ability to get entertained and distracted in a million ways, and not just television," said Rishad Tobaccowala, an executive with the Starcom MediaVest Group, a company that advises advertisers on where to put their money.  Read more.... (Registration Required)

3/29/04

Michelin looks forward to Bahrain  This weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix is a landmark event for Formula One: it will be the first world championship event ever staged in the Middle East. The brand-new circuit's desert setting makes it unique among contemporary host venues and the race marks a step into the unknown for teams and their technical partners. Michelin has been conducting sophisticated simulation tests in order to prepare dry-weather tire compounds that will be suitable for the conditions.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director
"We came away from the previous grand prix in Malaysia in an extremely positive frame of mind. We are now moving from Sepang, a track with which we are familiar and where we have enjoyed great success in the past, to Bahrain, where we have no relevant experience at all. We don't know much about what lies ahead, although it will definitely be hot and there is a risk that sand will blow onto the track, a factor that will significantly decrease the level of grip and accelerate the rate of tire wear. What I can say for certain, however, is that Michelin's extensive pre-race research has allowed us to prepare as thoroughly as possible."
Pascal Vasselon, Michelin Formula One program manager
"Bahrain might be hot, but our investigations indicate that the circuit won't place particularly extreme loads on tires, unlike tracks such as Barcelona. We plan to take three dry-weather tire options, both from the middle segment of our range. Our calculations suggest that the fuel penalty will be somewhere between 0.3s and 0.35s per lap for every extra 10kg, but it is difficult to come up with a precise figure until the cars have turned a wheel in anger. Preparing for events such as this adds an interesting new twist to the season and I am confident."
Team perspective: Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director, B.A.R Honda
"Bahrain might be an unknown quantity, but we have such good predictive tools nowadays that we can generate a very clear picture of a lap of the track long before we get there. We have access to all the co-ordinates, corner geometries and elevations, so we are able to establish a pretty good baseline. There are one or two questions still to be answered, however: we don't know how rough the kerbs are, for instance, or whether there are any ripples in the surface that might require us to raise the ride height a little. That's the kind of detail we'll assess when we have a chance to look at the circuit properly on the Thursday immediately before the race. When it comes to evaluating tire wear for an event like this, B.A.R Honda relies on Michelin's input. So far we have only completed two races together, but they have been the tip of the iceberg in our working relationship. We carried out about 20,000 kilometres of pre-season testing and I was impressed by the manner in which both parties were able to begin collaborating productively within an incredibly short space of time. Our partnership has started very positively - and the team's podium finish in Malaysia reflected that."

3/29/04

Interview with Toyota's Luca Marmorini  Toyota's Luca Marmorini, engine technical director, looks ahead to the inaugural grand prix in the Kingdom of Bahrain and gives his views on the season so far....  Transcript

3/29/04

Interview with Jaguar's David Pitchforth  Jaguar managing director David Pitchforth answers questions ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.  Transcript

3/29/04

Latest F1 news in brief 

BAR unveil Bahrain car-revisions
New Michelin tire is good 'step'
BAR held an inquiry
British teams unlikely to win: Lauda
Ecclestone served with High Court writ
Bahrain F1-ticket forgery
Tires not more important than F1-car
Bahrain prepares for terror attack
Button and Coulthard shared a meal
Schu not willing to hit brakes
Bahrain F1-race to generate $74m
Villeneuve brands accusations 'ludicrous'
Firman signs World Series deal
Toyota backs single-engine rule
Dixon has sore neck after F1-debut
BMW failure due to defective component
Jordan lose Gallagher
Schu to lead Bahrain pace: Surtees
Zanardi disappointed with race-return
Jaguar to get new wind-tunnel running by 2005
Panis explains 'communication problem'
BAR worked on engine, chassis problems
Teams won't do more running in Bahrain
Webber should get off the line
Williams is worried about Bahrain sand
FIA supplied Jaguar with Bahrain data
Drivers line-up for BMW-Williams seat
Da Matta has F1-advice for Dixon
Jaguar is pleased with Klien

3/28/04

 

Borcheller and Stanton make it 2-for-2  Terry Borcheller and Craig Stanton scored their second victory of the Grand-Am Cup Series season, repeating their success from the season opener with a win in the Grand-Am Cup 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday.

3/28/04

 

HDNet begins ads for Champ Car  We saw 2 promos for the ChampCar Long Beach race while surfing to the HDNet channel during NASCAR commercials this afternoon.  It's good to see HDNet has begun their promotional campaign, now let's see how long SPIKE TV remains asleep at the wheel.  Steve Gaalema

3/28/04
ETCC

Zanardi 9th and 10th in Monza  Alex Zanardi, driving a specially modified BMW car, finished ninth, losing one place from a fourth-row start, in Race One of the 2004 FIA European Touring Car Championship at the Monza circuit Sunday. The 37-year-old Italian driver ended 10th in Race Two, 22.7 seconds behind the winner, Germany's Jorg Muller. Zanardi blamed clutch problems in both races for his poor showing. "I'm returning home today licking wounds from two defeats," Zanardi said. "In Race Two I was also delayed by a collision, which almost sent me off the track." "Alfa Romeo cars are definitely faster at the moment, but we can improve a lot and I'm looking forward to the next championship round in Valencia," Zanardi said. The Spanish round is scheduled for April 18.

3/28/04

Blast from the past - CART in Brazil  CART put on some entertaining races over the years at the Autodromo Nelson Piquet Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  We bring you some memories.  There was nothing like seeing the cars blast down the very long front straight at almost 220 MPH and then brake and go down through the gearbox for the tight first turn.  The race on the 1.864 mile roval (so named because it was an oval but drove like a high-speed road course) was building in popularity and by 2000 the event was a sellout.  Then, due to political reasons, the race was cancelled just when it was about to begin to turn the corner on profitability. The track still hosts a MotoGP race each year on the road course that can be seen in the aerial view.  When F1 raced there, the crowds were estimated over 100,000.  CART drew over 70,000 in 2000.

BrazilPiquetAerial.jpg
An aerial view
Rio98Jacket.jpg
A fan's jacket
Rio98Straight.jpg
Main straight
Rio98Pits.jpg
Rush hour on pit row
Rio2000b.jpg
'00: Fittipaldi leads
Rio2000a.jpg
2000: Fernández
98Rio1.jpg
1999 start
98Rio4.jpg
Driver's mountain view
98Rio3.jpg
'98: Dario over Big Mo
98Rio5.jpg
1998: Teams prepare
99Rio.jpg
1999:Dario, Juan, Fitti
99Rio2.jpg
1999: Tracy leads
Rio98MooreSquire.jpg
1998: Greg Moore

Photos courtesy of Ford archives, Kool and Getty Images

3/28/04
Nissan World Series

Bernoldi takes two wins at Jarama  On a cold and rainy day in Spain, Enrique Bernoldi took two comfortable wins in front of 10,000 fans in the first round of the World Series by Nissan season at Jarama. In the morning they had snow. In the warm-up our photographer had a thin layer of ice on his camera. Absolutely strange conditions for Spain at the end of March.

In race one Bernoldi made an excellent getaway but Tiago Monteiro's car was working better and he homed in on the Brazilian, eventually making a daring move for the lead. Once ahead the Portuguese rookie simply drove away from the Brazilian GD Racing star. However, the Jarama stewards gave Monteiro a drive-through penalty for spinning on the warm-up lap. The penalty only dropped him to second, such was the advantage enjoyed by the leading pair. KTR's Bruce Jouanny held second, but a desperate lunge by fourth-placed Juan Cruz Alvarez spun the Frenchman down to fourth, much to his disgust. RC Motorsport's Narain Karthikeyan came home home fifth in such conditions, while newcomer Ryo Fukuda did a great job to claim sixth place in the first outing for the Paul Belmondo Racing outfit.

