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Sauter Back In NASCAR Nationwide Series With Phoenix Racing

Johnny Sauter

The off-season brought some changes to Johnny Sauter’s (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet) life.

On the personal side, he got married in December. Professionally, he returned to the NASCAR Nationwide Series following a one-year hiatus to race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

But with the change came one constant – his return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series reunited him with owner James Finch and Phoenix Racing, the organization he competed for during the 2005-06 seasons.

Two of Sauter’s four career poles and one of his three series wins have come while driving for Finch, as has one of his top-10 finishes in the final series standings (eighth in 2006).

Despite the fact Sauter had success last year in NASCAR Sprint Cup driving for Haas-CNC Racing, he was seeking another ride at season’s end.

“Teams and owners do what they feel they have to do to get their programs going in a different direction,” Sauter said during the lunch break Sunday at Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona. “Last year was a good year. We did what we set out to do and accomplished some goals. I’m a firm believer that you can’t get ahead looking back, so why do it?”

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Coleman paces Sunday afternoon Nationwide Series test
Baker Curb Racing's Brad Coleman posted the fastest time in Sunday's combined NASCAR Nationwide Series test session at Daytona International Speedway.  Coleman paced the field with a lap of 184.042 mph.

1. Brad Coleman, No. 27 Baker Curb Racing Ford, 184.042
2. Brad Keselowski, No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, 183.835
3. Johnny Sauter, No. 1 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, 183.449
4. David Green, No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, 183.027
5. Kelly Bires, No. 47 JTG Racing Ford, 182.957
6. Eric McClure, No. 24 Front Row Motorsports Chevrolet, 182.741
7. Jason Leffler, No. 38 Braun Racing Toyota, 182.730
8. Bryan Clauson, No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, 182.730
9. David Reutimann, No. 99 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, 182.641
10. Chase Miller, No. 9 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge, 182.641 

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Cost of superlicense up dramatically
(GMM)  The FIA has radically increased the price of obtaining a formula one 'superlicense'; the mandatory credential for participating as a driver in official sessions at grands prix.

Previous to 2008, superlicensess cost just 1,690 plus 447 euros per point scored in the most recent world championship.

Former reigning world champion Fernando Alonso's 2007 credential, therefore, cost the Spaniard just under 62,000 euros.

But according to the British print magazine Autosport, the World Motor Sport Council has approved an increase in the cost of a superlicense to 10,000 euros, plus 2,000 euros per point.

New world champion Kimi Raikkonen's 2008 license, therefore, will cost him 230,000 euros.

Approximate cost for each driver's F1 superlicense in 2008:

K. Raikkonen - $333,000 USD
L. Hamilton - $330,000
F. Alonso - $330,000
F. Massa - $286,000
N. Heidfeld - $190,000
R. Kubica - $127,000
H. Kovalainen - $101,000
G. Fisichella - $74,000
N. Rosberg - $72,000
D. Coulthard - $54,000
A. Wurz - $51,000
M. Webber - $43,000
J. Trulli - $37,000
S. Vettel - $31,000
J. Button - $31,000
T. Sato - $25,000
V. Liuzzi - $22,000
A. Sutil - $16.000
R. Barrichello - $14,000
A. Davidson - $14,000
K. Nakajima - $14,000
N. Piquet Jr. - $14,000
T. Glock - $14,000
S. Bourdais - $14,000


First 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 sells for $400K

Dodge Challenger

Dodge decided to "hit it" on big money day here at the big Barrett Jackson auction by dropping the very first 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 on to the auction block to watch as it sold for $400,000 with the proceeds going to charity. But strangely enough, despite now running the new Challenger without cover on the highways and byways of Metro Detroit, the PR folks with Chrysler decided to only bring the concept version here to Barrett-Jackson.


First 2009 Corvette ZR1 Sells at Auction for $1,000,000

Corvette ZR1

The first 2009 Corvette ZR1 just sold here on big money day at the big Barrett-Jackson auction for $1,000,000 with a little help from GM's best bud, Jay Leno to Dave Ressler. Although the money is all going to the United Way, we're wondering what this will mean for the markup on the sticker price we'll see for this already $99,000 two-seat supercar. And keep in mind we still don't know what the final number will end up being on horsepower and torque. But -- what we do know now is that the sticker price will be $99,000 -- thanks to the need to provide the above-and-beyond price for IRS purposes and the charitable deduction. But hey, maybe you'll still get that 100,000 mile guarantee on the powertrain -- even if you're buying #1 off the assembly line. Barrett-Jackson


Franchitti lands Porsche ride

Marino Franchitti

Marino Franchitti will drive in the 2008 American Le Mans Series and with Dyson Racing.  Franchitti to share the No. 20 Porsche RS LMP2 car driving duties with Butch Leitzinger.

"This is really a dream come true for me," Franchitti said. "When I first came over to America in 2002, I was introduced to Butch Leitzinger, James Weaver and Rob Dyson and they were all very friendly to me."

"There is such history with Dyson Racing. They have won so many different races and championships in North American sportscars," added Franchitti. "They are an American racing institution and I have to thank Rob and Chris and everybody on the team for this opportunity."


Bill Elliott to drive Wood Brothers #21 at Daytona

Bill Elliott

Bill Elliott will drive the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 at Daytona before eventually turning the team’s entry over to Marcos Ambrose and Jon Wood for most of the races.

“I’d just as soon run a good bit at the start and then let Ambrose and Jon run as time goes on here,” said Elliott, the 1988 Winston Cup champion. “I kind of like that plan. Let’s get started and run a little bit. Really, it’s a perfect world for me, and I can’t argue with it.”

Having won the Daytona 500 in 1985 and ‘87, Elliott said, “It’s exciting to be a part of the history of this race track. … Daytona is what stock-car racing is, and there are no ifs, ands or buts.”


Cumulative Daytona Nationwide Series test speeds
Cumulative speeds through Saturday's session of the NASCAR Nationwide Series test at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, with position, driver, team and speed:

1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 184.415
2. Carl Edwards, No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, 184.328
3. Mike McLaughlin, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 183.854
4. Johnny Sauter, No. 1 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, 183.846
5. Bryan Clauson, No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, 183.445
6. Danny O'Quinn, No. 56 Mac Hill Motorsports Chevrolet, 183.012
7. Brian Keselowski, No. 28 Jay Robinson Racing Chevrolet, 182.908
8. Dario Franchitti, No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, 182.819
9. Kevin Harvick, No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet, 182.815
10. Robert Richardson, No. 4 Jay Robinson Racing Chevrolet, 182.808
11. Stanton Barrett. No. 30 Stanton Barrett Motorsports Chevrolet, 182.749
12. Brad Keselowski, No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, 182.689
13. Eric McClure, No. 24 Front Row Motorsports Chevrolet, 182.667
14. Brad Coleman, No. 27 Baker Curb Racing Ford, 182.493
15. Erik Darnell, No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, 181.822
16. Mike Wallace, No. 7 Germain Racing Toyota, 181.642
17. Tim McCreadie, No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, 180.538
18. Kenny Wallace, No. 37 Baker Curb Racing Ford, 180.426
19. Brandon Miller, No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, 179.964
20. David Green, No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, 179.695
21. Stanton Barrett, No. 37 Baker Curb Racing Ford, 176.620


Michael Andretti selling his mansion UPDATE Here are 70 photos of Michael Andretti's mansion that is for sale.  Wow!

471 Rose Inn Ave

01/15/08 It comes with a six-hole golf course, six-car garage, a pond, a 900-square-foot master suite, about $35,000 in annual property taxes and the right to tell everyone you own Michael Andretti's old house.

The champion racecar driver's 12,000-square-foot mansion, complete with cedar-lined closets, a workout room and a two-story, domed foyer, is on the market. The price tag: $3.4 million.

And if the golf course, gargantuan pool and wine cellar don't have quite enough panache for you, the next-door neighbor is an Italian guy who won the Formula One World Championship and the Daytona and Indianapolis 500s: Mario Andretti.

Michael Andretti, the son of racing legend Mario Andretti, the father of current Indy Racing League star Marco Andretti and owner of Andretti Green Racing, might be moving.

His sister, Barbara Andretti, is the listing agent at Exit Fast Track Realty. She said Michael "lives everywhere" but plans to stay close to the family's Nazareth-area roots.

"His family is here," Barbara Andretti said. "He lives wherever his business goes."

Read more & Comment...


German automakers ready for weaker USA market
European car manufacturers are preparing for stormy weather in America. Steady sales for the likes of BMW and Mercedes, and any black ink at all, will be applauded by investors as something of a triumph as the premium car makers fight off weak U.S. market conditions, and see their bottom lines buffeted again by the dollar's weakness.
Since 2002, the dollar has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the euro, beaten down by the U.S.'s massive trade deficit, a negative savings rate, an unsustainable consumption binge and the sub-prime mortgage debacle.

And the move to more fuel-efficient cars in the U.S. may benefit the Japanese more than the Europeans, as Americans shrug their shoulders about diesels and embrace smaller cars with improved gasoline engines.

As the Europeans, and that's mainly the Germans, pray for a recovery in the dollar, they have been forced into unpalatable action to protect their sales. They've had to cut prices and therefore profits, and take expensive foreign exchange gambles by using hedging operations to insure revenues against further dollar weakness.

VW scouring the U.S.
German luxury carmakers BMW and Daimler have moved more production to their new factories in South Carolina and Alabama to protect themselves from the dollar's dive. German mass car manufacturer VW, which owns luxury vehicle maker Audi, is thinking about a raising production at its Mexico factory, and is even now scouring the U.S. for a suitable site for a new plant.

Despite all this, some European carmakers, which have no presence in the U.S., are contemplating moving here. Fiat of Italy, which admitted defeat in the 1990s and gave up on America, is thinking about returning, this time by opening a factory to make sporty little Alfa Romeos. Fiat is apparently banking on the U.S. market returning to health.

But that won't be just yet.

According to Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, managing director of Bochum, Germany-based automotive analysts B&D Forecast, U.S. buyers of premium cars will not avoid the overall sales malaise in 2008.  More at Detroit News


Ford pickups stolen to smuggle drugs, humans

Ford F-350

Cartels swipe rugged Ford F-250s, F-350s in state for smuggling drugs and humans. Houston entrepreneur Bill Christmann was shocked when thieves stole his souped-up black Ford F-250 pickup from his west Houston driveway one night last July.

But shock turned to concern the next day after Christmann learned thieves had driven the 2001, heavy-duty, four-wheel drive truck to Laredo, loaded it with illegal immigrants and drove it back from the border, roaring off-road through fenced ranch pastures.

Police chased the truck south of San Antonio before the smugglers crashed the vehicle into a tree. The smugglers escaped, and the immigrants fled.

''That is a little scary, being that close to home," said Christmann, referring to criminals linked to smuggling rings showing up in his driveway.

Christmann is among hundreds of Houstonians who purchased one of Ford's two popular and expensive pickup models — the Super Duty F-250 and Super Duty F-350 — and have since learned that their rugged trucks are increasingly favored by gangs of auto thieves.  More at Houston Chronicle


GM plans more dealer consolidations
Even after eliminating hundreds of U.S. dealerships in the last few years, General Motors Corp.'s massive sales network isn't shrinking fast enough.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner said the automaker will look to step up dealer consolidations, specifically efforts to combine Pontiac, Buick and GMC shops into one channel in which a single dealership would sell all three brands. “This is a frontier where we plan to increase our efforts," Wagoner said during a presentation this week to Wall Street analysts. "It's time to do that and the payoff is significant."

