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New IRL team formed to support the troops New IRL team formed to support the troopsLaguna Hills, CA ----- Yellow Ribbon Racing, a not for profit organization, announced today its “Support the Troops” Racing Team for the 2006 Indy Racing League Series (IRL).  The team concept is to feature and promote our armed services, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as a tribute to the men and women in harms way protecting the USA.  Yellow Ribbon Racing is a support “vehicle” seeking private sponsorship from corporate America and the grassroots backing of the American people.

We are very pleased and proud to have received the noted endorsements from the OSD-PA and The America Supports You Foundation said Yellow Ribbon Racing’s Managing Director, James Occhipinti. “It paves the way for our team to begin its quest to do something we believe has never been seen in professional sports,  a team solely dedicated to keeping America connected with our troops here and abroad, during peace time as well as during war time. 

Yellow Ribbon Racing’s quest is to field two (2) Indy cars for the upcoming 2006 IRL series. Both cars will be dressed in the colors of all 5 branches of service. Car (1) will have the Navy’s Blue Angles colors on one half of the car with the other half fitted with the Marines camouflage colors. Car (2) will have the Air Forces Thunderbirds colors with the other half sporting the colors of the Army’s camouflage. Both cars will display the colors of the United States Coast Guard as well. Each car will have a yellow line painted down the center of the car.  zzzz 

Support for our troops is important at all times and especially when they are in harms way, the Yellow Ribbon Racing team is an outstanding testament of how important our men and women in uniform are to the fabric of America and free people around the world.  This team will not only show the support to our troops in the field, but will honor their wives, husbands, children, mothers and fathers as well; there are few places where this is possible, Yellow Ribbon Racing is one of them…. ..

Key sponsors will have traditional “primary” positioning for brand logos on the race cars, uniforms and transporters.  Yellow Ribbon Racing partners will experience all of the traditional IRL race team sponsor benefits along with immediate built in fan affinity to our armed services.  Yellow Ribbon Racing and its sponsors will benefit from a phenomena never before seen in any professional sport: “Permanent Home Field Advantage,” creating fans out of millions of military personnel, active and retired; family and friends; individual Americans and corporate America; professional athletes and movie stars, all eager to support the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

It will be great having a race team partner with America Supports You, the America Supports You mission is to spotlight what Americans are doing in support of the military, encouraging others to thank the troops and allowing all to tell their stories by giving voice and visibility to their efforts…. Carla Sagerholm, OSD-PA

Brent Morehouse, Managing Director of Yellow Ribbon Racing states, “Yellow Ribbon Racing is about more than racing, it is our on-going billboard for our troops, it’s about the direct and immediate connection America will have with our troops and an impact we believe will hit 60+ million people in 2006.”  In addition to racing, through our website, we will offer our Troop Affinity Program where individuals can sponsor a member of the U.S. Armed Services ON-LINE with a portion of the sponsor’s contribution going directly to the America Supports You charity chosen by the service member.  More information on the Troop Affinity Program can be found at www.yellowribbonracing.com.

Barbara Parks dies Barbara Parks diesBarbara Parks passed away on Wednesday, January 25, after a long fight against cancer. A nice article about her can be found at www.NHRA.com. Barbara was instrumental in helping to form and guide the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). She presided over the ICCA (International Car Club Association), in the early 1960's, a concept to bring back the car clubs of the 1930's and '40's. Tex Smith worked for her at the ICCA, and they were committed to this organization. She believed that the way to keep kids from street racing was to offer them an organization that would strengthen the automotive hot rodding movement, and provide safe and sanctioned activities.

Barbara was born in New York, and came west to California in the early 1950's, and went to work at Hot Rod Magazine. After working at the magazine, she would work on the records of the new organization (NHRA), taking phone calls, and giving her advice and input concerning the direction that the new racing organization should take. A memorial service is planned for her at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, during the CarQuest Auto Parts/NHRA Winternationals Drag Races, Pomona, California, February 9-12, 2006. Exact dates and times are unavailable, but check www.oilstick.com, www.NHRA.com, or call the Museum at 909-622-2133 for details.

Accident eliminates defending champions Accident eliminates defending championsThe No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley officially retired from the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona after an unavoidable collision on lap 125 caused extensive damage to the car.

Just four hours into the race the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley was struck hard by the careening No. 24 BMW M3.  The BMW was sliding parallel to the SunTrust car, which was driven by Emmanuel Collard, and ran off-course, then skid back onto the track and cascaded into Collard’s vehicle, causing major damage to the right front of the car.
“It was so quick I couldn’t do anything and I had nowhere to go,” said Collard, 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona winner with teammates Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli, who was uninjured in the accident.  “I feel really bad for the team.  It’s a really tough start for the team, but I couldn’t do anything.  They put a lot into this race.  It’s the first race of the season and we’re out, so now the team starts the season down.“

The SunTrust team began the 44th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona from the 27th position (the result of a technical infraction in qualifying after Angelelli posted the second-quickest time), but Angelelli quickly shot to the front of pack. After Angelelli’s initial burst, the team was a constant force amongst the race leaders, until the accident.

 “We had a great team strategy and a really good run to make it to the head of the pack,” said Angelelli, who won the 2005 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Driver and Team Championships with teammate Taylor.  “Unfortunately, now it is over for us.”

“It is really disappointing,” said SunTrust car owner/driver Wayne Taylor, who led the race briefly before turning over the reigns to Collard. “This was an important race for us and it was a hard hit, but at least Manu is alright.”

Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 11:00 pm Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 11:00 pmAfter demonstrating dominance for the last few hours, Cheever Racing lost its lead position to a resurging 02 Target Chip Ganassi team during the 10th hour of the 44th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The No. 02 Target Lexus Riley, which is shared by Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears, overtook the No. 39 Cheever Racing Lexus Crawford on lap 315.

The Target team, which sat one lap behind early today after suffering various problems, sits in the point position as we approach the midnight hour, the halfway point of the race.

The 02’s teammate, No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley sits in third, the final car on the lead lap.  The car, which is shared by Scott Pruett, Luis Diaz and Max Papis has also had its problems throughout the day before making this recent charge.

Unfortunately, not all of the cars that had problems today could overcome it.  The No. 2 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford, which had an all star lineup of Rusty Wallace, Danica Patrick, Allan McNish and Jan Lammers was forced to retire during the hour because of overheating.

In the GT division the No. 82 Farnbacher Racing Porsche GT3 Cup leads the way with its closest competitor, the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup, one lap behind.

The hour’s lone yellow flag came around 10:15 pm E.T. when J.C. France, the driver of the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Fabrar, spun out going into turn seven.  The full course caution period lasted a total of six laps, approximately 15 minutes.

1  02  DP DIXON/WHELDON/MEARS  328 0.000 0.000 Active
2  39  DP FITTIPALDI/CHEEVERJR 328 26.466 26.466 Active
3  01  DP PRUETT/DIAZ/PAPIS  328 31.312 4.846 Active
5  60  DP NEGRI/PATTERSON/ALLM 326 2LAPS 24.910 Active
6  58  DP DONOHUE/LAW/MAASSEN  326 2LAPS 16.290 Active
8  5  DP DAYTON/KNOOP/DEVRIES 323 5LAPS :05.653 Active
11  36  GT POBST/LEVITAS/BAAS/P 310 18LAPS 1LAP Active
12  65  GT LALLY/BUNTING/VALENT 309 19LAPS :19.021 Active
14  74  GT DAVIS/LUX/ESPENLAUB/ 306 22LAPS 33.586 Active
15  17  GT MOWLEM/ARNOLD/SELLER 306 22LAPS 20.061 Active
16  66  GT ORTELLI/JOHNSON/NEAR 306 22LAPS 8.255 Active
18  7  DP DFRANCHITTI/DUNO/MFR 304 24LAPS :16.587 Active
20  41  GT WANONNAMAKER/JNONNAM 301 27LAPS 1LAP Active zzzz
21  28  DP VALIANTE/FINLAY/HERT 300 28LAPS 44.290 Active
22  11  DP TUTTLE/PETTY/SAID  298 30LAPS 2LAPS Active
24  84  DP WDALLENBACH/ROBINSON 295 33LAPS :13.012 Active
26  93  GT AVE/STEWART/STEWARTI 293 35LAPS 44.969 Active
29  06  GT ARCHER/REESE/OASIS/C 288 40LAPS :54.360 Active
34  16  DP CDYSON/RDYSON/GAVIN/ 280 48LAPS 1LAP Active
36  51  DP JOHANSSON/ERDOS/NEWT 278 50LAPS :30.154 Active
38  99  DP GURNEY/STALLINGS/VAS 274 54LAPS :05.883 Active
39  3  DP LEWIS/SZEKERES/LAJOI 274 54LAPS 6.500 Active
48  68  GT PACE/LOWE/GREIST  192 136LAPS 14LAPS Active
50  80  GT MURRY/KEEN/STANTON/P 187 141LAPS 11:07.3 In Pit
53  87  GT GAYLORD/HILL/HILL/DI 167 161LAPS 1LAP Active
62  63  GT SPENCER/SPENCER/MAND 101 227LAPS 17:37.0 In Pit

Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 10:00 pm Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 10:00 pmThe No. 39 Cheever Racing Lexus Riley and open-wheel star Patrick Carpentier lead the 44th anniversary of the Rolex 24 in the 10th hour of the grueling and challenging race.

Scott Dixon and No. 02 Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley are running in second place with the team’s sister car – the No. 01 Lexus Riley – in third.

One of the major disappointments in the Rolex 24 has been the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford with drivers Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger and Tony Stewart. The crew has struggled with electrical problems and the No. 4 car sits off the track in the 39th position. The No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar continues its strong run in fourth position.

The other Howard-Boss Motorsports entry – the No. 2 Callaway Pontiac Crawford – has had a solid run with Jan Lammers, Alan McNish, retired NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace and IRL star Danica Patrick. The team had been running in the lead pack but is now fighting with some overheating problems behind the pit wall in 14th position.

“We’re just getting ready to pit and I got out of the car and it was just overheating real bad,” Wallace said.

Wallace, who says the Rolex 24 will be his final race, is having fun with his first sports car experience.

“It’s awful long isn’t it. I don’t know if we need to be running this long or not,” Wallace quipped. “I’m having a good time. I enjoy it. I wish I was just a little bit quicker. This is supposed to be my final race and probably will be. But having fun like this makes me really want to come back a couple of times.”

In the GT class, the No. 82 Farnbacher Racing Porsche continues to hold the lead as well as the 10th overall position.

Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 8:00 pm Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 8:00 pmThe No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley with driver Oswaldo Negri holds the lead in the eighth hour of the 44th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Rounding out the overall top three is the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing entry and the No. 39 Cheever Racing entry.

“It’s very hard for me to pass,” said Cheever Racing driver Christian Fittipaldi. “So far, mechanically everything is perfect. Let’s cross our fingers. There’s still a lot of racing ahead of us.” 

The No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, which has spent plenty of time at the front, has experienced some mechanical issues.

“It looks like a water hose leak or a coolant leak,” said Brumos Racing owner Bob Snodgrass.

Rusty Wallace has gotten in the driver’s seat of the No. 2 Callaway Pontiac Crawford but had to come back to pit for a right rear wheel problem. He has returned to the track.

The No. 12 Lowe’s/Fernandez Pontiac Riley has officially withdrawn from the race.

Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 7:00 pm Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 7:00 pmThe Daytona Prototypes ruled the field throughout the first seven hours of the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona claiming the top 16 places early at the “World Center of Racing” – Daytona International Speedway.

The team of David Donohue, Darren Law and Sascha Maassen guided the No. 58 Red Bull / Brumos Porsche Fabcar to the overall lead over the No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley, guided by Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears. 
The Red Bull team led by 37 seconds.

IRL backmarker Danica Patrick, Rusty Wallace, Jan Lammers and Allan McNish steered their No. 2 Howard-Boss Motorsports Callaway Golf Pontiac Crawford to third place.

“It is great to have Brumos, Red Bull, Porsche, Fabcar, everybody up front,” said Law.  “We still have so far to go. More than anything, I was just in accident-avoidance mode. I was being very careful, there’s a lot of crazy stuff out there.”

The No. 64 TRG / iRise Pontiac GTO.R lead the GT class, (17th overall) followed by the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/iRise Pontiac GTO.R (18th) and the No. 70 Mazda RX-8 of SpeedSource (19th).

Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 6:00 pm Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 6:00 pm
Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 3:00 pm Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 3:00 pmThe clocks around Daytona International Speedway are showing that it is officially the third hour of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

With the turn of the clock, we have a new leader in Daytona as the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford shared by Memo Gidley, Michael MacDowell and Alex Barron. They inherited the lead from the No. 89 Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac Riley, which went behind the wall at around 2:50 pm E.T.

After 82 laps of racing, the No. 19 leads with the No. 6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR Lexus Riley sitting in second and the defending race winning No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley rounding out the top three spots.

In the GT class, the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup is leading the way. Randy Pobst, Michael Levitas, Ian Baas, and Spencer Pumpelly will share the No. 36 throughout the day.

The No. 70 Speedsource Mazda RX-8 and the No. 74 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 Cup round out the top three.

While the second hour ended with a yellow flag period that lasted about 15 minutes, the third hour has begun under green lap conditions at "The World Center of Racing."

Porsche jumps out to early lead then breaks at Daytona Porsche jumps out to early lead then breaks at DaytonaDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -  Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller, both German-born drivers now living in Monte Carlo, had guided the Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford from the pole to the fastest race laps and the lead in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona after two hours, but a broken stub axle has put them in the garage in hour #3.

Luhr led from the green flag until lap #20, when he came in under yellow for a put stop, and then worked his way back into the lead on lap #53, when he came in again for a driver change.  Rockenfeller took over the car in 5th place, and reclaimed the lead again until the sub axle broke.  The team expected to have the car back on the track within 25 minutes.  Luhr turned the fastest race lap on lap #45.  Las Vegas' Patrick Long will the third driver in the car later in the afternoon.

Bourdais father and son cherish race together Bourdais father and son cherish race togetherThe father and son team of Patrick and Sebastien Bourdais made their one and only Grand-Am Cup start in yesterday’s race at Daytona. The No.1 Ford Mustang started the race with Patrick Bourdais and he passed several cars in the first stint. Sebastien drove the second stint, passed a number of cars and finished 7th.

Patrick Bourdais – No. 1 Ford Racing Ford Mustang GT 1st Stint (Finished 7th)

DID YOU HAVE FUN OUT THERE? “I am very happy. Yesterday when I drove the car I did not feel good at all and I could not find any references on the outside of the car. Today I had some good laps. It was fun running with those guys. It reminded me when I was fighting for championships in Clio Cup ten years ago. ”

IS THIS SOMETHING THAT YOU WILL REMEMBER FOR A LONG TIME? “It will be one of my best racing memories for sure.”

You were passing some cars out there? “Yes, I was very comfortable. The tires were great. I was able to pass people. I did have contact with one guy out there but it was ok.”

AT THE END YOU SAID THE CAR HAD OVERSTEER? “I spun at the end of the last chicane and there was a car behind and I did not want him to pass. I was trying a bit too hard and just spun the car.”

Sebastien Bourdais – No. 1 Ford Racing Mustang GT 2nd Stint (Finished 7th)

How was the RACE? “ At the end I wound up losing quite a bit of time. All in all it was a fun race. Without the race penalty we would have finished in the top five. We would have been really good. My dad had a blast, I’m just happy that we made it to the end. We had a pretty good result. It was a fun experience, mission accomplished.”

Tell US About the Car Itself? “The car is very fast here because it has very good top speed. It’s a little tricky in the infield and it’s a bit of a fight. This car tends to use up the tires a little more than the Porches. The cars are slower, and slips a bit in the infield but it‘s really fast in the fast sections. At the end of the day it’s pretty close but it’s tough to fight with cars that don’t have the same characteristics. So you gain sometimes and you lose sometimes. You try to pass the guy and then you don’t succeed and he passes you back. There was a lot of fights and a lot of passing. Unfortunately, someone forgot to be fair in the field and it cost us a top five at the end. The last restart was really really good. And I think I got two or three cars and then went around and got another two. The next time around the No.81 car gave me a big bump at the apex of turn one and put me in the grass. I lost like five seconds, and I was a little rough. Like I said, we had a good time and my dad enjoyed himself. We would like to again thank Ford for the opportunity.”

HOW WAS IT SHARING A RIDE WITH YOUR DAD? “Sure it was unique. First, it's something you don’t do very often and second we were very competitive. I think we definitely filled the targets we wanted to achieve.”

Ann Stevens – Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer – The Americas, Ford Motor Company

HOW DID THE DAY GO? “I think this went really well, with Sebastien being with his father and running a race at this famous track. His father went out first, and he ran very, very well. He had one little spin but he recovered and then they switched. Then Sebastien went from 23 to tenth and then he fell a little bit there at the end but wound up seventh. He did well, the most important thing is that they had good fun. His father was like a little kid, having so much fun. He was so proud of his father. You know for us it was just about doing something special for Sebastien because he is such a great champion. All we wanted to do is combine the family with the Mustang at a famous speedway. We wanted to show our support for his second championship. A win would have been great but hey, we will take a top ten.” Ford Racing

GlycoMax Named Official Performance Drink of Grand-Am GlycoMax Named Official Performance Drink of Grand-AmDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Grand American Road Racing Association is pleased to announce a partnership with GlycoMax, making the energy drink the official Performance Drink of both the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve and the Grand-Am Cup Series.

