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Formula BMW
Hearn announces 2nd driver Hearn announces 2nd driverRichie Hearn has announced he has added karting star and 2005 Red Bull Driver Search Finalist Ryan Phinny to his Formula BMW USA program for 2006. The 15-year-old joins Jules Duc, announced previously, behind the wheel of a Hearn Motorsports-prepared BMW-powered single-seater for Hearn Motorsports’ first foray in Formula BMW USA. For the last two seasons, Hearn Motorsports has run in the Star Mazda series.

“I’m excited to lock-up Ryan for the year in the Formula BMW USA Series,” said Hearn. “He has been tremendously successful in karts. We can win races and the championship next year. I’m really excited to have such a strong team with Ryan and Jules. I think the series is doing a great job. They have strong fields and the best young talent in the country. BMW has taken a very professional approach and our timing couldn’t be any better to get involved.”

Kovalainen's first taste of the R26 Kovalainen's first taste of the R26The Renault F1 Team's opening day of testing in Valencia proved positive today, in spite of completing little running in the morning owing to an electrical problem on Fernando Alonso's car. The problem proved minor, which was quickly identified by the team and after which Fernando completed a tire development program with Michelin during the afternoon.

On the other side of the garage, Heikki Kovalainen was given his first taste of the new R26/RS26 package. The Finn settled in quickly and adapted quickly to the new machine.

Fernando Alonso
"We had a good day today, in spite of the electrical problem this morning. It was not really serious, and in one sense, it allowed us to wait for the track conditions to improve because the circuit was damp this morning. We spent the afternoon working on tire development with Michelin, and we were pleased with how the car performed on the tires."

Heikki Kovalainen
"I could feel a really good level of potential in the chassis and engine. The R26 is an evolution of last year's car, which was already a good chassis. I would say that the R26 is probably more comfortable and more stable, as well as being just as nice to drive. From my point of view, every day I feel better integrated in the team, and I am ready to work hard on a busy testing program between now and Bahrain."

Christian Silk, Chief Test Engineer
"This is a demanding circuit for the drivers, and so it's good to see Heikki adapted quickly to the new package. Fernando ran a thorough tire test that allowed us to work on the chassis set-up, and we looked very competitive on the timesheets, which is always nice. The drivers feel good in the car, and tomorrow we hope to complete more miles, if track conditions allow. The aim will be to complete a race distance with the two cars." Press release Renault F1 Team

Raikkonen sidelined by a bad cold Raikkonen sidelined by a bad coldJuan Pablo Montoya arrived in Valencia this morning to take over driving duties of the MP4-21 from Kimi Raikkonen, who was unable to test today due to a bad cold.

With improved weather conditions at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Team McLaren Mercedes was able to complete a more meaningful day of testing on the dry track. First thing in the morning, the track was damp and as a result the team only left the garage for installation laps prior to running beginning in earnest shortly after 11am.

In the MP4-21 Juan Pablo completed over 270km of the Spanish track on his third day of running in the team's 2006 car, since its shakedown on Monday, 23rd January. The Colombian set the third fastest time of the day, with a 1m11.978.

Juan Pablo's work focused on achieving long runs with the MP4-21, because of the number of team's on track this was subject to two red flag interruptions caused by other drivers, however he was able to complete two stints of 17 laps. In addition he worked through some set-up programmes.

Test driver Gary Paffett continued in the interim MP4-20 working on Michelin tire development. Gary covered 450km over 115 laps, ending the day in eleventh position on the timesheets, with a 1m12.937.

Juan Pablo will be joined in Valencia tomorrow by Pedro de la Rosa who will take over testing the MP4-20 from Gary Paffett. Press release McLaren Mercedes

TV News
USA TV reminders for Friday USA TV reminders for Friday
NBS 24/7
9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET SPEED
Lowe's Motor Speedway
9:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m. ET SPEED
'Black Moon Rising'
12:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m. ET SPEED
Joe Gibbs
1:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. ET HDNet
2:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m. ET SPEED
Martinsville Speedway
7:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. ET SPEED
'Viva Knievel'
8:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. ET SPEED
One Hour Special
10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. ET (R) SPEED
Goodwood Revival 2004
11:30 p.m.-12:00 a.m. (R) SPEED

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

Alonso fastest, but Rossi impresses Alonso fastest, but Rossi impressesUPDATE We have added photos, below,  from Rossi's test today from Valencia. 02/01/06 Fernando Alonso was the fastest of the fifteen F1 drivers on track today at Valencia. Tuesday rain lingered and the track was still wet in the morning, but the conditions improved gradually and the surface was completely dry in the afternoon.

Michael Schumacher set the second quickest time behind Alonso, sharing his time between the new Ferrari 248 F1 and a V8-powered F2004. MotoGP Champion Valentino Rossi did much better today than yesterday where he never completed a single lap, crashing in the wet conditions. Today at the wheel of a V10-powered Ferrari F2004 the Italian star completed a total of 49 laps, despite a spin at corner 4 near the end of the session. This is the first time Rossi has had the chance to test on the same track and in the same conditions as other F1 drivers. To be 8th fastest out of 15 is an impressive achievement given he has zero race car experience.

1. F. Alonso - Renault R26 - 1'11"229 (+0"000) - 47 laps
2. M. Schumacher - Ferrari F2004/248 F1 - 1'11"821 (+0"592) - 73 laps
3. J.P. Montoya - McLaren Mercedes MP4/21 - 1'11"978 (+0"749) - 68 laps
4. J. Button - Honda RA106 - 1'11"998 (+0"769) - 85 laps
5. R. Barrichello - Honda RA106 -1'12"063 (+0"834) - 115 laps
6. J. Villeneuve - BMW Sauber F1.06 - 1'12"628 (+1"399) - 72 laps
7. R. Zonta - Toyota TF106 - 1'12"668 (+1"439) - 78 laps
8. V. Rossi - Ferrari F2004 V10 - 1'12"863 (+1"634) - 49 laps
9. D. Coulthard - Red Bull Ferrari RB2 - 1'12"891 (+1"662) - 37 laps
10. A. Wurz - Williams Cosworth FW27C - 1'12"930 (+1"701) - 83 laps
11. G. Paffett - McLaren Mercedes MP4/20 V10 - 1'12"937 (+1"708) - 115 laps
12. M. Webber - Williams Cosworth FW28 - 1'13"021 (+1"792) - 72 laps
13. J. Trulli - Toyota TF106 - 1'13"075 (+1"846) - 108 laps
14. R. Kubica - BMW Sauber C24B - 1'13"472 (+2"243) - 64 laps
15. H. Kovalainen - Renault R26 - 1'13"679 (+2"450) - 26 laps

Edwards fastest in three days at Vegas Edwards fastest in three days at VegasCUMULATIVE SPEEDS Jan 30-Feb 1, 2006
rank car# driver manu time(sec) speed(mph) when
1 99a Carl Edwards Ford 31.620 170.778 Day 3 AM
2 9a Kasey Kahne Dodge 31.695 170.374 Day 3 AM
3 66 Jeff Green Chevy 31.752 170.068 Day 1 AM
4 2b Kurt Busch Dodge 31.822 169.694 Day 3 PM
5 38a Elliott Sadler Ford 31.872 169.428 Day 1 AM
6 6b Mark Martin Ford 31.883 169.369 Day 1 AM
7 26b Jamie McMurray Ford 31.893 169.316 Day 2 AM
8 12a Ryan Newman Dodge 31.934 169.099 Day 3 AM
9 31x Jeff Burton Chevy 31.937 169.083 Day 1 AM
10 17a Matt Kenseth Ford 31.942 169.056 Day 3 AM
11 07a Clint Bowyer Chevy 31.964 168.940 Day 3 PM
12 42b Casey Mears Dodge 31.972 168.898 Day 3 AM
13 16b Greg Biffle Ford 32.018 168.655 Day 3 AM
14 01b Joe Nemechek Chevy 32.023 168.629 Day 3 AM
15 29a Kevin Harvick Chevy 32.030 168.592 Day 1 AM
16 10a Scott Riggs Dodge 32.054 168.466 Day 3 AM
17 8a Dale Earnhardt, Jr Chevy 32.066 168.403 Day 2 PM
18 7a Robby Gordon Chevy 32.100 168.224 Day 1 AM
19 48b Jimmie Johnson Chevy 32.116 168.140 Day 3 AM
20 88a Dale Jarrett Ford 32.118 168.130 Day 1 AM zzzz 
21 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge 32.169 167.863 Day 2 AM
22 14a Sterling Marlin Chevy 32.171 167.853 Day 3 AM
23 25b Brian Vickers Chevy 32.180 167.806 Day 3 AM
24 11 Denny Hamlin Chevy 32.187 167.770 Day 3 AM
25 18 J.J. Yeley Chevy 32.198 167.712 Day 3 AM
26 21a Ken Schrader Ford 32.198 167.712 Day 3 AM
27 5b Kyle Busch Chevy 32.210 167.650 Day 3 AM
28 78a Kenny Wallace Chevy 32.256 167.411 Day 2 AM
29 20a Tony Stewart Chevy 32.278 167.297 Day 3 AM
30 4a Scott Wimmer Chevy 32.288 167.245 Day 1 PM
31 24a Jeff Gordon Chevy 32.289 167.240 Day 2 PM
32 51b Mike Garvey Chevy 32.307 167.146 Day 3 AM
33 04 Bobby Hamilton, Jr Dodge 32.331 167.022 Day 2 AM
34 22a Dave Blaney Dodge 32.336 166.997 Day 3 AM
35 45b Kyle Petty Dodge 32.370 166.821 Day 3 AM
36 1a Martin Truex, Jr Chevy 32.375 166.795 Day 1 AM
37 61 Kevin Lepage Ford 32.395 166.692 Day 2 PM
38 96a Terry Labonte Chevy 32.427 166.528 Day 3 AM
39 40x David Stremme Dodge 32.431 166.507 Day 1 AM
40 03 Todd Bodine Chevy 32.479 166.261 Day 3 AM
41 19b Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 32.515 166.077 Day 3 AM
42 32a Travis Kvapil Chevy 32.550 165.899 Day 3 PM
43 43a Bobby Labonte Dodge 32.590 165.695 Day 2 AM
44 92a Chad Chaffin Chevy 32.677 165.254 Day 1 AM
45 49b Brent Sherman Dodge 32.725 165.011 Day 1 PM
46 50b Larry Foyt Dodge 32.755 164.860 Day 3 PM
47 00 Hermie Sadler Ford 32.768 164.795 Day 2 PM
48 55a Michael Waltrip Dodge 32.791 164.679 Day 2 PM
Newman smacks Vegas wall, Edwards fastest Newman smacks Vegas wall, Edwards fastestFive minutes into the final Las Vegas test session #12-Ryan Newman slapped the wall coming out of turn two flattening the right side of his #12 Dodge Intrepid. Newman drove the car back to the garage. Newman's team brought a pair of Intrepids while teammate Kurt Busch is driving a Charger and an Intrepid testing the downforce of each body style.