GM reduced its dealer network by about 7 percent between 2005 and 2007, to 14,118 from 15,094 franchises. The automaker's consolidation efforts have centered on melding GMC, Pontiac and Buick dealerships into one line of stores. In some cases, Hummer and Saab dealers also are being merged.

But the automaker still has a glut of dealerships compared with leaner networks of foreign rivals.

GM's Chevrolet brand, for example, sells cars and trucks at more than 4,000 U.S. stores while the Toyota brand has 1,244 dealerships. The two brands sold an almost identical number of vehicles in 2007.

Automakers prefer a smaller number of large and modern dealerships over many smaller, marginally profitable shops.  Detroit News


Toyota set to debut new NASCAR engines
Toyota will have a new engine in the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series in 2008 as the one-year moratorium on the old truck series engine expired last year.

Toyota built an engine for its entrance into the truck series for 2004, but that engine didn't meet NASCAR specifications for the Cup series, which Toyota began running last year. Toyota constructed a new engine for the Nextel Cup Series in 2007, and the Nationwide and truck engine is based on it.

"NASCAR let us wait one year on the [Nationwide] Series and the truck series to introduce that engine," said Laerte Zatta, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series Program Manager for Toyota Racing Development. "That's what we're doing right now."

Because of a late start designing the engine for the Nationwide and truck series, only Joe Gibbs Racing is using the new design during Nationwide Series testing that began Friday at Daytona International Speedway. JGR builds its own engines and didn't have any old Toyota engines since it switched manufacturers for this season.

Nearly all of the development work on the new engine was done by Triad Racing Development in High Point, N.C., Zatta said. The horsepower numbers from 2007 to 2008 are "similar," he said, despite an all-new design.

"I would say the carburetor is the same, but everything else below is different," Zatta said. "We changed the cylinder head, then we changed the block, we changed the crank, changed all the internals. Then we had to relocate and redesign the manifold - even the position of the engine inside the car is different."  Scenedaily.com

tv news

Weekend USA TV Reminders UPDATE #2 We've updated Saturday schedule.  For those who were looking forward to "The Kentucky Kid" documentary this afternoon, it has been removed from MTV2's schedule.

01/18/08 Saturday and Sunday listings have now been added to this weekend's TV schedule below.

Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Live with Regis and Kelly Co-Host - Jeff Gordon 
9:00am-10:00am Most time zones Check local listings for your location and time zone Varies
(Barrett-Jackson Auction) Scottsdale
2:00pm-12:00am (L) SPEED
60 Minutes on Classic: Richard Petty 
9:00pm-9:30pm (R) ESPN Classic
IHRA Drag Racing Maryland
12:00pm-1:00pm SPEED
AMA Supercross Lites Phoenix
1:00pm-2:00pm (1/12/08) SPEED
Modern Marvels: Carbon featuring PCM Champ Car team (R)
7:00pm-7:30 PM History Channel, check local listings
60 Minutes on Classic 
8:00am-8:30am (R) -Richard Petty
8:30am-9:00am (R) -Michael Schumacher (Part of Show) ESPN Classic
Bodine Bobsled Challenge Lake Placid, NY
12:00pm-2:00pm SPEED
AMA Supercross Anaheim
6:00pm-7:00pm (1/19/08) SPEED
The SPEED Report 
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED

All times listed are ET. For a complete listing of TV Programs, see TVRacer.com


Judge rules on discrimination lawsuit against NASCAR
A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed virtually all claims in a racial discrimination and breach of contract lawsuit against NASCAR and other parties stemming from a highly publicized 1999 incident at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The incident occurred when former Penske Racing motorcoach driver David Scott, who is black, was greeted by a pair of motorcoach drivers, one of whom was wearing a white pillow case over his head as if he were a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

NASCAR indefinitely suspended the two motorcoach drivers involved. In his complaint, Scott said he was promised a job with NASCAR in response to the incident.

NASCAR had claimed in its filings that Scott "was given several work opportunities which were declined" and "was not qualified" for the racing official job he wanted.

Judge Deborah A. Batts ruled Thursday that the three-year statute of limitations had passed for all of the allegations, except for one on whether NASCAR did not award Scott a minority vendor contract in 2005 and 2006 based on race. Scott must re-file his lawsuit within 45 days to focus on that claim.

"NASCAR's continuing failure to hire him cannot stretch the limitations period to benefit [Scott]; to do so would be to allow a never-ending limitations period for all failure to hire cases," Batts wrote.

"Of course we disagree with the decisions reached in the court's order, but we'll be amending the complaint and the suit will go forward," Peter Richard Shipman, Scott's attorney, said in a phone interview Friday. "We'll definitely re-plead. We're still taking under advisement whether to appeal." Scenedaily.com


Throwing in the towel UPDATE Another reader writes, I read the Robin Miller Champ Car article from the link on AutoRacing1.com. Unfortunately, I also think the days are numbered for Champ Car.  I think the decisive moment for CART/Champ Car and Indy Car racing's demise is best personified in a scene form the movie Patton. After Patton was vilified for slapping the sniveling soldier who personified Tony George, Patton says "I wish I had kissed the son-of-a-bitch."  Mark McCauley

01/19/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Well, that's it for me!  The Rafael Matos and Tony Cotman stories are the beginning of the end.  I agree with Robin Miller: Champ Car  should just sell the good races to Tony George, and put the patient out of its misery.

I have not changed my mind one iota that TG is the man who ruined open-wheel racing.  But to me, it's like George Witless Bush being elected president; you may not like it, but he is the guy in charge.  Only one guy gets to have the White House or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

At least with the IRL, we know who will be racing.  There are real teams with real contracts with drivers.  In the CCWS, it's like a kindergarten where right before recess, the teacher tells the kids which teams they will be on.  We are supposed to get excited about a yet-unproven Rahal, an aging Canadian past his prime, one decent Brit (who may have a ride???), and Oriol Servia, who is now my favorite CCWS driver.  It's not enough.  Somehow, we are supposed to be introduced to the newest crop of ride-buyers and form some loyalties.  Why bother; most will be gone next year.  Hell, some will be gone mid-season when their checks bounce, and a couple more will be replaced by Mexicans at the end of the year.

I am a big fan of Paul Newman; he is a man of great integrity.  Clearly, though, he is stubborn.  But I am asking him to consider how much fun it would be if open-wheel were again under one tent: then NHLR could thoroughly whup TG's "Vision" week in and week out.  Consider the satisfaction of having TG hand your driver the Borg-Warner Trophy, while Michael Andretti watches.  Imagine if the fields at Indy were full of actually competitive cars.  Think about Indy qualifying ending without the Vision and Foyt teams having made the top 33.

It's time for even old TG-haters like me to see the handwriting on the wall.  CCWS cannot win this fight off the track.  But some of its teams could kick some serious butt in the IRL.  Reunification would bring much needed media attention, and the biggest story in open-wheel racing would not be about a guy in a dancing contest.

Champ Car is done.  Stick a fork in it. Dean Abramson, Raymond, Maine USA

Dear Dean, We received 1,507 letters just like yours so far. Most fans have thrown in the towel.  Champ Car is going to have to respond with some pretty big announcements to offset the damage that has been done to the series just in this past week alone.  Mark C.

Team USA

Patrick Barrett’s 2007 Season Review
Intro – The year 2007 was an unforgettable season filled with excitement and surprises.  I won a Pacific F2000 series season record eight races and a series record total career win record of ten on my way to taking the championship title. My 28th career formula car win came during the final weekend of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I participated in my first professional sports car races in the Mazda MX-5 Cup at Laguna Seca and Portland. I was especially proud to represent the United States as a member of the Team USA Scholarships Program in Formula Palmer Audi races in October and November in England.

    Patrick Barrett
Pre Season – I began my pre season testing with PR1 Motorsports in late November and tested through early February. Throughout the winter I worked with team owner Bobby Oergel and engineers John Hayes and Andy Garvey. I participated in exercises such as simulated qualifying runs and learned the importance of giving feedback and communicating with everyone on and off track. I developed a strong friendship with my teammates, Thomas Merrill and Shaun Modisette, over the winter. I knew we were going to push each other, in terms of performance throughout the season to come and regardless of our friendships each of us wanted to out perform the other.

First Half of the Pacific F2000 Season – My Pacific F2000 Championship Season began strong in early March with a convincing win in race one and a second place in race two at California Speedway in Fontana. Rounds Three and Four were held at the historic Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California in early April. There, I qualified on the front row twice, in second, and claimed a second place finish on Saturday and a first place on Sunday. 

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Busch tops Friday afternoon Nationwide test
Kyle Busch continued to show Toyota's strength, this time in NASCAR Nationwide Series testing at Daytona International Speedway.  Busch led Friday afternoon's test session at the track with a lap of 182.556 mph in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti was second fastest with a lap of 182.293 mph.

Cumulative speeds from the NASCAR Nationwide Series test session:
1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 182.556
2. Dario Franchitti, No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, 182.293
3. Robert Richardson, No. 4 Jay Robinson Racing Chevrolet, 182.282
4. Johnny Sauter, No. 1 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, 182.017
5. Kevin Harvick, No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet, 181.675
6. Mike McLaughlin, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet, 181.499
7. Tim McCreadie, No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, 180.476
8. Brandon Miller, No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, 179.964
9. Brad Keselowski, No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, 179.691
10. David Green. No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, 178.827
11. Mike Wallace, No. 7 Germain Racing Toyota, 178.678
Bryan Clauson, No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, 178.522
12. Erik Darnell, No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, 178.426
13. Brad Coleman. No. 27 Baker Curb Racing Ford, 178.412
14. Carl Edwards, No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, 178.130
15. Stanton Barrett, No. 30 Stanton Barrett Motorsports Chevrolet, 177.117
16. Eric McClure, No. 24 Front Row Motorsports Chevrolet, 176.198
17. Danny O'Quinn, No. 56 Mac Hill Motorsports Chevrolet, 175.915
18. Stanton Barrett, No. 37 Baker Curb Racing Ford, 176.620
19. Brian Keselowski, No. 28 Jay Robinson Racing Chevrolet, 175.521


Barrett-Jackson wins lawsuit
Officials with the Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. LLC, today announced that a settlement was reached on Jan. 7, 2008, in a suit filed against David L. Clabuesch in U.S. District Court in Arizona. In the settlement, Clabuesch exonerated the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company of all allegations of wrongdoing in relation to a situation that occurred at the company's Scottsdale event in January 2007. Details of the financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

"We're pleased to have reached a successful resolution and to put this matter behind us," said Steve Davis, president of Barrett-Jackson. "While we regretted having to take the extreme step of filing a lawsuit in this matter, we had no choice but to aggressively defend our integrity and the fairness of our company's business practices. This action was necessary to protect not only our own interests, but also those of the thousands of bidders and consignors who place their trust in us each year."

The lawsuit arose from circumstances surrounding the sale of Clabuesch's vehicle at Barrett-Jackson's January 2007 Scottsdale auction. Unhappy with the price paid for the vehicle, Clabuesch locked and chained the tires after it was sold, and attempted to prevent delivery to the new owner. Clabuesch also posted numerous signs in and around the vehicle expressing his opinions about Barrett-Jackson and the company's auction practices. Visible in one of the most high traffic areas of the auction site until removed by the company's security officer and local police, the signs were viewed by the company's customers and members of the public attending the event. Shortly after the January 2007 incident, the company was faced with responding to numerous defamatory rumors and untrue statements related to the Clabuesch incident, which were published on various Web sites, blogs and online chat rooms.