As part of the partnership, the “GlycoMax Endurance Challenge” contingency program will provide $4,000 to the highest combined points earners in both the Daytona Prototype and GT classes from the three endurance races on the schedule, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the SunChaser 9-Hour at the brand-new Miller Motorsports Park. GlycoMax will also provide a $1,000 bonus to the Grand Sport and Street Tuner class winners in the season-ending 12-hour event at Virginia International Raceway.

France team takes pole in Durban France team takes pole in DurbanUPDATE Durban - Maintaining the strength shown in the first half of the season, A1 Team France will start the Sprint race for tomorrow's A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Durban, South Africa on pole position. Setting the fastest lap time of the weekend so far, driver Alexandre Premat (pictured right) broke the 1.19 mark for the first time, shortly followed by A1 Team Great Britain's Robbie Kerr who will take second slot on the grid tomorrow afternoon.

After a promising start, A1 Team Czech Republic who recorded the fastest lap time in the first qualifying session, dropped to sixth on the grid, hitting a wall in the second session and breaking the car's suspension component. Two red flags in session four, brought out by A1 Teams USA and Austria delayed the final session with seven teams not putting in a time.

Street race expert who won the 2004 Macau Grand Prix, Alexandre Premat said, 'Today was good for me, I love the track, I won Macau, so I don't struggle on this type of circuit. I managed to do two really good times. This morning's session in the dry was enough to find a good set up. I had some new tires in the second session which helped and I didn't need to change the set up at all.'

Commenting on the track, Robbie Kerr said, 'It's an interesting track, with a really tight first corner. It will be interesting to see tomorrow if people will be able to go into it 2 by 2 on the first lap.' When asked if the red flag periods interfered with his qualifying, Robbie replied, 'the red flags definitely affected us, it's a shame, but it's just one of those things. I'm really looking forward to the race, we have a good position, but we'll have to see what happens.'

The newly-built track has been constructed over the last three months, taking 150,000 man hours and using 10km of safety fencing, 10kms electrical cable, 350 tons of steel, 4,000 tons of asphalt and 12,000 tons of cement.

Neel Jani's run on pole position in the last two races came to an end today but the Swiss was not pessimistic. 'The race is a different story, I took the last two poles but didn't win. Qualifying was average; I made a few mistakes on the new tires but still managed to put in a good time. The wind picked up towards the end of qualifying and the track got a bit slower. But our position isn't too bad for tomorrow.'

Commenting on the best way to avoid an accident at the first corner, Neel said 'There isn't much you can do really. You have to take your position before the corner, but it depends what happens around you. The race will be interesting because it is easy to make mistakes. It will be about finishing.'

But it wasn't just the on-track action drawing attention at the Durban street circuit. A1 Team Malaysia's car underwent a makeover at lunchtime, leaving the team's garage for Qualifying boasting the logo of their newly signed sponsor, Malaysian automaker, Proton. Team principal, Jack Cunningham commented: 'Our new partner Proton has had the vision to see the strengths of the A1 Grand Prix platform and recognizes the excellent branding opportunity that A1 Team Malaysia represents for Malaysian companies to reach an international audience.'

01/28/06 Alex Premat gave Team France the pole position for Sunday's A1GP race on the streets of Durban, South Africa. Full report to follow.

Qualifying - Aggregate times for two fastest sessions.
A1 Team Driver Aggregate Time
1 France Alexandre Premat 2.36.841
2 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 2.38.079
3 Switzerland Neel Jani 2.38.093
4 Netherlands Jos Verstappen 2.38.452
5 Ireland Ralph Firman 2.38.509
6 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 2.38.541
7 New Zealand Matt Halliday 2.38.856
8 Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr 2.38.876
9 Canada Sean McIntosh 2.38.996
10 Malaysia Alex Yoong 2.39.197
11 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 2.39.240
12 Germany Timo Scheider 2.39.325
13 USA Philip Giebler 2.39.355
14 Italy Massimiliano Busnelli 2.39.419
15 Portugal Alvaro Parente 2.39.671
16 South Africa Stephen Simpson 2.40.193
17 Australia Will Davison 2.40.652
18 Lebanon Basil Shaaban 2.41.845
19 Mexico David Martinez 2.41.846
20 China Tengyi Jiang 2.42.824
21 Austria Mathias Lauda 2.42.871
22 India Armaan Ebrahim 2.46.880
23 Pakistan Adam Khan N/A

Track News
ISC continues to rake in money by the boatload ISC continues to rake in money by the boatload
Williams says peace is near Williams says peace is nearSir Frank Williams believes that an end to the threatened Formula 1 breakaway series will come "soon".

Williams, who signed up to a new Concorde Agreement committing his team to F1 until 2012 along with Ferrari, Midland and Red Bull, claims the political climate within F1 is ripe for an agreement.

"I think it is quite quiet now isn't it," Williams said at the launch of his team's new FW28.
"There is less noise and chatter and I don't mean that unkindly, but I am aware of less chatter than three months ago or six months. There is a little belligerence from one or two of the usual quarters but I think they will get together soon and sign up.

"I could be wrong but that is my opinion and that is what I have given you. We need one championship only and we need all the best names in the world in that championship and some of those names are manufacturer teams," he said.

Rossi is brave says Webber Rossi is brave says WebberWilliams F1 driver Mark Webber has said he feels Valentino Rossi is 'quite brave' to be joining the upcoming group test in Spain next week.

"He's quite brave, really, to come in and share the circuit with the rest of us," Webber was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters during the launch of the new Williams FW28. "The guy has obviously got unbelievable talent, we know that, and he definitely knows which way is up. But to throw him out there on the track with the rest of us...who knows? He's always done surprises so who knows how he will go?.

"The guys who have been racing for a while are normally not that keen to have guys who don't have that much experience around. But it's not like this guy we had in Budapest last year [Chanoch Nissany in the Minardi], that was a joke, like playing Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in the first round."

A1 Grand Prix
Crashes mar Saturday morning practice in Durban Crashes mar Saturday morning practice in DurbanAnother incident-packed hour saw the three official practice sessions held for the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Durban, South Africa come to a close ahead of this afternoon’s Qualifying.

As the A1 drivers continued to learn the track, there were plenty of spins and excitement as front wings were lost over curbs and cars headed into tire walls. Five red flags were brought out after spins from A1 Teams Australia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan and Portugal but they were not the only ones to leave the track. Italy, the USA and Mexico all damaged their cars, with Mexico losing two front wings over the course of the session and Ireland and the Netherlands taking minor spins.

Following his incident on track, A1 Team Pakistan driver, Adam Khan, was airlifted to hospital for a precautionary CT scan after complaining of lower back pains.

Q and A with Scott Atherton Q and A with Scott AthertonSebring, Fla. - The American Le Mans Series Winter Test is complete, and now it's full steam ahead toward the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the opening of the 2006 season. As was the case this past week, there will be many, many storylines at which to look and discuss. Series President and CEO Scott Atherton met with the media earlier this week to address a few points. Here's a sampling of what he had to say:

On manufacturer involvement in the Series:
"The leading-edge technologies of Audi and Porsche are what the Series is all about and what sets the Series apart. We have 10 major automotive manufacturers with full-fledged involvement in our Series, and they entrust their brand in our Series. It's further validation of what the American Le Mans Series stands for, whereas every season that goes by, the other forms of motorsports are becoming more and more homogenized."

On the GT1 field:
"We have been actively involved with several teams who have GT1 content. The programs that you see validate that there are others and more very good news coming."

On Series' new look and feel:
"We contracted with Haymarket Worldwide to do more than a symbolic review of our long-standing logo. We wanted input from an independent, third-party perspective on our Series."

"The visual identity that has been executed is an extreme makeover. There is now a look and feel of what the Series is and will do."

"The tagline is ‘World Class,' and it's now true more than ever. We are North America's franchise of world-class racing. Whereas NASCAR is the Wal-Mart of racing, we are the Nordstrom of racing. It's what prompted the review."  zzzz

On Sebring:
"I think of Sebring as America's Le Mans. The significance of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring cannot be overstated. The importance that this race has had on sports car racing is second to none. It eclipses even Daytona."

"We are making history every year here. I believe that this point in time with the Series at Sebring will be historically significant and looked upon very favorably."

"There is a continual raising of the bar at all our venues with regard to providing a world-class racing experience. The race tracks in our Series are constantly evolving, and that is the case at Sebring."

On state and future of the Series:
"The 2006 season is indicative of what the future holds. The cooperation we now have with the ACO is at the highest level it has ever been, and I can honestly tell you that I have never had more internal enthusiasm regarding what we have going right now. The most important element is that the fans' response has continued to be positive. The crowds continue to grow, and given what the current American Le Mans Series grid displays and what I know the future holds, I've never been more optimistic and positive."

On the 2006 season:
"Hang on, because it's going to be a fun run this year." ALMS

BMW names ALMS drivers BMW names ALMS driversBMW of North America, LLC and BMW Team PTG jointly announced today that Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand and Justin Marks have been contracted to drive for BMW Team PTG in the 2006 American Le Mans Series. A fourth team driver and additional drivers for the longer races will be named at a later date.

All three drove for the team last season and posted victories in a BMW Team PTG M3. Fifty days remain until the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring where BMW Team PTG will mark its first full season of American Le Mans Series competition since 2001. BMW Team PTG has scored two GT class wins at Sebring: 1997 and 1998.

The team recently concluded this week's three-day Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway with very good results. Completing more than 425 laps around the 3.7-mile circuit over the three days, the team tested more than 50 sets of Yokohama tires as the two companies renewed the relationship that began in 1995 and has seen many victories since. Auberlen, driving the No. 21 M3, set the second fastest GT2 time of the test, recording a 2:03.335 lap. zzzz

Auberlen begins his 10th season driving for BMW, having made his first start with BMW Team PTG in 1996. A native Californian, Auberlen currently resides in Redondo Beach, Calif., but one could say that he is most at home in a BMW M3. The most successful North American BMW M3 driver, he has been part of more than 50 percent of the team's 53 sports car racing victories, recording 27 wins in a BMW Team PTG M3 - including the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Sebring in both 1997 and 1998.

"My best years in racing have been with BMW in the American Le Mans Series, and I'm absolutely thrilled to go back with BMW Team PTG and my teammates to compete at the highest level of sports-car racing," Auberlen said.

Hand, of Sacramento, Calif., begins his third season with BMW Team PTG. Winning four races last year; Hand was the top-finishing (fourth) BMW Team PTG driver in Rolex Sports Car Series GT Driver Points. A top karter and open-wheel racer, Hand first came to the attention of PTG boss Tom Milner in 2000 in a BMW test with BMW Team PTG after capturing the 1999 Formula Mazda Pro Series Championship. Hand spent three years in the Toyota Atlantic Championship before joining BMW Team PTG in 2004.

Hand said, "I'm very happy to be back with BMW again this season. It is all-new for me to race a GT car in the American Le Mans Series and I am really looking forward to it. In American Le Mans Series trim the M3 truly looks the business and it feels like the entire team is ready for this new challenge."

Marks, of Sacramento, Calif., has driven for BMW Team PTG since 2003. He tallied three Rolex Series GT class wins last season, including sharing PTG's record 50th sports car racing victory. An excellent qualifier, Marks scored three consecutive poles in the middle of last season as BMW Team PTG raced to seven wins in 13 races entered.

Marks said, "Since beginning my sports car racing career in 2001 one of my goals was to race in the American Le Mans Series. To be able to do it in a BMW Team PTG M3 makes it even sweeter."

In anticipation of needing additional drivers for the season's two endurance races, the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March and the Petit Le Mans in September, BMW Team PTG gave two young drivers an opportunity to test during the Winter Test. Martin Jensen, (26), of Denmark and Graham Rahal, (17), of Columbus, Ohio, each spent time in the cars. 2005 BMW Team PTG driver Ian James was also on hand and drove a number of laps. ALMS

Stewart thinks he broke a rib Stewart thinks he broke a ribTony Stewart said Friday that his ribs are hurting more than his arm, two weeks after his accident in his Midget car at the Chili Bowl.

"It's actually my ribs that are bothering me," Stewart said. "The arm is fine. The arm is back to 100 percent. The ribs, there is really nothing you can do but rest and relax.

"That's what we've done from the time it happened until now. We just tried to rest as much as possible and give it time to heal. It's going to be a painful weekend, I'm sure. The good thing about adrenaline is that adrenaline will mask a lot of that and we will get through 24 hours no problem."

"[The doctor] is pretty confident that there is a crack somewhere they couldn't find," Stewart said. "I'm not a doctor and don't understand this stuff, but he said if I came back two days later, he would probably be able to see it better.

"He said there's no point in coming back and verifying that because there's nothing they can do anyway. It's just painful."

Randy LaJoie to drive the No. 34 car in 2006 Randy LaJoie to drive the No. 34 car in 2006Front Row Motorsports announced that Randy LaJoie has been retained to drive the #34 car for the 2006 season. Randy will join teammate Chad Chaffin, driver of the #92 FRM Chevy. The second team was formed as a partnership between car owners Bob Jenkins and Chris Edwards [former Mach 1 owner]. " We worked with Chris and his team last year, and felt like we were able to share information between the two cars. With the success that Randy has had in the Busch series, and Chad has had in the truck series, we believe that we will continue to improve upon last year's results. We have a unique opportunity for these two teams to compete for spots with in the top 35 in points and we intend to do everything within our power to get them there."

"Our philosophy is that in this sport, you have to make your own place at the table and our goal is to do exactly that,” stated Jenkins. Both teams will be based out of FRM's Denver, NC facility. The team is currently adding additional positions including crew chief, fabricators, and track personnel. Front Row Motorsports PR

Newman/Busch split Busch duties Newman/Busch split Busch dutiesPenske Racing announced its two drivers, #12-Ryan Newman and #2-Kurt Busch, will split time in 14 Busch Series races this season. Florence Morning News
Toyota explain early test departure Toyota explain early test departureThe change in weather conditions at the Circuito de Catalunya brought an early stop to the Toyota Racing testing program yesterday.

Although wet weather was expected and the program called for wet tire and set-up testing on the final day of this Barcelona test, mother nature decided otherwise.

Extremely cold temperatures, rain and sleet are conditions that can be dangerous and are not necessary to simulate a race weekend. Therefore, the decision was made to wrap up the team's program around lunchtime and concentrate on next week's test in Valencia.

Pascal Vasselon, General Manager Car Design and Development explained why wet tire testing in extreme cold temperatures is not pursued.

"It could have been a good day to test wet tires if we had temperatures above 8 or 10 degrees Celsius," said Vasselon. "It is impossible to run modern Formula One tires in such temperatures as today, which were always less than 5 degrees. We are looking forward to testing some wet tires, to get used to them and to see the crossover between wet and dry. Obviously, however, this was not possible."

"Nevertheless, the results from two of the three testing days were positive and show that the team is making progress. We are looking forward to learning more at the next test." Source Toyota

M16 a big step for MF1 Racing M16 a big step for MF1 RacingMF1 Racing Sporting Director Adrian Burgess has confirmed that the team is right on schedule with the build of the first M16 chassis, and the final pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are now being put together.

The car, which symbolizes a new era and new identity for the team, will be unveiled to the world’s media at Silverstone on Friday, February 3rd.

"It's all coming together," Burgess said on the team's web site. "Obviously, at this time of year it's always hectic, but as of today we have things under control and we'll make it on time. We feel that we're going to produce a far better package than we did a year ago. We've had 12 months of stability now, we know who the owner is, we know where we're going, and we know what the engine is."

"Last year, the Toyota was really thrown into the back of the previous car," Burgess admitted. "The installation was okay, and the reliability showed that everyone did a good job, but with this year's package we've had that much extra time. We've been able to attend to details that we couldn't with last year's car. So everyone is excited and eager to get on with it." zzzz
Progress has been bolstered by stability within the design team, overseen by MF1's new Technical Director, James Key. Like Chief Designer John McQuilliam and Aero Chief Simon Phillips, Key amassed considerable experience during the Jordan years, and that is now paying dividends.

"They've all been there a while now," Burgess continued. "We have restructured a little bit, promoting James to the technical director's position. He's a steady pair of hands. He's the newest technical director in the pitlane, but he's been here a long time, he's worked in most of the significant departments within the business, and he's got a good overall feel for what each area contributes to the overall package. He's in a good position to pull all those elements together, which is what he's doing at the moment."

While every team always claims to have made a lot of progress over the winter months, MF1 actually has the scope to make genuine gains, because in effect the team is making a two-year leap. Last year's car did, of course, have its origins in the 2004 machine, and that inevitably meant compromise. Burgess is very optimistic about the inherent potential of the new design.

"We're quite happy with what we've seen in the wind tunnel, and by virtue of having a new chassis we've seen some fairly decent gains over the car we raced in China last year. Just having a new chassis has opened up so many different areas in the wind tunnel that are now giving us results, whereas we tried things before on the old chassis and they weren't really effective." Source MF1 Racing

A1 Grand Prix
Results from Saturday morning practice in Durban, SA Results from Saturday morning practice in Durban, SAThe Ireland A1GP team and driver Ralph Firman were fastest in Saturday morning practice for the first ever A1GP race in Durban, South Africa.  Fastest on Saturday, the Netherlands team led by Jos Verstappen was 2nd quick.  (Photo right of Firman courtesy of A1 Grand Prix)

The track was dry and the times came down by 10 seconds per lap from Friday's wet sessions. 

The top-3 drivers all turned their fastest laps at the end of the session as the teams fought to dial-in their cars for the dry conditions. 

