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Video of new Ferrari, Renault and Toyota F1 cars


Video from F1 testing in Portugal

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Dyer leaves Motorsports Authentics
Motorsports Authentics Chief Executive Officer Mark Dyer has left the motorsports merchandise company, according to a company news release.

Dyer had left NASCAR in June 2007 to run the company, which is jointly owned by International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc.

SMI executive Don Hawk, a member of Motorsports Authentic’s board of managers, has been appointed to oversee the day-to-day operations on an interim basis until a replacement can be found.

Hawk is well versed in the motorsports merchandise business, having handled the business affairs of Dale Earnhardt Sr.


NASCAR to improve business models
NASCAR chairman Brian France says his management group is working with teams to develop new business models that can withstand the current economic crisis.  A sport heavily dependent on corporate sponsorship, NASCAR is increasing its involvement in helping teams locate and secure partners at a time when funding can be difficult to find.

He's also dispatched his staff to meet with race tracks to explore new promotions for ticket sales, to improve opportunities for minorities and females, and focus on environmental issues that can make the sport greener.

France's comments came Thursday during a state-of-the-sport presentation to media at NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.


Ford Racing Claims Pole for KONI Race
Magic. That’s the word Dean Martin used to describe his qualifying lap around Daytona International Speedway.

The co-driver of the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Mustang FR500C claimed the top spot for Friday’s season-opening Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series race in Daytona, with a quick lap that even surprised the optimistic driver.

“Getting the pole here in Daytona was our first goal, and of course winning the race tomorrow is our ultimate goal,” said Martin. “Our lap out there today was magic. The way our Mustang handled and performed was just perfect. We’ve worked really hard during the off-season and we want to show everybody that we’re the best. I think our team can carry today’s success over into tomorrow’s race.”

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Ford Racing Mustang Challenge Continues Relationship With Grand-Am
Ford Racing Mustang Challenge officials confirmed in a press conference at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday that the series will be continued to be sanctioned by Grand-Am for the 2009 season.

Opening the year  with a two-race series debut weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in conjunction with the Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge on March 13-5, the ten-race Mustang Challenge season will be staged at eight different tracks in 2009. Five of the Mustang Challenge race weekends will be held in support of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and KONI Sports Car Challenge race meetings.

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2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series TV Schedule
(all times Eastern, all on ESPN2 unless noted)

Feb. 7 Pomona Qualifying 10 p.m. – midnight
Feb. 8 Pomona Finals 6:30 – 10 p.m.
Feb. 22 Phoenix Qualifying 2 – 4 a.m.
Feb. 22 Phoenix Qualifying (re-air) 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 Phoenix Finals 7 – 10 p.m.
March 15 Gainesville Qualifying 2 – 4 a.m.
March 15 Gainesville Qualifying (re-air) 10 – 11:30 a.m.
March 15 Gainesville Finals 3 - 6 p.m. (ESPN)
March 28 Houston Qualifying 8 – 10 p.m.
March 29 Houston Finals 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
April 4 Las Vegas Qualifying 8 - 10 p.m.
April 5 Las Vegas Finals 4 – 7 p.m.
April 18 Atlanta Qualifying 6 - 8 p.m.
April 19 Atlanta Finals 7 - 10 p.m.

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Massa rates new Ferrari as 'an eight'
Massa at Mugello in the new F60
Felipe Massa has scored Ferrari's new F60 'a strong eight for reliability' after his first fully dry day of pre-season testing at Mugello.

Felipe Massa has said he is 80 per cent confident in the reliability of Ferrari's new F60 after the last day of testing at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello in Italy.

The 2008 World Championship runner-up spent most of the day on slick tires, accumulating a significant amount of data over the course of the 103 laps he completed, with a fastest lap time of 1min 23.981s.

A hydraulic issue may have brought a slightly premature end to the 27-year-old's running shortly before the scheduled end to the session, but he nevertheless professed himself buoyed by early progress.

"I am pleased with the way these past days have gone," Massa stated. "Finally today we were able to test the car in the dry continuously. First impressions are positive, even if it is obviously too early to say what level we are at, partly because we had no competitors here to compare ourselves with.

"However, if I was asked to give a verdict on this test, I would score it a strong eight for reliability, given that we have covered over 1,500 kilometers. It's true a lot of that was in the wet, but given the conditions experienced in Portimao, I think the decision to come to Mugello was the right one."

The Scuderia's new car has come under scrutiny from some rival teams over the legality of its exhaust pipe.


Hulkenberg wins GP2 pole in Bahrain
Nico Hulkenberg has taken pole position for his GP2 debut in the Asian Series round in Bahrain this weekend. The reigning Formula 3 Euro Series champion lapped the Sakhir circuit in 1:41.351, more than a tenth of a second quicker than his nearest challenger.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Nico Hulkenberg ART 1:41.351 +0.000
2. Jerome d'Ambrosio DAMS 1:41.476 +0.125
3. Kamui Kobayashi DAMS 1:41.522 +0.172
4. Edoardo Mortara Arden 1:41.978 +0.627
5. Roldan Rodriguez Piquet 1:42.195 +0.844
6. Giedo van der Garde iSport 1:42.307 +0.956
7. Sakon Yamamoto ART 1:42.344 +0.993
8. Javier Villa Super Nova 1:42.355 +1.004
9. Marco Bonanomi Qi-Meritus 1:42.362 +1.011
10. Davide Valsecchi Durango 1:42.449 +1.098
11. Vitaly Petrov Campos 1:42.458 +1.107
12. Diego Nunes Piquet 1:42.564 +1.213
13. Sergio Perez Campos 1:42.632 +1.282
14. James Jakes Super Nova 1:42.636 +1.285
15. Earl Bamber Qi-Meritus 1:42.798 +1.447
16. Hamad Al-Fardan iSport 1:42.818 +1.467
17. Yelmer Buurman Ocean 1:42.833 +1.482
18. Luiz Razia Arden 1:43.061 +1.710
19. Fabrizio Crestani Ocean 1:43.373 +2.022
20. Adrian Valles Trident 1:43.401 +2.050
21. Michael Herck DPR 1:43.413 +2.062
22. Rodolfo Gonzalez FMS 1:43.701 +2.351
23. Giacomo Ricci Trident 1:44.043 +2.692
24. Frankie Provenzano Trident 1:44.325 +2.974
25. Kevin Nai Chia Chen FMS 1:45.281 +3.930
26. Michael Dalle Stelle Durango no time


Q&A with Christian Klien
Austrian racer Christian Klien will continue on in his third driver role at the BMW Sauber team for the 09 championship season, despite the fact that there is no in season testing allowed as of this year. Therefore, he will mainly need to be on hand at all race events, just in case the unthinkable happens and either of the regular race drivers are unable to take part in any of the seventeen scheduled GP’s this year.

Was Formula One your childhood dream?
As a child, I was involved in all sorts of sports. Football, skiing ... whatever was on offer in the Vorarlberg, I did it. As far as motor sport was concerned, I was about eight years old when things really clicked. In 1991 I met my great role model Ayrton Senna. My father and I had slipped into the paddock through a hole in the fence. We were hardly inside before I ran straight into Senna. I was wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt and a Salzburgring baseball cap. Ayrton spontaneously came over and asked my father to take a photo of the two of us. He was very patient and seemed to know that was what we wanted, even though we would never have dared to ask. That was a moment that pointed me in a whole new direction. From then on I was a committed motor sport fan and soon took up karting. I’ve still got the photo of Ayrton Senna and me up on the wall at home, taking pride of place.

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ACURA To Launch New LMP1 Prototype Monday
The much-anticipated debut of the new Acura ARX-02a LMP1 prototype sports cars will take place this Monday, Jan. 26 at the famed Sebring International Raceway, with the launch of Acura’s latest American Le Mans Series vehicles from de Ferran Motorsports and Patr¢n Highcroft Racing.

Last August in Detroit, Acura Motorsports officials announced the car manufacturer would enter two LMP1 class machines in the 2009 American Le Mans Series’ most powerful and technically-advanced category.

Acura’s new entries, developed by Honda Performance Development (HPD) in California in association with Wirth Research in England, will officially take to the racing surface January 26-28, for “Wheels Down” testing on the legendary 3.7-mile, 17-turn Sebring road circuit.