Conditions were just as tricky for the second race, and again Bernoldi made a perfect start and was a massive 5.3s ahead of everyone at the end of lap one. From there he was able to control the race, and while his GD Racing machine was not ultimately the fastest car, he had the track position to ensure his first ever double race win in a World Series by Nissan round. "I couldn't have done any better this weekend," Bernoldi added. "I am very happy to have overcome the conditions with only a few small mistakes, while others were spinning out."
Race 1
1. Enrique Bernoldi GD Racing 35mins 09.348secs 18 laps
2. Tiago Monteiro Carlin Motorsport +15.796s
3. Juan Cruz Alvarez Gabord Reyco +20.328s
4. Bruce Jouanny KTR +20.902s
5. Narain Karthikeyan RC Motorsport +33.897s
6. Ryo Fukuda Paul Belmondo Racing +53.084s
7. Heikki Kovalainen Pons Racing +1m 10.499s
8. Jean-Christophe Ravier Epsilon Euskadi +1m 19.970s
9. Olivier Pla RC Motorsport +1m 24.583s
10. Didier Andre KTR +1m 44.529s
11. Rodrigo Sperafico Vergani Racing +1m 51.494s
12. Tristan Gommendy Saulnier Racing +1m 52.197s
13. Felix Porteiro Porfesa Competicion +1 lap
14. Ralph Firman Gabord Reyco +1 lap
15. Adrian Valles Pons Racing +1 lap
Not classified:
DNF. Ander Vilarino Epsilon Euskadi 10 laps completed
DNF. Pablo Donoso GD Racing 5 laps completed
DNF. Roldan Rodriguez Porfesa Competicion 2 laps completed
DNF. Boris Derichebourg Paul Belmondo Racing 0 laps completed
Fastest lap: Enrique Bernoldi GD Racing 1m 52.821s Lap 2
Race 2
1. Enrique Bernoldi GD Racing 48mins 39.378secs 26 laps
2. Juan Cruz Alvarez Gabord Reyco +3.298s
3. Ryo Fukuda Paul Belmondo Racing +11.878s
4. Heikki Kovalainen Pons Racing +17.102s
5. Tristan Gommendy Saulnier Racing +17.705s
6. Tiago Monteiro Carlin Motorsport +31.678s
7. Bruce Jouanny KTR +42.025s
8. Didier Andre KTR +1m 03.145s
9. Ander Vilarino Epsilon Euskadi 1m 12.680s
10. Adrian Valles Pons Racing +1m 36.410s
11. Jean-Christophe Ravier Epsilon Euskadi +1m 37.157s
12. Felix Porteiro Porfesa Competicion +1 lap
13. Rodrigo Sperafico Vergani Racing +1 lap
Not classified:
DNF. Olivier Pla RC Motorsport 14 laps completed
DNF. Ralph Firman Gabord Reyco 8 laps completed
DNF. Narain Karthikeyan RC Motorsport 5 laps completed
DNF. Pablo Donoso GD Racing 2 laps completed
DNF. Roldan Rodriguez Porfesa Competicion 0 laps completed
DNS. Boris Derichebourg Paul Belmondo Racing Did not start
Fastest lap: Bruce Jouanny KTR 1m 48.600s

Photos from Spain by Autoracing1.com

3/28/04

Overheard at Sebring - Friday  The conditions were very windy once again, the temperature was MUCH warmer than Wednesday and Thursday. We went to Spring Training at Sebring last year, and to compare the two: everyone is much more relaxed, or not as anxious as last year. Perhaps everyone feels more secure about the upcoming season.   Jimmy Vasser was almost ecstatic in his appearance. (And you know how 'excitable' he can be (NOT). Last year he was in a foul mood and did not want his publicity picture taken because of lack of sponsors/uncertainty of the new team/a real rush job just to make it there. This year having secured one of the top rides, (And we would call it a top ride even though it's only a second year team that's expanding) he appears very confident and relaxed. Possibly being privy to information concerning the future of the series also enhanced his calm. His teammate, Roberto Gonzalez, was all smiles also, especially when getting out of the car. Perhaps finally being in a top notch single seater will put a smile on any driver's face......The Herdez team is very jazzed up about having Ryan Hunter-Reay.   They say they are contending for the championship this year. What we could not understand is that we always rated Mario Domínguez as a fast and capable driver given the right equipment. We are sure the team knows that as well, so for them to talk up Hunter-Reay, does that mean he is THAT much faster then Mario? Should be interesting to see how the driver/driver/team chemistry develops........Rocketsports are just as optimistic, if not more. Tag always looks so intense when he gets out of the car, looks like he gives 200% every time he drives it, and no exception here, but in-between the sessions he was very relaxed and joked with other drivers. We guess spending a season with "Rocketsports" showed him the capabilities of the team and he is not complaining about being where he is as he was at the same time last year because he felt the Player's team had dumped him. The team looks a lot more confident too, a year's worth of experience helps. Their new rookie driver, Nelson Philippe, is well thought of too, perhaps because he does not come across as some cocky young kid with money (even though his family has money) and his on track efforts are going very well, much better than many expected.........Newman/Haas team was all business as usual, we don't think they differentiate testing vs. racing.  Same high effort goes on all the time. Sebastien was delighted with his and the teams efforts. Having the team owner there (Paul Newman) and saying some encouraging words helps too.   Bruno thinks he can get the coveted number '1' this year, but then again, he always thinks that, but this year 'fer shoore'........No sign of Danica Patrick, even though Bobby said on live TV that she would be testing a Champ Car at Sebring.   OWRS officials would not comment on it. Maybe lack of Lolas in his garage has something to do with this (rumor has it Honda bought them for their museum - if true, won't they look good with a Ford engine sitting in a Honda museum?).  Unanimously people in the teams are convinced that Fernández and Rahal made a huge mistake. And they would say that 'cause they are where they are and we are sure the other two are saying the same thing about the teams that stayed in OWRS..... Overall the atmosphere was much more positive then last year or the Long Beach Season Premiere for sure. Perhaps because not all the teams were present. Next week the testing is at the Homestead infield track for five continuous days, with the Forsythe team also present.

3/28/04

Joel Camathias waiting  Joel Camathias waits: the Swiss driver Joel Camathias built many relationships after the early end of his "Champ Car" adventure last year, but after an attentive analysis he had taken the decision to postpone his return to competition.

"I have looked for an adequate arrangement after the past tormented season in the United States, explains Joel, but at the end I have preferred to take time, because I'm sure that the right opportunity will come up in the near future. It's not a secret that I would like to continue in a single-seater Championship [and just for that he has made a couple of laps in a Nissan World Series car] but I'm also open to other opportunities. In the past I made some mistakes on choosing the race programs and because of that I prefer to wait for a better opportunity: and I'm sure that it will come up".

So, is "Champ Car" a closed chapter?  "I really enjoy the time that I spend in the United States, and I will take immediately a plane to go back in the United States, if there will be an honest and professional opportunity . Of course I worked hard to be present this year in the "Champ Car World Series", but the negotiations have been so long because of the changing  organization and a loss of guarantees due to a privatization of a public company rated on the Wall Street Market. A situation that I had to add to the difficult job to look for a good arrangement, and I mean on the financial level. So, at the moment there is no chance to be present in the Series".