Pos Driver Country Time Laps
 1. Ralph Firman Ireland 1:19.535 22
 2. Jos Verstappen Netherlands 1:19.814 + 0.279 24
 3. Neel Jani Switzerland 1:19.957 + 0.422 22
 4. Alexandre Premat France 1:20.132 + 0.597 20
 5. Robbie Kerr Great Britain 1:20.306 + 0.771 21
 6. Tomas Enge Czech Republic 1:20.472 + 0.937 23
 7. Alvaro Parente Portugal 1:20.572 + 1.037 14
 8. Sean McIntosh Canada 1:20.612 + 1.077 23
 9. Philip Giebler USA 1:20.712 + 1.177 22
10. M. Busnelli Italy 1:20.889 + 1.354 21
11. Stephen Simpson South Africa 1:20.981 + 1.446 21
12. Timo Scheider Germany 1:21.054 + 1.519 22
13. Matt Halliday New Zealand 1:21.078 + 1.543 23
14. Alex Yoong Malaysia 1:21.185 + 1.650 15
15. Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil 1:21.235 + 1.700 22
16. David Martinez Mexico 1:21.408 + 1.873 21
17. Ananda Mikola Indonesia 1:21.593 + 2.058 17
18. Adam Khan Pakistan 1:22.135 + 2.600 17
19. Basil Shaaban Lebanon 1:22.138 + 2.603 17
20. Will Davison Australia 1:22.570 + 3.035 3
21. Mathias Lauda Austria 1:22.834 + 3.299 20
22. Tengyi Jiang China 1:23.262 + 3.727 21
23. Armaan Ebrahim India 1:23.645 + 4.110 21

'FW28' built to win - team 'FW28' built to win - team(GMMf1NET)  With a new blue and white livery, a radical tip at the rear end of the engine cover, and a swooping nose, Williams' 2006 'FW28' car is built to win, the Grove team said on Friday.

Although Michelin, BMW and Nick Heidfeld have departed, team co-owner Patrick Head was in a bullish mood at the Oxfordshire (UK) factory.

''I'm not talking up our position,'' he said, ''but we have hardly set out with this car to finish third.''

Things have looked better at the former title winning team, but Sir Frank Williams insisted that his F1 squad has not lost its soul.  In fact, he revealed that work is currently being put into pioneering a 'seamless shift' - ultra quick - gearbox, which could be worth up to four tenths every lap.

He added: ''I don't spend too much time thinking whether or not we are still a top team.

''It's more productive creating a competitive car.''

Cosworth-powered FW28 will be debuted at Valencia (Spain) on Tuesday.

TV News
USA TV reminders for Sunday USA TV reminders for Sunday
Portugal to Dakar
2:00 a.m.-3:00 a.m. ET, OLN
2:00 a.m.-3:00 a.m. ET (R) SPEED
5:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m. ET (R) Discovery HD Theater
24 Hours of Daytona - Part 3
8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. ET (Live) SPEED
Lake Placid, NY
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. ET ESPN2
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET (R) Discovery HD Theater
7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. ET SPEED
Annual Historics Race
8:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. ET SPEED   - Part 1
9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. ET SPEED - Part 2
One Hour Special 
10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. ET (R) SPEED

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

Junqueira turns fast lap at Sebring Junqueira turns fast lap at SebringUPDATE Franck Montagny again turned a lap of 50.8 sec. at Sebring Friday in the PKV car, but Bruno Junqueira now moves to the top of the test time chart with his 50.63 sec. lap today.  For Montagny, who never drove a Champ Car before, a most impressive start to what he hopes to parlay into a full-time ride in 2006.

Fastest Sebring Lap Times since November, 2005
1. Bruno Junqueira 50.63 seconds (N/H car) 
2. Franck Montagny 50.8 (PKV car)
3. Giorgio Pantano 50.9
4. Ryan Briscoe 51.0
5. Ryan Dalziel 51.5
5. Katherine Legge 51.5 (PKV car)
7. Charles Zwolsman 51.8
8. Alx Danielsson 52.1 
8 Jan Heylen 52.1
10. Richard Lyons 52.2
11. Katherine Legge 53.2  (Rocketsports Car)
12. Dan Clarke 53.5
13. Tonis Kasemets 54.4

01/27/06 Bruno Junqueira completed his first Champ Car test at Sebring International Raceway today in preparation for the 2006 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season.  It was his first official test of the season and second since recovering from an accident in the Indy Racing League-sanctioned Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2005.  Due to his accident, Junqueira was forced to end his season early after having taken over the points lead en route to attempting to better his 2002, 2003 and 2004 rank of second place. 

The test began yesterday but the team elected to run only 30 laps around the 1.65-mile track and count the day as a 50-mile one that would not count against their total of three allowable test days per driver.  Junqueira got back behind the wheel today and completed 137 trouble-free laps (226 miles) with a best lap time of 50.63.  In comparison, his fastest lap time during his initial shakedown/evaluation in December was a 50.9.

“It was a productive day for the first of Bruno’s three test days for 2006,” said John Tzouanakis, team manager of Newman/Haas Racing.  “We came here with a big test program and went through everything.  Bruno is back to his old form before the accident and everyone was happy to get back on track for the first time in 2006.”

Newman/Haas Racing will resume testing in February when Sebastien Bourdais will get behind the wheel of a Champ Car for the first time since clinching his second consecutive championship.  Bourdais will attempt to become the first open-wheel driver to earn three consecutive titles since Ted Horn accomplished the feat from 1946-1948.  The Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place April 7-9, 2006. Newman/Haas Racing

Grand-Am Cup picks up sponsor Grand-Am Cup picks up sponsorOfficials from the Grand American Road Racing Association and the Bernheim Group today announced that the Southern California-based group of firms has become the largest contingency sponsor in the six-year history of the Grand-Am Cup Series.

The centerpiece of the new partnership between Bernheim and Grand American is the “Bernheim Improve Your Position Award” for teams competing in the Grand-Am Cup Series. In each of the 10 races on the 2006 Grand-Am Cup Series schedule, teams in both the Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) classes will compete for the $2,500 award presented to team and drivers that show the greatest improvement from starting position to finishing position in each event.

“We believe the Grand-Am Cup Series is the most exciting pure production racing series in the world,” Steve Bernheim said. “We are confident it will continue to grow exponentially and want to do all we can be part of it.” zzzz

A $2,500 award will be presented to the biggest movers in each class, for a total payout of $5,000 per race. Bernheim Group will award an additional $5,000 to the team that wins the award the most times during the 2006 season in a presentation during the 2006 Grand-Am Cup Series Awards Banquet.

“Having Bernheim sign on to become a contingency sponsor is a milestone for the Grand-Am Cup Series,” said Grand American President Roger Edmondson. “For 2006, the series will see some of its largest fields ever, and it’s a good possibility that the Bernheim Improve Your Position Award could go to a different team after each race. We are obviously thrilled to welcome Steve Bernheim and his group to our paddock in an official capacity and we believe this new relationship is just the tip of the iceberg for the Grand-Am Cup Series.”

Matt Kenseth signs multi-year contract with Roush Matt Kenseth signs multi-year contract with RoushThe 2003 NEXTEL Cup Series champion, Kenseth helped win Roush Racing's first NEXTEL Cup Championship and has made the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup each of the two years since the format was created.  Kenseth and Roush Racing's relationship dates back to 1999.  Since then they have together collected 10 wins, three poles, 51 top-five finishes, and 99 top-10 finishes in NASCAR's top division.

"We are very pleased that Matt extended his contract with Roush Racing last fall," said Jack Roush, owner of Roush Racing.  "Matt is one of the most talented drivers in the garage and he'll always hold a special place in our organization, having helped to bring us our first Cup championship in 2003. It's very assuring knowing that he will be staying on with us and I know that the first goal on his agenda is to take that championship trophy back."

Carl Edwards and No. 99 team stay focused Carl Edwards and No. 99 team stay focusedConcord, N.C.  - To most people, the off-season means the off-season; not to Carl Edwards.  The third-place finisher in 2005 has been living life in the fast lane.  Over the last two weeks Carl and his No. 99 Office Depot team have completed both the Daytona NASCAR Nextel Cup test as well as the Daytona NASCAR Busch test.  He was on stage when Roush Racing hosted the motor sports media for the Annual Lowe's Motor Speedway "Media Tour". 

On top of all this Edwards has also filmed four commercials for the upcoming season, been in five photo shoots and has made numerous appearances in support of the new Ford Fusion that is ready to hit track at the Daytona 500.

Edwards has also built in some time just for himself during this busy stretch.  Every morning he is at the shop working out with the crew, taking seat fittings and discussing with Bob Osborne how to make their Ford Fusion a tick faster.  With the Daytona 500 a little over two weeks away, Edwards and his crew have to take everything they learned in testing to prepare for the upcoming race.  Thanks to his two pole positions in 2005 (California and Homestead) Carl will have a little extra time on the track making his first appearance in the Budweiser Shootout on February 11, 2006. zzzz

Edwards is geared up and ready to go racing, in a statement the third year Cup driver left it plain and simple, "I just want to start racing again, the Daytona 500 couldn't come any quicker for me and Office Depot No. 99 team." 

Bob Osborne, crew chief for the No. 99 Office Depot team said, "We are pretty excited for the Daytona 500; we have a new style racecar for Roush Racing.  We are using this new style for both the Bud Shootout, as well as the Daytona 500."

The Office Depot No. 99 team and Edwards have a lot to prepare for in the coming days leading up to Daytona.  They will be participating in the Budweiser Shootout, the Gatorade Dual's, the Hershey's Kissable 300 and the Daytona 500.

Paul Tracy fastest in final Daytona practice Paul Tracy fastest in final Daytona practiceDaytona Beach, FL. – Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR  posted the fastest lap in final practice for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, as Paul Tracy topped the sheets with a fast lap time of 1:44.933-seconds at Daytona International Speedway on Friday.
The time was quicker than the one Tracy had set in qualifying, giving the team even more confidence as the Graydon Elliott with MSR team makes final preparations   for Saturday’s noon start, which will be carried live by Speed Channel.
Tracy, who was stymied in his effort to take the pole on Thursday, had the spring back in his step on Friday after emerging from the Lexus/Riley combination with the car atop the sheets.
“I wish we’d had this car yesterday in qualifying!” joked Tracy. “I think we could have been on pole, but at least now we are right back in the game with the car and I think we are really going to be in the hunt. It’s a long race and speed is only one factor, but it’s a good confidence boost for us getting ready for tomorrow.”
Tracy will be sharing the car with Paul Mears, Mike Borkowski, and Kenny Wilden as he chases one of motorsport’s crown jewels. The team has been at the sharp end of the timing sheets ever since testing earlier this month, and will line up 14th on the grid for the start on Saturday.  zzzz
“This is a great way to end a session before the race,” said Mike Shank. “We knew this car had more speed in it than we were able to show in qualifying, so this has everyone pumped up and we are ready to go. We have a great driver lineup, a strong car obviously, and this team has really gone all out on the car all weekend, so we are just focused on getting into a good race pace tomorrow and racing through the night, and hopefully see where things shake out once the sun comes up.”
The 44th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will get started on Saturday, as seventy cars will line up for the green flag in the quest for one of racings most portable trophies-the Rolex watch that adorns the wrist of each race winner.
Speed Channel will be providing over thirteen hours of live coverage, commencing with the race start and following the final hours to the checkered flag.
Julow Named Next SCCA President Julow Named Next SCCA PresidentTOPEKA, Kan.  – Sports Car Club of America, Inc. (SCCA), the 60,000-member motorsports organization boasting the largest active participant group in racing, announced today that James R. Julow will become its next President.

Julow brings a wealth of industry experience to SCCA, with a focus on marketing and operations. His 28-year automotive career has included stints with all domestic divisions of the current Chrysler Group, including serving most recently as the DaimlerChrysler Vice President of Motorsports and SRT Programs.

“Throughout this process, the Board of Directors’ primary goal has been to ensure the future leadership and excellence of the staff for this Club,” SCCA Chairman of the Board Robert Introne said. “We met with a number of excellent candidates, and Jim Julow stood out as an outstanding choice for the next president of SCCA. He brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership qualities to our company and has a proven record of success in his past business endeavors.” zzzz

“Given my broad background in the automotive industry and, more recently, consulting in high-tech growth marketing, I feel that there is a lot that I can bring to SCCA,” Julow said. “My goal is to turbocharge SCCA. It already has a great image and excellent programs, and I want to work to take everything to the next level.”

Under Julow’s leadership, the current Dodge Motorsports program, which includes a successful NASCAR effort, was born. Additionally, the Street Race Technology (SRT) program was conceived, and he oversaw the launch of the Viper SRT-10 convertible and SRT-4 as well as the distribution of the Viper Competition Coupe. While the Vice President and General Manager of Dodge, Julow set all-time records for sales, share and revenue for the Dodge Division.

Julow replaces Steve Johnson, who held the Club’s top position from 2000 through September 2005, before moving to a similar position with Champ Car. Julow will officially take the office full time in early March, but will be on hand for the annual SCCA National Convention in Kansas City, Feb. 2-4.

Bourdais duo finishes 7th in Grand-Am Cup race Bourdais duo finishes 7th in Grand-Am Cup raceThe family names Unser, Andretti and Vukovich are fabled ones in the history of open-wheel racing but on a sunny Friday at the Daytona International Speedway, it was the Bourdais family that emerged as the fastest duo as Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Sebastien Bourdais and his father Patrick finished seventh in today’s Grand-Am Cup event.

The pair competed in a brand-new Ford Mustang GT 500 in today’s three-hour endurance race as a reward from Ford Racing after Sebastien scored his second consecutive Champ Car title in 2005. It was the first time that the father-and-son duo had ever competed together and it was an outing that the two will not soon forget.

“This will remain as one of the best souvenirs that I’ve ever had in racing,” said the elder Bourdais at the end of the event.

Patrick is no stranger to high-level competition, having competed in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans on a number of occasions, including a run in last year’s event, but today’s race was his first in the Grand-Am Cup cars. He survived one brief spin to keep the #1 Multimatic Ford in the top quarter of the 88-car field before yielding to the two-time reigning Champ Car title winner. zzzz

The younger Bourdais got the team up to sixth before a missed turn in the Bus Stop chicane caused a drive-through penalty. The penalty dropped the team 35 seconds off the pace, but Sebastien was able to battle back through the field to get into the top ten with seven laps to run.

“The Mustang was really fast and had great top-end speed but it was a little tricky in the infield section,” said Sebastien. “We could run guys down on the oval section and but some of the smaller cars had a little easier time in the infield. It made for a lot of great battles and a day full of action for us.”

The result was especially pleasing for the Ford Racing contingent, who fielded the ride for the Bourdais family with the help of the Multimatic race team that competes full time in the Grand American Rolex Series.

“This was all about putting Sebastien and his father together and running a race car at this fabulous speedway,” said Ford Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Americas Anne Stevens. “The most important thing to us was that they have a great time and they definitely did. The fact that they ran so well is a great testament to the team and to what kind of champion Sebastien is.”

Things tightened up with seven laps to run as a full-course caution brought on a Lap 50 restart. Sebastien took the green in 10th place, but made up two spots on the first lap. He battled all through the final trips around the 3.56-mile layout and came home in the seventh spot.

“I really have to thank Ford for allowing us to run in this race,” Sebastien said. “It’s unique when you get to share a ride with your father and not only did we have a lot of fun but we were competitive, and had it not been for that penalty, we likely would have been in the top five.

For Sebastien’s father, today’s race confirmed to him that he still has more than enough talent to compete at a high level – a fact which was evidenced by the wide grin on his face.

“When I first drove the car yesterday I really didn’t feel very good in it. It was like I was driving from the outside looking in,” he said through his son’s interpretation. “But today I really felt capable and turned some good lap times. It feels really, really good to have done this and my thanks also go to the people at Ford for allowing this to happen.”

In addition to the Bourdais family competing today, 2005 Champ Car competitor Michael McDowell joined with Rob Finlay to bring his #15 Playboy-sponsored Ford Mustang to a podium finish. McDowell, who ran two races with Rocketsports Racing last season in the Champ Cars, made a pass with two laps to go to secure a podium spot.

“The last few laps were a lot of fun and we had some real battles out there,” said McDowell. “We lost the ABS system during the race so that made the infield sections a real handful but we had a lot of fun out there.”

The sextet of Champ Car drivers that will compete in tomorrow’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona ran a pair of practice sessions today in preparation for Saturday’s twice-around-the-clock event.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth positions on tomorrow’s starting grid are occupied by cars with Champ Car drivers on the squad, led by the third-placed Gainsco/Blackhawk team with 1996 series champion Jimmy Vasser heading a lineup that features former Champ Car Atlantic competitors Alex Gurney and Rocky Moran Jr. Champ Car

A1 Grand Prix
Team India’s Ebrahim Walks Away from 160 kmph Shunt Team India’s Ebrahim Walks Away from 160 kmph ShuntAs A1 Team India arrived at the circuit this morning, the weather was wet, with a gray sky promising light drizzles throughout the day. The A1 Team India mechanics have been working extra hard this week to build and set up the cars for the weekend's race, as the narrow confines of the pit area and the incessant rain over the last two days has made working conditions very difficult.

By the time the first practice session started at 13:00 hrs local time, the rain had stopped, but the track was still very wet and slippery. A1 Team India’s driver Armaan Ebrahim had a good first session. The initial part of the session was very wet and Armaan was getting used to the street circuit as this was his first time out in a street circuit. As the track dried out, Armaan picked up the pace a bit and as instructed brought the car back to the pits safely as quite a few cars had an outing with the walls. The team made some big changes for the 2nd session and softened the car a lot to give the driver more traction in the wet.

The 2nd official practice session was extremely wet and very few drivers went out, one of them being Armaan as he had to do a few installation laps to check certain parameters of the car. A1 Team Brazil’s driver Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed coming onto the pit straight and the red flag was out stopping the session. The session was re-started after A1 Team Brazil’s car was cleared away from the track, but the weather was continuously deteriorating.

