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Gidley Signs With Doran Racing  
Memo Gidley
Standout driver, Memo Gidley, whose resume spans the spectrum from karting to Champ Cars and stock cars to endurance racing, announced today that he has signed a full-season deal to co-drive the #77 Feeds the Need/Doran Racing Kodak Dallara Ford in the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

Gidley, who lives in Novato, California, will co-drive throughout the season with Brad Jaeger, a fellow open-wheel racer who most recently competed in the Indy Pro Series and is now making the move to endurance racing.  Joining the duo for the debut race of 2008, the 46th Annual Rolex 24 at Daytona, will be Gabriele Gardel and Fabrizio Gollin, both veterans of the European FIA GT Championship.

“Signing to run a full season with the Doran team is an exciting opportunity,” says Gidley.  “I ran a partial season with the team in 2007 and was impressed with their work ethic and the quality of the car preparation.  And Kevin Doran personally is a very impressive individual with great personal integrity and a real passion for racing.  Those are the qualities you see in championship-caliber teams, and I’m confident we will be a contender at Daytona and throughout the year.”

Bank of America inks driver deals  Bank of America, which is the official bank of NASCAR, today announced licensing deals with several current and former NASCAR drivers to appear on its MyExpression NASCAR Banking products, including credit cards and checks. The new drivers are Bill Elliott, Dario Franchitti, Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Reed Sorenson, Kenny Wallace and Rusty Wallace.
Champ Car Well Represented in Rolex 24  It’s the first major motorsports event of 2008 and a number of drivers with ties to the Champ Car World Series will be among those hoping to win this weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway.

Included on this entry list are Champ Car drivers Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, Ryan Dalziel (who co-drove the second-place car here last year), Robert Doornbos and Jan Heylen; PKV Racing’s co-owner and 1996 Champ Car titlist Jimmy Vasser; and Long Beach promoter Jim Michaelian.

Wilson, Rahal, Dalziel and Vasser will be competing in the Daytona Prototype Class while Doornbos, Heylen and Michaelian will run in the GT Class. With the exception of Doornbos and Heylen, all the aforementioned drivers have competed in this race before. More ...

ALMS Winter test to set stage for 2008  For those looking for a preview of the 2008 American Le Mans Series, the waiting is nearly over. The fourth-annual Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway starts Monday and will set the stage for the 10th season of the American Le Mans Series, one that promises to be the most competitive since its founding in 1999.

Tickets for the test are $10 per day. Access to the paddock and camping are not allowed during the Winter Test.

Fifteen teams representing eight different manufacturers are entered for the three-day test – Acura, Audi, Ferrari, Lola, Mazda, Panoz, Peugeot and Porsche. It will serve as a warm-up for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, the opening race of the 2008 season.

Among the highlights of the Winter Test include Peugeot’s North American debut with its diesel-powered factory prototype, the introduction of Acura’s second generation ARX-01b chassis and the first public running of the updated Ferrari F430 GT.

Updated news, timing information, photos, audio and video from the Winter Test will be available at americanlemans.com throughout the week.

The 2008 season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA’s Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.

Mathiasen Motorsports completes successful first test with Alan Sciuto  
Alan Sciuto
Encino, CA - American Karting and Champ Car Atlantic Championship standout Alan Sciuto participated in his first test with Mathiasen Motorsports in one of their Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda race cars at Buttonwillow Raceway this past January 17 and 18.  Alan and the team showed instant chemistry as they worked to fit the car to Alan’s driving style.

“It felt great to get back into a race car.”, stated Alan Sciuto. “The team only had to make a few adjustments to get me comfortably seated in the car, and the communication between myself and the crew allowed us to develop a great set-up that fit my driving style.  I can’t wait for Sebring.”

Alan Sciuto
“Alan was very consistent and provided precise and invaluable feedback throughout the two test days”, said Alain Clarinval, technical director of Mathiasen Motorsports. “During this time we were able to purposely evolve the car to suit his driving needs. I feel that we had an instant understanding between Alan and the team and I am excited to have the opportunity to continue working with such a young and professional driver at Sebring for our first series test. We are ready to show the strength and value of both Alan Sciuto and Mathiasen Motorsports together.”

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.

racing news
David Malsher takes the reins at RACER magazine  Irvine, Calif. David Malsher, most recently Autosport magazine’s U.S. editor, is taking over as editor of Haymarket Worldwide’s RACER magazine, the U.S.’s premier general motorsports monthly magazine. Malsher replaces Andy Hallbery, who is leaving Haymarket after more than 21 years.

“Having worked on the European bible of motorsport, Autosport, for both the man I am replacing, Andy Hallbery, and the man with whom I’ll be working, Editor-in-Chief Laurence Foster, I would like to thank them both for their endorsements,” says Malsher.

“It is an honor to take control of a publication as prestigious as RACER. The intention is to turn it from a highly desirable product into essential reading material for every auto racing fan across North America and beyond. With our team of writers, photographers, production staff and designers, I have no doubt that we will reach and sustain the highest level of automotive publishing.” More ...
McDonald's returns to NASCAR  McDonald's will make its return to NASCAR's Cup series as one of three primary sponsors for Gillett Evernham Motorsports' No. 19 Dodge of Elliott Sadler this season. McDonald's, Best Buy and Stanley Tools were announced as company's sharing sponsorship on the car Tuesday.

According to a report on Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Daily today, Best Buy is expected to be on the car for 15 races, while Stanley will have 13 and McDonald's eight, although those numbers are still subject to change. McDonald's has not been a primary sponsor on a Sprint Cup car since 2000, when it sponsored Bill Elliott, and its last Cup win came in 1994 with Driver Jimmy Spencer.
Grand-Am Inks Three-Year Agreement  Fans of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 will have something extra to look forward to this season with the announcement that GreenLight Collectibles (GL) and Grand-Am have teamed up to produce die-cast replicas of select Rolex Series Riley Daytona Prototype machines. The die-cast replicas will go on sale in mid-2008.

The 1:64 die-cast replicas, which will measure approximately 3 inches in length, are officially licensed by Grand-Am and will feature a die-cast metal body and chassis, authentic Daytona Prototype detailing, real rubber tires, sequential numbering on the base and custom clamshell packaging. 

Among the Daytona Prototype machines to be featured include the 2007 championship-winning No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing machine and the familiar red, white, and blue of the No. 59 Brumos Porsche.

Grand-Am and GL negotiated this multi-year deal as a part of the Rolex Series' increased event merchandising for 2008 and beyond.

The replicas will be available online direct through www.grand-am.com, trackside at all Rolex Series events and through the GreenLight distribution network.

Valencia testing: Kovalainen fastest on Day 2  Heikki Kovalainen put his McLaren on top of the timesheets on the second full day of  Formula 1 testing at Valencia on Wednesday.  The two Ferraris were next followed by Lewis Hamilton.


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:11.000 92
2. Massa Ferrari 1:11.662 81
3. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:11.850 108
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:12.076 115
5. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:12.255 93
6. Alonso Renault 1:12.360 111
7. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:12.493 117
8. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:12.594 87
9. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 1:12.976 51
10. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.015 63
11. Glock Toyota 1:13.129 95
12. Kubica BMW-Sauber 1:13.230 121
13. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.307 118
14. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:13.409 98
15. Trulli Toyota 1:13.547 96
16. Barrichello Honda 1:14.588 36
17. Kogure Honda 1:16.954 40
Bold = 2008 Car

TBS extends NASCAR website deal  US cable network Turner Broadcasting System extended its contract with NASCAR to operate its official Web site.

The extension, which runs through to 2014, allows the Time Warner Inc owned TBS to collaborate on content creation, e-commerce and race ticket sales, as well as managing the circuit's site. Turner has run the site since 2001.

Turner said under its management, the NASCAR Web site had increased average monthly unique visitors by 25 percent over the past seven years and led to the site ranking as one of the top three sports league sites for the past two years according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

GM Sells More Than 9 Million Vehicles Globally again  General Motors sold 9,369,524 cars and trucks around the world in 2007, an increase of 3 percent, according to preliminary sales figures released today. In the fourth quarter, GM sold 2,305,752 vehicles, an increase of 4.8 percent compared with a year ago.  Will it be enough to keep Toyota as No. 2?
F1 teams shown European GP plans  
Valencia street circuit
(GMM)  Ten of F1's eleven teams on Wednesday were shown official plans for the inaugural Valencia street race, scheduled for August.

