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IRL and NASCAR drivers to help get approval for Seattle track IRL and NASCAR drivers to help get approval for Seattle trackUPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I am delighted to see that Seattle is trying to get an open wheel and or a NASCAR event.  I live in Vancouver, Canada and after seeing how popular the Champ Car race was here I am sure that the Seattle event would be a hit.  Of course I am also very disappointed that Champ Car has not come back, but it was replaced with a very popular Edmonton event. The catchments that Seattle will be able to capitalize on are large, I know that I would drive the just under 90 minute drive to Seattle for the event. My fingers are crossed!!!! Gavin Lawrence

01/13/06 Some of the top names in NASCAR and the Indy Racing League will be at the Tacoma Dome from 6-9 p.m. Thursday for an event that’s been billed as "Back the Track Night." Race 2 Washington, a group aligned with International Speedway Corporation is organizing the event. ISC is the company that wants to build a $345 million track in Kitsap County.

Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne and Vancouver’s Greg Biffle, two of NASCAR’s hottest drivers, will be there. Biffle placed second to Tony Stewart in the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup standings. Darrell Waltrip, who won 84 NASCAR races and three Winston Cups during his career, will also make an appearance, as will International Motorsports Hall of Famer Johnny Rutherford.

Sam Hornish Jr., who was third in the Indy Car League’s 2005 points race, and Paul Dana, who was 27th, are also scheduled to appear.

Fans will have a chance to get autographs, participate in interactive displays and listen to the drivers and others talk about the upcoming season. Local short-track drivers and representatives of existing race tracks in Washington will also be there.

There is no charge for the Tacoma Dome event. For information, visit www.race2wa.com.

Ski slope named after Schumacher Ski slope named after SchumacherAuthorities of the Madonna Di Campiglio ski resort have named their most difficult ski slope after 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher and his Ferrari team are currently guests at the resort in the Italian Alps, as they have been for the past ten years for their annual winter media event.

As you can see from the photo (courtesy of Ferrari) the maximum steepness of the slope is 70% and the average is 51%..

Industry News
The Ferrari FXX wins the Eyeson Design Award The Ferrari FXX wins the Eyeson Design AwardThe Ferrari FXX won the Eyeson Design Award as the best example of functional design at the Motorshow of Detroit. Seventeen of the most renowned international designers, including Chris Bangle from BMW, William Davindson, head of styling at Harley-Davidson and Shiro Nakamura, from Nissan, sat on the panel.

The judges awarded the prize as the FXX was the car that best "expresses the functionality of design as an instrument to reach the objectives for which the vehicle was developed". The FXX is a prototype destined to only 29 of the most loyal and passionate Ferrari clients. The project is part of a special collaborative technical program between these clients and the Prancing Horse.

The model is the most advanced granturismo produced at Maranello and is exclusively aimed at use on the track. It will form a crucial part of the ongoing research and development program set up with this innovative group of 'client-test drivers'. The car is not homologated for use on the road and is not expected to compete in races.

Jean Todt looks for a bright 2006 Jean Todt looks for a bright 2006Ferrari's general manager, Jean Todt announced the schedule for the team's 2006 Grand Prix challenger at Madonna di Campiglio on Thursday evening, and once again emphasized that the team was more immediately concerned with the 2006 season than the possible departure of Michael Schumacher. He also pointed out that the team and company is profitable, and explained the situation with partners present and future.

"We started the car today for the first time and at the beginning of next week we are going to start private testing at Fiorano," said Todt, "not with a black car but with a red car with no writing on it, so something different in comparison to what we have done in the past. There is a possibility that we will run this Monday and then we will do some tests for a few days with Michael in Fiorano.

"After that, we are going to do some tests in our workshops and then on Tuesday the 24th, we are going to present the car in Mugello during some testing and we are going to present it with our partners and the press."

Todt went on to explain that the team is not financially challenged as some members of the press believe. "I do realize that many of you may not have noticed that as of 2006, thanks to the agreements that we have signed, we are going to have some greater revenues as against what we've had in the past.
"Unfortunately, we had to accept the departure of Vodafone, because Vodafone wanted to stay with Ferrari but we could not keep Vodafone with Ferrari and we're going to announce, in the next few days, some further agreements that have been reached. But I insist that I've read on many many occasions that Ferrari was financially in dire straits and we might not be able to support our programs in the future. Well, all this is false and does not correspond to reality, to the truth.

"Some of our competitors may like to insist on these problems, but unfortunately for them it's not going to be so, and so we are going to have the means necessary to tackle future championships and of course this also means that we cannot use this as an excuse for lack of resources because we do have the resources." zzzz

Todt then explained positive elements from last year's disappointing season. "2005 was an important year for Ferrari in spite of all this because Ferrari has been profitable, our cars have sold well and we have presented some new cars which have been successful in the market and are still looking good for the future. We have renewed some very important contracts for Formula One. We were the first to renew the Concorde Agreement with the FIA up to the year 2012 so something positive did take place during 2005. Perhaps it was not easy to see but they are surely important for the future of our firm."

Todt once again emphasized that the team was focusing on 2006 rather than 2007 and potential changes within the team "I have seen and I have read that many teams are already thinking about 2007. We are thinking, for the time being, on 2006, so for 2006, we have two very motivated drivers. We have Michael and I spoke to him before coming here, on the mobile phone, and he was telling me that before seeing me, before dinner, he was going to train. He's motivated, he wanted to try the car before Christmas because, just like all of us, he was very displeased about the 2005 season and really he wants to do something in 2006.

"Then, and he said so clearly this morning, during the year he's going to decide whether he's going to continue or not. He does not know, so if he doesn't know, I know even less about what he is going to do in the future.

"Concerning the date when he announces it. He has no pressure. He has no pressure from the team. I let you give him pressure but he has no pressure from team. When he feels happy to decide which direction he wants to take in his career it will be convenient for us. It is up to us to organize ourselves in order to respond to the situation and to make sure that Ferrari is not penalized and can have all the elements in hand to be a winning team."

In conclusion, Todt explained that the team's hopes are high but they are certainly not deluding themselves. "Our ambitions for 2006 are high. I never said that we are going to win everything in 2006, this is not part of my nature even if I would like to see Ferrari win everything. But what I can say is that we are going to make greatest possible effort, we are going to do our best, we have the determination, we have the motivation so as to try to have a great season in 2006. Of course, we do know it's going to be difficult as in all years. It is not going to be easy, but as I mentioned, it has never been easy and it's part of the rules of the game. If it was easy, we would not be interested in racing." Source Ferrari

Rolex Series GT champion joins Porsche lineup Rolex Series GT champion joins Porsche lineupALTON, Va. – Synergy Racing announced today that defending Rolex Sports Car Series GT champion Craig Stanton, of Long Beach, Calif., will join the lineup for the No. 80 SHOES FOR CREWS® Porsche GT3 for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 28-29. Stanton will team with his longtime co-driver David Murry of Atlanta, Ga., and Leh Keen of Dublin, Ga., who rivaled Stanton for the championship in 2005.
Industry News
Carmakers plan more diesels for the U.S. market Carmakers plan more diesels for the U.S. marketRecall we said the auto industry in the USA should switch as many cars over to turbo diesel as they could as soon as possible. Their fuel savings are here and available now. Hybrids are still too costly, their longevity unproven, and have inferior performance so far. See our article, Diesel, Friend or Foe?

This Detroit Free Press article says - Diesel engines, once a sooty scourge of American roads, may be poised for popularity in the United States starting as soon as this year.

After years of squabbling among automakers, oil companies and regulators, technology and the demand for better fuel economy have progressed enough to make diesels more attractive. Every major automaker is committed to build more diesel-powered models or is studying their feasibility for the United States. A few hinted at future plans during the Detroit auto show.

Toyota Motor Corp. is considering a diesel option for its new full-size pickup to launch later this year, said Jim Press, president and chief operating officer of Toyota's U.S. sales arm.

While some U.S. consumers -- and many automotive executives -- still remember the smoke-belching diesels of the 1980s, their modern descendents can run nearly as clean as gasoline engines. Diesels are typically 20% to 40% more fuel efficient than a similar gas engine, and produce more torque, giving drivers better acceleration.

Volkswagen AG has been one of the few automakers to stick with diesels in the United States; enjoying an 8.7% sales increase last year even as its overall sales fell 12.5%. VW Chief Executive Bernd Pischetsrieder said, excluding the five states where it cannot sell diesel versions of the VW Jetta, such models accounted for 30% of sales last year, and could have been higher.

Other automakers known to be studying diesels include General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., for both cars and trucks. All sell diesels in Europe, where customer demand for fuel economy, favorable tax treatments and durability cause automakers to put diesel engines in half of all vehicles sold.

As previously reported by AutoRacing1 - In the United States, stricter air pollution regulation has severely limited how many diesels manufacturers can sell. The major barrier to cleaner-running diesels has been the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel, which plays havoc with emissions systems. New federal rules drastically cutting sulfur in fuels go into effect later this year, and most fuel companies are expected to have low-sulfur diesel on the market in a matter of months.

DaimlerChrysler AG unveiled a new line of diesel engines at the Detroit auto show that it said would meet all current emissions standards, allowing it to sell them in all 50 states by late this year. The engines will power a number of Mercedes models, and Chrysler will likely add more diesels to its lineup as well.

Those diesel engines also could qualify for a new set of tax credits aimed at high-mileage vehicles such as hybrids. But those credits start to phase out for automakers that sell 60,000 qualifying vehicles, and automakers say diesels will have to prove their worth on their merits.

"People get used to high-torque engines," said Pischetsrieder. "If any country requires desperately high torque because of the driving conditions, it's the U.S. market."

Boy killed in Dakar Rally Boy killed in Dakar RallyThis morning at 10:00 AM, at km 25 of the special of stage 13 of the rally between LABE and TAMBACOUNDA, just 6kms before the village of Kourahoye, a young boy that had come with his family to see the rally go by, was hit by vehicle n°420 of the car class while crossing the track.

He immediately received treatment from the medical staff of the rally but died during his transfer by helicopter to Labé. The organization expresses its sadness to the family of the child.

Luc Alphand, overall leader since yesterday, slightly increased his lead on Giniel De Villiers. The Mitsubishi driver now has a 22’13" advantage on the South African.

[Note: Dakar Rally highlights will be shown every day at 4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET on OLN through January 15. The Dakar Rally will be televised starting January 14, 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. ET and continue to run at various times through January 30.]

Top-15 Standings after Stage 13

Pos. N° Name Make Variation
3 304 ROMA (ESP) & MAGNE (FRA) MITSUBISHI 01:32:31
7 311 SOUSA (POR) & LURQUIN (BEL) NISSAN 05:24:01
8 301 SABY (FRA) & PERIN (FRA) VOLKSWAGEN 08:09:47
10 322 CHICHERIT (FRA) & BAUMEL (FRA) BMW 08:40:05
12 317 GACHE (FRA) & GARCIN (FRA) BUGGY 13:42:36
15 313 COX (AFS) & PITCHFORD (AFS) BMW 19:06:45

A Conversation with Bryan Herta A Conversation with Bryan HertaBryan Herta may be one of the busiest IRL IndyCar® Series competitors this off-season. Herta, who will drive the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing for the third consecutive season, drove two rounds of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport for Team USA in November and is eyeing his return to the Rolex 24 at the end of this month. He recently talked about his off-season activities, his return to Andretti Green Racing and the hazing he has planned for his new teammate, Marco Andretti.

Q: You're back in the familiar No. 7 car again. Do you feel like you can be a championship contender this season?
HERTA: This is the best team going right now. I'm just happy to be back with them. Any driver would love to be a part of this team. I'm one of the lucky guys who gets to be. I'm really looking forward to next season. I want to have a strong season. My goals are set a little bit higher. My goal is to challenge for the championship with Tony (Kanaan) and Dario (Franchitti) and that's the expectation I go in with.

Q: It's well known that you, Tony and Dario played a few pranks on Dan Wheldon when he was a rookie in 2003. Any plans for your new teammate Marco Andretti?
HERTA: We haven't plotted yet, but (pranks) are part of the rookie deal. I think that happens in all team sports. It won't be too bad, but you do have to earn your way into it.
TONY KANAAN: Don't believe him. We're going to give him a hard time for sure. We need to find out what he's in to. I don't think he's into shoes (like Wheldon), but we'll find out. zzzz

Q: Bryan, you've taken advantage to race even though this is the off-season. Why?
HERTA: The IRL has some pretty hefty testing restrictions now. While that may be good for the owners because they don't have to spend money to go testing, it's not good for the drivers to not be driving race cars for a long time. I had the opportunity with A1 Team USA to do a couple of races in Australia and Malaysia in November, and hopefully, I'll get to do a couple more later on. It's a good opportunity to stay fresh and it's an interesting championship. It's a unique series, and I've had lots of fun doing it in my downtime.

Q: How did you get the A1 drive? Was it through fellow IndyCar Series competitor Scott Sharp, who is involved with the team?
HERTA: I'd been talking to Rick Weidinger, who owns the U.S. franchise, since August. We were just talking about how I could be involved and maybe do some races for the team. We finally got a program that kind of made sense - to do a couple races in November and maybe a couple more in the spring. For me, it was good to get some seat time, but I felt like I had enough time to recoup and still have an off-season. I didn't want to go around the clock because I thought that could be kind of a grind. To me, the goal of the program is to get the U.S. a win on home soil when they get to Laguna Seca.

Q: How important would it be for you to win for Team USA at Laguna Seca, where you've had a lot of success?
HERTA: I haven't been there for a long time and the race there is what caught my attention to run the series. I haven't raced there in a long time, and I'd love to get back on the track. It's been a great place for me, and I'd love to add to my personal history there.

Brown joins Ganassi team Brown joins Ganassi teamVeteran engineer Andy Brown has joined the engineering staff of Target Chip Ganassi Racing.  Brown will work with defending IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon as race engineer for the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara. Brown began work with the team on Jan. 9.  Brown joins Target Chip Ganassi Racing from Panther Racing, where he served as chief engineer. He played a key role in Sam Hornish Jr.'s back-to-back IndyCar Series championships and last season helped lead Buddy Lazier to five top-10 finishes in six starts.  This is not the first time that Wheldon and Brown have worked together. Wheldon made his IndyCar Series debut with Panther Racing in 2002 after spending much of that season as the team's test driver.
Indy Pro Series announces test dates Indy Pro Series announces test datesIRL Indy Pro Series teams will be allowed five private test days and five Open Test dates between March 1 and the end of the 2006 season. The Open Test dates are: March 4, Homestead-Miami Speedway road course; March 6, Homestead-Miami Speedway oval; April 27, Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval; June 14, The Milwaukee Mile; June 20, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
KY Speedway lawsuit against NASCAR KY Speedway lawsuit against NASCARUPDATE The federal judge hearing an antitrust case brought by Kentucky Speedway against NASCAR said Thursday he would be quick in his decision on a request by NASCAR to dismiss the case, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

A lawyer representing NASCAR said the suit should not continue because the track is not seeking competition in Nextel Cup venue selections, but it is seeking to become part of the monopoly "it wants to bring down."  The track sued NASCAR in July, alleging the sanctioning body kept the track from holding a Nextel Cup Series event.

12/15/05 The Kentucky Speedway has won the first victory in its multimillion-dollar lawsuit against NASCAR. U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman denied NASCAR's request to move the case to Florida, where NASCAR is headquartered. Instead, the case will be heard where it was filed, in U.S. District Court in Covington.

"There exists a strong public interest in having this controversy adjudicated locally," Bertelsman wrote in the eight-page order. "Particularly, the court concludes that the great public interest in having this dispute decided locally tips the balance in favor of retaining the case."

Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley, who leads a team representing the speedway that includes anti-trust expert Steve Sussman of Houston and Mark Guilfoyle of Edgewood, said he was "very pleased" with the ruling.

"It's a very thorough opinion, one that is certainly supported by the law, and we're looking forward to moving on in the case," Chesley said.  More at Cincinnati Enquirer

Kraig Kinser signed for Truck ride Kraig Kinser signed for Truck rideMB2 Motorsports and Morgan-Dollar Motorsports will put Kraig Kinser behind the wheel of the No. 47 Chevrolet Silverado in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2006. The 21-year-old Indiana native will run for 2006 NCTS Rookie of the Year honors under the tutelage of championship-winning crew chief Randy Goss, and as teammate to three-time Truck Series runner-up Dennis Setzer.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for me," Kinser, an MB2 development driver, said. "Some great drivers have driven the No. 47 the past two seasons and have had great races and finishes. I know I will be in the best equipment out there.

"Having Dennis Setzer as a teammate and working with a crew chief like Randy Goss is the perfect situation for me as a rookie. I am looking forward to having their experience to learn from throughout the season."

Hmiel sues Braun Racing Hmiel sues Braun RacingShane Hmiel filed suit in December to obtain the money he earned as a driver for Braun Racing in 2005. The suit...asks for $135,513 in earnings for the season until his suspension June 2. It seeks another $135,513 in compensation for bad faith dealings by Braun NASCAR Scene.
Jerez Friday: Alonso fastest Jerez Friday: Alonso fastestRenault and Fernando Alonso concluded the current test program at Jerez today by topping the timesheets with the new V8-powered R26 chassis with a best time of 1:18.512s.

Attempting to complete a race distance with the new powerplant, Alonso was interrupted by numerous red flags in the morning, while the afternoon saw unstable weather conditions and further red flags disrupt the program. Giancarlo Fisichella was once again at the wheel of the R25, and continued working on a tire development program in concert with Michelin. The Italian, who will celebrate his 33rd birthday tomorrow, was third fastest.

“We had another very good day, although I feel a bit frustrated at the end because the number of red flags and rain showers stopped me from making the most of the day with more long runs in the 2006 car," said the 2005 Champion. "I think we have done a good job this week. The aim was to do as many laps as possible, which we managed without any mechanical problems. The car feels good. There are still things to improve, but we have a solid base and I am really looking forward to the next session in Barcelona in ten days’ time, to continue working on reliability and start looking at performance. There will already be new things to test, so it should be an interesting session.”
Renault Chief Test Engineer Christian Silk explained that the aim of the week was to gain as much mileage as possible on the new R26 package. "It was a good week, we already seem to have found reliability and the performance seems quite promising after only four days," said Silk. "That is a good first reward for the whole team, which has worked very hard to get where we are. We now need to carry on with that good work, and we will be back on track on 25 January in Barcelona.”

With Renault first and third fastest today with Davidson in between for Honda, Gary Paffett and Pedro de la Rosa took the fourth and fifth best time for McLaren Mercedes despite minor electronic software issues, which saw them both stop out on track twice and once respectively. Rubens Barrichello completed his second day of running with his new Honda team.

Over at BMW Sauber, Nick Heidfeld was behind the wheel of the V8-powered C24B once again. The team started with systems and software checks, followed by some set-up work. They ran a tire test program for Michelin and evaluated different brake specifications. BMW Sauber will roll out their new car next Tuesday in Valencia.

Mark Webber and Alex Wurz were ninth and tenth best for Williams Cosworth with Christian Klien bringing up the rear for Red Bull Ferrari.

The Jerez circuit will be artificially soaked for Michelin wet weather running on Saturday with Klien, Paffett and de la Rosa scheduled to test. Testing then resumes on Tuesday with McLaren, Toyota and Williams on track.

Jerez* - 13/01/2006
1 . F. Alonso - Renault R26 V18 - 1:18.512 (+ 0.000 ) - 65 laps
2 . A. Davidson - Honda - 1:19.257 (+ 0.745 ) - 68 laps
3 . G. Fisichella - Renault R25 V10 - 1:19.784 (+ 1.272 ) - 49 laps
4 . G. Paffett - McLaren Mercedes MP4-20B V10 - 1:19.791 (+ 1.279 ) - 47 laps
5 . P. de la Rosa - McLaren Mercedes MP4-20B V10 - 1:19.845 (+ 1.333 ) - 36 laps
6 . R. Barrichello - Honda - 1:20.030 (+ 1.518 ) - 33 laps
7 . N. Heidfeld - BMW Sauber V8 - 1:20.482 (+ 1.970 ) - 62 laps
8 . M. Webber - Williams Cosworth V8 - 1:20.512 (+ 2.000 ) - 61 laps
9 . A. Wurz - Williams Cosworth V8 - 1:20.918 (+ 2.406 ) - 11 laps
10 . C. Klien - Red Bull Ferrari RB2 - 1:21.631 (+ 3.119 ) - 24 laps.

* Times courtesy of Circuito de Jerez Source Renault

Wet Jerez forces Red Bull to Plan B Wet Jerez forces Red Bull to Plan BA drop of rain might be appreciated by the farmers who cultivate the area's famous Sherry plants, but a damp Jerez was not what was wanted when testing began this morning. So with a slightly wet track, the team concentrated on some aerodynamic evaluation work and system checks.

"That all went very well," said Head of Race and Test Engineering, Paul Monaghan. "Christian was quite encouraged by the car's performance today, but unfortunately, an off-track excursion meant we had to bring this session to a premature end to repair the damage prior to tomorrow's Michelin wet track test."