Just as Armaan was starting his first timed lap and while changing from 3rd to 4th gear he went airborne over a big hump down the main straight and as soon as the car landed on the ground it spun violently and Armaan hit the wall really hard in excess of 160 kmph. A1 Team India’s driver Armaan Ebrahim was unhurt in the shunt, but the back end of the car was quite severely damaged which put paid to the rest of his practice session. The team will have to use the 2nd car for the practice session on Saturday as the first car was damaged quite badly.

Vickers cleared to drive Vickers cleared to driveBrian Vickers, who missed the Daytona test earlier this month because of sports hernia surgery, received clearance from his doctor Wednesday to participate in the Nextel Cup test at Las Vegas later this week. David Green will be on standby as a backup driver.
Quit smoking program teams up with NASCAR Quit smoking program teams up with NASCARGlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare has launched "QUIT Crew" a smoking cessation program through its 2006 NASCAR sponsorship. The program is designed to help partnering teams within NASCAR to quit smoking and help reduce the number of smokers throughout the sport. Last season, GSK Consumer Healthcare conducted a pilot program with the Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing team . Sixteen members of the Ganassi Racing Team in Concord, NC participated in the program last year. Thus far, Hendrick Motorsports, Petty Enterprises and Chip Ganassi Racing have signed up to offer the program to their employees. Other teams are expected to join the program as it's offered more broadly over the next several weeks.

When a group enrolls in the program, interested team members will be invited to an orientation and seminar about quitting smoking presented by Frank Vitale of the University of Pittsburgh Pharmacy School. During orientation, Vitale will explain the process of quitting, the products available to help them and enroll those interested in joining the 10-12 week program. zzzz

Program participants will be counseled and monitored closely by GSK Consumer Healthcare smoking cessation counselors on a weekly basis. Vitale will meet with participants privately the afternoon of the seminar and will be available to them by telephone during the program. GSK Consumer Healthcare is providing counselor services free of charge as well as a starter kit of smoking cessation products. In addition, GSK Consumer Healthcare smoking cessation counselors will be available to crew members in the garage areas at 30 NASCAR races this season.

To inspire NASCAR fans to quit, each participating team will be given an opportunity to take a video camera provided by GSK Consumer Healthcare to document their thoughts and experiences during the quit smoking process. The challenges they encounter will be documented on the quit2winracing.com web site to help others understand what the quitting process is really like.

Playboy goes racing Playboy goes racingTCR, the agency of record for Playboy Racing, and Playboy Enterprises today announced a multi-partner, multi-car deal for 2006-2008 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve and the Grand-Am Cup Series.  The six car effort will include three Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes and three Grand-Am Cup cars which will debut at the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona and will run through the conclusion of the 2008 season.

TCR announced a world class partnership which includes Playboy Enterprises, Uniden Electronics, The Palms Resort & Casino and Vonage.  The Ford-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype and Ford Mustang GT Cup entries will be operated by Finlay Motorsports located in Mooresville, NC.  The two Pontiac-powered Rileys will be run by the Oxnard, CA-based Pacific Coast Motorsports operation and Unitech Racing in Rosamond, CA will enter two Playboy Nissan 350Z Grand-Am Cup cars.

The #19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford Daytona Prototype will be piloted by Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell, with IndyCar driver Alex Barron joining them for the season premiere Rolex 24 At Daytona.  Playboy, Vonage and The Palms will support the #89 Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype entry, which will be driven by Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel.  They will be complemented by Jon Fogarty and 2005 Grand-Am Cup Champion David Empringham for the Rolex 24 At Daytona event.

The #15 Playboy/Palms Ford Mustang GT Grand-Am Cup car will be driven by Rob Finlay and Michael McDowell.  The # 35 Playboy Nissan 350Z will be driven by Tommy Constantine and Mike Borkowski and the # 33 Playboy Nissan 350Z  will be driven by Blake Rosser and David Murry in the Grand-Am Cup Series.  zzzz

Beginning just after the Rolex 24 in late January, Playboy, the Palms and a yet to be named co-sponsor will be sponsoring a third Daytona Prototype entry. The #53 Playboy Pontiac Riley will be driven by Tommy Constantine and a yet to be named co-driver for the remainder of the 2006 season and beyond.

The program will include exclusive Event Hospitality and Entertainment venues with guest appearances by Playboy Playmates at each of the races and at Playboy-sponsored VIP “After Race” events.  There will also be a Palms-sponsored year-end bash at the Palms Resort & Casino in Las Vegas at the end of the racing season.

“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with TCR and to enter the exciting world of auto racing,” said Lisa Natale, SVP of Corporate Marketing for Playboy.  “Both Playboy fans and racing fans are enthusiastic and passionate so we view this partnership as a perfect branding opportunity for us.  We are looking forward to the season and to working with TCR to ensure all divisions of Playboy Enterprises can participate in this tremendous program.”

“Playboy, in its 50 year history, has never participated in professional auto racing at this level,” said TCR CEO Tommy Constantine.  “Our partnership is a testament to this racing series and our program. The Playboy brand is an American Icon and we are proud to be a part of it.”

“Partnering with Playboy to take part in the Rolex Series will provide Uniden a unique industry opportunity to build brand visibility,” said Larry Johannes, Senior Director of Marketing for Uniden America Corporation. “The Rolex Sports Car Series is the upper echelon in sports car racing and this partnership complements our branding efforts in this market.”

“Vonage’s partnership with TCR in the Rolex Series gives us the opportunity to promote our full-featured, inexpensive, flat-rate broadband telephony service plans to technology savvy auto racing fans,” stated Michael Tribolet, president, Vonage America.

“As a sponsor of the 2005 IndyCar Championship and Indy 500-winning Andretti-Green team, we have really come to appreciate the effectiveness of auto racing,” said George Maloof, CEO of the Palms Resort Casino.  “TCR has put together an incredible program in the Rolex Series which allows us to expand on our already successful involvement in motorsports.”

“Playboy is one of the world’s most recognizable brands, and we are thrilled that this innovative partnership has developed,” said Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson. “Die-hard race fans are undoubtedly aware of Uniden, as Bearcat scanners are prevalent in grandstands of motorsports events everywhere, while The Palms and Vonage have established themselves as cutting-edge companies in the 21st Century. The addition of these companies to our paddock speaks to the significant growth of our organization and is most certainly a feather in our cap.”

A1 Grand Prix
Results from Friday practice in Durban, SA Results from Friday practice in Durban, SAA1 Team South Africa led the way today in the World Cup of Motorsport's first-ever street race as theirs was the first of the 23 A1 race cars to take to the track. With Stephen Simpson behind the wheel, Vulindlela - the yellow, black and green car of the host nation - kicked off the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Durban, South Africa with two action-packed practice sessions.

With heavy rain falling for most of the day, the two sessions were both declared wet from the outset and the slippery track served only to increase the challenge of the brand new street circuit, designed specifically for the A1 Grand Prix series.

A1 Team Canada's Sean McIntosh brought out the first red flag of the day, but he was not the only driver who had difficulties with the tight street circuit. While Lebanon created the session's second red flag period, and debris on the track the third, hair-raising moments were also felt by A1 Teams France, Australia, Austria, Ireland, Italy, USA and Switzerland which saw some of the Series' favourites drop to the bottom of the timing sheets in the weekend's first official practice. zzzz

With the rain continuing to fall, conditions worsened for the second session and once again, the red flag dominated. Separate incidents from Brazil and India both temporarily closed the track. Debris from a previous spin red flagged the session for the final time, with just a couple of minutes of track time left, so the organizers decided to end the session.

At the top of the timing's sheet for the first time, A1 Team Indonesia's Ananda Mikola recorded the day's fastest lap time of 1.28.477.

When asked why he chose not to go out in the second session, Ananda Mikola replied, 'The team didn't want me to go out in the second session, I had a good first session and found good grip, so there was little point in risking the car. We wanted to keep it safe for tomorrow. The track is difficult, the level of grip is low and it is bumpy, it's important to find the right line around here'.

As the build up to the next race continues for the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Sentul, Indonesia, Ananda commented 'This will be big news at home, but it will definitely mean more pressure for tomorrow!'

Asked if he hoped for rain or sun tomorrow, Ananda said 'Rain!'

Asked how he felt at the possibility of sharing the weekend's drive with Enrico Toccacelo, new A1 Team Italy driver Massimiliano Busnelli replied, 'It is still possible that I will drive tomorrow. This was my first time in the car, my first test, but it went really well. I like the car, it is very nice to drive, and there is no big difference from F3000, so for me it is not so difficult.

A1 Team Portugal driver, Alvaro Parente who set the second fastest time of the day said, 'I'm really happy to be here, the circuit is nice, although it is bumpy and narrow, but I am enjoying myself. I hope tomorrow goes even better.'

Commenting on the possibility of overtaking, local star Stephen Simpson said 'I think there may be possible overtaking opportunities at the end of the main and back straight - but I'll let you know on Sunday evening!'

Speaking about the challenges of the track, Stephen said 'The second corner looks quite wide as you approach it, but it is quite tight on exit and I think over the course of the weekend we will see people going off there.'

With Series' leaders France, Switzerland and Brazil all among the teams suffering to get to grips with this new circuit, there is the likelihood of close, exciting racing qualifying and racing with all teams having equal chances.

The 3.23 kilometer long circuit was given its track license in the morning after the FIA Safety Delegate, Charlie Whiting, carried out his final inspection following the erection of the last barriers and the closure of the roads.

Official Practice 1

1 INDONESIA 1'28.477
2 ITALY 1'28.633
3 PORTUGAL 1'28.717
4 GREAT BRITAIN 1'29.235
5 NETHERLANDS 1'29.946
6 AUSTRALIA 1'30.006
7 SOUTH AFRICA 1'30.240
8 MEXICO 1'30.264
9 BRAZIL 1'30.541
10 AUSTRIA 1'30.595

Official Practice 2

1 AUSTRALIA 1'30.520
2 PORTUGAL 1'31.193
4 ITALY 1'32.330
5 GERMANY 1'32.797
6 USA 1'32.832
7 IRELAND 1'34.189
8 CANADA 1'34.266
9 LEBANON 1'34.671
10 CHINA 1'34.711
11 GREAT BRITAIN 1'34.974

Sebastien Bourdais’ Grand-Am Cup photos Sebastien Bourdais’ Grand-Am Cup photos2-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais is co-driving with his father in the Grand-Am Cup race at Daytona this weekend.

With his father (left) With Ford's Dan Davis (Center), His Ford Mustang Grand-Am Cup car
Photos by Dan R. Boyd

A1 Grand Prix
Team USA sticks with Giebler Team USA sticks with GieblerAmerican driver Phil Giebler has been given further opportunity to show his skills by being signed to stay on with A1 Team USA, something that he really deserves after an electrical failure robbed him of what would have been fifth place late in the feature race at the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Dubai.

"I understood from the outset that I might be able to race for A1 Team USA in as many as four rounds," said the 25-year-old. "Right after the race in Dubai, team owner Rick Weidinger told me that I could have a second go in Indonesia, the race that has since been pushed back to February. Then, shortly after that, this race in South Africa and the season finale in China were added to my list.

"I jump at any opportunity to race, anywhere and in the past this had led to further one-offs but I'm hoping that the publicity I'm getting from competing in A1 Grand Prix will land me a full season of racing. I'd love to return to Europe to contest GP2, but most likely will contest one of the American open-wheeler series. In fact, I have a Toyota Atlantic test between this weekend's race at Durban and the next A1GP race in Indonesia, trying out for Paul Newman's team at the Moroso circuit in Florida."

A1 Team USA will be reintroducing Bryan Herta for the rounds at Monterrey in Mexico and then on homed ground at Laguna Seca. Herta raced for the team at Estoril, Eastern Creek and Sepang.

A1 Grand Prix
Indonesia fastest in practice 1 Indonesia fastest in practice 1Indonesia's Ananda Mikola topped the times after a wet first practice session for the A1 GP street race in Durban, South Africa. Team Canada and Team Lebanon both hit the wall on the bumpy street course and caused red flags.

Pos Driver Country Time Laps
 1. Ananda Mikola Indonesia 1:28.477 10
 2. M. Busnelli Italy 1:28.633 + 0.156 16
 3. Alvaro Parente Portugal 1:28.717 + 0.240 5
 4. Robbie Kerr Great Britain 1:29.235 + 0.758 24
 5. Verstappen Netherlands 1:29.946 + 1.469 15
 6. Christian Jones Australia 1:30.006 + 1.529 17
 7. Stephen Simpson South Africa 1:30.240 + 1.763 22
 8. David Martinez Mexico 1:30.264 + 1.787 22
 9. Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil 1:30.541 + 2.064 16
10. Mathias Lauda Austria 1:30.595 + 2.118 11
11. Matt Halliday New Zealand 1:30.804 + 2.327 22
12. Tomas Enge Czech Republic 1:31.121 + 2.644 15
13. Ralph Firman Ireland 1:31.146 + 2.669 17
14. Timo Scheider Germany 1:31.155 + 2.678 23
15. Adam Khan Pakistan 1:31.229 + 2.752 28
16. Philip Giebler USA 1:31.583 + 3.106 22
17. Neel Jani Switzerland 1:33.132 + 4.655 5
18. Alex Yoong Malaysia 1:33.157 + 4.680 8
19. Armaan Ebrahim India 1:33.609 + 5.132 28
20. Basil Shaaban Lebanon 1:34.648 + 6.171 13
21. Tengyi Jiang China 1:35.012 + 6.535 20
22. Sean McIntosh Canada No time
23. Alexandre Premat France No time

Rain and snow curtail testing in Barcelona Rain and snow curtail testing in Barcelona(GMMf1NET) Rain and snow in Barcelona meant that testing at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya was called off on Friday.

''It was too cold to run safely,'' said Renault's Fernando Alonso, after Honda driver Rubens Barrichello took a trip into the turn three gravel.

The next major action will centre on Valencia, further south, from early next week.

With morning hours spent just waiting for a bit of sun, there was plenty of time to muse current events in formula one. One such tidbit was that Super Aguri will get testing late in February, while Takuma Sato could be signed up by next Friday.

Also with little to do in Spain, Kimi Raikkonen - only twelfth quickest in the new MP4-21 McLaren on Thursday - gave an interview to the Autosport website, according to Reuters agency.

''The biggest part of the problem is the (Mercedes) engine,'' the Finn said. ''They are not where they should be and they need to improve.''

Inside the warmer F1 factory at Grove (UK), meanwhile, Williams prepared to unveil the new FW28 to the media. Complementing Narain Karthikeyan's test drive, the team said, will be a new on-car sponsorship with his personal Indian sponsor Tata.

The logo of Tokyo-based 'Mobilecast' will also adorn the car's new livery, on the rear wing.

Industry News
Huge losses will force GM to make more cuts Huge losses will force GM to make more cuts[Editor's Note: Now that Toyota is in NASCAR and will spend whatever it takes to win, we wonder how this will effect GM's racing budget? With all of GM's money troubles they will in all likelihood have to cut everywhere including racing no doubt.  These cuts will also allow Toyota to surpass GM as the largest automaker in the world in 2006.  They almost caught them in 2005.] 

General Motors Corp. warned of more cutbacks after the company capped a disastrous 2005 by reporting on Thursday an $8.6-billion loss for the year, the second-largest loss in the history of Detroit automakers.

The larger-than-expected loss raised more concerns among GM's executives and workers about the automaker's shaky future and sent the automaker's already battered stock down 3.35%.

GM's bad news is the second in a week for Detroit's two largest automakers. Ford Motor Co. on Monday said it would stop production over the next six years at 14 North American facilities, and cut 25,000 to 30,000 hourly jobs to stem its losses in North America totaling $1.6 billion in 2005.

If not for GM's $23.5-billion loss in 1992 -- largely caused by changes in accounting rules for health care costs -- the 2005 loss would have been the worst among automakers. More at Detroit Free Press

Industry News
Kia has Chevy in its crosshairs Kia has Chevy in its crosshairsWatch out, Chevrolet. Kia Motors America has you in its crosshairs.  That caution from COO Len Hunt reflects marketing data showing that Chevrolet is the brand most frequently shopped by prospective Kia buyers, except for Hyundai, he told the Automotive News World Congress.

"When we take Hyundai out, Chevrolet, with its sporty image, is our biggest cross-shopping brand," Hunt said. "So be careful, that's where our customers are coming from."

Hunt acknowledged that Kia needs an "emotional" vehicle to help the brand grow in the United States. The Kia Soul concept crossover vehicle could be that model with its SUV looks and sporty road manners, but no production decision has been made, he said.

"So for us, we're pushing hard," Hunt said. "It's a segment we're not in today." More at AutoWeek

Danica not up to NASCAR grind Danica not up to NASCAR grindIndy Racing League star Danica Patrick said Thursday that the 36-race Nextel Cup season intimidates her. Patrick, who is teaming with Rusty Wallace, Allan McNish and Jan Lammers this weekend at the Rolex 24 At Daytona sports car race at Daytona International Speedway, offered the assessment at the track. "The thought of NASCAR has always been there," Patrick said. "It definitely is something that I would never rule out. Like I've told Rusty and everyone else, I'm just not sure that I have the energy to do that many races. That's my biggest complaint. So if NASCAR cuts down their year - by half maybe? - I'd think about it. I think it would be a lot of fun racing it." NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Alltel renews sponsorship of Newman Alltel renews sponsorship of NewmanAlltel has signed an agreement to extend its sponsorship with Penske Racing South through 2008, company officials announced Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. "Our relationship with Penske Racing and Ryan Newman has provided invaluable exposure and creative marketing opportunities over the past six years to win new customers and strengthen relationships with existing ones," said Scott Ford, Alltel President and Chief Executive Officer. "We look forward to capitalizing on those opportunities even more this year and, with this extension, for many years to come."