The teams, excluding the Japanese outfit Super Aguri which is not present at the group test in the Spanish region this week, were provided with details and given a walkthrough of the nearby street layout, which is presently under construction in the port area, by European grand prix organizers.

Construction at the venue is expected to be completed by May.

This week's formula one test is being held at Valencia's permanent venue Circuito de la Comunidad Valenciana Ricardo Tormo.

Briatore to step down when Alonso leaves Renault  
Flavio Briatore
(GMM)  Flavio Briatore says he will likely step down as Renault's formula one boss when Fernando Alonso leaves the team.

The 58-year-old Italian, whose current two-year contract runs out at the end of 2008, revealed to Spain's sports daily Marca that his next move will be a "rest" after two decades on the pit wall.

It is believed that Alonso, the former two-time world champion with Renault, has signed to race with the French team in 2008 and 2009, following his unhappy tenure at McLaren last season, but his deal may also include exit clauses.

"I've brought a lot to F1 and received a lot in return and I think when I end this adventure with Renault, with Fernando Alonso, I'll take a rest," Briatore said at the Valencia test.

tv news
ESPN announces '08 NASCAR lineup  Dale Jarrett, the 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and one of the founding drivers of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, will expand his role with ESPN and join high school friends Dr. Jerry Punch and Andy Petree in the booth for ESPN’s full season of NASCAR coverage in 2008.  

Rusty Wallace, NASCAR Cup champion in 1989, will become lead analyst for ESPN studio programs in 2008, highlighted by serving as analyst for an enhanced NASCAR Countdown, the program that precedes all NASCAR telecasts. Wallace also will appear across multiple ESPN platforms, including regularly on NASCAR Now, ESPN’s daily NASCAR news and information show, and will call several race telecasts in place of Jarrett.  

Allen Bestwick moves into the fulltime role of host of ESPN’s race telecasts and host of NASCAR Countdown. Wallace and Bestwick will appear with analyst Brad Daugherty on the pre-race program, and the three will be integrated with the booth team during race telecasts. More ...
BMW tests radical nose at Valencia  UPDATE The BMW Sauber continued to test the radical front nose they used for the very first time at Valencia on Tuesday. The horn-like flaps were fitted to Heidfeld's F1.08 for the first time yesterday and today the flaps were seen again as Robert Kubica drove out of the garage this morning.


Radical BMW nose wings

(GMM)  BMW-Sauber showed off a radical front nose innovation whilst testing at the Valencia circuit on Tuesday.  The unique solution, which was being tested alongside a more conventional piece at the Spanish venue in the hands of Nick Heidfeld, features 'horn'-like flaps that are elegantly tapered into the upper nose cone structure of the F1.08 single seater.
Jani chooses A1GP over Champ Car  
With his Red Bull backing gone from Champ Car, Jani had no ride in Champ Car
Neel Jani told autosport.com that he has elected to complete the A1GP season with a shot at winning the title at the expense of returning to Champ Cars this year.

"The pre-season Champ Car tests clash with A1 races and when I look at how well we're going in A1, why would I want to not race to go and test a Champ Car?

"Champ Car has a very uncertain future and I haven't had an offer that I think I could win the title with, so why would I give away a title chance in A1 for that?"

"I don't have to bring a budget to A1, the racing is good, and it gets excellent coverage. Most people would like to have a go at F1 as well of course, and that's my target as well, but a driver doesn't have to look beyond A1 - you could stay here for your career."

New Honda makes Valencia debut  
Honda RA 108 in all-white livery
(GMM) Honda's new car for the 2008 season, the RA108, made its track debut at Valencia on Wednesday morning.

The all-white single seater, devoid of sponsorship, rolled onto the twisty Spanish test venue in the hands of Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello.

It is visibly different to the Japanese team's 2007 challenger, the RA107, which powered Barrichello and his British teammate Jenson Button to a miserable eighth place in the constructors' championship last year.

The Brackley built RA108, whose official livery will be unveiled in England next Tuesday, features a higher nose than its predecessor, and notably angular bodywork.

Elsewhere on the Valencia circuit, Australian Mark Webber's first day at the wheel of the new Red Bull did not start well when the car had to be returned to the pits on the back of a flat-bed truck.
NASCAR Media Tour on SPEED  Highlights of NASCAR's 2008 Media Tour will be shown tonight and Thursday night from 7:00 PM to 7:30 PM on SPEED.
Andretti won't be back with BAM Racing  John Andretti, who drove for the BAM team at the end of last season, likely would not return to the seat. BAM Racing has not solidified its driver lineup beyond the Daytona 500. Ken Schrader will attempt to qualify the No. 49 for the team with sponsorship from healthlife.com, BAM Racing marketing coordinator Rhett Vandiver said Tuesday.  A sponsor for the Budweiser Shootout is still to be named and a driver beyond Speedweeks is still to be determined, Vandiver said.  Scenedaily.com
Coca-Cola to sponsor Petty charity event  
Kyle Petty
Kyle Petty’s Victory Invitational Golf Tournament has announced a partnership with Coca-Cola for the NASCAR-themed golf benefit scheduled to take place in the Greater Phoenix area on Thursday, February 28, 2008.

Coca-Cola will join Kyle Petty’s Victory Invitational as a Victory-level sponsor, which lends naming rights to the soft drink company for the putting green at the charity outing:
Putting for Position Sponsored by Coca-Cola.

“Coca-Cola has been a longstanding supporter of Kyle’s efforts to help chronically ill children through the Victory Junction Gang Camp,” said Ben Reiling, director of motorsports at Coca-Cola North America. “By teeing it up as one of the premier sponsors of the first annual Kyle Petty Victory Invitational, we are continuing our commitment to support Kyle in this worthwhile effort.”

Coca-Cola and Kyle Petty’s Victory Invitational make a natural pair, as in 2008, Coca-Cola will again join Petty and his No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as a primary and associate sponsor.

The focus of Kyle Petty’s Victory Invitational Celebrity Golf Tournament is to create a charitable partnership to raise funds for the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Arizona State University College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation.

By joining forces, both organizations can leverage their strengths by making a better tomorrow for children stricken with serious illness. Proceeds from the tournament and surrounding events will help support ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, support for their families, and contribute to the ongoing training for the professionals who treat them. It’s a commitment to health, dreams, and education.

For more information about Kyle Petty’s Victory Invitational Celebrity Golf Tournament, please contact Kristie Maggs of Phoenix International Raceway at (623) 463-5400 or at kmaggs@phoenixinternationalraceway.com. Interested sponsors may reach Jon Sata at the same phone number or at jsata@phoenixinternationalraceway.com.

Asmer hopes to decide future in February  British Formula 3 champion Marko Asmer returned to the wheel of the BMW Sauber F1 car on Tuesday for his third day of testing. The 23-year-old from Estonia seems to be the leading candidate to become BMW's third and reserve driver but for now he is still focused on getting used to driving a Formula 1 car.

"It is getting easier and easier each time," Asmer told GPUpdate.net after his day of testing in Valencia. "I'm getting more confident all the time and I am really enjoying. It's good that I now feel more comfortable in the car."

But even though BMW has given him two days of testing again this week Asmer is still uncertain about his future with the team. "There is nothing to say at the moment, everything is still open," he said. "I hope to announce my plans in February."

Trulli happy with new Toyota teammate Glock  Jarno Trulli says he is happy with his new formula one teammate, Timo Glock. Reigning GP2 champion Glock, who is 25, arrives at Toyota in 2008 to replace Ralf Schumacher, who between 2005 and last season partnered Trulli at grands prix. Trulli, the 33-year-old Italian veteran of more than 180 starts, and F1 refugee Schumacher, were believed to have shared an amiable - albeit not close - relationship at the Japanese team. But Trulli told the Cologne newspaper Express this week: "In these first days, I have spoken more with Timo than I did with Ralf in three years." Toyota chief engineer Dieter Gass also expressed satisfaction with the teams new recruit after his initial days of pre-season testing in Spain. "Timo has surprised us with his suggestions at the first tests," Gass said, after Germanys Glock tested the TF108 at Jerez last week and even topped the times on the third and final day. Meanwhile, Nelson Piquet Jr is confident that he will get along well with Fernando Alonso at Renault in 2008, even though the Spaniard and Lewis Hamilton clashed spectacularly at McLaren last season. "I met Alonso last week during testing at Jerez and we are having an excellent relationship so far," the Brazilian rookie told the Rio de Janeiro-based newspaper O Globo.
Grand-Am launches new website  Grand-Am announced today the launch of a newly designed website at www.grand-am.com aimed at bringing to race fans the Grand-Am racing experience when they can't attend races at the track. The new site will also provide marketing partners and teams with information on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 and Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series in a more timely manner.