DAY 3 - Feb 1, 2006 AM Speeds
rank car# driver manu time (sec) speed (mph)
1 99a Carl Edwards Ford 31.620 170.778
2 9a Kasey Kahne Dodge 31.695 170.374
3 2b Kurt Busch Dodge 31.886 169.353
4 12a Ryan Newman Dodge 31.934 169.099
5 17a Matt Kenseth Ford 31.942 169.056
6 42b Casey Mears Dodge 31.972 168.898
7 16b Greg Biffle Ford 32.018 168.655
8 01b Joe Nemechek Chevy 32.023 168.629
9 17b Matt Kenseth Ford 32.028 168.602
10 16a Greg Biffle Ford 32.036 168.560
11 10a Scott Riggs Dodge 32.054 168.466
12 12b Ryan Newman Dodge 32.088 168.287
13 48b Jimmie Johnson Chevy 32.116 168.140
14 99b Carl Edwards Ford 32.123 168.104
15 07 Clint Bowyer Chevy 32.135 168.041
16 01a Joe Nemechek Chevy 32.165 167.884
17 14a Sterling Marlin Chevy 32.171 167.853
18 25b Brian Vickers Chevy 32.180 167.806
19 11 Denny Hamlin Chevy 32.187 167.770
20 21a Ken Schrader Ford 32.198 167.712  zzzz
21 18 J.J. Yeley Chevy 32.198 167.712
22 5b Kyle Busch Chevy 32.210 167.650
23 18a J.J. Yeley Chevy 32.235 167.520
24 20a Tony Stewart Chevy 32.278 167.297
25 20b Tony Stewart Chevy 32.290 167.234
26 48a Jimmie Johnson Chevy 32.297 167.198
27 51b Mike Garvey Chevy 32.307 167.146
28 24b Jeff Gordon Chevy 32.317 167.095
29 07a Clint Bowyer Chevy 32.334 167.007
30 22a Dave Blaney Dodge 32.336 166.997
31 42a Casey Mears Dodge 32.343 166.960
32 45b Kyle Petty Dodge 32.370 166.821
33 96a Terry Labonte Chevy 32.427 166.528
34 10b Scott Riggs Dodge 32.447 166.425
35 24a Jeff Gordon Chevy 32.478 166.266
36 03 Todd Bodine Chevy 32.479 166.261
37 22b Dave Blaney Dodge 32.490 166.205
38 25a Brian Vickers Chevy 32.512 166.093
39 19b Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 32.515 166.077
40 14b Sterling Marlin Chevy 32.539 165.955
41 5a Kyle Busch Chevy 32.578 165.756
42 19a Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 32.650 165.391
43 43a Bobby Labonte Dodge 32.754 164.865
44 45a Kyle Petty Dodge 32.761 164.830
45 21b Ken Schrader Ford 32.932 163.974
46 32a Travis Kvapil Chevy 32.971 163.780
47 50b Larry Foyt Dodge 33.473 161.324
48 32b Travis Kvapil Chevy 33.829 159.626

Track News
Long Beach race re-signs sponsor for 7th year Long Beach race re-signs sponsor for 7th yearGood Neighbor Pharmacy has signed on for its seventh year as a major sponsor of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Designated as the 32nd annual race's "Official Pharmacy," Good Neighbor Pharmacy will offer its customers special pre-race discounts on Sunday-only or weekend race tickets.  The company will also be a vital part of the Lifestyle Expo, teaming with Salonpas to stage an instant medical diagnostic and health consultation station.  The Expo is free to race ticket holders.

More than 2,000 Good Neighbor locations nationwide include a knowledgeable pharmacist, as well as a complete stock of the Good Neighbor brand of vitamins, home medical equipment and over-the-counter remedies.  For further information, log on to mygnp.com

Dick Brooks dies Dick Brooks diesFormer NASCAR driver and broadcaster Dick Brooks, 63, died earlier today, apparently of a heart attack. Brooks was the 1969 NASCAR Rookie of the Year. He won one race, the 1973 Talladega 500, and earned 93 top-10 finishes in 358 starts. He retired from racing following the 1985 season and went on to a successful career as a Motor Racing Network broadcaster.
A conversation with Paul Dana A conversation with Paul DanaPaul Dana gets a second chance to make a grand opening in 2006. Dana, who will drive the No. 17 Team Ethanol Panoz/Honda/Firestone for Rahal Letterman Racing this season, saw his promising rookie season end with an injury sustained in a crash at Indianapolis. He recently talked about his return to the cockpit and his "big break" with one of the IndyCar Series' top teams.

Q. You got back behind the wheel of an IndyCar Series machine at Phoenix. Did the test go well for you?
PAUL DANA: It did. I hadn't been in an Indy Car since my crash at Indy last May. As a team we took it slow and built up the laps. To log more than 300 miles of testing in my first test back in the car is a significant milestone.

Q. You've joined a new team for 2006, Rahal Letterman Racing. Is your head still spinning from the announcement made prior to the test?
PAUL DANA: It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks helping finalize everything with Team Ethanol's deal with Rahal Letterman Racing. I've dreamed about an opportunity like this all of my life, and now that the preseason testing is underway, there is a lot of work to be done.

Q. Where does signing with Rahal rank in your racing moments as far as the big break or whatever? 
PAUL DANA: Easily it's the top. To be able to learn from a guy like Bobby (Rahal) who has done it all in the car and done it all as an owner outside of the car. Everywhere you turn there, you're surrounded by people who are absolutely some of the best in the business. You're not worried about whether the bolts are tight and whether the setup is right. I just have to drive. You spend your whole career trying to create that environment where all you have to do is push the pedals and then focus on the process, and the results tend to take care of themselves.

Q. What kind of pressure does driving for a top-level team bring? 
PAUL DANA: I don't think it's any different. You don't do this at this level unless you expect to win. That's always your standard. You just want to be surrounded by people who have the same attitude and the ability to do it. The standard doesn't change at all. The tools with which to accomplish it have changed. That's what we all want. IRL 

Grand-Am moves to single ECU Grand-Am moves to single ECU[Editor's Note:  If and when Champ Car lets manufacturers back in their series, they must do this.] DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The world’s leading manufacturer of automotive parts and electrical components and systems has formed an official partnership with the Grand American Road Racing Association, as officials from Bosch and Grand American announced today that Bosch will become the sole supplier of Engine Control Units (ECUs) for the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve and the Grand-Am Cup Series in 2007.

“Bosch is one of the most recognized names in the world of motorsports and we are proud to be associated with such a well-respected brand,” said Grand American President Roger Edmondson. “Maintaining a level playing field has been and always will be one of the hallmarks of Grand American Road Racing, and the decision to go to a single ECU supplier beginning in 2007 will undoubtedly assist us in achieving that goal. We received proposals from several other companies and we are grateful to all of them for their support of our teams and the series over the years, but Bosch was a natural fit.”

In addition to providing series-standard ECUs, Bosch will provide specified engine wiring harnesses for all cars and technical services for the teams and the series at each Grand American event in 2007. Bosch will also provide a contingency sponsorship program for teams in both series, as well as other marketing and sponsorship activities.

“We can’t envision a better venue than Grand American to showcase our systems,” said Wolfgang Hustedt, Bosch Manager of Racing Programs. “Grand American is a relatively young and rapidly growing racing series, exactly what we at Bosch have been searching for to properly showcase our products that include fuel management and data acquisition, as well as fuel pumps, starters, alternators and, of course, Bosch spark plugs. Our participation in the series will not only be that of a systems supplier, but also that of a series sponsor. We are looking forward to many years of exciting and rewarding participation in Grand American and all of its classes.”

ECUs are basically onboard computers that read several sensors in race engines, controlling the engine’s performance in a number of areas. Among the parameters controlled by an ECU are revs, ignition, fuel/air mixture and several others. Grand-Am

Williams drivers hit by mechanical woes Williams drivers hit by mechanical woesWilliams drivers Mark Webber and Alex Wurz completed another day of testing at the Valencia circuit today. Both Webber and Wurz experienced a few technical problems but were still able to cover a significant amount of laps.

Sam Michael, Technical Director
“This morning's running was wet and although Mark managed to put more mileage on the FW28 we had to stop mid afternoon with a known gearbox problem. Alex was undertaking some tire testing for Bridgestone in the FW27C and also stopped mid afternoon with a fuel pump failure. Tomorrow, Nico will drive the FW28 and Alex will continue his program in the FW27C." WilliamsF1

Filippi signs two year deal with FMS International Filippi signs two year deal with FMS InternationalItalian Luca Filippi has been unveiled as a driver for the new FMS International GP2 series team. The newest team to the GP2 series, FMS International, has announced its first driver of 2006, Italian Luca Filippi. The 2005 F3000 Italia champion has signed a two-year deal with the squad. Team owner Giancarlo Fisichella announced himself to be delighted with his signing.

"It has been a long negotiation because we wanted Luca to stay with our GP2 Team for two years and we had to agree on all points of a long term contract" said Giancarlo.

Filippi had no doubts over his intentions for 2006: "I have always said that I wanted to race with FMS International, because the greatest achievements of my career have come whilst driving for Fisichella Motor Sport in F.3000. They've always kept me up-dated: from the arrival of the two F1 engineers to the latest news on sponsors, all of them very important elements for me to consider when joining a team for two consecutive years".
"Luca has shown that he deserves to be our Team leader " said Paolo Coloni, joint team principal of FMS International alongside Enrico Zanarini who said: "Filippi has been a pleasant surprise for us in F.3000. Now we will give him a GP2 car to keep on winning".
FMS International will announce their second driver, livery and sponsors on February 14, 2006.

Wheldon, others finalists for Driver of the Year Wheldon, others finalists for Driver of the YearDefending IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon is one of six finalists for the SPEED Channel Driver of the Year Award.  Wheldon, who became the first driver in more than a decade to win the Indianapolis 500 and series championship, won a record six IndyCar Series events in 2005, including four of the first five races of the season. He recorded 12 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes in 17 starts and led 752 laps.  In addition to Wheldon, other drivers nominated include: Greg Anderson (NHRA) Sebastien Bourdais (Champ Car), Steve Kinser (World of Outlaws), Tony Schumacher (NHRA) and Tony Stewart (NASCAR).  The winner will be announced exclusively on Speed Channel on Feb 15. IRL
NASCAR and IRL drivers get invite to Super Bowl NASCAR and IRL drivers get invite to Super BowlWhile drivers from the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the IRL IndyCar® Series won’t be visiting Michigan to compete at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway oval until June and July respectively, several drivers with Detroit connections will visit Michigan this weekend to take in Super Bowl XL Sunday at Ford Field.

Roger Penske – who owned MIS from 1972 until merging with current owner International Speedway Corporation in 1999 and also has 13 Indianapolis 500 victories as an owner to his credit – is Chairman of the Super Bowl XL Host Committee, which means several of his drivers will be in town for the big game.

The list includes 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, who drives the # 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske. Penske will also host IndyCar Series Marlboro Team Penske drivers during the big game, which include two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, along with Defiance, Ohio native and two-time IndyCar Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr.

Busch, who will drive his first race for Penske Racing later this month, is quite the sports fan and will no doubt look forward to enjoying his Christmas present from his car owner when he visits Detroit this weekend.  zzzz

"To receive the invitation to attend the Super Bowl from Roger Penske on Christmas day just set me on my heels,” said Busch, who won at MIS in June of 2003. “I can't wait to go and see him on Saturday when he finally has all of the preparations completed and he can relax a little and enjoy what he has put together, which is Super Bowl Sunday. I can't wait to sit down, put my arm on his shoulder and say, 'Great job!'"

Fellow Dodge driver Kasey Kahne, a life-long Seattle Seahawks fan who hails from Enumclaw, Washington, can’t attend the Super Bowl but can’t wait to watch the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl first appearance. Kahne, who drives the # 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge for Evernham Motorsports in the NEXTEL Cup Series, cheered on his team while attending the NFC Championship Game in Seattle on January 22. After growing up going to Seahawks games with his Dad, who was a season ticket holder, Kahne is ready for Sunday.

“I grew up going to Seahawks games,” said Kahne. “They have the entire state of Washington behind them, and it’s pretty awesome to see what the fans are like out there now. I think they’re as good as any team in the NFL, and that’s why they’re in the Super Bowl. Not many people outside of Washington knew anything about them or cared. They know about them now.”