"Alltel has become synonymous with myself and the #12 Dodge in NASCAR Cup racing," Newman said. "They've been with us since the very beginning of this venture. They have always been very supportive of me, Matt (Borland, crew chief), the entire Alltel team and Penske Racing. Alltel stands by their service with America's only network quality guarantee and I stand by their quality as a sponsor in this series. I'm proud to be associated with Alltel and to have them on the #12 Dodge."

"Penske Racing South is excited and proud to have the opportunity to continue our successful relationship with Alltel," Roger Penske said. "Alltel has been a terrific sponsor with great products, services and people. We look forward to providing the Alltel employees, their customers and their race fans with many more victories over the next several years." Penske Racing

IRL still too expensive for some IRL still too expensive for someNot everyone is convinced engine prices for the Indianapolis 500 are low enough. PDM Racing owner Paul Diatlovich said his engine bill for the 2003 race was $32,000, and he owned all three of his engines. This year's cost to lease a Honda is $250,000 for the full month; $115,000 after the first weekend of qualifying. Beck Motorsports owner Greg Beck fears his IRL days are over. "I am tapped out (financially)," he said. Indy Star
Unser and Rutherford fighting back from surgery Unser and Rutherford fighting back from surgeryAl Unser and Johnny Rutherford, who combined for seven victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, each underwent major surgery. Both now consider themselves ready to resume their duties with the Indy Racing League.

"It's hard getting old," said Unser, 66, a four-time Indy winner. "It hasn't been a very good few months, that's for sure."

Unser, who fought pancreatitis and liver cancer, lost 22 pounds during four hospital stays. He eventually had half of his liver removed.

Unser looks tired, and his hearing continues to be poor. But he's back to making public appearances on behalf of the IRL, where his official title is driver coach.

"He's done very well," Rutherford said of Unser, "but now he doesn't have enough liver even for liver and onions."

Rutherford, a three-time 500 winner, had prostate cancer surgery in November. He spent four days in a hospital and said his prognosis for a full recovery is good.  Rutherford, 67, is the IRL's director of special projects. Indy Star

Karthikeyan brings Tata to Williams Karthikeyan brings Tata to WilliamsThe WilliamsF1 Team today announced a major new sponsorship association with Tata, one of India’s most successful multi-disciplinary commercial conglomerates. The partnership will see the Tata brand displayed on the FW28’s nose, the drivers’ helmets and overalls, as well as on various locations across the team environment.

An industrial giant, the Tata Group comprises a network of 92 operating companies in seven business sectors, including information systems and communications, engineering, materials, services, energy, consumer products and chemicals, and is one of the driving forces behind the re-emergence of the Asian Tiger phenomenon.

Founded in the last quarter of the 19 th century, Tata is today one of India’s largest businesses with revenues equivalent to almost 2.6% of the nation’s gross domestic product. The Group employs in excess of 220,000 people and exports products and services to over 140 countries worldwide. With a product portfolio ranging from motor cars to tea and from internet services to luxury hotels, the Tata Group can justifiably claim to touch the lives of every one of India’s billion inhabitants on a daily basis.

Inherent in the fabric of the Tata Group’s guiding principles, expounded since its inception, are the core values of integrity, understanding, excellence, unity and responsibility. Born at the time of de-colonization, the Group aligned business opportunities with nation building and it is this same ethos that is ingrained in the Group’s decision-making process today
Montagny flies at Sebring Montagny flies at SebringUPDATE In Thursday afternoon's session, Montagny turned the fastest lap of all drivers since Sebring tested started in early December, getting his time down to 50.8 sec.  after a 51.0 sec lap in the morning.

“It was the first time I had been in this car, it was great and I managed to use three sets of tires, rather different from Formula One,” he said on his official website. “I covered 130 laps in total, which allowed me to get a good idea of the car and the team. My best lap time was, I think, 50.8; Junqueira clocked a 51.0 and Legge a 51.8. Bruno didn’t complete a lot of laps, but well, it is always better to be in front, I did not really expect that on my first day of the US school.

"The team is happy with my work and feed back, as well as with my pace. The guys are also rather satisfied with my adaptation skills.  In a nutshell I’m very excited, the team is great and the car is fun to drive.  I hope everything will go smoothly tomorrow for the 2nd and last day of testing in Sebring, where I hope to be on top once again.

“The cars are not that different from F1 contenders, actually more fun to drive and maybe even more demanding – not on the neck of course, but on the arms, legs and hands… well everything but the neck is working harder!  But it’s really great, I’m having a lot of fun, the team is happy with me and that’s the most important thing.  Can’t wait to go back to work Friday!”

Fastest Sebring Lap Times since November, 2005
1. Franck Montagny 50.8 (PKV car) 
2. Bruno Junqueira 50.9 seconds
2. Giorgio Pantano 50.9
3. Ryan Briscoe 51.0
5. Ryan Dalziel 51.5
5. Katherine Legge 51.5 (PKV car)
7. Charles Zwolsman 51.8
8. Alx Danielsson 52.1 
9 Jan Heylen 52.1
10. Richard Lyons 52.2
11. Katherine Legge 53.2  (Rocketsports Car)
12. Dan Clarke 53.5
13. Tonis Kasemets 54.4

01/26/06 Franck Montagny went 51.0 sec. on his first set of stickers this morning in the PKV car. His first time in a Champ Car and at Sebring. He was faster than Bruno Junqueira, which is really saying something. Although he is testing in a PKV car this week we still hear that he is Rocketsports' first choice if the sponsorship can be found.
A1 Grand Prix
Durban gets FIA green light Durban gets FIA green lightFIA Safety Delegate, Charlie Whiting, has given the Durban street circuit the green light after completing his safety inspection this morning. This was after the final safety barriers were put in place and all the roads were closed.

Due to the nature of temporary race circuits, an FIA license can only be issued immediately prior to the race when all the work is finished. Charlie gave the organizers a list of FIA requirements when he did his preliminary inspection last week and so returned to make sure these had all been implemented.

Maroney to JRT for '06 JICA assault Maroney to JRT for '06 JICA assaultMiles Maroney, who steps up to full size karts in 2006 as a former Cadet Snap-On Stars of Karting, IKF, WKA and California State Champion, will ride the Kart Racing Technologies/KRT “Tracker” chassis as he chases the Snap On Stars of Karting Junior ICA “JICA” National Title. Marc Zartarian designed and developed the KRT chassis with 6 time World Karting Champion Mike Wilson. Maroney will complete the package with proven race and championship winning HIGH REV Parilla power.

Maroney contested several events in the KRT at the end of 2005, including the WKA Grand Nationals in Santa Maria, California, where he earned a 3rd place podium finish in his maiden JICA run, the SKUSA Supernationals in Las Vegas where he was consistently in the top 5 in laps times and earned the highest finishing position for juniors moving up with a solid top10 and the California State Championships at California Speedway where he was again consistently at the top of the timing charts.

Maroney looks to the upcoming season with focused confidence. Watch for Miles and the KRT yellow and blue to be a serious championship factor in 2006.  Maroney will contest each Snap-On Stars of Karting event in both Western and Eastern Divisions in 2006, as well as the North American FIA-CIK Karting Championships and selected additional events. Miles will run with the greatest gear on the planet from Alpinestars and support from UPRacing and Maroney Motorsports.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Rossi to decide about F1 in 2006 - father
Frozen gravel traps in Spain
Rosberg sponsor joins Williams
Prodromou to leave McLaren - official
Aguri won't distract Honda - boss
DC involved in Newey switch
February test planned in Bahrain
Malaysian F1 team idea fades
Sparks may fly in new Honda lineup
Honda make the most of Rubens
Wurz and 'Direxiv'
Williams announces another sponsor Williams announces another sponsorIn conjunction with the launch of the team’s 2006 race car today, the WilliamsF1 Team unveiled an important new technical sponsor, the Japanese Mobilecast Corporation. Headquartered in Tokyo, Mobilecast are pioneers in creating an array of consumer and business focused products around Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Mobilecast have ambitious plans to develop their brand beyond Japan and plan to use their association with the WilliamsF1 Team as a platform for international product and brand development.

An integral part of the sponsorship will see the Williams brand applied to a range of Mobilecast products, which will become available to consumers during the course of the 2006 season, while Mobilecast’s branding will appear on the back of the FW28’s rear wing, the nose cone and across the team environment, from trucks to garage wallboards.

In addition to the marketing benefits that the F1 sponsorship program brings, it is envisaged that Williams and Mobilecast will co-operate on a number of technical projects using Mobilecast's wireless technology and sensing technology to harness improved communications for team activities. zzzz

Speaking prior to the launch of the WilliamsF1 FW28, Mobilecast President and CEO, Mr. Eiji Akaike said, "We have successfully used motorsport sponsorship in Japan to create awareness in our target marketplace for our company and products. It is therefore entirely logical for us to use the same process as we expand into international markets. We have been impressed with Williams’ professional approach and creative market treatments on how we can use a Formula One marketing association to benefit our company."

On the new acquisition, the WilliamsF1 Team’s Team Principal, Frank Williams, commented, "In an environment like Williams, which is driven by technology, I am rarely surprised by mainstream technology presentations. However, what has been demonstrated by Mobilecast is particularly impressive and cutting-edge. The opportunity to partner such an innovative and forward-thinking organization is an important one and I hope that we can prove to Mobilecast over the long-term that their investment in the WilliamsF1 Team will be both a sound and technically rewarding decision." WilliamsF1

Williams confirms Karthikeyan Williams confirms KarthikeyanOn the day of the launch of their 2006 season race car, the FW28, WilliamsF1 confirmed the appointment of Narain Karthikeyan as the team’s fourth driver. Karthikeyan, dubbed ‘The fastest Indian in the World,’ first tested for WilliamsF1 on Wednesday 7 December, 2005, in Jerez and immediately impressed the team with his skill and capability in the car.

While the team took the decision to hire the experience of Alex Wurz to carry out the important Friday testing role for the 2006 season, WilliamsF1 still regarded the young Indian’s abilities highly. Today’s confirmation of Narain’s appointment as a team test driver is validation of that confidence.

Narain has been signed by the team both to develop his own potential and to make a valuable contribution to the crucial test program, the bedrock of Williams’ 2006 championship as the company strengthens its new technical partnerships with engine suppliers, Cosworth and tire company, Bridgestone.

Sir Frank Williams, WilliamsF1’s Team Principal said, “Narain’s brief period in the car in December, during which he provided valuable feedback, made a very distinct impression on our engineers. Having a year’s GP racing and testing to his credit is also advantageous for us so I am pleased we can now formally confirm his appointment to the team.” For his part, Karthikeyan reflected, “It has taken some while to resolve what I would be doing for 2006, but having tested for Williams late last year, joining the team was the best option for me and I am delighted that we can finally confirm this today. I am looking forward to testing the FW28 and making a contribution to Williams’ competitiveness this season. WilliamsF1

Barnhart high on KISS Barnhart high on KISS
Q: It is certainly a pivotal year for your marketing team, isn't it?
Yes. If we keep doing what we're doing, I'm not sure we can make enough inroads. We must raise the value of participation in this series. We need aggressive thinking.
Q: What is Gene Simmons like?
BB:  He's clearly not what I expected. I spent the first two hours wondering if this is the guy in the (extravagant) makeup. He's one of the most intelligent individuals I've ever met. He speaks five languages, including Japanese, fluently, and he has a master's degree in theology. He's aggressive, and he's a marketer.

They have 2,300 licensed products from Kiss. He'll be the first to tell you that Kiss isn't one of the best 500 bands of all time, but as he says, it's one of the three best-marketed bands. His attitude is contagious, and I'm excited about what he and his group can do for us.

Q: His IRL anthem hasn't drawn the best of reviews.
BB:: It's not meant to be a top-40 single, but it will serve its purpose for us and improve the fan experience. It's foot stomping, and when you connect it with our marketing materials and put videos with it, it's cool.
But when you look at the "I am Indy!" campaign as a whole, I love the connection. We are Indy: the city, Indy-car racing, the 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We need to take as much of that on the road with us (as we can) Indy Star

Barnhart expects 18 to 20 cars Barnhart expects 18 to 20 cars
Q: You are confident there will be 33 starters for the Indianapolis 500. What does your car count look like for the season?
: I'm pretty comfortable we're going to have 18 to 20 (cars).

Q: Those cars could come from up to 11 teams. How do you expect an additional 13 to 15 cars for the 500 when there are only a couple of other small teams out there, no apparent interest from the Champ Car teams, and IRL teams like Panther and Cheever already struggling to stay in business?
Barnhart:  For almost every case that you say is a concern, I can name another that didn't have (extra cars at Indy last year) that now finds it easier because of the reduction in engine price by Honda. Indy Star

Gurney rebounds from crash to start third Gurney rebounds from crash to start thirdDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For Alex Gurney, it was a roller-coaster ride of a day at Daytona International Speedway– but it was the thrill at the end that counted, as Alex and the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley clicked off the fourth-quickest lap today in qualifying for Saturday’s Rolex 24 At Daytona. Gurney will start third after the second-place qualifier, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, was disqualified for technical infractions. Gurney will start the No. 99 machine in the Rolex 24, and will share the driver’s seat with team owner Bob Stallings, 1996 Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser and open-wheel standout Rocky Moran, Jr.

Alex’s qualifying run came barely an hour after he slid off the track in high-speed Turn 1 and slapped the tire wall, causing significant damage to the front end of the team’s Riley Technologies Daytona Prototype. The car was patched back together in time for qualifying after a breakneck effort by the GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing team, led by crew chief Terry Wilbert and lead mechanic Ryan Reid.

Gurney had nothing but praise for the team that gave him a car capable of competing at the front of the grid after just an hour of repairs.

“My practice crash was very disappointing – in fact, I felt a little silly doing that on the first day of practice for an endurance race,” Gurney said. “I was struggling with a gearbox issue and it caught me out. The entire team did an outstanding job to put the GAINSCO car back in one piece, which gave me the ability to come back and take a shot at a good starting position. I didn’t feel the car was perfect, but to get a second-row starting spot with it is gratifying.” GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing

TV News
Patrick to appear again on Cold Pizza Patrick to appear again on Cold PizzaDanica Patrick will be a guest on Cold Pizza Friday, January 27, at 10:15 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
TEST DRIVE - Corvette Z06
2:30 a.m.-3:00 a.m. ET (R) SPEED
24 Hours of Daytona - Part 1
12:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. ET (Live) SPEED
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET (R) Discovery HD Theater
24 Hours of Daytona - Part 2
8:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. ET (Live) SPEED
Portugal to Dakar
10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. ET OLN - Episode 2
11:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m. ET OLN - Episode 3

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

Playboy signs to sponsor 6 Grand-Am cars Playboy signs to sponsor 6 Grand-Am carsPlayboy Racing today unveiled a multi-partner, multi-car deal for the 2006-2008 Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup Series in a news conference. The six-car effort will include sponsorship of three Daytona Prototypes and three Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport (GS) machines.

Playboy has partnered with Uniden Electronics, The Palms Resort & Casino and Vonage to sponsor the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford Daytona Prototype to be co-driven in the Rolex 24 At Daytona by Memo Gidley, Michael McDowell and IndyCar driver Alex Barron with Finlay Motorsports and the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Pontiac Riley shared by Ryan Dalziel, Alex Figge, Jon Fogarty and David Empringham in the Rolex 24 for Pacific Coast Motorsports. The No. 53 Playboy Pontiac Riley will debut in Round 2 at Mexico City and will be driven by Tommy Constantine, who is the CEO of TCR, Playboy Racing’s agency of record, and a driver to be named.

In the Grand-Am Cup Series, Constantine and Mike Borkowski will share the No. 35 Playboy Nissan 350Z, with Blake Rosser and David Murry sharing the No. 33 Playboy Nissan 350Z, with both cars operating from the Unitech Racing stable. Rob Finlay and Michael McDowell will co-drive the No. 15 Playboy/Palms Ford Mustang GT for Finlay Motorsports.

“Obviously, this is a big deal for all of us,” Constantine said. “We’ve packaged deals to these sponsors where they’re not only a sponsor on a car but also participating in the hospitality and entertainment platforms that we’re providing and also different direct marketing opportunities.”

Grand-Am drivers eligible for Porsche Cup Grand-Am drivers eligible for Porsche CupIn a news conference at Daytona International Speedway today, Porsche Motorsport North America President Uwe Brettel joined Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson to announce that, for the first time, Porsche-powered Daytona Prototype drivers will be eligible for the prestigious Porsche Cup.

“Especially over the last 12 months, Porsche and Grand American have been working very well together in order to get our engine into more Daytona Prototypes,” Brettel said. “As you can see out there, we’re now in three different chassis, we’ll be in four chassis from Miami on. We give the recognition to Grand American, they do a great job. Looking at our Porsche Cup winners from 1970 to 2005, lots of the winners of the Porsche Cup have also won at Daytona. Obviously, there’s a great link.”

The year-end award, which honors the world’s best “privateer” Porsche driver, has been annually presented since 1970. Recent Rolex Series drivers to have earned the honor include current TRG owner Kevin Buckler (2002), No. 83 Farnbacher Loles/Orbit Racing Porsche GT3 driver Mike Fitzgerald (2000) and two-time Rolex Series GT champion Cort Wagner (1999), among a list of sports car racing legends such as Bob Wollek, John Fitzpatrick and Klaus Ludwig. Previously, for drivers to be eligible for the Porsche Cup, their car’s chassis and engine needed to be manufactured by Porsche.