Did you take other contacts, besides "Champ Car"?  "Of course, I had important possibilities, either in single-seater or GT cars, but the negotiations have started too late and there was not the guarantees required to do a good job. So, after the mistakes that I did in the past two seasons, I have decided, like I already said, to wait for better opportunities.  In this way I have already start negotiations to participate in single events [Indy 500 or the 24 hours of Le Mans] but absolutely fascinating".

What are your programs at the moment?  "I`m still focused on my daily workout and I keep my serenity.  Moreover I'm working with an excellent personal trainer.  In a short time I would like to begin studies of sport-management, a sector that always interested me."

3/27/04
Formula Renault

American Scott Speed on pole at Monza  The hopes of thousands of American race fans looking for a Formula One driver to truly call their own lie in the capable, fearless, and talented hands of the Red Bull Driver Search winning drivers who are competing this weekend in the opening two rounds of the Formula Renault Eurocup series, a recognized breeding ground (and shark tank) from which talent emerge on their way to Formula One Success.

This weekend, Scott Speed, Colin Fleming, and Dominique Claessens will be racing in far-away Italy, at the famed Monza facility, as they each begin to stake their claim that they are the American Formula One driver of the future. Each have shown that they have the determination to make it, and have sacrificed the comforts of home in exchange for the opportunity to shine. The tracks are new, the languages are unfamiliar, and the teammates are yet strangers, but these small things will not deter these three Americans who are racing for both their own future, and for the pride of their country, to be the first American in Formula One for more than a decade.

Red Bull Driver Search winner Scott Speed, of Manteca, California, got off to a fast start to the 2004 Formula Renault Eurocup season, scoring the pole position in both rounds of qualifying for the two season-opening races at the famed Monza track in Italy this weekend.

Speed, who was a 2002 Red Bull Driver Search winner, and posted a strong campaign in British Formula 3 last season, was ecstatic with his weekend thus far, which saw him also lead the open testing in advance of the event. Speed has high hopes for the two races, but wouldn’t take all the credit for his pace.

“It was a fantastic day for me, I am so excited to be in this position!” enthused Speed. “I am working with one of the best teams in the series, with the best engineer in the paddock, and that is making a tremendous difference for me here.”

The pole marks the best qualifying effort to date for any of the Red Bull Driver Search winners who are now part of the Red Bull Junior Team, and Speed is ready to convert his pole positions into wins this weekend on a track that he is awed by.

“We have been fast right from the get-go, and I really think that if the weather stays the same, we should be able to get two wins here this weekend,” said Speed. “This is such an amazing track, with all the history behind it, that it's really exciting to be running well here.”

Speed’s qualifying performance was emphatic, as he powered his Red Bull Motopark Academy team car to pole position in the first session by more than .7 seconds, and backed that effort up in the second session with a lap that was .4 seconds clear of the field, leaving no doubt about his speed.

3/27/04
ETCC

Zanardi qualifies 8th  Alex Zanardi placed eighth in Saturday's qualifying for the FIA European Touring Car Championship opener as he began his first racing season since losing both legs in a crash in Germany three years ago. Zanardi, driving a specially modified BMW car, trailed defending European champion Gabriele Tarquini by 1.8 seconds at the Monza circuit to earn a fourth-row start in Sunday's two-race competition. Although unhappy with his qualifying place, the two-time Formula CART champion said he hoped to do better on Sunday. "I have been slower than expected today," Zanardi said. "However the car can be improved."

3/27/04
Nissan World Series

Bernoldi takes pole at Jarama  GD Racing's Enrique Bernoldi continued his excellent form in the World Series by Nissan and swept the board to claim both pole positions for the season-opening races at Jarama this weekend.  "It's a good start to the season and I am very happy with my performance," he said. "I knew I had to be out at the end of the first session to make the best of my tires, but I had traffic on my last lap. Fortunately my previous lap was good enough for pole."   Second on the grid in session one went to series debutant Tiago Monteiro, who delighted his Carlin Motorsport team with his performance. The former Champ Car ace was just 0.016s down on Bernoldi.  Monteiro said: "The team did a great job with the set-up of the car, maybe it's because they are used to the rain coming from England! It was oversteering a lot, but that's the kind of car I like."   Photos from Spain by Autoracing1.com

3/27/04

Ecclestone served with papers  According to reports in British newspaper, The Times today, the three investment banks that own 75 per cent of SLEC, the company that own the commercial rights to F1 - namely Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers - are demanding to know details of the directors who control SLEC. The paper also reports, that they are 'questioning their legitimacy' and 'want him to reveal to them who controls Formula One Holdings, the firm that manages the day-to-day operations of the sport'. 'It is believed that they themselves want more control over this 'firm'. The lawsuit is said to have been filed by Speed Investments.

3/27/04

Champ Car's future finally looking up  After taking a couple of severe punches from the rival Indy Racing League over the past two weeks, the Champ Car World Series has bounced back off the mat and begun to rally. Undoubtedly, Tony George (czar of the IRL) and Co. figured the IRL had pretty well delivered a knockout blow when Champ Car stalwarts Adrian Fernandez and Bobby Rahal packed up their teams and defected to the presently all-oval series. Last weekend at the Copper World 200 in Phoenix, an even deeper wound was opened when Pat Patrick, who was one of the founders of CART when it began operations in 1979, announced he would be running a one-car IndyCar Series effort with Al Unser Jr. piloting the Dallara with Chevrolet power. Patrick is scheduled to begin operations with the Indianapolis 500 in May and continue through the rest of the season.    More.....

3/27/04

Unser opens up on alcoholism  Al Unser Jr. returned to the site of one the most enjoyable moments in his racing career to speak about one of the lowest points of his life. "My name's Al, and I'm an alcoholic," Unser told a gathering of 400 people at the Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway on Thursday night. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner was the featured speaker at the Tarrant Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse "Stars In Recovery" dinner, and he spoke candidly about his battle with alcohol.  More....

3/27/04

Toyota happy with test  Toyota conducted a four-day test this week at Paul Ricard in France. Ricardo Zonta drove the TF104 for all four days while Ryan Briscoe drove the TF103B for the first three. "I think it has been a good test this week," said Zonta who completed a total of 372 laps of the 4.1km circuit this week. "We have again managed to get a lot of laps under our belt and completed over 1500 kilometres in just four days. We have worked intensively on testing Michelin tire casings and compounds in preparation for Imola, and today we focused on various set-ups, playing with the suspension. Unfortunately we had some gearbox control problems today, which limited us to 55 laps. Although I have run the TF104 in two race weekends this season, this week was my first actual test session with the new car and things have run very smoothly. Now, I am looking forward to going to Bahrain for what promises to be an exciting grand prix in the Middle East next week. The track looks very technical and I can't wait to drive it in Friday's free practice sessions."

Ryan Briscoe completed 145 laps this week. "We were running a special program on the first two days this week to acquire some data from new sensors we were running in the car," he explained. "The test was not at all performance-related, which is quite clear from the limited number of laps I ran on Tuesday and Wednesday. On my final day on Thursday, I did a more standard test, working on some launches and brake material comparison and completing a very respectable number of laps."