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Canadian and USA teams show well in Taupo
Robert Wickens successfully carried his front-running form from Friday's practice sessions into Saturday qualifying as the 18-year-old Toronto-native posted A1 Team Canada's best qualifying slot of the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season courtesy of fourth on the grid for Round 5's Feature race, hosted at Taupo Motorsports Park in New Zealand tomorrow, Sunday 20th January.

Wickens earlier captured eighth on the grid for Sunday morning's shorter Sprint race, the Canadian charger now with four top-ten starts to his credit in just six races representing his country in the winter-based, nation versus nation open-wheel racing series.  With Canada currently sitting 13th in the A1GP Nations Standings, the team is seeking a strong double points score tomorrow to improve its standing amongst the 22 competing nations with this weekend's Kiwi outing the half-way stage in the title fight.

Jonathan Summerton qualified A1 TEAM USA in a season-best sixth position for the Sprint and 10th for the Feature on Saturday at the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Taupo, New Zealand.  "We continue to make inroads in a very competitive series where every team has the same equipment," Summerton said. "We wanted to be higher on the grid for both races, but this is our best overall performance in qualifying this year with two top-10s and we're pleased about that. We had a good run in Sprint qualifying. The 'We the People' car was great in Feature qualifying, but Pakistan car went off in front of us and put dirt on the track. It cost us a few tenths (of a second) easily and those would have moved us up the grid. The car was capable of a top-three." 


Toyota Poised to Make Gains in Sprint Cup
For a year now, it has been the 800-pound gorilla in the back of the room, eyeing the competition, making everyone else nervous. Toyota did not come roaring out of the box when it entered Nextel Cup, now Sprint Cup, in 2007.

In fact, you could say the season was a disaster, starting with Michael Waltrip's car being caught before the Daytona 500 with illegal fuel - an absolute no-no in NASCAR - and continuing to the end, when six of its seven drivers failed to make the top 35 in points.

That made the gorilla restless, and he's up and stirring.

The gorilla lives at TRD, Toyota Racing Development, a $50 million enterprise based in Costa Mesa, Ca. There, 220 engineers do nothing but work on Toyota's racing programs, which include the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as well as Sprint Cup, off-road and drag racing. But the emphasis is on Sprint Cup.

No other car manufacturer in Sprint Cup has anything like it - a separate research and development facility. Jack Roush, whose five-car team carries the Ford banner, warned last season that Toyota had the potential to out-muscle everybody, even Chevy's all-powerful Hendrick Motorsports, which won the championship and 18 of the 36 races last year.

Toyota has done it before. After a weak start in open-wheel racing, it marched through Champ Car and then the IRL. Then it entered NASCAR's truck series and did the same thing, being dominant in 2005 and 2006 and having three of the top four - five of the top 10 - last year. More at The Ledger

[Editor's Note:  The rumor all along has been that Toyota agreed with NASCAR to lay low their first year or two to avoid rejection by their Xenophobic fan base.  As with the truck series, they will eventually dominate the Sprint Cup series......driving attendance and TV ratings down even faster than they are dropping now.]


CitiFinancial Announces Sponsorship of Roush Fenway Racing
CitiFinancial today announced it will be the primary sponsor on a variety of Roush Fenway Racing entries in all 35 NASCAR Nationwide Series events in 2008. The sponsorship is part of Citi's new multifaceted, strategic marketing partnership with Roush Fenway Racing, one of NASCAR's premier racing teams.  As part of the relationship, CitiFinancial will tap into Roush Fenway's all-star driver lineup to pilot the CitiFinancial Ford.  In addition, Citi will become a major associate sponsor on all Roush Fenway Racing teams, including the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries of Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, and David Ragan.

"We are thrilled to expand and enhance our incredibly successful presence in NASCAR," said Mary McDowell, President and CEO of CitiFinancial North America.  "Our customers and employees are huge fans of this great sport, and we could not be happier teaming up with Roush Fenway Racing and its tremendously talented roster of drivers."

In the Nationwide Series, Biffle, Kenseth, McMurray, Erik Darnell, Colin Braun, and 2007 series champion Carl Edwards will split seat time in the CitiFinancial Ford Fusion - which will rotate among the Roush Fenway Nos. 16, 17, and 60 Fords throughout the season. In addition to displaying the CitiFinancial logo on the quarter-panels, the Citi logo will adorn the hood.

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tv news

Modern Marvels Repeat
In cased you missed it last Monday, the Modern Marvels episode which features Pacific Coast Motorsports and the Champ Car World Series will air again this weekend.  The episode is titled “Carbon” and is a terrific tutorial of racings most used composite, in addition to its great exposure of Champ Car racing and Pacific Coast Motorsports.

What:  Modern Marvels episode titled “Carbon”
When: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 7:00pm ET/PT
Where: The History Channel (check your local guide) 

This has been added to our Weekend TV Listing


Sprint Nextel in downward spiral
Getting little value from its NASCAR sponsorship, Wireless phone company Sprint Nextel Corp. said Friday it plans to slash 4,000 jobs and close 125 retail locations to gird itself for an expected slowdown in subscriber growth and revenue.

Shares in the company, which has been struggling to keep up with rivals AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless, fell 26 percent in midday trading.

The job cuts and store closings aim to cut $700 million to $800 million a year in labor costs starting at the end of 2008. The company said it will book a charge in the first quarter to cover severance costs, but did not disclose the amount.

Sprint said it will also close 4,000 of its 20,000 third-party distribution points, such as stalls inside other consumer-electronics retailers. The retail store closures represent 8 percent of its 1,400 company-owned shops.


Andersen Racing and RLR Expand Their Relationship
Andersen Racing and Rahal Letterman Racing  (RLR) have agreed to expand their relationship in 2008, marking an unprecedented association between the junior open-wheel ranks and a major-league team.

Last February Andersen Racing was named as the official Indy Pro Series development team of RLR, which fields entries in both IndyCar and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Now components of that relationship will expand to include not only Andersen Racing's Indy Pro Series team but also its multi-car entries in the IMSA Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and the SCCA F2000 Championship Series presented by Hoosier Racing Tire.

Andersen Racing recently moved from New Jersey to the 18-acre Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, Fla., which includes a 1-mile test track.  RLR is headquartered in Hilliard, Ohio.

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Champ Car loses Atlantic champ to IRL
Andretti Green Racing, the winningest team in Indy Racing League history, announced today it will field a two-car Indy Pro Series effort in 2008. The team also announced it has signed championship-winning driver Raphael Matos to drive the #27 AFS entry as part of the two-car operation.

For the first time in team history, Andretti Green’s Indy Pro Series operation will be housed and prepared in its race shop on the northwest side of Indianapolis. The 2008 effort will be a joint endeavor between AGR and AFS Racing, which is owned by Indy Pro Series veteran Gary Peterson. Under Peterson’s control, AFS Racing won two races in 2006. In 2007, AFS Racing captured another victory, two pole positions and a third-place finish in the championship, its highest championship result.

Matos, the 2007 Formula Atlantic champion and 2005 Star Mazda champion, collected six victories, four poles and nine podium finishes in 12 Atlantic starts during the 2007 season. In addition to a full Atlantic schedule in 2006, Matos made four Indy Pro Series starts. He drove to victory in both races at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, leading 68 of the 80 laps over the two-race span. He also finished fourth on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In 2005, Matos won four of the 12 Star Mazda races and collected three pole positions en route to the series championship. Also a starter in the American Le Mans Series, Matos has driven in the last two 12 Hours of Sebring races, finishing fifth in class in the 2006 event. Andretti Green is currently working to secure a driver for its second series entry. Prior to teaming with AFS Racing, Andretti Green won four Indy Pro Series races, including three with Marco Andretti in 2005. In its first full season in the Indy Pro Series in 2006, AGR finished second in the championship with driver Jonathan Klein. 

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Brooks team announces its two drivers for '08
Brooks Associates Racing is proud to announce its driver lineup for the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, with both drivers secured and ready to test.

Filip Salaquarda (pictured right) comes to the U.S. for the first time from the Czech Republic.  Filip began his racing career winning championships, starting with the Comer category in Czech go-karts, then progressed to ICA 100, winning that championship before the age of 15.  Moving into driving cars, he progressed to the Ford Puma Cup, Formula BMW, then Formula 3, competing in the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2007, with two top five finishes.  He also represented his country in the A1GP series, finishing 10th at Shanghai.

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Helio readies for "Dancing with the Stars" tour
Helio Castroneves, who won ABC's hit show "Dancing with the Stars", will join the show's tour in select cities beginning Jan. 18 in Indianapolis.

"I'm very happy about (the tour)," the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner said. "I never thought I'd say it but I kind of miss the dancing. It was fun. I had a great experience. The whole thing was unique."

Other stops on the tour are Jan. 19 in Nashville; Jan. 21 in Tampa, Fla.; Jan. 22 in Jacksonville, Fla.; Jan. 23 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Feb. 9 in Providence, R.I.; and Feb. 10 in Philadelphia.

"(Joining the tour) was my idea," said Castroneves, though he didn't have much difficulty convincing his professional dance partner Julianne Hough. "For me, doing that tour at those places is a way of saying thank you for voting and the support. We'll be able to dance a little bit and thank the fans because without the fans I would have not been able to win the dancing competition.

"We'll be doing the Quickstep for sure and Julianne said something about freestyle. I said, 'What? I might injure my shoulder. Trust me, we don't need to do that.' So we might do the Cha Cha Cha. We just need a few hours of rehearsal because we're not going to invent anything."


IRL sponsors project at the College for Creative Studies
The Indy Racing League is looking to today's transportation design students for a glimpse at the future of motorsports, announcing a partnership with the Detroit-based College for Creative Studies where senior-level students will be challenged to imagine an iconic looking IndyCar Series chassis of the future.

"Last year, we introduced a very successful program with the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. called IndyCar 2011," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series and the Indy Pro Series. "The results of that project, not only in terms of radical new car designs, but of overall outside-the-box thinking, were encouraging and led us to this partnership with the College for Creative Studies."

In this project, Transportation Design students will immerse themselves in the IndyCar Series culture, gaining a complete understanding of all of the facets of the racing world while engaging experts in racing, engineering and fuel technology as advisors to help them gain a more intimate view of the racing experience and the possibilities for future technology. The students will be developing a hallmark IndyCar Series car for the future that provides a preview of the overall, unique racing experience for an Indy Racing League fan of the future.

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NASCAR store to open at Charlotte airport
Even in its offseason, NASCAR never rests in spreading its brand around the Charlotte region.

Friday morning, The NASCAR Shop will open at the Charlotte airport, offering millions of travelers the chance to buy official NASCAR merchandise before, after or between flights.

Saturday night, the Charlotte Bobcats will host NASCAR Night, with players wearing racing-themed jerseys and fans getting a chance to win collectible Bobcats diecast race cars.

Those are just two ways in which the nation's most popular racing association has tried to keep interest high -- and fans buying merchandise -- in the weeks leading up to the start of the 2008 season next month in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"It's really a year-long venture," said Tom Sullivan, NASCAR's manager of business communications.

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Cotman resigns from Champ Car

Tony Cotman

Champ Car's Executive VP & Race Director, Tony Cotman has decided to step down.  A search for a replacement has begun.  He has agreed to remain in his position for the time being to work on the transition and help Champ Car identify a replacement.  No word yet on what Cotman will do. 

Tony played a big role in enhancing Champ Car's racing program, including helping them to successfully launch a new car in both the Champ Car World Series and Champ Car Atlantic Championship after he joined Champ Car in 2005.