Team principal Gil de Ferran, the 2003 Indy 500 champion, and his teammate Simon Pagenaud will pilot the No. 66 de Ferran XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-02a this year, while four-time 2008 LMP2 class winners David Brabham and Scott Sharp will drive Duncan Dayton’s new No. 9 Patr¢n Highcroft Acura ARX-02a on the 10-race ALMS trail.

The Lowe’s Fernandez Racing team, with regular drivers Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, will be Acura’s lone LMP2 entry in 2009, in the No. 15 Lowe’s Acura ARX-01b.


Dale Earnhardt to be remembered
Fans of Dale Earnhardt are being asked to pay tribute on Wednesday February 18th  in honor and memory of the legendary driver.

A guest book will be available throughout the day at Dale Earnhardt Inc. for those wishing to document their memories of Dale, while a candlelight tribute will be held outside the headquarters on Hwy #3 in Mooresville from 6:00-8:30 PM.

The facility will be illuminated with candles while commemorative decals, prayer cards and hand held candles will be distributed to everyone in attendance.

The facility’s gates will remain open through 10 p.m. for those that cannot attend the candlelight portion but still want to pay tribute to the legendary Dale Earnhardt.

Those unable to attend are encouraged to light a candle in remembrance of Dale Earnhardt at home that evening.


Rain washes out testing in Portugal
Torrential rain storms forced Formula One teams to forego testing Thursday at Portimao in Portugal.

"A very wet day," said Renault's Fernando Alonso. "It's a shame we couldn't get anything done today because at this stage of the season you need to maximize the track time available.

"Still, I was pleased to have a full day in the dry yesterday and we learnt a lot and have some valuable data.

"I will be in the car for the next test in Jerez where hopefully we can make some good progress with the performance of the car."

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Ford Racing and Roush Yates Prepare to Debut New "FR9" Engine
Ford and Roush Yates Engines already enjoy a reputation for producing some of the best power and reliability in the sport, but its latest NASCAR-approved engine has raised expectations to an even higher level for 2009.

Code-named "FR9," this new piece is the first purpose-built NASCAR racing engine to ever come out of Ford Motor Company.  Its design has been spearheaded and developed by Ford Racing engineer David Simon, and famed engine builder Doug Yates, along with input from legendary Ford Racing engine engineer Mose Nowland.

“This is an exciting time for us to say the least, especially with the way our two companies have worked so well together on this project,” said Yates.  “I’ve never had the opportunity to work on a NASCAR engine with a clean sheet of paper, but that’s basically what we’ve done and I’ve enjoyed every second.  We feel we’ve got a piece that will not only be better than what we’ve got now, but will give us room to grow.

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Motorcraft Sponsors Wood Brothers for 9 races
Wood Brothers Motorcraft livery
For the ninth consecutive year, Ford Customer Service Division’s Motorcraft brand will team with legendary Wood Brothers Racing to compete in the highest form of stock car racing.

Motorcraft, a Ford Motor Company brand of automotive parts ranging from filters and spark plugs to engines and transmissions, will be the primary sponsor on the Wood Brothers No. 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Ford Fusion for nine races (see schedule below), beginning in February at the Daytona 500 and culminating with the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR champion driving a Coors/Motorcraft Thunderbird, is scheduled to be the driver for all of Motorcraft's races. Elliott, Motorcraft and the Wood Brothers first joined forces in 2007.

“We are very proud to continue our long-standing relationship with Wood Brothers Racing and Bill Elliott,” said Darryl Hazel, Ford Customer Service Division Vice President.  “The Woods are synonymous with Ford, and we are thrilled to be associated with such a tremendous group of people.”

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An All-New 2010 Ford Fusion is "We Race. You Win." Grand Prize
One lucky fan will win a 2010 Ford Fusion in Ford Racing’s “We Race. You Win.” national sweepstakes, announced here today as part of the Ford NASCAR Media Day.

Each time a Ford Racing driver wins a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points race in 2009, one lucky fan and a guest will win an all-expenses paid trip to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  During the race weekend, one of those fans then will be selected as the grand prizewinner of a 2010 Ford Fusion.

Race fans can register by logging on to www.weraceyouwin.com anytime from Jan. 22 to Nov. 15, 2009. Obviously, the sooner the fans register, the more opportunities they have to win.

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New venues say F1 projects on track
(GMM)  Three future grand prix venues insist their plans are still on track, amid suggestions the global financial crisis is grinding many big projects to a halt.

Abu Dhabi is scheduled to host the 2009 championship finale on 1 November, but a number of large construction projects in the Arab country have already been postponed.

But track developer Aldar Properties has confirmed that the Yas Island venue will be complete by the forthcoming summer.

"All of the Yas Island phase one will be finished this summer, including obviously the F1 grand prix circuit," said chief executive John Bullough at a conference organized by the Canadian Business Council.

India and South Korea, meanwhile, were slated for debut races in 2011 and 2010 respectively.

Construction of a circuit in Delhi was scheduled to begin last October, but did not.  It is now suggested that the work will now begin in the summer.

"Of course we will deliver ... otherwise we wouldn't have entered into an agreement," F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, also referring to local race promoter Jaiprakash Associates, told the BBC Asian Network.

It also emerges that Korea's new circuit, in the south west province of Jellanamm, is under construction and expected to be allocated a late race date on the 2010 calendar.


Weather halts Algarve test
(GMM)  Thursday's testing at the Algarve circuit in southern Portugal was suspended mid-morning due to atrocious weather conditions.

Dark skies and torrential rain lashed the Portimao region, but it was the inability of the medical helicopter to take off or land at the nearby designated hospital due to poor visibility that actually caused the red flags to be waved.

McLaren and Renault had not attempted to run in the conditions, but Toyota's Timo Glock, Williams' Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi in the Toro Rosso all completed out-in laps.


Biffle Predicts Old-Time Racing to Return to Atlanta
Encouraged by the results from a two-day Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company test session at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Greg Biffle expects old-time, side-by-side racing will be the rule of the day at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the March 8 Kobalt Tools 500.

Biffle, who was testing at the lightning fast 1.54-mile oval along with Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish Jr. and Scott Speed, believes Goodyear is in the process of developing a tire for Atlanta's March race that will allow NASCAR's top drivers to race in any groove, just like "the old Atlanta."

"I am extremely happy with the tire that Goodyear has brought here to test," said Biffle, who finished third in the points standings in the 2008 season. "They have a new left-side compound that puts a lot of drivability into the car."

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NASCAR Champions Go Hollywood
Champions week continued for six 2008 NASCAR Developmental Series titlists Wednesday as they received a VIP tour of Hollywood's famed Universal Studios.

Universal Studios, production site of countless movies, television shows and commercials throughout the years, provided an exciting getaway for the drivers and their families as they took a tour of the world-famous "Back Lot." The group also took in the sights and sounds of the park along with some rides.

"I came here when I was seven years old, so it's my first time back in a long time," said Eric Holmes, NASCAR Camping World Series West champion. "Taking the tour through the studios, to go behind-the-scenes, and going on a few rides was a lot of fun."

In addition to Holmes, in attendance for the weeks festivities are NASCAR Camping World Series East Champion Matt Kobyluck, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Brian Loftin, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series winner Scott Steckly, NASCAR Mexico Series titlist Antonio Perez and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Champion Philip Morris.

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Credit Suisse ends Sauber sponsorship UPDATE Mario Theissen says BMW Sauber has no budget worries for 2009 following the loss of major sponsor Credit Suisse, although he admits there is still some sponsorship space to fill on the new F1.09.  Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse decided not to renew its sponsorship deal with the team for the new campaign, ending a relationship with the Hinwil-based squad that stretched back to 2001 when the team was known as Sauber.

But asked about its sponsorship situation at the launch of the new BMW in Valencia, Theissen said a number of deals had come up for renewal during the winter and that while some had not been extended, he was hopeful of welcoming some new sponsors on board in the forthcoming months.

“I have to say we are absolutely safe on the budget side for this year,” he said.  “We are in a situation where the initial sponsoring contracts, several of them ran out, some have been renewed and others not.  We are looking for new sponsors; we have two or three spaces available.  It might happen before the season, it might happen during the season and I would say it’s business as usual on the sponsoring side. When we started at the end of 2005 we got all of the sponsors on board and most of the sponsoring contracts are three-year contracts.”

01/20/09 Bank Credit Suisse has announced it is terminating its sponsorship of Formula One team BMW Sauber, having sponsored the team since 2001.