3/27/04

No sponsor for #99 at Bristol  Roush Racing has done a masterful job putting together single race sponsorships for Jeff Burton’s Ford Taurus since the season started, some five events ago. Unfortunately, that run came to a stop here at Bristol Motor Speedway and Burton’s car is painted basic black this weekend. “It’s the get out of my way black Ford Taurus,” Burton said of this week’s austere motif with a #99 plastered on the roof and doors. Asked if driving a car without a sponsor affects him in any way Burton said, “From a competitive standpoint? No. The sponsorship situation is what it is and it’s no different today than it was in January. “There’s some things going on but they’re not done,” Burton added. “It may make people feel better having a name on the side of the car but the fact of the matter is the sponsorship situation is what it is. There was no company that was ready to do business so there’s no sponsor on the car.” Finding a positive in the situation Burton pointed out, “We’ll bring a lot of attention to it this week because we don’t have a sponsor on the car; that may be okay. At the end of the day when people see it’s un-sponsored maybe they’ll see it as an opportunity. Certainly people will take notice of it.” Ford Racing

3/27/04

Update on new Ford engine heads  Even though the NASCAR Ford Racing teams were granted a new cylinder head at the end of the 2003 season, the piece has not yet made an appearance in a Cup event. Reliability testing is the final hurdle as the engine builders work to ensure that the new piece is as robust as the old one. The old head, with its roots dating back to the very early 1990's, is certainly a proven piece that shows few failures in the casting. It is this reliability that Doug Yates and the Ford engine group are trying to translate into the new part. Slowing the process, however, is the fact that the teams need to race every week, and that alone creates a considerable amount of work with which the engine builders keep up. "Yes we have been working on the new heads. That's what we see as our future," Doug Yates told Team Ford Racing. "To this point we've worked extremely hard on our restrictor plate engines and did well and we've worked extremely hard at getting enough engines in the system to get to the race track with this current engine. That set us back a little bit on the production of our new engine. We know what we need and it's coming soon. The problem right now is that we've got a pretty good package with that engine, we've just got to get the new package tested and race track proven before we jump out there and have problems. The number one goal is to not have any failures." With event points as difficult as they are to come by Yates' approach of maintaining reliability is vital. TFR asked Yates about the option of transient dyno cells, which can torture an engine using real data gathered from a test session to manipulate the throttle and load as it would if a driver was manipulating the pedal in the car. "We don't have a transient dyno," Yates said of his engine shop facilities. "Some of the teams do and that's probably a real advantage. Ford Motor Company actually has one that's at our disposal." Yates then suggested that some ancillary issues could arise out of the use of a transient dyno, issues that could lead a builder on a wild chase. Giving an estimate as to when the new cylinder head might make its first appearance, Yates speculated, "I think Fontana is a pretty good date for when we need to have something on the race track. That's four or five weeks out right now.  Ford Racing

3/27/04

NASCAR and IRL TV ratings continue to drop  UPDATE The final ratings are out for last weekend.  The NASCAR race at Darlington garnered a final rating of 5.6/14 share (6,092,000 households) on Fox, down 5% from a final 5.9/15 rating in 2003.  The final IRL rating from Phoenix on ABC dropped from an overnight of 1.2 to a final of 0.9/2 share (956,000 households).  The only good news for the IRL is that it's final rating was the same as in 2003 so for this one race at least, they didn't continue their downward spiral.  However, a low 0.9 on network TV must have the folks in Indianapolis extremely frustrated after spending so much money trying to promote the series (Honda and Toyota as well). Interestingly, 13 of the top 15 basic cable TV shows for this past week were held by Viacom owned stations - Spike TV, MTV, and Nickelodeon with Spike TV finishing 1st and 3rd.  If OWRS can get Viacom to cross-promote Champ Car on CBS and these cable stations, the Champ Car series may surprise a lot of people in 2004.  Cross-promotion will be the key, something the Champ Car series never had before.  Mark C.  3/23/04 - NASCAR's TV ratings have dropped for the 3rd straight race.  Fox's broadcast of Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway drew a 5.2 rating and an 11 share in overnight Nielsen Media Research numbers. The numbers represent a 5.5 percent decline from last year's overnight figures of 5.5./13 for the race, which drew final figures of 5.9/15. NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter.   This on the heels of a 10.9% drop at Atlanta, and a 16% drop at Vegas.  Meanwhile, the IRL race at Phoenix pulled in an overnight rating of 1.2/2share on ABC.  Last year's overnight on ABC for Phoenix was a 1.5/3share, representing a drop of  20% this year.  Last year the ratings dropped 25% from 2002, so the trend is ominous indeed.  The final rating last year for the Phoenix race ended up at 0.9 so it remains to be seen where this year's final number ends up.  It won't stay at 1.2 that's for certain.  Clearly, despite all the money being pumped into the IRL by Tony George, Toyota and Honda, and all of CART's big names, teams and sponsors being lured to the IRL, it's all for naught as Tony killed the sport of Indy Car racing the day he divided the sport by creating the IRL.  Just because you are rich and have a lot of money to throw at something, doesn't mean what you are doing is right.  Clearly he was misguided by those who supported and encouraged him on the IRL concept and now NASCAR has become so successful, there's no hope for the IRL, they are just too far behind.  Champ Car on the other hand, is perfectly positioned as an international series, a step below F1.  Champ Car has a bright future once it gets through 2004, but clearly it must distance itself as far as possible from the IRL concept of racing, and move closer to F1's concept because that is what interests the majority of the world.   Mark C.

3/27/04

Kalkhoven: 18 cars and counting  In discussions on Friday, OWRS principal Kevin Kalkhoven told AutoRacing1.com, "we now have our 18 cars, and there could be more as there are still several other deals that can pan out."  You will hear announcements in the coming days that will bump the current confirmed 15 cars/drivers up to 18, and as we understand it, as many as 20 cars is a possibility by Long Beach.  We know of one deal that may not be ready until the 2nd race in Monterrey, Mexico, but it's not one of the first 18 that Kalkhoven alluded to.  Any more questions raised by pro-oval track cartel journalists (puppets) about whether Champ Car will see the light of day on the 2004 season can now be put to rest. Tony George didn't have the right currency (his words) when he lost his recent court battle to try and put Champ Car out of business for good, and he didn't have the right currency when he convinced Team Rahal and Fernández Racing to make their 11th hour switch to the IRL, we assume as a last minute desperate attempt to submarine the series.  What he doesn't realize is that he's now up against individuals with more financial resources than the Hulman George family have and they are prepared to fight back. As we have stated on numerous occasions, Tony could have spent a fraction of what he spent propping up the IRL all these years and fielded all-American teams in CART when it was at its peak in 1995.  If he had done that, the sport of Indy Car Racing would be challenging NASCAR as the #1 form of motorsports in the USA.  Instead he has wasted much of his family resources and now owns a sport (the IRL) that is still to this day far behind Champ Car in popularity.  As much as we lament about the destruction he has done to the sport, we have to also feel sorry for the guy, for he has wasted so much of his family's money and we feel he was misguided by many of the people around him and others in the oval track cartel. Champ Car will be around for a very long time now, and the IRL will struggle forever.  Mark C.

3/27/04

North American Formula Renault 2000 Announces $315,000 Prize Package  North American Formula Renault officials continue to prepare for the 2004 season, and announced today the prize fund program for the inaugural North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship season, revealing a comprehensive package with a total value of $315,000. The prize structure provides both cash awards as well as vital opportunities for drivers to experience the next step up in the Formula Renault ladder, in the form of precious seat time in the exciting new Formula Renault V6.

One of the biggest challenges teams and drivers face when it comes time to move up the ladder is financing the move, and to address this issue, the 2004 North American Formula Renault 2000 champion will have two great choices for their award. The champion will be able to select either the hefty $100,000 cash bonus, or will have the option of securing the use of a Formula Renault V6 for the following season, providing the driver with a very useful tool when selecting or negotiating their ride as they make the step up the ladder.

North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship rookies will have their own rewards to fight for as well, and the winner won’t have to make a selection, as they will score both a $10,000 cash bonus and will net a full test day in the Formula Renault V6 for their hard-fought first season efforts.