Klien completed 24 laps in the Ferrari-powered RB2 chassis today with a best time of 1:21.631s.

Upcoming Sebring test will probably grow Upcoming Sebring test will probably growWe can report that Newman/Haas will also be testing at Sebring when PKV is there testing Franck Montagny later in January (26th and 27th) and we expect other Champ Car teams will sign up for those same dates before it's all said and done.
KISS marketing glosses over IRL’s deep rooted problems KISS marketing glosses over IRL’s deep rooted problemsUPDATE #2 A reader writes: I read John Oreovicz's article about the IRL's deal with Gene Simmons when it was posted on ESPN.com Wednesday night. However, when I returned to the ESPN site on Thursday to forward the article to a friend, I noticed that a significant portion of the text had mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately, I printed the original - here's what got cut out:

Making the new partnership all the more surreal, Simmons has co-penned a self-proclaimed anthem called “I Am INDY” that the IRL claims is the first official theme song for a professional sport. An IRL press release actually had the cheek to compare “I Am INDY” to Queen’s now-generic sports anthem “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions.”
They could have saved themselves the trouble and just come up with some new lyrics for Queen’s original tune. For example:
         Tony you’re a rich man who owns a Speedway
         Gonna rule open-wheel ‘round the world one day
         You got millions of bucks
         CART fans think you suck
         But just smile and wave and wish ‘em good luck
         Singin’ I Am, I Am INDY!
         I Am, I Am INDY!
Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan could plug in the Gibson guitars they won as trophies at Nashville Superspeedway and they could recruit their buddy Patrick Carpentier to play drums. With Dan Wheldon tapping a tambourine and Danica on lead vocals, they could be the next Spice Girls. Jim Rockford, Paradise Cove, California

[Editor's Note:  Why does it not surprise us that the IRL would get their TV partner to edit out a portion of the article if it paints the IRL in a negative light.  Freedom of speech only applies if it's good PR for the IRL.  We do see that the IRL marketing department is fast.  They already have I am Mindy apparel and souvenirs for sale.  Yes, the song sounds like I am Mindy instead of I am Indy.]

01/12/06 This SPEEDTV article also rakes the IRL over the coals for their new marketing scheme.  As we have suggested, and as Robin Miller has suggested, why doesn't Tony George and his troops just go back to doing what they know best - running the Indy 500.

01/11/06 So this is what it has come to. The Indy Racing League has turned to Gene Simmons, a man famous for a band that was more about makeup than music, as the latest in a long line of marketing gurus.

Here's a memo to Tony George, Brian Barnhart and all the other visionaries at the IRL from a longtime Indy-style racing observer who happens to believe that "marketing" is a dirtier word than any of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television: It's going to take a lot more than another new marketing agency to paper over the cracks in the facade of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.   More at ESPN.com

Ford's new Focus RS makes first public appearance Ford's new Focus RS makes first public appearanceBIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND -- Ford's new signings, double world rally champions Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen and teammates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, today made their first public appearance alongside the all-new Focus RS World Rally Car 06.

The Finnish quartet broke off from their final test session in southern France ahead of next week's first round of the FIA World Rally Championship, to appear at the opening day of the Autosport International show in Birmingham -- the traditional curtain raiser to the motorsport season.

The asphalt test session near Gap provides the third testing opportunity for the BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers to sample the exciting new Focus RS WRC upon which Ford is placing its world championship hopes for the next three seasons. But the foursome jetted into Birmingham to meet the world's media and share the limelight with the Focus RS WRC, which will remain on display to the public throughout the four-day show.

The next time the drivers will be seen with the car in its distinctive livery will be in just seven days when the official start of the Rallye Monte Carlo signifies the beginning of the grueling 16-round season.

"I've driven the Focus RS WRC on snow in Sweden and twice on asphalt in France and I'm hugely impressed," said 37-year-old Gronholm. "I quickly developed a good feeling with the car and have settled into a good working relationship with the team. I'm not making any predictions about Monte Carlo. The important thing on the first round is for me to gain experience of the car in competitive surroundings. But my initial feeling is that the Focus RS WRC can win rallies in 2006."

Hirvonen was equally delighted. "I've tackled more WRC events in a Focus RS than any other car so I know just what a good rally car it is. But this new-generation Focus RS WRC has huge potential and I'm so excited at the thought of the season ahead. I can't wait to tackle my first competitive kilometers in the car in Monte Carlo," said 25-year-old Hirvonen, who flew to France for tomorrow's final day of testing ahead of the new season. zzzz

Also new for 2006 is a partnership with BFGoodrich tires. The Focus RS WRC will run on the American company's rubber for the next three seasons, the first time that BFGoodrich has been involved in the WRC with an official manufacturer.

Ford's world rally program is Ford of Europe's primary motorsport activity. In November 2004 the Blue Oval announced a four-year commitment to the FIA World Rally Championship. A key aspect of that agreement was the introduction of an all-new Focus RS WRC, based on the Focus ST road car, which was officially unveiled at the Bologna Motor Show on 1 December 2005.

"Ford carried out a long and comprehensive review into the motorsport scene," said Jost Capito, director of Ford TeamRS, the performance road car and motorsport arm within Ford of Europe. "It showed there is a strong business case for Ford's continued involvement in WRC and what we see today is Ford's future in the WRC.

"We have a strong and experienced team operating from world class facilities at M-Sport's Dovenby Hall premises under the leadership of Malcolm Wilson. We have a fantastic driver line-up, blending one of rallying's great drivers with one of the sport's up-and-coming stars. And we have the car that we believe will carry us forward to new levels of competitiveness.

"It is too optimistic to expect us to win a world title this year. The car is too new for that. But we fervently believe that we will win rallies and lay a solid platform for a world championship bid in 2007 and 2008," added Capito.

In addition to official world rally program, Ford will again support a wide range of customer activities in varying motorsport disciplines. The Stobart-VK-M-Sport Ford Rally Team will enter 2005 specification Focus RS WRC on all 16 rounds of the world championship. The privately-funded team will be led by 18-year-old Matthew Wilson, Britain's most promising and talented young rally driver.

The Ford Fiesta Super 1600 has been developed by M-Sport for the FIA Junior World Rally Championship while the Fiesta ST Group N rally car will be widely used in 2006. The Ford Fiesta Sporting Trophy International is a single-make series which will take in six rounds of the WRC while several countries are organizing national championships with the same car. Both series will be administered by M-Sport.

On the race circuits, the Focus RS S2000 was developed in the FIA World Touring Car Championship during 2005 and is likely to be seen in the hands of customer teams in 2006. The 20-round UK Formula Ford Championship will be boosted by the introduction of the powerful new Duratec engine and the mouth-watering prize of a free entry in the 2007 British Formula 3 Championship for the title winner is a huge lure.

"The WRC is Ford's flagship activity," said Capito. "But we are keen to support customers throughout various motorsport categories. Our strategy has been to develop competition cars, make them competitive and then make them available for customers to drive so that they can enjoy their chosen sport to the full." Ford

Argent drops Glen IRL race sponsorship Argent drops Glen IRL race sponsorshipThe Indy Racing League, which ran the inaugural Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix in September, will return to Watkins Glen this year the first weekend in June. September's race, the first open-wheel event at The Glen in 24 years, had Argent Mortgage as a presenting sponsor. Track president Craig Rust said that was only a one-year deal, which means the track also is looking for a replacement sponsor there. USA Today
Sirius Satellite drops Glen Cup race sponsorship Sirius Satellite drops Glen Cup race sponsorshipWatkins Glen International is seeking a new title sponsor for its Nextel Cup race to replace Sirius Satellite Radio, which has opted out of its three-year contract renewal.  Watkins Glen International spokeswoman Eiron Smith said Thursday that track officials received official word from Sirius earlier this week but learned several weeks earlier that the company decided not to retain its name on the race after a four-year run.

Track president Craig Rust said he saw the decision coming after Sirius underwent a management change last spring.

"We were their only sponsorship in motor sports," Rust said. "They were going hard after the Howard Sterns. We weren't caught off-guard. When you're in motor sports, sponsors come and go. We're certainly not the only one on the Nextel Cup circuit without a sponsor today. Races get new sponsors every year. It's part of the business."  USA Today

IRL to continue using Phoenix for testing IRL to continue using Phoenix for testingDanica Patrick’s second season of racing against the boys and Michael Andretti’s renewed quest to win the Indianapolis 500 will get a jump-start in Phoenix in a couple of weeks. Both Patrick and Andretti will take part in the Indy Racing League’s test sessions for its 2006 cars Jan. 24-25 at Phoenix International Raceway. Most of the 20 or so IndyCar Series drivers are expected to be on hand, IRL officials said Wednesday.

Patrick, a Scottsdale resident who finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500 during her rookie year in 2005, will have a heavy driving load near the end of the month. After testing her IndyCar for Rahal Letterman Racing at PIR, she will leave for Florida where she will race in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series’ Rolex 24 At Daytona Jan. 28-29. She will team with retired Nextel Cup driver Rusty Wallace, Boris Said and Allan McNish in the endurance road race.

Andretti, who retired after the Indy 500 in 2003 and became co-owner of the four-driver Andretti Green Racing in the IRL, recently announced his intention to drive in May’s Indy 500. He will have a chance to race against his 18-year-old son Marco, who joins Andretti Green Racing as a rookie this season.

Dad will likely take the first spins in his son’s new Honda-powered IndyCar at PIR. "Michael will probably shake down Marco’s car," IRL spokesman Tom Savage said.

The IRL won’t be racing at PIR this season, but that isn’t stopping the series from continuing its annual testing sessions at the track.

Ideal winter weather conditions make Phoenix an optimal testing site, Savage said. Phoenix is one of the few flat, short-track ovals located in warm-weather climes, and the IRL wants to test its cars over the winter on a track similar to the short ovals on its schedule. More at East Valley Tribune

New Ferrari to debut in blank livery New Ferrari to debut in blank livery(GMMf1NET)  Ferrari's 2006 car will debut at Fiorano next Monday with a plain red livery, team boss Jean Todt explained on Friday.

The French principal was addressing the press at the traditional Ferrari winter event, in Italy's Dolomites hills.

Referring to the unusual plain livery, Todt said: ''So, something different in comparison to what we have done in the past.''

He added that Michael Schumacher would put the blank 'F2006' through its paces at Fiorano through the week, before it is launched at another circuit - Mugello - on January 24.  Todt also fended off speculation of a cash crisis at Maranello by hinting that 'some agreements' will be unveiled in the coming days.

Spain wants second grand prix Spain wants second grand prix(GMMf1NET)  Like Germany and Italy, Spain - thriving on the popularity of world champion Fernando Alonso - would like a second formula one race.

The local 'Marca' newspaper reports on Friday that Jerez de la Frontera, this week the scene of frenzied winter test action, has told Bernie Ecclestone of its desire to host the pinnacle of racing again.

Jerez, in the southern coast of the country, last staged a F1 race - then called the European grand prix - in 1997, then hosting a thrilling title showdown between Michael Schumacher and (champion) Jacques Villeneuve.  Barcelona is scene of the annual Spanish grand prix, at the Circuit de Catalunya.  The Jerez circuit has attracted healthy crowds at this week's test.

[Editor's Note:  They can wish all they want, Spain won't get a 2nd GP and in fact those countries that currently have two are likely to lose one.]

Bridgestone to bounce back - Alonso Bridgestone to bounce back - Alonso(GMMf1NET) Fernando Alonso is concerned that his reign as world champion may only last a single year.

Although McLaren and his Renault team sped away on superior Michelin rubber in 2005, the Spaniard warned that tire rival Bridgestone and Ferrari look set to bounce back.

''I'm afraid they could dominate the way they did (in 2004 again),'' Alonso told reporters at the Jerez test in Spain.

Alex Lloyd eyes Atlantic Series Alex Lloyd eyes Atlantic SeriesUPDATE Alex Lloyd recently completed a successful test session with Jensen Motorsport at the Roebling Road track in Savannah, Georgia.

'The two days went very well', said the McLaren Autosport BRDC award winner, who drove a 2005 Toyota Atlantic.

'Jensen Motorsport were very professional and a real pleasure to work with. Engineer Adam Marchitto was very knowledgeable and helped me to learn as fast as possible how to make these cars go quickly, as they are very different to an F3000 or an A1GP car.

'I got down to a good time quickly and from then on it was just a matter of working on myself and the car to get the time down to the fastest we possibly could under the circumstances. We had a few problems with tires and a faulty ECU, but it was a well-balanced little car and a pleasure to drive.

'I'm satisfied with my ultimate time at the end of the day, all things considered, as it was just four tenths of a second off the fastest time on record. I believe that on another day with the right conditions that record would be comfortably mine. Testing this car has made me even more certain that Atlantic is the way to go for me.'

Team owner Eric Jensen said: 'Alex was a real treat to work with. His feedback and technical knowledge is without question among the best we have ever experienced while working with various drivers.

'It is not surprising that Alex wins every shoot-out in which he competes, such as the McLaren Autosport Young Driver Award.

'We are working currently with Alex on some sponsorship with a view to having him join Jensen Motorsport for the 2006 season and beyond.' Isle of Man

01/02/06 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award Winner Alex Lloyd completed 2 successful test days with Jensen MotorSport on the 19/20th December.

The testing was done at the Roebling Road Test Track in Savannah, Georgia. The weather was a pleasant 16 degrees centigrade and so it made for 2 very enjoyable and productive days testing.

“The two days went very well”, Alex recalled, "Jensen MotorSport were very professional and a real pleasure to work with. Engineer Adam Marchitto was very knowledgeable and helped me to learn as fast as possible how to make these cars go quickly as they are very different to an F3000 or an A1GP car.

"I got down to a good time quickly and from then on it was just a matter of working on myself and the car to get the time down to the fastest we possibly could.

"I am very satisfied with my ultimate time as it was just 4 tenths off the fastest time on record. I believe that on another day with the right conditions, that record would be mine.”

Team owner Eric Jensen stated, "Alex was a real treat to work with. His feedback and technical knowledge is without question among the best we have ever experienced while working with various drivers. It is not surprising that Alex wins every shootout in which he competes, such as the McLaren Autosport Young Driver Award. We are working currently with Alex on some sponsorship with a view to having Alex join Jensen MotorSport for the 2006 season and beyond."

Jensen MotorSport team engineer Adam Marchitto stated "In fairly cold weather, Alex had a best time of 1:07:7, which is an impressive time considering the track temperature, and that Alex only had two chances on new Yokohama tires. We suspect that Alex could challenge Adam Pecorari's record (set when we tested at Savannah last December using the chicane) if we return to Savannah for another test day this off-season."

TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET (Replay) Discovery HD Theater
Stage 13
4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET, OLN
Portugal to Dakar
7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. ET, OLN
10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. ET, OLN
8:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET, SPEED
The Road to Rolex
10:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m. ET, SPEED

For a complete listing of Saturday's TV Programs, see TVRacer.com and Race Fan TV.

Industry News
New President for Bridgestone New President for BridgestoneThe Bridgestone Corporation has announced that its Chairman of the Board, CEO and President, Shigeo Watanabe will be stepping down from the role and handing the reigns over to Shoshi Arakawa, who is currently presently Executive Vice President.  This succession will be effective immediately after the general meeting on shareholders on March 30, 2006.
Gearbox problems hinder Red Bull Gearbox problems hinder Red BullIn terms of distance covered, this was the most encouraging day in the RB2’s short life to date.  Christian Klien, having his first ever run in RB2, took over from David Coulthard today, and put around 200 kilometres on the speedo, the most it has ever done in one day.

“This morning, we had a problem with the transmission lubrication system, that cost us some track time,” commented Head of Race and Test Engineering, Paul Monaghan. “In the afternoon, Christian was settling in to the new car and we had made progress on the set-up front."

"We were hoping to validate that with a better time at the end of the session, but one of many Red Flags on the day, spoilt our plan!”

After setting the 14th best time today, Klien is back on track tomorrow for the final day of this test. Source Red Bull Ferrari

BMW Sauber F1 Team signs aerodynamics chief BMW Sauber F1 Team signs aerodynamics chiefMunich - . The BMW Sauber F1 Team is boosting its aerodynamics division: in mid-March, 53-year-old Willem Toet is set to take over the reins at the department based in Hinwil, Switzerland.

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen: "Signing up Willem Toet marks a key step in the expansion of the BMW Sauber F1 Team's aerodynamics department at Hinwil. Willem Toet looks back on more than 20 years of Formula One experience in this field and will find in Hinwil a first-rate wind tunnel and exceptional computer facilities. He will support us in the further expansion of the department's staff and will provide input for the design of the car for season 2007."

Toet on his new assignment: "I'm really looking forward to the job. Any development phase is by nature very intensive and affords a lot of opportunities. I will be doing my utmost to help the BMW Sauber F1 Team on the road to success."

Willem Toet was born in Amsterdam (NLD) on 29th March 1952. He grew up in Australia where, after completing his degree, he began his professional path with the Ford Motor Company. From 1977 he focused his career exclusively on motor racing, initially working on touring cars, Formula 2 and Formula Ford racers. In 1982 he moved to England to work for the sports car racing team of Ray Mallock.

1985 marked the start of his Formula One career with the then Toleman Team, later to become Benetton. At the end of 1994 he joined Ferrari and spent four years in Italy as their aerodynamics chief. He returned to England in 1999 to become senior aerodynamicist at British American Racing (now Honda Racing F1 Team).

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Rubens back with a bang
Schu's future rests with 'F2006'
Merc boss aims fire at Montoya
'STR' boss plays down V10 row
V8 is 'more fun' - Schumacher
Merc V8 is not flawed - Norbert Haug
Alonso in pain before new car debut
Gene 'not obsessed' about race return
Liuzzi eyes 'STR' podium
Button must deliver in '06 - former boss
'Aguri' still waiting for green light
Another 'Grand Prix Masters' race
Former faces ponder future in F1
Schu should quit, says Hakkinen
NASCAR tests rear wing on Car of Tomorrow NASCAR tests rear wing on Car of TomorrowThe NASCAR Car of Tomorrow tested for the first time at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday. NASCAR Vice President for Research and Development Gary Nelson and his group began the latest round of on-track data acquisition for the Car of Tomorrow using the prototype produced by the NASCAR Research and Development Center and driven by Brett Bodine, NASCAR Director of Cost Research. Previous on-track sessions set performance baselines. More....
Track News
Bidding starts Monday for race seat in Long Beach race Bidding starts Monday for race seat in Long Beach raceBeginning this Monday, Jan. 16, a spot on the starting grid for the 30th Anniversary Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race – part of the April 7-9, 32nd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – will be up for bid on eBay, with bidding scheduled to run through January 26.

All proceeds from the auction will go to the Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach, which, since its inception in 1991, has donated more than $1.8 million to Southern California charities.

If you’re the high bidder, you’ll find yourself behind the wheel of a new, race-ready Scion tC, hitting more than 100 mph in the 10-lap sprint over the legendary 1.97-mile, 11-turn Long Beach street circuit, running fender-to-fender with a group of to-be-announced celebrities from movies, TV and sports, as well as professional drivers.  Bidding starts at $50,000.

Past celebrities in the race have included George Lucas, Cameron Diaz, Gene Hackman, Patrick Dempsey, Jay Leno, John Elway and Ashley Judd, along with professionals Danica Patrick, Scott Pruett and Parnelli Jones.

The high bidder also receives, courtesy of Toyota

  • Four days of professional driver’s training at Fast Lane Driving School, Rosamond,  CA,
  • Pre-event Press Day prior to race weekend and other media activities,
  • Custom-made driving gear, including suit, shoes,  gloves and helmet
  • First-class air fare and hotel accommodations for training, press day and race weekend, with ground transportation for race related events only
  • A $5,000 donation from Toyota in the high bidder’s name to “Racing for Kids,” a national program benefiting two children’s hospitals in Southern California, and
  • A VIP pass for 2 for a private celebrity event immediately following the Saturday, April 8.

 “I’m sure there are a lot of people in this country who have always wanted to be a part of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood,” said Rick DuRee, president of the Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach.  “Thanks to Toyota, they now have an opportunity to rub elbows – and fenders – with some of the biggest TV, movie and sports stars in the world. And it’s all for charity!”

“This is the first time we’ve provided this charity auction opportunity in an on-line format for one lucky bidder to compete in the 30th Anniversary Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race,” said Les Unger, Toyota national motorsports manager.  “The winning bidder will have the experience of a lifetime.”

High bidder must attend four days of driver training in March, either on two consecutive weekends (March 4-5 and March 11-12) or for four consecutive days, March 9-12.  zzzz

The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race will take the green flag on Saturday, April 8, part of a weekend of racing that also includes the Champ Car World Series, a Drifting challenge, Champ Car Atlantics and the debut of the fast Daytona Prototypes of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.

For more information or to bid on the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race package, go to www.ebay.com/toyotagrandprix.

About the Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach:
The Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach was incorporated in January of 1991 as a 501 (c)(3) publicly supported organization whose purpose is to raise funds, through a series of charitable events held in conjunction with the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  The Foundation builds on the excitement of the race which annually draws crowds in excess of 200,000.  Proceeds from the “Grand Prix Charity Days” events are donated to charitable and civic organizations in the Greater Long Beach area.