Switzerland's second-biggest bank paid an estimated €17 million a season for its logo on Sauber cars and drivers, the contract for which ended last year. The bank said it was choosing instead to concentrate on sponsoring regional events and institutions.

“The team is on the right track. Therefore, this is the right time to say farewell,” Credit Suisse spokesman Matthias Friedli told the Swiss Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick.

BMW Sauber unveiled their 2009 car today having had a successful 2008 season winning its first race and finishing third overall, 55 points clear of Renault in fourth.


Donington rejects critical report
(GMM)  Donington chief Simon Gillett has dismissed a UK government report that was highly critical of the circuit's plans to ready the venue for the 2010 British grand prix.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) said the project, including track reprofiling and new facilities, are "disappointingly weak".

The report said the plans fall "far short of what the local authority and the nation should be aspiring to in a modern formula one venue".

But chief executive Gillett, who has secured a ten-year contract to host Britain's round of the world championship at Donington Park beginning next year, pointed out that the refurbishment plan is being overseen by renowned F1 architect Hermann Tilke.

"Tilke GmbH is a company that has worked on the majority of outstanding motorsport circuits worldwide and understands the requirements and compromises that have to be made to deliver a fully functional, workable, deliverable and yet still very striking grand prix circuit," he told the Daily Telegraph.


Andretti surprises Johnson
Rick Hendrick and Mario Andretti
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com
Jimmie Johnson keeps getting pleasant surprises along with awards for his success as a Sprint Cup driver.

When Johnson matched only Cale Yarborough in winning three straight Cup titles last year, Johnson didn't know that Yarborough was going to be at the NASCAR awards ceremony in New York to present his championship ring.

On Wednesday, shortly after being introduced at the Hendrick Motorsports stop on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway, Johnson was surprised by another legendary driver - Mario Andretti.

Andretti was there to present Johnson with the Speed Performer of the Year award, which Johnson won for the third straight year. He edged National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher and Formula One phenom Lewis Hamilton to earn the Mario Andretti Trophy.

The award was voted on by a 15-member panel that included Andretti and several broadcasters and analysts who work for Speed.


Ecclestone: Only team we would miss is Ferrari
F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone has given more ammunition to those who suggest that whilst all teams are equal, Ferrari is rather more equal than the others - whilst suggesting that Honda made a rod for their own back...

Bernie Ecclestone has added further fuel to the fire to those who contend that Ferrari get preferential treatment in Formula 1 compared to their rivals, by claiming that the Scuderia is the only team that would be missed from the top flight were it to disappear.

It has often been whispered within the grand prix paddock that if you are driving a scarlet machine, you are more likely to be let off an indiscretion than if you are behind the wheel of a different car, and Ecclestone's comment does nothing to dispel those suggestions. FIA President Max Mosley has previously stated that Ferrari is the most important team in the sport.

"It's bad for me to say this," F1's commercial rights-holder told the Financial Times, "but the only team we would really say we would miss is Ferrari. I wouldn't want to lose McLaren for sure. I wouldn't want to lose Williams."

Ecclestone went on to add that Honda - which announced last month that it was withdrawing from competition with immediate effect - would not be missed, criticizing the Japanese manufacturer for firstly over-spending to an inordinate degree, and then suddenly pulling the plug when the on-track results failed to come.

"They didn't even look for sponsors," underlined the 78-year-old, who conversely confirmed in an interview with German publication Sport Bild that he is 'helping with the rescue of the team [in] the role of mediator'. "They stopped because they were ninth. [They were] pouring money in like there was no tomorrow." Yahoo! Sports


F1 boss hires lawyer in divorce battle for millions
Bernie Ecclestone could lose $2B in divorce
Bernie Ecclestone is planning legal action against his estranged wife to claw back hundreds of millions of pounds placed in off-shore trusts in her name, the Evening Standard can reveal.

Mr. Ecclestone, 78, is embroiled in Britain's costliest divorce from his wife Slavica, who is 28 years his junior. He has now hired the lawyer who secured Guy Ritchie a payout of about £45 million from Madonna.

Mr. Ecclestone has appointed Helen Ward, one of London's most expensive family solicitors, in a move which scotched suggestions the divorce was off.

The couple had spent this Christmas together in Belgrade in Serbia and been photographed in an embrace, prompting claims that Mr. Ecclestone and his former supermodel wife had patched up their differences.

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Drivers announced for NZ race
The following drivers have signed-on to compete in A1GP Taupo, New Zealand

A1 Team Driver 1 Driver 2 Driver 3
Australia John Martin Ashley Walsh
Brazil Felipe Guimarães
China Ho Pin Tung Congfu Cheng Adderly Fong
France Loïc Duval Nicolas Prost
Great Britain Dan Clarke James Winslow
Indonesia Satrio Hermanto Zahir Ali
India Narain Karthikeyan Parthiva Sureshwaren
Ireland Adam Carroll Niall Quinn
Italy Edoardo Piscopo
Lebanon Daniel Morad Jimmy Auby
Malaysia Fairuz Fauzy Aaron Lim
Mexico Salvador Duran Juan Pablo Garcia
Monaco Clivio Piccione Hubertus Bahlsen
Netherlands Robert Doornbos Dennis Retera
New Zealand Chris van der Drift
Portugal Filipe Albuquerque Antonio Felix da Costa
South Africa Adrian Zaugg Cristiano Morgado
Switzerland Neel Jani Alexandre Imperatori
USA Marco Andretti John R Hildebrand Jr 

A1 Team Korea has chosen not to race in A1GP Taupo. Its seat holder, Jung Yong Joshua Kim, is restructuring the team which will return to A1GP World Cup of Motorsport in A1GP Gauteng, South Africa.


Alonso trains with cycling's Sastre
Fernando Alonso
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso this week took part in a full training ride of the team headed by 2008 Tour de France winner and fellow Spaniard Caslos Sastre.

Coinciding with his maiden run this week in Renault's new 2009 car, Alonso rode the full 110 kilometer distance, with an average speed of 37kph, as Sastre's current team Cervelo trained in the surrounding areas of the Algarve region in southern Portugal.

2005 and 2006 world champion Alonso's ride followed reports that the 27-year-old has dropped nearly 4 kilograms ahead of the 2009 season by upping his road cycling training program.

"If he trained some more he could be at a very good level in cycling," Cervelo Test Team rider Joaquin Novoa commented to the Spanish newspaper Diario AS.

In 2003, Alonso did a similar training ride with Lance Armstrong's cycling team.


Ecclestone involved in Honda rescue process
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he is closely involved in the sale of Honda's formula one team.

With the Japanese carmaker's end-of-month deadline for a rescue deal looming, the F1 chief executive told Sport Bild that he is looking over those who are bidding for the Brackley based outfit.

"I am helping with the rescue of the team," he confirmed to the German magazine.  "I am playing the role of mediator."

Should a buyer not be found by the end of January, F1 - of which Ecclestone's is chief executive of the commercial rights holding company - faces the prospect of a season with just eighteen cars on the grid.

The sale process appeared on shaky ground when team chief executive Nick Fry recently had to deny that his role in vetting rescue bids and his interest in a management buy-out is a conflict of interest.

But a spokesman for the UK government's Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has subsequently clarified that no investigation has been either commenced nor requested.


Better weather in Portugal, rain in Italy
(GMM)  Better weather greeted the formula one teams in Portugal on Wednesday, as four new cars went head-to-head for the first time on slick tires.

With world champion Lewis Hamilton at the wheel as the Portimao asphalt dried out, McLaren re-fitted the 2009-specification rear wing to the MP4-24, but it was Nico Rosberg who set the new-carpace in Williams' newly launched FW31.

The German amassed a massive 143 laps to be less than two seconds slower than the fully 2008-spec Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi.

Hamilton, suffering from a common cold, trailed a few tenths behind Rosberg, followed by Timo Glock's Toyota TF109 and finally the new Renault driven by Fernando Alonso.

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Ecclestone renews attack on Mosley, FIA
Ecclestone rants to keep F1 in the news
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has renewed his attack on FIA president Max Mosley and his governance of the sport's ruling body.

Presumably riled that Mosley became involved in the debate over commercial revenue, as well as sporting issues such as the 'medals' proposal, the F1 chief executive also slammed the FIA's new Formula 2 series as misguided.

"It was all done for the wrong reasons.  He did this when he had a problem with his private life," Ecclestone, referring to Mosley and last year's sex scandal, told the Daily Express.