In addition to these awards, there will be three “Hard Luck” awards at the conclusion of the season, each worth $5,000. The “Hard Luck” awards will go to deserving drivers who might not have found the same success as the champion or rookie of the year, but were nonetheless undeterred in their efforts.

In addition to the season ending awards, a prize package for the race meetings has its own significant value, with nearly $170,000 up for grabs during the season. Cash awards will go to each of the podium finishers, with fourth place netting a set of race tires, complements of Michelin. Both the race winner and the fastest qualifier will also each score five test laps in the Formula Renault V6, and two drivers will each be awarded a set of Michelins from a random draw at each race meeting.

3/27/04
Industry News

Elkhart Lake Fights to Save Original Street Circuit  Shareholders attending Road America's 49th annual meeting March 25th, voted unanimously to support activities directed at preserving and protecting the original configuration of the roads used as race circuits around the Village of Elkhart Lake in the early '50s. According to Sheboygan County highway plans, a segment of the original circuit is slated for road construction that would widen, flatten and realign the roads, destroying the character of the original course. More...

3/26/04

Tagliani and Hunter-Reay beat Bourdais at Sebring  2nd UPDATE Hold the presses.  Benefiting from a late run in cooler temperatures, Alex Tagliani burned the Sebring track in the No. 8 Johnson Controls Lola with a blistering 50.2 second lap, the quickest of the week. “It’s been great to get back into the Lola and spend some quality time experimenting with the new technology and equipment that has been made available to us. As a team, we accomplished our goals and saw the potential of the car here in Sebring,” said Tagliani.  3/26/04 - We have updated the table below to include Friday PM times.  Ryan Hunter-Reay made it be known to one and all that he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2004 by taking top honors for speed with today's 50.5 sec lap (at 3:00 PM in the heat of the day), just nipping the previous top lap time by Bourdais of 50.55 sec. set on Thursday.  3/26/04 - It was hot this morning in Sebring with track  temperatures pushing 100-degrees, and hence slower than the 65-degree track temperature seen in previous days.  Both Herdez drivers topped the charts, just slightly faster than Bruno Junqueira.  Topping the times was Ryan Hunter-Reay pictured right lifting a wheel.  Photos courtesy Champ Car.
Driver Team Friday AM Friday PM
1. Alex Tagliani Rocketsports 51.26 50.2
2. Ryan Hunter-Reay Herdez 50.91 50.5 sec
3. Bruno Junqueira Newman/Haas 50.98 50.7
4. Jimmy Vasser PKV Racing Unknown 50.77
5. Mario Dominguez Herdez 50.93 50.9
6. Nelson Philippe Rocketsports Unknown 51.1
7. Roberto Gonzalez PKV racing Unknown 51.4
8. Michel Jourdain Jr. RuSPORT Unknown 51.7

3/26/04

Rocketsports Sebring report - Tagliani smokin' fast  Rocketsports drivers, Alex Tagliani and Nelson Philippe, today completed three days of testing in Sebring, Florida. The duo were unanimous in their praise of the entire Rocketsports crew, and came away from the first running as a two-car team satisfied that they had met their goals for the tests.

Tagliani burned the Sebring track in the No. 8 Johnson Controls Lola with a blistering 50.2 second lap, the quickest of the day. “It’s been great to get back into the Lola and spend some quality time experimenting with the new technology and equipment that has been made available to us. As a team, we accomplished our goals and saw the potential of the car here in Sebring,” said Tagliani.

“These three days have been an incredible learning experience for me and the team to work with new parts and new strategies. We tested different shocks, suspension and differentials. My engineer, Brian Ma, has been developing new concepts and we used this time to test them and get up to speed,” concluded Tagliani.

Rookie sensation, Nelson Philippe in the No. 17 LeasePlan Lola earned great respect from his team for battling through telemetry difficulties earlier in the week and posting his best time of 51.1 seconds today.

“I felt very comfortable in the car and with the guidance of my engineer, Alain Clarinval,” said Philippe. “We pushed through those early problems and made adjustments to get the right responses from the car, but it all came together. I’m eager to get to Homestead and continue our test program next week.”

“Nelson’s a fast learner and he’s posted competitive times all week,” said team manager, Phil Howard. “We experimented with different parts and set-up, and he’s taken it all in.

“Tagliani was smokin’ (fast) on the track today and the whole team is coming together nicely. Running two cars is working very well and the tests have been a real success,” added Howard.

Watch for upcoming reports of Rocketsports tests in Homestead, Florida on Monday and Tuesday March 29 and 30, 2004.

3/26/04

John Andretti seeks Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 rides  John Andretti was the first driver to complete the Memorial Day "Double" of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600.  Now he wants to complete another rare racing double - running the 88th Indianapolis 500 on May 30 and 11th Brickyard 400 on Aug. 8. "I've taken the first step," said Andretti, who has driven in two of the five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races this season, including finishing 13th in the Daytona 500. "Every year I've had an opportunity to come back. Now I can do it. I want to see where everything sets. I want to do it right. "(The Indy 500) has never fallen off my radar screen, and it never will. It's the Indy 500. Good, bad or indifferent, I can't wait for it to come around. It's been a part of my life." Only three drivers have competed in the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 during the same year: John Andretti (1994), Robby Gordon (1997, 2001, 2002, 2003) and Tony Stewart (1999, 2001).

3/26/04

Jourdain helps Allmendinger at Sebring  RūSPORT concluded three days of testing today as part of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford open test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, FL. The team logged over 500 miles with rookie driver A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel of the RūSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola for most of the sessions.

“I ran a lot on Wednesday and it was a really good experience to get out there with other teams and other cars on the track,” said Allmendinger. “With each lap and each session we made progress forward. We were a little off the pace, but we’re moving in the right direction. I definitely feel we have put together a good start for heading into Long Beach.”

Allmendinger took the day off on Friday to seek medical attention for a sore elbow resulting from bursitis he developed during his fitness training. Champ Car veteran Michel Jourdain Jr., who was already in Sebring observing, was available to step in for A.J. and help the RūSPORT crew continue to gather valuable track time and data.

“These three days were tremendously important for us,” said Steve Wulff, Operations Director for RūSPORT. “We were able to get a good gauge on where we are and where we need to be to be competitive at Long Beach. Every piece of information we gathered is useful and every exercise here had purpose for us. It was also very beneficial to us that Michel was here and able to step in on such short notice so that we could continue to make headway on our program.”

3/26/04

Junqueira completes 2nd day of testing  PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira ran 280 miles today at the 1.65-mile road course at Sebring International Raceway and was pleased with the progress made to the race setup on his Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone race car. More than eight cars were on track today as drivers were testing in preparation 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.

Under sunny and warm conditions Junqueira's best lap time for the day was a 50.7 although he felt the car was capable of a quicker time.  Including the 180 miles he ran on Wednesday, Junqueira's total for the two days of testing was 460 miles.

"We concentrated on long runs and were happy with the car at the end of the test," said Junqueira.  "Unfortunately when we put on a new set of tires around 2:30 p.m., there was too much traffic or I think we could have gotten closer to a 50.3 or 50.4.  We wanted to save our tires so we just made long runs. When I was leaving the track all of the guys were putting on new tires and going out so I'll be interested to see what the times were at the end of the day."

The team hopes to test one more time prior to the season-opening race on April 18 in Long Beach, Calif.

3/26/04

Vasser (or was it Hunter-Reay?) leads final day at Sebring?  The big red ‘V’ added to the side of the of the former PK Racing hauler signifies Jimmy Vasser’s (#12 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) new commitment as a team owner in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, but Vasser showed Friday that he is not yet ready to give up the driving part of the equation, putting up the fastest time in the final day of Champ Car testing at Sebring International Raceway.