"It's going to be a close game,” added Kahne. “If the Seahawks score 30 points that'll definitely be enough. If they don't score over 20 they'll have a tough time winning, but if they score 25-30 they've got it.”

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Hornish Jr., will also be attending Sunday’s game as a guest of team owner Penske, but he might have a disagreement with Kahne on who will he’ll be rooting for on Sunday.

“I’m excited to go to the Super Bowl and I’m sure it will be a great game,” said Hornish. “Of course, I’ll be rooting for the Steelers as Ben Roethlisberger is from Ohio, about 40 miles away from my hometown of Defiance. A lot of people in my area are pretty excited about it, so Sunday should be a lot of fun. Plus, I’m honored to be a guest of Roger’s (Penske) at Super Bowl XL. Anything that I’ve read and heard about the Super Bowl coming to Detroit, people have had nothing but great things to say about his efforts. Just like anything else he’s done in his career. He’s given 110 percent.”

There are several other personalities who count racing and football among their interests who are expected to be in Detroit this weekend. The list includes legendary Dallas Cowboy quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, who co-own Hall of Fame Racing, a brand new team starting in 2006. Drivers Terry Labonte and Tony Raines will share the driver duties this season in the No. 96 Texas Instruments/DLP Chevrolet.

Of course, current Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs owns three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series cars under the Joe Gibbs Racing banner, including 2005 NEXTEL Cup Series champion Tony Stewart along with rookies Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley. Gibbs has four wins as an owner at MIS. Gibbs, who has three Super Bowl rings to his credit, has been a NASCAR team owner since the 1992 season and amassed 47 career Cup Series wins as an owner. MIS

Track News
Hunt moves from IMS to Chicagoland Hunt moves from IMS to ChicagolandMarty Hunt has joined Chicagoland Speedway in Jolliet, IL., as a senior director of operations and facilities after ten years at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hunt played a pivotal role in developing and carrying out policies and procedures for the Ecology Program and all track activites and special events at IMS.
Racing News
Swiss again reject racing. Swiss again reject racing.The Swiss federal government has rejected plans to allow motor racing competitions in the country. The Upper House of the Swiss Parliament (known as the Bundesrat) has decided against canceling the ban on racing which has existed since 1955. The argument put forward was that such an event would increase pollution and impair the quality of life in Switzerland. The politicians also argued that a Formula 1 race would offer little economic benefit. Grandprix.com
MF1 Racing lands another sponsor MF1 Racing lands another sponsorMF1 Racing, the Formula 1 team owned and operated by the Midland Group, is delighted to announce a 2006 partnership with Cesare Attolini, one of Italy's leading traditional tailors.  Founded in the 1930s by Vincenzo Attolini in Naples, Attolini's bespoke attire has become synonymous with sartorial elegance. The family firm, now run by a third generation of master craftsmen, proudly creates garments that "are an introduction to the wearer himself".  "Formula 1 is as much about style as technology," said MF1 managing director Colin Kolles. "Attolini embodies elegance and tradition, two qualities which have been consistent in the World Championship since its inception, and we are pleased to have formed this association."
Steve Park back in Busch for 2006 Steve Park back in Busch for 2006"I'm thrilled to announce that I will be back in the #31 Whelen Engineering Monte Carlo for 10 select races during the 2006 Busch Grand National season"  Steve Park
Industry News
Goodyear shares fall Goodyear shares fallShares of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. slid Tuesday, following the release of fourth-quarter projections indicating earnings will fall short of expectations.

Stock of Goodyear fell $2.85, or 15 percent, to $15.91 in late-morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was heavy.

Tuesday's weakest level of $15.70 was well above the 52-week low of $11.24 set April 18. There was a 52-week high of $19.31 on Monday.

In a press release issued late Monday, the Akron, Ohio-based company said it expects fourth-quarter operating income to be about $238 million, excluding the effects of last year's Gulf Coast hurricanes. That's about the same level as last year's fourth quarter.

Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy, in a research note, said he expected fourth-quarter operating income growth of 33 percent.

"This downside in earnings is disappointing after almost two years of significant earnings improvement," Murphy wrote, suggesting recent price increases passed on to consumers didn't reap needed benefits. Forbes.com

Industry News
More red ink for Delphi More red ink for DelphiDelphi Corp., the nation's largest auto-parts maker, lost $1.1 billion in December from a one-time charge and warned of additional charges.

For the month ended Dec. 31, the Troy-based supplier lost $1.1 billion, substantially worse than a loss of $127 million reported for the period between Oct. 8 and Nov. 30. Delphi became the largest manufacturer in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy on Oct. 8. Since then, it has had to file monthly financial reports to comply with bankruptcy rules.

Operating expenses of $2 billion wiped out the company's December sales of $1.4 billion.

The bulk of those expenses were related to goodwill and a one-time non-cash asset impairment charge, said Delphi spokeswoman Claudia Piccinin. Last month Delphi evaluated all its assets and decided to write down $929 million of the assets it would not be able to recover after emerging from bankruptcy. Detroit Free Press

NASCAR, Harlequin Gear Up for Love Stories NASCAR, Harlequin Gear Up for Love StoriesStrange bedfellows, indeed. Or maybe not. If it's true that opposites attract, then a licensing agreement between Harlequin Romance novels and NASCAR Inc., should be a marriage made in heaven. The first offspring of this new union, a racetrack romance entitled In the Groove by Pamela Britton, goes on sale Tuesday — just a few weeks before the Daytona 500 on Feb. 19. Two other NASCAR-themed love stories will be published this year: On the Edge by Britton in September and A NASCAR Holiday by Kimberly Raye, Roxanne St. Claire and Debra Webb in November. At least 17 more, by various authors, are planned for 2007. 

"It's a partnership between two extremely brand-loyal groups," says Kerry Tharp of NASCAR. "We're trying to reach out and do more to appeal to our female fan base."

NASCAR fans buy $2 billion in licensed products annually. Harlequin devotees bought 130 million books last year.

"It's a very good fit," agrees Marleah Stout of Harlequin, pointing out that women account for 40% of the sport's fan base.

"NASCAR very much portrays themselves as a family-oriented sport, and most romance fiction is about commitment and about the promise of happily-ever-after," says Gayle Wilson, president of the 9,500-member Romance Writers of America.

It's also about making money. Romance titles make up nearly 55% of all paperback fiction sales, generating more than $1 billion in sales each year.

And, Tharp says, NASCAR research shows its female enthusiasts are 26% more apt to read romance novels than women who don't follow NASCAR.

In the Groove features down-on-his-luck NASCAR driver Lance Cooper and ex-kindergarten teacher Sarah Tingle. They meet when his car hits her. She gets a bump on the head. He's driven to distraction. When he looks at Sarah, Cooper "feels like he has been shocked by a loose spark plug wire."

Britton, the author, drag-raced as a teenager and is a popular romance author with a half-million copies of her nine books in print. Dangerous Curves, published last year, also dealt with a racetrack romance.

"NASCAR drivers are heroes," says Britton. "The books' appeal is that you can put yourself in the heroines' shoes."

And then there are the closet romantics.

"We always felt we have male readers who say they don't read our romance novels — but they do," Harlequin's Stout says. USA Today/AOL 