The FIA recently also intervened over the formation of cost-cutting rules, including regulating a test ban -- an area not usually involving Mosley's Paris body.

Additionally, in seeking FIA approval for a change in the scoring system, Ecclestone's 'medals' idea was referred by Mosley to "market research" rather than simply adopted.

"We don't want to ask the public what they think because, if we do we would have to ask the public about almost every little thing that is decided on," the 78-year-old billionaire said.

"The sporting regulations basically are what generate the income and we run the commercial business," he continued.

"The FIA should just be the police looking at the rules.  The teams and us should be writing the technical and sporting regulations."

Ecclestone also hit back at Mosley's claim that the FIA could exist in the wake of a formula one collapse, insisting that "without us there wouldn't be a FIA".


Hildebrand aiming for Indy UPDATE CORRECTION:  The Independent Journal got the Atlantic rookie of the year wording wrong - he was the top US rookie in the Atlantic Series that year according to JR, not Rookie of the Year.

JR Hildebrand
01/21/09  JR Hildebrand is in Indianapolis this week meeting some of his Andretti Green teammates - Indy Car drivers Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti, who is a mere 10 months older than Hildebrand. From Indy, Hildebrand will drive in the A1 Grand Prix International Series, which will take him to New Zealand, Indonesia, Mexico, Portugal and Great Britain.

"This is like being recruited out of college to go play Triple A for the Yankees," he said. "This sort of is my time to shine and my time to show that I really am what the press says. I really can do what everybody thinks I should be. I'm basically going to be in the driver's seat this year of my career and of my future because I'm stepping into the best seat in the house."

Hildebrand will be stepping into the Indy Light car driven by Raphael Matos, last year's series champion who signed to race in the IndyCar Series for Luczo-Dragon Racing this year.

It was at a young age that Hildebrand first heard the name Andretti. His dad raced a Trans Am at vintage car events and Mario Andretti's cars or Mario Andretti himself sometimes showed up.

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Hamilton makes debut with no. 1 UPDATE While the weather was markedly improved over the previous two days, the morning remained damp, requiring the continued use of an ’08-spec rear wing and intermediate tires. The team was briefly hampered at lunchtime by a precautionary engine systems shutdown, which was quickly rectified without the need to change the unit.

Hamilton in the new McLaren MP4-24
In the afternoon, conditions sufficiently improved to allow an ’09-spec rear wing and several sets of slicks to be bolted to the car, resulting in Lewis’s best time of 1m30.242. Lewis said: "It was good to be back working with the team - it felt like I’d hardly been away because it was easy to slip back into the routine. It’s amazing to think that, while I’ve been to Woking throughout the winter, I haven’t properly driven a Formula 1 car since the Brazilian Grand Prix two months ago, but everything very quickly felt normal today.

"This first test was all about just getting used to the new car and the new regulations and about giving my feedback to the engineers; it wasn’t about setting a fast time. I’m pleased to report that the car feels good, we’ve made lots of progress over the winter and I’m looking forward to developing the car ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

"It’s going to be an extremely busy winter. I’ve only been in the car for one day and our usual joblist for the weeks ahead is already enormous. With the limitations on testing during the season, and the few sessions we have over the next two months, this is going to be an intense time and absolutely critical for every team."

01/21/09 (GMM)  Lewis Hamilton made his debut outing with the number '1' as he returned to test action on Wednesday morning.

On his first drive since winning the 2008 championship in Brazil last November, and therefore getting his first taste of the newly launched MP4-24, the 24-year-old Briton joined the test action at the Portimao circuit in Portugal.

Hamilton said he has enjoyed his extended break, and has taken a few moments to reflect on his achievement.  "I am world champion and it is a great feeling," he said at the car's recent launch.

"I have got to embrace that and carry it with me."

Hopes are high for a better day of weather following the disastrous conditions on Tuesday, but Hamilton's opening laps were affected by a sodden track, despite the sun shining through the clouds on occasion.

The team is also still using the wider and lower 2008-spec rear wing, ostensibly as a "precautionary measure to increase downforce" in the conditions.

It is further understood that the KERS system on Hamilton's car is not being used on Wednesday.

Also getting his first taste of his 2009 mount on Wednesday was former double world champion Fernando Alonso, at the wheel of the Renault R29 that is quickly gaining the nickname 'bullnose' because of its unique front treatment.

Toyota and Williams are also running their new cars this week and again on Wednesday, while Sebastien Buemi still occupies the cockpit of the 2008-specification Toro Rosso.


Buemi again goes fastest in 2008 car
Sebastien Buemi topped this week's testing at Portimao in Portugal for the third consecutive day once running a modified 2008-spec car and Buemi's best time was nearly two seconds quicker than second-placed Nico Rosberg.

Wednesday's testing times:


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:27.987 128
2. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:29.729 143
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:30.242 81
4. Glock Toyota 1:30.878 63
5. Alonso Renault 1:31.743 84


Burger King signs deal with Stewart-Haas Racing
Burger King Corp. (NYSE:BKC) announced today that the company has signed a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing.

As part of the sponsorship agreement, BKC has two primary paint schemes on the No. 14 Sprint Cup car which will be featured at the July 4th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the September 27th race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The company also has a personal services agreement with Stewart that includes appearances in commercials, restaurant promotions and at BKC sponsored events.

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Toyota ends GM's reign as top automaker
General Motors Corp.’s 77-year run as the world’s largest-selling automaker has come to an end, beaten by Toyota Motor Corp.

The Detroit automaker announced today that it sold 8.35 million cars and trucks across the globe in 2008 – a 10.8% decline compared with 2007.

Toyota sold 622,000 more cars and trucks throughout the world. The Japanese automaker announced Tuesday that its global sales number was 8.972 million in 2008 – a 4% decline compared with a year earlier.

Excluding mini-vehicle maker Daihatsu Motor and truck unit Hino Motors, Toyota’s global sales fell 5% to 7.9 million vehicles.


NASCAR.COM Revs Up for Season with Homepage Redesign
NASCAR.COM, the official online destination of NASCAR, is gearing up for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season by unveiling a new homepage design and an enhanced video channel on the sport’s most comprehensive Web site.  The new homepage will debut on Thurs., Jan. 29 and will enhance the user experience by providing a streamlined design that showcases breaking news and new callouts for race standings, schedules and fantasy games.  The new video page offers easy access to exclusive broadband features and coverage and debuts a new video player that offers the highest standard in online video.  In addition, NASCAR.COM will debut a special race day version of the site for every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, helping fans gear up for the excitement and intensity of the races with exclusive content and live coverage.

Follow the link for the new homepage and video pages:  http://www.nascar.com/redesign

“The refreshed look of NASCAR.COM and launch of new enhancements such as the video channel demonstrate our commitment to serving the needs of fans by providing a better user experience through the refreshed design, high-quality video player and a new, exciting race-day look,” said Matthew Hong, Turner Sports vice president and general manager of sports digital.  “NASCAR.COM continues to lead the way in providing the most comprehensive and innovative NASCAR coverage available on the Web.” 

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GM's 2nd $5.4-billion payment delayed
General Motors is in danger of running "out of cash" before March 31 if it doesn't receive the second of three federal government loan payments, a top company executive said late Tuesday in Detroit.

The second loan installment to GM of $5.4 billion, which is part of the $13.4-billion rescue plan GM agreed to with the Treasury, was expected Friday but didn't occur. Company officials have attributed the holdup to the complicated nature of the deal.

"It's critical that we receive it," Fritz Henderson, GM president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday. "If we don't get our second installment ... we'll run out of cash," he said.

"We scheduled the time for the loans because we needed it when we needed it," he said.

Henderson made the comments at the Automotive News World Congress, an industry conference.

"Frankly it was a combination of us having to supply a great deal of documentation for us to support the second draw and they themselves had a lot of other priorities," Henderson told reporters afterward.

He said the Treasury has been helpful but has been "a little busy" last week and Tuesday, the day the new administration took over. "We expect to receive it in the next several days," he said. Detroit Free Press


Ecclestone slams FIA, Mosley
Bernie Ecclestone believes that Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, should not be writing the sport's rules.

"The sporting regulations basically are what generate the income and we run the commercial business," Ecclestone said to the Daily Express.

"The FIA should just be the police looking at the rules. The teams and us should be writing the technical and sporting regulations."