“Porsche has been the mainstay of our GT category since 2000, our first season,” Edmondson said. “When we came out with the Daytona Prototypes, the first car that we announced was the Brumos Porsche-powered Prototype. Porsche has been involved with the Daytona Prototype since the beginning, but moving now to where we are included in the standings for Porsche owners and Porsche competitors all around the world is a major step for us, and for Porsche. We consider that a real stamp of approval for Grand American, and we’re grateful to Porsche for all of their support. We’re looking forward to a terrific season.” Grand-Am

Penalty sends defending champs to back of grid Penalty sends defending champs to back of gridDaytona Beach, Florida - Today's qualifying session for the 44th Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona International Speedway, proved again that Max "The Ax" Angelelli is consistently one of the fastest drivers in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. He qualified the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley on the front row, in the second position. Unfortunately, following a post-qualifying technical inspection, the 2005 Daytona Prototype championship winning team was assessed a technical infraction.

Official word from the sanctioning body, the Grand American Road Racing Association, stated that the overall car width was too wide. The jabroc (front end splitter extension undertray) was deemed 3/16 inches too wide. This was the first technical penalty assessed to the SunTrust Racing Team since it began competition in January 2004.

"It's a real shame because qualifying was so tough," said SunTrust Pontiac car owner/driver Wayne Taylor. "Max was P-8, P-9, P-10 for most of the session and right at the very end he really pushed hard to get that lap to put us at P-2 (second position). This would make it the third time for this race (the Rolex 24 At Daytona) for the team to start on the outside front row. With this issue with the jabroc being 3/16ths too wide, we have to move to the back of the grid and we will investigate the issue.  However, I understood that the car went through tech (technical inspection) prior to qualifying and it was fine. It's no good doing anything now other than planning how we're going to get back to the front."

"It was a real shame. We went through Tech (inspection) and we're just 3/16th too wide. But the rule got overlooked when we put the car together, so it's really our fault," said Bill Riley, owner of Riley Technologies, who spearheads the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team effort. "It's just a real shame because Max did such a great drive to get us up to second. Unfortunately, we're going to have to lean on him more in the race to get up to the front."

Due to the penalty, the defending champions of the 2005 Rolex 24 at Daytona will start the race from the 31st position on the grid.  They will have the option to requalify in tomorrow’s qualifying session, with the possibility of advancing their starting position as high as the 28th position.  Following a scheduled engine change tonight and tomorrow morning, the team will make the determination. Fortunately, after the green flag drops on Saturday, Angelelli, Taylor and co-drivers, Emmanuel Collard and Ryan Briscoe, will have 24 hours to bring the car up through the field to be in contention for a second consecutive victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Forsythe superteam starts testing drivers Forsythe superteam starts testing driversThe results of most racing tests usually focus on the men behind the wheel, but today’s testing at Sebring International Raceway may wind up telling more about the organization of the new four-car Forsythe Championship Racing team than it did about the drivers.

With the team awaiting the March 8 delivery date of its new 2006 Swift 016.a/Cosworth/Yokohama cars, the Forsythe crew rolled out a pair of 2005 Atlantic machines on a sunny Thursday at Sebring with new drivers Leo Maia and Andreas Wirth running 45 laps apiece. The team will test again on Friday with Richard Philippe and James Hinchcliffe behind the wheel as the FCR squad preps for the upcoming 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

“This is really good for us just to get out here and see what we have to work with and how the guys are going to work together,” said Atlantic Team Manager John Brunner. “We haven’t had an Atlantic car since 1999 and only a couple of our guys have even worked with us before. This is a big undertaking for us and we have hired a good number of new guys for this. It is good to get out here with, but the guys are really excited about getting their hands on the new cars.”  zzzz

Wirth ran in the morning and showed no ill effects from his season-ending injury suffered at Road America last season. The former Formula BMW USA champion joined Maia, the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series title-winner, in running an incident-free day and was happy to get down to business with his new team.

“It’s a little tough for me because since we are the only guys out here, you can’t really compare yourself against anyone else but this test is more about getting to know each other on the team,” Wirth said. “I feel great, I don’t have any pain at all from the accident and I can’t wait to get out here with the new cars. Today was good just to run some laps and get some seat time, and I think we have a lot of good people here that could make this a strong team.”

Maia, who ran a pair of Atlantic races a year ago, turned the majority of his laps in the afternoon and found that his time away from the cockpit didn’t hurt his abilities as much as he thought it would.

“The day went better than I expected,” Maia said. “It took a lot fewer laps than I expected to get up to speed. I looked at the times at the end of my first stint and they were where I thought I might be at the end of the day. I’m still not 100 percent yet but I am a lot farther along than I expected.”

The FCR team will take Saturday off after tomorrow’s run but will be back in action Sunday and Monday as they give their new charges a chance to shake down the team’s Champ Car, along with running the team’s Atlantic machines.

Father and son Bourdais team join forces Father and son Bourdais team join forcesMultimatic Motorsports proved itself to be a champion squad in 2005 in Grand Am Cup competition by winning the driver's and team's titles as well as the manufacturer's title for Ford – now another champion is set to step aboard its Ford Mustang FR500C for an attack on the opening round of the 2006 championship at Daytona.

Two-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais has swapped his Ford-powered Newman/Haas Lola for the Ford-powered Mustang muscle car to team up with his father, Patrick, for the Grand-Am Cup 200.

The French father-and-son combination have proven to be right on the pace in their Grand Am Cup debut - the Bourdais combination were fastest in today's second practice session.

This special Grand Am Cup team entry - a gift from Ford Racing for winning the Champ Car title - is not the first time either member of the Bourdais family has teamed up with Multimatic.

Sebastien's McDonald's-sponsored Newman/Haas Lola receives technical support from Multimatic which provides its latest DSSV damping technology for the team as well as four-post-rig tuning and engineering services.

Patrick – an eight-time competitor at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – has competed for Panoz Motor Sports in the past two years at the French classic. Multimatic also provides DSSV dampers for the Panoz assault, developed the Panoz Esperante chassis and provide on-track engineering services. zzzz

For 2006, Multimatic Motorsports will also run the entire Panoz Esperante GTLM factory race program in the ALMS from its Toronto headquarters.

For Sebastien, racing has been a case of “like father, like son.” “I guess the best way to describe it is that he was the one that really got me involved in racing,” Sebastien said.

“He was a racer himself. I pretty much grew up at the race track. That was the main reason I wanted to drive because when you’re a kid you see things that you want to try for yourself. That’s pretty much how everything started.”

Multimatic's David Empringham won the 2005 Grand Am Cup Championship aboard the Mustang FR500C. All four Multimatic drivers including Empringham, Scott Maxwell, Gunnar Jeannette and James Gue won races in 2005.

Ford Racing Technology embarked in 2004 to return the Mustang to the race track. It unveiled the new Mustang FR500C racer at the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer's Association Show in Las Vegas in November of that year. Ford Racing worked closely with Multimatic on the design, development, and build of the racecar to Grand-Am specification.

In its first year of competition, the Mustang FR500C won four races en route to the 2005 Championship. In addition to the Multimatic entry this weekend, a further 11 privately entered Mustang FR500C racecars – all built by Multimatic – will compete at Daytona this weekend.

“Sebastien has received many awards in recognition of his many championships over the years, but we wanted to offer him something truly unique that he'd be sure to remember,” said Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology.

“Having the chance to spend time with your father doing something you both love is something I think we all can appreciate. I can assure you that they'll have a very fast Mustang and a great team campaigning the car. All they have to do is go out and have fun – and I'm sure they will."

Sebastien Bourdais is fresh off capturing back-to-back (2004-2005) championships in the Champ Car World Series. In 2005, Bourdais, driving the No. 1 McDonald's Ford-Lola-Bridgestone, won six races and five poles, both series’ bests, and earned podium finishes in seven of 13 Champ Car races.

Along with his 24 Hours of Le Mans exploits, Patrick Bourdais also won the 1991 French Renault Clio Cup Championship.

Bourdais impresses with little time in car for Rolex 24 Bourdais impresses with little time in car for Rolex 24Arrangements to run Doran Racing's No. 78 DORAN JE4 Ford in this weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway were finalized at the last minute, but that didn't matter to 2004 and 2005 Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais.  Despite taking his first laps in the car Thursday morning, on Thursday afternoon Bourdais put it in fourth place on the grid for the most prestigious endurance sports car race in North America.

Bourdais originally qualified fifth, but he moved up one spot after the car originally scored in second failed the post-qualifying technical inspection.

Joining Bourdais behind the wheel of the bright red No. 78 will be Raul Boesel of San Paulo, Brazil and B.J. Zacharias of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Bourdais was born in Le Mans, France but now lives in Petersburg, Fla.

The car's sponsors are 1 Cigarette Boats/Lip-Ship Performance; SLS Audio and Ryan Companies.  The team owner is Kevin Doran and the crew chief is John Wright.  The entry is a sister car to the Feeds the Need/Doran Racing Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Ford No. 77. zzzz

Bourdais' fastest lap was his sixth one during the 15-minute qualifying session and will go down in the record books as a 1:44.691 (122.417 mph) for the 3.56-mile, 14-turn road course.

"We had a clean lap at the very last minute and put one together," said Bourdais. "The car has potential; it is a good package.  It's just a shame that our deal came together so late or I could have been testing here in it earlier this month, but the deal wasn't done then. 

"We made some small adjustments to our baseline set-up and went out, and I think it's pretty damn good," he added.  "The Ford engine is doing the job, and it's a good chassis and a good package.  The drivers are all consistent and close to one another in our times; now we'll just see what fortune brings us for the race."

Montagny and Legge have productive test at Sebring Montagny and Legge have productive test at SebringOld-school 1980s metal filled the air in the PKV Racing tent this morning at Sebring International Raceway but the day was all about the future of the fourth-year Champ Car squad.

And while Katherine Legge and Franck Montagny were barely out of the cradle when bands like Poison, Motley Crue and Krokus were big, the two drivers spent a sunny Thursday in Sebring looking to become the Next Big Thing on the Champ Car World Series charts.

Both ran more than 200 miles of testing on the Sebring short course today in hopes of being tabbed to one of the team’s seats for the upcoming Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford campaign. Montagny, who had been Renault’s Formula 1 test driver for each of the last two seasons, turned his first laps in a Champ Car today while Legge was running her third session after winning three Atlantic races a year ago. The track was quick today, owing to great weather and the fact that last week’s sports-car test left a good bit of rubber on the track, and the drivers ran strong times on an incident-free day.

“It was a good day for us,” said PKV General Manager Jim McGee. “With Katherine, the things we did were more race-related exercises. Things like pit stops and simulated qualifying runs will help the learning process. Franck did a nice job and was a real professional. He has a lot of experience and it showed. But all of the people we have tested this off-season have all been very qualified drivers.” zzzz

The PKV hopefuls were joined on track in the morning by Newman/Haas Racing’s Bruno Junqueira, who ran 50 miles in the morning before shutting down, a strategy planned by the team to save a valuable test day.

“It was good for us,” Junqueira said. “We weren’t really trying to put up fast times but I was happy with the fact that we still ran some quick times on old tires. I feel very good, my back doesn’t hurt at all and I am ready to put in a full day tomorrow.”

Legge was running her second test session with PKV Racing and logged a productive day as she worked on a number of race-related issues that she hasn’t had to deal with as she worked her way through the driver development system.

“It was an interesting day,” she said. “I’ve never had to do pit stops before and we did about 20 of them today. It’s a little bit different. This whole thing is a learning process and it’s exciting but it’s a little frustrating at the same time. You see guys like Bruno and I want to be as good as they are right now! I want to do all my learning at once but I know that it doesn’t work like that. It’s a learning process and I have to remember that every thing I do on days like this makes me a better driver.”

For Montagny, his first day in a Champ Car confirmed the reports that he got from former rivals such as Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson and showed him that the series is where he wants to be for 2006 and beyond.

“The car was quite good and while I know it’s a little older, it is still very physical and very fun to drive,” said the two-time Telefonica World Series champion. “There’s a lot happening in this car. The team was good and I think it was a very productive day.

“I’m here because I want to be here in 2006. I’m not thinking about F1 at all,” Montagny continued. “I did about everything I could do and they didn’t give me a chance. I talked with Justin and Sebastien and they told me that this was a very good championship and today showed me that there is a lot here and I want to be part of it.”

All three drivers will test again on Friday, with Legge expected to run a full race simulation complete with pit stops in what is slated to be a run of more than 130 laps. Champ Car

Wallace, Reid Join ESPN, ABC Sports Broadcast Team For IRL Wallace, Reid Join ESPN, ABC Sports Broadcast Team For IRLESPN and ABC Sports have added two new but familiar faces to the broadcast team which will cover the 2006 IRL IndyCar® Series season.

Former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace and veteran auto racing announcer Marty Reid will join returning analyst Scott Goodyear in the IndyCar Series' broadcast booth. Reid will anchor the series' broadcast, while Wallace will provide analysis with  Goodyear.

Brent Musburger will host of the first three live IRL races, including the 90th Indianapolis 500 in May, while Jack Arute, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jamie Little again will provide coverage from the pits.

"This new team gives us the ability to thoroughly cover the Indy Racing League in an entertaining and informative way," said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president of studio and remote production. "The addition of Rusty and Marty will give our coverage a fresh approach; one which I believe racing fans will appreciate and enjoy. And Scott's experience, expertise and insights, based on his success as a driver and an analyst, will be invaluable to our viewers."  zzzz

Wallace retired from NASCAR competition after the 2005 season with 55 career victories in 22 full-time seasons. The 1989 NASCAR champion made 12 starts at Indianapolis for Roger Penske, the winningest owner in Indy 500 history with 13 victories.

Wallace also will work as a NASCAR analyst for ESPN in 2006.

"My goal is to help NASCAR and the IndyCar Series grow, so I'm looking forward to calling the Indy 500 and the IndyCar Series races," Wallace said. "This will certainly diversify my knowledge of racing, so I consider it a great opportunity. And while I'll be new to it, it will be great."

Reid has covered virtually every form of motorsports on ESPN since 1982, including NASCAR, Formula One, NHRA Drag Racing, the Pikes Peak Hillclimb, the Le Mans 24 Hours and Sprint and Midget car racing. He served as a pit reporter on several IRL races and Indy 500 Time Trials beginning in 1991.

Reid moved to the booth as the voice of ESPN's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 1999-2000 and has been the host of ESPN2's coverage of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series since 2001.

Goodyear has been the primary analyst for ESPN and ABC Sports' coverage of the IndyCar Series since 2001. He earned three IndyCar Series victories during his career and is a two-time runner-up in the Indianapolis 500, in 1992 and 1997.

"We look forward to Marty and Rusty joining the IndyCar Series and bringing to life our telecast with Scott, Jack, Jerry and Jamie," said Brian Barnhart, president and COO of the Indy Racing League. "Having Brent Musburger join us for select races will bring an enhanced "big event" atmosphere to our telecasts. Rusty has been a fan of our sport and is very familiar with the IndyCar Series due to his long-time partnership with Roger Penske and Penske Racing. I think he will be a valuable asset in telling the story of the Indy Racing League, our drivers and teams to the fans watching on television."

Sebastien Bourdais joins Doran Racing for Rolex 24 Sebastien Bourdais joins Doran Racing for Rolex 24Two-time defending Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford Champion Sebastien Bourdais will compete at the Grand American  Road Racing Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona on Saturday.  Bourdais will race for Doran Racing and will team with former Champ Car pilot Raul Boesel and B.J. Zacharias.  It will be his second race of the weekend at Daytona as he was previously scheduled to compete in the Grand Am Cup event with his father Patrick Bourdais in a Ford Mustang GT.  The two-time Champ Car titlist will join fellow Champ Car competitors A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Tracy, Justin Wilson and Jimmy Vasser also competing in the Rolex 24.  Bourdais has competed in a wide variety of racing disciplines including winning at Texas Motor Speedway in IROC competition, the BAJA 1000, and the Race of Champions in his native France.  The 26-year-old Bourdais competed in the Rolex 24 last year teaming with his car owner Paul Newman and fellow Champ Car competitor Cristiano da Matta.
Track News
Mid-Ohio to open motorcycle school Mid-Ohio to open motorcycle schoolThe Mid-Ohio School, the high-performance driving firm owned and operated by TrueSports, Inc., will add motorcycle riding instruction to its diverse curriculum when it launches The Mid-Ohio Motorcycle Riding School in April.

The Mid-Ohio Motorcycle Riding School, based at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, will be a division of The Mid-Ohio School and offer the most comprehensive variety of motorcycle activities in the United States.  The curriculums will include Motorcycle Safety Foundation® courses for Beginning and Experienced riders, as well as Advanced Cornering and Performance Track Riding programs.

The addition of motorcycling instruction will make The Mid-Ohio School the first motorsports school of its kind in the country offering both riding and driving programs. 

“This is a move we’ve been planning for quite a while, and the growth in motorcycle sales and the rising demand for quality riding instruction made the timing right,” said TrueSports President Michelle Trueman Gajoch.  “The Mid-Ohio Motorcycle Riding School is one more element in a larger strategy for TrueSports, Inc. to make Mid-Ohio a comprehensive training facility appealing to both two- and four-wheeled audiences.”  zzzz

The Mid-Ohio Motorcycle Riding School will be operated in partnership with Motorcycle Riding School (based in Chicago, Ill.) and Sportbike Track Time (headquartered in Delta, Ohio), two of the country’s premier rider instruction firms. 

Enrollment will be available through The Mid-Ohio School’s toll-free number (1-877-793-8667) and web site (www.midohio.com), and programs will be affordably priced from $185 to $295. 

To facilitate The Mid-Ohio Motorcycle Riding School and other motorcycling programs and events, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has undergone a complete track and pit lane resurfacing since the end of the 2005 season.  Other capital improvements for 2006 will include safety upgrades, new track connectors and the completion of an amateur motocross venue. 