"This site will be much more than just press releases; the site will feature news stories and editorials from writers around the country, bringing independent views and opinions to Grand-Am's official site," said Kevin Hindson, Grand-Am Vice President of Marketing and Communications. "In addition, the new site will feature more multimedia offerings, including live streaming audio and video with a goal of allowing fans to be able to truly understand and experience the Rolex Series and KONI Challenge through the website."

SunTrust Racing Rolex 24 At Daytona Preview  DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Storylines abound in the SunTrust Racing camp as it heads to Florida for this weekend’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series traditional season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.

A year ago, the bright, blue No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, which dominated the 2005 Rolex 24 en route to that season’s Rolex Series championship, hit the track for the first time campaigned by newly formed Wayne Taylor Racing and with none other than four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon as part of its all-star driver lineup. This year, the familiar faces of Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor will be joined in the SunTrust Racing machine by newly named full-time co-driver Michael Valiante and, for the first time, by none other than Taylor’s 18-year-old son Ricky, who will be making his Rolex Series debut after testing for most of the past year in the No. 10 SunTrust Daytona Prototype.

Adding to the Taylors’ father-son story – the latest edition in a long history of father-son stories at the Rolex 24 which over the years has featured famous racing family names like Andretti, Unser, Gurney, Allison and Pearson – is the added presence of Taylor’s 16-year-old son Jordan in the No. 17 Terra Firma Motorsports GT-class Porsche. More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Mosley threatens to exclude next F1 spy
  • Briatore unfazed by Alonso's lack of speed
  • Huge crowd gathers for Valencia test
  • Villeneuve uncle goes home after crash
  • Theissen expects success for BMW in '08
  • Briatore not expecting driver problems in '08

Mosley threatens to exclude next F1 spy
(GMM)  Max Mosley has warned that the next formula one team found guilty of espionage could be thrown out of the sport.  "Next time, whoever it was, I don't think they would stay in the championship," the FIA president said in an interview with F1's official website.

Briatore unfazed by Alonso's lack of speed
(GMM)  Flavio Briatore on Tuesday seemed unperturbed after Fernando Alonso took Renault's new 2008 challenger to just sixth place on the Valencia test time sheets.

As the pre-season action at the Spanish circuit hotted up in front of 38,000 of Alonso's countrymen, the ever impressive Ferraris locked out the pace.

Moreover, Williams' Nico Rosberg and the McLaren runners, all driving new machinery, were all also quicker than the R28.

But Renault boss Briatore, on a rare visit to a test circuit, told the Spanish newspaper Diario AS: "The car is as it was when it left the factory.

"Before you can start changing things, the most important thing is the reliability.

"From tomorrow (Wednesday), we will begin to look at the settings," the Italian said.

Local media, however, quoted Alonso as saying in Spanish that he had been "more comfortable" in the older R27, which he tested last week at Jerez.

Sources at Valencia also clarified media reports that said Alonso suffered a smoky problem late in the test day with the 2008 racer.

While the 26-year-old did have to abandon the newly unveiled car on the main straight with a few minutes of the session to run, it seems that Renault deliberately ran the car dry of fuel for a consumption test. More ...

All-star race will stay in Charlotte for now  Sprint Cup officials have changed the name and logo for the annual all-star race, added a few laps to each segment and indicated that the race will remain in Charlotte, NC beyond this season. The race will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race XXIV. The event was previously known as the Challenge, but officials say they decided to call it what it is - a race. The race involving drivers not already qualified for the event, previously known as the Nextel Open, will now be called the Sprint Showdown. While the all-star race will still feature four segments, the former 20-lap segments have been lengthened to 25 laps each, giving drivers more time to actually race. The race, held annually at Lowe's Motor Speedway, appears to be staying at the track for some time. Sprint Cup Director of Marketing Dean Kessel said that he and Lowe's Motor Speedway President H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler have been in discussion about the 2009 race, which will be the 25th anniversary of the all-star event. During all-star week, the pit crew challenge has been moved to Thursday night, leaving a packed Friday night for fans. The start time for the all-star race will remain the same  Scenedaily.com
Swede who crashed rare Ferrari to be deported  A Swedish businessman who crashed a rare US$1.5 million (€1 million) Ferrari in Malibu in 2006 will be released from U.S. prison and deported to Sweden, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday.  Stefan Eriksson pleaded no contest to a drunken driving charge in connection with the Feb. 21, 2006, crash on the Pacific Coast Highway. He also pleaded no contest to embezzling two other fancy cars and illegally possessing a gun, and was sentenced to three years in prison.  Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sofia Karlberg said Eriksson was due to be released and deported to Sweden "in the near future." She could not give a more specific timeframe.
Sponsorship for Carpentier 'two-thirds' sold  

Patrick Carpentier

Gillett Evernham Motorsports has the majority of the primary sponsorship sold for the No. 10 Sprint Cup car of Patrick Carpentier, team principal Alex Gillett said Tuesday during Day 2 of the NASCAR media tour.

Valvoline and Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper will sponsor races for the team this year.

"We still have some open inventory, but we're more than half sold - we're about two-thirds sold on that car," Gillett said. "It's been a good sales season."

It has been a busy six months of selling sponsorship for the team, which the Gillett family bought in August. The team has secured sponsorship from Budweiser for Kasey Kahne and Best Buy and Stanley to join Elliott Sadler. More ...

Audi to run Super Bowl ad  Audi of America Inc. will boldly declare its intention to redefine luxury in the automotive segment with its first Super Bowl ad in nearly 20 years, the company said today.  The 60-second ad, which was inspired by the Oscar-winning film “The Godfather,” is critical to connecting with luxury vehicle customers.  In addition to the creative content associated with the epic film, the ad features prominent placement of the Audi R8, the brand’s first mid-engine sports car.

Audi’s return to the Super Bowl was preceded by a record year for sales in the United States. The automaker sold 93,506 vehicles in the US in 2007, a 3.8% increase over the previous year. Audi selected “The Godfather” as a thematic foundation for its Super Bowl ad because the film expresses the idea of a new power rising in an established hierarchy.

"With record sales in 2007 and the launch of a host of new products in 2008, the Audi brand is at the single most exciting point in its history,” said Scott Keogh, chief marketing officer, Audi of America. “We chose ‘The Godfather’ to anchor our Super Bowl ad because, at its core, the film is about a struggle between old and new power. In precisely that fashion, Audi represents the rise of a new force in luxury.” More ...

Scott Sharp to ALMS with Highcroft  

Scott Sharp

Highcroft Racing announces exciting changes for the 2008 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season.  Scott Sharp will be joining the team and partnering with Le Mans-winning driver, David Brabham, with Patr¢n Spirits as the team's title sponsor.  Patr¢n Spirits is the distiller of Patr¢n Tequila, the world's number-one selling ultra-premium tequila. The team will be known as Patr¢n Highcroft Racing.  Highcroft Racing is a factory-backed team which campaigned an Acura ARX-01a in the LMP2 class in the 2007 ALMS season. (See related rumor)

Duncan Dayton, Team Principal of Patr¢n Highcroft Racing, said, "I am truly excited to announce the partnership between Patr¢n Spirits and Highcroft Racing's Acura program in the ALMS.  Our ability to attract Patr¢n Spirits is a testament to the hard work that Highcroft has put in over the past 18 months and our results on the track.  This partnership represents a significant milestone for this young team and for the ALMS."