Vasser carded the second-best time of the entire week according to Cosworth Racing with a time of 50.77 seconds, and led a final day that saw five cars break into the 50-second range. The 1996 Champ Car season champion joined new teammate Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the last of three days of testing on the Sebring track as part of a five-team test session.

“We’re fortunate to have a veteran driver like Jimmy that has a lot of miles under his belt as well as a young guy that is so willing to learn,” said PKVRacing crew chief Tim Broyles. “Those two can play off of each other and share insights that will make both of them faster.”

A.J. Allmendinger was sidelined for the second consecutive day with bursitis in his elbow, but the RuSPORT squad was able to continue its testing program, as Michel Jourdain Jr. assumed driving duties for the first-year Champ Car team. A two-time race winner from a year ago, Jourdain stepped into the cockpit and ran a full day of testing in relief of the ailing 2003 Toyota Atlantic champion.

“Having Michel here was great. It’s a great opportunity to put someone in the car and keep the program running on a day when we could have lost time,” said RuSPORT Director of Operations Steve Wulff. “We needed a chance to get out on track with some other competitors and see where we stand and these three days were a good chance to do that.”

Both Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) posted their best times of the three-day session on a breezy Friday, each of them dipping into the 50-second bracket for the first time. Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the lone Newman/Haas Racing tester on Friday and was also in the 50-second bracket.

“It went very well for us this week,” Junqueira said. “We worked a lot on our race setup today and I think that we are in good shape for the season opener at Long Beach.”

The Rocketsports Racing duo of Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Nelson Philippe (#17 Lease Plan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had their best days of the week as well, with the rookie Philippe running a best time of 51.1 seconds. Tagliani was the last driver on track on Friday, running his final laps as the sun dipped into the Florida orange groves.

A number of Champ Car teams will head for Homestead-Miami Speedway next week to test on the infield road course there, while others will make their way to California Speedway for testing on the infield road course at Fontana. All will be testing in preparation for the rapidly-approaching season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 16-18.  Champ Car PR

3/26/04

Mi-Jack Conquest Racing makes Sperafico official  AutoRacing1.com reported it this morning.  Here is the press release - On the heels of Thursday’s announcement that Justin Wilson has been signed by Mi-Jack Conquest Racing to drive in the 2004 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series, the team announced today Brazilian rookie Alex Sperafico will pilot the team’s second entry for the season. Sperafico made two Champ Car starts in 2003 with Dale Coyne Racing, earning a best result of 14th at Miami. He will drive a Ford-Cosworth-powered Reynard machine in his first full season of Champ Car World Series competition in 2004. “Alex is a talented driver and has a good personality, and we will work with him throughout the year to develop his skills in Champ Car,” said team co-owner Eric Bachelart. “He will be driving a Reynard chassis, which was very good at some tracks last year, including Laguna Seca--where we finished fifth with Mario Haberfeld--and at Mexico City--where Tiago Monteiro qualified on the front row. Of course, the Reynard also won at Surfers Paradise last year. We’ve learned a lot about the car and continued developing it throughout the off-season. I think he will work very well with Justin, and I expect both drivers to be in contention for Rookie of the Year.

Prior to entering Champ Cars, Sperafico earned five top-five finishes in the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series, and earned his first Barber Dodge victory in the 2001 series opener at Sebring. He participated in nine FIA International Formula 3000 Championship events for European Minardi, competing against current Champ Car competitor Sebastien Bourdais. He began his racing career in 1998 with three wins and three pole positions en route to third place in the B Class of the South American F3 Championship final standings. “When I moved to the U.S. to run Barber Dodge in 1999, I was already looking to race in Champ Car. That was my dream,” Sperafico said. “I tested with Eric Bachelart in an Indy Lights car in 2000 and we have always wanted to work together and now we are doing it. They had great success with the Reynard last year and I think I will have some good opportunities with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing.” The Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team ran Reynards last season for Mario Haberfeld and Tiago Monteiro – Monteiro’s effort coming as part of a partnership with Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing – and combined for 16 top-10 finishes and three top-fives. The team will campaign two different chassis to start the year, running a Lola for Wilson and the Reynard for Sperafico. The team will begin testing soon in advance of the April 16-18 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which opens the Champ Car World Series season.  Champ Car

3/26/04

Cars #42 & #14 impounded by NASCAR  2nd UPDATE Car #14 (Foyt) has been withdrawn from this weekend's race.  Larry Foyt's #14 Dodge car failed to pass inspection a first time and his crew worked on the problem areas before returning to the inspection line. When the Dodge failed the final time, the car was seized by officials. The Foyt team had only a speedway car on hand as a backup, so they decided not to make a qualifying attempt for Sunday's Food City 500.  3/26/04 - We hear car #14 (Foyt) was also impounded.  3/26/04 - NASCAR on Friday morning confiscated the #42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge driven by Jamie McMurray, when it failed to meet the X-measurement of the rear window. The violation is similar to those made by the teams of Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch last season, which resulted in NASCAR confiscating both cars. NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said NASCAR will tow the #42 back to its research and development center in Concord, NC, for evaluation. And additional penalties will be forthcoming after the race weekend, Zizzo said. Following the inspection process, the car was placed alongside the NASCAR hauler and the team brought out a backup car. The backup car has never been run. "You definitely don't bring your best aero car to Bristol, but the first time NASCAR checked the X-measurement - the same measurement they got Tony Stewart for and Kyle Busch - it showed to be too much," said team manager Andy Graves. "Right now we're trying to figure out what happened, if it was a mistake on our part or if a mistake made in measuring the first time. We're going to have them measure it again." Graves said the #41 and #40 Dodges, driven by Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Casey Mears and Sterling Marlin, respectively, both measured correctly. The X-measurement is taken diagonally from each top corner of the rear window to the bottom corner of the opposite side. "It shows three-quarters (of an inch) more than any car we've ever had, so we're kind of baffled by it," Graves said. ThatsRacin.com

3/26/04

SCCA Champion to focus on Trans-Am  2002 SCCA GT-1 National Champion Tim Cowen is planning to compete in at least five of the 10 confirmed Motorock Trans-Am Series events this year in his No. 75 Cowen Truck Lines Ford Mustang. The longtime GT-1 racer plans to forgo any SCCA GT-1 Club Racing competition this season to concentrate on his Trans-Am effort.

“We’re planning only to compete at the professional level in Trans-Am this year,” said Cowen. “We are really looking at picking up our Trans-Am program. We won the SCCA National Championship, and now we’re ready to take it to the next level.”

Cowen was pleased with the recently announced GT-1 Development program. The Program, which was officially announced earlier this month, is designed to better facilitate GT-1 involvement and development in the Series.

“This is nice for the GT-1 teams,” said Cowen, who competed in three Trans-Am races last season. “Plus, the rules are pretty conducive to jumping back and forth between GT-1 and Trans-Am competition.

“GT-1 needs Trans-Am,” added Cowen, who has competed part-time in Trans-Am competition since 2000. “A GT-1 competitor’s goal is to be a Trans-Am racer, and competing in Trans-Am gives them experience. It also helps Trans-Am build its field for the future. If a GT-1 competitor enjoys some success in Trans-Am competition, and wins the GT-1 Championship, that competitor has the incentive to compete in Trans-Am full time.”  Trans-Am

3/26/04

All in the Family for Jeff Gordon  Jeff Gordon, president and owner of Jeff Gordon, Inc., announced changes in the senior management of his company today. John Bickford, Sr., Gordon's stepfather, has been named Vice President and General Manager of JG, Inc., and Gordon's other business-related interests. "I'm very excited about working with John in this capacity again," said Gordon. "He helped shape my racing career and was pivotal in the decision making process as I progressed through different racing series up to NASCAR. I'm confident in his ability to move JG, Inc., forward."