Change in Phoenix race weekend sked Change in Phoenix race weekend skedPhoenix International Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber announced the new schedule change for the Second Annual SUBWAY Fresh 500 Race Weekend. The most dramatic change to the schedule of events is the addition of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Qualifying on Thursday afternoon, April 20. Gates open to fans at 9:00am on Thursday, April 20 and race fans will enjoy an exciting day of on-track action that includes practices in all three race divisions, the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series, the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. NASCAR Grand National qualifying is set for 3:35pm, prior to the 8:00pm green flag in the Casino Arizona 150. NEXTEL Cup qualifying will get the green flag at 5:40pm [8:40pm/et]. On Friday, April 21, gates open at noon and race fans will enjoy two sessions of NEXTEL Cup practice from 1 – 2 p.m. and then again from 4:05 – 4:50pm. The NASCAR Busch Series will start qualifications at 2:35 p.m. prior to the 6 p.m. start of the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200. The excitement builds when gates open at noon on Saturday, April 22 for the 5:25pm green flag of the Second Annual SUBWAY Fresh 500, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race. Tickets for all three spring races are on sale now and can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 602-252-2227 or 1-866-408-7223. Tickets can also be ordered online at www.phoenixraceway.com. PIR Site
Racing News
New Zealand Looking At HANS Device New Zealand Looking At HANS DeviceATLANTA -- A New Zealand coroner, Ms. Sarn Herdson, has called for national racing officials to consider the mandatory use of the HANS head and neck restraint system for all forms of auto racing in the country. Her suggestion came after investigating the death of a teenage driver who died from head injuries after a collision during a Formula Ford race in 2003. HANS Performance Products is looking forward to working with Motorsports NZ to improve safety.
Racing News
Salem Starts New Sprint-Car Series Salem Starts New Sprint-Car SeriesOBERLIN, Kan. -- Ex-sprint-car driver Rick Salem has started a new 305-sprint-car series set to debut in May.  The United Rebel Sprint Series will bring back "affordable sprint- car racing to promoters and participants alike," said Salem. "This series's bottom line is affordable open-wheel racing...period."  The series will pay $500 to win and $150 to start. Scheduled dates include a two-day show over Memorial Day weekend at the Oberlin (Kan.) Speedway, marking the inaugural event for the track. Other stops include Osborne (Kan.) Speedway, Elmwood Park Speedway in Norton, Kan., and Rolling Plains Motor Speedway in Hays, Kan. [Editor's Note:  Great - yet another Sprint Car Series - further dilution of the open wheel product.]
Las Vegas Testing - Day 3 Las Vegas Testing - Day 3NASCAR Preseason Thunder Las Vegas concludes Wednesday. The public is invited to watch free of charge from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Here is a tentative list of drivers scheduled to run Wed: #16-Greg Biffle, #2-Kurt Busch, #5-Kyle Busch, #99-Carl Edwards, #24-Jeff Gordon, #11-Denny Hamlin, #48-Jimmie Johnson, #9-Kasey Kahne, #17-Matt Kenseth, #43-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, #20-Tony Stewart, #25-Brian Vickers and #18-J.J. Yeley. LVMS PR
Las Vegas test speeds - Day 2 Cumulative Las Vegas test speeds - Day 2 Cumulative
Rank Car# Driver Make Time (sec) Speed (mph) Session
1 66 Jeff Green Chevy 31.752 170.068 Day 1 AM
2 38a Elliott Sadler Ford 31.872 169.428 Day 1 AM
3 6b Mark Martin Ford 31.883 169.369 Day 1 AM
4 26b Jamie McMurray Ford 31.893 169.316 Day 2 AM
5 31x Jeff Burton Chevy 31.937 169.083 Day 1 AM
6 2a Kurt Busch Dodge 31.971 168.903 Day 2 AM
7 29a Kevin Harvick Chevy 32.030 168.592 Day 1 AM
8 17b Matt Kenseth Ford 32.045 168.513 Day 2 AM
9 42a Casey Mears Dodge 32.059 168.439 Day 2 PM
10 8a Dale Earnhardt, Jr Chevy 32.066 168.403 Day 2 PM
11 7a Robby Gordon Chevy 32.100 168.224 Day 1 AM
12 88a Dale Jarrett Ford 32.118 168.130 Day 1 AM
13 07 Clint Bowyer Chevy 32.134 168.046 Day 1 AM
14 9a Kasey Kahne Dodge 32.151 167.957 Day 2 PM
15 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge 32.169 167.863 Day 2 AM
16 12b Ryan Newman Dodge 32.239 167.499 Day 2 AM
17 78a Kenny Wallace Chevy 32.256 167.411 Day 2 AM
18 99a Carl Edwards Ford 32.258 167.400 Day 2 AM
19 18 J.J. Yeley Chevy 32.261 167.385 Day 1 PM
20 16b Greg Biffle Ford 32.267 167.354 Day 2 AM  zzzz
21 20a Tony Stewart Chevy 32.287 167.250 Day 1 AM
22 4a Scott Wimmer Chevy 32.288 167.245 Day 1 PM
23 24a Jeff Gordon Chevy 32.289 167.240 Day 2 PM
24 5a Kyle Busch Chevy 32.291 167.229 Day 2 AM
25 11 Denny Hamlin Chevy 32.308 167.141 Day 1 PM
26 48a Jimmie Johnson Chevy 32.313 167.115 Day 2 AM
27 01b Joe Nemechek Chevy 32.321 167.074 Day 2 AM
28 04 Bobby Hamilton, Jr Dodge 32.331 167.022 Day 2 AM
29 1a Martin Truex, Jr Chevy 32.375 166.795 Day 1 AM
30 25a Brian Vickers Chevy 32.376 166.790 Day 2 PM
31 61 Kevin Lepage Ford 32.395 166.692 Day 2 PM
32 40x David Stremme Dodge 32.431 166.507 Day 1 AM
33 10a Scott Riggs Dodge 32.439 166.466 Day 2 PM
34 22a Dave Blaney Dodge 32.456 166.379 Day 2 AM
35 21a Ken Schrader Ford 32.469 166.312 Day 2 AM
36 14a Sterling Marlin Chevy 32.48 166.256 Day 2 AM
37 19b Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 32.563 165.832 Day 2 AM
38 43a Bobby Labonte Dodge 32.59 165.695 Day 2 AM
39 32a Travis Kvapil Chevy 32.669 165.294 Day 2 AM
40 92a Chad Chaffin Chevy 32.677 165.254 Day 1 AM
41 51a Mike Garvey Chevy 32.703 165.122 Day 2 AM
42 49b Brent Sherman Dodge 32.725 165.011 Day 1 PM
43 00 Hermie Sadler Ford 32.768 164.795 Day 2 PM
44 96a Terry Labonte Chevy 32.774 164.765 Day 2 AM
45 50a Larry Foyt Dodge 32.788 164.694 Day 2 AM
46 55a Michael Waltrip Dodge 32.791 164.679 Day 2 PM
47 45a Kyle Petty Dodge 32.843 164.419 Day 2 AM
48 03 Todd Bodine Chevy 32.948 163.895 Day 2 PM
Las Vegas test speeds - Day 1 Las Vegas test speeds - Day 1
Rank Car# Driver Make Time (sec) Speed (mph) Session
1 66 Jeff Green Chevy 31.752 170.068 Day 1 AM
2 38a Elliott Sadler Ford 31.872 169.428 Day 1 AM
3 6b Mark Martin Ford 31.883 169.369 Day 1 AM
4 31x Jeff Burton Chevy 31.937 169.083 Day 1 AM
5 29a Kevin Harvick Chevy 32.030 168.592 Day 1 AM
6 7a Robby Gordon Chevy 32.100 168.224 Day 1 AM
7 88a Dale Jarrett Ford 32.118 168.130 Day 1 AM
8 07 Clint Bowyer Chevy 32.134 168.046 Day 1 AM
9 8a Dale Earnhardt, Jr Chevy 32.221 167.593 Day 1 AM
10 26b Jamie McMurray Ford 32.235 167.520 Day 1 AM
11 18 J.J. Yeley Chevy 32.261 167.385 Day 1 PM
12 20a Tony Stewart Chevy 32.287 167.250 Day 1 AM
13 4a Scott Wimmer Chevy 32.288 167.245 Day 1 PM
14 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge 32.293 167.219 Day 1 AM
15 11 Denny Hamlin Chevy 32.308 167.141 Day 1 PM
16 1a Martin Truex, Jr Chevy 32.375 166.795 Day 1 AM
17 40x David Stremme Dodge 32.431 166.507 Day 1 AM
18 78a Kenny Wallace Chevy 32.437 166.477 Day 1 PM
19 61 Kevin Lepage Ford 32.483 166.241 Day 1 PM
20 04 Bobby Hamilton, Jr Dodge 32.538 165.960 Day 1 AM
21 92a Chad Chaffin Chevy 32.677 165.254 Day 1 AM
22 49b Brent Sherman Dodge 32.725 165.011 Day 1 PM
23 55a Michael Waltrip Dodge 32.898 164.144 Day 1 PM
24 00 Hermie Sadler Ford 32.984 163.716 Day 1 AM
Labonte gets Heisman if he wins Daytona 500 Labonte gets Heisman if he wins Daytona 500Roger Staubach gave a speech to his new NASCAR team last week in Charlotte. He was trying to pump up his charges for the daunting task at hand. Driver Terry Labonte wasn't at the shop that day. Staubach already dangled a special prize to his famous driver. "I told Terry if he wins the Daytona 500 next month, I'll give him my Heisman trophy," Staubach said. Labonte, racing his final Cup season, will drive seven races for the new team – the first five events and the two road-course races. Tony Raines will drive the other 29 Cup events. Using Labonte, a two-time Cup champion, is a smart move. It assures the team of making the field no matter how they qualify. Labonte has an automatic starting spot as a former champion. The plan is for Labonte to earn enough points in the first five races to guarantee Raines a starting spot every week. The top 35 teams in points are assured of making the 43-car field. Dallas Morning News
Inside Nextel Cup Show returns on Feb 13th Inside Nextel Cup Show returns on Feb 13thDave Despain will once again climb into the host's chair for SPEED's popular Monday night program Inside Nextel Cup, beginning Feb. 13 at 7:00pm/et. Joining Despain, will be veteran drivers Michael Waltrip and Kenny Schrader, both in new rides for 2006. Brian Vickers, the Hendrick Motorsports driver who joined the show late last season, will return for 20 shows in 2006. "I think 2006 should be exciting for everyone - especially the fans of Inside Nextel Cup," said Vickers, the youngest national series champion in NASCAR history. "Kenny (Schrader) and Michael (Waltrip) are driving for new teams, the GMAC Racing team and I are ready and we're all optimistic about a new season. I've gained some valuable experience working with them and Dave (Despain) on the set, so hopefully I'll pass the SPEED rookie stripe to someone else and we'll bring viewers even more insight and entertainment. I appreciate the opportunity they've presented by welcoming me back to the program."

"It took a lot of courage for Brian to step onto a show that had changed for the first time in 10 years last year," said Chris Long, VP of Studio Production for SPEED. "We made some aggressive changes to a fan favorite SPEED show midway through the year and Brian did a great job blending in with the team. We're thrilled to have him back for 20 shows in 2006." Speed Channel

Allied Steel Buildings to Bill Davis Racing Allied Steel Buildings to Bill Davis RacingAllied Steel Buildings Inc is taking a next step in their NASCAR involvement by joining Bill Davis Racing Teams during this year’s events. Allied is expanding its NASCAR involvement after serving as a part-time associate and primary sponsor of the #50 Arnold Motorsports car during the 2005 season. “Allied Steel is still fairly new to this sport, so it is an honor the company has chosen to come on board with us. It’s also an honor to get to carry the Allied Steel banner. It is a great company with great standards,” said Bill Davis, team owner and president. “We are really thrilled to be a part of NASCAR as a full-time sponsor for the new 2006 season,” said Allied’s President, Michael Lassner. “It’s such an honor to be affiliated with Bill Davis and his racing teams. They plan to be one of the best on the race track this year and we will do everything that we can to help them make that happen,” said Lassner. eMediaWire
Racing News
Racing Rolls Into Super Bowl XL Racing Rolls Into Super Bowl XLUPDATE A reader asks, Will Al Unser III be back in Atlantics this year? June Roper, Denver, CO  Dear June, We think so, they are still finalizing their deal we hear. Mark C. 01/31/06 Cody Unser will help kick off the many festivities surrounding Super Bowl XL when she takes to the stage as keynote speaker at the Women of Impact Awards Luncheon, that will honor women of the NFL who have made a commitment to volunteerism. Presented by the Junior Leagues of Birmingham and Detroit, MI, and held at the Ford Motor Company Conference & Event Center, young Ms. Unser will lead the event "celebrating the women who impact the lives of children."

Nineteen-year-old Cody is the daughter of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., granddaughter of 4-time Indy 500 champion Al Unser Sr., and number one fan of up-and-coming race driver, older brother Al III. Long-time family acquaintance and race team owner Roger Penske is chairing the Super Bowl Host Committee. (Cody pictured right at Toronto with brother Al Unser III as he prepares for his Champ Car Atlantic race)

The Cody Unser First Step Foundation (CUFSF) has raised thousands of dollars for research and awareness of Transverse Myelitis-- a rare, auto-immune disorder, which in Cody's case, caused paralysis from the chest down since age 12. As the ambassador to the Transverse Myelothopy Center of Johns Hopkins 'Project Restore', Cody is an impassioned advocate for improving quality of life programs and legislation. Cody's actions and efforts have helped raise awareness and improved the quality of life and treatment for scores of victims of paralysis. Efforts enhanced via a close friendship with the late Christopher Reeve.  zzzz

"I'm so honored to be a part of this grand celebration of women, life, and the impact we all can make if we only reach into our hearts," says Unser.  "Through my foundation's charity golf tournaments, I've had the pleasure of working with such football greats as Frank Gifford, Jim Kelly, Dick Vermeil-- Nick Buoniconti--through his son Mark and The Miami Project-- as well as with the NFL Alumni Association. I'm thoroughly enjoying my role this week, and look forward to seeing a great game and many good friends."

Cody hopes to be able to watch the entire game on Sunday, but may return early to Albuquerque to advocate for disability issues pending before the New Mexico State Legislature.

The Women of Impact Award hopes to bring to the forefront the wonderful volunteer efforts made by women of the NFL.

The event benefits The Children's Center of Wayne County.

Cody's participation is sponsored by the generosity of Barr Laboratories.

For more information on the Women of Impact Awards Luncheon contact the Junior League of Birmingham office at 248-203-9841.

For more information on Cody Unser, The Cody Unser First Step Foundation, or Tranverse Myelitis, please visit www.codysfirststep.org

Tired of Xenophobic babble Tired of Xenophobic babbleUPDATE Another reader adds, While I generally agree with Scott Morrison, Champ Car still needs more Americans in the series.  AJ Allmendinger is good, but what about Ryan Hunter-Reay?  Is Vasser retiring?  If Vasser retires then the series desperately needs Hunter-Reay in a decent car. Terry Collins, Chicago. 01/31/06 A reader writes, I am tired of reading and hearing that Champ Car needs more American drivers. Everyone points to NASCAR's success and say we must have more American drivers. I write this letter to educate the dumb Xenophobic Americans who make such idiotic statements.

I don’t buy the foreigners excuse. Do they forget how popular Alex Zanardi was and still is? Other sports have no problem selling foreigners to Americans, in the most purely American of sports...Baseball and Basketball. Both of these sports have a far stronger domestic root and heritage than racing.

Racing has always had an international character to it, until NASCAR decided to keep out the foreign makes. Now they have to let them in, or there would be some serious lawsuits, as the foreign manufacturers are surpassing the American brands.