The Grand Prix Foundation, since its inception in 1991, has donated more than $1,800,000 to Southern California charities.  In addition, the Foundation donates tickets and hospitality packages to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and tickets to the Foundation’s “Grand Prix Charity Days” events to charitable and civic organizations to assist them in their fund raising efforts or, in some cases, to bring the physically or mentally challenged to a “day at the races.” 

For more information on the Grand Prix Foundation, please call the Foundation office at (562) 490-4509.

About Kompolt:
Kompolt was retained to manage the auction.  Kompolt is the highly regarded "go-to" online auction agency for creating successful, high value, and high profile promotional and charity auctions for top brand companies and nonprofits.  For more information, go to www.kompolt.com

About the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race:
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2006, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race has evolved into one of the longest-running, corporate sponsored events of its kind, pitting celebrities from music, sports and film against professional drivers.  The event benefits “Racing for Kids,” a non-profit, national fund-raising program that supports children’s hospitals throughout the United States.

Toyota will donate monies, on behalf of each Pro/Celebrity driver, to “Racing for Kids,” including additional funds to the race winner’s charity of choice.  All funding will benefit two hospitals in Southern California, Miller Children’s Hospital of Long Beach and Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).    In conjunction with the ninth annual “People Pole Award” sponsored by People magazine, an additional donation will be made to the pole winner’s preferred charity.  Since 1991, Toyota has donated more than $1.3 million to children’s charity organizations.   For more information, please call (310) 468-5017.

San Jose announces major track change, ticket sales San Jose announces major track change, ticket salesUPDATE Besides the pitlane and main straight swap, the other big change in San Jose is the widening of Turn 4.  The race lost four cars in that turn last year because it was too narrow.  We are told it will be so wide this year that the drivers will even be able to pass there. 01/12/06 The San José Grand Prix presented by Taylor Woodrow today announced that tickets are on sale for the 2006 race, scheduled for July 28-30, on the streets of downtown San José.

Race management also announced that, in a continuing effort to improve the event both on and off the track, a number of changes are being made for the 2006 race.  One of the significant changes will be to swap the race track and pit lane along Almaden Blvd. in front of the Gold Grandstands. (Photo left courtesy Champ Car/LAT)

“By swapping the pit lane and race track we accomplish two goals,” said San José Grand Prix Vice President and General Manager, Bob Singleton.  “First, we addressed one of the major concerns of the drivers, to improve the pit lane exit and make it safer.  Second, we wanted to enhance the view of the pit lane and on-track action from the grandstands.  By moving pit lane across the street, we accomplished both goals,” he explained.  Singleton also noted that, “As a result of the change we have also relocated the Champ Car paddock to inside the Convention Center.”  zzzz

Last November, race management announced several improvements to the facility and the circuit all designed to enhance the spectator experience and improve the competition on the track.  Among the improvements to the facility that directly affected spectators are: The widening of one bridge, the addition of another bridge relocation and consolidation of several grandstands, the additional of approximately 5000 more grandstands seats and better general admission viewing.

Previously announced on-track changes include: New street contours at the VTA light rail track crossings on Almaden Blvd. and Market St., so it is smoother, which will allow for more speed.  The track will be widened in the turn at the corner of Almaden Blvd. and Park Ave. as well as along Park Ave.  The turn at Market and Balbach Sts. will also be widened -- all of which will create potential passing opportunities.

“Our goal for the 2006 San José Grand Prix was to improve the event experience both on and off the track.  We listened to our fans and drivers in deciding what changes to make.  The changes being implemented will accomplish our goal and make this year’s race a must attend event,” Singleton said.

The San Jose Grand Prix, which proudly supports the Canary Foundation, is the ninth stop on the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford schedule.  The Champ Car World Series features some of the greatest race car drivers in the world competing in the most diverse and exciting series in the world.  Champions Sebastien Bourdais, and Paul Tracy, along with San José native A. J. Allmendinger, and Mexican star Mario Dominguez are among the drivers that compete in the series.

Continuing its theme from last year, “More Than A Race,” plans for the 2006 San Jose Grand Prix include the addition of Freestyle Motorcross exhibitions as well as more music, interactive displays, charity events and promotional activities.  The week long festival is expected to draw over 150,000 fans to northern California’s largest city.  With more bridges, more viewing, more passing, more excitement and more fun, the 2006 San José Grand Prix will be more than it’s highly successful 2005 debut.

“Taylor Woodrow is pleased to continue its involvement as presenting sponsor of the San José Grand Prix, one of the most successful sports events in the history of San José,” said Scott Menard, Taylor Woodrow Northern California Division President.  Menard went on to say, “It is a great honor for our company to continue our support in 2006 and be active partners with Champ Car, the Canary Fund and the City of San José to deliver another exciting event that showcases one of the nation’s most dynamic cities.” 

Canary Foundation, which was founded by Don Listwin, is dedicated to advancing the science of the early detection of cancer and is the Official Social Cause of the Champ Car World Series.   

Tickets for the 2006 San José Grand Prix can be purchased online at SJGP.com, Ticketmaster.com, by visiting a Ticketmaster ticket center or by calling 408-998-TIXS (8497), 415-421-TIXS or 510-625-TIXS.  Tickets start at $25 for general admission and go up to $160 for a three-day Gold Grandstand seat.

Dakar Stage 12: Peterhansel crashes and loses lead Dakar Stage 12: Peterhansel crashes and loses leadStage 12 of the Euromilhoes Dakar 2006 took the competitors from Mali and its capital Bamako to Guinea and the city of Labé. On the 369kms of timed special, Cyril Despres captured his fourth success so far, only gaining over a minute on Marc Coma. The race in the car division was a lot more dramatic on this stage in Guinea because Stéphane Peterhansel (MIT – n° 300) dropped an enormous amount of time and thus relinquished his lead of the Rally to Luc Alphand (MIT – n° 302), who also was the winner of today’s stage. In the truck division, Vladimir Chagin (KAM – n° 508) remains in command despite the stage victory of Hans Stacey (MAN – n° 524).

[Note: Dakar Rally highlights will be shown every day at 4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET on OLN through January 15. The Dakar Rally will be televised starting January 14, 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. ET and continue to run at various times through January 30.]

After his upsets on Mauritanian soil suffering a severe crash on his way to Zouerat, Cyril Despres (KTM – n°1) will certainly have the satisfaction not to have withdrawn from the rally. The courageous Frenchman clinched a fourth success on this 28th edition. On his way to a 14th stage win on a Dakar, Cyril Despres beat his main rival Marc Coma (KTM – n°2) by only 1’45”. A tiny advantage for Despres considering his time deficit overall: now 32’39”.

But the day was very eventful when it came to the following positions of the leaderboard. Fourth before the start this morning, Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM – n°5) struggled and crossed the finish line losing 1h25’. The Norwegian drops down to sixth spot of the race, over 3 hours adrift. It was also a bad day for Carlo De Gavardo (KTM – n°4), suffering mechanical problems after crossing a river. Water in the engine of the Chilean’s KTM forced him to lose over 44min. De Gavardo keeps his fifth spot overall but sees Chris Blais pass him and move up to fourth position. The American who had claimed fourth place of yesterday’s special did even better today, finishing third, 2’29” adrift. Blais, 25-years-of age looks to be headed to an excellent fourth spot in Dakar after capturing 9th spot last year for his first Dakar. He could even do better: he is indeed 21’35” behind Giovanni Sala, third. zzzz 

The size of gaps, for as impressive as they are, are always relative to the troubles than can happen. Despite not being able to make his way around Carlos Sousa for 100kms the day before, one still could have found his reaction a little bit over the top. While Luc Alphand clung on to the slightest of hopes to win the 2006 Euromilhoes-Lisboa-Dakar, one could equally be amused with this nearly out of place optimism. Both had reason to think they were right.

On a nightmarish day that certainly can happen on the Dakar, even men who own all of the records can lose it all in one stage. Stéphane Peterhansel already had one such an experience in 2003, the year we lost the rally on the day before the arrival at Sharm-el-Sheikh. The lesson would not be enough. This time, it came three days before the finish. The defending two-time winner saw his hopes of a three-peat stop dead in their tracks. Handicapped with brake problems at the start of the special stage was not a good sign; “Peter” went off course at km 278. The tree that he hit damaged the left rear of his Mitsubishi Pajero Evo IV and stopped him for a good hour. His will wasn’t lacking, and he tried, along with co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, to carry out the repairs. The effort paid off, but the repairs lasted for just some 20 kilometres. Stopped for a second time, Peterhansel finally resigned himself to the idea of waiting for his service truck. Now all concerned turned their attention to the stopwatch: Alphand first, then De Vlliers (VW – n° 305) and Roma (MIT – n° 4) already moved ahead in the general standings as the mechanics arrived. The brief repairs (roughly 15-minutes) served to limit the damage. In arriving at the finish 3h16’ behind team mate Alphand, he is now fourth in the overall standings, just ahead of Mark Miller (VW-n°309).

Luc Alphand wasn’t content to be a passive onlooker in moving into the leadership of the rally. Certainly, the minutes won on the track represent just a small part of the enormous amount of time Peterhansel lost. But the former skier decided to focus on the work at hand. For his first visit to Guinea, Alphand proved to be the fastest on the day and claimed his fourth career win on the Dakar… his first in this edition. The timing was ideal.

While too far behind to battle Vladimir Chagin for the overall win in the truck division, Hans Stacey is trying perhaps to rival with the Russian for stage wins. The Dutchman posted another victory in Guinea, with a 12’26’’ margin over Firdaus Kabirov (KAM-n°500) and was 18’36 better than Vladimir Chagin. The "Tsar"has a 7-4 advantage. But he does have three match points left.

Top 20 after 12th Stage

Pos. N° Name Make Behind Leader
3 304 ROMA (ESP) & MAGNE (FRA)  MITSUBISHI 01:20:46
7 311 SOUSA (POR) & LURQUIN (BEL)  NISSAN 05:05:06
8 301 SABY (FRA) & PERIN (FRA)  VOLKSWAGEN 07:59:28
9 322 CHICHERIT (FRA) & BAUMEL (FRA)  BMW 08:05:10
11 307 SAINZ (ESP) & SCHULZ (ALL)  VOLKSWAGEN 09:47:03
13 317 GACHE (FRA) & GARCIN (FRA)  BUGGY 12:59:03
14 420 SAUKANS (LET) & DAMBIS (LET)  OSC 13:00:32
17 351 RATET (FRA) & CATTARELLI (FRA)  TOYOTA 17:06:11
19 438 TOLLEFSEN (NOR) & EVANS (UK)  BOWLER 18:10:45
20 313 COX (AFS) & PITCHFORD (AFS)  BMW 18:29:45

Drivers get physical in Indianapolis Drivers get physical in IndianapolisFor most, getting an annual physical consists of a cold stethoscope on our chest, the tightening grip of the sphygmomanometer as our blood pressure is measured and, ahem, "turn your head and cough."

When your occupation involves driving a race car 220 mph within inches of other race cars around a track for two or more hours, the examination gets a little more extensive.

The list of tests, therefore, expands from simply vital signs, a head-to-toe physical and blood screenings to include vision tests, electrocardiograms and a neuropsychological test.

Fifty potential Indy Racing League drivers visited Indianapolis Jan. 9-11 to undergo a battery of medical tests to certify their fitness for competing in the IndyCar® Series or Indy Pro Series in 2006. They also participated in a two-hour safety meeting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"We try to establish a baseline," said Dr. Henry Bock, senior director of medical services for the Indy Racing League. "What is this person like when they are normal? If they are involved in a crash, we can see the anomalies. zzzz

 "We pay special attention to the eyes and their vision. We want to make sure they have good visual acuity, that they can see well to the side, that they have coordinated eye movement. Their vision is so important to them."

A team of seven doctors, including an optometrist, and eight nurses, conducted the evaluations. The hearing test included making a customized ear mold for each driver. During on-track activities, the ear mold will contain accelerometers to measure forces experienced during an impact.

The medical staff used neuropsychological software from ImPACT, which also is used by 18 National Football League teams and hundreds of universities and high schools among other organizations, to document multiple aspects of neurocognitive functioning.

The computerized test measured attention span, reaction time, visual memory, working memory, response variability, verbal memory, sustained attention, selective attention and non-verbal problem solving.

"The Indy Racing League exam is absolutely the most thorough exam I've ever been through," said driver Chris Festa, who underwent the testing for the second time in his career. "It's a lot more extensive, which is good. They have their own information on us, and they know our tendencies. If we ever have to visit them at the racetrack, it will make them more effective in treating us and will make for a better recovery."

Andretti To Test At Sebring Andretti To Test At Sebring2006 Bombardier Rookie of the Year candidate Marco Andretti will test an IndyCar Series car on Jan. 15 and 16 at Sebring International Raceway.

Andretti, the third-generation driver from one of racing's most-storied families, will drive his Honda-powered Dallara as part of the IndyCar Series' rookie test under the supervision of IndyCar Series technical manager Kevin Blanch.

"We'll evaluate how he drives the car, his ability to understand what the car is telling him," Blanch said. "He'll have to do pit stops. He will have to demonstrate everything that we normally do in a rookie test."

The test will be Andretti's first official test of an IndyCar Series machine. He got his first taste of driving an IndyCar Series car in an unofficial test at Michigan International Speedway last August.

IRL amends IndyCar Series testing policy IRL amends IndyCar Series testing policyThe Indy Racing League has amended its previously announced testing policy for the 2006 IRL IndyCar® Series season.  The three testing days set aside for team testing have been replaced by three one-day Open Tests. The tests will take place at: the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 28, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on April 5 and Kansas Speedway on June 12.

The only team tests allowed under the new policy will be rookie or refresher tests deemed necessary by IRL officials.

"We have revised our testing policy from earlier in the off-season based on the commitment from Honda to serve as the league's single-engine supplier," said Brian Barnhart, president and chief operating officer of the Indy Racing League. "This testing format brings more efficiency to the teams, Honda and the league as we ready ourselves for the 2006 season, the league's first featuring its compacted schedule."

The previously announced tests at Phoenix International Raceway (Jan. 24-25), Homestead-Miami Speedway (March 2-5) and Richmond International Raceway (June 22) are not affected.  Teams can still earn bonus testing days by participating in both the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series.

Schumacher: "We seem to be on the right pace" Schumacher: "We seem to be on the right pace"Madonna di Campiglio - Michael Schumacher cut the odds of his leaving Ferrari and joining another team to just 0.1% when he explained his recent comments regarding his future after 2007 at the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro ski meeting in Italy.

"I said that at mid-season I will decide if I want to go on or not go on, and 99 percent I do this with Ferrari if I go on. I should say 99.9.

"When I said this sentence I made the comment that unfortunately I would rather say this because I don't want to lie and in life it is simply impossible to be 100 percent certain of what is going to happen, and therefore I see my future with Ferrari . Anyway, who can look so far in advance, and who can tell what is going to happen, particularly in our sport where things sometimes move rather quickly and as I said, I don't want to lie and therefore I am saying the truth and 99 percent that is what it is and then we will see."

The seven time World Champion explained that any decision would be fully discussed with his wife Corinna. "I think it's pretty normal that you involve your family in the whole procedure. My wife is aware of everything I think and what's going on, so it's pretty normal that we discuss any little details and she very often helps me to find a decision. She can watch certain things from a certain distance which I cannot do, so therefore her advice is very important to me." zzzz

Asked about Ferrari's performance in testing, Schumacher said "we've had various tests obviously during the winter and things have in general improved compared to what was our position and situation last year. Lately, in Jerez, again we seemed to have made another step and I think things look pretty promising, we're pretty much on schedule for our program and we look forward to this coming year.

"We seem to be on the right pace at the moment. In a way, we are surprisingly quick compared to the others, due to the good work that we have been doing for a long time. The result that you see now, they have started some months ago. We did 90,000 kilometers last year probably not achieving almost anything and now, in the last month we have achieved a lot. For us, that gives a big boost and extra motivation to do even better, to be more secure and have a better package available from the first race."

Regarding his expectations for 2006, Schumacher said "I think we can only have one target at least and that is to win the championship, in particular after a year like last year where success was so poor to our standards and we would really like to come back to where we had been before, to fight for the championship and maybe finally win it."

Part of Michael's preparation has been to improve his own physical fitness. "I didn't do a particularly good job in this area last year. I can do better and with age, certainly, you have to train harder. Things don't get easier, but the good thing is that with the experience that you have and with what I've seen last year, it sort of woke me up and it pinpointed the areas where I have to improve. You can be certain that I will be there with 100 percent preparation and actually I've been at that level for quite a while now because the first thing (I tackled) was exactly this after I came back from China, I was so frustrated."

Once again, the question of Valentino Rossi came up and Michael Schumacher felt he could become a Formula One driver. "He seemed to go pretty well in the tests he has been doing with us but then there is always the question mark: can you do the last little bit and that's always something you have to find out yourself after more experience in the car? I'm not sure he wants to do this or not. I believe even Ferrari would be happy to support him but then I guess it is in his hands if he wants it or not.

"I think he has some experience in go-karts, if I'm correct, but nevertheless, I think as a race driver, you have this sensitivity, whether it's on two wheels or four wheels. If you go from two wheels to four wheels and we've seen this in the past, it has worked out and it needs somebody with a lot of talent and you can certainly say that Valentino has a lot of talent. In the tests that he was doing, he was consistently improving himself but he himself knows, in his sport, to do this last little bit, to be very competitive against everybody, that's the most difficult part and nobody knows if he can be."

Finally, Michael said he was fully in favor of the implementation and driving of the new V8 engines. "I think, first of all, it was a more than logical approach to reduce power. Over the years we have been tackling aerodynamics, we have been doing tires, we have been doing all sorts of things to slow down Formula One but we kept decreasing the grip and we kept increasing the power and both together ends up in a combination which is out of proportion, which is why I was very much in favor to hear this decision.

"At certain circuits we were not within the safety limit or we were getting very close to it and with development we would have gone over it, so in general, from this aspect I agree very much.

"In terms of the sensation to driving, it's a lot of fun, it's like a little go-kart now. Before you had this monster in the back which you could not control to a certain degree because the tires dimensions were not (suitable) for managing horsepower and now it makes it more a package, more together, a lot of fun to drive. Your driving style changes slightly, you use high revs and it's a sensation I do like. I used to enjoy it in the past and I found this back again now."

Ferrari to unveil 2006 car at Mugello Ferrari to unveil 2006 car at MugelloOn Tuesday the 24th of January, at the International Mugello Circuit (Florence,) Ferrari will stage a press day for the world's media, when it will present the car with which it will tackle the 2006 Formula 1 World Championship, at the car's first test session which begins on the same day.