To show how far out of touch with reality Ecclestone himself is, he recently suggested that a ludicrous medals system should be introduced to Formula 1, which would decide the outcome of the drivers' world championship rather than the current points structure.  In response, the FIA stated its belief that before such a change could be made, extensive market research would need to be done, but Ecclestone disagrees.

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Briatore to retire? UPDATE Last month reports in Italian newspapers said that Renault Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore would continue as team boss for the team for another one or two years and then say goodbye to Formula One. According to the flamboyant Italian though he never said anything like that and he hasn't made any decision yet on his future in the sport.

Flavio Briatore
Briatore, who entered Formula 1 back in 1989 as Benetton F1's commercial Director, told the official F1 site about his future plans in Formula 1: "My plan is - well I don't know really - and I never said that to the Italian newspapers. We are living in a very crucial moment in Formula One. I believe with this crisis we have something that makes everybody tick, and what I want is to make sure we give Formula One the possibility to survive this crisis - and to change the business.

"I think that we have a responsibility to the people working for us to give them a future. We have never had a moment like this in history and I want to be part of this change in Formula One. This is what I want to do, whatever it takes. It is a unique opportunity. After that we will see."

12/13/08 Asked by reporters if he would ever work for champions Ferrari, Briatore said: "I like to beat Ferrari but when my team doesn't win, being Italian, I obviously support Ferrari.

"But I don't think I will go to work at Maranello, especially as in two years I will stop."

Briatore also hailed Formula One's agreement to cut costs during the global financial crisis.

"The new rules will make Formula One more exciting and human. I agree that the constructors, in order to try to avoid the crisis, have given a good example by trying new ideas."


Evernham, Kyle Petty take backseat on merged team
Kyle Petty
Ray Evernham and Kyle Petty are unlikely to have significant roles -- if any -- in the newly formed Richard Petty Motorsports. The team was created earlier this month when Petty Enterprises merged its sponsor-strapped organization with Gillett Evernham Motorsports. The new team name, RPM, was announced Monday. The elder Petty said Monday that Evernham, who sold controlling interest of Evernham Motorsports to the Gillett family in August 2007 and has acted since as a consultant, will continue in that capacity.

Richard Petty
Kyle Petty, who has been cutting back on his driving, will continue to do part-time work on TV and some sports car racing. "He's been working his way out of the Cup situation," Richard said. "As we go along in our process, from time to time we might want him to run a race or two."

The elder Petty, the seven-time Cup champion and one of the sport's most recognizable names, said his role in the new team won't be much different than what it has been. "I'm going to basically be doing the same thing I've been doing for the last eight or 10 years; nothing, as much as I can," Petty said, drawing a laugh from the crowd at the NASCAR media tour. "I'll just (be) doing the Richard Petty thing." Associated Press/ESPN


Bires to attempt Daytona 500
Kelly Bires
Kelly Bires will attempt to make his Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500 next month, but he probably won't be too busy after that. On a week when he wrapped up a deal for the biggest race of his life, Bires also learned that he no longer has the promise of any Nationwide Series races with JTG Daugherty Racing. Michael McDowell brought sponsorship for the first 16 races, Bires said. Bires could race in the second half of the year if the team finds money, but he also is free to pursue other opportunities. Bires will drive for #51 Blackjack Racing, a new, part-time team out of the ARCA series, at Daytona. The car is an ex-Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge that became expendable when that team merged with DEI and switched to Chevrolets. "We could go there and run like crap, or we could go and run well and surprise a lot of people," Bires said. "Anything beyond making the show is an added bonus. If we make the race, we'll probably get more publicity out of that than I did out of a whole year and a half in the Nationwide Series." Blackjack plans a limited schedule for its regular driver, Dexter Bean, but with only one NASCAR short-track race to his credit, Bean has not been approved by NASCAR to race on a superspeedway. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Q and A with Pat Symonds
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering at RenaultF1, has spoken about the new 2009 Formula One season and just how the massive array of rule changes will pan out….

Pat Symonds
What’s the most exciting thing about 2009? There are a lot of new things coming…

I think the primary thing we can say is that it’s the biggest challenge for a long, long time. We’ve had reasonable rules stability for the last few years. Yes, we changed to the V8 in 2006 - I suppose it was quite a large change - but not a terribly difficult one from a design point of view. The aerodynamics were stable for a long time, so we had continual development, little bits of trimming to pull performance back: lift the front wing, drop the diffuser – little bits like that, which are quite trivial.

This year, we’ve had a completely new concept of aerodynamics to look at, different in just about every respect. The wings are used completely differently, the bodywork has huge restrictions, and the diffuser is completely new. So it’s really a clean sheet of paper. The teams will have to learn again where the sensitive areas are, where they can find gains, where they can push regulations, and where the regulations stop them from thinking in the way they used to think.

Then, on top of that you’ve got KERS, which is not only a new system to integrate but also a completely new technology for all of us to assimilate. None of us has worked with power electronics, with high voltage systems, before. Our experience of electric motors is fuel pumps and other small devices. We’ve never worked with advanced battery technology and very high voltage systems. As well as that, how do you take a considerable amount of power, 60 kilowatts, and use that strategically to best effect in qualifying and racing? There are all sorts of things to think about in fact!

Is this one of the most challenging seasons you’ve seen from an engineering point of view?

I would honestly say it is. It’s more extreme than the changes we made in 1994, when we added the plank and cut the diffusers back. It’s similar in terms of changes from the 1982 ground-effect cars to 1983 flat-bottomed cars.

The ING Renault F1 Team pushed the development of the R28 to the last race in 2008. In what way was that a disadvantage as far as the 2009 program is concerned?

That’s not completely true. Our last major introduction was the new front wing for Singapore, for which the aero work was done much earlier. We recognized that the 2009 car was a big aero project, so the work on the R29 started very early. We then looked at critical aero concepts in basic areas: where things worked, where things didn’t. You know, how good a job you’ve done is a relative thing: it only matters in relation to how other people have done and most people have had to follow a similar plan to us. I’m pretty confident we’re going to have a car that’s aerodynamically up at the top.

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Flavio: Formula One must be in North America
Renault Formula One boss Flavio Briatore says that the sport must return to North America after the Canadian Grand Prix dropped off the 2009 calendar. With Indianapolis also missing after the last event in 2007, Bernie Ecclestone is looking for an alternative venue.

Flavio (C) runs the Renault F1 team.  Renault does not sell cars in the USA so Renault itself could probably give a hoot whether there is a race in the USA unless they decide to return to the market
"This is something we want to have, but in the right way," Briatore said Monday. "We had the experience of Indianapolis, and things weren't great. I know Bernie was working hard on this issue, but as well, it's not so easy. Negotiating for a race, especially in America . . .. The people in America think that the most important thing is the show.

"Our show is not fantastic in this moment. I hope it's improving. Bernie knows we want to have a race in North America, and I'm sure he's concentrated and focused for that. In fact, it needs to happen in the right moment and in the right town."

The Italian had a clear suggestion as to where the USGP should be held.

"Las Vegas," he said. "Indianapolis, it was only racing people there, there was no exposure at all. No newspapers were talking about F1 in America. We need to have television, we need to have the right town."


Many teams say no to 24 Hours of LeMans
Out of the 29 cars automatically selected for the 2009 Le Mans 24-Hours qualifications, 15 have confirmed their participation. The 2009 field is already taking shape!

Automatically selected entrants having confirmed their participation Category

The above is the list of entrants who have confirmed their participation with a car eligible for the 2009 race in the category in which it has been selected. These teams will be at Le Mans for scrutineering on 8th-9th June and practice on 10th-11th June.

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New Dodge Noses for 2009
NASCAR has approved a new nose for the 2009 Dodge Chargers, which should help the cars perform better on the so-called intermediate tracks of 1.5 to 2 miles in length. Those tracks, which make up nearly half of the Cup schedule, were the clear weak points for Dodge teams last year. “It’s very subtle changes to the nose,” said Penske Racing’s Roy McCauley, crew chief of the #12 Dodge Charger driven by David Stremme. “In fact, if you just took a quick glance at it, you might even miss it — some changes in the line structure around the headlight doors and things like that.” SPEEDtv.com


FOTA calm amid push for more revenue - Howett
(GMM)  F1 teams will shy away from a "sensational", "confrontational" and "controversial" tone when discussing the issue of commercial revenue with the sport's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

That was the message on Tuesday by Toyota's team president John Howett, who is also Luca di Montezemolo's deputy at the teams' unified alliance, FOTA.