McLaren extends Hamilton contract until 2012

A smug Hamilton is laughing all the way to the bank now

(GMM)  McLaren on Friday announced that Lewis Hamilton will stay at the Mercedes-powered team until at least the end of 2012.

The new five year contract follows reports earlier this month that said the 23-year-old Briton had inked a deal that will see him earn an average of more than $27m per season.

Hamilton reportedly made just $700,000 plus points bonuses while he raced to second place in the drivers' championship in 2007, the British tabloid News of the World claimed earlier in January.

"Given Lewis's performances over the course of the 2007 season, it is clear that improved financial terms were fully deserved and this formed part of the friendly negotiations with Lewis's manager Anthony Hamilton," McLaren chairman Ron Dennis said on Friday.

Hamilton signed his first McLaren contract as a thirteen year old in 1998.

racing news

Alain de Cadenet Featured Speaker

Alain de Cadenet

The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame is pleased to announce that Alain de Cadenet will be the Guest Speaker at its 15th annual Gala and award ceremony, which is being held concurrently with the Canadian International Auto Show on the evening of Saturday February 23rd, 2008, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto.

Alain de Cadenet, internationally recognized television program host, race car, driver, designer, team owner, as well as the co-producer and writer of the "Victory by Design" television series, will be the featured speaker at the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame induction gala.

In addition to his racing activities, his broadcasting career allowed him to drive some of the most famous racing cars in the sport's history. Famed as a raconteur, De Cadenet will, among many other tales born out of his experiences, share with attendees just how close he came to being hit by a Spitfire warplane in an astonishing video seen by millions on the Internet.

The gala ceremony and dinner, including a Silent Auction, will be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Toronto located at 255 Front Queen Street West.  Individual tickets are $220 each, and a table of 10 can be purchased for $2,200. Tickets may be purchased by calling 905-876-2454, or by visiting the CMHF website at www.cmhf.ca. Ticket purchase includes entrance to the Canadian International Auto Show.


Speedcars rev engines for debut season
Speedcar Series stock cars will line the grid on the 25th and 26th of this month at the Dubai Autodrome for its inaugural season. Last week the V8 620 brake horse power identical stock cars passed the FIA dynamic crash tests in Europe and are preparing to race in their debut 2008 series as part of the FIA calendar.

The FIA testing came with a price however, causing a delay in the stock cars being ready for the first race in a little over a week. The rain, unprecedented and unexpected in Dubai, recorded as the highest nationwide for January blocked most major roads and highways as well as access to the circuit while flooding a few of the garages. In addition, delays in shipments of parts have slowed work down further despite mechanics working around the clock.

Fourteen stock cars will be ready in time for the Grand Racing events this month which will also feature GP2 Asia. Due to the fact that all 18 competitors currently registered with Speedcar Series will not have their race cars ready in time for the event in Dubai, the first race that allocates points towards the overall Speedcar Series Champion title will be held on the 16th and 17th of February at the Sentul International Circuit in Indonesia.

The drivers currently confirmed in the first event in Dubai are as follows:

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Auto recalls up 30% in 2007
Automakers recalled nearly 15 million vehicles for repairs at dealerships last year, the government reported today, an increase of about 30% over 2006.  Automakers issued 588 separate recalls involving 14.5 million vehicles in 2007, or about 30 percent more vehicles than the previous year, according to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2006, the industry recalled 11.2 million vehicles as part of 490 individual recalls. Car makers frequently ask owners to bring their vehicles to dealerships to fix faulty parts and address potential safety problems. Recalls have become more common as many companies build vehicles that share common platforms and components and respond more quickly to deal with potential safety hazards.

Recalls have been more common since the federal TREAD Act was enacted in 2000 to help spot safety defects earlier. The law responded to the recall of more than 10 million Firestone tires in 2000.

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NASCAR buzzing about Toyota improvement
After a difficult -- some may even call it disastrous -- inaugural season at NASCAR's top level where NASCAR probably asked Toyota to lay low while its Xenophobic fan base became accustomed to a Japanese manufacturer, Toyota has made marked improvements in its Sprint Cup program.  The two weeks of preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway showed that the 11 Camrys are fast and ready to challenge for wins.

``If I told you how many times I have won testing in 40 years!'' said Lee White, senior vice president of Toyota Racing Development. ``It's just testing, and it's really hard for me to get all jazzed up over testing because you don't know what people are doing. And there's a month left before we race. That's a lot of time for people to tune up their programs.''

It is difficult to accurately gauge just where the Toyotas rank after one testing session on the 2 1/2 -mile superspeedway. NASCAR splits the session equally among single-lap runs and drafting, and nobody is certain what each team is even working on. Some may be looking for qualifying speed, while others may be fine-tuning race setups.

``This is the biggest game of chess,'' Sprint Cup director John Darby said. ``All these teams are toying with each other, and no one wants to show their full hand. Yes, the Toyotas have been very impressive. But it's hard to say for sure where they stack up against the competition.''


Williams announce clothing partner
Williams today confirmed that McGregor, the premium fashion brand, is to be the official clothing partner of the team for the next three seasons. The partnership will involve the design and tailoring of completely new team uniform for the race and test teams, as well as a bespoke working clothing design for the company’s 520 factory-based staff.

McGregor is part of the McGregor Fashion Group BV, which has grown to become one of the most successful fashion houses in the higher end market segment since it was founded in 1993. The McGregor Group comprises the McGregor, Gaastra, Dimaggio and Adam Menswear brands and employs 600 staff in Europe, has 3,000 multi-brand stores, 190 concessions and more than 100 own brand shops worldwide.

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Tickets On Sale Now For Hall Of Fame Ceremony
Tickets are on sale now for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and officials are encouraging individuals and businesses alike to reserve their tickets early. This year’s black-tie ceremony set for Thursday, April 24th, consists of a reception, banquet and awards ceremony. This year, the induction class features: Land Speed Record breaker Art Arfons, NASCAR Champion Robert “Red” Byron, drag racing guru Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, car fabricator Frank Kurtis, NASCAR car owner and driver Everett “Cotton” Owens and Winston promoter Ralph Seagraves. Additionally, 2007 Driver of the Year and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson will be honored for his accomplishments. Individual tickets for the evening are $125 and a table of eight may be reserved for $1,000. Tickets and tables are available by calling 1-256-362-5002. TSS PR


Gillett Evernham Announces Personnel Changes
Gillett Evernham Motorsports made several personnel announcements involving its engineering and competition departments as it prepares for the 2008 Sprint Cup and Nationwide seasons with drivers Kasey Kahne, Patrick Carpentier,  Elliott Sadler and Chase Miller. The announcement included:
* Tommy Wheeler, who joined the organization in 2001 and served as technical director of Gillett Evernham Engines since 2006, has been promoted to engineering services director.
* Rodney Childers, formerly the team director of the #10 Valvoline Dodge, has been moved to team director of the #19 Best Buy Dodge.
* Mike Shiplett, formerly the team director of the #9 Dodge in the Nationwide Series has been promoted to team director of the #10 Valvoline Dodge.
* Kirk Almquist, formerly the car director of the #19 Best Buy Dodge, has been promoted to team director of the #9 Dodge in the Nationwide Series.
* Iain Watt, who joined the organization in 2007, has been promoted to director of performance engineering responsible for the team’s on-track performance.
* Sam Johns was promoted to director of operations responsible for building and preparing all of the team’s Sprint Cup Dodges.  GEM PR


NASCAR revives Franchitti's desire

Dario Franchitti

Motivation - not money - was the reason that Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti turned to NASCAR.

Franchitti received his Indy winner's ring plus the Jerry Titus Memorial Trophy, as Driver of the Year, at last weekend's American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association All-America Team ceremony. In an exclusive interview, the IndyCar Series champion revealed he was ready to end his open-wheel career. Even if owner Chip Ganassi had not offered a contract to drive the No. 40 Dodge in Sprint Cup.

"I was at a point with IndyCar that I said to myself, 'Do I still want to do this?' I had always said, 'Yes.' Even when (friend) Greg (Moore) was killed (in 1999 in a Champ Car), I always asked myself that question, and I always said, 'Yes.' But I asked myself again in the middle of (last) year and I said, 'I'm not sure.'

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Richards waits on new Concorde Agreement
The 2008 Formula One grid was meant to consist of twelve teams with the addition of Prodrive, the English based squad run by David Richards that secured the final two spots in the series from a number of other eager team owners.

However, due to the fact that the plan was to use customer cars for their first season in the sport, a plan that was vetoed by other team bosses, such as Sir Frank Williams, that final garage in pitlane will remain empty for another year at least.

Richards plan to use a McLaren chassis and Mercedes engine, basically becoming a McLaren B team, was quickly thwarted with Williams, who is one of the few independent teams left on the grid, stating he didn’t want to be racing four McLarens every second weekend, a point duly noted by the FIA and the current Concorde Agreement.

Therefore, as a result, customer cars were ruled inadmissible for 2008 and as it stands, the expense of starting a team from scratch is too great, meaning that he had no choice but to abandon his original plans. Now Richards is waiting to see how the new Concorde Agreement reads as to whether or not he will continue plans to join the grid in 2009.

"I am waiting to see what form the new Concorde Agreement takes before deciding on our next course of action. If Max Mosley is successful in reducing the cost of participation then it may still be a realistic proposition in the future,” Richards told us. “Today, the start up costs are prohibitive and it is highly unlikely a new team would be competitive for three to five years.  Under these circumstances, it is not a realistic proposition for Prodrive. On the other hand, if Max Mosley is successful in his control of costs then it may become viable and something we need to revisit. Of course, in the unlikely event that they new Concorde Agreement allowed 'customer cars', we would be there tomorrow.”


Bridgestone Jerez test review
The Jerez race circuit in Spain was the location for Bridgestone Motorsport to begin its three-year tenure as Official Tire Supplier to the FIA Formula One World Championship as nine of Formula One’s eleven teams attended the first test of 2008 on January 14-16. Mixed weather conditions greeted all teams present with BMW Sauber and Honda Racing opting not to attend this test. A mixture of 2007 and 2008 specification cars were tested by a variety of race and test drivers through the field over the three days.

Jerez is the same location as the final multi-team test of last season, and in keeping with the 2008 regulations, teams ran without traction control and used the standard ECU. Bridgestone’s medium compound (dry) Potenza grooved racing tire was in action for the majority of the test, although there were some runs on the Monday morning and on Wednesday with both Bridgestone’s wet and extreme wet tires.

The 2008 season will be the first with Bridgestone as the Official Tire Supplier to the FIA Formula One World Championship, following the excitement of last season where Bridgestone was the sole tire supplier in Formula One due to an absence of competition. This year will be Bridgestone’s twelfth consecutive season in Formula One and the company will reach some milestones during the course of the season.

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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Drivers get one free engine change in 2008
  • Klien summoned for military service
  • Mosley confirms F1 budget cap for 2009
  • Hamilton plays down Alonso effect
  • 'I miss Alonso' says McLaren test driver
  • Former Spanish racer dies
  • New Ferrari better than old - Raikkonen
  • McLaren will make me better - Kovalainen
  • Kovalainen not afraid of TC ban
  • Ralf likely to pen Mercedes DTM deal
  • Glock - I almost abandoned F1 dream

Drivers get one free engine change in 2008
(GMM)  F1 drivers will not be penalized for their first unscheduled engine change in 2008, FIA president Max Mosley has confirmed in a letter to team bosses.

The rule tweak, ensuring that each driver will not lose ten grid places or be sent to the back of the grid for his first engine change of the season, was apparently agreed at the team principals' recent meeting with Mosley in Paris.