Launch Dates
January 14 Toyota
January 16 BMW
January 24 Ferrari
January 25 Honda
January 27 Williams
January 31 Renault
February 3 Midland
March 9 Red Bull
March 9 Toro Rosso
TBD McLaren
TBD Super Aguri

Best Buy to sponsor No. 66 car of Jeff Green Best Buy to sponsor No. 66 car of Jeff GreenBest Buy announced that it will sponsor the #66 [was #0] Haas CNC Racing team in the Nextel Cup Series with driver Jeff Green. "This is really good news for me and our team," said Green, the 2000 Busch Series champion. "Joining Best Buy Haas CNC Racing is a real thrill for me. With Best Buy coming on board and our plans for a new race shop, I think we have a pretty bright future ahead of us." Green said joining this team allows him to work with crew chief Robert (Bootie) Barker, who he has long admired. "We have the makings of a very good team. With Bootie as my crew chief, and a terrific crew and equipment to work with, I know I'm going to have a good year," said the Owensboro, Ken. native who, in addition to his 2000 Busch Series championship, owns 16 Busch Series victories and five top-5 finishes in Nextel Cup competition. "Haas CNC Racing is a top-notch organization and I think we will make some headlines in 2006." The Haas team has raced #0 since 2003, and in 2006 the team's Chevy will wear #66. This number was selected in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Best Buy, which opened its doors as Sound of Music in 1966 and is now North America's leading retailer of consumer electronics. While Best Buy will serve as primary sponsor on the #66 for a minimum of 12 races, Mike Linton, chief marketing officer for Best Buy, anticipates the #66 will have full sponsorship throughout the 2006 season, with additional announcements coming soon. "Our entry into the world of NASCAR last year was a fun experience--energizing both Best Buy employees and customers," Linton said. "As we looked to expand our presence this year, it was an easy choice to continue with the Haas CNC team. Anyone can do a sponsorship but not everyone can create a partnership and have fun at the same time. We know it's going to be a great season and that Jeff is going to be a great driver for the team." The Best Buy sponsorship will be highlighted on the #66 car as well as on driver and crew uniforms, trailers and merchandising items. Additionally the Best Buy Fun Zone Technology vehicle, a mobile unit featuring interactive technology displays, will make appearances at select races. Best Buy stores in key locations also will host driver and car appearances throughout the season. The Haas CNC Racing team is owned by Gene Haas, who founded Haas Automation in 1983. Based in Oxnard, California, Haas Automation is the largest machine tool manufacturer in the United States. Haas said the combination of a secure sponsorship combined with a championship-caliber driver and crew chief has created the most excitement at his 90-person race shop since it started in Nextel Cup racing in 2002. "There is a lot of excitement about this season--from Best Buy coming on as primary sponsor to Jeff Green taking over the car," said Haas. "We're looking forward to coming out of the gate strong at the Daytona 500 and being a contender for the championship." The race team is currently based in Harrisburg, NC, where it occupies a 40,000-square-foot building containing both the business offices and the garage where Haas cars are prepared for upcoming races. The team plans to break ground on a new state-of-the-art 140,000-square-foot shop on 23 acres at the Kannapolis, N.C., Gateway Business Park on Jan. 19. TMCnet
Car of Tomorrow to test at Daytona Car of Tomorrow to test at DaytonaUPDATE NASCAR's proposed "car of the future" appears to be dead in the water for the moment. Detroit car makers are putting on hold their own operations for the time being, saying that NASCAR executives aren't offering any clear directions on body configurations or timetables. NASCAR has planned an exhibition [at Daytona] today of its own in-house built version of the car, which was originally set to debut this fall at Talladega. But it appears no other stock-car teams will be participating. Another test of the car of the future in its quite different downforce configuration is expected in the next few days at Homestead, although it's still unclear how many, if any, NASCAR teams will participate. Winston Salem Journal

01/10/06 NASCAR will test the "car of tomorrow" Jan. 12 and Jan. 19 at Daytona International Speedway. Nextel Cup Series Director John Darby said Jan. 10 that all the teams have been invited to the tests, but he is unsure how many will actually participate in the tests on the restrictor-plate track. About 12 tests for the car, which could debut in 2007, are being scheduled for 2006. Among one of the pieces NASCAR is testing is a wing that goes across the deck lid, Darby said. "There was a lot of favorable results from it," Darby said. "One thing a wing does is that it can duplicate the good parts of aerodynamics in regards to downforce and side-force things without creating the weight that a big spoiler would. It sits up off the deck lid a ways. We can use it a lot for testing purposes to learn more about what the car likes and what doesn't like and take it from there. We have got two choices. We can just go ahead and leave the wings on them or we can go back and take that information [for the spoilers]. It's a test piece for right now." NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter

Bridgman signs with Jensen MotorSport Bridgman signs with Jensen MotorSportTim Bridgman has signed with Jensen MotorSport to contest the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic.  He tested with the team late last year in Atlanta.  "It is not only another step up in a fantastic series, but it is something completely different, and every circuit is going to be new to me," said Bridgman. "It's a good challenge and I'm looking to put everything I have learnt into practice - I want to make it count."

Career Highlights
2005  British Formula 3 International Series with Hitech Racing
2004  Formula BMW UK Champion, Muriel Tomlinson Trophy Winner, Willhire 5hr Endurance Race Winner, Nigel Moores Trophy Winner, Awarded British Racing Driver Club Rising Star, Nominated for McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award
2003  Zip Formula Champion, Jordan Cup Winner
2002  6 Months Karting - Won first race, 6 Wins/9 Races

Best Buy to Sponsor Jeff Green Best Buy to Sponsor Jeff GreenBest Buy announced today that it will sponsor the No. 66 Haas CNC Racing team in the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series with driver Jeff Green. "This is really good news for me and our team," said Green, the 2000 Busch Series champion. "Joining Best Buy Haas CNC Racing is a real thrill for me. With Best Buy coming on board and our plans for a new race shop, I think we have a pretty bright future ahead of us." The Haas team has raced No.0 since 2003, and in 2006 the team's Chevrolet Monte Carlos will wear No. 66. This number was selected in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Best Buy, which opened its doors as Sound of Music in 1966 and is now North America's leading retailer of consumer electronics. While Best Buy will serve as primary sponsor on the No. 66 for a minimum of 12 races, Mike Linton, chief marketing officer for Best Buy, anticipates the No. 66 will have full sponsorship throughout the 2006 season, with additional announcements coming soon.GMR PR
Thursday test times from Jerez Thursday test times from JerezPedro de la Rosa was the fastest Thursday at Jerez in his McLaren, but Fernando Alonso was the fastest V8 powered car.

Michael Schumacher and Luca Badoer had run for the past two days for the on-the-pace-again Ferrari team and now it was Marc Gené who took to the track to continue with the development program. The Spanish test driver had two cars at his disposal and he took turns at the wheel of both of them: an F2004 with a V8 engine and an F2005 fitted with a regulated power V10.

In the former, Gené covered 49 laps, the quickest in 1'18''548 and in the other car, he did 47 laps, with a best time of 1'20''538.

Pos Driver Team Tires Time Laps
 1. de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:16.732 65 *
 2. Barrichello Honda (M) 1:16.732 47 *
 3. Alonso Renault (M) 1:18.706 66
 4. Gene Ferrari (B) 1:18.825 79 *
 5. Webber Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:18.838 40
 6. Zonta Toyota (B) 1:18.916 89
 7. Rosberg Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:19.048 49
 8. Davidson Honda (M) 1:19.084 106
 9. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:19.164 97
10. Fisichella Renault (M) 1:19.462 83 *
11. Paffett McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:19.606 87 *
12. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (M) 1:20.148 79
13. Speed Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:21.035 64 *
14. Klien Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:21.469 44

* V10 engine

Lapierre, Ammermueller sign with Arden Lapierre, Ammermueller sign with ArdenArden announced today that Nicolas Lapierre will remain with the team for a second season and will be partnered by impressive young German, Michael Ammermueller for the 2006 GP2 Championship.

After several promising performances in 2005 alongside Heikki Kovalainen, former Macau GP winner Lapierre, will be looking to continue his strong form also demonstrated in the A1GP Championship having won five races.

Ammermueller was selected from an extensive evaluation program during three GP2 winter test sessions. He graduates to the team from the Formula Renault Eurocup having won six races, coming second overall in the championship. Michael is also a member of the Red Bull Junior Team.

Nicolas Lapierre
“After racing with the Arden team in 2005 and having enjoyed a strong winter testing program I am delighted to continue with the team in 2006 and hope to go one better than Heikki’s second position in 2005. GP2 is an extremely competitive championship but I am confident that we can compete for the title.”

Michael Ammermueller
“I am really thrilled to be joining a team as successful as Arden. The GP2 Championship will be an exciting new challenge for me. I really enjoyed driving the car and working with the team during the winter tests and look forward to the season ahead.”

Christian Horner
“Having won five races and led the championship for the majority of last year the Arden team are determined to improve in 2006 and in Nicolas and Michael, I believe that we have two extremely talented drivers. Nicolas knows the team well and with continuity I’m sure he can be very strong this year. Michael has a very impressive track record in Formula Renault and after testing convincingly with the team, during the winter, I look forward to 2006 with high expectations.” Source Arden

GT2 to be well represented at test GT2 to be well represented at testIn what is sure to be an eye-opening three days, a number of new GT2 entries to the American Le Mans Series are confirmed participants in the Series' second annual Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway later this month.

Team PTG will mark its return to the Series with a pair of BMW M3s at the three-day test session, scheduled for Jan. 23-25, in preparation for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. It will be the first appearance at an American Le Mans Series event for BMW since the 2003 Petit Le Mans.

Two Panoz Esperantes are scheduled to be at the Winter Test: one from Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz, the other from Team LNT in Europe. They will be joined by two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs from Flying Lizard Motorsports. zzzz

Team PTG and BMW announced their return to the American Le Mans Series in November. The two-car team will run the full 2006 season in the new GT2S class, a category created by IMSA to allow sedan-style cars into the Series. GT2S cars like the BMW M3 will be classified during races with GT2 entries and will compete for points and podium positions.

This will be the first test for Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz since November's announcement that it is taking over the development and performance of the Panoz Esperante GTLM from the Panoz factory. The team will campaign two Panoz Esperantes for the full 2006 season in GT2.

In addition to the Winter Test, Team LNT will enter two Panoz Esperantes in Sebring's 12-hour endurance classic. The England-based company reached an agreement with Elan Motorsport Technologies in August to field the cars in select GT championships in Europe and North America.

Flying Lizard announced earlier this week that it will return to the Series with the same package as 2005 - two Porsches along with drivers Johannes van Overbeek, Jon Fogarty, Seth Neiman, Lonnie Pechnik and Darren Law.

Test sessions are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day with American Le Mans Series cars slated to be on the track from 9-10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m.

Between 13-15 teams are expected to appear at the Sebring Winter Test, with additional announcements to come.

TV News
SPEED to televise over 1/2 of Rolex 24 SPEED to televise over 1/2 of Rolex 24SPEED will provide 13.5 hours of live coverage from this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, beginning January 28 at noon ET.

Bob Varsha and Leigh Diffey will provide play-by-play for the 44th running of the historic endurance race. Dorsey Schroeder and David Hobbs will provide analysis, while Calvin Fish, Brian Till, Chris Neville and Andrew Marriott will cover all of the activity in the pits.

“The Rolex 24 at Daytona really kicks off the American racing season in a big way,” said Hunter Nickell, SPEED’s Executive VP and General Manager. “And it always seems to bring out a great collection of drivers from various disciplines. Where else will you get to see IRL champ Dan Wheldon, NASCAR champ Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick in the same event?”

SPEED’s live broadcast schedule (all times Eastern):
Jan. 28 – noon to 6 p.m.
Jan. 28 – 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Jan. 29 – 8 a.m. to noon (with extended post-race coverage)
In addition to the race coverage, SPEED also will air Champions Quest 2006, a one-hour look at the star-studded, Pontiac-powered team of Howard-Boss Motorsports, featuring NASCAR champions Stewart and Rusty Wallace, IndyCar sensation Patrick and road-racing greats Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger, Allan McNish and Boris Said.

Champions Quest 2006, narrated by Varsha, will debut Feb. 18 at 10 p.m. ET.  Fans looking to get even more involved with this year’s SPEED coverage of the famed event, can visit www.SPEEDTV.com and send their questions and comments directly to the broadcast booth.  In addition, SPEEDTV.com will provide regular updates of the racing action, through its partnership with Racer Magazine.

Champ Car Reality Show to take a twist Champ Car Reality Show to take a twistWe hear some real improvements are in store for the Champ Car Reality Show Race Car Driver.  Things being considered include international TV distribution, a possible additional race team being added to the show and some emphasis on the $2 million pot of gold the Atlantic teams are going to be trying to win in 2006.  Contrary to a previous report, Paul Tracy will remain a key element of the show.
After test, Elliott ready for big race After test, Elliott ready for big raceAs Elliott was strolling to the parking lot he was asked to evaluate the team's performance and his No. 36 MB2 Motorsports Chevrolet. Though his response was short, it carried plenty of confidence. "Mission accomplished -- all systems go," said Elliott. "We're ready to come back here next month."
Elliott, who announced last week that he would drive for MB2 in the Budweiser Shootout (Feb. 11) and Daytona 500 (Feb. 19), posted the fastest speed Monday and the second fastest Tuesday. In Wednesday's drafting practice on the 2.5-mile tri-oval he said he felt comfortable in the MB2-built car.
"I liked the way the car handled in the draft," said Elliott. "It was just a nice-and-easy three days of testing."
Elliott, a two-time winner of the Daytona 500, has run a limited schedule the past two years. His last 500 appearance was in 2003.
"I like this place and I'm glad I am here." said Elliott. "If I’m sitting on the couch, I can’t win the Daytona 500 again so at least I’m down here trying.”
Stoddard, a 14-time winner as crew chief on the NASCAR Cup circuit, also gave high marks to the team's performance. 
"It was a good test and Bill was a joy to work with," said Stoddard. "He gave us some good feedback in race-trim conditions. We had a good package from last year's stuff and fined tuned around that. I think we can come back here and qualify well."
Stoddard also noted that the productive test session was a result of the quality off-season work by the MB2 employees.
"The group effort paid off once again for us," explained Stoddard. "The guys back at the MB2 shop, the fabrication department and the Hendrick engine people worked hard during the off-season and that's why we have the results that we do. I think the 01 (Joe Nemechek) and the 14 (Sterling Marlin) will come down here next week and also do well. I feel that the three MB2 teams have the potential of making some noise during Speedweeks."
TV News
USA TV reminders for Friday USA TV reminders for Friday
3:00 a.m.-5:00 a.m. ET (Replay) SPEED
'Then Came Bronson'
12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. ET, SPEED
'The Betsy' 
2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. ET, SPEED
Portugal to Dakar
4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET, OLN
'Corvette Summer'
8:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. ET, SPEED

For a complete listing of Friday's TV Programs, see TVRacer.com and Race Fan TV.

Fisi aims to keep Renault seat Fisi aims to keep Renault seat"I don't have a contract for 2007 but I hope I'll find a good solution," Giancarlo Fisichella was quoted as saying by Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I'm not worried. The objective is to have a good season in order to be able to find a top team, with the priority of staying at Renault.  You need to move quickly if you want to find a good seat, but you have to secure it all with results. I think the potential to do it is there, maybe with a little more luck compared to last year."

Illien says new engines cost teams big money Illien says new engines cost teams big moneyMario Illien says the introduction of V8 engines has done little to help reduce costs in Formula One. At times we have to wonder if Illien is clueless, because the V8 engines were meant to curb runaway HP and speeds, not cost. Regardless this is what he had to say on the topic of the new V8 engines.

"In theory, with the regulations forcing to use the same engine for two race weekends, it looked possible to cut costs," Illien told Italian magazine Autosprint.

"Quite the opposite, there has been really little money saved, since we still had to build some one hundred engines per season, especially to carry out testing. An engine then gets serviced.

"2,400cc engines are the most expensive way to reduce power in F1. With these V8s there will be no savings, and in fact with the new development programs we can expect very high costs. At the beginning, technical problems won't be lacking, so it will be necessary to have many engines at one's disposal.

"Only after this critical period it will be possible to find some sort of stability. If you wanted to have savings, it would have been enough to limit the bore and the maximum revs on the old V10s."

Montoya cost McLaren title says Mario Montoya cost McLaren title says MarioColombian Juan Pablo Montoya cost McLaren the constructors' title in 2005, according to Mario Illien.

"Renault didn't just have a very fast car, but a very reliable one too," Illien told Autosprint in an interview.

"On top of that Alonso is truly an exceptional driver, who races with his head and knows how to evaluate his chances and those of his rivals. He can employ precise and well-calculated strategies.

"In the first three Grands Prix we had some problems with the tires. The McLaren-Mercedes cars had oversteering problems and only later a solution was found.

"Furthermore, Raikkonen retired three times while in the lead, but it was never down to engine problems, however.

"On the other hand, losing the Constructors' Championship was down to Montoya who, in my opinion, should have brought home some more points to secure the title.

"That's it, Montoya made some mistakes which a driver of his experience shouldn't make," and finished 52 points behind his teammate.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Jerez test shifts into top gear
Massa wants maiden win
Monza appeal heads to court
Rubens set for life at Honda
Schu to be immortalized on ski slope
Renault revise Jerez program
V8s give fans less - tester
V8 Merc not facing re-design - McLaren
Toyota try to hush F1 rumor mill
'06 rules 'will help Ferrari' - Massa

Massa 'calm' despite uncertain future
IRL announces new marketing agreement IRL announces new marketing agreement
Sadler says new Ford Fusion is fast Sadler says new Ford Fusion is fast

Sadler:  “I’m pretty happy with my car. I think Tommy’s [Baldwin, crew chief] got it driving very well. In years past, if your car drives good you’re going to run good in the 500. So, I think we’ve got it really close on chassis. Springs and shocks, we’re going to do massaging with the new Fusion. But, all in all, I’m very happy with the new Fusion in the draft. Tucked up behind other people; it doesn’t get the aero tightness that we’ve had in the past. Ford has done a tremendous job in really giving us a great tool to work with. I can’t wait to get it in some racing conditions, when the track’s really hot and slick and things like that. So far, so good. I give it an ‘A.’ I give Ford an ‘A’ for their design work. And I give my team an ‘A,’ and all the guys at Robert Yates, for giving me a really fast car, but also a comfortable car to drive. So, so far, we’ve had a great test.”

Elliott wants to run 11-12 Cup races in 2006 Elliott wants to run 11-12 Cup races in 2006Bill Elliott said Jan. 11 that he would like to run 10 to 12 races in 2006, but his only firm commitment is for the Daytona 500 in the #36 car for MB2 Motorsports. He would run the rest of the races for Evernham Motorsports [#91]. The 1988 Winston Cup champion retired from full-time racing after the 2003 season and has run a limited schedule the last two years for Ray Evernham. "My goal would be to run 10 or 12 races, that's what we've always said in the past," Elliott said. "We've kind of fallen short of that with the way things have fallen within Ray's camp. Right now, his main focus is to get his third-car deal with Scott Riggs and all those things in place. For me, this is an opportunity for me to come down and do this and let him to get his program in place and then work toward whatever we do as we continue on down the road." NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Q and A with Dale Earnhardt Jr at Daytona Q and A with Dale Earnhardt Jr at DaytonaA Question and Answer session with Dale Earnhardt Jr. during a break in testing at Daytona.  He talks about having Tony Eury Jr. back and his chances for 2006. More.....
South African wins his first Dakar stage South African wins his first Dakar stageVolkswagen finished the Dakar Rally’s eleventh stage between Kayes and Bamako with a one-two for Giniel de Villiers and Bruno Saby.

After Carlos Sainz won a stage the day before in the Race Touareg 2 four the fourth time, team mate Giniel de Villiers presented the Wolfsburg team with its fifth stage victory. The third placed South African reduced the gap to overall leader Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi) by 21 minutes to 42 minutes. Mark Miller is the new fifth placed driver, after team mate Jutta Kleinschmidt retired after damaging the suspension beyond repair in an accident.

Stephane Peterhansel maintains the overall lead with three stages to go.

[Note: Dakar Rally highlights will be shown every day at 4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET on OLN through January 15. The Dakar Rally will be televised starting January 14, 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. ET and continue to run at various times through January 30.]

Stage 11 results:

1) Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) Volkswagen, 3h07:01
2) Bruno Saby (France) Volkswagen, 3h12:34
3) Luc Alphand (France) Mitsubishi, 3h13:04
4) Carlos Sainz (Spain) Volkswagen, 3h15:34
5) Guerlain Chicherit (France) BMW, 3h16:50
6) Carlos Sousa (Portugal) Nissan, 3h18:20
7) Alfie Cox (South Africa) BMW, 3h19:37
8) Eric Vigouroux (France) Chevrolet, 3h22:14
9) Mark Miller (United States) Volkswagen, 3h25:03
10) Jean-Louis Schlesser (France) Schlesser-Ford, 3h25:27

Top-10 overall positions after Stage 11:

1) Stephane Peterhansel (France), Mitsubishi, 41h37:57
2) Luc Alphand (France), Mitsubishi, 42h03:06
3) Giniel de Villiers (South Africa), Volkswagen, 42h20:16
4) Nani Roma (Spain), Mitsubishi, 43h15:48
5) Mark Miller (United States), Volkswagen, 44h56:03
6) Jean-Louis Schlesser (France), Schlesser-Ford, 45h35:51
7) Carlos Sousa (Portugal), Nissan , 46h43:14
8) Bruno Saby (France), Volkswagen, 49h58:02
9) Guerlain Chicherit (France), BMW, 50h07:20
10) Carlos Sainz (Spain), Volkswagen, 51h39:21

Track News
Darlington ticket sales up Darlington ticket sales upFor the first time in a long while, Darlington Raceway president Chris Browning can exhale.   Browning and track officials have held their collective breath for the past few years, listening to whispers about when the Nextel Cup's next visit to "The Track Too Tough To Tame" would be its last.

But with construction equipment setting the foundation for 3,000 new seats and ticket sales already 8,000 ahead of this time last year, Browning says it's finally nice to talk of Darlington's future without hedging about bad news around the corner.

"For the near future, I'm very confident and very comfortable about Darlington's position" on the Nextel Cup schedule, Browning said Wednesday.

The most concrete evidence of that came when Darlington officials were in New York last month for NASCAR's lavish awards banquet, the questions they got were about upgrades and not "when are you going to close the track?" Browning said, smiling.

Former champ Biaggi quits MotoGP Former champ Biaggi quits MotoGPFour-time world champion Max Biaggi is forsaking MotoGP for a likely season in superbikes after his well-publicized differences with his Honda team could not be patched up.   "I've been put in this terrible situation by Honda," the 34-year-old Italian told his personal Web site.

Biaggi, overshadowed by all-dominant compatriot Valentino Rossi in recent seasons, said he hoped to reach an agreement with Kawasaki to race in the world superbike championships this year.

"I have always appreciated this category, I also have a few friends in there and they have all my respect.

"So I am considering this opportunity as a very good one," added Biaggi.

Domino's Pizza to sponsor Waltrip Domino's Pizza to sponsor WaltripDomino's Pizza , the recognized world leader in pizza delivery, is going the distance with two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip as they extend their partnership into the 2006 NASCAR racing season.
Domino's will have an associate sponsorship throughout the 2006 racing season on Waltrip's No. 55 NAPA Dodge. Additionally, Domino's will be a primary sponsor on Waltrip's No. 55 Dodge during one NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race. The agreement also provides Domino's the opportunity to continue featuring Waltrip in NASCAR-themed commercials and promotions.