FOTA has been making noises recently about wanting more than the current 50 per cent share of F1's income, with Ecclestone reacting crudely that he is not willing to do anything other than reduce the percentage handed over to the sport's ten teams.

But Briton Howett reacted by insisting that FOTA will remain "non-controversial" and "non-confrontational".

"I think rather than just be sensational and controversial, we believe that we need to sit down and have a constructive dialogue," he explained.


New wings increase crash risk - Kubica
(GMM)  Robert Kubica is concerned that F1's new generation front wings could lead to huge accidents in 2009.

The increased risk of damaged wings on the wheel-to-wheel run to the first corner has already been raised, as the cars this year feature wings that are as wide as the front wheels.

But Kubica, who had a massive accident in Montreal in 2007 due to contact and a front wing collapsing under his BMW-Sauber, thinks the danger of high speed crashes is also dramatically heightened due to the new aerodynamic rules that are designed to promote overtaking.

The Pole also said Luciano Burti's scary crash at Spa-Francorchamps in 2001 was caused by front wing damage.

"With this huge front wing, which is as wide as the tires, we have to be really careful," he said.

"It is huge and could easily go under the car," Kubica, 24, warned.


Heidfeld to wear green helmet in 2009
(GMM)  Nick Heidfeld will race a new helmet livery in 2009.

The German driver, still seeking his first grand prix victory after nine seasons in formula one, showed off the revised colors as BMW-Sauber launched its 2009 contender at Valencia on Tuesday.

Having used a predominantly white, black and blue scheme last year, 31-year-old Heidfeld's new livery strongly features bright green, incorporating the usual black and white.

"I took my inspiration from a snowboard helmet that I saw when I was on holiday," Heidfeld told his official website.

"I wanted a somewhat more aggressive look," he explained.  "Green makes quite a change, as none of the other F1 drivers sports a green helmet at the moment."


Testing at three venues on Tuesday
(GMM)  Inclement winter weather again affected formula one test locations on Tuesday, but under sunny skies at Valencia, BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica put in 73 trouble-free laps with the newly launched F1.09.

It was a different story in Portugal and Italy, however, where five other teams were at work.

The worst weather fell on Portimao on the southern coast of Portugal, where the extreme rain and even hail was at times considered to be dangerous, according to McLaren.

Toyota and Williams were also trying to put miles on their brand new cars, but Nelson Piquet was the least productive, doing less than ten laps before Renault's new R29 stopped on track with a technical problem.

It was a similar although less extreme story at Mugello, where Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen found a wet track throughout his second day of testing in the F60.

"All the same, first impressions are positive and, above all, it's important that we didn't have any particular technical problems," said the Finn.


Ask.com clarifies NASCAR involvement
Search engine, Ask.com, and operating business of IAC, has issued clarification with regard to its recent announcement concerning the Hall of Fame Racing Agreement.

The arrangement involves Ask as the primary sponsor of the No. 96 Ask Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Mary Osako, SVP Worldwide Communications at Ask.com remarked, ''To clarify, Ask.com will be the primary sponsor on the No. 96 car in 18 of the first 21 races, but the overall agreement with Hall of Fame Racing entails the purchase of primary sponsorship rights to 29 races in total for the 2009 season. We apologize for any confusion.''

Hall of Fame Racing was formed by Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman and ran its first race with the #96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet with driver Terry Labonte in the 2006 Daytona 500, finishing 17th. Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel purchased majority interest of the team in August of 2007, bringing years of successful sports management experience in and out of racing. In 2009, Hall of Fame Racing has teamed up with Yates Racing to field the No. 96 Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Ask.com is an operating business of IAC (Nasdaq:IACI). The Ask Network of sites is the 11th largest Internet property in the world, with more than 160 million worldwide unique monthly users, according to November 2008 comScore data. Ask.com syndicates its search technology and advertising solutions to a network of affiliate partners.

To learn more about Ask.com, please visit: www.ask.com.


Target to sponsor Montoya
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced they have moved their long-time partner Target to the #42 car of Juan Pablo Montoya. It is a reunion for Target and Montoya as he paired with Target and Chip Ganassi Racing back in 1999 and 2000 during his early open-wheel days when he took the American motorsports world by storm, earning a series championship and an Indianapolis 500 crown. The Colombia native will make his “re-debut” in Target red on Jan. 24 when he competes in his third consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona in the #01 TELMEX car. He and his teammates have won the last two races and Ganassi’s teams have won the prestigious endurance race an unprecedented three consecutive years since 2006.

Target Celebrates 20th Season with Ganassi: The team’s partnership with Target continues to rank as one of the longest relationships in motorsports. Chip Ganassi created his own one-car IndyCar team in 1990 and that same year established a partnership with Target. Today, Target remains the only full-time sponsor in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) and the IndyCar Series. With the addition of Montoya and along with his IndyCar Series teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, Team Target now sports three drivers that have all won open-wheel championships and the Indianapolis 500.

Chip Ganassi, Managing Partner: “I am looking forward to reuniting Target and Montoya. They had quite a bit of success in their last stint together and to add Juan to a Team Target that already has Dixon and Franchitti in the IndyCar Series is going to be great for them. Target is a premium full-season sponsor and Montoya is a premium driver and putting them together is the right thing to do for everyone. There is little in my racing career I am more proud of than my team’s partnership with Target. We will be entering our 20th season with Target in 2009 and we could not be happier with adding Montoya to the Target mix. Juan and the whole 42 team did a lot of great things both on and off the track for Texaco/Havoline and Wrigley’s last year but aligning Juan and Target was the best move for our organization.” Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates PR


Kubica and Heidfeld dismiss medal scheme
Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld today both poured cold water on F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's idea of a medals system.

Ecclestone has made it clear over the past few weeks he would like to dispense with the current points format, and instead issue gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three.

The world champion would then be the driver with most gold medals, with Ecclestone convinced it would promote a greater winning desire rather than merely settling for a points haul.

The 78-year-old announced his plan after seeing Lewis Hamilton win last season's world title, despite main rival Felipe Massa winning more races - six to five - a rare anomaly over the last 25 years.

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McLaren MP4-24 gets a paint job
The AkzoNobel chrome finish on the McLaren
With the introduction of KERS devices in 2009 set to make weight-savings ever more sought after, McLaren may have just found an edge over their rivals by finishing their new car in a sophisticated, state-of-the art – and crucially lighter – chrome film.

The unveiling of McLaren’s new MP4-24 in Woking last week marked the start of a new partnership with Dutch car refinishing company AkzoNobel, which has developed a high-performance Sikkens paint system to be used by Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton as the team prepares to defend its 2008 World Driver’s title.

Besides being tailor-made to meet the unique technical demands of grand prix racing, the innovative coatings are also believed to constitute a lighter chrome finish, thereby delivering improvements in lap time and performance as weight ballast becomes ever more critical in 2009.

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Q&A with Nick Heidfeld
Nick Heidfeld hopes that BMW Sauber’s new F1.09, which was unveiled today in Valencia, will help him challenge for wins in 2009.

How important is talent in F1, and how much of the driver’s art can be learnt?
“Talent, to me, means good instincts, good vehicle control, enjoying what you’re doing and, last but not least, being very fast. Those aren’t things you can learn, and to that extent talent is the most important thing a driver needs. But you still have to put a lot of work in to get the best out of yourself. Data recording now covers pretty much everything and it can teach you a lot. But interpreting the data and drawing the right conclusions takes time and concentration.”

What’s the most important thing you learnt in 2008?
“That it pays to keep a cool head in any situation.”

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Carmichael lands Monster Energy as primary sponsor
Kevin Harvick Inc. officials announced that Monster Energy will sponsor Ricky Carmichael in the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for a part-time schedule.

Carmichael, a 29-year-old native of Clearwater, Fla., and the most successful motocross racer in history, will drive the No. 4 truck for the KHI team in at least 14 Truck events, according to a news release announcing the deal. He will also drive a car sponsored by the company in the season-opening Automobile Racing Club of America race at Daytona International Speedway.

The No. 4 team, led by recently hired crew chief Bill Wilburn, will assume the ninth-place 2008 owners points from the No. 2 KHI team. The No. 2 team scored its maiden victory at Atlanta with Ryan Newman last October, then won again with Harvick at Phoenix in November.

Carmichael competed using the No. 4 from his first motorcycle race through his retirement from two-wheeled racing in 2007.