It must now be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council, but this is imminently likely.

"It was agreed that each team could have one engine failure per car without penalty during the 2008 season," Mosley wrote in a letter seen by some media outlets.

"This would be the first engine failure suffered by each car," he clarified.

Klien summoned for military service
(GMM)  After missing out on the vacant Force India race cockpit for 2008, Christian Klien has been summoned by the Austrian army to do six months of mandatory military service this year.

According to reports in the former Jaguar, Red Bull and Honda driver's native country, the 24-year-old was on Thursday ordered to report for duty at Vorarlberg, the western province that houses his home town Hohenems.

Klien, however, lives across the border in Switzerland, moving him to write to Austrian authorities asking for an exemption from the army summons.

The Austrian army refused his request, confirming that he should report to the Vorarlberg barracks in March.

Klien was this week testing Mercedes-Benz's works DTM car in Portugal, the Austrian broadcaster ORF said.

Some reports said Klien's mandatory duty could be postponed if he secures another job in motor sport for 2008.

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France Tops Friday Practice in Taupo

Loic Duval

New Zealand - A1 Team France topped the time sheets in the second of today's two free practice sessions at Taupo  as all 22 drivers took to the track with biofuel in their tanks, making history at round five of the 2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season.

Despite not taking part in the rookie session this morning, 25-year-old French driver Loic Duval clocked the best lap of the day, completing the 3.5km circuit in 1m15.545s in glorious sunshine.

'It was a good session for us especially without the rookie session this morning', Duval said. 'We worked with the data from last year and I think the car was great, I feel really good here. Actually it means nothing to be on the front row on Friday, it happened many times last year and I didn't get pole position, so that is my target for tomorrow.'

The magnificent Lake Taupo provides the backdrop for one of the most picturesque races of the season and Duval sites the event as one of the highlights on the A1GP calendar:

'For me this is the best country we go to, it's really good here. It feels more like a holiday. I love the track, the people, the mentality, it's just perfect to be here.'

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German carmakers come up big in USA
Despite the looming U.S economic downturn, BMW, the most popular European carmaker in the United States, is coming off a triumphant 2007, after earlier this month reporting best-ever annual sales for both its BMW and Mini brands.

The German automaker sold 335,840 vehicles in the U.S in 2007, an increase of 7.1 percent over the 313,603 vehicles sold in 2006.

Audi of America also set a U.S sales record in 2007, with Audi dealers selling 93,506 new vehicles during 2007, up 3.8 percent over 2006.

Mercedes-Benz said that the performance of its newest C class line had pushed 2007 U.S sales to a record 1.29 million vehicles despite a slumping domestic market.

Mercedes is also having success with its M-class diesel, which has already snagged a 20 percent share of the market.


State-of-the-Art lighting for Singapore
The Singapore Grand Prix will be the first ever night race. In order to organise such event, lighting specialist Valerio Maioli SPA from Italy has designed a state-of-the-art lighting system for the event which will take place on 28 September. The system will feature a total of 1600 lighting projectors attached to aluminium trusses, which will be suspended 10 metres above the track on vertical steel pylons which will be mounted on prefabricated concrete blocks, placed behind the barriers at intervals of 32m.

This will involve a total of 240 steel pylons and a mind boggling 108,423m of cables. The system will be powered by 12 twin-power generators, each located in a sound-proof container. Should one of the generators fail, the other generators will provide a back-up power by default. Each generator will also have its own engineer on standby whenever they are in operation. The resulting light will be four times brighter than the lighting in a normal sports arena.

The lights will be situated on only one side of the street circuit. Colin Syn, the deputy chairman of the Singapore GP explained: "This is to prevent the drivers from being disorientated in cases of spinning." Mr. Syn also declared that the run-off areas will be brighter than the actual track.

The Singapore Grand Prix is scheduled to begin at 8pm local time.


Parente enjoys Renault F1 test
2007 World Series by Renault champion Alvaro Parente, today enjoyed the fruits of his success with a day's testing at the wheel of the R27 with the ING Renault F1 Team in Jerez. This saw the team complete a fourth and final day of testing with the R27 at the Spanish circuit, with the young Portuguese driver completing 64 laps on his first day in an F1 car.

Since 2005, the winner of the prestigious World Series by Renault has been invited to test with the ING Renault F1 Team. After triumphing last season, Alvaro Parente had the chance to enjoy his prize early in the year.

He visited Enstone to mould his seat and conduct technical briefings on 8 January. Last Sunday, he joined the ING Renault F1 Team in Jerez to learn about how the test team operated, and today saw the highpoint of the week as he got behind the wheel of the R27 for the first time.

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GM to offer buyouts to 46,000
General Motors Corp. CEO Rick Wagoner said Thursday that the company could have to shutter more U.S. factories or eliminate shifts at plants to bring the automaker's production in line with declining demand for cars and trucks in its home market.

He didn't say how many plants will close or whether GM has decided which facilities to shutter, but said the closures will include powertrain and stamping factories as well as assembly plants. Additionally, Wagoner said the company will offer buyouts to 46,000 of its 72,000 blue collar workers. GM wants to cut costs by about $5 billion by 2011.

GM will extend buyout offers to its entire U.S. work force next month and usher the workers out in April. GM hasn't announced how many workers it will accept from those who are eligible. 

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Edwards looking forward to beating up on young drivers again
It took only 104 starts and three years for Columbia, Missouri-native Carl Edwards to claim his first NASCAR championship.  In 35 starts, Edwards racked up four wins, 15 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes in 2007, ultimately claiming the grand prize of Busch Series Champion.  It was a life-long dream for the 27-year old who looks to repeat in 2008.

As Edwards returns to Daytona for Nationwide Series testing this week, a unique opportunity still exists.  The opportunity to be a part of Edwards winning team as the primary sponsor of the No. 60 Ford Fusion for several of 35 races in 2008.  With current and long-time sponsor partners Scotts Miracle-Gro and World Financial Group (WFG), the opportunity exists for another company to align with a driver who is arguably the driver to beat in 2008.

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ING unhappy with Renault's F1 results
The Dutch bank ING, title sponsor of the Renault F1 team, has said it is unhappy with the team's performance in 2007. The company started its three-year-deal with Renault in 2007 and is investing around 65 million euro per year in Formula 1.

ING's Formula 1 coordinator Isabell Connor told Dutch newspaper Parool: "We signed a contract with Renault that includes a performance clause where Renault is being seen as a top three team."

The Renault F1 team though finished just once on the podium in 2007 when Heikki Kovalainen finished second in the Japanese Grand Prix.

ING is happy though about the results of the bank's sponsorship exposure.


Champ Car to Appear on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC in 2008
The Champ Car World Series will appear exclusively on the ESPN networks in 2008 with a 14-race schedule combining live and same-day telecasts. The international open-wheel racing series returned to ESPN in 2007 after an absence of six years.

The schedule includes four races on both ABC and ESPN and six on ESPN2. The season begins Sunday, Apr. 20, with same-day coverage of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The 2.5-hour telecast will include a season preview special.

“We’re thrilled to have all of our races this season on the ESPN/ABC networks in the second year of our renewed relationship,” said Champ Car President & CEO Steve Johnson. “We worked closely with ESPN to create a schedule that we believe serves both existing and future fans of Champ Car racing.”

ESPN2 also will televise races for the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, Champ Car’s development series, on a tape-delay basis.

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Formula BMW

Formula BMW Americas announces 2008 Schedule
Drivers entering the 2008 Formula BMW Americas Championship will face the most challenging and diverse schedule in the series' five year history.

Returning once again as the opening rounds for the Formula BMW Americas Championship, the historic Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California will launch the seven-weekend, 14 round championship in May. After featuring some of the strongest venues in North America, the championship will end in November with a maiden journey to Sao Paolo, Brazil in support of the Brazilian Grand Prix.  The drivers participating in this season will have the chance to showcase their skills to the nearly every category of premier racing series in North America with races supporting Formula 1, the American Le Mans Series, the Champ Car World Series, the Rolex Sports Car Series, and, new for 2008, the ARCA RE/MAX Series.

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Tester Liuzzi ready to race, Gascoyne warns
(GMM) Vitantonio Liuzzi is ready to step into a racing cockpit if Force India's 2008 lineup does not perform adequately, technical boss Mike Gascoyne has warned.

The Briton suggests that Toro Rosso refugee Liuzzi, who has been signed as the team's test driver this year, will put pressure on colleagues Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil to push hard this season.

"If they need any motivation, they need only look at who the test driver is," Gascoyne told the British news agency Reuters.

"The message is very clear for Fisi, for both the race drivers. If they want to be driving in 2009, they have got to deliver. If not, there is a guy who will be driving in 2009," he added.

Gascoyne said he expects Fisichella, the Italian veteran of nearly 200 grands prix, to enjoy F1's new era without electronic aids like traction control.

"Fisi is a guy who you have to keep interested and make sure his motivation is there," he added.


FIA's Mosley an 'amateur' - Stewart
(GMM) Sir Jackie Stewart has hit back at Max Mosley by suggesting the FIA president is an "amateur" who should either quit or be sacked.

The 68-year-old Scot, who won three drivers' championships before going on to run a team and the club that promotes the British grand prix, was responding to Mosley's criticism of his recent outspokenness about the way formula one is governed.

During the melee, Mosley ridiculed Stewart's tartan trousers and slammed him as a "certified half-wit".

"If the president of the International Olympic Committee said something like that about a gold medal winner, I think he would have lost his job," Stewart told the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, on a visit to Toronto to promote his autobiography.

"I thought it was totally inappropriate from a man in his position as president of the governing body of a major sporting organization to even think of speaking in a manner such as that," he said.

Stewart thinks Mosley, a son of aristocracy, barrister, former racer and team founder, is not well enough qualified to lead the governing body of a sport like formula one.

"This is a very heavily capital invested sport and presently the president of the FIA is not paid and therefore he is part time and an amateur," he said.

Stewart argues that the governing structure of a body like the FIA should reflect the standards of the "normal business or legal" world.

"They have to headhunt a captain of industry and pay him accordingly to be an executive director or president who is not part time and not an amateur," he said.

[Editor's Note:  In the continuing war of words between Stewart and Mosley, it will be interesting to see Mosley's response this time.  Typically Mosley wins, his command of the English language far superior to Stewart's.]


Q&A with Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

Testing the McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 in the damp conditions in Spain this week and like team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and many of his rivals, Lewis Hamilton has so far found the experience of driving a modern F1 car on the limit without driver aids an enjoyable experience, even though he ends up in the pea gravel a lot.

How did testing go today?
"I am quite happy with it. I think today was a bit of a difficult day, the weather wasn’t great, which is a bit unusual for Spain. But despite that, we had a good day."

What about the traction control, do you find it dangerous in the wet without it?
"No, its just fun."

Who are the people to beat this year?
"I think it will be the same as last year. It is difficult to say who is quick and who is not right now. We don’t know what everyone is doing, light runs, heavy runs. As always we won’t see until we get to the first race."

What have the you been working on today?
"I am getting used to having no traction control, and also managing the tires and developing the car."

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Honda's B-Team continues to tarnish their reputation
Super Aguri Honda did not get its new year off to the best of starts after overheating problems prevented the team from testing on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Yesterday, Anthony Davidson spent a frustrating day watching the action from the sidelines once again.

The team had been hoping to receive the parts they needed to cure the overheating issues that had marred the opening day of their action. But a scheduled plane that was due to arrive at Gibraltar at midday ran into technical problems, and the components had to be flown to Malaga instead. 