"Michael has done a great job in our commercials and serving as a Domino's Pizza spokesman," said Ken Calwell, chief marketing officer for Domino's Pizza. "We are happy to build on our relationship and to continue our participation in this exciting sport."

Domino's became the "Official Pizza of NASCAR" in 2003.

"Since our original announcement of being named the Official Pizza of NASCAR, we have propelled from the number three pizza choice among NASCAR fans to number one," said Calwell. "Our research shows that NASCAR fans are six times as likely to order Domino's because we are the Official Pizza. Our advertising message, 'Make Race Day Domino's Pizza Day,' has been well received by NASCAR fans."

Forsythe Racing announces 4-car Superteam Forsythe Racing announces 4-car SuperteamForsythe Championship Racing, 2003 Vanderbilt Cup winner in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, is proud to announce a multi-car entry into the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship.  “Forsythe Racing has a historic and deep association with Formula Atlantic” said Team Owner Jerry Forsythe. “With the Champ Car Atlantic Championship firmly established as the premier open wheel feeder series in North America and with the new and exciting changes for 2006, I am pleased to announce the formation of Forsythe Championship Racing's Atlantic ‘Superteam’ featuring four of the most promising young drivers in the world.”  More...
Jeff Gordon again fastest at Daytona Jeff Gordon again fastest at DaytonaMatt Kenseth was the fastest in Wednesday's morning session, with a speed of 188.403mph in drafting sessions. #38-Sadler, #12-Newman, #41-Sorenson and #21-Schrader round out the top five drivers. The fastest Chevy was #24-Jeff Gordon, which was 10th fastest. Afternoon speeds: #24-Jeff Gordon was back at the top during Wednesday afternoon's drafting practice with a speed of 189.298mph, followed by #48-Johnson, #17-Kenseth, #40-Stremme and #1-Truex Jr. 19 drivers in 31 cars tested on Wednesday, opting opt was #78-Kenny Wallace.

Jeff Gordon (24), Bobby Labonte (43) and Kasey Kahne (9) practice during NASCAR Preseason Thunder on Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

NOTE: Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. swapped seats during Wednesday's afternoon test session to evaluate each other's race cars . . . Jeff Fuller, driving the #80 Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing, spun in the afternoon session but drove away without making any contact.(DIS PR) Today's Speeds are listed below: zzzz

DAY 3- Jan 11, 2006 AM Speeds
Rank Car# Driver Manu Speed
1 17a Matt Kenseth Ford 188.403
2 38a Elliott Sadler Ford 187.649
3 12a Ryan Newman Dodge 187.637
4 17b Matt Kenseth Ford 187.512
5 41x Reed Sorenson Dodge 187.488
6 21b Ken Schrader Ford 187.441
7 40x David Stremme Dodge 187.402
8 9a Kasey Kahne Dodge 187.367
9 19a Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 187.282
10 24b Jeff Gordon Chevy 187.250
11 48b Jimmie Johnson Chevy 187.110
12 31x Jeff Burton Chevy 186.935
13 8b Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Chevy 186.908
14 36b Bill Elliott Chevy 186.834
15 12b Ryan Newman Dodge 186.803
16 31 Jeff Burton Chevy 186.800
17 9b Kasey Kahne Dodge 186.765
18 1a Martin Truex, Jr. Chevy 186.359
19 80b Jeff Fuller Chevy 185.877
20 43a Bobby Labonte Dodge 185.647
21 20a Mike Mclaughlin Chevy 185.613
22 43b Bobby Labonte Dodge 185.014
23 80a Jeff Fuller Chevy 184.873
24 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge 184.869
25 4 Scott Wimmer Chevy 184.862
26 8a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Chevy 184.475
27 23a Mike Skinner Dodge 183.978
28 20b Mike Mclaughlin Chevy 183.932
29 23 Mike Skinner Dodge 182.737
30 1b Martin Truex, Jr. Chevy 182.219
31 4a Scott Wimmer Chevy 181.324

 DAY 3- Jan 11, 2006 PM Speeds
 Rank Car# Driver Manu Speed
 1 24b Jeff Gordon Chevy 189.298
 2 48b Jimmie Johnson Chevy 189.195
 3 17b Matt Kenseth Ford 189.024
 4 40x David Stremme Dodge 189.000
 5 1a Martin Truex, Jr. Chevy 188.663
 6 80b Jeff Fuller Chevy 188.426
 7 12b Ryan Newman Dodge 188.229
 8 8a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Chevy 188.222
 9 31x Jeff Burton Chevy 188.103
 10 20a Mike Mclaughlin Chevy 188.029
 11 43b Bobby Labonte Dodge 187.903
 12 9b Kasey Kahne Dodge 187.813
 13 12a Ryan Newman Dodge 187.790
 14 31 Jeff Burton Chevy 187.762
 15 23a Mike Skinner Dodge 187.739
 16 38a Elliott Sadler Ford 187.621
 17 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge 187.613
 18 19a Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 187.613
 19 36b Bill Elliott Chevy 187.578
 20 9a Kasey Kahne Dodge 187.563
 21 21a Ken Schrader Ford 187.531
 22 17a Matt Kenseth Ford 187.508
 23 8b Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Chevy 187.188
 24 19b Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 186.931
 25 20b Mike Mclaughlin Chevy 186.536
 26 1b Martin Truex, Jr. Chevy 186.012
 27 43a Bobby Labonte Dodge 185.997
 28 4 Scott Wimmer Chevy 185.801
 29 23 Mike Skinner Dodge 183.027
 30 4a Scott Wimmer Chevy 178.696
 31 80a Jeff Fuller Chevy 0.000

Smith Responds To Rumors About Closing Of Ultra Motorsports Smith Responds To Rumors About Closing Of Ultra MotorsportsVeteran NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team owner Jim Smith, who closed his Ultra Motorsports team last week, today addressed the reasons surrounding the organization’s shut down.

“The reason we decided to shut down had absolutely nothing to do with Ford,” said Smith, in responding to rumors that had the manufacturer had not produced a promised deal for the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. “Ford was more than gracious in their offer to back us for the 2006 season. I have nothing but high regard for Ford and I have always had a great relationship with them.”

Smith, one of the founding fathers of the Truck Series in 1994, won the 2005 division championship with Ted Musgrave handling the driving chores. The championship was the first for Ultra Motorsports, which had fielded at least one truck in each of the 267 events in the history of the Truck Series. The team, which campaigned Dodge trucks last season, ended its run with a division-record 37 victories.

A reduction in support for Truck Series teams by Dodge, however, left Smith searching to partner with a new manufacturer for the 2006 season. Ford, which backed Smith’s Ultra Motorsports from 1995-2000, stepped up to the plate and was set to be on board for the 2006 campaign. When the closing of Ultra Motorsports was announced last week, Ford was unjustly accused of the team’s demise according to Smith.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Smith. “We had to assess our entire program after Dodge decided to allocate its resources elsewhere for 2006. When we looked at the big picture, the numbers just didn’t add up. It’s a shame we had to close our doors, but we’re extremely proud of the record Ultra Motorsports compiled over the years. Like they say, all good things must come to an end and for us, this is the end.”

Liuzzi today, Speed tomorrow, for Toro Rosso team Liuzzi today, Speed tomorrow, for Toro Rosso teamScuderia Toro Rosso's first season in Formula 1 can be said to have really started today with its first test session of 2006. The car ran reliably, allowing Tonio Liuzzi to rattle off no less than 91 trouble-free laps.

"On the technical front, this was a busy day, as we were assessing 3 types of brake disc," commented Chief Engineer, Laurent Mekies. "Tonio provided us with good and accurate feedback and we have a lot of data to analyze. This was pretty much a perfect start to our testing and Michelin should be complimented on providing us with tires that, despite the
cool weather, allowed us to run our brake program."

Scuderia Toro Rosso continues testing here tomorrow, when Scott Speed takes over in the cockpit.

Wurz has first outing with Williams Wurz has first outing with WilliamsSam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1:
“Today Alex started driving for WilliamsF1 and spent the morning working on systems checks before concentrating on set-up work in the afternoon. Alex is a fantastic addition to the team and has fitted in well immediately. Meanwhile, Nico worked on set-ups and started some tire testing for Bridgestone before experiencing a gearbox problem, caused by a high mileage component. Mark will be joining Nico tomorrow before Alex resumes testing on Friday.”
Champ Car picks new TV production company Champ Car picks new TV production companyThe Champ Car World Series will have a new vision behind the cameras to complement its increased television presence, as veteran motor sports specialist Mullin Production Group (MPG) has been appointed as the television production partner for the  2006 season.

MPG will produce the race coverage of all fifteen events of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford schedule that will air on CBS Sports, NBC Sports and SPEED.  As producer, John Mullin will be partnered with a team of experienced race television professionals, including Gary Clem in the director’s chair.

In addition, MPG will produce the programming from the twelve events that make up the new-look Champ Car Atlantic Championship presented by Yokohama, as well a qualification program and the world feed for the international audiences.  The Mullin Production Group has served as the production company for the Atlantic series for the past ten seasons.

“Mullin Production Group has a deep well of experience to draw from and we think that the knowledge and background in racing that they bring to the track will result in great broadcasts for our fans,” said Champ Car President Steve Johnson. “A strong television package is vital to our long-term success and today’s announcement is another positive step in that direction.”

The 2006 season gets underway April 7-9 with the nation’s longest-running street race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Champ Car season opener will take place Sunday April 9, with fans able to watch all of the action live on NBC, beginning at 4 p.m Eastern Time. The Champ Car Atlantic opener will take place Sunday morning in Long Beach, with the race to be broadcast on SPEED Channel.

Musgrave to drive Germain Toyota Musgrave to drive Germain ToyotaTed Musgrave's brief four-day unemployment has quickly ended. The veteran driver who won the 2005 Craftsman Truck Series championship but was unemployed last Friday when Ultra Motorsports closed its doors, signed a deal Tuesday to drive a Toyota Tundra this season for Germain Racing. Actually, we looked at it and it was 72 hours -- a weird 72 hours, to be sure -- but 72 hours from when [Ultra] said they were going to shut it down to getting ready to sign the contract," Musgrave said at Daytona International Speedway during Preseason Thunder testing. "But I'll be driving the 9 truck for the Germains and Todd Bodine will still be driving the 30."
De la Rosa and Schumacher top Jerez times De la Rosa and Schumacher top Jerez timesRunning an unrestricted V10, McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa, aboard the interim orange McLaren, set the quickest time on this Wednesday’s Formula 1 testing at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher was the fastest V8 runner.

1) de la Rosa, McLaren-Mercedes (M), 1:15.509, 86 laps
2) M. Schumacher, Ferrari (B), 1:17.970, 53
3) Zonta, Toyota (B), 1:18.541, 71
4) Alonso, Renault (M), 1:18.697, 104
5) Heidfeld, BMW-Sauber (M), 1:18.817, 56
6) Fisichella, Renault (M), 1:19.118, 65
7) R. Schumacher, Toyota (B), 1:19.189, 35
8) Rosberg, Williams-Cosworth (B), 1:19.394, 50
9) Davidson, Honda (M), 1:19.427, 112
10) Badoer, Ferrari (B), 1:19.774, 94
11) Rossiter, Honda (M), 1:19.891, 104
12) Trulli, Toyota (B), 1:19.975, 18
13) Paffett, McLaren-Mercedes (M), 1:20.136, 81
14) Liuzzi, Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M), 1:20.216, 90
15) Wurz, Williams-Cosworth (B), 1:20.749, 31
16) Coulthard, Red Bull-Ferrari (M), 1:21.198, 31

McDowell’s mother dies McDowell’s mother diesFriends, family and motorsports fans,

My wonderful Mother, Tracy Lynn McDowell 45, began a new journey on Friday January 6, 2006.

She passed away after a valiant yearlong battle with cancer. My Mom was a huge part of my life, my career, and I will miss her dearly. She was full of life and was adored by everyone she came in contact with. A celebration of her Life will be held Friday January 13, 2006 at 7:30 PM, at Boulder Creek High School located at 40404 N. Gavalin Peak Pkwy Anthem, AZ.

In lieu of flowers, our family requests donations be made in memory of Tracy McDowell to The Make A Wish Foundation (www.wish.org ) and/or blood donations to The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org). The Make A Wish Foundation is very close to our family’ s heart due to the involvement Finlay Motorsports has with the Foundation. Michael McDowell
Racing News
Reminder: Midweek Motorsport show airs today Reminder: Midweek Motorsport show airs todayMidweek Motorsport is back at its usual time of 8pm GMT (3pm ET). This week it comes from the NEC in Birmingham on the eve of the Autosport International show. Globecast will be broadcasting from there throughout the event and there will be a host of star guests on air throughout the 4 days of the show.

The guests this week include Clivio Piccione who will be revealing the identity of his new GP2 team for 2006 as well as discussing his future in F1, A1 GP and Sportscars.

Marino Franchitti returns to the show to discuss his participation in the Rolex 24Hrs of Daytona and his plans for the rest of 2006.

There will be a host of other features and the regular news and nonsense.

You can catch the show at www.yoursportradio.com or www.radiolemans.com. You can also listen to the show on the Sky TV platform on Channel 907. If you miss the show it will be available as a podcast on itunes soon after they are off air.

GP Masters inks Qatar date GP Masters inks Qatar dateGP Masters will stage its first 2006 race at Qatar's Losail International Raceway on April 29. The date was confirmed by GPM boss Scott Poulter after a signing ceremony in Doha on Tuesday.

"We are honored that the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation and Losail have chosen GP Masters to be the first car series to race on their incredibly impressive circuit, and we look forward to a long and fruitful association with Qatar.

"In particular I would like to thank Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, president of the federation, for his faith in GP Masters," said Poulter.

A minimum of 16 cars will race at Losail, with further race dates expected to be announced shortly.

"We are close to agreeing terms with two classic Grand Prix circuits, and should be in a position to announce them shortly," Poulter added.

DAMS completes line-up with signing of Franck Perera DAMS completes line-up with signing of Franck PereraThe DAMS GP2 series team has signed Franck Perera to race alongside Ferdinando Monfardini in 2006. Frenchman Franck Perera has today finalized a contract with the DAMS GP2 series Team for the 2006 season. He will join the Italian driver Ferdinando Monfardini in the French squad.

DAMS GP2 series Team Owner, Jean Paul Driot, said, "I am really delighted to have Franck joining the team for this season and proud that Toyota Motorsport Managers grant their confidence to our team. He represents one of the greatest hopes for French Motorsport and I am happy to renew DAMS Tradition to race French drivers to the top level.”

Franck Perera added “GP2 is the last step before F1 and DAMS was the best choice for me. They have a great history in Motorsport, the team is very competitive and, I look forward to racing with a French team again after so many years with Italian teams, dating right back to my kart days! zzzz

"The test in Paul Ricard this winter has been very important in preparing me for 2006. The result was good, we improved throughout the entire day and we instantly managed to be amongst the quickest guys of 2005. But the most important thing is that the relation between the team and me is perfect.

"I would also like to convey my pleasure at staying on the Toyota Young Drivers’ Program in 2006, what will be my sixth year as a Toyota young driver. They gave me the choice of team for this year and for me there was absolutely no doubt in my mind. DAMS were also quick to decide to work with me.

"When I tested with DAMS in the winter Ferdinando Monfardini was there too and he is a nice guy, our relation during this day was friendly and I think it is also very important to feel good with my team-mate. I want to thank Jean-Paul Driot and the team for their confidence and look forward to rewarding this confidence with great results with them this season.”

Yoshinori Arimatsu, manager of the Toyota Young Drivers Program (TDP) added, "It is our pleasure to announce this new collaboration with the DAMS team. It is the first time that the TDP has placed one of its drivers into the GP2 Series. We have been seeking the best place to put our driver Franck Perera and we have found DAMS to be the best. We have been discussing about a possible tie-up with Jean-Paul Driot from the early stages, and after witnessing the evident chemistry between Franck and DAMS in just half a day of testing at Circuit Paul Ricard last December, we are convinced that this is the team where Franck should drive. We are hoping this chemistry develops into a befitting strong result in GP2 for both DAMS and Franck this year."

GP2 releases 2006 schedule GP2 releases 2006 scheduleThe GP2 series will begin a new year of competition on February 22nd, when our first 26-car test session kicks off at Circuit Paul Ricard in France. With a total of five tests and 23 races at 12 venues scheduled to take place over the course of the 2006 season, the calendar is sure to test the physical and psychological resolve of all our teams and drivers, as they strive towards glory and the GP2 series crown.

As in 2005, the GP2 series will feature at 11 rounds of the Formula One World Championship in 2006. This season, however, the GP2 series will begin with a standalone event at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, in Valencia, Spain. This first event will feature on the back of the final pre-season GP2 series test at the same circuit.

GP2 Series Race and Test Calendar, 2006 Test

Paul Ricard, France22-23 February
Test Paul Ricard, France16-17 March
Test Barcelona, Spain28-29 March
Test Valencia, Spain 05-06 April
Race Valencia, Spain 08-09 April (Standalone event)
Race Imola, Italy (San Marino)21-23 April
Race Nürburgring, Germany (Europe)05-07 May
Race Barcelona, Spain 12-14 May
Race Monaco 26-27 May
Race Silverstone, Great Britain 09-11 June
Test Paul Ricard, France27-28 June TBC
Race Magny-Cours, France 14-16 July
Race Hockenheim, Germany 28-30 July
Race Hungaroring, Hungary 04-06 August
Race Istanbul Park, Turkey 25-27 August
Race Monza, Italy 08-10 September
Race Spa Francorchamps, Belgium15-17 September

Schu looks to stay fastest at Jerez Schu looks to stay fastest at JerezCertainly, the 37-year-old Michael Schumacher looked pretty comfortable in his scarlet car on Wednesday, again seeming to set a dominant pace at the tests in southern Spain.

A field of fifteen had already lapped at Jerez by lunchtime, also including Gary Paffett in an orange McLaren, Anthony Davidson and James Rossiter (both Honda), Nick Heidfeld in a virginal-white BMW Sauber and Nico Rosberg (Williams).  Alex Wurz, on his first day for Sir Frank Williams' Grove based team, had completed only an out-lap after the morning session.

David Coulthard's technical woes, meanwhile, continued for a second day in Spain, as the team struggle to iron-out the new RB2's troublesome cooling flaw.

Alonso poised for 'political' year Alonso poised for 'political' year(GMMf1NET)  Pedro de la Rosa is predicting a difficult year for countryman and world champion Fernando Alonso.  The Spanish test driver, likely to work with his young compatriot when Alonso switches from Renault to McLaren in 2007, warned the 24-year-old to be ready for a 'very political season' at his current Enstone team.

''It will be interesting to see what equipment is made available to him,'' de la Rosa suggested in the 'Marca' newspaper, ''and what support he receives.  One thing, however, is certain -- Fernando will give everything he has.''

Ferrari to bounce back - de la Rosa Ferrari to bounce back - de la Rosa(GMMf1NET) 2004 champions Ferrari are likely to be back on the pace this season. That's the opinion of test driver Pedro de la Rosa, who debuted the novel orange color-scheme at the wheel of an interim McLaren on Wednesday.

The Spaniard told 'Marca' newspaper that, with Michael Schumacher seeming to set the pace for a second day at Jerez, ''one can say that Ferrari will be back in front. Honda is also working very well,'' de la Rosa added.

McLaren's 'MP4-20', however, was the quickest car last year, and Pedro agrees that the next silver racer is also likely to be good.

But he suggested, amid suggestions that the new 2.4 liter V8 unit proved pretty unreliable in November and December testing: ''Regarding the new (Mercedes-Benz) engine, we still have a lot of work to do.''

’I’m no No.2’ - Massa ’I’m no No.2’ - Massa(GMMf1NET)  Brazil's Felipe Massa says he is not a 'number two' driver to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari.  However, the Maranello team's new boy, 24, admits that Schumacher's haul of five titles for the red squad means that he is sure to enjoy 'incredible support' in 2006.

''My contract doesn't say anything (about being number two),'' Massa said at the annual Ferrari press call in the Italian alps, ''it says that the team will give me full support.  I think it is easier for the team to make two cars that are the same,'' he added, ''rather than two different ones.''

White livery for BMW Sauber White livery for BMW Sauber(GMMf1NET) Germany's Nick Heidfeld emerged from the Jerez garage on Wednesday morning at the wheel of a plain white BMW-Sauber.

The new livery is a stark departure from the formerly Peter Sauber-owned Swiss team's usual turquoise and blue, signaling a wholesale change of image for the new BMW era.

Munich-based BMW also used the opportunity of its first test day in 2006 to unveil a new F1 sponsorship, with German phone operator O2.

O2 previously sponsored Williams, when the Grove based team was powered by works BMW engines.