Bickford, an Action Performance Company executive since 1997, is excited to be working with his stepson again. "Jeff is a proven winner on and off the track," Bickford said. "My goal is to strengthen his current business relationships while branching out to create new and better opportunities. I've always wanted the best for Jeff Gordon as a person. That won't change as I take on this new role of overseeing his business interests."

Jeff Gordon, Inc., also announced that Robert B. Brannan, Vice President and General Manager of the company since May of 1995, has resigned from JG, Inc. "Bob has been instrumental in the growth of this company, and I have the utmost respect for him as a person and a businessman," Gordon said. "With the addition of my stepfather into a senior manager role, Bob's services were no longer required."

"I've enjoyed the opportunity to work with Jeff Gordon and my associates at JG, Inc., over the years," Brannan said. "I know that John Bickford will bring a new level of enthusiasm to the organization to move it to a higher level. I'm looking forward to pursuing other business opportunities and spending some time with my family."

3/26/04

13 ALMS teams invited to LeMans  Thirteen sports car racing teams from the American Le Mans Series have been invited to compete in the 72nd running of the world's most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that will be held June 12-13 at the Circuit de La Sarthe in France.   Among the invited teams are ADT Champion Racing, which scored a class win at Le Mans last year with its Audi R8 Prototype and finished third overall in the event, and Corvette Racing, which won the GTS class at Le Mans in 2001 and 2002 with its Chevrolet Corvette C5-R. Also invited was the New Century Mortgage/Racer's Group team, GT class winner at Le Mans in 2002, which will run a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.  More.....

3/26/04

Paul Newman visits Sebring to see Bourdais sizzle  McDonald's® Champ Car driver Sebastien Bourdais (Photo to right leading Hunter-Reay) completed his first two-day test of the season at the 1.65-mile road course at Sebring International Raceway late yesterday and emerged at the top of the unofficial time charts with a lap time of 50.55. A total of seven Champ Car drivers were testing in 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. Under cloudy conditions Bourdais was able to complete 216 miles of testing in addition to the 219 from Wednesday. He was pleased with the results but was cautious in his optimism.

"The test was very good," said Bourdais who will remain in Sebring to watch Junqueira test today. "We were able to complete a lot of miles and found interesting and promising things with our setup that will hopefully apply to all of the tracks we race on. The track was really grippy because of the sports car race last weekend, which is not like most street courses. The test has been good but I want to double check our findings at another test."

Many Champ Car teams were in Sebring for the test but Bourdais was most pleased by the appearance of one spectator. "I was very surprised to see Paul (Newman) at the test (Photo to right). I found out around lunchtime that he was coming and it was great to see him. He was in Atlanta testing a Corvette and decided to fly a little farther South to join us. We were also able to go to dinner and catch up before he went back to Atlanta which was nice."

3/26/04

Dixon sensational in F1 shakedown  UPDATE Scott Dixon improved significantly in the afternoon session with a lap of 1:11.753 sec. an excellent time when you consider the fastest Williams driver on the day was Ralf Schumacher at 1:11.3.  The fact that Dixon was within 0.4 sec had to make the Williams team stand up and take notice.  The BMW WilliamsF1 Team concluded a three day test at Le Castellet today having covered just over 3,500 kilometers. Ralf Schumacher and the team’s official test drivers, Marc Gené and Antonio Pizzonia, were all on hand to perform testing duties. On Friday reigning IRL Champion, Scott Dixon, joined Ralf for the final day of the test. As part of the team’s ongoing commitment to developing the WilliamsF1 BMW FW26 and reducing the gap to main rivals, Ferrari, the drivers concentrated on preparation work for the forthcoming Bahrain Grand Prix and the start of the European rounds. Tim Newton (Test Team Manager, WilliamsF1): With four drivers sharing the test program this week, we’ve managed to record a significant amount of mileage, data from which we will be able to use in preparation for the next few races. Aside from shaking down the new FW26 chassis, we’ve completed some useful tire testing with Michelin. Scott Dixon ran for the first time today, and spent the session acclimatizing himself with a Formula One car and preparing for his next run in Barcelona. Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director): Besides tire testing, we also undertook practice starts and tested traction control. Although the weather wasn't perfect, we have made good improvements at Ricard for the forthcoming Bahrain race. Parallel to our track activity, we have been analyzing Ralf's Malaysia engine and identified the defective component. Scott Dixon: Although it’s a steep learning curve, I’ve had a really enjoyable day and, in general, I’m please with how it went. Unfortunately, I had a problem with the gearbox this morning so my time in the car was limited. When the team fixed the problem I was happy with how it went at the end. I would have liked to have had a few more runs in the car as I think I could have gone quicker but I’m now looking forward to the next test in Barcelona.  3/26/04 - Scott Dixon got his first F1 test today at Paul Ricard in a Williams BMW.  His lap times (in 30 laps today) were nothing to write home about, some 3 seconds per lap slower than the Williams test drivers, but closer to 4 seconds off the top runners.  Rusty from driving circles for two years, Dixon used the day to become acclimated with a F1 car, and reacclimated with turning left and right, shifting and braking.  He will get more seat time and a proper test with Williams in a week or so in Barcelona.  Dixon test photos

3/26/04

Meira signs for Rahal Team Rahal announced today that young driver Vitor Meira will drive the Ohio-based team's third car for the Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi on April 15-17 in round number three on the 2004 IRL IndyCar® Series.

Meira, who turns 27 Saturday, will join drivers Buddy Rice and Roger Yasukawa in the first three-car entry for Team Rahal in the IndyCar Series. Meira will drive the No. 17 Honda-powered G-Force car with Rice in the No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Honda G-Force and Yasukawa in the No. 16 Sammy Honda G-Force.

Meira, a Brasilia, Brazil native, comes to Team Rahal with IRL experience in 14 races in 2002 and 2003 driving for Team Menard. Meira won the pole position in the second 2002 Texas Motor Speedway event (September 13, 2002 at 221.594 m.p.h.) and finished a career high third in the Sept. 15, 2002 race at Texas in his fourth IRL start. Meira, a former open-wheel champion in South America and Formula 3000 veteran, has recorded four Top Ten finishes in his 14 IRL starts.

"We are pleased to bring Vitor into our Team Rahal driver lineup," said Bobby Rahal, Team Rahal co-owner with partner David Letterman. "Vitor is a talented young driver who was impressive in his performances previously in the IndyCar Series. I believe he will work well with Buddy and Roger at Motegi as we look to collect our first victory in the league."

"I'm very excited to drive for Team Rahal," said Meira, who'll make his first start at the 1.5-mile oval north of Tokyo next month. "This team has been one of the best in open-wheel racing for many years and I'm looking forward to working with the organization. Driving with Honda power is a big plus for me too. I'm eager to get to Motegi."

Team Rahal will announce plans for the Indy 500 and other upcoming IRL events in the future.

3/26/04

IRL yellows  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I see that Dario Franchitti's team is taking the blame for his recent crash because they didn't tell him there was a yellow. I thought the cars had a yellow light warning on the steering wheel in the IRL. Isn't that what caused Helio to "slow" and let PT get by him to win the Indy 500, only to have Tony George and his kangaroo court steal the win from Paul? Terence Fischer, Northfield, New Jersey  Dear Terence, The irony of it all.  We remember days when there were no spotters and it was up to the driver to avoid an accident.  It's called looking ahead (up the track) and not driving by the nose of your car.  In Dario's defense, things happen quickly on an oval, the most dangerous form of motorsports in the world.  Mark C.