A team member attempted to drive the parts to the Jerez track only to find that the motorway from Malaga was closed due to road works - meaning the test finished before the essential parts arrived.

In total, the team managed ten timed laps on Monday with James Rossiter behind the wheel of the SA07B. Super Aguri


Foyt Racing names Colliver chief engineer
Michael Colliver will be A.J. Foyt Racing's chief engineer for the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda/Firestone to be driven by Darren Manning in the IndyCar Series.

Colliver's most recent IndyCar Series experience as a consultant includes Playa Del Racing (Jaques Lazier - 2007 Indianapolis 500), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Ryan Briscoe - 2006) and Access Motorsports (Greg Ray 2004). Before starting Advantage Engineering Services, Colliver spent several years at Kelley Racing (2002-04 Al Unser Jr.), Treadway Racing (1999-2002 Sam Schmidt, Arie Luyendyk, Jason Leffler, Felipe Giaffone), Pat Patrick Racing (1998 Adrian Fernandez) and Hemelgarn Racing (1996-97). IndyCar.com


NASCAR firmly behind Rudy Giuliani
Champ Car's Paul Newman appears to be the lone racing personality in the Democrat camp, having donated $4,600 to the Barack Obama campaign.  The NASCAR contingency has historically been pro-Republican since most come from the bible-belt south and this year appears to be no exception.  Many in NASCAR land have donated to the Rudy Giuliani campaign, a losing cause it would appear based on recent results.  Did former NY City Mayor Giuliani promise NASCAR a race in NY City if he got elected?

Giuliani Donations from NASCAR
Rick Hendrick $4,600
Amy France $4,600
Brian France $4,600
Jim France $4,600
Jim Hunter $4,600
Mike Helton $4,600
Richard Childress $4,600
Jay Abraham $2,300
Mark Dyer $2,300
Paul Brooks $2,300
Richard Glover $2,300
Roger Penske $2,300


Not all hybrids are taxpayers' friends
Green could turn into the new gold when it comes to promoting Earth-friendly cars and trucks. You can spot that marketing magic the minute you walk through the doors this weekend of the 2008 North American International Auto Show.

But if you get a little tempted -- and maybe remember hearing something about generous tax breaks for hybrid cars and trucks -- pay close attention to what you're buying. Buyers of the most popular Toyota hybrids no longer get a tax credit. And the Honda hybrids won't come with the hefty tax deals that they used to have, either. This tax credit has always been tough to understand. Currently, the credit applies overall to qualified purchases of hybrid and lean technology vehicles sold from 2006 through 2010.

And right now, anyway, there's no credit for plug-in hybrids -- even if some plug-ins make it to dealerships in 2010 or so.

Yet, the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit, as it's officially called, varies based on manufacturer and model. The dollar amount of credits can change based on the fuel economy and weight of the model, as well as how many vehicles the manufacturer has already sold.

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Gant to Race the Famed No. 33
Gant to Race the Famed #33 in the Old School Racing Tour: Old School Racing will take old school fans back in time when they kick off their inaugural Old School Racing Tour this May. That is when the fans will be able to see their favorite drivers and the paint schemes they made famous. Harry Gant will pilot the #33 that he made famous. Along with the green and white paint scheme made famous by Gant, “old school” fans will also see the familiar red and white scheme made famous by David Pearson, the gold and black scheme made famous by Davey Allison, the “Kings” paint scheme and many others that will bring back memories of the good ‘ole days of racing. The inaugural race at Concord Speedway on May 18th of 2008, the season will run a ten race schedule. The OSR will field cars for such racing legends as Harry Gant, James Hylton, David Pearson, Geoff Bodine and some 30 other racing icons. More info at the Old School Racing Champions Tour (OSRCT) site


GEM names Mark McArdle
Gillett Evernham Motorsports announced the promotion of Mark McArdle to Vice President and Managing Director of Competition. McArdle formerly served as the Vice President and Managing Director of Gillett Evernham Engines. "This is another example of the business and performance related improvements Ray Evernham and I are committed to making," said George Gillett Jr., team owner of Gillett Evernham Motorsports. "The goal is to position our resources and leadership where they will have the greatest impact, conduct assessments and then make any additional strategic investments necessary to compete for championships. That's what we expect as an organization and we are committed to delivering that level of performance to our partners." McArdle spent 10 years building engines in CART with organizations such as Penske Racing and Mercedes-Benz. After visiting victory lane in the Indianapolis 500 three times, McArdle made the move to NASCAR and has been with Gillett Evernham Motorsports since 2003. In addition to his management responsibilities at Gillett Evernham Engines, he also provided oversight and direction to Advanced Engine Technology, the Gillett Evernham facility based in Northamptonshire, England. McArdle's technology-based approach to competition together with the added business expertise and resources of Gillett should help Gillett Evernham Motorsports move closer to its goal of becoming a championship organization. GEM PR


NHRA alters qualifying procedures
The National Hot Rod Association announced a change to its qualifying procedures for its national events. Only the top 12 speeds posted before the final qualifying day in each class can be used to make eliminations. For cars not in the top 12 at that point, only speeds posted on the final day will count toward qualifying. However, the 12 fastest cars before the final day are not locked in and can still improve their position on the ladder or be bumped from it.


Webber admits F1 drivers inferior
Drivers in other race series with just as much horsepower, such as Champ Car, are able to drive their cars and not crash all the time.  However, F1 drivers, who Michael Schumacher admits are inferior and can't even make any waves in DTM where they regularly get smoked, appear to be lost without their traction control.

With the loss of traction control in this year’s Formula One championship several drivers have voiced their safety concerns, especially in wet conditions, with Red Bull racer Mark Webber adding his thoughts to that of his teammate, David Coulthard, that we will witness more accidents in 2008 as a result.

"No question about it, there will be more crashes," the Australian was quoted as saying in the Melbourne Herald Sun. "We've seen it in testing. There are more guys going off, there are more red flags, and that is going to happen in races. That is a 100 per cent certainty.”

Webber, who is one of the directors of the GPDA, Grand Prix Drivers Association, admits that safety is a major concern, however, on the other hand, he doesn’t want to be labeled a ‘pussy’ for his concerns and admits that they will all learn how to deal with situation.

“You can say that we're paid lots of cash, but if you are talking about actually you can't see where you are going ... that's not about who's paid what. It's just not safe enough. But on the bottom of that I don't want to see 'Webber is a pussy with safety'. I like taking risks, and I'm up for the challenge, but we need to always find a balance. And we will learn."


Latest F1 news in brief
  • Hamilton says no TC to blame for Jerez spins
  • Patchy track debut for new Red Bull
  • Glock shocks Jerez with new Toyota pace
  • Raikkonen coy on Renault return to form
  • Drivers reluctant to air safety views - DC
  • Red Bull must wait for race wins - Mateschitz
  • Alonso fears bad Renault return
  • Piquet expects no conflict with Alonso
  • Missing parts blight Super Aguri test
  • Ralf happy with first DTM test
  • Dennis plays down McLaren ECU controversy

Hamilton says no TC to blame for Jerez spins
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton admitted on Wednesday that the absence of traction control led to his two visits to the Jerez gravel traps during the final day of the Spanish group test.

The 23-year-old British driver twice beached his new McLaren MP4-23 away from the damp circuit's tarmac -- once early in the day, and once as the session wound down.

The removal of driver aids including traction control and engine braking for 2008 has been controversial, with some drivers concerned that driving in wet conditions is now more dangerous.

"Without these controls helping you on the entry to corners there is a lot more locking of the rear wheels, and when you are on the limit and pushing that is what happens," Hamilton agreed as he faced reporters at Jerez.

"It is so slippery, and even harder without traction control," he added.

Patchy track debut for new Red Bull
(GMM)  Red Bull's new car for 2008 survived a scare on its installation lap before breaking down at the end of its first day of running at Jerez.

The RB4 was launched at the Spanish circuit earlier on Wednesday, before David Coulthard put 54 laps on its odometer.

On the very first out-in lap, Scot Coulthard - who like all Red Bull personnel is hoping for a more reliable season for the team - feared a throttle problem, but it turned out to be a false alarm.

Ultimately, Adrian Newey's second car designed at Milton-Keynes was a few tenths slower in the patchy rain than the 2007 version, which completed a similar number of laps in the hands of Mark Webber.

"The car's potential?  Far too early to say!" Newey said, after Coulthard walked back to the pits following an engine problem with a few minutes of the session left to run.

Glock shocks Jerez with new Toyota pace
(GMM)  Timo Glock left the Jerez paddock scratching its collective head on Wednesday as his 2008 Toyota topped the time sheets on the final day of the group test.

Despite saying just 24 hours earlier that the TF108 could initially be a "step back" for the struggling Japanese team, the reigning GP2 champion went quicker than all comers, including Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Renault) and the title-winning Ferraris.

"It was a perfect lap," he boasted to Germany's Bild newspaper, which said Glock completed the lap late in the afternoon with fresh tires.

But Glock insisted: "I had much more fuel on board than many people might believe."

Earlier this week, however, he cautioned that the Cologne based team is unlikely to make an immediate step towards the middle of the podium in 2008.

"What is clear is that we can't think the new car is the new 'wonderbaby' and we will be five seconds quicker or whatever," the Press Association quoted him as saying.

"It could be a little step back, but in the end it will pay off when we understand how the car works and make it quicker," he added.

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Danica Patrick scratched from Super Bowl ad
Go Daddy Group Inc. has given up trying to get its Super Bowl "beaver" ad past Fox TV censors, and was waiting Wednesday for approval on an alternative.

The Scottsdale-based domain name registrar, which gained notoriety for having its racy ads rejected every year since censors pulled one in 2005, has submitted 10 versions of various ads so far, said chief executive officer Bob Parsons.

People he showed the rejected ad to thought it was Go Daddy's best and funniest ever, Parsons said.

Sexist Go-Daddy ad was set to exploit Danica's Beaver

The ad featured auto racer and Go Daddy spokeswoman Danica Patrick and an animated version of the dam-building mammal, Parsons said this week in his blog. He declined to reveal the story line Wednesday, but said Fox rejected the ad because an actor used the word "beaver" three times in the ad. The term is also slang for part of a woman's anatomy.

Parsons said Fox would have approved the ad if it used a term such as "furry friend" or "little engineer that specializes in building small dams."

He refused to change it.

"I did a lot of things for this country," Parsons said. "I was in the military, I pay a lot of taxes, and I think I've earned the right to call a beaver a beaver."

Parsons said the company will run the rejected ad on its Web site Feb. 3 on Super Bowl Sunday, and try to get the ad approved for use on cable TV. Arizona Republic

track news

2008 Road America schedule
Road America has announced its 2008 season schedule. The dates and events are as follows:

May 16-18      Spring Vintage Weekend (SVRA)
May 17          Family Tailgate Party
June 5-8        Suzuki Superbike Doubleheader (AMA)
June 13-15      Vintage Cycle (AHRMA) and Moto-ST Weekend
June 19-22      Piggly Wiggly / Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints®
July 4-6        Championship Cup Series (motorcycles)
July 17-20      Kohler International Challenge with Brian Redman
August 7-10    Generac 500 / American Le Mans Series
                Road America Grand Prix / Champ Car World Series
September 19-21 VSCDA Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival®
October 25      Mid-American Stock Car Series and the Road America
                Cancer Walk/Run


This is a completely different car says Timo
Panasonic Toyota Racing brought its first test of 2008 to a close on positive note with Timo Glock setting the fastest time of the day in the new TF108 at Jerez in Spain on the third and final day. Timo’s task was to gain as much track time as possible with the new car while also comparing set-up changes and mechanical settings.