One of them has already been swallowed up by the Germans, so they have to start letting them in, as its inevitable. By the way, I also love how most Americans think that Chrysler bought Daimler/Benz. Yeah. That’s why every engineer and rep you hear now from Chrysler has a German accent.
So on foreigners in sports, baseball has over 170 of 800 players that are "furriners". Hideo Nomo, Sammy Sosa, and many others in MLB.
NBA is even more loaded with foreigners. Dirk Nowitski is one of the hottest players and personalities in the NBA. His name-associated merchandise is one of the top ten in the league. In fact, one third of his team is not American, and they are in the dead center in the land of the American stereotype....TEXAS!
Yao Ming is a sensation. Dikembe Motumbo, Tony Parker is French, Tim Duncan is not American either. Steve Nash is Canadian.
Its a huge list. http://www.nba.com/players/international_player_directory.html
So I have hard time swallowing the excuse in racing of foreign drivers. I just don’t get it. Why is racing any different? This is America. We have almost no heritage of our own. We are a nation of immigrants. We cater to immigrants. We give them grants to open 7-11s. We give them full scholarships to attend our schools. It's what ultimately makes America great. Scott Morrison, Philadelphia, PA

San Jose - It’s more than just a race San Jose - It’s more than just a raceUPDATE A reader adds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Indeed it was more than just a race and it was really exciting to watch the Champ Cars bounce over those RR tracks.  One of the most exciting things I have ever seen in racing.   While I understand they had to smooth out the tracks, I for one will miss the jumps.  Steve Kaufman, Long Island

01/31/06 The San Jose Grand Prix presented by Taylor Woodrow has the marketing slogan "It's More Than A Race." 

That is true. It really is much more than a race. It's an event the City of San Jose has never seen before in terms of exposure and business economic impact -- over $41 million -- benefiting our city and a worthy cause like Canary Foundation who's dedicated to the early detection of cancer.

When Dean Munro of the San Jose Sports Authority first presented the concept of bringing an open-wheel race to San Jose, we both saw it as an unbelievable opportunity in many ways -- a world-class sporting event, a great platform to raise money for charity as well as unlimited business opportunities.

With over 80 combined years of local business experience, we felt that the City of San Jose needed to invest in something that created a reason for people wanting to come to the downtown area on an otherwise open July weekend. We looked at the proposals, studied the business plan and came to the conclusion that this event benefited all stake holders.

Race week did not prove us wrong.  zzzz 

The Bay Area was greeted with the roar of cars traveling 160 mph, live music, festivals, galas and unparalleled excitement for over 153,000 race attendees. Many area businesses experienced record sales. Hotel rooms were sold out; many restaurants did unprecedented sales; ATM's ran out of cash; vendors ran out of product. The San Jose Grand Prix afforded business opportunities that would have never been realized during a late July weekend. And those three days allowed other businesses to study and see what they needed to do to capitalize on this year's race.

In addition, the exposure for the City of San Jose was unprecedented. Last year's race was televised world-wide. In addition, KNTV NBC 11 re-broadcast the race immediately after its "live" conclusion and that telecast was the highest rated sporting event broadcast that weekend, topping the likes of PGA and LPGA golf, tennis, the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants. In 2006, NBC, the same network that will be televising the Winter Olympic Games and the National Football League, has elected to broadcast the San Jose Grand Prix nationally -- quite an achievement for a race in only its second year.

We are both involved with the Historic Stock Car Association and just our group alone raised over $32,000 for charity from the race weekend by offering car auctions and in-car rides. The Canary Foundation also raised $750,000 towards the early detection of cancer. And, after seeing the enthusiasm from the 2005 event, we fully expect to top both those numbers in 2006.

Certainly, work is needed to be done -- both on and off-track -- to improve the event for 2006 and beyond.

While the 2005 event was put together in only eight months, race organizers began addressing changes the Monday after the race and, after taking into consideration input from drivers, teams, the City of San Jose and fans alike, have worked to resolve those problems. Some changes that Grand Prix officials implemented was doubling the total number of bridges (from two to four); smoothing out the entrance and exits around the VTA tracks and widening the race track wherever possible. These are just a few of the things that will improve the on and off-track experience for fans in 2006.

It is important the San Jose Grand Prix continues to evolve and improve every year as to best portray the City of San Jose on the international stage. We are supporting the race and the impact it is having on the City on a year-round basis and we hope others will join us. It truly is more than a race. San Jose Business Journal

Holzer looks forward to F1 test drive Holzer looks forward to F1 test driveThis year Marco Holzer will have the opportunity to conduct a test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team. This test in the BMW Sauber F1.06 is the well deserved reward for winning the Formula BMW World Final in Bahrain.

This year, the 17-year-old will compete in the Formula BMW Germany, one of four successful BMW young gun series worldwide, and Holzer is already looking forward to testing with BMW Sauber F1 Team. “I can’t wait to sit behind the wheel myself,” he says and adds: “I’m convinced that the experience gained in the Formula One test will be helpful over the course of the season.”

The successful young driver had a first chance to familiarize with the car during the official Car and Team Launch of the BMW Sauber F1 Team in Valencia. He says: “The BMW Sauber F1.06 really appeals to me. When you know that you are going to attend a Formula One test yourself, you are particularly attentive when watching the launch of the car.”

The upcoming test drive for the BMW Sauber F1 Team is, however, not the first contact the talented driver has had with Formula One racing. “When we contested a Formula BMW round last year at the Nurburgring, as part of the European GP support program, I had the chance of taking a look behind the scenes at BMW,” he reports, “It was a truly fascinating experience for me.” BMW Sauber

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Rossi's disastrous debut
Split threat nearing end - Renault
Renault to lose title sponsor
Renault president to retire
Renault's 'future' made Alonso quit
Flav slams Red Bull 'betrayal'
Bridgestone teams sign F1 pact
F1 is Rossi 'hobby' - spokesman
New Honda is a winner, says Rubens
World champion to get married
Haug denies driver unrest
Massa to shine alongside Schu - Gene
Villeneuve ... the singer?
Schu's the favorite - Alonso
Forsythe super team tests at Sebring Forsythe super team tests at SebringSEBRING, Florida – The first test of the year in sunny central Florida is usually marked by sunburns and hot laps, but the first meeting of Forsythe Championship Racing’s four young hotshoes at Sebring International Raceway was also a chance for a completely new group of drivers, mechanics and engineers to see how the chemistry of the team is going to jell.  And if these first few days together are any indication, the recipe is going to produce a tasty dish as the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama revs up for the first green flag of the year at the 32nd running of the fabled Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 7-9.

American Leonardo Maia, Canadian James Hinchcliffe, German Andreas Wirth and Frenchman Richard Philippe all ran quick laps throughout the four on-track test days, but from the outset the focus was on getting to know one another and establishing performance baselines for the team itself as much as the cars.  “This was a chance for us to see how we’re going to work together,” said Team Manager John Brunner.  “Having dinner together in the evenings may have been more important than the time we spent at the track.  I’m very pleased with how everyone got along and we definitely seem to be setting the stage for an outstanding team. It seems like we’re all old friends already, and that’s a good sign.  Plus the boys did some very competitive lap times – icing on the cake!”

The team obtained a pair of Swift 014.a chassis to conduct the test, shared among the four drivers. Swift is producing a new car for the 2006 season, designated the 016.a, powered by a 2.3-liter Cosworth engine producing 300 horsepower.  The new car will be released to the teams in March.  In addition to the Atlantic test, the team brought along one of their Lola Champ Cars for Andreas Wirth and Richard Philippe to get a glimpse of their 750-horsepower Ford Cosworth future.  Wirth and Philippe were selected to drive the Champ Car based on their previous test experience, while Maia and Hinchcliffe will get their taste later in the year. zzzz

Maia: “The test went very well.  I was up to speed quickly and felt very comfortable in the car.  I can't wait to get my hands on the new car!  All my teammates are very fast and right away we found that we work very well together.  The crew is very professional, hard working, and extremely good at what they do.  I was pretty sure Forsythe would put together a great team, and now I know it for a fact.  We are going to have a great year!"

Philippe: "The purpose of this test was to get the team members comfortable with one another, along with the drivers. I'm very pleased to be able to say that we've created a very professional and fun environment to work in.  James, Andreas, Leo and I all got along very well and we were all fast and competitive. The driver with the most motivation on and off the track is going to take it home this year!  I really want to thank Forsythe for the opportunity to drive their Champ Car at this test also. So I'm happy. It was a very good week overall!"

Wirth: “This was a test for the mechanics and engineers as well as the drivers, and I couldn’t have imagined it going any better than it did.  It seems like we already have that good combination of a high level of professionalism while maintaining a fun atmosphere.  When work is that much fun, it’s very cool!  We had a very good test and everyone seems to genuinely like each other.  You never know what to expect going into a new situation but I know we’re going to be very, very good.  Driving the Forsythe Champ Car was a real treat and I certainly hope I get into that seat again soon, but our focus is on winning the 2006 Atlantic Championship.”

Hinchcliffe: “The whole thing went really, really well.  We all knew going into it that the test was about team building, and we accomplished that more than I anticipated.  It was very rewarding on a number of levels, and on top of it we all were able to post some very quick laps.  When we get the new cars and have the opportunity to work with them, I have a feeling we’re going to show up in Long Beach with four very fast Swifts.  We’re all excited and it’s beyond words to say how good a team we became right away!”

Forsythe Championship Racing will contest the entire 12-race Atlantic schedule beginning on the downtown streets of Long Beach and ending with a return to one of the most demanding road courses in the world, Road America outside Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit the official website of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama at http://www.champcaratlantic.comForsythe Racing

Mild Seven makes it official Mild Seven makes it officialMild Seven has announced their official withdrawal from Formula One sponsorship. On the day the Renault F1 team launched their new 2006 contender, Mild Seven’s parent company, Japan Tobacco, announced that this would be their final season sponsoring the French squad. 

“Japan Tobacco Inc. looks forward to another great year of racing and wishes the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team well in this final year of the company's Formula One sponsorship,” they said in a statement.

"It has always been our greatest pleasure to work with such a committed partner as the Renault F1 Team. Thanks to the team's remarkable achievements, with their expertise and cutting-edge technologies, the Mild Seven brand name and its Blue Wind logo are now among the most recognizable brands in the world," said Seigo Nishizawa, JT Executive Deputy President and President of the Tobacco Business. "I wish the team the greatest successes with us in 2006 and also for many years to come."

Rossi spins on out-lap in wet conditions. Rossi spins on out-lap in wet conditions.First day of testing this week for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, working today at the Valencia circuit.

The day's program was affected by adverse weather. In fact, rain meant the track was wet for the entire seven hours of testing. The team therefore concentrated on development work on the relevant Bridgestone tires. This task fell to Michael Schumacher at the wheel of a 248 F1 and an F2004 fitted with a V8 engine.

The German completed 88 laps, 50 in the F2004 (best time 1.20.361) and 38 in the new car (best time 1.20.519.)

Valentino Rossi was in Valencia for the first of three days testing with the Scuderia. Given the conditions, he only did one installation lap in the final few minutes of the session. He spun in Turn 10 and ended up in the gravel trap, never completing a lap. He will be back tomorrow for another try.

Honda 1-2 in wet Spain Honda 1-2 in wet SpainOn a wet Valencia track in Spain, the two Honda team cars ran 1-2 today in testing.  The track never dried and the test was only good to try out the latest rain tires.

1 . R. Barrichello - Honda RA106 - 1:19.399 (+ 0.000 ) - 60 laps
2 . A. Davidson - Honda RA106 - 1:19.996 (+ 0.597 ) - 64 laps
3 . M. Schumacher - Ferrari F2004/248 F1 - 1:20.358 (+ 0.959 ) - 88 laps
4 . K. Raikkonen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-21 - 1:21.194 (+ 1.795 ) - 25 laps
5 . M. Webber - Williams Cosworth FW28 - 1:22.388 (+ 2.989 ) - 77 laps
6 . C. Klien - Red Bull Ferrari RB2 - 1:22.599 (+ 3.200 ) - 42 laps
7 . G. Paffett - McLaren Mercedes MP4-21 - 1:23.836 (+ 4.437 ) - 42 laps
8 . N. Rosberg - Williams Cosworth FW27C - 1:23.936 (+ 4.537 ) - 75 laps.