3/26/04
Formula BMW

Team PTG announces 4-car Formula BMW assault  Tom Milner, owner of Prototype Technology Group, announced today a four-car program for the inaugural 2004 Formula BMW USA Championship. Based in Winchester, Va. the team boasts two of the six 2004 Formula BMW USA scholarship winners, Milner's 18-year old son, Tom Milner, of Leesburg, Va. and Billy Johnson, 17, of San Clemente, Calif. Tom Sutherland, 15, of Los Gatos, Calif. will drive a third BMW FB2. Team PTG is in the process of finalizing a fourth driver.  More.....

3/26/04

What about Alex Sperafico?  We have received some questions about Alex Sperafico, who we say will be announced as the 2nd Mi-Jack Conquest driver on our Rumors page.  Ricardo and Rodrigo (they are twins) Sperafico have had better results than Alexandre, who is their elder cousin (born '74, the twins '79). Ricardo of course was F3000 runner-up last year, Rodrigo didn't race in 2003 but won the F3000 Interlagos race in 2002 (and apparently is trying to land a Nissan World Series ride for this year - Ricardo also has no ride yet). Alexandre only began racing "seriously" at the late age of 24, in '98, in South-Am F3....and has never won any championships.  However, his funding has never been as good as his cousins', whose parents own some major plantations in Paraná state. In a way, it was the twins' success that prompted Alex to tackle racing more seriously, and despite a few wins in F3 and Barber Dodge in somewhat underfunded rides, he definitely has yet to prove himself.

3/26/04

Indy Star in IRL's back pocket  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, After seeing the Sports Business Daily rankings of the various motorsports divisions in the USA that you published yesterday, I expected to go online to this morning's Indy Star newspaper and see an article about how much more popular the Champ Car series is than the IRL.  Champ Car even put a press release out on it yesterday.  However, not a word about it in today's edition of the Indianapolis rag, which just underscores which of the two Indianapolis based series the rag favors.  Of course that was clear when they fired Robin Miller.  Clearly the report was very bad news for the IRL, because not only was it trounced by NASCAR and Champ Car in attendance, it ranked a lowly 6th.  Coupled with its horrible TV ratings, selling sponsorship in the IRL is going to become increasingly more difficult and Tony George is going to have to reach deeper into his family coffers to keep his vision alive.  I just wonder how much longer Toyota and Honda are going to continue throwing good money after bad.    S. Jones, Chicago. IL

3/26/04

Indy 500 Media Tour Transcripts  - Additional transcripts added

Media Tour Notebook

Team Penske

Team Rahal

Target Chip Ganassi Racing

New Engine Development

Access Racing

Panther Racing

Cheever Racing

Tom Carnegie

Media Tour Notebook Day 2

3/26/04

Sepang attendance down  Last weekend's Malaysian GP at Sepang saw race day attendance figures were down by almost a third with only 84,010 going through the gates on race day, instead of the projected 120,000.

3/26/04

Dixon gets his first F1 test today  Scott Dixon is held in high regard by the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, as his upcoming two Formula One tests in the Williams-BMW are genuine, full-fledged evaluations to see if he will be one of the team's drivers for the 2005 World Championship season.  "There are a number of people that we are interested in, and Scott Dixon is one of them," said Patrick Head, technical director and part owner of the Williams team.  More....

3/26/04
Industry News

NASCAR and CART #1 & #2 in USA  UPDATE Some have written to ask how come the GrandAm numbers were not listed on the table below.  We are not sure, but it might have something to do with the fact their average attendance is only around 1,000 per race, and that might be generous.  Also note the revised number for Champ Car.  The Sports Business Journal erroneously used Champ Car's 2002 attendance number, which was for more races.  The new average of 133,000 per race still keeps it ranked #2 behind Nextel Cup and way ahead of the IRL, its main competitor.  The Champ Car series has drawn at least 2.2 million fans in each of the last 10 seasons and has averaged more than 125,000 per event in each of those years. With that said, one of the reasons why open wheel (IRL and Champ Car) is losing ground with US based sponsors. Why? Because a sponsor can be a primary in Nextel Cup for $15 million and reach 6 million people (in USA) per race, and in Open Wheel you can be a primary for $4 million and reach 1 million people (in USA). Do the math: the cost per thousand in NASCAR is: $2500 to reach 1000 people. For ChampCar or IRL, it is $4000 to reach 1000 people. This is what is meant when we say the “value equation” is off…..sponsors don’t see the return on value in open wheel as they do in NASCAR. Until this is addressed, open wheel will continue to lose the sponsorship battle in the US, which means that the two series cannot continue to grow compared to other sports. And don’t even get us started on television… You can now see why it is so difficult to find the sponsors for open wheel, and why the battle for new ones is being won by NASCAR at this point.  Mark C.  3/25/04 - NASCAR and CART (now Champ Car) easily outdistance all other USA based racing series in 2003 per event attendance as shown on the chart below.  The IRL, touted as winning over the war over Champ Car, in fact is getting trounced by the beleaguered series, which had a 280% higher attendance in 2003.  The IRL ranks a lowly 6th.  However, the oval track cartel controlled media in the USA paints an entirely different picture of the IRL and CART/Champ Car.  Perhaps one day they will report the facts rather than IRL propaganda they are fed.  Interestingly, CART's per event attendance is not that far behind NASCAR Winston Cup/Nextel Cup.  One has to wonder what the sponsors will think when they see this data.  A Champ Car sponsorship may be the best bargain in racing right now.

RACING SERIES

TOTAL

Events

Avg. Per Event

Rank

NASCAR Winston Cup

6,700,000

38

176,315

1

DIRT

4,500,000

400+

12,250 Est

8

WISSOTA

3,500,000

 

-

 

NASCAR Weekly Racing Series

3,200,000

 

-

 

CART CHAMP CAR

2,261,000

17

133,000

2

NASCAR Busch Series

2,400,000

34

70,588

5

NHRA

2,000,000

 

-

 

World of Outlaws

1,886,840

100

18,868

7

AMA Pro Racing

1,634,043

 

-

 

Barber Dodge

1,189,745

 

-

 

SCCA

1,040,000

 

-

 

IRL

1,016,740

16

63,546*

6

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

900,000

 

-

 

ALMS

643,182

9

71,464

4

ARCA Stock

634,100

 

-

 

UDTRA

603,000

 

-

 

USAC

540,100

 

-

 

Formula 1 (U.S. & CANADA)

252,000

2

126,000

3

CASCAR

250,000

 

-

 

ASA

200,000

 

-

 

USAR

140,000

 

-

 

2003 TOTAL

35,490,750

 

-

 

Figures compiled by Sports Business Daily

* Includes Indy 500

3/26/04

Latest F1 news in brief  

Bahrain tried to cancel grand prix
Oastler quits Jaguar
Mosley meets Italian justice minister
Schumacher is just like boxer Ali
Villeneuve did not receive 'secret' payment
Bahrain vows to step-up security
Head wants BMW-Williams to close gap
Toyota has improved: Panis
Wilson completes Champ Car switch
Schu offered armed-guard in Bahrain
Dixon primed for Formula One shot
F1 cars are 'too fast': Jarno Trulli

Sauber vows to improve F1-team's pace
Renault has 'taken it easy' on V10-revs
Grass might be greener for Webber
Bernie egged-on Villeneuve's F1-rise
Zanardi makes full-time race return
Bad luck should not have surprised Ralf
Button goes to top of times: Ricard
Jaguar is not 'proper' F1 team: Surtees 

  Much More...click on 2004 archives button below
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