“I am pleased with our progress today and I believe we have made some significant improvements to the new car,” Timo said. “It is encouraging to see us end the day with the fastest lap and I think we made a step forward. Once again the car was extremely reliable and that allowed us to complete a lot of laps and gather plenty of information. This is a completely different car compared to the TF107 but it is a good step forward and we know what we need to work on to improve. I made a small mistake in the morning on the damp track when the rear wheels locked and I spun but it didn’t cost us much time. The team worked really hard this week to improve the car and I am happy.”

Kamui Kobayashi was in the TF107 for its final planned official test but rain in the morning led him to sit out the first two hours.

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Kahne leads final test day at Daytona

Kasey Kahne

Gillett Evernham Motorsports' Kasey Kahne led the final NASCAR Sprint Cup testing session at Daytona International Speedway.  The teams ran all day Wednesday as rain threatened the area, concluding the three-day test at 4 p.m. EST.

"I was kind of excited to get in the car with Budweiser on it," Kahne said following the session. "[It's] 2008, we're able to have a good test, we learned a lot, went fast at time. I feel ... it's a good starting point."

1. Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge, 189.111
2. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 188.818
3. Dario Franchitti, No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, 188.723
4. Regan Smith, No. 01 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet, 188.667
5. Ryan Newman, No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge, 188.584
6. Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 Penske Racing Dodge, 188.143
7. Bobby Labonte, No. 43 Petty Enterprises Dodge, 188.107
8. Tony Stewart, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 188.060
9. Michael Waltrip, No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, 187.982
10. David Ragan, No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, 187.939

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Hinchcliffe Reunites With Forsythe
The Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda paddock will once again be headquarters for the “Mayor of Hinchtown” in 2008 as popular Canadian racer James Hinchcliffe has rejoined Forsythe Championship Racing for an all-out assault on the series title.

The 21-year-old native of Toronto returns to the same operation with which he competed in his rookie Atlantic season in 2006. That season produced Hinchcliffe’s lone Atlantic victory to date at Portland, a pole position at Montreal and a total of three podium results, placing him 10th in the championship as part of a four-car operation. Last season, Hinchcliffe competed with Sierra Sierra Enterprises, improving greatly from his rookie campaign with three pole positions and five podiums en route to fourth in the championship.

“I'm obviously really excited to be back with Forsythe Championship Racing,” Hinchcliffe said.  “When I joined the team in 2006, we always said it would be a two year plan. It has just taken us three years to pull it off!  I improved a lot in 2007 with Sierra Sierra Enterprises, and I know that they will be super competitive this season so I am really looking forward to the challenge of fighting with them for the championship.  To be back on Forsythe is awesome, the atmosphere is so great and I have already enjoyed working with the team and David on making us as competitive as possible.”

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Glock fastest at damp Jerez
Timo Glock topped the times on the final day of testing at Jerez in Spain on Wednesday in his new Toyota TF108 on a damp Jerez track in southern Spain.

The German finished three tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton in the new McLaren.  Hamilton caused two red flags, having run off the track twice.

Fernando Alonso set the third quickest time, while Sebastien Bourdais was an impressive fourth fastest for Scuderia Toro Rosso, having topped the timesheets briefly late in the day.
Today's testing times:
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Glock Toyota 1:19.799 96
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.099 73
3. Alonso Renault 1:20.363 49
4. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.407 51
5. Massa Ferrari 1:20.500 85
6. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.535 79
7. Kobayashi Toyota 1:20.577 53
8. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:20.646 88
9. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:20.758 57
10. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:21.705 71
11. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:22.275 53
12. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:22.581 54
13. Hulkenberg Williams-Toyota 1:24.023 65
14. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:24.873 50
Bold = 2008 car


Renault says McLaren has an advantage
Formula One's switch to a standard electronic control unit has given McLaren a head start as makers of the system, Renault engine head Rob White said on Wednesday. McLaren and Microsoft won the contract to supply all teams, a development which allowed the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) to ban so-called electronic 'driver aids' such as traction control this season.

"Everything is different for us," White told reporters at the Jerez test circuit. "The control system is different, all of the tools are different, the environment in which the engineers work is different.

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Nationwide has big plans for NASCAR series
Big changes are expected for the Nationwide Series in 2009: the use of the NASCAR-certified chassis and the denial of points for Sprint Cup drivers. But the new sponsor also has some things in mind.

"We're still working through a lot of those plans," Event Marketing Manager Jim McCoy says. "We have a great relationship with Speedway Motorsports and are going to be very visible and those tracks. We've got a lot of 'On Your Side' programs, trying to make the race experience better, with shuttles, interactive displays and other things at those tracks.

"On a broader scale, we've got some other things we're looking at, with the ultimate goal trying to enhance the race fans' experience at the track or while they're watching it on TV."


Mathiasen set to test Sciuto
As Mathiasen Motorsports focuses on fitting the final pieces into its pursuit of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship in 2008, American Karting and Champ Car Atlantic standout Alan Sciuto will test one of its Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda race cars at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California later this week.

"I'm really looking forward to testing the Champ Car Atlantic car with Mathiasen Motorsports this week," Sciuto said. “Over the past couple of seasons Mathiasen Motorsports has shown the growth and competitive fire that clearly makes them a championship contender for 2008 and I’m really excited about getting back into an Atlantic car. I want to thank Ray and Leslie Mathiasen, Alain Clarinval and the entire team at Mathiasen Motorsports for this great opportunity.

"Everyone on the team is excited about the test, stated owners Ray and Leslie Mathiasen, “We are thrilled to have a racer the caliber of Alan Sciuto test the Mathiasen Motorsports Swift 016.a race car, as we feel Alan is a true Championship contender and should work very well with our team Technical Director, Alain Clarinval. We’re very confident that both of us will learn a lot this week about our car’s performance potential.” The test will be the first in a series of Mathiasen tests geared toward finding the best available drivers for the two car team to contest for the 2008 Champ Car Atlantic championship.

Next up for the Champ Car Atlantic Championship is the first of three open test sessions to be held prior to the start of the 35th Anniversary season of Atlantic at Long Beach on April 20. The first open test of 2008 will be held at the famed Sebring International Raceway circuit in central Florida. Atlantic cars will take to the 1.669-mile "short course" on February 5-6.


Genoa Racing Completes Successful Test
After a long off-season, Champ Car Atlantic Series competitor Genoa Racing started the new year with a very successful two-day test at the Sebring International Short Course this past weekend.  The team tested with experienced Atlantic Series drivers Tom Sutherland and J.R. Hildebrand, along with longtime racer Larry Connor, and was joined by the Atlantic teams of Forsythe Championship Racing and Jensen Motorsports.

  The team quickly got acquainted with its drivers and the conditions on Saturday, working on the setups of all three cars to prepare for the upcoming series tests and racing season.  Following a productive first day but with rain in the forecast for Sunday afternoon, the Genoa team got down to business early, making big gains right away and unofficially setting the fastest lap time of the test with driver J.R. Hildebrand at the wheel and Tom Sutherland finishing just tenths behind.  The team continued to make improvements even as the conditions got worse, outrunning their competitors for the rest of the day.

  “All the drivers did a superb job,” related team manager and engineer Thomas Knapp.  “We were able to quickly establish communication and used our track time to excellent effect.  We also wanted to use this test as a proper warm-up for the upcoming season in regards to our crew and team, so we got a lot of value out of that, as well.”

The drivers and team were very happy about how the test went, collectively learning about what the cars needed and then taking advantage on the track.

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Extreme weather affects BMW's Valencia test
(GMM)  The maiden test of BMW-Sauber's newly launched 2008 car was disturbed by extreme weather on Wednesday, according to the German news agency SID.

Reportedly, extreme winds of up to 100kmh and rainstorms meant Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica could not proceed as planned with the second consecutive day with the F1.08 at the Valencia circuit in Spain.

Elsewhere, in the south of the country, the weather is not as extreme at Jerez, where the majority of teams are running this week, but day three of the test there is being affected by rain.

SID reports that the weather in Spain should improve on Thursday.


FIA happy with EU call for greener F1
(GMM)  F1's governing body has welcomed the findings of a European Parliament report, despite the interpretation that 'CARS 21' is in fact critical of the sport's environmentally-unfriendly policies.

A statement issued by the European Parliament called on F1 to "change their rules" in favor of greener technology, because motor sport can play a bigger role in "changing attitudes and customer behavior towards environmentally friendly technology".

The Parliament asked the FIA and teams to contemplate things such as bio-fuels, four-cylinder engines and hybrid technology.

A statement issued by the FIA on Wednesday, however, said the report "recognizes the leading role played by the" Paris body "in encouraging the development and use of new environmental technologies".

FIA president Max Mosley said: "It is immensely satisfying that the European Parliament recognizes motor sport's role in developing environmentally-friendly technologies and supports the work undertaken by the FIA in its campaign to make motoring more sustainable in the future.

"With the support of the motor manufacturers competing in formula one and with the engineering expertise unique to the sport, the new technical regulations will accelerate the introduction of energy-efficient technologies into the domestic car market," he added.


Kimi back on top at wet Jerez

Kimi Raikkonen

Rain returned to Jerez this morning, as the teams took to the track for the final day of testing in southern Spain. While the rain stopped early in the morning, the track has only begun to dry out here, but with the sun emerging from behind the clouds, the afternoon should see more rubber be laid down.

On the timesheets, Kimi Räikkönen returned to the top, with a time of 1m26.788s after 29 laps. He was followed, almost a full second behind, by McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen. Almost another second behind him was Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari, followed by Vettel, Webber and Bourdais.

Unofficial morning times from Jerez:
1. Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) - 1:26.788, 29 laps
2. Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren-Mercedes) - 1:27.718, 31 laps
3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) - 1:28.672, 38 laps
4. Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) - 1:29.541, 24 laps
5. Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) - 1:29.541, 24 laps
6. Sébastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) - 1:29.640, 29 laps
7. Nico Hülkenberg (Williams-Toyota) - 1:30.068, 35 laps
8. Kazuki Nakajima (Williams-Toyota) - 1:30.535, 36 laps
9. Timo Glock (Toyota) - 1:31.261, 44 laps
10. Fernando Alonso (Renault) - 1:31.926, 21 laps
11. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) - 1:32.178, 24 laps
12. Adrian Sutil (Force India-Ferrari) - 1:32.336, 38 laps
13. Kamui Kobayashi (Toyota) - 1:32.712, 17 laps
14. David Coulthard (Red Bull-Renault) - 1:33.651, 6 laps


Red Bull foresees no engine supplier change
(GMM) Renault will remain Red Bull Racing's engine supplier for the foreseeable future, team boss Christian Horner suggested on Wednesday.

"We're very happy with the engine partnership with Renault and don't foresee any changes in the near future," he told reporters on Wednesday at the launch of the second Renault-powered Red Bull single seater at Jerez.

Red Bull's customer engine relationship with the French squad began in 2007, after successfully transferring its previous Ferrari deal to sister team Toro Rosso.


Q&A with McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh

Martin Whitmarsh

Martin Whitmarsh, Chief Operating Officer, McLaren Group, is confident that the new MP4-23, launched just over a week ago and currently being put through its paces at the Jerez circuit in Southern Spain, will be a title winning contender, especially after all the problems the Woking based squad faced in 2007.

The following is an interview conducted with the McLaren man shortly after the official unveiling….