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Rolex 24 Chock Full of Atlantic Talent
The start of the North American racing season gets underway this weekend with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the twice-around-the-clock event will feature an all-star cast of graduates from the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

The entry list features no fewer than 26 former Atlantic competitors, and 12 of the 20 cars entered in the Daytona Prototype class has at least one former Atlantic driver on its team. Eight of 31 GT class entries will be carrying Atlantic talent.

“The Rolex 24 At Daytona has become one of the year’s most important racing events, and we are obviously thrilled to see so many of our series graduates competing in this race this year,” said Atlantic Championship president Vicki O’Connor. “We will be rooting all of them on in the hopes that at least one of them comes away from the grueling weekend with a Rolex on their wrist.”

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IndyCar Series announces testing policy
IndyCar Series teams will be permitted six private test days in 2009, with limitations on the numbers of miles and sets of tires allowed based on the number of full-time cars the team fields. Teams can earn additional test days by providing opportunities to Firestone Indy Lights drivers.

Each IndyCar Series entrant that participates in the season-long IndyCar TEAM program (Team Enhancement and Allocation Matrix) will be allowed 800 miles or six days of testing, whichever comes first, and 18 sets of Firestone Firehawk tires. Entrants with a second car may conduct 1,200 miles of testing with 26 sets of tires, while entrants with additional cars will gain 200 miles and four sets of tires per car. Teams are not permitted to test at any track within seven days of a race.

“Our 2009 testing policy strikes a fair balance between controlling costs and maintaining a level playing field,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. “With our diverse schedule of short ovals and superspeedways, road and street courses, it’s important to give our drivers and teams the chance to keep improving and maximize their performance. We also think there is a tremendous incentive for teams to give opportunities to the next generation of IndyCar Series drivers.”

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Dreyer & Reinbold sign Conway
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced today that it has come to an agreement with British racer Mike Conway to become the team's first confirmed driver for the 2009 IndyCar Series campaign.

The 25-year old rookie comes to the U.S.-based open-wheel series after spending the majority of his career in the European formula car ladder. Most recently, he completed his second season driving in the GP2 Series with Trident Racing in 2008. He was also a Honda F1 Racing test driver for the past two seasons.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to race in the U.S. with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in the IndyCar Series," said Conway, who tested an IndyCar Series machine with Panther Racing last summer at Infineon Raceway. "I'll be visiting a lot of new tracks for the first time, especially oval tracks, but I'm very much looking forward to the challenge."

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No more Tradin' Paint show
Speed Channel will not bring back the show “Tradin Paint,’’ the show that featured John Roberts, Kyle Petty and a journalist discussing some of the issues of the day. The show will be replaced with what sounds like a game show based on NASCAR trivia for fans at the track. Roberts and Petty will remain with the show. Virginian Pilot


Buemi fast again with 2008 car
Sebastien Buemi topped the timesheets for the second day of this week's Formula One test at Portimao in Portugal. However, the times mean nothing. Toro Rosso is the only team running their 2008 car, albeit with 2009 downforce levels, there was little doubt that the Swiss driver would end up well clear of the opposition.

Buemi's best lap was more than three seconds clear of his nearest rival, McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa, on a day that started wet, dried out around lunchtime, rained again and then ended with a hail storm.

Today's times:


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:34.429 48
2. de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.512 62
3. Trulli Toyota 1:42.399 30
4. Piquet Renault 1:45.860 9
5. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:51.580 31


Carlos Iaconelli is the latest addition to F2
Carlos Iaconelli
Brazilian driver Carlos Iaconelli has become the first South American racer to sign up to the 2009 FIA Formula Two Championship.

Iaconelli joins F2 following 13 races in the 2008 GP2 Series and a further two outings in the 2008/2009 GP2 Asia Series. He also participated in selected rounds of last year’s International Formula Master Championship and scored a podium position in Italian Formula Master.

Prior to GP2 the 21 year-old driver competed in the 2007 Formula Renault 3.5 Championship, racing against fellow F2 drivers Rob Wickens, Julien Jousse and Mikhail Aleshin. His strong single seater racing background also includes experience in Spanish Formula 3, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, Formula Renault 2.0 Italy, and the Brazilian Formula Renault and Formula 3 championships.

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Seven ALMS teams commit to 24 Hours of LeMans
Seven teams from the American Le Mans Series are among the first to confirm their participation in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi Sport North America (as well as Audi Sport Team Joest), Corvette Racing, Risi Competizione and Flying Lizard Motorsports each will return to compete in the world’s most famous and demanding auto race.

American Le Mans Series teams have left their mark on the 24 Hours since the Series’ inception in 1999. Teams from the American Le Mans Series have taken eight overall victories in addition to 24 class championships. In 2008, Audi (overall) and Risi Competizione (GT2) scored triumphs with Series driver David Brabham winning with Aston Martin Racing in GT1.

Other American Le Mans Series highlights at Le Mans include Champion Racing’s overall victory in 2005, the first for an American team in nearly 40 years. Tom Kristensen also won for the seventh time that year to break Jacky Ickx’s record for all-time Le Mans triumphs.

In 2004, Clint Field became the youngest class winner at Le Mans as he topped the LMP675 victory podium at the age of 20 with Intersport Racing.

The deadline for entries to Le Mans this year is January 21. The full field of 55 cars will be announced soon after that date.

racing news

Schumacher project crowned Champion of Innovation
Michael Schumacher World Champion Tower
Due to the individuality and prestige of the Michael Schumacher World Champion Tower concept, the International Board of Trustees of The American Institute of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS) felt it necessary to create a completely new category of the Star Diamond Award, honoring innovative and unique projects.

Michael Schumacher: "It is wonderful for this project to be acknowledged by such a prestigious award.  This award means so much as it cements not only my belief, but also the belief of The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences in this incredibly visionary project. It is good to be associated with such an innovative, high-tech organization as PNYG is. Working together with this team is an exciting experience”

The award was presented on 10th January 2009 to PNYG CEO, Joachim Swensson, at a glittering Gala Ceremony – the highlight of the Monte Carlo Travel Market Exhibition (MCTM). PNYG is a visionary organization that delivers marketing-driven luxury lifestyle projects. From ideas, strategy and licenses, to business concepts and architectural solutions.

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Verizon on Penske's IndyCars too
Verizon Wireless will rev its engines for the first time at Daytona with the announcement of a full-season entry in the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series. The company today announced that it plans to enter a multi-year deal that makes Verizon Wireless the primary sponsor on the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge Charger driven by award-winning driver Justin Allgaier and an associate sponsor of the No. 3 and No. 6 Penske teams for the 2009 IndyCar Series season.

The announcement also introduces Verizon Championship Racing -- an umbrella theme for all of the company's planned activities on racing. Verizon Championship Racing will be the name of a new category available to V CAST Video subscribers and will offer a host of multimedia options for sports fans. Scheduled to debut in February, the channel will include behind-the-scenes exclusive interviews with NASCAR drivers, recaps of races, highlights, games, news and other racing information. Smart Cars branded with the Verizon Championship logo will debut at Daytona along with a number of hospitality and interactive activities to introduce Verizon Wireless to NASCAR fans.

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track news

Smith says he doesn't believe former Kentucky owners will win appeal
Speedway Motorsports Chairman Bruton Smith said he doesn’t think the former owners of Kentucky Speedway can win their antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR.

Smith wants the case either settled or dropped so that he can request NASCAR realign a Sprint Cup date to that track. Currently, the case is in a U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati on whether there is enough evidence to have a trial on the antitrust claims.

Last year, a U.S. District Court judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence for trial.

“I don’t think they’ll be successful on this appeal,” said Smith, who bought the track in December from the former owners, who wanted to continue pursuing the lawsuit. “All the lawyers that I’ve talked to know they won’t. But they still appealed it.”


BMW may not race KERS in Melbourne
BMW Sauber's F1.09 at Valencia BMW motorsport boss Mario Theissen has admitted his team are not sure they will have KERS ready in time for the first race of the season.

The German squad have been one of the main supporters of the new system and were among the first to run it in their car last year.

BMW were also against the idea of delaying the introduction of KERS, while many other teams thought it was still too early to race it.

Theissen said KERS remains an exciting challenge for the team, but he conceded the system is not yet ready and may not be for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

"KERS is still the most challenging and exciting part of the new package to me," said Theissen during the launch of the new car in Valencia.