Patron Car

Dayton continued, "The team is delighted to welcome Scott Sharp to the Patr¢n Highcroft Racing family.  Scott comes from a long line of sports-car racers and holds strong family ties to the Connecticut area.  In fact, some of our team members worked for the original Newman-Sharp teams over 20 years ago.  Scott's distinguished career in the Indy Racing League certainly bodes well for a successful partnership with Patr¢n Highcroft Racing, Acura and David Brabham." More ...
Some bright spots for GM sales  General Motors Latin America, Africa and Middle East (GM LAAM) region set an all-time CYTD record in 2007, selling 1,235,913* vehicles, up 200,600 units over 2006. GM’s volume increase of 19.4 percent for the year outpaced the industry growth rate for the region. In addition, LAAM’s annual market share increased to 17.2 percent for the year, representing its highest annual share.
New Indy Pro Series team formed  Three Indianapolis-area businessmen have joined together to form a new Indy Pro Series team, which will compete beginning this season.

Alliance Motorsports, whose ownership includes IndyCar Series veteran Tyce Carlson, purchased the assets of Kenn Hardley Racing in December, and is preparing for its first season in the IndyCar Series' developmental series.

"I am looking forward to competing again, especially in this (ownership) capacity," said Carlson, who made 30 career IndyCar Series starts, including two Indianapolis 500s. "I truly enjoy helping young drivers, and I am excited for the opportunity."

Joining Carlson as co-owners are Carmel, Ind., businessman Chris Williams and auto racing veteran Jeff Matthews. The team will be located in Brownsburg, Ind., and is  interviewing drivers to drive its No. 24 Dallara.

"When Tyce approached me about the idea of starting the team, it didn't take long for me to decide," Williams said. "The Indy Pro Series is showing steady growth in terms of participation and fan interest, and is providing some fantastic racing. This is certainly something that I want to be a part of."

Matthews has been involved in professional auto racing since 1998, working in various management positions with IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series teams.

"This has been in the making since last April," Matthews said. "We have been working our tails off this past year by networking and getting our message out, and our current position is the result of the hard work we put into it. We have much more work ahead of us, and are looking forward to the challenge."

Kansas Speedway names title sponsors  Time Warner Cable is the new title sponsor of the IndyCar Series race at Kansas Speedway on April 27. The race will be called the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300.

Kansas Speedway also announced that the Indy Pro Series race at the facility will be called the Hard Rock 100.

The 2008 season will mark Time Warner Cable's first full year as a speedway sponsor.

The Hard Rock 100 is a result of Kansas Speedway and The Cordish Company partnering on a proposal for a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino overlooking Turn Two of the track. The two companies are awaiting word from the Kansas Lottery Gaming Commission on approval of the hotel and casino. Additional information regarding the Hard Rock 100 and sponsorship will be released in the coming weeks.

"I look forward to establishing a great partnership with Time Warner Cable," Kansas Speedway President Jeff Boerger said. "We are also very excited about the opportunities to drive additional tourism to the state of Kansas if we are fortunate enough to be granted the license to operate a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino at Kansas Speedway. The combined marketing strength that Kansas Speedway, the Cordish Company and Hard Rock represent will maximize revenue to the state and Wyandotte County. It will also allow us to continue to enhance our race weekends and improve on what many already consider the best guest experience in motorsports."

Matos excited to drive for Andretti Green Racing  

Rafael Matos

When it came time for Raphael Matos to decide where to race in 2008, there was one factor that played a key role - his future as a race car driver.

That's why he couldn't pass up the chance to be a member of one of the IndyCar Series' most successful teams, Andretti Green Racing.

"I need to get the oval experience to be an IndyCar Series driver in 2009, and I believe the best place to get that experience is to race in the Indy Pro Series," said Matos, whose last race on an oval came in Star Mazda competition in 2005. "I feel very comfortable on road courses. I have lots of experience on road courses, so I have a steep learning curve on ovals.

"For me, when Michael (Andretti) made me the offer, it was pretty clear for me where my future was. It's a great step in my career. I'm very excited to be back in the Indy Pro Series and part of the (Andretti Green Racing) team. Having a team like AGR behind you is something that makes you comfortable as driver, and I feel like I have a great future."

Matos, who won the 2005 Star Mazda title and the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic crown, will drive the No. 27 AFS car as part of AGR's two-car team, a joint effort between AFS Racing and Andretti Green Racing that will be housed in Andretti Green Racing's Indianapolis shop. It's the first time AGR's Indy Pro Series effort will be headquartered alongside its IndyCar Series program.

"The fact that Andretti Green is bringing the Indy Pro Series program in house was a big factor to make my decision," Matos said. "It made me feel comfortable because I know the car will perform well, and we have all the people and all the tools to make us a successful program.

"I'm also very excited about the great association with AFS Racing. For Gary Peterson to support me is something I'll always remember."

Matos joins a lineup of drivers at AGR that includes fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and rookie Hideki Mutoh. Matos said he is looking forward to learning from all of his teammates.

"Racing for me is all about results and Andretti Green has the best record out there," he said. "Tony Kanaan has been a guy I've been following for a long time. The results from Tony speak for themselves and they do for Marco as well. He jumped from the Indy Pro Series to an AGR car and was fast. I hope I can learn as quickly."

That learning process begins Jan. 30 when Matos tests his car for the first time on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a private test. He'll have another open test at the track in February before making his race debut at the track on March 29.

"I hope to learn a lot from preseason testing and hope to be quick out of box in the first race," Matos said. "I'm hoping to win the championship, obviously, and hoping to learn a lot this year to use when I go to an IndyCar ride in 2009."

Indy-style qualifying on tap at all ovals in 2008  One quick lap won't be enough to win a pole position in the IndyCar Series in 2008. Embracing its Indianapolis 500 heritage, the IndyCar Series will implement four-lap qualifying runs at every oval racetrack in 2008 beginning with the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 29.

The pole winner will be the driver who records the fastest cumulative time over four laps.

"Qualifying is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences for an IndyCar Series driver," said Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations division of the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and the Indy Pro Series. "At Indianapolis, that has meant 10 miles of error-free driving at 225-plus miles per hour. We're going to take that kind of intensity and drama to every other oval on our schedule.

"This new qualifying format will enhance the overall IndyCar Series weekend experience for our fans and our oval track promoters with a direct link to the Indianapolis 500."

Qualifying on road and street courses will retain its current format in 2008. In 2006, the IndyCar Series introduced a unique qualifying format for road and street courses that included single-lap, single-car qualifying for all cars followed by a 10-minute Firestone Fast Six shootout by the fastest six cars to determine the pole position.

The new oval qualifying format also includes a maximum of one attempt per car at the tracks outside of Indianapolis. More ...

Gale tops morning Nationwide Series speeds  Kevin Harvick Racing's Cale Gale posted the fastest time in Tuesday morning's NASCAR Nationwide Series test session at Daytona International Speedway.

Tuesday morning's speeds:

1. Cale Gale, No. 77 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet, 179.917 mph
2. Chase Miller, No. 9 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge, 179.986
3. Steve Wallace, No. 66 Rusty Wallace Racing Chevrolet, 179.526
4. Scott Wimmer, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, 179.272
5. Scott Wimmer, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, 179.033
6. Kertus Davis, No. 0 Davis Racing Chevrolet, 178.547
7. David Stremme, No. 64 Rusty Wallace Racing Chevrolet, 178.299
8. David Stremme, No. 64 Rusty Wallace Racing Chevrolet, 178.204
9. Brian Vickers, No. 10 Braun Racing Toyota, 178.168
10. Jason Keller, No. 11 CJM Racing Chevrolet, 178.105
11. Erik Darnell, No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, 178.101
12. David Ragan, No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, 177.989
/> 13. Jason Keller, No. 11 CJM Racing Chevrolet, 177.968
14. David Reutimann, No. 99 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, 177.644
15. D.J. Kennington, No. 72 MacDonald Motorsports Chevrolet, 176.984
16. Michael McDowell, No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, 176.592
17. David Ragan, No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, 176.360
18. Donnie Neuenberger, No. 52 Means Racing Ford, 174.706

Valencia Test Day 1: Ferraris fastest  Under sunny skies and a pleasant 24 degrees C, Tuesday marked the first day of testing this week for the F1 teams this week, working at the "Ricardo Tormo" Cheste circuit, on the outskirts of Valencia.

In front of a large crowd of enthusiasts, ten of the eleven teams entered in the World Championship were in action on track. The Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen led the way.