Will the MP4-23 have the same wheelbase as its predecessor or will it be longer?
The wheelbase is longer but the significant factor is weight distribution. Last year, we worked hard to develop weight distribution. However, during the season there is a limit to what can be done and to change weight distribution, you’ve got to move the ballast around. So although we achieved virtually the weight distribution we were seeking to last year - that was done by including the extremes fair amount of ballast. We hope that this year’s car achieves the optimum weight distribution without putting ballast at the extremes of the vehicle, so that’s an advantage in terms of central gravity and …. [inaudible, Ed] So as a product of that – the wheelbase has changed slightly but not too much.

Has the MP4-23’s development been affected by the FIA investigation?
I would like to say it made no impact, but the reality is a whole variety of things stray into the time of the engineering and management team. We were fighting to win a championship last year - ourselves - and Ferrari. In the last probably third of the season we were putting a lot more work in the development of the product to compete for that championship, so I’m sure that we both were slightly distracted from developing this year’s car. However, I think it is maybe a testimony of the determination of both those organizations that we are out launching the cars early. The car that is being launched downstairs, I think as is the case with our competitor, will not necessarily look the same in Australia – in fact it certainly won’t look the same. We will evolve and develop the car between now and the beginning of the season. There is quite a lot of performance left in it. We have to fix a specification which gives the aerodynamics and the other development engineers the opportunity to develop the performance of the car. We hope and believe that we have done that but we’ll keep pushing. But inevitably, there are lots of pressures, in any business, on time. So, to answer your question, we have had a number of distractions over the season, but I hope, overall, that we have had enough focus and concentration to have a competitive car.

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Honda pull out of ITV F1 sponsorship
Honda are pulling out of their sponsorship deal with ITV F1, leaving the UK broadcaster searching for a replacement less than two months before the 2008 season begins in Australia. Honda 'idents' appeared before and after each part of ITV's F1 programming, initially using clips from their Impossible Dream advert before moving to shots of Honda powered machinery, from cars to lawnmowers.

The Honda sponsorship, promoting Honda cars in the UK rather than Honda Racing F1, was worth an estimated £2.5m ($4.9m/€3.3m) through 2007, but it's understood that ITV are looking to increase that to as much as £4m.

Industry analysts expect ITV to struggle to fill the void. Although the price tag of £4m is not bad value to reach 5m people every other weekend, the problem is that the audience is made up of largely the same people for each event.

An ITV spokesman said "We are currently in discussion with a number of parties and are confident we will secure a sponsor soon."


Hornish baby due on pole day at Daytona
Sprint Cup newbie Sam Hornish spent most of December getting ready for a new arrival. Sam's wife, Crystal, is due to deliver their first child next month. "I've been decorating the nursery and getting everything ready," Hornish said. "The due date is a bit of a concern for me. It's February 10th  - pole day for the Daytona 500 . I really want to be there for the birth. We'll see what happens." ESPN.com


Bump-drafting is a hot topic at Daytona testing
It was another super day for Toyota teams, which again dominated the action at Daytona International Speedway. Dale Jarrett was fastest in the morning practice, and Dave Blaney was quickest in the afternoon session, and Toyota drivers took eight of the top 10 speed spots.

Only Chevy’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., second fastest in both sessions, and Dario Franchitti in a Chip Ganassi Dodge kept Toyota from totally ruining everyone’s day.

Elliott Sadler said last week that the bumpers on these new NASCAR stock cars match up so well that bump-drafting may be even more of an issue here than in the past.

“I think he’s probably right,” Burton said. “The great question, honestly, is how the car is going to handle.

“My inclination is that they’re going to handle bad enough where I don’t think bump-drafting is going to be a factor. I think the factor is going to be who can put the car where they want to put them.

“Bump-drafting really becomes a problem when you have the 43‑car packs, with no other option to pass.

“I think this is going to be a different kind of race.

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Red Bull launches RB4, confirms tester Buemi
(GMM)  F1 team Red Bull Racing launched its new single seater for 2008 at Jerez on Wednesday.

In a low-key presentation outside the Spanish circuit's pits, in very light drizzle, the Milton Keynes based squad showed off the evolutionary RB4 and confirmed that Swiss teenager Sebastien Buemi will be the official test and reserve driver this season.

Buemi, who replaces Germany's Michael Ammermuller, will also race in the GP2 category this year, and joins racers Mark Webber and David Coulthard in Red Bull's F1 lineup for 2008. See feature story to follow....


Latest F1 news in brief UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Coulthard to debut RB4 on Wednesday
  • NEWSFLASH: Singapore GP lights on one side only
  • Liuzzi 'still a racer' despite test seat
  • NEWSFLASH: Malaysia targets 125,000 for 2008 race
  • Alonso expecting no conflict in 2008
  • 6,500 witness Alonso's Renault return
  • F1 to 'forget' TC after few races - Alonso
  • F1's Head caught in UK political scandal
  • EU wants F1 to adopt cleaner rules New
  • Toyota expectations too high - Schumacher New
  • Mercedes backs Hamilton charge in 2008 New

Coulthard to debut RB4 on Wednesday
(GMM)  David Coulthard will have the honor of giving Red Bull Racing's new car for 2008, the RB4, its maiden track outing at Jerez on Wednesday.

Mark Webber, the Scot's Australian teammate, will continue driving the team's 2007 car after the launch at Jerez, in the sherry-producing south of Spain.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, on the eastern coast of Spain at the Valencia circuit, Robert Kubica for the first time in his career got the privilege of giving a new formula one car its debut.

Watched on by experienced German teammate Nick Heidfeld, the Pole guided a trouble-free first outing for the newly launched BMW-Sauber F1.08.

"The roll-out went off absolutely hitch-free," said team boss Mario Theissen.

"All systems were functioning from the word go and Robert has gained a positive first impression of the new car's handling," he added.

Back at Jerez, Timo Glock played down the performance of the new Toyota TF108 as he powered it to just eleventh quickest of the thirteen runners.

"My first impression of the car is generally positive but at this stage of the year it is too early to truly know how competitive it will be," the German said.

NEWSFLASH: Singapore GP lights on one side only
(GMM)  Lights for the first ever formula one night race in Singapore will be situated on only one side of the city's street circuit, the race's deputy chairman has said in a media briefing.

"This is to prevent the drivers from being disorientated in cases of spinning," Colin Syn explained.

He added that run-off areas will also be brighter than the actual track.

The inaugural Singapore GP is scheduled to begin at 8pm (local) on September 28.  Qualifying will start at the same time the night before, it emerged.

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Positive start to BMW Sauber F1.08

The maiden laps of the BMW Sauber F1 Team's new car went off according to plan. The doors of the pit garage opened at 12.00, and seven minutes later Robert Kubica emerged with the BMW Sauber F1.08 for its first installation lap on the Valencia circuit.

Mario Theissen
Gary Parravani

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen was clearly satisfied: "The roll-out of the BMW Sauber F1.08 went-off absolutely hitch-free. All systems were functioning from the word go and Robert has gained a positive first impression of the new car's handling. It means the most suspenseful moment for the engineers and technicians has resulted in a positive outcome. In the next few days we will be testing the technology in detail before tackling the job of further honing the BMW Sauber F1.08 for performance."

It was the first time that Kubica had been given the honor of taking a Formula One car out on its maiden drive. The Pole enjoyed the task, commenting: "It was a good start. I've only driven a few laps so far, but I have the impression that everything is heading in the right direction. The car feels more stable than its predecessor and it builds up more grip. I'm looking forward to the test days to come."

His team-mate Nick Heidfeld had already taken the car out on a few demonstration laps at BMW Welt, the company's futuristic-looking delivery centre in Munich. In Valencia he drove the F1.07 on Tuesday, and Thursday will see him at the wheel of the F1.08. "I really enjoyed driving the old car as well," said Heidfeld. "During the winter break there were a few weeks when I hadn't been in the car. The F1.08 is the most beautiful vehicle I have seen in my F1 career. It has a lot of interesting details. I'm really excited about getting inside it on Thursday!"

Technical Director Willy Rampf appeared both satisfied and relieved: "The entire team has been looking forward to this day with feverish excitement," he explained, "and we are all accordingly delighted to have encountered no problems whatsoever on the first outing with this completely new vehicle. Now all the car's systems and entire sensor technology will be checked in detail before the start of the further test program."


SPEED Quotes:  Earnhardt Jr., Franchitti, Newman and Vickers
NASCAR Preseason Thunder on SPEED continued Tuesday with a recap of the day's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing at Daytona.  John Roberts hosted the on-site special with assistance from Adam Alexander and Larry McReynolds.  SPEED’s coverage from Daytona will continue Jan. 16-17 at 6:30 p.m. ET. 

Following are excerpts from Tuesday’s show, including interviews with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dario Franchitti, Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers, with analysis from McReynolds.

(Dale Earnhardt Jr.)
Adam Alexander:  Talk about how anxious you’ve been to get to this point because I know it was probably a long off-season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Yeah, it was. I wanted to get to the race track and get to work. I was so excited about being with a new team like Rick’s (Hendrick) and we have a lot of people excited about getting the year started.  We’re ready to go and couldn’t wait to get to the track and start working.

Alexander:  We know all about your history and Hendrick Motorsports has a great history.  Have you thought at all about what it would mean to come here and win your first race for them in the 500?

Earnhardt Jr.:  I try not to think about it too much because I try not to daydream too much.  It doesn’t get you too much.  I think it’s going to be fun.  There’s going to be a lot of attention on our team.  I hope everything goes smoothly and I think it should.  We’ve got everything well prepared and should have a lot of fun and really enjoy it.  There’s going to be a lot of pressure and stuff surrounding our team.  We’re trying to do our job but we should enjoy it because this should be the greatest time of our lives.

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industry news

Ferrari sales up 14% last year
Italian luxury car maker Ferrari, which is part of the Fiat group, sold 6,400 cars in 2007, 14 percent more than in 2006, Italian News Agency ANSA said on Tuesday.  Operating profit accounted for 15 percent of Ferrari's turnover last year, according to figures released as the car maker presented its new prototype F430 Spider.

industry news

Toyota sees light - to Launch Diesel Tundra, Sequoia In U.S.
Toyota Motor Corp President Katsuaki Watanabe said on Sunday the Japanese automaker will launch a diesel-powered Tundra pickup truck and Sequoia SUV in the United States soon, in an about-face to its hybrid-centered product strategy.  Toyota, which likely unseated General Motors Corp as the world's biggest automaker last year, has repeatedly hesitated to committing a diesel vehicle for the U.S. market, which is slowly warming to the fuel-efficient drivetrain, especially for use in larger vehicles.

"I am happy to confirm that a new clean-diesel V8 engine will be offered in both the Tundra and the Sequoia in the near future," Watanabe told a news conference at the North American International Auto Show.

The diesel vehicles were one way to meet new fuel economy regulations agreed by the U.S. Congress that require a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, Watanabe said. Learn more about diesel

industry news

Cadillac sweeps EyesOn Design awards with new CTS
General Motors Corp. continued to collect honors at the North American International Auto Show today, with Cadillac winning design awards for concept and production versions of its CTS.  The Cadillac 2009 CTS-V won best production car, and the CTS coupe won best concept car in the EyesOn Design awards, sponsored by the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology.

“Design has come back,” at GM, said John Manoogian, Cadillac’s director of exterior design.

2009 Cadillac CTS V

The BMW X6, what the German automaker calls a “sport activity coupe,” beat out the new Dodge Ram and Ford F-150 as best production truck in the awards,

Chrysler’s ecoVoyager won for best concept truck design.

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