“Our goal is to be the premier racing and riding facility in the country,” said Trueman Gajoch.  “With the creation of The Mid-Ohio Motorcycle Riding School and the completion of these track improvements, we’re well on our way.” Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Atlantic drivers ready for Rolex 24 Atlantic drivers ready for Rolex 24Some of the world’s most talented road racers will be battling twice-‘round-the-clock at this weekend’s Grand-Am Rolex 24 endurance race at Daytona and a remarkable number of drivers in this year’s field helped develop their skills in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

A total of 27 past or present Atlantic series drivers will participate in the 24-hour sports car race at the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway with seven former Atlantic champions, including the last two multiple titleholders in the rich 32-year history of the series, highlighting the 70-car, talent-laden field.

One particular Rolex 24 team actually features four Atlantic championships and two runner-up series finishes as the 2004 Toyota Atlantic title-winning Pacific Coast Motorsports team features four former series drivers competing in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class this weekend. Canadian David Empringham, who captured back-to-back Atlantic championships in 1993 and ’94, will drive for PCM along with American Jon Fogarty, who wore the Atlantic crown in both 2002 and 2004. Scotland’s Ryan Dalziel, who finished as series runner up in both 2003 and ’04, will also be behind the wheel for the team along with American Alex Figge, who competed in Atlantics from 2002-04.  zzzz

In addition to Empringham and Fogarty, five more winners of the Atlantic crown will also be in action at Daytona. AJ Allmendinger, the record-setting 2003 series champ, has joined his Champ Car World Series teammate Justin Wilson on the Michael Shank Racing team that will also compete in the DP class. Patrick Carpentier of Canada, the 1996 Atlantic champ, is part of the Cheever Racing DP squad. American racers Buddy Rice, winner of the 2000 series crown running for Finlay Motorsports this weekend, and Alex Barron, 1997 Atlantic titleholder racing with the Playboy/Uniden Racing DP team, will test the limits of the Daytona circuit starting on Saturday and continuing through to Sunday morning. And Johnny O’Connell, the 1987 Atlantic West Coast Champ, will drive in the GT class for the TRG team.

Series notables Bryan Herta of the USA and Canadian Michael Valiante have partnered with Rice on the Finlay Motorsports DP team, while Memo Gidley of the U.S. joins Barron in the Playboy/Uniden lineup.

The Gainsco/Blackhawk Racing DP squad features three well-known American Atlantic graduates in former Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser along with Rocky Moran Jr. and Alex Gurney. Series veterans Ken Wilden and 2003 Champ Car champ Paul Tracy are also teamed together on the Graydon Elliot Fusion Racing/MSR DP car.

One of the newest members of the Atlantic family is one of only four Atlantic drivers that will be competing in the GT class at the Daytona 24. American Graham Rahal, the 17-year-old son of racing legend and Atlantic series grad Bobby Rahal, will be driving for the new Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Champ Car Atlantic team and he’ll drive for the talented Tafel Racing team this weekend. Joining Rahal and O’Connell in GT are Bryan Sellers of the U.S., running for the SAMAX team, and Peter MacLeod who will compete for the Sigalsport BMW GT team.

Two Atlantics grads that earned international acclaim after their respective performances in last May’s Indy 500 are also in action at Daytona. Race winner and IRL champ Dan Wheldon will race a DP entry for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, while Danica Patrick joins the Howard-Boss Motorsports DP effort. Luis Diaz of Mexico will drive for the strong CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing DP team.

A pair of American drivers who competed the last two seasons in the Atlantic series return to Daytona to drive in the popular road race. Chris Dyson will drive another Howard-Boss DP entry, while Tom Nastasi will help pilot the Blackforest Motorsports DP car. Atlantic vet Tony Ave will drive for CyberSpeed Racing while Paul Dallenbach will help guide the Robinson Racing GT effort.

Practice and qualifying for the Rolex 24 will take place on Thursday and Friday with the race scheduled to get underway Saturday at 12 noon ET. SPEED will provide television coverage live from Daytona. Champ Car Atlantic

Raikkonen gets first taste of new McLaren Raikkonen gets first taste of new McLarenThe cold and foggy weather conditions continued, with track temperatures not reaching above zero until after 09:00, and as a result following an installation lap shortly after 09:00 the Finn spent just under two hours in the garage before returning to the track at 10:52. Following another short run of 4 laps, Kimi began more longer stints. A minor oil leak in the gearbox was detected early afternoon, which was repaired by the test team and Kimi returned to the track to continue his programme.

Pedro de la Rosa returned to testing duties at the Circuit de Catalunya, following his shakedown with MP4-21 on Monday of this week. Pedro was driving the interim MP4-20, and his work continued to focus on Michelin tire evaluation. He covered 47 laps and 220km during the day, setting a time of 1m18.256. During the course of the afternoon, the engine in Pedro's car was changed, as it had reached the end of its lifecycle.

Kimi Raikkonen "It is really good to be back testing and it is great to see what the team have done with the new car. Because it was my first day in the MP4-21, most of the time was spent with me getting used to it and then starting to look at different set-ups. My first impression of the car is positive, but I will need more track time to find out how great the potential really is. Also we could not run all morning because of the cold weather, but even so we put in a good number of laps and drove over 300km."

Kimi Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa will continue at the Circuit de Catalunya tomorrow, the final day of the test in Barcelona for the team. McLaren Mercedes

Direxiv signs with Alex Wurz Direxiv signs with Alex WurzDirexiv Holdings Group, the Japanese luxury goods and services company, has signed an agreement with Alex Wurz.

Alongside their luxury business, Direxiv started a motorsport programme in 2005 with involvement in the GP2 series and Super GT in Japan. As part of the expanded 2006 programme, Alex Wurz, WilliamsF1 test and reserve driver, will become the figurehead for the Direxiv Driver Programme, which supports young drivers in reaching the top levels of motorsport. The Direxiv logo will appear on Wurz’s helmet, overalls and cap.

Misato Haga, President of Direxiv Holdings Group:
“Our Driver Program includes young drivers in GP2, Formula 3, Formula Nippon and Super GT, all of whom have aspirations to the highest levels of motorsport. Alex’s extensive experience, knowledge and all-round competence on and off track make him the perfect mentor for the programme. We also welcome Alex as an ambassador for our luxury products and services. The international exposure that this association will bring to Direxiv is fundamental to the growth and awareness of our brand.”

Alex Wurz:
“I believe it has never been harder for a young driver to progress through the ranks to reach Formula 1 and that it is fundamental for them to have perfected a full range of skills, not just speed and consistency, but also technical knowledge, physical fitness and media awareness. I hope my experience can help the Direxiv drivers get a step closer to their goal. I have known the people at Direxiv for sometime now and have admired their drive and determination in growing the business. They are a young company with big ambitions and I hope I can help them fulfill their goals.”

Aguri get FIA's green light Aguri get FIA's green light(GMMf1NET)  F1 will have an eleventh team in 2006, the governing body has now confirmed officially.

A brief statement said that the FIA 'accepted the late entry' of Japanese Honda-backed team 'Super Aguri', after the Leafield based outfit lodged a mandatory $48 million bond.

The squad led by former Arrows, Jordan and Ligier grand prix driver Aguri Suzuki, 45, recently got the unusual unanimous support of its ten 2006 rivals after earlier missing an FIA deadline.

For the first time since Arrows went bust in 2002, then, formula one will have a grid of 22.  Coincidentally, Super Aguri is currently leasing Arrows' old factory in England and will start the season with the A23 car.

In a statement, Suzuki admitted that time was a factor in the remaining weeks before the season opens in Bahrain.

''Our team members are doing their best to make sure that we are on the grid,'' he stated, ''and I am confident that we will make it.''

Industry News
US government won't bail out Ford and GM US government won't bail out Ford and GMPresident Bush is offering no encouragement to any U.S. automobile companies who might be thinking about turning to the federal government for a financial bailout.  "I think it's very important for the market to function," he said in an interview in Thursday editions of The Wall Street Journal.

He said companies need to manufacture "a product that's relevant" and that his administration has discussed new fuel technologies with the nation's top two automakers.

"As these automobile manufacturers compete for market share and use technology to try to get consumers to buy their product, they also will be helping America become less dependent on foreign sources of oil," Bush said.  zzzz

Asked whether he had talked with the chairmen of Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., the president said: "Not about their balance sheets. And I haven't been asked by any automobile manufacturer about a bailout."

Together, the two companies plan to cut about 60,000 jobs over the next few years and there is concern on Wall Street that one or both could wind up seeking bankruptcy protection.

That, in turn, has raised the prospect of one or both seeking government assistance as the former Chrysler Corp. did in 1979 when it won $1.5 billion in loan guarantees.

"I have been very reluctant," Bush said, cutting off his sentence. "I'm mindful of the past where at one point in time, a predecessor of mine was faced with that same dilemma. I would hope I wouldn't be asked to make that decision."

Bush suggested his sympathies are more with the workers than the corporations, saying his administration would focus on retraining laid-off employees.

"This is going to be a very troubling time for workers and their families," Bush said, adding that companies had an obligation to assist employees who are laid off. Detroit News

BMW team happy with Pole BMW team happy with Pole"Overall, the test in Barcelona was very positive for our team. The reliability of the BMW Sauber F1.06 is already on a good level, which enabled us to complete over 1500 kilometers with the new car during the four days. We could collect a lot of data and learned more about the set-up of the F1.06. In addition, I am very satisfied with the debut of Polish driver Robert Kubica in our team. Over two days, he didn't make the smallest error, and he was able to improve constantly. On top of that he is also able to give valuable feedback to the engineers." Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis
F1 Minnows starting to gel as a team F1 Minnows starting to gel as a teamA trouble-free day with no reliability issues meant that Tonio Liuzzi's return to the cockpit saw him rack  up  an  impressive  93  laps  of  the  track  that  hosts  the  Spanish  Grand  Prix  on  14th  May.  Hopefully, it will be a bit warmer for the race, as it was cold enough to freeze the castanets off a flamenco dancer today!

"We now have a lot of data to study back in Faenza," said Chief Engineer Laurent Mekies. "Today, Tonio carried out a wheel rim evaluation to help us decide which ones we will use for the coming season. We also ran an aero validation of some parts that we will use on the new car. In addition, we looked at control systems, in terms of establishing what the driver requires in terms of traction control, diff mapping and engine braking. Tonio found a reasonable balance with the car, apart from suffering a bit too much oversteer. However, the most positive lesson from the last two days, is that we are really beginning to work together as a team." Scuderia Toro Rosso

U.S. Coast Guard to Sponsor RCR’s No. 21 Chevy in 2006 U.S. Coast Guard to Sponsor RCR’s No. 21 Chevy in 2006CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Richard Childress Racing (RCR) announced today the United States Coast Guard will be the primary sponsor of its No. 21 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS driven by Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton for the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series season. 

Harvick will compete in 30 races while Burton will compete in the remaining five events, including the Feb. 18 Hershey’s Kissables 300 at Daytona International Speedway.  In 2005, Harvick grabbed four wins, two poles, 14 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes in 21 starts.  Burton earned two top-five and three top-10 finishes in only five appearances.  Combined, these two NASCAR superstars have 376 NASCAR Busch Series starts, 37 wins, 23 poles, 129 top-five and 198 top-10 finishes. RCR

Penske to enter two LMP2 Porsche RS Spyders Penske to enter two LMP2 Porsche RS SpydersAfter three days of work at the American Le Mans Series Winter test at Sebring International Raceway, the Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder is on its way home to Mooresville, North Carolina today, but the hard work in preparation for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will continue. After recovering from an engine problem during Monday’s session, the Porsche RS Spyder, with Lucas Luhr at the helm, turned the fastest lap of the week during the first 90-minute test window on Tuesday morning. That time stood up as the fastest LMP2 class time of the Winter Test, and was bested overall only by the Audi LMP1 racer. Although additional mechanical problems prevented the team from turning additional fast laps, Penske Porsche general manager John Erickson put the test in perspective. .If we can complete next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring second overall and first in class, we will be very pleased. We would have liked to run more laps this week, but we are confident that challenges that came up during this test are items that we can correct so they don’t happen during the race,. said Erickson. Although all six drivers . Sascha Maassen, Lucas Luhr, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Patrick Long, and Emmanuel Collard were present for the test, the team only had one car ready for the sessions, so not everyone was able to drive. Penske Racing will enter two Porsche RS Spyders for the entire 2006 American Le Mans Series starting with Sebring on March 18. Porsche
Best Buy/Jeff Green sponsorship announcement Best Buy/Jeff Green sponsorship announcementThe 23rd Annual NASCAR Nextel Media Tour concluded on Thursday with a breakfast hosted by Haas CNC Racing, who presented their new sponsor and driver for the 2006 season.  Jeff Green will pilot the no. 66 Chevrolet with sponsorship from Best Buy, who will serve as primary sponsor for the car for a minimum of 12 races during the upcoming season. Full Story
Massa still at the top in Spain Massa still at the top in Spain

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa stayed at the top of the time sheets for a second consecutive day during testing at the Catalunya Circuit in Spain.

Kimi Raikkonen drove McLaren’s new MP4-21 for the first time and finished twelfth out of a total of fourteen drivers.

1 . F. Massa - Ferrari F2004M V8 - 1:15.970 (+ 0.000 ) - 73 laps
2 . R. Barrichello - Honda RA106 - 1:16.361 (+ 0.391 ) - 66 laps
3 . G. Fisichella - Renault R26 - 1:16.365 (+ 0.395 ) - 68 laps
4 . N. Heidfeld - BMW Sauber F1.06 - 1:16.549 (+ 0.579 ) - 89 laps
5 . J. Button - Honda RA106 - 1:16.739 (+ 0.769 ) - 81 laps
6 . F. Alonso - Renault R26 - 1:16.754 (+ 0.784 ) - 109 laps
7 . D. Coulthard - Red Bull Ferrari RB2 - 1:16.885 (+ 0.915 ) - 43 laps
8 . M. Schumacher - Ferrari 248 F1 - 1:16.907 (+ 0.937 ) - 78 laps
9 . J. Trulli - Toyota TF106 - 1:17.250 (+ 1.280 ) - 85 laps
10 . R. Schumacher - Toyota TF106 V8 - 1:17.506 (+ 1.536 ) - 71 laps
11 . V. Liuzzi - Scuderia Toro Rosso RB1 V10 - 1:17.590 (+ 1.620 ) - 93 laps
12 . K. Raikkonen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-21 - 1:17.741 (+ 1.771 ) - 65 laps
13 . R. Kubica - BMW Sauber C24B - 1:17.992 (+ 2.022 ) - 93 laps
14 . P. de la Rosa - McLaren Mercedes MP4-20B V10 - 1:18.258 (+ 2.288 ) - 47 laps.

* Times courtesy of Circuit de Catalunya

McLaren supporting Giedo van der Garde McLaren supporting Giedo van der GardeThursday: The 20-year-old Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde will join reigning Champions ASM for the 2006 F3 Euroseries season. Giedo, who has raced for the past two seasons in the series, has also become the latest recruit to the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Program on an on-going basis.

"I am really excited to have joined both ASM and the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Program for 2006," said Giedo. "To be racing with the current Champions in the F3 Euroseries and a team of the caliber of ASM is fantastic and I am looking forward to a competitive season. In addition, to be a member of the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Program is a great opportunity for me at this stage of my career and I aim to make the most of it that I can."

"I’m delighted that Giedo, who has strong experience in the F3 Euroseries, has joined our team," added Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal, ASM. "I’m proud to have the confidence from Giedo, his partners, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz. Our target will be to retain both the Driver and Constructor titles and for sure Giedo will be an excellent member of ASM." zzzz
"We are pleased to welcome Giedo to the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Program," commented Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes. "Giedo is a promising young driver, and we are looking forward to working with him to maximize this potential. We feel that by placing Giedo with the ASM team for 2006, he has the best opportunity to develop and demonstrate his talents."

”Mercedes-Benz has a long history of supporting young talents in motor racing,” said Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “We are happy to support Guido in the 2006 Formula 3 Euroseries together with the experienced team ASM which will run our Mercedes-Benz M271 engine. He has already gathered some experience in the Formula 3 Euro Series and should be in good shape for results in 2006.”

The McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Program was set up in 1998, in order to provide a structured environment for nurturing and developing future driver talent. As well as providing technical backing, the program provides professional advice to up and coming racing drivers and has seen a number of its protégés reach the pinnacle of their motorsport career – Formula 1. These include current Formula One driver Nick Heidfeld and Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta. Two drivers are currently benefiting from the support of the program, with Giedo joining 2006 F3 Euroseries Champion Lewis Hamilton on the roster. Press Release McLaren Mercedes

Industry News
GM still bleeding profusely GM still bleeding profuselyGeneral Motors Corp. lost $4.8 billion, or $8.45 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2005, dragged down by losses in its North American division. The automaker also said Thursday that it lost $8.6 billion, or $15.13 per share, in all of 2005.

GM’s fourth-quarter loss compare to a loss of $99 million, or 18 cents per share, in the October-December period of 2004.

Revenue was $51.2 billion for the quarter, down slightly from $51.4 billion a year ago. Full-year revenue was $192.8 billion, down slightly from $193.5 billion in 2004.

Excluding special items, GM said it lost $1.2 billion, or $2.09 per share in the latest quarter, compare to adjusted earnings of $726 million, or $1.28 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2004. Excluding items for the entire year, the company reported a loss of $3.4 billion, or $5.99 per share, compared with an adjusted 2004 profit of $3.6 billion, or $6.37 per share.