The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team moved continued work on the ongoing development of the 2008 challenger, with particular focus on bringing the gearboxes up to mileage, to be in line with the new rules that gearboxes are to last for four races in 2008.

In the Scuderia Toro Rosso camp, the main item on the agenda for both our drivers this morning was getting to know the circuit, which the team has not used for a long time. Once a decent set-up had been established, in the afternoon Sebastien worked on evaluating some new aero parts, while Sebastian continued with set-up, as the track conditions gradually evolved because of changes in the wind and temperature.

Today's times:


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Massa Ferrari 1:12.182 97
2. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:12.721 100
3. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:12.838 80
4. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:13.026 100
5. de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1:13.163 107
6. Alonso Renault 1:13.316 133
7. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:13.473 89
8. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.627 86
9. Asmer BMW-Sauber 1:13.669 44
10. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.675 73
11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 1:13.779 80
12. Trulli Toyota 1:13.820 69
13. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:13.944 70
14. Glock Toyota 1:14.095 76
15. Liuzzi Force India-Ferrari 1:15.095 64
16. Wurz Honda 1:15.440 49
Bold = 2008 car

MotoGP Test Sepang Day 1: Pedrosa injured  The MotoGP teams were back in action at Sepang today following MotoGP’s traditional winter break. The riders had to come to grips with ambient temperature reaching a hot and humid 35 degrees C and track temperature 56 degrees C. Randy DePuniet set the fastest time of the day.

Dani Pedrosa set the second fastest lap today but his day ended late in the afternoon when he slid off at Turn 11, injuring his right hand. The 22-year-old, who was runner-up in last year’s World Championship, was taken to a local clinic where x-rays revealed a small fracture in the second metacarpal. Tonight Pedrosa will fly home to Spain where he will see a specialist in Barcelona.

Dani Pedrosa “I wasn’t pushing so hard at the time of the crash. I lost the front going into Turn 11. It was quite a big crash – the bike caught fire and I hurt my right hand. Today it was good to be riding again after the winter break, we were working on general set-up, getting a good feel for the bike before starting some comparison tests.”

Test Times

Pos Rider Team Time
1 Randy DePuniet HondaLCR 2.01.377
2 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda Team 2.01.864
3 Chris Vermeulen Suziki Rizla 2.02.074
4 Loris Capirossi Suzuki Rizla 2.02.416
5 Casey Stoner Marlboro Ducati 2.02.457
6 Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha 2.02.490
7 Colin Edwards Yamaha Tech3 2.02.549
8 Nicky Hayden Repsol Honda Team 2.02.558
9 Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha 2.02.563
10 Shinya Nakano Honda Gresini 2.02.622
11 John Hopkins Kawasaki 2.02.628
12 Andrea Dovizioso Jir Team Scot 2.02.783
13 James Toseland Yamaha Tech 3 2.03.264
14 Alex DeAngelis Honda Gresini 2.03.301
15 Antony West Kawasaki 2.03.387

Northeastern Supply to sponsor Braun team  One of NASCAR’s longest running race team sponsors, the Northeastern Supply Company, will keep its streak alive in 2008 by announcing that it will move its support in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (formerly the Busch Series) to the #38 Great Clips Toyota from Braun Racing.

The leading, regional distributor of plumbing, heating, HVAC, water systems and hardware products in six Mid-Atlantic states will now have been involved in some form of team sponsorship in the Nationwide Series for 16 consecutive years.

“NASCAR racing has long been a large part of our customer marketing activities, and as long as our customers continue to enjoy coming to the races as our guests and strengthening their business relationships with us, we will continue in this role of sponsoring teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series,” said Steve Cook, President and CEO of the 31-branch company headquartered in Baltimore.

“Almost everyone within our company and the majority of our customers love NASCAR racing, and our ability to have them meet our drivers and team members and to relax and have some fun attending the races is paramount to us supporting these types of events. More ...
Renault F1 Team completes its first day with the R28  After completing a successful test a Jerez last week, the ING Renault F1 Team moved to Valencia this week for the first test with the R28, the new car that will be officially launched to the press on 31 January 2008.

Alonso was smiling again

Fernando Alonso was the first Renault driver to try the new car, and spent the opening day concentrating on checking the general functions of the car and making sure all the systems were operating correctly.

Fernando was happy to experience the new car and did not encounter any problems as the team completed its program for the day. Despite foggy conditions in the morning, which delayed the opening of the track, the Spaniard was able to complete a number of runs towards the end of the day, completing a total of 39 laps.

Fernando will be in the car until Wednesday, and will then hand over driving duties to his teammate Nelson Piquet Jr, who will experience the R28 for the first time on Thursday. More ...

Q & A with Valentino Rossi  

Valentino Rossi

Q. Valentino, firstly can you tell us how your hand is following your injury in Valencia?

Valentino Rossi: It's much better than it was! I took some time off after Valencia and missed the Sepang test, but in Jerez at the end of November I was able to ride. It still wasn't perfect and I had some pain, especially on the last day when I finished early so as not to overdo it, but it was okay. After some more treatment over Christmas I think I will be back to 100% for the first test of 2008.

Q. After the disappointing end to the season, were you able to take some time to relax completely and fully recover before starting afresh?

VR: Yes, it was important to take some time to put the bad result of 2007 behind me and of course I thought about the year a lot. But after spending the winter relaxing and recharging the batteries, I am no longer dwelling on it and now I am just looking forward to the new season.

Q. You have a made a big change to Bridgestone tires for this season. Can you tell us about your initial impressions of your new tires and their development so far? Are you happy with your decision?

VR: It was very exciting to try the new tires for the first time, and I was eager to see how they were and to meet the new people I will be working with. The first test was just about seeing the level and adjusting the bike to the new tires, but from the start I was happy with our decision and I am looking forward to working more with Bridgestone and understanding more about their tires. It's a big change, but I am positive about the challenge. More ...

Q & A with Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo  
Q. Jorge, can you tell us about your feelings and emotions the very first time you rode Yamaha's MotoGP bike?

Jorge Lorenzo: My very first impression when I rode the M1 for the first time was...pride and honor! I was already proud to be a part of the Yamaha Factory Racing Team at just 20 years old, and then when I eventually rode the bike I told myself: "This is the start. Now it is up to me!"

I was quite emotional but curious at the same time to see what it was like to ride such a powerful bike. I think it is the dream for all those who do this job and it made me realize how few people have the possibility to experience such emotions; I felt lucky to be there.

A few seconds later however, I also realized that I deserved that bike, that I had earned it through all the great efforts I had made during my career. I would like to take this occasion to thank Yamaha for giving me this possibility and to tell everyone at Yamaha that I will repay them for this opportunity.

Q. How has the winter testing program been for you? Have you enjoyed yourself and have you made as much, or more progress than you expected?

JL: The Winter test program started well and finished better. After the first few days I spent riding the M1 I started to feel more and more comfortable with it, and it started to feel more normal for me. I think I have improved quite a lot since the first test and I am sure that sooner or later we will be able to go very fast.

I do not know when, because I am still getting accustomed to the MotoGP bike, but I am sure we will do a great job, in the end. Right from the start I found I was enjoying myself a lot with the M1, above all when I was able to do a wheelie on the straight for almost 1km!

Perhaps I expected to be a little bit faster at the beginning of my winter testing program, but actually, after the start, I did not expect to improve my overall performance as much as I did after such a short period of training. I was quite fast in Jerez especially, so we can say that between the very first test and the last test of the year I improved by one second! Not so bad at all! More ...

Franchitti NASCAR sponsorship to be piecemeal  Team owner Chip Ganassi says that he expects to put together a "patchwork" of sponsorship for Dario Franchitti and his No. 40 NASCAR Sprint Cup team. Franchitti, the 2007 IndyCar Series champion, will debut as a rookie in the NASCAR series this season. The team has not announced sponsorship plans for that car.

Ganassi didn't seem too worried about that while speaking with reporters during the annual NASCAR media tour put together by Lowe's Motor Speedway.

"It's going to be a patchwork thing we're putting together," the team owner said Monday on Day 1 of the NASCAR media tour . "We will have the budget to run it this year, I'm not worried about that. It's just that we're going to have to watch our nickels and dimes, but we'll be just fine."