Times courtesy of Williams Cosworth

Concerns about the Forsythe Super Team Concerns about the Forsythe Super TeamA reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have been watching the news about the new Atlantic series with great expectations as I look forward to my 30th trip to the LBGP. The "blockbuster" Forsythe team however did NOT sound good to me! What will be the effect of this super team on the available budgets for the other loyal smaller teams that have kept this series alive over the last few years?

Not good I would expect. Is this just an owner playing to his ego just as the owners did with CART all over again? Where was Mr. Forsythe when the series was down to a 12 or 13 car count and NEEDED a super team or two? By all accounts there is plenty of interest by teams to fill the grid without a Champ Car team/series owner sucking up 4 funded drivers. How do the smaller teams compete for sponsorship against this giant? Is Champ Car going to a farm league system where the Atlantic teams are all owned by the "big" teams in Champ Car? I thought the stated goal was for the Atlantic teams and drivers to move up to Champ Car....not the other way around. Rick Barrett

Dear Rick, All valid questions, and although we don't want to speak for Mr. Forsythe, we'll give you our opinion. As we see in NASCAR, many Cup teams own Busch and Truck teams and that has not taken away from those series. If anything, it forces everyone to raise their game a bit and allows teams and drivers to assess where they stand and whether they are ready to move up to Champ Car or not.

With the rules the way they are now written for the new car, a team is limited as to what they can do to the car. Hence it will come down to driver skill, chassis setup and team preparation. There are some excellent Atlantic teams and we think the Forsythe super team, though formidable, will get their lunch handed to them on many a weekend.

As for Champ Car teams making the Atlantic series their farm system? Why not? It works in most other sports. Even if every team is not owned by a "mother" Champ Car team, that does not mean a team can't form an association with a Champ Car team, but maintain separate ownership. The possibilities, including sponsorship sharing scenarios, are endless. Without a doubt, the new Atlantic series will be the best support series and training ground in the world. Mark C.

Racing News
Rocket Racing League Plans To Launch In ‘07 Rocket Racing League Plans To Launch In ‘07The Rocket Racing League (RRL), which will race rocket planes across “two-mile aerial racecourses,” plans to hold races with ten teams next year, according to the Newark STAR-LEDGER. The semifinals are slated to be held in September ‘07 at the Reno Air Races in Nevada, with the finals in October ‘07 at the X Prize Cup in New Mexico. The other four sites have not yet been determined. Pilots will fly identical $1M Mark-1 X-Racers that weigh 1,500 pounds and “look less like an airplane than like a ‘Star Wars’ pod racer.”

RRL President & CEO Granger Whitelaw: "This is going to be the sport of the 21st century.” Whitelaw, a New Jersey venture capitalist who helped sponsor two Indianapolis 500 winners, came up with the idea for the venture during the Indy 500 a few years ago with X-Prize Foundation Chair Peter Diamandis, presenter of the $10M Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight. Whitelaw and Diamandis “hope rocket racing will spark interest in commercial space travel,” and they “envision corporate sponsorships, merchandising deals, reality-TV episodes and online video games pitting gamers against pilots as they fly real races.” Diamandis said that cameras will send images of the racers to “hand-held devices that spectators can rent at the events.” Coughlin notes the Leading Edge team from Arizona made a $100,000 down payment on an X-Racer, and “is seeking corporate backers for the estimated $2[M] annual cost for a vehicle and crew.” IRL VP/PR John Griffin said that rocket racing “could complement auto racing.” Griffin: “If there’s an opportunity for us to work together, it’s probably something we’d be open to” STAR-LEDGER

Berger: Woman have no chance against men Berger: Woman have no chance against menUPDATE A reader adds. While Berger is generally correct, there are at least three forms of athletic competition in which women often win overall, beating the men: (1) ultra-marathons (e.g., the Western States 100), (2) dog-sled races (e.g., the Iditarod) , and (3) equestrian events, such as show-jumping. In all these cases, light weight is probably an advantage. Herb Hwang, San Mateo, CA

01/31/06 (GMMf1NET) While F1's grid of the future fills up with young Rosbergs, Piquets and Laudas, Gerhard Berger says his offspring are unlikely to feature in grands prix.

The former ten time winner told Austria's 'Trend' magazine that his daughters would never be good enough to compete with male rivals.

''Women are built differently to men,'' the 46-year-old veteran of 210 races said, ''so in a sport where there is no female category, they wouldn't have a chance.''

Whether woman are good enough to compete with male drivers is an age-old argument of supposed sexism in the formula one paddock. But Berger suggests that woman competing with men is not expected in any other form of sport, such as tennis, swimming or athletics.

And he said: ''I believe woman can drive cars very well. But, as in all other kinds of sport, there would have to be a female league, otherwise it's unfair.''

[Editor's Note: As Danica Patrick has proven, woman can hold their own when they have a 50 pound weight advantage and are in a 100% throttle series like the IRL. On the road courses she wasn't even close. To date, the only woman in racing that could hold her own against the men has been Katherine Legge, but that was in a junior formula and we will have to see how she does in a Champ Car before declaring Gerhard Berger right or wrong.]

Track News
Hawai’i Raceway Park closing, maybe not? Hawai’i Raceway Park closing, maybe not?UPDATE There may be hope yet for Hawai'i Raceway Park.  George Grace III, who helps run oval dirt-track races at the park and supplies the operation with port-a-potties, wants to organize a new effort to keep the track open past April.

"We don't need a new track," Grace said. "We just need ours fixed up."

Mike Oakland, president of the Hawai'i Motorsports Center, said last week that he will close the 66-acre Hawai'i Raceway Park at Campbell Industrial Park when his lease extension expires at the end of April, raising fears that drivers will turn to illegal racing on Honolulu's streets and freeways.

Oakland has unsuccessfully tried to get a 144-acre raceway developed at Kalaeloa, the former Barber's Point. He is closing the existing park because his zoning exemption has expired and he received notice from the Environmental Protection Agency that he could no longer allow racers and fans to use toilets connected to a cesspool system. More at Honolulu Advertiser

01/28/06 Hawai'i Raceway Park, which for 42 years has given thousands of car and motorcycle racers Hawaii’s only legal outlet to display their high-speed toys, will close in April, the park's owner said yesterday.

Mike Oakland plans to hold his last events at the raceway in Campbell Industrial Park either March 31 or April 1, followed by a month of cleanup to return the 66-acre parcel to the landowner.

"You don't make money in racing in Hawai'i," Oakland said. "It's a hobby. But we have hobbyists that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their toys."

Maeda Timson, chairwoman of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board, worries that without Hawai'i Raceway Park drivers will endanger drivers and pedestrians by turning to illegal races on Oahu streets and freeways.

"I'm real concerned because we get complaints constantly about speeding in our district," Timson said. "Now it's going to be a free-for-all. I know the raceway people have been really professional and talk to the racers to encourage them to do that in the park and not outside. They're the first ones to say, 'Hey, if you see someone racing from our place, call the police.' "

Hawai'i Raceway Park opened on the Fourth of July weekend in 1964. Oakland took over in 1990, and since then Campbell Estate has been granting him a series of lease extensions, the last of which expires in April.

"This is a decision made by Hawai'i Raceway Park and was not caused by Campbell Estate," estate spokeswoman Theresia McMurdo said. "We have not asked Hawai'i Raceway Park to leave and in fact we have been extending the lease."

But with his latest extension soon to expire, Oakland in the last year also received notice from the Environmental Protection Agency that he could no longer allow racers and fans to use the antiquated cesspool system connected to the raceway. And in January 2005, Oakland's zoning variance expired. zzzz

"We have an expired variance, we have cesspools closing under federal mandate and we have a lease that's expiring," Oakland said. "All along I've been telling people that we're running out of time. But people have just been looking at me like I've been crying Chicken Little. Well, guess what? Time's up."

The park's impending end comes after years of unsuccessful lobbying by Oakland to develop a permanent, 140-acre center dedicated to a variety of motorcycle and car racing events at the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station, now known as Kalaeloa.

"I am the perennial optimist that it will happen someday," said Oakland, 63. "But am I going to be alive when it happens? Well, I'm an optimist."

With no new home to turn to for now, Oakland said he has told the nine different concessionaires who produce a variety of car, motorcycle and go-kart events that they, too, will be out of business in April.

"Millions of dollars are directly affected by what we do," Oakland said. "There are going to be hundreds of jobs lost because of the downside of not having a motor sports complex." Honolulu Advertiser (Related article)

Halliday to be guest on Midweek report Wednesday Halliday to be guest on Midweek report WednesdayBraselton, Ga. - Intersport Racing's Liz Halliday will be the special guest on Midweek Motorsport this Wednesday at 8 p.m. UK time (3 p.m. EST). Liz has just announced a full season of LMP 2 partnering reigning class champion Clint Field in the American Le Mans Series and once again will compete with the team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Liz will be joining Radio Le Mans and American Le Mans Series Radio regular John Hindhaugh, who is the presenter of the show. "It's great to have Liz as a studio guest," said Hindhaugh. "Quite often we can only speak to the stars on the phone; having Liz in means we can take emails, text messages and even phone calls from our listeners."

John is encouraging fans to get their questions in early - email is the best way - studio@radiolemans.com or by telephoning from around 7pm UK time on the night at +44 (0) 20 7753 3636. There will be prizes for some listeners!

Midweek Motorsport one of the live show and events covered by GlobeCast Radio. The station, launched in September 2004, is the only motorsport and automotive biased service in the UK. Broadcasting 24-hours and day, free-to-air to 11.5 million homes via Sky Digital channel 907 and across the world via the Internet at www.radiolemans.com the channel has quickly established itself as the home of motoring broadcasting for an English-speaking audience.  zzzz

On average GlobeCast attracts a weekly satellite audience of around 100,000; however live event coverage can attract more than half of that in a single day. More than 20,000 international listeners tune in live each week. These figures are boosted by the thousands of enthusiasts who use the ‘Podcast' archive. Listeners can download programs on demand to computers or MP3 players allowing them to hear their favorite station whist in the gym, the car, indeed wherever they are.

Like the satellite audience, Internet listener figures increase substantially during live event coverage. During the live broadcast of Le Mans 24 Hours in 2005, throughout Saturday and Sunday there were an average of 63,000 individuals logged on to the live coverage at any given time. Globecast broadcasts extensive coverage of every American Le Mans Series event. Practice, qualifying and the whole race is exclusively live.

Stay tuned to www.americanlemans.com for an interview with Liz later this week, as well.

Briatore on the Business of Winning Briatore on the Business of WinningWhen the Renault F1 Team achieved double world championship victory in 2005, securing both constructors’ and drivers’ crowns, it marked the first time a mass-market automobile manufacturer had won the world championship. That victory was also won with a distinctive approach – the team did not have the biggest budget, nor the most employees. In a world commonly seen as one where money can buy success, victory bucked the trend.
Renault’s victory marked the culmination of a philosophy that was inaugurated in 2000, when the company purchased the Benetton Formula Team to prepare for its works return to the sport in 2002. A philosophy characterized by efficient spending, adaptability, the belief in talent and a significant return on investment, that took the team to the pinnacle of world motorsport. “Formula 1 is a unique sport,” explains Managing Director Flavio Briatore. “We have a special product: technology, lifestyle and passion. If you win the championship, it is because you have the technology. But it must be a little about show-business. That is what Renault has done – we have a strong personality for the team, and built beneath it a highly qualified group of people, and strong technology.”