Wall Street analysts were expecting a loss of 16 cents per share on revenue of $41.7 billion in the fourth quarter, according to a survey by Thomson Financial. Analysts forecast a loss of $4.19 per share on revenues of $158 billion for the year.

GM got a boost Wednesday when billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian said in a federal filing that he reacquired 12 million shares of GM stock he sold in December. Kerkorian spent more than $250 million to boost his stake, which now stands at nearly 10 percent.

GM’s results come three days after Ford Motor Co. announced a profit of $2 billion for 2005. But Ford also struggled in its home market, losing $1.6 billion in North America for the year. Detroit Free Press 

[Editor's Note:  Give away cars at-cost and you will eventually pay the piper.  We wonder how much raise GM management gave themselves, these the same people who were able to lose $4.8 billion in one quarter.  They should fire all of them.  Complete incompetence.]

San Jose City Council again gives race the nod San Jose City Council again gives race the nodUPDATE #2 This San Jose Mercury News article has more information about the controversy over the $4 million given to the race. 01/25/06 The San Jose City Council heard lots of justification Tuesday from city administrators, race officials, business owners and civic boosters for the need to ``invest'' in the San Jose Grand Prix with $4 million worth of subsidies over the next two years.

But having already voted to approve the deal two weeks ago, all that was left for the council to do Tuesday was accept the city administrators' report justifying the decision in an 8-2 vote. Mayor Ron Gonzales is in Washington, D.C., attending a mayors conference.

Two critics of the subsidy decision two weeks ago, Chuck Reed and David Cortese, voted against accepting the report.

Councilman Ken Yeager, who also voted against the subsidy two weeks ago, agreed to accept the memo after being assured that contributions would not be diverted toward the charity that the Grand Prix benefits. San Jose Mercury News

01/24/06 Tonight a majority of San Jose City Council members accepted the requested review of questions related to the San Jose Grand Prix. Below is summary of some of the questions raised two weeks ago when the council tentatively approved the Grand Prix.
  1. A status report about the ongoing work efforts on downtown clean up
  2. Recommendations on issues raised related to local business preferences.
  3. A mechanism to audit the City's investment in the Grand Prix.
  4. An explanation of the rate of return.
  5. How the project will be amortized.
  6. A spreadsheet analysis of how the general fund will be replenished.
  7. A comparison of how other cities are financing the race (ie. sponsorships, cost recovery, cost absorption)

The meeting went smoother than we had expected, with most of the spectators agreeing with the continuation of the race.

Williams inks energy drink partner Williams inks energy drink partnerHelsinki and Oxford, January 26, 2006. A day prior to the WilliamsF1 Team’s launch, Battery, the international energy drink, has announced a long term association with the team.

Battery has chosen to team up with Williams in a campaign to reach new global markets. The relationship is a perfect match as both companies share a commitment to success, delivered through effort and hard work, while always remaining true to their core values. The partnership will afford Battery significant branding opportunities, not least via the global marketing properties of Formula One, but also through considerable logo visibility, including branding on the drivers’ visors, drinks bottles and within the general team environment.

Owned and manufactured by Finnish Sinebrychoff, a daughter company of Carlsberg Breweries A/S, the Battery Energy Drink hit the shelves in 1997, and retains market leadership in many of its territories. Today, Battery is sold in 25 countries, from Finland to Sierra Leone and from Chile to Singapore. zzzz

On the new partnership, Mikael Aro, CEO of Finnish Sinebrychoff, concluded, “The WilliamsF1 Team is recognized as one of the most enduring and successful organizations in global sport and we are extremely proud to have entered into this partnership agreement. The deal with Williams will take Battery into an ambitious new arena through which we hope to expand the Battery Energy Drink brand across the global marketplace. We feel energized by Williams and hope Battery will provide the team with the stimulation required for the hard work necessary to win races and world championships.”

Frank Williams, Team Principal of the WilliamsF1 Team, commented, “I am delighted that Battery has taken the decision to sponsor the WilliamsF1 Team. Their core values of hard work and dedication are as prevalent in Formula One as anywhere and we will Endeavour to reward their confidence in us with results on the track.” WilliamsF1

SPEED founder gets award SPEED founder gets awardDaytona Beach, Fla. – Roger Werner, founder of Speedvision, now known as the SPEED Channel, was presented with the Road Racing Drivers Club’s annual Phil Hill Award.

Werner was honored for “outstanding service to road racing,” by RRDC President Bobby Rahal, co-winner of the 1981 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Phil Hill, in 1961, became the first American to win the Formula 1 World Championship. Among his international wins is the 1964 Daytona 2000Km race, precursor to the Rolex 24.

 “Without Roger’s vision in 1994 to go out on a long, shaky limb to form what used to be the Speedvision network, it is possible this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona would not be televised to more than 70 million homes in the U.S. and Canada, and to Latin America through Fox International,” Rahal said.

“Roger created the ultimate TV network for those with deep passions for speed. Whether your interest is four wheels or two; straight lines, ovals or road courses; on pavement, dirt or water; professional or amateur; how-to shows, rare car auctions, and from Formula 1 and NASCAR Nextel Cup to the SCCA’s Runoffs, the SPEED Channel has it.

“Roger’s admitted vision was to ‘create the TV network equivalent of 200 monthly magazines devoted to cars, boats, motorcycles and airplanes.’ Because of that, many aspiring young drivers have been able to not only show their talent behind the wheel, but also show their personality to the TV cameras and thus to corporations which can some day be their sponsor. For that, we can thank Roger Werner,” Rahal concluded. zzzz

“It is a very special honor to receive the Phil Hill Award from fellow members of the RRDC,” said Werner. “I’m not a ‘joiner’ by nature, but I’m proud to be associated with the RRDC and guys like Bobby Rahal.

“Success has many fathers, and I’m very proud of all the team members at Speedvision and Fox that have made the SPEED Channel the world leader in motorsports television.”

Working for McKinsey & Co., in 1980, Werner helped create the startup strategy and operational plans for client ESPN. One year later, he became ESPN’s Chief Operating Officer, helping to turn it into the world’s largest and most profitable cable television network.

Werner served as Executive VP of the ABC Television Network Group in 1988, before returning to ABC’s ESPN property as its CEO, through 1990. In 1991, Joining with cable pioneer Bill Daniels, Werner helped build Prime Ticket (now Fox Sports West) into America’s largest regional cable network. In 1994, he began work on what would become Speedvision.

The network’s first full day on the air was Jan. 1,1996; it aired the 24 Hours of Le Mans live that year, and Indy Racing League qualifying. Werner and his partners, in 2001, sold their now-profitable company to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which changed the name to SPEED Channel, as a division of Fox Sports.

In December, Werner was named a Special Advisor for Narrowstep Inc., a London-based TV-on-internet technology company with clients throughout the U. S. and Europe.

A1 Grand Prix
City of Durban all set for the A1GP Circus City of Durban all set for the A1GP CircusThe all-new street circuit in Durban, South Africa has been built especially for the seventh round of the inaugural A1 Grand Prix, The World Cup of Motorsport. The track is centered around Durban's elegant ocean frontage and looks set to provide plenty of spills and thrills. The track length is 3.283 km with its longest straight being just over 700 m long. Running in a clockwise direction, the circuit offers variety of slow and fast corners, a couple of chicanes and hairpins, in short, everything needed to produce a really exciting race.

The organizers have done a fantastic job in putting up such a spectacular facility in just 3 short months. Hotels are going through the roof with room rates. Rooms which would ordinarily sell at 300 Rand per night during the normal season are sold out 8,000 Rand per night. Such is the build up and hype for this Durban street race.

Much like at the world famous Monaco street circuit, the amount of space available around Durban's temporary circuit is limited by the downtown landscape, but nevertheless the organizers have fitted in temporary grandstand seating for 22,000 spectators, much of which we hope will be filled with cheering and chanting Indian supporters, as Durban houses the largest concentration of Indian population outside of India. zzzz

The race too looks all set to be a real cracker and is bound to be one of the most exciting races of the championship. Not just in terms of wheel to wheel racing, but in terms of crashes and romances with the dreaded concrete walls which line every inch of either side of the track. The track is very narrow and does not provide for many, or in fact any overtaking maneuvers. It is also very greasy with absolutely minimal track grip. Apart from this, the track also has some exciting humps which are sure to send these powerful 550 bhp cars airborne at certain points of the track.

The longest straight goes downhill and opens up into a very fast and very long left hander, which will differentiate the men from the boys. This is what a street race is all about, challenging, demanding and full of variables. These challenges are exactly what made Macau and Monaco so famous. The fundamentals for the driver are going to be to keep the car on the track and not hit the wall. Build the pace gradually and find a good rhythm. Understand the grip levels at all braking points and corners and never ever fall for the temptation of trying to attack the corner harder. Fitness and mental strength are going to be key factors for a driver to perform well in Durban, apart from a very high level of concentration throughout the race weekend. The braking points are extremely greasy and so are the corners. The corners have some good angles to them and are very challenging. Hopefully, after the successful completion of this race, Durban will continue to host many a famous street race.

From A1 Team India’s point of view, we are optimistic and at the same time quite nervous. We believe we have it in us as a unit to perform in difficult situations and are confident of a spirited performance. The team is working hard on getting both cars ready for the race weekend as we do not want to take any chances.

A1 Team India’s driver Armaan is in a cheerful and very confident mood after many long walks around the circuit despite having no prior experience on a street circuit. In terms of having a good car set up, we can only wait and watch how we get on in the first and second practice sessions before we make any real changes to the car. The variables on the track are so high that one would have to compromise on the balance for one part of the track so as to gain on another part of the track and this is where the mental calmness and alertness of the driver will come into play. A1GP Team India

Rossi to join group test next week Rossi to join group test next week(GMMf1NET) Valentino Rossi is scheduled to test at Valencia next week alongside Michael Schumacher and other teams.

The MotoGP champion, for his first outing in direct comparison with existing grand prix drivers, will run for three full days in a V8-powered 'F2004' racer.

It is the latest patent indication that speculation of his switch to the four-wheeled pinnacle of motor sport has real basis.

Schumacher is also penned-in for the session in southern Spain, as development of the newly-launched 248 enters a second week.

26-year-old Rossi's last formula one outing was a private test late in 2005 at Mugello (Italy).

''The next logical step for Valentino is to let him drive with others around him,'' team principal Jean Todt said.

Ganassi: Toyota will make winners out of losers Ganassi: Toyota will make winners out of losersQ Does the new Manufacturer's Lineup [now with Toyota] surprise you and would you consider joining them [Toyota]?

Chip Ganassi "I've been in Phoenix all week, so I'm not exactly sure what they announced or who they announced. Whoever they go with, I think you saw in the truck series they made winners out of teams that were otherwise not. I don't really know what their plans are for teams or drivers, but I can assure you they'll do it right no matter who they're with. We were with them for a lot of years and had some success with them on the Indy car side. Right now we don't have any plans to switch off from Dodge. We'll see what happens down the road, but right now that's not in our plans." Clear!Blue PR

Track News
Testing at Las Vegas Testing at Las VegasLas Vegas Motor Speedway has received 41 entries for NASCAR Preseason Thunder Las Vegas. This test session, which many NASCAR drivers are calling the most important of the season, will take place Jan. 30, 31 and Feb. 1. Each team will be allowed to test for two of the three days. The public is invited to watch the test sessions free of charge each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets for the March 10-12 NASCAR Weekend are available by calling 1-800-644-4444 or logging on to www.lvms.com.

Here is a tentative list of test dates and drivers:
Jan. 30-31: #07-Clint Bowyer, #31-Jeff Burton, #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr., #7-Robby Gordon, #66-Jeff Green, #29-Kevin Harvick, #88-Dale Jarrett, #32-Travis Kvapil, #6-Mark Martin, #26-Jamie McMurray, #38-Elliott Sadler, #00-Hermie Sadler, #21-Ken Schrader, #49-Brent Sherman, #41-Reed Sorenson, #40-David Stremme, #1-Martin Truex Jr., #55-Michael Waltrip and #4-Scott Wimmer.
Jan. 31-Feb. 1: #16-Greg Biffle, #22-Dave Blaney, #2-Kurt Busch, #5-Kyle Busch, #99-Carl Edwards, #24-Jeff Gordon, #48-Jimmie Johnson, #9-Kasey Kahne, #17-Matt Kenseth, #18-Bobby Labonte, #96-Terry Labonte, #14-Sterling Marlin, #19-Jeremy Mayfield, #42-Casey Mears, #01-Joe Nemechek, #12-Ryan Newman, #45-Kyle Petty, #10-Scott Riggs and #25-Brian Vickers.
Jan. 30 and Feb. 1: #11-Denny Hamlin, #20-Tony Stewart and #18-J.J. Yeley.

There will be a major announcement regarding construction projects at LVMS on Monday, January 30th at LVMS (Assuming it is the additional banking rumor). LVMS

Track News
Lowe's Speedway repaving begins Lowe's Speedway repaving beginsA $3 million resurfacing project underway at Lowe's Motor Speedway will include work in the turns of the 1.5-mile oval that officials say will give the 46-year-old track an "attitude adjustment." Work started Jan. 16 and will be completed prior to the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge on Saturday night, May 20, and the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday evening, May 28. We are going to remold the track to take some of the meanness out of it," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway. "This is one of the meanest tracks on the NEXTEL Cup circuit and by that I mean it can bite you when you least expect it. "Meanness in a race track comes from a number of factors including: how rough the surface is; the difficulty of the entry and exit points in the turns; the ability of the drivers to look ahead; and spots where the racing groove narrows," Wheeler continued. "Although we've had a few exceptions, rookies don't normally do well here because the track is quite difficult and there's even a few seasoned veterans who have never really gotten the hang of it." Wheeler said track officials spent several months consulting with engineers and motorsports industry insiders before deciding on a resurfacing plan they believe will promote side-by-side racing and passing without completely reinventing the track's personality. LMS PR
NASCAR Washington track plan dead; looking elsewhere NASCAR Washington track plan dead; looking elsewhereA Florida-based racetrack developer has given up trying to get the state Legislature to help pay for a Kitsap County NASCAR track this session, a company official said Tuesday. Despite extensive lobbying and a well-publicized financial proposal, International Speedway Corp. (ISC) couldn't garner enough support this year to move forward with its efforts, said company vice president Grant Lynch. Even early supporters of the idea are balking. The company wasn't able to find a bill sponsor, and the chairwoman of a key committee branded the project as ridiculous. "We've talked to folks down in Olympia, but I don't think there's a lot of energy out there right now to consider the bill," said Lynch, who is leading the effort to build a track in the Northwest. A 2004 proposal to build a track in Snohomish County fell through after cost estimates skyrocketed. ISC was back within a year with plans to build the track in Kitsap County. Lynch now says lukewarm reception in Olympia has driven the company into talks with other Western states about other track locations. He wouldn't give specifics but said he still hopes to build a track in the Seattle area. Seattle Times
Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Nine new cars at Barcelona
Honda condemn FIA's 2008 rules
Faulty wind tunnel is now fixed - Webber
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Wheldon Starts Title Defense at Phoenix Test Wheldon Starts Title Defense at Phoenix TestA new era dawned in Indy Racing League competition this week at Phoenix International Raceway as IRL pre-season testing began with Honda supplying the entire IndyCar Series field.

Sixteen cars, the majority of the expected starting grid when the series opens March 26 at Homestead Miami Speedway in Florida, ran more than 3,000 miles at Phoenix without incident. Defending series and Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon was quickest over the two days with a best lap average of 178.483 mph, almost two miles per hour quicker than the pole qualifying speed of 176.612 mph set by Bryan Herta
in 2005.

All 16 drivers posted times within one second of Wheldon's benchmark, with third-generation racer Marco Andretti the quickest rookie at 173.614 mph, 14th overall on the speed chart.

The IndyCars will have one additional multi-day test prior to the start of the 2006 season, on both the road course and oval at Homestead March 2-5.

Dan Wheldon (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) quickest at the Phoenix test: "It was a pretty strong debut, don't you think? Really, the guys on the Ganassi team are awesome. To make a chassis switch in the off-season and still come out strong like this, with both cars, is a fantastic start to the year.  We're still getting to know one another, and there's a lot to learn, but it has been an encouraging start."

Marco Andretti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) fastest rookie driver: "I think things went about as expected for my first time on a short oval. It took a lot of adjusting. It's going to take some time for Eddie (Jones, team engineer) to learn what I need in a race car. We were able to work a lot with setups that we felt would be comfortable for this week and now we just need to keep working for what will be ideal for me in the car."

Combined Test Session Results:
Ps. Driver Team Chassis Best Time Average Speed
1. Dan Wheldon Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 20.170 seconds 178.483 mph
2. Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 20.247 177.802
3. Helio Castroneves Team Penske Honda Dallara 20.270 177.596
4. Sam Hornish Jr. Team Penske Honda Dallara 20.311 177.239
5. Bryan Herta Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 20.429 176.216
6. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 20.531 175.342
7. Tomas Scheckter Vision Racing Honda Dallara 20.538 175.277
8. Ed Carpenter Vision Racing Honda Dallara 20.562 175.073
9. Scott Sharp Delphi Fernandez Racing Honda Panoz 20.599 174.760
10. Kosuke Matsuura Super Aguri Fernandez Honda Dallara 20.646 174.360
11. Dario Franchitti Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 20.659 174.252
12. Buddy Rice Rahal Letterman Racing Honda Panoz 20.713 173.801
13. Danica Patrick Rahal Letterman Racing Honda Panoz 20.717 173.765
14. Marco Andretti-R Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 20.735 173.614
15. Felipe Giaffone A.J. Foyt Racing Honda Dallara 20.883 172.389
16. Paul Dana-R Rahal Letterman Racing Honda Dallara 21.103 170.587

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