Wheldon wants out of the IRL  

Dan Wheldon recently had a beauty makeover by his dentist making him look 'pretty' which would not go over too well with the NASCAR crowd
by Shawn Payne

Dan Wheldon might be driving in the Sprint Cup Series this season instead of Dario Franchitti had team owner Chip Ganassi let him.

Wheldon said on Monday he had several conversations with Ganassi about making the jump this year from the IndyCar Series, which he won in 2005, to NASCAR.

"I talked to Chip enough about it to know that for whatever reason he didn't want to let me move from the Indy car,'' Wheldon said on the first day of the 2008 Sprint Cup media tour. "He definitely wants to keep me [in the IndyCar Series]. We'll see.

"I've got some big decisions to make at the end of next season. The main thing is I need to put myself in a strong position so I can make the decision I want to make.''

Wheldon said funding will be a factor.

"Obviously with the economy the way it is, it's very difficult to get, particularly with how expensive NASCAR is right now and the way Chip likes to do it,'' he said. "You've got to have good funding. I'm not sure he has a hundred percent as much as he would like to do it properly.

"At this point I'm just going to worry about the Indy cars.'' ESPN.com

NASCAR needs to change start  Change, the old saying goes, is really the only constant in NASCAR. But so much change, in such a short period of time, can have a numbing effect. So much of this sport is bound by tradition, in sons following fathers as drivers or spectators. In many minds, the constant change in the past few years has pulled those bonds to a breaking point.

"We need to get back to banjos and get away from the violins," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president of Lowe's Motor Speedway. "We got a little too fancy there for a while. There were all kinds of forces moving in different directions to make it fancy. It's not a fancy sport. It's guys with big hands getting sweaty and getting out there knocking each other around, and all-American fans having a good time. A lot of things we tried to introduce into this just flat didn't work, and aren't going to work. I think that's something [France] certainly realizes now. This is meat and potatoes. This is not caviar and smoked salmon."

Toward that end, Wheeler said the start times for many Sprint Cup races this coming season will be earlier, a departure from the mid-afternoon green flags used to try and entice West Coast viewers. "I think we all yielded to pressure from the networks a little more than we should have," Wheeler said. "We paid the price for it, and we're getting back to sanity again."

Racing News
Lou Palmer, Indy 500 announcer, dies  Lou Palmer, a former Indianapolis newsman and longtime radio reporter for the Indianapolis 500, has died. He was 75.

Palmer was a reporter and anchor on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network from 1958 to 1989, serving as chief announcer for the race in 1988 and 1989. He was an announcer on the CART radio network in the mid-1990s before retiring about 10 years ago.

He was born Louis A. Perunko Jr. in Wheeling, W.Va., on July 26, 1932, and was raised in Syracuse, N.Y., said his son, Al Perunko.

He came to Indiana in 1953 and two yeas later joined WIBC, using the name Palmer on the air. He was the afternoon news anchor there until the late 1980s.
Ray Rice, a former WIBC and WISH (Channel 8) reporter, worked with Palmer at the radio station in 1979.

"He was a wonderful person," Rice said. "He had a mind like a whip. He could ad lib probably better than anybody I had ever seen."
Palmer's son recalled a mischievous side to his dad, who would come to his school once every May before the Indianapolis 500 and tell teachers that Al was ill. Then the two would head for the IMS to watch practice.

His first wife, Cal, died in 1997, and Palmer married his high school sweetheart, Beverly Porter, his son said. Survivors include his wife, son and daughter, Laura Scott, Indianapolis.

Palmer, who lived in Camby, suffered a brain hemorrhage at home Jan. 15. He died Saturday night at St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove.

Visitation will be from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Camby Community Church, 8604 Camby Road. The funeral will follow at 2 p.m. Indy Star

New partnership for Renault with South Africa  

ING Renault F1 Team and the Gauteng Provincial Government announce a new partnership in South Africa.

The Gauteng Provincial Government and the ING Renault FI Team, today the 22nd of February 2008, announced a partnership aimed at promoting Gauteng as the home of competitive sport.

Gauteng Province is the economic powerhouse of South Africa and home to the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

The Province contributes in excess of 34% to South Africa's GDP (and almost 10% of Africa's GDP), and is home to most of the region's financial, construction and manufacturing sectors. Furthermore, the Province is also emerging as a Globally Competitive City Region, competing for investment and tourism with other global regions – and it is well-placed to increase its global market share in these sectors, thanks to world-class infrastructure and logistics systems.

"We are delighted to welcome the Gauteng Provincial Government as a partner of the team, and are very excited about the communications activities that we will put in place,” said Flavio Briatore. “South Africa is a fast-growing country and this partnership will form a key element in its image-building campaign and development." More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Two teams confirmed for Bahrain tests
  • Strong debut for new Renault in Spain
  • Massa given special Fiat 500
  • Button's girl hits headlines
  • Villeneuve's uncle injured in snowmobile crash
  • Hamilton receives Hawthorn trophy
  • Trulli happy with new Toyota teammate Glock
  • BMW pleased with copied Ferrari wheels
  • Barcelona announces circuit updates New
  • Renault to promote South African province New
  • Malaysia eyes night race for 2009 New
  • Stepney to begin new job in motorsport New

Two teams confirmed for Bahrain tests
(GMM)  Only two of F1's eleven teams have confirmed that they will take part in the pre-season Bahrain tests next month.

After nine teams participated in the Sakhir sessions one year ago, officials for the circuit have revealed that, so far, only Ferrari and Toyota look set to make the trip to the Gulf island in 2008.

The Bahrain International Circuit will host six days of testing in total next month; between February 4 and 6, and February 9 and 11.

Last year, only Williams and Spyker (now Force India) did not test in Bahrain.  One year later, Williams, Force India, Renault, McLaren, BMW-Sauber, Honda, Super Aguri, Red Bull and Toro Rosso have also decided to stay in Europe.

The circuit's commercial director Steven Umferville says it is possible that more teams will decide at the last minute to accompany Ferrari and Toyota to the tests.

"Surely they are aware of the benefits that testing in Bahrain with a warm climate would bring to their car development, but it can get quite expensive considering the logistics and all the team personnel who would need to travel," he told the Gulf Daily News.

Both Ferrari and Toyota are expected to test at Sakhir with their newly launched 2008 cars, and their race driver line-ups.

All teams will then return to the circuit in April for the Bahrain grand prix.

Strong debut for new Renault in Spain
(GMM)  Renault's 2008 car performed strongly on Monday as Fernando Alonso gave the R28 its maiden test run at a foggy Valencia circuit.

Not only was the Enstone built machine a full second and a half quicker than Williams' similarly-new FW30, Alonso's best lap was a few tenths clear of the time Robert Kubica set recently when the BMW-Sauber F1.08 made its debut.

Williams technical director Sam Michael, however, played down his team's performance as a mere 'installation day' with test driver Nico Hulkenberg, who at one point damaged the Toyota-powered car's floor as he beached it in a gravel trap.

"The car is now ready for testing proper tomorrow when Nico (Rosberg) will be driving," the Australian said.

Spaniard Alonso, returning to Renault in 2008 after a disagreeable single season with McLaren, was also cautious after the R28's debut run.

"Everything went well," he said, "but it is still too early to try and compare our performance with that of other teams, and that was not the objective today.

"The good news is that we encountered few problems," Alonso added.

The Valencia test continues on Tuesday, when most other formula one teams will join Williams and Renault on track.

Another foggy morning is expected. More ...

Force India to set up racing academy  Force India has now set about the task of unearthing homegrown Michael Schumachers and Lewis Hamiltons with a new driver program. The first concrete step was taken when the Motorsports Association of India collaborated with continental motorsports bodies to form the Autosport Academy  Asia in Malaysia. While MAI would identify the budding drivers who can make it big, Force India would do everything else to groom them for the big league of Formula One.

“The MAI will identify deserving young Indian drivers who will be supported by Force India to undergo a driver training course at the academy,” Vijay Mallya, Chairman and Managing Director of Force India said.

“Drivers who show exceptional abilities will then be further supported by Force India to race in selected European championships,” said Mallya, also the MAI chairman.