Flavio Briatore makes no pretence of understanding every element of the advanced technology Formula 1 relies upon, and helps develop. Indeed, when he arrived in the paddock in 1998, in the midst of what insiders call ‘the Piranha Club’, he didn’t know anything about the sport. Pitted against rivals who had built their teams from humble beginnings, the Italian set to transform the perceived weakness into a strength. “I always believe that if you come in from the outside, you can see things that other people don’t see,” he explains. “A Formula One team is like any other company. You need to make sure you have the right structure, and the right product. That product is the car and the engine together. But I don’t think the product makes any difference if you are managing the company well. A good manager can translate and adapt his abilities to any business.” zzzz

Formula One represents a formidable high-technology platform, as teams explore the boundaries of chemical and physical performance: engines running at over 19,000 rpm and cars literally ‘flying on the ground’. Yet that challenge means nothing without the human factor, for it is not technology, but how people use that technology, that makes the difference between winning and losing. In a sport where tightly-policed regulations dictate how much of the car must be made, and to what dimensions, the secret to success lies in people and organizations. “Success is about people,” continues Briatore. “There is not one person that makes the company do well, or do badly. A team has a heart, and when those people understand their objective, and they are in the right structure, then they work well. So you need decisive leadership. Managers explain why decisions have been taken, and then make sure they are implemented quickly, to continue moving forward. A driver is the last act in that play, because he interprets and delivers everybody else’s work on the track.”

What’s more, at Renault, the heart of that structure is built much like the cars they spend their time designing: as light, and taut, as possible. The team is a lean, dynamic enterprise – a philosophy that leaves each individual with no place to hide, but ensures each talent is exploited to its full. The focus is simple: efficiency. Which also translates to spending, where the Renault F1 Team is listed by paddock observers as having just the fifth-highest budget on the grid. First position performance, for fifth-position spending.

What is the secret? “It is about efficiency,” explains Briatore. “These things come from the top of the company. We invest every penny in the business, and how we manage our departments. But it is also about how we operate. We know you have to priorities, and make the right decisions. If you have an unlimited budget, it can be like going into a restaurant where the menu is fantastic. So you have a bit of that, of bit of this, and you end up with nothing. The way we work, is like going shopping. You know what you want for dinner. So you go any buy the ingredients, and the result is what you want. That is because you have a clear focus, you have made decisions and your effort is efficient.”

However, while achieving a performance differential on the track is essential to building a successful platform for F1 success, it is not the whole story for Briatore: “Everybody has a car, an engine in the back, and tires. So what makes the difference between one team and another? It is the personality.”
The Renault F1 Team is not simply an efficient high technology company, but an expression of human dedication, and passion. The personality it conveys is youthful, energetic and dynamic. And the team’s philosophy is to open the sport to a wider public, to bring fans closer to the unique spectacle of Formula 1. “We don’t live in an ivory tower, and that’s why we have taken our car to Moscow, to Istanbul, to take F1 to the people – and hundreds of thousands have come to watch us,” explains the Italian in a reference to the team’s unique Renault F1 Road show program, which will continue to expand in 2006. “Formula 1 helps Renault demonstrate performance, reliability and a competitive level of technology, but the company’s values also centre on conviviality and warmth of personality. We try to express that through the team.”

That is reflected in the healthy investment the team continues to attract. “I think we are still a human team,” explains Briatore. “We do a job but we are not pretentious. Our partners want performance on the track and exposure, and we deliver – we had the top two brands for exposure in Formula 1 last year. It is easy to communicate with our team and about us: we are open, there are no filters.” Consequently, the partnership portfolio ranges from long-standing partnerships with Total, whose Elf brand is also the first-fill oil and lubricant for all Renault cars; to partnership with telecommunications brand i-mode, for whom the Renault F1 Team is an important vehicle for building brand awareness as it expands from its Japanese base throughout Europe; to extensive technical partnerships, that include a unique technology collaboration with the Phantom Works divisions of Boeing.

Yet this combination of personality and efficiency would be worth nothing without a final, vital component: success. Investment is not what counts; rather, delivering on investment. “We are a good investment for sponsors: we spend less, which means we ask for less money than our competitors – but we are winning. In any business, that is a relationship that makes sense,” concludes Briatore. Press Release, Renault

Just 40 days to season opener in Bahrain Just 40 days to season opener in BahrainThe countdown has begun to the start of the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship. Around the world 400 million viewers are preparing for the drama and excitement, the speed and color of the first race of the year - and, for the first time in the championship’s history, that race will be staged in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The honor of opening the 2006 season is yet another distinction awarded to the ‘desert Grand Prix’. In just three years the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix has become established as one of the most eagerly-anticipated events of the year for the fans, competitors and organizers alike. The spectacular Bahrain International Circuit, combined with the friendliness and hospitality of the Bahraini people and the efficiency of the organization meant that in 2004, after the inaugural Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, the organizers at Bahrain International Circuit were honored with the FIA Race Promoters’ Trophy for the best Grand Prix of the year.

It was in 2002 that the vision of His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, to hold a round of the World Championship, became a reality and the construction of Bahrain International Circuit began. On April 4 2004 the inaugural Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix was staged, and the eyes of the world saw Bahrain resplendent as Formula One’s new home in the Middle East when Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari took a resounding victory on his way to a record seventh world championship title.

Moreover the race delivered His Highness the Crown Prince’s vision to use the Grand Prix as a catalyst to generate trade, tourism and awareness, to harness the minds of the world’s opinion leaders and formers and bring multi-million dollar businesses to Bahrain. The 2005 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix again produced a majestic performance from the man destined to take the World Championship title at the end of the year: Renault’s young lion Fernando Alonso. Worldwide the enthusiasm for the Bahrain Grand Prix grew still further and the event was used to showcase the economic development taking place throughout the Kingdom. zzzz

Now in 2006 the countdown is underway for the biggest and best Bahrain Grand Prix so far, an event befitting the honor of starting the new season, in a year when expectations for an all action FIA Formula One World Championship are at an all-time high.

Under the patronage of the Bahrain Economic Development Board a stunning array of events will support the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix under the title ‘Yalla Bahrain!’ Yalla Bahrain is a cry of encouragement that rings out whenever the Kingdom of Bahrain takes its place on the world's sporting stage. There can, therefore, be no more fitting a title for the dazzling array of events that are planned throughout the month-long build-up to the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix including:

Motorsport Art Exhibition
the Bahrain National Museum sees a wealth of artwork from international and Bahraini artists and contributions from the local community. After a gala opening on February 13 the exhibition will be open to the public until March 13.

Seef Mall Autograph Session
Bringing Formula One closer to the Bahraini people, an autograph session with Honda Racing driver Jenson Button will take place in the Seef Mall on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

Jump Bahrain
Parkour or free-running is one of the latest cultural phenomena, and an expert team will use nothing but their skill and dexterity to cross the landmarks of Bahrain's capital city Manama and the Bahrain International Circuit during the Grand Prix weekend.

F1 Welcome Party
A sumptuous welcome to the Formula One community will be hosted at Bahrain International Circuit on Friday 10 March by His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Bahraini Spectacular
On Saturday March 11 a spectacular street parade will make its way through central Manama towards a purpose-built stadium beside the Shaikh Salman Bridge. Here the evening’s entertainment will include world-renowned musicians and a spectacular multimedia presentation will culminate in a firework extravaganza to herald the coming race.

Further information on the preparations for the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix and more details of the program of surrounding activities will be distributed throughout the 40-day countdown. BIC
Léon Taillieu on the Renault V8 program Léon Taillieu on the Renault V8 programLéon Taillieu talks of the development and progress of the new 2.4 liter B8 RS26.

When did the V8 program begin?
"We started the initial designs for the RS26 in September 2004."

What will the differences be in how the V8 engine is used on the track?
"Firstly, we need to note that Renault is the only team to change from a 72° v-angle to 90°, as dictated by the regulations. They also prevent us from using variable inlet trumpets, which previously allowed us to adjust the engine acoustics at different revs, and improve the torque curve. As a result, the drivers will have the impression that the V8 lacks torque, particularly at mid-range revs."

So will the engine be used higher in the rev range?
"That’s exactly right. We will be using a 7 speed gearbox to optimize how we use the V8. The average engine speed, over a lap, will be between 400 and 500 rpm higher than with the V10. That is quite a significant difference."

Will there be other changes for the drivers?
"The power levels will be lower than in 2005, meaning the drivers will spend a higher percentage of the lap at full throttle. We will have to take this into account when planning how we use the engine over the race weekend."

More time spent at full throttle, and higher average revs… does that have an impact on reliability?
"It could do, but we implemented all the necessary processes to achieve our objectives in this area. We are not worried on this point. Reliability was one of our strengths in 2005, and we will work in the same way this year."

Fuel consumption will almost certainly be lower. Will that have an impact on strategy?
"In principle, a 2.4l V8 will consume roughly 20% less than a 3.0l V10. However, the two engines will be used in a completely different way."

Is the power loss relative to 2005 of the order of 20%, as initially expected?
"We cannot be too specific, but that is a good approximation. The important thing is that we have hit our performance targets."

We have heard a lot about vibration issues with the V8. Can you explain why?
"With every engine, you must draw the distinction between internal and external vibrations. The first group are primarily torsional vibrations of the engine’s moving parts. They are central to the engine’s reliability development, and their level depends on factors such as the firing order, which itself has an impact on engine performance. From this point of view, it is important to select the firing order which gives the best compromise between reliability and performance. The second order of vibrations are external, and a partly a function of these choices. They can be minimized by how the crankshaft is balanced. In the car, it is the external vibrations that are felt by the driver and the chassis accessories."

How does this apply to the RS26?
"The compromise we have chosen with our V8 does not bring a higher level of vibration than that we encountered with the V10. They act in a different direction, but the efforts involved are comparable. Of course, this means we must redesign certain components as a result. But the poor reputation of the V8 in terms of vibrations, comes from the fact that in the 1980s and 1990s, they were being compared to V12 and V10 engines of the same capacity. This meant that the reciprocating masses in the V8 were higher than in the other architectures, and therefore harder to control. Now, we are comparing a 2.4l V8 with a 3l V10, which means the reciprocating masses are identical." Renault
Team USA
Team USA scholarship winners shine in Daytona Team USA scholarship winners shine in DaytonaThis past weekend’s 44th Running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona was notable for many different reasons.

It attracted a stellar entry list comprising top names from many different branches of the sport, including Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, the Indy Racing League, NASCAR Nextel Cup and, of course, the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve; it produced the first-ever 24-hour race triumph for the team owned by Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates; it added another feather in the caps of 2005 Indianapolis 500 race winner and IRL champion Dan Wheldon and 2003 IRL champ Scott Dixon; and provided the biggest win thus far for emerging Nextel Cup racer Casey Mears.

It was memorable, too, for the fact that no fewer than 10 former winners of the prestigious Team USA Scholarship were among the high-quality, 66-car field.

Three of the 10 took turns in the overall lead of the race, with 2001 Team USA Scholarship winner A.J. Allmendinger pacing a total of 27 laps in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley Daytona Prototype; 1994 winner Mike Borkowski leading a handful of laps in the sister #6 Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR entry; and 1995 alumnus Memo Gidley out in front during one of his stints aboard the #19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford-Crawford. zzzz

Meanwhile, in the equally competitive GT category, 1998 and 1999 Team USA Scholarship winners Paul Edwards and Andy Lally both led the way for a while in their respective #64 and #65 TRG Pontiac GTO.Rs.

The best-placed Scholarship winner in the final overall standings was Allmendinger, who capped his first-ever endurance race with a fine second-place run alongside fellow RuSPORT Champ Car star Justin Wilson and Michael Shank’s regular drivers, Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson.