"Looking back to when we started more than a year ago on KERS, that time was pure research. Then we went through a stage I would call pre-development. Now we are in the development stage.

"We are still not ready to race, but if I look at what progress we have made in last 12 months, it's amazing. We have learned so much.

"We are still pushing hard. We are not ready yet. I am sure we will be ready at some point, I don't know whether we will be ready for Melbourne.

"That is the character of innovation, you take risks and you don't know when they will pay off. I'm pretty sure it will pay off at some point in the season and that it might become the crucial factor."


Bernie - we won't pay more
Bernie Ecclestone has warned F1 teams to expect less money, rather than more, from the sport's owners during the financial downturn.

In the wake of the departure of Honda from Formula One, the remaining teams last month agreed a raft of measures aimed at reducing costs in the sport.

And Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo suggested the sport's supremos should distribute more of the money to the teams.

But Ecclestone told the Financial Times: "They could ask for more money but they won't get it.

"We don't need to pay more. We've got to give them less."


Q&A with BMW's Robert Kubica
BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica was on hand for the official unveiling of the new F1.09 in Spain this morning then put the new car through its initial paces in front of the awaiting media. However, before he took to the track, he took the time to answer a few questions.....

How far will driving in Formula One change in the 2009 season compared to 2008?

Aerodynamics will be reduced by around 40 or 50 percent, so the downforce level of the cars will be much lower. Taking this into account, Formula One will be influenced much more mechanically than aerodynamically. Nevertheless, aerodynamics will still play a big role. I expect quite big differences between the cars – especially at the beginning of the season. The return of slick tires is one of the best things to happen in Formula One in the last five or six years. I guess that all drivers prefer slicks to grooved tires and are pretty happy. Finally, the introduction of KERS is a major change. However, at the moment it is hard to predict how much it will affect driving. 

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Q&A with Renault's Fernando Alonso
After a very progressive 2008 where the Renault team made great strides to get back in front of the grid, double champion Alonso is already looking forward to 2009, a year in which he hopes the team can build upon the progress of the year before.

Fernando Alonso
Fernando, how have the team’s preparations gone this winter?
The team has had a very busy development program to allow us to be ready for the first January test with the new car. The factories in Enstone and Viry have been working flat-out and the whole team has worked very hard over the last few weeks. I went to Enstone several times over the winter to complete my seat-fit in the R29 and to talk with my engineers so that I could follow the progress of the project carefully. Now we are all looking forward to seeing the result of all that effort on the racetrack. So we are enormously motivated and I think it’s fair to say that overall our preparations have gone very smoothly.

You have followed the development of the R29 project over the last few months. What are your first impressions of your new car?
I’ve been impressed by the work the team has achieved. Aesthetically, it’s true that the R29 is very different to the R28, but this is a consequence of the new aerodynamic regulations. The 2009 season represents a real challenge on all levels and we will have to wait for the first few races of the season to see whether the decisions that we have taken have been the right ones. But the team can be satisfied with the work that has been achieved over the last few months.

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Q&A with Renault's Bob Bell
After a strong end to the 2008 season, Renault head into 2009 confident that they will be able to challenge with the new R29. Technical Director Bob Bell takes questions...

Bob Bell
What can you tell us about the way you’ve worked over the winter and how did you tackle the 2009 challenges?

"It wasn’t fundamentally different from the way we do any car. In fact, we started working on the R29 earlier than we normally would have. We began the first wind tunnel tests back in February. It was a question of gradually building up the resources on that project without compromising what we wanted to do on the R28, which we developed quite late into the season."

How did you achieve this?

"The only way we were able to do that was to ask more of our people and our facilities, and just work a little bit harder because the R29 has been a very demanding program. We’ve had to push the design of the car and incorporate new technology that we haven’t had before: the KERS system, the adjustable front flaps, a completely new approach to the aero, completely new aerodynamics. Then there were the side effects, especially of KERS because it uses up so much weight and eats up all your moveable ballast. So we’ve really had to push taking weight out of the car. It’s been a much more difficult and more intensive development program and required a lot more effort than any car we’ve done recently."

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Q&A with Flavio Briatore
Flavio Briatore
During 2008 Renault produced a tremendous fight back. What was your verdict on last season?
I’m proud of the work that the team accomplished in 2008. We had a difficult start to the season, but nobody gave up – quite the opposite in fact! At both the factories in Viry and Enstone, everybody worked incredibly hard to improve the car and get us back to the front. The victories in Singapore and Fuji were a credit to the whole team and have been of vital importance for our preparations for 2009. We have shown that we are truly a top team – capable of winning again – and that gives us genuine hope for the year ahead.

You must therefore feel that Renault is in a strong position as the new season approaches…
We have paid great attention to the new regulations and started our preparations for the R29 project quite early. Having confirmed our competitiveness last year, the team is even more determined to get back to winning ways in 2009. There are lots of new things to deal with and that could shake things up, but Renault has shown that it is a top team and we certainly intend to continue fighting at the front. We will now concentrate 100% on our final preparations for the start of the season so that we can arrive in Australia ready to fight for the podium.

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Geico announces 6-race truck deal for Papis and Germain
Just a few weeks remain before NASCAR’s opening weekend in Daytona, and GEICO has announced the expansion of their Max Papis race program.  Papis, the driver of the #13 GEICO Camry in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, will pilot a GEICO Toyota Tundra for Germain Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for six races beginning on February 21, 2009, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  Other race venues will include Atlanta, Dover, Bristol, Phoenix and an additional race to be named in the future. 

Papis started 3rd at Texas Motor Speedway in a GEICO Tundra in his Truck Series debut on October 31, 2008. He looks to gain valuable experience that will compliment his currently slated eighteen-race schedule in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  While he has logged countless laps as a test driver for Hendrick Motorsports, the experience of racing in traffic among his NASCAR peers will prove significant as Papis attempts to master the #13 GEICO Camry in the Sprint Cup Series.

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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Rain affects F1 testing in Europe
  • Renault committed to F1 for now
  • 2009 testing loophole for 'young drivers'
  • Honda spending led to F1 exit - chiefs
  • Williams bucks reports of financial strife
  • Renault, Williams, undecided over KERS
  • Piquet hopes for fair Renault treatment
  • Alonso lost weight over winter period
  • New Renault still yet to pass FIA crash tests
  • Budget caps in two years - Briatore
  • Minardi worried about Toyota's F1 commitment

Rain affects F1 testing in Europe
(GMM)  Rain affected both formula one test locations on Monday.

At the Portimao circuit in southern Portugal, the action was marred by persistent wet weather, causing most teams to limit running.

McLaren, quickest behind the 2008-spec Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi, even fitted a higher-downforce 2008 wing to its new MP4-24 to generate more grip for the slippery surface, as Williams, Renault and Toyota also got to work with their 2009 packages.

At Mugello near Florence, meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen got his first taste of Ferrari's new F60, doing 54 laps on the wet track before the heaviest rain set in after lunch.

"There were no technical problems with the car," a statement said.

Renault committed to F1 for now
(GMM)  Renault team president Bernard Rey on Monday said the Enstone based squad has the support of the French manufacturer for the 2009 season.

"The team will be supported by the whole (Renault) Group throughout the challenges that lie ahead this year," he said on the day the new R29 single seater was unveiled in Portugal.

After Honda pulled out of the sport before Christmas, speculation turned to whether other manufacturers in F1 would succumb to the current slump in car sales.

But Renault team boss Flavio Briatore said at the Portimao circuit: "I promise you someone else is in more difficulty than us."

He also seemed to indicate a longer-term involvement in F1 for Renault by dismissing recent reports that his own tenure will end in two years.

"I never said that to the Italian newspapers," the Italian declared.

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Monster Energy drink sign up Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi
MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has signed a two-year sponsorship deal with energy drink Monster, worth a reported €2.5 million.

Under the terms of the deal, Rossi will earn an extra €500,000 should he win the 2009 World Championship. The Monster-Rossi accessory range has been released, with hat and helmet adorned with the three-scratch “M” logo.

Monster has moved its athlete endorsement from American rider John Hopkins, a sponsorship deal which helped reduce the cost a team had to incur to have Hopper riding with them.

It is believed Monster’s defection to Rossi means Hopkins is going to have to take a significant pay-cut. Hopkins raced for Kawasaki in 2008 but is yet to secure a ride for the 2009 MotoGP season.

An official statement regarding the sponsorship deal is expected this week.

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