Childress auctioning Intimidator's car  UPDATE “The Intimidator,” a one-of-a-kind RCR Series 3 Camaro with direct ties to Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and the legendary Dale Earnhardt, sold Jan. 19 at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., for $575,000.

The RCR Series 3 Camaro (www.rcrseries3.com) is a joint venture between RCR and Total Performance Incorporated (TPI) of Wichita, Kan. “The Intimidator,” serial No. 3 of the 50 which will be produced through 2010, is equipped with the actual engine block and other engine components that powered Earnhardt and the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the 2000 Daytona 500.

The buyer, Jimmy Richardson, principal of Colson Park Capital, Inc., in Hickory, N.C., also has ties to the famed No. 3 GM Goodwrench teams. His Mom ‘N’ Pop’s Old Fashion Sugar Cured Country Ham was an associate sponsor of the team for six years (1991-96), three of which resulted in championship seasons (1991, ‘93, ‘94).

“’The Intimidator’ is a real piece of history and the continuation of a personal relationship with Richard Childress Racing that began in 1991,” said Richardson. “We sponsored Richard and Dale for six years and were fortunate enough to win three championships. My family has a museum in Hickory and we plan to park ‘The Intimidator’ right in front of the championship trophies and photos we have. We’re just pleased to now be a part of ‘The Intimidator’ history and excitement.”

01/17/08 A highlight on the auction block of the 2008 Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event will be “The Intimidator,” a one-of-a-kind Richard Childress ‘69 Series 3 Camaro that honors the accomplishments of Childress with NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt.

The 37th Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event will be held Jan. 12-20, 2008, in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Intimidator ’69 Series 3 Camaro is scheduled to roll onto the main stage Jan. 19 at approximately 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The bidding for this one-of-a-kind vehicle can be seen live on SPEED. More ...

NASCAR Fine Payments Going to NASCAR Foundation  NASCAR announced that starting this season, all money collected from fines issued to drivers will go to the NASCAR Foundation for its charitable initiatives. “Now that the NASCAR Foundation is well established and supporting dozens of charitable organizations it is the logical place for fine money to be distributed,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. “We are excited to be able to work with our charities and help them develop a program that will maximize the impact they can have with their organizations,” said Sandy Marshall, executive director of the NASCAR Foundation. NASCAR PR
NASCAR changes qualifying rules  Michael Waltrip suggested last season that drivers outside the top 35 in owners' points should be allowed to qualify together so nobody would have an advantage in track conditions.

NASCAR officials must have listened.

The governing body kicked off its annual media tour by announcing that those outside the top 35 in all three series -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Craftsman Truck Series -- will qualify at the end of their respective session.

It also was announced that teams will be provided tires for testing at non-sanctioned NASCAR tests. Sprint Cup teams will be given 200 tires, Nationwide teams 160 and Craftsman Truck Series teams 120.

Yannick Hofman with Andersen Racing  Yannick Hofman has inked a deal and will campaign the 2008 Star Mazda championship with Andersen Racing team from Palmetto, Florida. After spending two seasons in Formula BMW USA, the 19-year old driver who hails out of Rosemere, Quebec is stepping up to a high performance ladder series where speed and competition meet. Hofman entered two rounds last year with Andersen, earning a deserving fifth place in his maiden race at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières. Hofman will remain a rookie for the 12-round calendar starting with the 12 Hours of Sebring race on March 14. Meanwhile, Hofman will take to the track for two days of testing in Sebring on January 28 and 29.

“The two rounds I did with Andersen Racing last year in the Star Mazda series were convincing enough to race a whole season with them. This rotary single seater has power to spare and requires skill. In this championship, Andersen Racing is a strong team that always delivers fast machines to its drivers. I have a lot to learn about this car and Andersen is the best place to be. Although we will have to deal with new features this year: radial tires and standing starts, two characteristics that were part of the series where I was for the last two seasons. The calendar is pretty different: we race 12 weekends from March to October, one 45-minute race at the time. I will spend a lot more time on the track in 2008. It will be exciting to be at the open test days next week.”

“Yannick has shown definite racing skills and capacity of learning the race tracks when he joined us last year, declares John Andersen. We’re happy to have him with us this year. He is a disciplined and intelligent driver that knows when to be aggressive. He’s going to be a front runner.”

Cheever announces Rolex 24 drivers  Cheever Racing has announced the driver line-ups for its two entries in the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona.  A quartet of some of Europe’s most talented sports car drivers will compete and debut the Crown Royal Cask #16 Coyote Cars Daytona Prototype racer, and returning to the Cheever Racing Group stable for the third year, RML AD Racing Group, augmented by the talents of two American drivers, will be at the helm of the all-new #51 Cheever Racing Coyote Pontiac.

Scheduled to share driving duties for the Number 16 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 entry are Spain’s Antonio Garcia, Italy’s Matteo Bobbi and Fabio Babini and Stephane Ortelli of France.

“It’s true our pit stall may resemble a United Nations delegation at times, but the common denominators for these drivers are that they are young, fast and hungry to win,” said Cheever Racing team owner Eddie Cheever Jr.  “With 24 hours of non-stop racing ahead for them, their collective energy and enthusiasm is an important asset. More ...

NASCAR alters tire rule  NASCAR officials announced today that teams in the Cup, Nationwide and Truck series will receive an allotment of tires to use for non-NASCAR sanctioned tests.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will have access to 200 tires over the course of the year; NASCAR Nationwide teams will get 160 tires, and NASCAR Craftsman Truck teams will get 120 tires.

"We think for safety's sake and for the teams to do proper development it was time to re-evaluate our test policy and re-evaluate what teams were able to use as far as tires go," said NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton on Monday during a media visit to the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.. "It will be whatever what they want to use. They'll be able to pick and choose the types of tires that they want, when they're available from Goodyear to concentrate on the places they need to go test.. .... We will not specify the codes that they need to get. They will do that, so teams will be able to concentrate on the places they think they need the most help at."

Dario nabs intruder in undies  

Dario Franchitti

The next time you plan on stalking Ashley Judd and then trying to escape in your set of wheels, remember who she's married to: one of the greatest race car drivers in the world.

Dario Franchitti was in his boxers, eating cereal, in the Nashville home he shares with Judd, when a man walked in.

"I really don't think I was the one he was looking for, but the guy quickly turned around and ran out of the house. He got in his car and sped off. So what did I do? I got in my car and chased him," Franchitti said.

After the police caught the intruder, Franchitti realized he was still in his undies.

Tagliani to test for PKV  

Alex Tagliani

PKV Racing General Manager Mark Johnson announced today that veteran Champ Car driver Alex Tagliani will test with the team February 2-4 at Sebring International Raceway.

Tagliani has finished in the top-10 in the championship race six times (the last six consecutive seasons) during his eight-year Champ Car career placing a career best seventh in 2004 and 2005.  The 35-year-old native of Montreal, Quebec, Canada has recorded 70 top-10 finishes including 32 top-five showings, 14 podiums performances, one win (Road America 2004) and five poles in 131 career starts.

“Alex is a very competitive and capable driver that has consistently placed among the leaders in races and the championship standings over the years,” said Johnson.  “Testing Alex in Sebring will give PKV Racing an opportunity to receive the benefit of his experience as we work through the various projects we have for this test.  In addition, it will give us a chance to see how Alex meshes with our team as we proceed with our search for a second driver.” More ...

Team formally announced for Indy 500  Jason Priestley and Jim Freudenberg have partnered in the Rubicon Race Team with the intent to enter and qualify the #28 car into the field for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500.  As the name implies, owners Jim Freudenberg and Jason Priestley are now committed beyond the point of no return with the formation of their team.

The #28-one car team will be led by Jim who has over 20 years experience in motorsports event and team management while Sam Schmidt Motorsports will build, prepare and maintain the entry.  Sam Schmidt Motorsports has a long and impressive history at the Speedway while Jim’s ability to maximize business and marketing alliances for partners has made him one of the most sought after management talents in the motorsports field.

Jason Priestley, most known for his role as Brandon Walsh on the hit Fox Television series “Beverly Hills 90210”, is also a racing veteran. The Vancouver, British Columbia native has a passion for racing that began in the early 90’s and has spanned the spectrum of driver, race analyst and now team owner. The director, producer and actor plans to leverage his passion for racing and celebrity status into a winning combination for Rubicon, its partners and its charitable endeavors. More ...