Busch, Edwards test Goodyears Busch, Edwards test GoodyearsKurt Busch sported new colors today at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Dressed in a brand new blue firesuit, Busch took his first laps in the historic #2 Miller Lite car. Busch and three-time Atlanta Motor Speedway winner, #99-Carl Edwards, were at the track today to assist Goodyear Racing Tires with the first of a two-day test session. Busch's new crew chief, Roy McCauley said, "Today, Goodyear is looking at wear, heat, overall lap times, grip level and load. Based on all the data taken during the test, they will choose the tire that will not generate too much heat, but provide enough grip to make the driver comfortable." Edwards posted the fastest unofficial time of the day with a lap of 189.993 mph (29.18 seconds), while Busch's fastest lap was 187.869 mph (29.51 seconds). Both times were comparable to race speeds. "Atlanta...man, this place is fast," said Busch. "I enjoy coming here. I think all the drivers enjoy coming to this race track. With the new testing rules, this test is beneficial for our team," said Busch. "Goodyear gets to use our resources to test their tires, but the biggest thing is we get track time." Tickets are on sale now for all three days of racing excitement during the March 17-19 Golden Corral 500 race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with ticket prices starting at $30. For fans who want to attend all three days or racing action, including the NASCAR Craftsman Truck, Busch and NEXTEL Cup races, three-day tickets start at $70 (quantities are limited). For more information, call the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, 1-877-9AMSTIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. AMS PR
Track News
Bomb found at LeMans track Bomb found at LeMans trackAn American World war II bomb has been found at the world-famous 24-hour racetrack at Le Mans in western France, local authorities said on Tuesday.  The 250kg bomb was discovered during work on the hospitality area next to the track. It was to be made safe by disposal experts on Wednesday, according to the Automobile Club of the West (ACO) which operates the race track.  A similar bomb was found near the same spot seven years ago, the ACO said.
San Jose approves money for Champ Car race San Jose approves money for Champ Car raceUPDATE Here is what the local newspaper had to say about the approval to give the San Jose race $4.1 million.  It breaks down the payout over several years.  Bottom line is that except for the first year which has a $1.5 M payout, the race will get $600K per year thereafter. 01/10/06 AutoRacing1.com can report that after nearly 3 hours of presentations, explanations, questions and debating, the San Jose City Council today voted YES for the $4.1 Million dollars needed for the San Jose Grand Prix to continue!

You would have thought the council chamber was voting on the OJ Simpson verdict. The atmosphere was as thick as a knife as some of the council members wanted to defer the vote for another 2 weeks, which would have meant instant defeat, but in the end the remaining council members agreed time was an issue and went ahead with the majority giving formal approval of the Grand Prix. The new agreement with San Jose Open Wheel LLC (formally the Canary Fund) has a deal with the City of San Jose for two(2) five year options to host the Champ Cars on the downtown San Jose circuit.

Had the vote been defeated the Grand Prix would have been canceled, as money was a definite issue, but that's now history and we look forward to a successful SJGP come next July. (Related article, Also see our feature story on our Home Page on how Houston is financing their race)

Liz Allison authors book Liz Allison authors bookLiz Allison has authored a book to help women learn the ins and outs of NASCAR racing, entitled "Girlfriend's Guide to NASCAR." Allison, the wife of the late Davey Allison, uncovers the hidden rules of the sport, as well as official calls, an introduction to stock-car racing and information for the intermediate and advanced fans as well.
Track News
Sebring Hall To Induct Six Sebring Hall To Induct SixThe Sebring Sports Car Racing Hall of Fame has announced the class of 2006, which features four drivers, a car owner and an official.  Drivers Phil Hill, Briggs Cunningham, Brian Redman, Bob Akin, Dr. Don Panoz and Charlie Earwood will be inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame March 17 prior to the running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
Said and Lepage win gold medals Said and Lepage win gold medalsNASCAR racers Boris Said and Kevin Lepage captured gold medals in the Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge held Saturday at the Verizon Sports Complex as 10 NASCAR drivers competed against each other in two bobsled races.

Said, the son of former Olympic bobsled driver Bob Said, won gold in the first race of the day with a combined time of 1:44.38. Todd Bodine came in second in the first race followed by Stanton Barrett, Lepage and Tim Fedewa.  Lepage placed first in the second race of the day with a combined time of 1:44.14 to top Barrett, Fedewa, Todd Bodine and Geoff Bodine.

The aerodynamics of the MP4-21 The aerodynamics of the MP4-21As Team McLaren Mercedes returns to the test track in Jerez today with Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett at the wheel of the interim MP4-20s, Peter Prodromou, Chief Aerodynamicist at McLaren Racing, discusses his department's ongoing development schedule of the MP4-21.

What is your technical background and how would you describe your role and responsibilities as Chief Aerodynamicist?
"I studied Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College in London for three years, before spending an additional twelve months on a Masters. I then joined McLaren to introduce and begin to develop Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) within the company. My role progressed to looking after the wind tunnel testing and in 2000 I became Head of Aerodynamics."

"As Chief Aerodynamicist at McLaren Racing, I lead a team of aerodynamicists and CFD engineers, whose responsibility and goal is to effectively advance the aerodynamic design of the car to improve aerodynamic performance, using the various tools available to us, which are CAD, CFD, and the wind tunnel. It is also vital to continue developing the tools that are available to us to help us to do that job."

What is your specific role within the MP4-21 project?
"The chief aerodynamicist role, which means that I am responsible for the shape of the car."

When did work begin with MP4-21 and what did the initial stage comprise?
"From the aerodynamic side, work began on MP4-21 around the beginning of April 2005. Of course other work on the car started well before that, such as engines and gearbox. The start of the process focused on defining areas of MP4-21 that we wanted to research, which were potentially going to affect the fundamentals of the car. Areas such as a new front suspension layout, front and rear axle positions and different chassis designs were explored and then specified at around this time. Then there was a period when the research list was worked on, in terms of actually designing the various components that would be required for the wind tunnel or for CFD, and then making those components."  zzzz

When did wind tunnel work begin with MP4-21?
"We hit the tunnel with MP4-21 at the beginning of July 2005, and since then we have completed thousands of hours of wind tunnel testing. At this time of year, the operational hours for the wind tunnel at the McLaren Technology Centre are extensive, running seven days a week."

How is the design process going?
"It is going reasonably well, we are at the stage where we have defined the initial package and now we are working on finding performance steps to continue to improve it through the winter and into this coming season."

How have the regulation changes for 2006 affected the aerodynamic design of MP4-21?
"For 2006 the regulation changes are not as significant as for 2005. There are some, but not at the level of last year. For the aerodynamics team there were two implications of the regulation changes for 2006. The first is how we could exploit the change to the new Mercedes-Benz V8 engine, which opened up opportunities for the repackaging of the rear of the car. A lot of effort has been put into this area, and it was an early focus to establish what has become available to us at the back end."

"The second major regulation change was to the forward deflector area, which has been raised by regulation 50mm. Even though technically you can devise a solution relatively easily, for example take what we had last year and raise it, the consequences of doing that were significant and they were complex enough that we had to address that whole area of the car quite comprehensively."

Is MP4-21 an evolution or a new car?
"It is a new car, but in terms of its basic concept it is evolved (with less than 10% carry-over parts) from the MP4-20 fundamentals."

What is the current focus of the design program?
"I’m afraid I cannot be specific for competitive reasons, but the basic car is now defined and fully spec'ed and the focus has now turned to what we can do between now and the first race, whilst also looking at what we can do for the various upgrade packages during the season. McLaren has always pushed hard to bring continual lap time improvements right up to the last race. The research and development pressure is relentless, because that’s what it takes to win in a modern Formula One team." Source McLaren Mercedes

Ralf: Michael will never leave Ferrari Ralf: Michael will never leave FerrariMichael Schumacher's manager Willi Weber said on Tuesday that the German could move to big-spending Toyota after Ferrari.  Speaking to  Bild magazine, Weber noted Toyota's 'Nothing is impossible' advertising slogan, but brother Ralf believes disagrees.

"Of course there wouldn't be any problem with being at the same team but this is an impossible occurrence, because Michael will never leave Ferrari," Ralf told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"When you come into this world you think that after two or three years you will have enough and leave. Instead, the more you race the more you enjoy it. That's why Michael is here and doesn't want to retire."

Racing News
Toyota offers bright future for young drivers Toyota offers bright future for young driversToyota has underlined its dedication and support to up-and-coming racing drivers by today announcing it has six rising talents on its successful Toyota Young Drivers Program (TDP) roster in 2006.

First up is TDP veteran, Frenchman Franck Perera, who is promoted from the F3 Euro Series to the highly competitive GP2 Series in 2006. Perera's move to the top flight will see him race for the DAMS team and perform on a global stage as GP2 acts as Formula 1 support event for its second season.

Current incumbents to TDP race seats Kohei Hirate and Kamui Kobayashi will be joined in 2006 by newcomer to the scheme, Kazuki Nakajima. The trio will all take part in the highly competitive F3 Euro Series, a championship in which Hirate finished 12th in his debut season last year. Hirate will move to the Manor team in 2006 to partner his new TDP colleague Nakajima. Kobayashi, reigning champion of both Formula Renault Italia and Eurocup, will move up a grade to join the ASM team, which so dominated the F3 field in 2005. zzzz

TDP boasts two new talents this season with Dutchman Henkie Waldschmidt and Englishman Martin Plowman joining the scheme for 2006. Both will take part in the Italian Formula Renault and Eurocup championship with Prema Powerteam in their debut TDP season.

"We cannot guarantee that any of the drivers in the TDP will become Formula 1 drivers," explains Noritoshi Arai, who is in charge of the TDP from the Toyota Motorsport base in Cologne, Germany. "But one of the aims of the TDP is to seek out the next driving stars and to bring them up step-by-step to the racing series that most befits their talents. For 2006, we have Franck in GP2, Kamui, Kohei and Kazuki all in F3, and two rookies Henkie and Martin in Formula Renault. We will do all in our power to support them and give all racing fans around the world six extra reasons to support Toyota this season."

BMW Sauber F1 Team agrees partnership with O2 BMW Sauber F1 Team agrees partnership with O2Munich,  The new BMW Sauber F1 Team will have the support of mobile phone operator O2 Germany in 2006. As an official partner of the BMW Sauber F1 Team, O2 is extending its previous Formula One involvement and its existing partnership with BMW.

The partnership between the BMW Sauber F1 Team and O2 goes beyond conventional sponsoring. Starting this season, for example, the Munich-based network provider is planning to offer team-design merchandising articles in its stores. O2 also offers a wide range of WAP, MMS and SMS information services on the subject of motor racing as well as up-to-the-minute news. The BMW Sauber F1 Team will in future be making its mobile phone calls through O2.

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen: "It is important for us to have partners who apply the same high standards to their products. O2 stands for quality,  innovative solutions and user-friendliness. We are looking forward to working together."  zzzz

Rudolf Gröger, CEO of O2 Germany, adds: "O2  and the BMW Sauber F1 Team share the same striving for perfection. Both partners focus on innovation and use the latest technology to achieve rapid success."

The connection between the two companies has a history. O2 was already an official supplier to the BMW WilliamsF1 Team and a team partner of BMW Motorsport during their one-two victory in the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race in 2005.

O2 (Germany) GmbH & Co. OHG is a subsidiary of O2 plc. With its own mobile phone network as well as a roaming deal with T-Mobile, it offers its postpaid and prepaid customers virtually blanket GSM coverage in Germany. Beyond that, the company offers innovative mobile data services based on GPRS and UMTS technology. O2 plc has 25.7 million customers in Britain, Ireland and Germany.

V8 Supercars
Team Australia hiring Team Australia hiring
V8 Supercar Race Team
Position Title: Skilled Engineering & Technical Positions
Skilled Engineering & Technical Positions Available With V8 Supercar Race Team

Senior Track Engineers (TRO6V8). Experience in V8 Supercars, DTM, BTCC, ETCC, NASCAR or similar (Based in Australia).

Simulation Engineers (SIO6V8). Experience in current simulation tools (Based in Australia)

Data Acquisition Engineers (DAO6V8). Experience with Pi Workshop, Pi Toolbox & current sensor techniques. Proficiency in Visual Basic, C++ & Matlab an advantage (Based in Australia).

Development Engineer (DEO6V8). Experience in chassis design & development, wind tunnel development (scale & full size), compliance & suspension rig testing (Based in the USA)

Interested parties should use reference code and fax a response to Derrick Walker at: (317) 387-2889.  All responses will be kept confidential.

Davidson pulls out of 'Aguri' running Davidson pulls out of 'Aguri' running(GMMf1NET) Anthony Davidson is no longer in the running for a race seat at Honda-backed 'Super Aguri'.

The Briton has signed to stay as the works Honda team's test and Friday driver in 2006, a statement said on Tuesday.

It will be diminutive 26-year-old Davidson's fifth year as test driver, although he harbors a burning desire to make the race grid.

''The team is ... grateful for his continued loyalty and dedication,'' the Brackley based team's statement read.

''My decision is the right one,' 'Ant' commented, ''for sure. Although I would prefer to be in a race seat, I am in the best possible position to work towards achieving that goal.''

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Finn not promised Alonso's ride
Ferrari 'looking strong' in '06
New Renault has 'potential' - Fisichella
Schu, Ferrari, head to Italian alps
Imola to renovate F1 pits
Williams' team manager steps down
'STR' launch official website
Why 'F2004' is still clocking up miles
'Hannover 96' at F1 tests
Racing News
Yokohama Tire Names two Yokohama Tire Names twoFULLERTON, Calif. -  Yokohama Tire Corp. (Champ Car Atlantic Tire supplier) announced that two positions have been filled at their Fullerton, Calif.-based marketing department: Fred Koplin has been named director of marketing and Theresa Palang is manager of advertising and public relations.

“Fred and Theresa possess the skills to provide the strategic vision that will take our marketing efforts to the next level,” said Jim MacMaster, Yokohama executive vice president, Business Division. “Their collective public relations and marketing experience will help tell the Yokohama story to dealers, media and the public.”

Koplin, who will report to MacMaster, is a former publisher with Ehlert Publishing and Primedia. Before joining Yokohama, Koplin ran a company producing motorsports content for ESPN, and worked on advertising and marketing for several motorcycle and packaged goods companies. Koplin, who has an MBA in business from Duke University and an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, will oversee the creation of marketing plans and materials to help dealers sell more Yokohama tires, according to MacMaster. zzzz

Palang, who will report to Koplin, possesses extensive PR/marketing experience in the automotive aftermarket, having overseen the communications strategy at companies such as K&N Engineering. In addition, previous responsibilities have included motorsports marketing, online marketing and tradeshow management. Prior to K&N Engineering, Palang was with Wilwood Engineering and Primedia. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from California Lutheran University and an MBA from Claremont Graduate School.

Yokohama Tire Corporation is the North American manufacturing and marketing arm of Tokyo, Japan-based Yokohama Rubber Company, a global producer and distributor of premium tires for more than 89 years. Servicing a network of more than 4,500 points of sale in the U.S., Yokohama Tire Corporation offers a complete line of tires including high-performance, light truck, passenger car, commercial truck and bus, as well as off-the-road mining and construction applications. For more information on Yokohama’s extensive product line, visit www.yokohamatire.com.

Yokohama is a strong supporter of the tire care and safety guidelines established by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA). Details can be found at the “Taking Care of Your Tires” section at www.yokohamatire.com.

Revised Dyson Lola ready for Sebring test Revised Dyson Lola ready for Sebring testDyson Racing will unveil its new car and engine package at the official American Le Mans Series Winter Test at Sebring, Fla., on January 23-25. The team will continue to run a Lola-AER package in 2006, but with two new Lola B06/10 chassis powered by Advance Engine Research’s new 3.6-liter twin-turbo V8 engines.

Dyson Racing’s partnership with Lola and AER was first established in 2002 when the team began running the AER four-cylinder turbocharged Lola B01/60. Having claimed the ALMS LMP675 championship in 2003, the Lola-AER was still a proven winner through 2005, with two wins: a one-two at Mid-Ohio, the team’s first ALMS one-two, and at Mosport in September, which gave James Weaver his 100th career win.

For 2006, Weaver will be driving with Butch Leitzinger in the No. 16 Thetford/Norcold machine. This is Weaver’s 20th year with Dyson Racing, 10 of which have been in collaboration with Leitzinger. While he will be concentrating on Howard-Boss Motorsports’ Rolex Series championship effort in 2006, Andy Wallace will continue his 11-year association with the Dyson team by driving with Leitzinger and Weaver at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans, as well as assisting the team in testing and development.

Chris Dyson, runner-up in the 2005 ALMS championship, will be paired with Guy Smith in the No. 20 Thetford/Norcold entry. Smith drove with Rob Dyson’s team last year at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans.

“Your off-track relationship with your team and co-driver is as important as what you do at the track,” remarked Smith. “Dyson Racing is the perfect blend. Rob runs a 100 percent professional operation that enjoys its racing. I worked well with Chris last year, and along with Butch, Andy and James, it’s a great team with great people. A driver can’t ask for more.”

“Everyone on the team is very excited about 2006, Rob Dyson said. This is a big year for us and we are keen to get started on the new program. Sebring is the first step in a massive effort to bring a championship back to Dyson Racing.”

The 10-race ALMS season kicks off with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 18 with live coverage on SPEED Channel.

Gordon fastest Tuesday evening at Daytona Gordon fastest Tuesday evening at Daytona
Tuesday evening testing
Pos. Car Driver Speed
1 24 Jeff Gordon 188.466
2 36a Bill Elliott 188.025
3 38a Elliott Sadler 187.594
4 48 Jimmie Johnson 187.582
5 17a Matt Kenseth 186.982
6 38b Elliott Sadler 186.955
7 20a Mike McLaughlin 186.614
8 19a Jeremy Mayfield 186.521
9 43a Bobby Labonte 186.070
10 31 Jeff Burton 185.935
11 36b Bill Elliott 185.605
12 80b Jeff Fuller 185.468
13 80a Jeff Fuller 185.280
14 41 Reed Sorenson 185.166
15 21b Ken Schrader 185.018
16 8a Dale Earnhardt Jr. 184.805
17 17b Matt Kenseth 184.771
18 9b Kasey Kahne 184.657
19 20b Mike McLaughlin 184.638
20 9a Kasey Kahne 184.619
21 23a Mike Skinner 184.566
22 12a Ryan Newman 184.479
23 41x Reed Sorenson 184.422
24 4 Scott Wimmer 184.411
25 24b Jeff Gordon 184.117
26 12b Ryan Newman 183.906
27 8b Dale Earnhardt Jr. 183.891
28 23 Mike Skinner 183.404
29 40 David Stremme 183.404
30 40x David Stremme 183.400
31 1a Martin Truex Jr. 183.020
32 1b Martin Truex Jr. 198.016
33 78b Kenny Wallace 182.934
34 4a Scott Wimmer 182.467
35 78a Kenny Wallace
Dyson on track for Rolex 24 Dyson on track for Rolex 24It is the New Year and racing is back on the radar screen.   Dyson Racing led off the new season with productive participation in the recently concluded three-day test for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The January 28 Rolex 24 kicks off the six-race Dyson Racing collaboration with Howard-Boss Motorsports in the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.  Drivers Rob Dyson, Chris Dyson, Oliver Gavin and Guy Smith teamed up for the Daytona Test Days that ended Saturday.

"This is always a great way to begin the new year," observed Rob Dyson. "Everywhere you turned you were running into old friends and competitors. It was like old home week. I enjoyed being back in the car. The Howard-Boss Motorsports team has been hard at work in the off-season making changes to the car since I was in it last at Watkins Glen in September. There have been substantial improvements.  This is an excellent team with a proven track record at the 24 Hours of Daytona. " Zzzz

"We learned quite a bit during the test," noted Chris Dyson.  "The lap times were consistent and encouraging. We were solidly in the top ten in Friday afternoon's session.  We got sidetracked a little on Saturday, but you don't move forward without experimenting.  Any time you have a driver lineup that includes an overall (Smith) and class winner (Gavin) of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, not to mention a past race winner of this race (father Rob), you have to be excited about your chances."

Rob Dyson has run the Rolex 24 eighteen times and is a two time winner of the renowned American endurance race: 1997 as a driver and in 1999 as an entrant.

In addition to the Rolex 24 Hour, the Dysons will run the #16 Thetford/Norcold entry in five additional Grand-Am races with Howard-Boss Motorsports: Homestead-Miami Speedway (March 25), Virginia International Raceway (April 23), Watkins Glen (June 3), Daytona International Raceway (June 29), and Watkins Glen again on August 11.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona starts at 12:00 PM EST on Saturday, January 28.  It will be shown live on the SPEED Channel in three segments: 12:00 - 6:00 PM EST and 8:00 - 11:00 PM EST on the 28th and on Sunday, from 8:00 AM - 12:30 PM EST.
Hamilton Jr. signs one race deal Hamilton Jr. signs one race dealGreen Light Racing is announcing it will join forces with Cup Series Veteran Bobby Hamilton Jr. for a one-race deal at the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17th. Hamilton will pilot the No. 08 Dodge.