ING adds third race to F1 roster  (GMM) The Dutch bank ING will sponsor a third formula one race in 2008.

The Amsterdam based international company had naming rights for the Australian and Belgian grands prix last year, as well as being Renault's title sponsor.

It was announced on Monday that the Hungarian grand prix, held at the Hungaroring in August, will also be principally backed by ING this year.

Moreover, the bank's logos will be displayed at 13 of the 18 grands prix in 2008.

"Hungary is the only grand prix in central and eastern Europe, and it's vital that we successfully use the grand prix to continue to build ING's brand in the region," said Isabelle Conner, head of marketing.

While apparently pleased with its F1 involvement, ING's Conner was quoted last week as suggesting that the brand is keen to see Renault return to top form in 2008.

"It is in the contract that Renault is a top three team," she reportedly revealed to Dutch media.

Petty returns to Tradin' Paint  NASCAR veteran Kyle Petty steps back into the SPEED boxing ring this season for his weekly rounds with NASCAR media on Tradin’ Paint, which premieres Feb. 8 at 9 p.m. as part of the network’s 100 hours of Daytona Speedweeks in HD.

“Kyle Petty is credible, informative, engaging and current on every issue in NASCAR,” said Steve Craddock, SPEED Senior VP of Programming.  “It is so important for the fans to hear every angle of a particular issue and whether or not Kyle agrees with the media guest, he can and will debate them fiercely and in an entertaining manner.  Kyle is part of racing royalty and his passion for NASCAR is evident in his weekly discussions about the sport.  We are thrilled to have him continue on Tradin’ Paint and become a more permanent fixture on the network.”

Petty, known for his confrontational, engaging and heated debates with media guests last year, has signed on for another season of trading volleys on the hottest topics in NASCAR. John Roberts will return as host. More ...

Andersen Racing Signs Hofman for 2008 Star Mazda  Last year Yannick Hofman tested the waters in the Star Mazda Championship Series presented by Goodyear by entering two races in preparation for a run at the series' 2008 Rookie of the Year award.  He had immediate success, recording a top-five finish in Andersen Racing's Jig-A-Loo No. 00 at Trois-Rivières in his native Quebec.  Today the 19-year-old from Montreal and the team that brought him those results, Andersen Racing, announced they'll combine forces again in 2008 for a full season of Star Mazda competition.

Hofman will join Juliana Gonzalez under the Andersen Racing tent in the Star Mazda paddock, along with at least one other driver whose name will be announced soon. 

Pirelli Prepares  for Grand Am debut  Pirelli makes its race debut as the new series-standard tire of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 in just a few days at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but the Daytona Test Days January 4 - 6 was nothing short of the biggest weekend of North American competition for Pirelli Tire in the company's illustrious history. Nearly 70 racing teams put new Pirelli P-Zero racing tires through three days and one night of hard testing in preparation for the grueling twice-around-the-clock race and the opener on the worldwide motorsports calendar January 26-27.

After a preliminary practice run at Daytona last November, Daytona Test Days was Pirelli's first true test of its exclusive Grand-Am racing tire and the new P-Zero and a full staff of Pirelli engineers and tire personnel were up to the challenge. In total, Pirelli brought 2,500 tires to the "World Center of Racing" for the three-day test. Participating Rolex Series teams ran an incredible total of 11,616 laps on the 3.56-mile road course during the test which equates to more than 41,353 miles of testing at Daytona just this past weekend alone. More ...
Renault, Williams, run new cars at Valencia  (GMM)  Williams and Renault got their 2008 contenders up and running at the Valencia circuit on Monday.

Williams' dark-liveried FW30 was the first to briefly appear, with test driver Nico Hulkenberg tip-toeing the Toyota-powered car around the Spanish circuit for a single installation lap before the fog was deemed too thick to continue.

Fernando Alonso steered Renault's new R28 into the pitlane at about midday, once conditions had improved.

The car features an unique front wing solution, including a low 'step' element reminiscent of Ferrari's design of 2005.

Williams later rejoined the circuit in the clearer conditions.

All-new Honda RA108, gives Kogure F1 test  The Honda Racing F1 Team commences its pre-season testing program at the Valencia circuit in Spain this week.

The test will begin with a reference program with last year's RA107 in which new Test and Reserve Driver Alex Wurz will drive for his new team for the first time.

Later this week, the all-new RA108, Honda's challenger for the 2008 season, will make its track debut ahead of its official launch at the team's UK headquarters on Tuesday 29 January. The car will be tested in its interim white coloring before the unveiling of the team's new livery at the Brackley event next week.

The Honda Racing F1 Team will also welcome Takashi Kogure at the Valencia test. The 27 year old Japanese driver, who races for Honda in the Formula Nippon and Super GT Series in Japan, will have the opportunity to drive the RA107 during Wednesday and Thursday. Following his performance in these series, Kogure has been rewarded with the RA107 drive as part of the Formula Dream Project through which Honda supports and develops promising young drivers.

Commenting on his forthcoming drive in Valencia, Takashi Kogure said; "This is my second opportunity to drive a Formula One car and I am really looking forward to it. I hope to do my very best and use all my experience from racing in Japan to put in a good performance. I expect to learn a lot from the test, particularly from working alongside the team's Formula One drivers who are amongst the very best racing drivers in the world. I would like to say a big thank you to the Honda Racing F1 Team and the Honda Formula Dream Project for giving me this great opportunity."  Honda F1 PR

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Stepney denies blame for spying penalties
  • Bridgestone to supply similar tires in 2008
  • Toro Rosso not being sold - Mateschitz
  • Three more new cars to debut at Valencia
  • Toyota tests on Spanish island
  • Hamilton to buy houses for parents

Stepney denies blame for spying penalties
(GMM)  Nigel Stepney, the sacked Ferrari engineer who is widely credited for triggering the espionage scandals last year, has denied responsibility for the penalties suffered by McLaren.

Despite admitting that he was the source of the 780-page secret dossier found in Mike Coughlan's possession, Stepney said it was the suspended McLaren chief designer who used the information improperly.

"I don't feel responsible in any way at all for what happened at McLaren," Stepney, who was previously best known for being Michael Schumacher's former chief engineer, told Sky Sports.

"My ideas were to make contact with somebody but not to benefit.  It was to talk about and see what I could do somewhere else," he added, probably referring to his and Coughlan's meetings with Honda bosses.

Stepney continued: "It got a bit sensitive and somebody used information more than I actually thought.  It should never have been used in that, to that extreme."

He also suggested that the whole story has yet to be told.  His autobiography, entitled 'Red Mist', is due for publication in July.

"There is a lot being said, but I think there is a lot underneath that hasn't been said that should have been," Stepney said.

"It's been dramatized for various other reasons, which we will have to go into at a later date.

"Some stuff has been done politically.  Some stuff should have been brought out probably in a different way."

Stepney, a Briton, is still being pursued legally by Ferrari in Italy, and it is expected that he will be banned by the FIA from holding a position in the elite of motor sports.

He said of his future: "I think I've got a lot of other more interesting opportunities (such as) going back into the grass roots of motor racing.

"I think, at the end of this year or at the end of 2007, I was looking to get out of Ferrari anyway; whether it was going to be in formula one I wasn't quite sure.  I think formula one was going away from a direction I really wanted to go."

Bridgestone to supply similar tires in 2008
(GMM)  Bridgestone will this year supply to formula one teams essentially the same tires as in 2007.

Although the Japanese marque was the only tire company in F1 last season due to the withdrawal of Michelin, 2008 marks the official beginning of Bridgestone's three year tenure as the sport's mandatory sole supplier.

At the first group test of 2008 at Jerez last week, Bridgestone supplied to teams what was referred to last year as the 'medium' compound.

"Our tires are essentially the same as provided last season, so the teams already have a good understanding of how they work," Tetsuro Kobayashi, Bridgestone technical manager, confirmed.

Bridgestone Motorsport's Kobayashi, however, explained that the marque could make some changes to the selection of tires taken to grands prix in 2008.

And he added: "We have made a minor change to the tire construction for all the compounds, but this is more of a refinement than a big difference.

"We have also adjusted our super soft compound and the difference should be seen in the races where this tire is used." More ...

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