Hamilton Jr. has five NCTS starts and has made the most of his limited time in the series. He has two top-five finishes and has led in three of his NCTS starts for a total of 135 laps in truck series competition, narrowly missing wins at Darlington and Nashville. Hamilton Jr. also has an impressive five NASCAR Busch Series wins in his career.

The season opening race under the lights at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17th will be the first of 25 races on 22 separate racetracks across the United States for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. All of the NCTS events will be broadcast live nationally on the Speed Channel. More Sponsorship details to follow.
Jarrett moves Racing Adventure to Talladega Jarrett moves Racing Adventure to TalladegaDale Jarrett Racing Adventure (DJRA) announced today that it has moved its operations from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Talladega, Alabama.
Ganassi tabs USAC standout Ganassi tabs USAC standoutChip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced today a partnership with up-and-coming USAC National Sprint Car and Midget Series standout Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind. as part of the team’s Driver Development Program. Clauson, son of former Sprint Car driver Tim Clauson, will contest an arduous race schedule comprised of USAC National Sprint Car and Midget Series events. This weekend’s O’Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals will start his season-long campaign, where he’ll do battle with 269 other competitors from 31 different states inside the Tulsa Expo Center in Oklahoma.

“I think what you have here is obviously a young and very talented driver in Bryan,” said Ganassi. “We’ve been keeping close tabs on his progress over the past year or so, and were pleased to see him improve and realize continued success on the track. I think this program is a direct result of the promise he shows behind the wheel of a race car.”

Clauson, a native of Sacramento, Calif., rose to stardom last season in the USAC National Sprint Car division when he took over the Keith Kunz Motorsports seat overseen by USAC staple Keith Kunz. With a win at Columbus Motor Speedway (Ohio), he became the youngest driver in the 50-year history of the sanctioning body to win a National Feature event at just 16 years, three months and 23 days.

“Bryan is one of those young drivers who has been on my list since about this time last year,” said Lorin Ranier, of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Driver Development Program. “He has extraordinary patience and smoothness, and we are excited about working with him as he continues to develop as a driver. Our program with Keith and Bryan is a positive situation for all parties involved. It’s a collective effort between the Charlotte and Indianapolis Ganassi Racing facilities, so Bryan will have a tremendous amount of support behind him this year.”  zzzz

Over the past nine years, Clauson has won several championships on both dirt and pavement in a variety of cars. At the tender age of five he began cutting his teeth in a race car, and has won titles and races in every one of the biggest venues and series he’s tried his hand at.

“The Chip Ganassi Racing team name says it all,” said Clauson. “It means a lot to me that an organization of this caliber would stand behind me as I try to take my career to the next level. It’s a bit overwhelming to be honest, but that’s not to say that I won’t be giving it my all every step of the way. This is a tremendous opportunity with both the Charlotte and Indianapolis sides of the Ganassi organization working together, and I want to work hard to make the most of it.”

The National Sprint Car Series portion of the development partnership with Columbus, Ind.-based Keith Kunz Motorsports will include a Dodge engine program in association with Chip Ganassi Racing. Clauson’s National Midget Series program will run Bullet chassis with factory support from Fontana Engines, based out of Gardena, Calif.

“This is a very important and special opportunity for our team, and I can’t say enough about the fact we are working in conjunction with Chip Ganassi Racing,” said Kunz. “It’s also a huge shot in the arm for USAC Racing in general, because you now have names like Chip’s team and others stepping up and supporting our racing efforts. We couldn’t be more thrilled about getting the season underway.”

Fans of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates can follow Bryan Clauson and Keith Kunz Motorsports by logging onto www.bryanclauson.com, and keep up with the team’s successes throughout the 2006 season by logging onto the official USAC website at www.usacracing.com for news, features, photos and much more.

Ralf says Toyota should win in '06 Ralf says Toyota should win in '06Ralf Schumacher says Toyota should be in a position to win its first GP in 2006.

"There are no really big changes to the car since the last test in December and we are still concentrating on adapting the car to the Bridgestone tires and putting mileages on gearboxes and engines. In general the car feels very good, with the new rear end being a step forward. It is still quite difficult to draw firm conclusions in cold conditions. As last year, we are hopeful that we can make a strong start to the season, because just like the chassis side, the engine department under Luca Marmorini has done a great job. The target for '06 is to win some races and I think it should be realistic after the podiums we had last year. People on the outside expect that we could score one or two victories and I do think that should be possible."

Q and A with Kasey Kahne at Daytona testing Q and A with Kasey Kahne at Daytona testing
NASCAR says no to new Dodge nose...again NASCAR says no to new Dodge nose...againWhile Dodge teams are lobbying for concessions to make the one-year-old Dodge Charger more competitive, Nextel Cup Series Director John Darby said Jan. 10 that it is unlikely they will get them. "We'll continue to watch the Dodge, but there are no changes on the table," Darby said. Dodge teams, which won only two races in 2005, still have the option of using the 2004 Intrepid, which two teams used at Homestead-Miami Speedway last season. NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Autocon releases renderings of its LeMans entry Autocon releases renderings of its LeMans entryAutocon Motorsports has released initial renderings of the livery that will adorn the No. 12 Lola EX257, which will compete for the full 2006 American Le Mans Series in the LMP1 class.

"We used royal blue as the primary color because our truck, kiwi tile and some of the equipment is from former Series contender Team Bucknum, which was co-owned by Bryan Willman, one of our drivers this season," Lewis said.

"Yet, we wanted a design that was different enough from the car's former owner, Dyson Racing, which most people know flies a primarily white car with darker blue accents. I think we've hit on something a little unique and fun to watch."

ESBG Design, a firm quickly becoming one of the leading designers of race car paint schemes, created the design and renderings behind the watchful eyes of artist David Borkowski.

Autocon will be piloted by Lewis, and Series prototype regulars Chris McMurry and Willman. The latter drove a number of races with Autocon in 2005 in the team's Riley & Scott chassis, and also drove with McMurry while at Team Bucknum from 2001-04.

The team says it has secured all of the necessary funding for 2006, and will announce the name of its Sebring sponsor in the coming days. Autocon will not be present at the American Le Mans Series Winter Test at Sebring, but does have slated three days of practice in California on Feb. 1-3.

"The crew and the drivers are all looking forward to getting familiar with the car at the test," said McMurry. "This Wednesday we'll all gather at the shop in San Diego for seat fittings. We'll be ready for the season-opener at Sebring in March."

The American Le Mans Series begins its 2006 season with the 54th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The 12-hour endurance classic is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. EST March 18 at Sebring International Raceway and will be televised on SPEED Channel. American Le Mans Series Radio will have flag-to-flag coverage available at www.americanlemans.com, along with IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.

Newey attends first test for Red Bull Newey attends first test for Red BullAdrian Newey wasted no time upon his arrival at Red Bull Racing, immediately joining the team for their first test session of the year at the Jerez circuit.  Joining as Chief Technical Officer, Newey started work the day before the team’s 2006 challenger, the RB2, takes to the track for its second ever test session at the Jerez circuit in Spain.

“I’m going down to Jerez to spend some time with the team and to see the new car,” said Newey, as he unpacked his personal effects onto his shiny new desk (would you believe he still uses an old fashioned drawing board!) “It’ll be nice to escape England in January and to be back at a race track again. I’m also looking forward to hearing the sound of these new V8 engines for the first time.”

“On a serious note,” added Newey. “I expect to spend my initial period with the team observing how things are done here, getting to know people and finding my feet in this new environment. The technical team is very strong and has a good reputation, so my aim at the start will simply be to understand how Red Bull Racing operates.” Red Bull Racing

Industry News
GM to cut prices on 80% of fleet GM to cut prices on 80% of fleetGeneral Motors Corp., whose U.S. sales fell 4.3 percent last year, said it will cut the prices on about 80 percent of its cars and trucks.  Prices will reduced on all Buick, Chevrolet and GMC models and most Pontiac vehicles, said Mark LaNeve, GM's head of North American marketing, in a statement today. The price cuts take effect tomorrow. Combined with reductions made on some models in August, the changes cover 90 percent of GM's volume, LaNeve said.

GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said two days ago that GM may improve U.S. sales this year on the strength of new vehicles such as its redesigned large sport-utility vehicles. GM, the world's largest automaker, lost $4.8 billion in North America last year. Its 26.2 percent U.S. market share in 2005 was the lowest in 80 years as Toyota Motor Corp. and other Asian automakers gained a record 36.5 percent share.

``It's a good idea, but it may not be big enough and it will probably take three to four months to gain traction because it's a slow time right now for sales,'' said Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing, an auto consulting and research firm in Bandon, Oregon.

[Editor's Note: Let's see, GM lost their shirt last year giving away cars at cost. Now they are going to reduce costs across the board and lose their shirt again. They are so gung-ho on maintaining their #1 world status that they are willing to lose money doing it. The Japanese meanwhile, cut production if sales are soft, but maintain prices to maximize profit. The Japanese managers must get a good laugh at America's inept management. Such ineptness is driving GM and Ford into bankruptcy.]

Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Hiroshi Okuda said Tuesday that he believes General Motors Corp. will likely receive support from the U.S. government if it faces further trouble.  "I have the feeling that GM is in a difficult situation," Okuda was quoted as saying by Hisako Komai, a spokeswoman for the Nippon Keidanren, Japan's most influential business lobby. Okuda heads the lobby.

"But the auto industry is a symbol of the United States, and if GM faces further difficulty, I don't think the U.S. government will leave it," he was quoted as saying at a press conference for the organization.

GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner dismissed the suggestion in an interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

"I haven't seen any evidence whatsoever of that," Wagoner said. "If somebody wants to help, great. I haven't seen the check come in yet." 

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. each expect to sell substantially more cars and trucks in the United States this year, even though industry experts say total industry sales will remain flat at about 17 million vehicles.

Detroit's two biggest companies saw U.S. vehicle sales drop a combined 346,000, or 4.6%, between them last year. The result was big financial losses, credit-rating downgrades and plans for a new round of plant closings and job reductions at both companies.

Scrappy day for new RB2 at Jerez Scrappy day for new RB2 at JerezAfter its preliminary two day shakedown at Silverstone in December, the Red Bull RB2 began a four day test at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Southern Spain. David completed 31 laps with track time being lost through an electrical fault that left the car stranded out on the track. It was something of a scrappy day," commented technical director Mark Smith. "Our priority today had been to see if we had solved the cooling problem we encountered at Silverstone and the short answer is that we have not. However, it did not prevent us from running. We went for the short term fix of additional holes in the bodywork, and we were able to begin work on seeing how the new car reacts to set-up changes, while also embarking on a tire test program that takes into account the fact we will once again be able to change tires during the races this season."
Chevy teammates fastest Tuesday morning at Daytona Chevy teammates fastest Tuesday morning at Daytona
1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy 186.966
2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevy 186.734
3 20a Mike Mclaughlin Chevy 186.382
4 36a Bill Elliott Chevy 186.374
5 43a Bobby Labonte Dodge 186.047
6 36b Bill Elliott Chevy 185.778
7 80b Jeff Fuller Chevy 185.713
8 80a Jeff Fuller Chevy 185.613
9 38a Elliott Sadler Ford 185.533
10 38b Elliott Sadler Ford 185.494
11 8a Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevy 185.372
12 19a Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 185.338
13 31 Jeff Burton Chevy 185.235
14 20b Mike Mclaughlin Chevy 185.216
15 17b Matt Kenseth Ford 185.094
16 17a Matt Kenseth Ford 185.048
17 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge 184.961
18 23a Mike Skinner Dodge 184.668
19 8b Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevy 184.668
20 4 Scott Wimmer Chevy 184.627
21 41x Reed Sorenson Dodge 184.547
22 9b Kasey Kahne Dodge 184.532
23 21b Ken Schrader Ford 184.490
24 9a Kasey Kahne Dodge 184.332
25 12b Ryan Newman Dodge 184.328
26 12a Ryan Newman Dodge 184.305
27 31x Jeff Burton Chevy 184.226
28 24b Jeff Gordon Chevy 184.207
29 23 Mike Skinner Dodge 183.985
30 40 David Stremme Dodge 183.696
31 19b Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 183.490
32 43b Bobby Labonte Dodge 183.471
33 4a Scott Wimmer Chevy 183.161
34 1b Martin Truex Jr. Chevy 182.778
35 1a Martin Truex Jr. Chevy 182.534
36 78a Kenny Wallace Chevy 182.249
10th stage of Dakar bike race cancelled, Peterhansel widens lead 10th stage of Dakar bike race cancelled, Peterhansel widens leadUPDATE Despite another stage win by Carlos Sainz, Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel (MIT) has increased his race overall lead. The title holder now has a 40’04" lead over team mate Luc Alphand. Third is Giniel De Villiers (VW) at 1H03’17."

Peterhansel (pictured right - Stéphane Peterhansel / Jean-Paul Cottret Courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors), who had already taken a decisive advantage on yesterday’s stage, was looking to confirm his domination of the rally. Clearly, the goal was to widen his gap from Luc Alphand in the general standings. He did just that. The work of picking up seconds began in the first kilometers. Starting first, the leader of the race was forced to maintain a hard-charging pace to distance his teammate. At mid-race, “Peter’s” work was already paying off, because his virtual lead rose to 1’50”. Next, the former skier largely contributed to his team mate’s big day, in hitting a tree. A half an hour stop at km 218 provoked his lose. With a 40’04” deficit, Alphand will have to hope for a similar misadventure to “Peter” to win his first Dakar. On the other hand, he defended his second place in the general standings against Giniel De Villiers (VW-n°305), in gaining some 12-minutes today over the South African.

If Giniel De Villiers remains the highest placed Volkswagen driver in the general standings, the German brand all the same took some modest revenge with the performance of Carlos Sainz, who doesn’t stop running hot and cold on the rally. Impressive on his good days, like he was in winning his fourth stage of the rally, he has yet to find the consistency that would permit him to battle for the top spots on the leader board. Two nightmarish days due to his exuberance have him 10h13’49’’ behind Peterhansel.

Overall standings after stage 10:

Pos Driver Make Time
 1. Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mitsubishi 38:09:58
 2. Luc Alphand (France) Mitsubishi 38:50:02
 3. Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) Volkswagen 39:13:15
 4. Nani Roma (Spain) Mitsubishi 39:45:22
 5. Jutta Kleinschmidt (Germany) Volkswagen 40:09:30
 6. Mark Miller (United States) Volkswagen 41:31:00
 7. Jean-Louis Schlesser (France) Schlesser-Ford 42:10:24
 8. Carlos Sousa (Portugal) Nissan 43:24:54
 9. Bruno Saby (France) Volkswagen 46:45:28
10. Guerlain Chicherit (France) BMW 46:50:30
11. Philippe Gache (France) Buggy 48:08:59
12. Carlos Sainz (Spain) Volkswagen 48:23:47
13. Stephane Henrard (Belgium) Volkswagen 49:24:01
14. Maris Saukans (Latvia) OSC 50:14:59
15. Thierry De Lavergne (France) Renault 50:40:21
16. Jean-Francois Guinot (France) Volkswagen 51:27:25
17. Josep-Maria Servia (Spain) Schlesser-Ford 53:13:06
18. Bob ten Harkel (Netherlands) Bowler 54:03:56
19. Erik Ivar Tollefsen (Norway) Bowler 55:32:57
20. Alfie Cox (South Africa) BMW 55:39:36

01/10/06 While the cars and trucks tackle the tenth stage of the Dakar Rally today from Kiffa to Kayes, the remaining motorbike riders will leave Mauritania together after the stage was cancelled as a mark of respect for Andy Caldecott. Caldecott died following an accident 250km into the longest stage of the event from Nouakchott to Kiffa.

[Note: Dakar Rally highlights will be shown every day at 4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET on OLN through January 15. The Dakar Rally will be televised starting January 14, 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. ET and continue to run at various times through January 30.]

Renault debuts new car Renault debuts new carUPDATE The R26 completed its first laps today at Jerez, with Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel. Fernando Alonso began working alongside his team-mate in the R25.

The Renault F1 Team today began its first day of testing in 2006, marking the occasion with the introduction of its 2006 challenger, the R26.

The new car completed its first installation lap at 09:10 with Fisichella at the wheel, prior to undergoing initial checks. More exploratory work followed, gradually building up the length of the runs in order to complete mileage with the new car.

Inevitably, running was punctuated by lengthy checks to on-board systems and components, with the team going about its initial program in a prudent manner. The day also saw the track debut of the RS26 V8 engine on track, which ran without incident as it completed nearly 200km.

Driving last year's R25, Fernando Alonso's program got off to a slow start as cold temperatures prevented useful running. He then concentrated on brake development throughout the afternoon.

Giancarlo Fisichella "We had a very promising first day with the R26. I felt comfortable straight away, and the program was to do as much mileage as possible, while proceeding with all the checks you have to do on a new car. This wasn't a day to go for lap-times, and it was hard to get the tires working in the cold temperatures. The V8 engine felt very good, similar to our predictions and it was reliable for the first run. My first impression is that this is a car with a lot of potential."
Bob Bell, Chassis Technical Director "Today was the first milestone on the road to the opening race of the season in Bahrain. The R26-RS26 project has put everybody in the team to the test over the winter, and they delivered today when the car ran on time, on the day we planned nearly a year ago. After our initial installation laps, our work proceeded smoothly. As with any new car, there were some minor issues to resolve, but we did not encounter any major problems and gradually began completing some longer runs."

"The purpose of the day was very simple: to put miles on the new package. From what Giancarlo could tell, the car is responding in the same way as the R25 – which is in line with our predictions, and our objectives. The engine's first track test went very smoothly, and the V8 was behaving normally as it completed nearly 200km. All in all, it was a pleasing opening day of testing with the new car." Source Renault

01/10/06 The new Renault R26 made its track debut at a foggy Jerez on Tuesday morning. With Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel, the new car turned its first laps and looks very similar to the R25 that it replaces except for some new sidepod radiator openings. It also has Renault's new V8 engine in a car for the first time.

This week’s work will include four days of testing devoted to initial running with the new car. Checking the driver installation, short evaluations runs, seat fittings and long technical debriefs will be the order of the day with the R26. The second car is the R25 chassis, which will continue intensive tire program with Michelin to continue development on the 2006 regulations.

Schumacher fastest at Jerez Schumacher fastest at JerezTesting resumed today at Jerez following the winter break and it was Michael Schumacher who led the way in what was the first day of testing of 2006.

At the wheel of an F2004, Schumacher concentrated on development work with the V8 engine recording the best time of 1:18.020s around the 4.428km circuit. Test driver Luca Badoer was also in action for the team at the wheel of a restricted V10 F2005 as the Italian worked on Bridgestone's tire development program and was fifth fastest.

Toyota took the second and third best times of the day with Ricardo Zonta and Ralf Schumacher in action while Fernando Alonso was on track in the V10 powered Renault to take the fourth best time.

All eyes were on Giancarlo Fisichella today though as he was given the task of running the new R26 chassis for the first time with the all-new RS26 V8 powerplant. Fisichella completed 39 laps in the new machine and was sixth fastest in what was effectively a shake-down run for the new car.

David Coulthard put some more laps on the new RB2 chassis that broke cover just ahead of the Christmas break at Silverstone. The day was not a trouble free one for the team however and running was restricted to 31 laps.

Jerez - 10/01/2006
 DRIVER             TEAM   TIME     LAPS
1 SCHUMACHER Ferrari 1:18.008 83
2 RSCHUMACHER Toyota 1:19.359 52
3 ZONTA Toyota 1:19.862 77
4 ALONSO Renault 1:19.920 62
5 BADOER Ferrari 1:20.099 62
6 FISICHELLA Renault 1:20.554 41
7 COULTHARD Red Bull 1:21.983 31

Source Ferrari

Track News
TMS partners with Getty Images TMS partners with Getty ImagesTexas Motor Speedway today announced it has signed a multi-year agreement with Getty Images, Inc., making it the first motorsports facility to partner with the world’s leading creator and distributor of visual content.

Getty Images will serve as photographic partner to Texas Motor Speedway, providing access to coverage of the Samsung/RadioShack 500 race weekend featuring the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and Busch Series, the Bombardier Learjet 500k with the Indy Racing League and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and the Dickies 500 NASCAR triple-header with the NEXTEL Cup Series Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series. Getty Images also will photograph non-race events held throughout the year.      In addition to award-winning photography, Texas Motor Speedway will leverage Getty Images’ expertise in media management and distribution. By utilizing Getty Images Media Manager, an on-demand digital asset management service, Texas Motor Speedway will provide its staff and business partners instant access to a centralized, password-protected library of the speedway’s rich archive, covering its exciting 10-year history. zzzz

Further, by leveraging Getty Images’ image.net, a distribution service for publicity and marketing materials, Texas Motor Speedway will have the ability to send photographs directly to mass media, as well as local and regional outlets. 

“In addition to world-class images, the Getty partnership allows us to maximize track photography in the critical areas of electronic archiving and mass media distribution,” Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said. “Those are inherent issues for most tracks, but this package addresses all of our needs.

“The archiving is especially important during our 10th anniversary season since it instantly allows us to service media outlets with images dating to our construction days. The mass media distribution through Image.net is extremely beneficial, allowing us to move images from Texas Motor Speedway to thousands of media outlets throughout the country as well as provide images to those local and regional community and weekly newspapers in our area to complement their coverage.”

“Partnering with Texas Motor Speedway is a tremendous opportunity for Getty Images,” said Peter Orlowsky, vice president of Sales, Getty Images.  “Like Texas Motor Speedway, we understand and value the importance of speed; the combination of Getty Images’ award-winning photographers, Media Manager and image.net, ensures that Texas Motor Speedway is positioned to receive, manage and distribute images faster and more efficiently than ever. We’re thrilled to be providing spectacular images for one of the most exciting motorsports facilities in America, and we’re committed to developing innovative solutions tailored to the growing needs of Texas Motor Speedway.”

Yokohama returns to Atlantic Series Yokohama returns to Atlantic SeriesThe Champ Car Atlantic Championship is proud to continue one of the longest partnerships in motorsports with today’s announcement that the Yokohama Tire Corporation will return for its 18th season with North America’s top open-wheel racing development category, once again serving as the exclusive tire supplier and presenting sponsor for the Atlantic series in 2006.

In this prestigious role, Yokohama will continue to provide its ultra-performance ADVAN Racing Slicks as the official tire on the new generation Atlantic competition package that will feature a Swift 016.a chassis design powered by a 2.3 liter Cosworth engine.  Yokohama will also continue to provide significant contribution to the Atlantic prize fund making the 12-race purse one of the most substantial in racing. In addition, Yokohama will have an even stronger presence this season among Atlantic competitors with its Contingency Tire Program and among race enthusiasts with at-the-track presence through its racing services arm, Trackside Performance.

“Yokohama is very happy to return as presenting sponsor and the exclusive tire supplier for the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama,” said Robert Dole, Product Promotions Manager at Yokohama. “Atlantic competition is always extremely close and we’re looking forward to what promises to be a very exciting season in ‘06 with a new car and many new and returning teams and drivers to the Atlantic series. At the track, the Atlantic series has proven to be a valuable marketing asset and a superb way to entertain our dealer network.”  zzzz

Yokohama Tire Corporation is the North American manufacturing and marketing arm of Tokyo, Japan-based Yokohama Rubber Company, a global producer and distributor of premium tires for more than 89 years. Servicing a network of more than 4,500 points of sale in the U.S., Yokohama Tire Corporation offers a complete line of tires including high-performance, light truck, passenger car, commercial truck and bus, as well as off-the-road mining and construction applications.

“We’re excited to welcome back Yokohama for their 18th season of Atlantic racing,” said Vicki O’Connor, Managing Director of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama. “It’s a pleasure and an honor to rely on a trusted partner as we move into a new era of competition with the Atlantic championship in 2006.”

Track News
Bulldozers plow under Flemington Speedway Bulldozers plow under Flemington SpeedwayToday bulldozers have started to plow under the famous Flemington Speedway in New Jersey. This once famous track 1/2-mile oval saw many a famous driver over the years, drivers like Andretti, Foyt, Unser, Ward, etc. The track was noted for its unique shape in that the drivers were, but for a short backstraight, literally always turning the entire lap (sliding sideways actually). After it was paved some 15 years ago, the track lost a bit of its character and dropping attendance eventually led to its closure. NASCAR even ran the Craftsman Truck Series there two years.
Flights for NASCAR Race Teams offered Flights for NASCAR Race Teams offeredTeams now have something new to consider for the 2006 race season. CharterSearch, Inc, an Air Charter Management Company that has been in business since 1987, is working on a new program that will provide the Performance, Consistency and High Level of Service that NASCAR team's need. CharterSearch will be working this year to help provide the teams a lower cost option as the needs continue to grow with more new teams or higher demanding schedules on and off the track. USA Jet will be working exclusively with CharterSearch and provide the dedicated aircraft and crews which operate as a Part 121 carrier. They will be using three DC-9 Series aircraft that are configured in an executive/business class configuration to give the race crew members the comfort they need. More info at www.chartersearch.com [Editor's Note:  DC-9's are old.  Let's hope they are well maintained and safe.]
Gene Simmons dines with George and Scheckter Gene Simmons dines with George and ScheckterUPDATE #4 The Indy Racing League will put its "I Am Indy" marketing campaign for the 2006 season in the hands of a company owned by legendary rock artist Gene Simmons of KISS, a league spokesman said Monday.  Simmons-Abramson Marketing is one of several new components to the IRL's marketing campaign. Walt Disney Co. has signed to become the league's official entertainment company, providing video boards for pre-race entertainment at events. Indy Star

01/09/06 KISS legend Gene Simmons and partner Richard Abramson will discuss their new marketing partnership with the Indy Racing League in a media teleconference on Tuesday.

12/18/05 Another reader adds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I know exactly why Gene Simmons has appeared in Indy with Tony George. A few months ago I was watching a TV special about the rock band KISS, and there was a segment where Gene gave a tour of a room in his house that was actually more of a museum of KISS merchandise, complete with glass display cases etc.. Anyway near the end of his little tour he held up an Indy poster and stated that soon he would be taking on the merchandising for the IRL! That is why he is in Indy. Mike Boyd, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

12/18/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1,  My first thought when I read about Gene Simmons visiting with TG in Indy was another copycat move.   Champ Car has Cedric the Entertainer, could the IRL be wooing Simmons, another big name in the entertainment field? Rich McGuigan  Dear Rich, Would the IRL copy Champ Car?  Nah, they never do that.  Not! Mark C.

12/18/05 Indiana's IndyStar.com is reporting that KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons was in Indianapolis for a few days this past week to learn more about racing. And he got some tutoring from the top ranks during his time in the city.

He visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and dined in one of the private dining rooms at 14 West with IMS CEO Tony George and driver Tomas Scheckter.

What does it all mean? Nothing yet, said IRL (Indy Racing League) spokesman John Griffin. Simmons might be back for the Indianapolis 500 as a VIP guest, but no other official relationship was forged during this visit, Griffin said.

A new book on Ecclestone in works A new book on Ecclestone in worksThe Daily Telegraph is reporting that Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has signed a deal with sports book publisher Kraken Media for the publication of an authorized account of his role in the development of F1 since 1971. The company has published similar works on Manchester United and Diego Maradona. The books will run to around 1000 pages and will cost $3,000. The publishers say that they will print only 10,000 copies, which is the normal print run for a motor racing book, It will be interesting to see how it sells. Kraken says it will have access to behind the scenes material and are hoping to move on make a documentary on the same subject.
Piccione joins Pla at DPR Piccione joins Pla at DPRThe British DPR team has announced that its two drivers for the 2006 GP2 Series will be Frenchman Olivier Pla and Clivio Piccione of Monaco.

Twenty-one-year-old Piccione joins DPR from Durango, while Pla remains with the team for his second successive season. Their combined driving experience, together with an expanded engineering department, is what Team Principal David Price believes will make all the difference in 2006.

"It's great to have two experienced drivers who both won GP2 races in 2005," said Price. "Clivio, like Olivier, is a proven race winner. Over the winter period we've invested heavily in simulation software and additional engineers, and I'm confident this - with our driver line up - gives us a great start to the coming season."

Olivier Pla is very happy to be continuing with DPR. "I think it's a big advantage to know the team so well, to know how professional they are. I will continue with my same engineer, Chris Gorne, who has been having a lot of success over the winter in A1GP, and that gives me great confidence. Last year we were quite unlucky many times, and missed out on good results, but this year we have no reason not to perform. I know we can do a good job."

Pla's new teammate, Piccione, is equally upbeat about the forthcoming season. "I'm really happy to be joining DPR. They showed they have a lot of potential to succeed during the 2005 season. I have great trust in David Price and I think we will do a great job all together. Olivier will be a good team mate; we know each other already, and it's our second year in GP2, and I think this is a really key point to make us push each other to achieve the best results." Source DPR

Dakar Stage 9: Peterhansel increases lead Dakar Stage 9: Peterhansel increases leadReigning champion Stephane Peterhansel increased his lead in the Dakar Rally on Monday on a day that saw tragedy strike the race when a motorcyclist died (see separate story).  So difficult was the Monday stage that some bike riders still had not finished Tuesday morning at sunrise.

[Note: Dakar Rally highlights will be shown every day at 4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET on OLN through January 15.  The Dakar Rally will be televised starting January 14, 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. ET and continue to run at various times through January 30.]

Top-10 Standings after stage 9:

Pos Driver Make Time
 1. Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mitsubishi 34:36:26
 2. Luc Alphand (France) Mitsubishi 34:45:42
 3. Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) Volkswagen 35:30:42
 4. Nani Roma (Spain) Mitsubishi 36:12:40
 5. Jutta Kleinschmidt (Germany) Volkswagen 36:32:50
 6. Thierry Magnaldi (France) Schlesser-Ford 37:25:08
 7. Mark Miller (United States) Volkswagen 37:55:38
 8. Jean-Louis Schlesser (France) Schlesser-Ford 38:32:09
 9. Carlos Sousa (Portugal) Nissan 39:44:57
10. Bruno Saby (France) Volkswagen 42:51:01

GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Quick at Daytona GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Quick at DaytonaGAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing made their 2006 debut last week as they participated in the Rolex Grand American Series test days for the upcoming 24 Hours at Daytona.  Their “All-American, All-Star” line-up includes second generation drivers Alex Gurney and Rocky Moran Jr. along with 1996 Champ Car Champion Jimmy Vasser and 2004 SCCA National Atlantic Champion Bob Stallings.

Full-time driver Alex Gurney opened the test for the Blackhawk squad and set the fastest time of the day Thursday with a lap of 1:45.265. Gurney commented on the test, “this is a great way to open the test. The field is incredibly deep in terms of talent, you’ve got current and former champions from the top levels of Motorsports out there.  We rolled the car off quick and continued to improve it, I am psyched for this race, it will be an endurance test for the drivers, the teams and the fans!”  

Jimmy Vasser turned his first laps in the #99 GAINSCO/Pontiac/Riley on Friday morning. He wasted no time familiarizing himself with the Grand American machine, he was on pace within six laps. “The #99 GAINSCO/Pontiac/Riley was a blast to drive. Alex and the Blackhawk crew did a great job opening the test as the fastest car on track Thursday,” said Vasser.  “I jumped in on Friday morning and I was comfortable right away. I am very pleased with the progress we made in the test.  The team did a great job preparing, we have a bit of work to do before the big event, but we ran up front during the test days and I think that is a good indication of where we will be when we return at the end of the month.”  zzzz

After completing a full tank run late Friday morning, team owner Bob Stallings shared the car with Rocky Moran Jr. during the afternoon, giving the California native his first opportunity to drive the 500 hp Pontiac/Riley. Working through the teams’ test plan Moran was impressively third quick on the timing and scoring sheets when he ran into trouble on his 15th lap, “I was approaching turn one at around 180 mph, it is the fastest part of the track.  I have rather large feet and I fumbled trying to get to the brake, my toe got hooked up on the chassis, so my foot was hooked to the accelerator and the brake at the same time.  At that point I had 80% acceleration and I was trying to brake for the corner. I couldn’t brake through downshifting because of the accelerator, so I went in deep and turned the car to keep from going straight in.  I hit the left-rear corner first and then sort of slapped it sideways at about 80 mph, it was a painful impact, and I got a big case of whiplash. ” Moran Jr. strained his neck in the incident and was taken to Halifax Memorial for treatment.  He was released Friday evening and has been cleared to drive, “I am recovering quickly and doing physical therapy to make sure I am 100% for the race.  The cars are a lot of fun to drive.  I was expecting a heavy lethargic racecar and I was very pleasantly surprised by how responsive, nimble, fast and stable the #99 car is.  I was able to get to a competitive pace quickly and I am confident we have a great opportunity to bring home a good result for GAINSCO Auto Insurance,” commented Moran Jr.

 Due to the extent of the damage to the car, the Blackhawk team could not participate in the third day and final day of the series test on Saturday, but were pleased with their progress despite the circumstances.  Bob Stallings commented on the teams’ potential for success at the upcoming endurance race, “We were obviously disappointed that we were unable to complete the entire test.  That being said, I think we maximized the time we were on track.  I am really pleased with the way the team has come together, and with how quickly our new drivers acclimated to the car and to the team.  I was blown away by Vasser, he was fast immediately despite never having driven the car, but he is a champion and I guess that’s what 13 years of driving a Champ Car will do for you.  Rocky (Moran Jr.) was very solid as Alex (Gurney) said he would be.  He also was quick right away, unfortunately he had some trouble with the brake peddle in turn one and turned himself around hard into the tire barrier.  Most importantly he is ok. Alex was at the top of his game as usual.  I felt very comfortable back in the car and logged a few miles in the dark, which was important.  Preparing for a 24 hour endurance race is a huge endeavor. I think we are well prepared and I am really looking forward to it.”

The GAINSCO/Blackhawk team has returned to their new headquarters in Dallas, Texas, where they are preparing for another two day test before the big event, the 2006 season opener, the 24 Hours at Daytona International Raceway, January 26-29, 2005.  Catch the action live on SPEED or follow the GAINSCO/Blackhawk team at www.GAINSCO.com.

2006 LMES schedule 2006 LMES scheduleUPDATE Organizers of the re-badged Le Mans Series have confirmed that the 2006 schedule below is final. 11/28/05 Besides the 24 Hours of LeMans classic in June, what follows is the ridiculously short 2006 LMES schedule.  Why bother?
April 9 Istanbul* Turkey
May 14 Spa Belgium
July 16 Nurburgring Germany
August 27 Donington Great Britain
September 24 Monza Italy
Rossi theory binned Rossi theory binned(GMMf1NET) A theory, that seemed to support Valentino Rossi's supposed 2007 switch to formula one, has been knocked on the head.

With his Yamaha team's split with tobacco sponsor Gauloises, it appeared to some that the MotoGP champion had started to set up a smooth transition to Ferrari's Marlboro branding.

The sponsor conflict would have made the rumored plan to both race for Yamaha in '06, and test for Ferrari, tricky.

However, the convoluted theory has been thrown in the bin with news that Yamaha has penned a new title sponsorship for 2006 -- with another tobacco brand, Camel.

Indeed, the Marlboro-Camel clash is an even more troublesome one, as Camel is owned by Japan Tobacco -- who promote the Mild Seven brand in F1 with Renault.

Schu to test at Jerez Schu to test at Jerez(GMMf1NET)  Michael Schumacher will be amongst the test action at Jerez this week.

The deposed world champion, who this week warned Ferrari that he could quit at the end of the year if the 2006 car is not up to scratch, is scheduled to drive in southern Spain on Tuesday and Wednesday, we can reveal.

Test colleagues Luca Badoer and Marc Gene will also test, at the wheel of 'interim' cars fitted with new V8 engines.

The unlaunched 'F2006' model, meanwhile, is nearly complete and due to be 'shaken down' at the Maranello based team's private Fiorano circuit some time next week.

Departed Minardi chief Paul Stoddart told BBC's radio 'Five Live' this week that Ferrari 'lost the plot' last year.

''A lot of people blamed Bridgestone but it wasn't entirely Bridgestone's fault,'' the Australian remarked.

He added: ''(Ferrari is) a small car company, losing sponsors, who perhaps have had their best time.''

’I’ll be no pushover’ - Rosberg ’I’ll be no pushover’ - Rosberg(GMMf1NET)  Nico Rosberg says he will not be pushed around by his F1 rivals in 2006.

Not only is the 20-year-old German the youngest in the grand prix field, he is a rookie -- not to mention the son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg.

That's enough reasons for Nico to face a trying welcome to the paddock.

''From the first day, other drivers will think, 'There's the kid','' father Keke agreed in a report of 'The Mail on Sunday' newspaper.

''They'll test him all right, but, in all honesty, I don't think Nico will be intimidated despite his youth.''

Certainly, 'Rosberg Jr' is one of the cleverest drivers to pass through Sir Frank Williams' Oxfordshire doors in a while, and that includes his gritty 2006 teammate, Mark Webber.

After Nico completed a standard written driver-engineering test devised by technical director Sam Michael, it was noted that Rosberg had achieved the highest score -- ever.

But he vowed to do the real proving on-track.

Rosberg said: ''I will not be a pushover.

''I have an understanding of the car -- I can push like hell now.''

Stoddart, Richards disagree on breakaway series Stoddart, Richards disagree on breakaway seriesUPDATE (GMMf1NET)  David Richards does not believe that F1's disgruntled carmakers will race in a separate championship in '08 and beyond.

The former team boss, chief of the now Honda-owned BAR team until 2004, suggested that the Japanese carmaker - as well as 'GPMA' colleagues Toyota, BMW, Mercedes and Renault - never seriously contemplated forming a rival racing category in the argument with Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone.

''(GPMA has) been a very useful negotiating tool, that's all,'' the Englishman, 53, told Britain's F1 Racing magazine.

Richards, however, did say that he 'totally agrees' with the GPMA fundamentals of wanting more transparency, a succession plan from 75-year-old Ecclestone, and a better income stream.

However, another former boss - departed Minardi owner Paul Stoddart - disagrees with Richards that the 'breakaway' chapter is now almost closed.

The outspoken entrepreneur, today overseeing his new 'OzJet' domestic airline in Australia, told BBC's Five Live: ''It is certainly looking promising ... but you would not completely write off there being some turmoil ahead.''

01/09/06 Former Minardi boss Paul Stoddart believes that the Formula One breakaway championship, though less likely, isn't dead yet.

"The manufacturers...are having a tough time with Mosley at the moment," said Stoddart in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live. "We all hope there will be a united F1 going forward from 2008, but we cannot quite close the chapter on that book yet.

"It is certainly looking promising with some moves recently, like Williams signing up for the Bernie/Max deal, but you would not completely write off there being some turmoil ahead."

Trulli carries Olympic flame Trulli carries Olympic flame(GMMf1NET) The Olympic Flame passed into Italian formula one driver Jarno Trulli's hands on Sunday.

The 31-year-old Toyota star is among the 10,000 torchbearers who are taking the flame on its 11,000km journey from Rome to Turin, scene of the 2006 Winter Olympics next month.

Trulli, who won his maiden grand prix for Renault in 2004 (Monaco), did the honors as the last torchbearer in Pescara, his home town.

Newey pops up at Jerez Newey pops up at Jerez(GMMf1NET)  Wearing a new Red Bull uniform, Adrian Newey will show his face at the first test of 2006, at Jerez in Spain, on Tuesday.

McLaren's departed technical director, who started as 'chief technical offer' at Milton Keynes on Monday, vowed to be in pitlane as the Ferrari powered 'RB2' is tested.

''It'll be nice to escape England in January and to be back at a race track again,'' the Englishman, 46, said.

''I'm also looking forward to hearing the sound of these new V8 engines for the first time.''

Newey said he would spend the first days of his new job 'observing' the team and getting to know his Red Bull colleagues.

He explained: ''The technical team is very strong and has a good reputation, so my aim at the start will simply be to understand how Red Bull Racing operates.''

The highly-lauded aerodynamicist and engineer has not been involved in the design of Red Bull's 2006 racer.

Davidson confirmed as 3rd driver Davidson confirmed as 3rd driverThe Honda Racing F1 Team is pleased to confirm that Anthony Davidson will be its Third Driver for the 2006 Formula One season. 26 year old Davidson, who has been with the team since 2001, now completes Honda Racing's full race weekend driver line-up for the coming season alongside race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.

Anthony will fulfill the crucial Friday testing role at each Grand Prix, as well as regular testing duties throughout the year. He will also be on stand-by should he be required to substitute for either race driver in a Grand Prix at short notice.

The team is delighted that Anthony will remain as part of its driver line-up and grateful for his continued loyalty and dedication. To retain a driver of Anthony's caliber will greatly strengthen the team's performance and its ambitions of winning the Constructors' Championship.

This will be Anthony's fifth year with the team. After three seasons in the roles of test and reserve driver, Anthony made the step up to third driver in 2004, delivering excellent performances in Friday testing in 2004 to regularly top the free practice timesheets. With no third driver role in the 2005 season due to the team's second place finish in the 2004 Constructors' Championship, Anthony concentrated on testing where his commitment and insight have been highly valued by the team.

Commenting on the continuation of his role as Third Driver, Anthony Davidson said, "I'm really looking forward to starting the 2006 season with the team in its new guise as the Honda Racing F1 Team. I have enjoyed five years with the team during which time I have made a positive contribution to its development. My decision to remain with Honda is the right one, for sure. They are committed to F1 for the long-term and absolutely focused on winning the World Championship. Although I would prefer to be in a race seat in 2006, I am in the best possible position to work towards achieving that goal. For now, we have a very intensive testing program coming up in preparation for what should be an exciting 2006 season."

Gil de Ferran, Honda Racing F1 Team Sporting Director, comments, "We have said many times how important Anthony Davidson's contribution has been over the past few years to our progress and competitiveness. We are delighted that he accepted our offer to remain with the team as our third driver for 2006."

"Although we all know that Anthony aspires to be a Formula One race driver, and we are all confident that this will happen eventually, his role at Honda Racing is crucial to us this season. In addition to regular testing duties he will also be present at each Grand Prix weekend for Friday testing and to assist with tire and set-up decisions."

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