Gidley, sharing with Michael McDowell and Alex Barron, placed sixth after a couple of lengthy delays.

Lally claimed second-place honors in the GT class – and a magnificent ninth-place overall – sharing with Marc Bunting, R.J. Valentine and Johnny O’Connell.

Bryan Herta, who claimed the second-ever Team USA Scholarship in 1991, and fellow IRL star Buddy Rice (1997) finished 11th overall and ninth in the DP class alongside Michael Valiante and team owner Rob Finlay in the #28 Finlay Motorsports Ford-Crawford.

Jimmy Vasser (1990), Tony Ave (1992) and Bryan Sellers (2001) also represented the Team USA Scholarship in North America’s premier endurance race.

In addition, Joey Hand (2000) and Joe D’Agostino (2003) were present at Daytona, while Phil Giebler (2000), was busy flying the Team USA colors in last weekend's A1 GP event in Durban, South Africa.

The first Team USA Scholarship was awarded in 1990 to Jimmy Vasser. The most recent recipient, 17-year-old Californian J.R. Hildebrand, finished a strong third in last November’s Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy which comprised a half-dozen races at Snetterton and Brands Hatch in England.

Current supporters of the program include Mockett.com, a Torrance, Calif.-based producer and supplier of "Fine Architectural Hardware For Your Fine Furniture," Sparco USA, RACER magazine, Speedstar, Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Jim Russell Racing Schools and the majority of past Scholarship winners.

For more information about becoming involved in the 2006 Team USA Scholarship and continuing to assist talented young American drivers at a crucial early stage in their careers, please contact Jeremy Shaw on 949-766-9504 or by email: jeremyshawracer@cox.net.

Rossi committed to Yamaha....for now Rossi committed to Yamaha....for nowValentino Rossi is fully committed to defending his MotoGP title with Yamaha next season, according to the team.   Rossi was due to test for Ferrari alongside Michael Schumacher at Valencia on Tuesday, but the session was postponed because of rain.

A Yamaha spokesperson said: "He's a Yamaha rider this year and all parties are 100% aware he is testing F1 cars."

A spokesperson for Rossi's agent said: "Two wheels is his job, four wheels is his hobby."

The Italian has one season left on his Yamaha contract and Ferrari have admitted they are keen to sign him up for the 2007 season.

"We'd like to have him with us, because we believe the Ferrari-Rossi pairing is very alluring," Ferrari director Ross Brawn said.

Skip Barber
Skip Barber names new GM for western region Skip Barber names new GM for western regionSkip Barber Racing School, LLC, has appointed Art Michalik general manager, western region. Michalik comes to Skip Barber from Yokohama Tire Corp., where he most recently served as director of marketing communications. Michalik has also held positions at Bridgestone/Firestone and at an automotive advertising agency. He began his assignment January 23 at Skip Barber’s West Coast base, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. ‘‘Art comes to us with much experience in the automotive and performance industries,’’ said SBRS President and COO George Ayers. ‘‘He is also an enthusiast and a racing fan and we’re excited that he’ll be leading our team at Laguna Seca. With the recent launch of the new High Performance Driving School, 2006 will be a very busy year at this location.’’
Renault set to stay in F1 - Ghosn Renault set to stay in F1 - GhosnRecently appointed Renault President and CEO Carlos Ghosn talks of the season ahead, his expectations for the Formula One program and the future...

What were the benefits to Renault of the championship win in 2005?
Well, there were a lot of benefits. Firstly, I think it was, without any doubt, a great boost to the morale of everybody inside Renault. I am talking about Renault employees, Renault partners, Renault dealers, everybody was very happy because it was a good show, it was a good competition and at the end, Renault won.

On top of this, I think there is a boost in the knowledge of the brand. Obviously the brand in known in Europe or in France, there is no doubt that everybody knows that we are competing there and making a good show in Formula One. But when you go to countries where Renault is not as known as in Europe, like India, or China, or Japan and South-east Asia, then having a good competition, and winning in Formula One, give a big boost and a big improvement in terms of the knowledge, and I would say fame of the brand.

Furthermore, I should say that one of the reasons for which we had the double championship was the reliability of the car. The car never failed, or at least failed much, much less than other competitors, and this is extremely important because it is something we would like consumers to associate with the Renault brand.

What are the team’s objectives for 2006?
To offer a good show, to compete at the highest level and to win again.

What is the future of Formula One at Renault?
As long as we continue to perform well, we offer a good show, and obviously we are at the top level of Formula One, then there are not questions about the future in Formula One.

Obviously, there is some uncertainty about the conditions in which Formula One will evolve beginning in 2008. This is not a preoccupation of Renault alone, it is a preoccupation for all manufacturers trying to figure out what will be the environment of Formula 1.

But if I eliminate this uncertainty, if I consider that we are going to come to a good resolution of the questions we have, and that Formula One will continue to have a good, fair return on investments for car manufacturers in general and for the winner in particular, then we must be there.

In the meantime, I am counting on the Renault F1 Team, on the team we have in Enstone and the people in Viry-Châtillon to really perform well, to offer us a good show and hopefully bring back the trophy again in 2006. Renault
Rob White on Renault’s new V8 Rob White on Renault’s new V8UPDATE We have added images of the new Renault V8 below. 01/31/06 The R26 is the new chassis being officially unveiled today in Monte Carlo and is powered by the all-new 2.4 liter RS26 V8 powerplant.

How has the team approached the RS26 project?
"We have tackled the project enthusiastically, with high ambitions: we are aiming to win. Our approach at Renault is above all pragmatic, which means we are aggressive but also realistic. We need to be in a position to win, which means you need a good package: a powerful, reliable engine, and a quick, easy to drive car. We work with two priorities in mind: meeting the technical challenge of the new V8, and achieving the best possible integration of the engine in the new car."

Has the V8 design fundamentally caused the engine builders to fundamentally re-assess their work?
"Not at all. The fixed architecture is significantly different, but we will use similar technology. A 2006 V8 will have much more in common with last year’s V10 engines, than the V8 units used in other categories or in F1 in the past. With the RS26, the V8- specific challenge was to understand and manage the internal and external vibrations, as well as the engine’s other subtleties, plus to manage the changes imposed by the regulations, such as materials restrictions and the removal of variable trumpets."

What was the working philosophy of the project?
"We ran a prototype V8 engine very early on the dyno in order to focus our design studies, to establish our initial objectives for engine performance, and to make our basic decisions as early as possible. A successful project is one that has been managed effectively, and you cannot short-circuit any of the development phases. We planned the design, approval and production tasks in order to have a powerful, reliable engine ready for track use in January, to maximize our testing mileage. The RS26 completed a significant mileage on the test bench prior to hitting the track for the first time." zzzz

What are the main characteristics of the new engine?
"First of all, it is a brand new engine, that has been designed to exploit the new regulations to the maximum. However, the regulations now impose on us more parameters than in the past. There is now a minimum weight limit for the engine, of 95 kg, a fixed architecture and the centre of gravity must be within specific limits. Our goal was therefore to push to the limits of the regulations, to gain maximum advantage. However, there is no point designing an engine in isolation. We began discussions with our colleagues in Enstone from late 2004 in order to achieve optimum engine integration with the chassis, and to understand the effects of the engine change on the overall package. It was a very productive dialogue that enabled us to make a significant step forward in this area."

Are the reliability challenges greater or less than with the V10?
"As always, we are aiming for zero defect, and the fact that the engine is a V8 is a single detail. That only alters the basic blocks from which we work. We had to take into account the revised engine capacity and architecture, but this is all part of our normal process."

Will the V8 engines rev higher than their V10 predecessors?
"I think we will continue to see F1 engines revving to very high levels and, in spite of the restrictive regulations, increasing the maximum revs will remain a core objective for the engine builders. The V8 is not a clean break in terms of technology, and the constraints we encountered with the V10 are still in place. However, the V8 is also a shorter engine, which makes its dynamics different. The new architecture, therefore, brings advantages and disadvantages. I think the maximum revs at the start of the season will be similar to those seen with the V10, and will climb progressively through the year."

Will the RS26 undergo significant development?
"We have established our development program, within the framework of the two weekend engine life. Our experience with the RS25 was particularly useful, and we are already working on our developments for later in the year." Renault
PPI names new Competition Director PPI names new Competition DirectorPPI Motorsports (PPIM) announced Monday that Gary Putnam has been named competition director.   Putnam, a 10-year veteran in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, rejoins his former crew chief, James Ince. Ince and Putnam worked side-by-side during the 2000-2002 Cup seasons.

"I am very pleased to have Gary Putnam join my organization," said Cal Wells III, owner of PPI Motorsports. "He will be an invaluable asset to me as well as our crew chief. He adds a tremendous amount of depth to the Tide Racing program and will help us grow as we move forward into a multi-car team."

"Anytime you can bring back a quality crew chief that can do other things only strengthens your race team," added Ince. "He was my car chief at MBV Motorsports and went on to do great things as a crew chief. I feel fortunate he was open to the idea of joining forces again. I consider him my equal. He’s almost like having my alter-ego around."

Putnam’s duties start immediately as the Tide/Downy Chevrolet takes part in testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Before joining PPIM, he served as crew chief at NEMCO Motorsports (2004-2005) and Petty Enterprises (2002-2004). Putnam, 35, a native of Connecticut got his start in racing working for Charlie and Carl Pasteryak on the Whelen Modified Tour.

Indy 500 going down the tubes under George leadership Indy 500 going down the tubes under George leadershipAn ESPN poll:

Which annual sporting event would you most like to attend in person?
58.4% Super Bowl
12.1% World Series, Game 7
7.6% BCS title game
6.6% NCAA basketball title game
5.1% The Masters
4.3% Stanley Cup, Game 7
2.9% NBA Finals, Game 7
2.4% Daytona 500
0.5% Indianapolis 500

Makes you think about how much the INDY 500 has fallen under Tony George and his IRL concept.  Can Open Wheel Racing thrive when what was once the biggest race in the world, and certainly the biggest Open Wheel race in the world, continues to spiral downward in popularity?

Malaysia test roundup Malaysia test roundupSepang F1 Circuit resounded to the muted roar of MotoGP engines again last week when the big names gathered for the first test of the new 'pre-season'.

Ducati, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki - all of them were on hand to start getting into gear for the start of the new season at Jerez on March 26.

The name that topped the strictly unofficial listings by the end of the week was that of new Ducati recruit Sete Gibernau.

But there was plenty of encouragement for the new boys, with Aussie Chris Vermeulen in particular showing how quickly he is learning his MotoGP craft on a Suzuki as the test wore on.

Getting better all the time

By the end of day three at Sepang Sete Gibernau was the man who sat atop the time sheets as the teams showed off their new wares.

Clearly getting used to his Ducati, the 33-year-old Spaniard lapped in a best time of 2 mins 01.03 secs to head new teammate Loris Capirossi by 5/100ths of a second.

Gibernau's time unofficially shattered the best time ever seen round Sepang on two wheels, which was Capirossi's pole-winning 2:01.731 for last season's Grand Prix.

Nicky Hayden's fastest race lap in that event was 2:02.993.

For the first time, Gibernau had a run on the Ducati with Bridgestone qualifying tires fitted. "My settling-in period with the team, the bike and the tires is continuing," said Gibernau, "and I am increasingly satisfied with the choice I have made."

Marco makes a mark again

Fastest Honda rider of the Sepang tests was Marco Melandri, last year's World Championship runner-up.

Melandri lapped in 2:01.09 as he and new sidekick Toni Elias got down to work together.

Elias, the Spaniard who turns 23 on the day of this year's first Grand Prix, is working closely with compatriot and former World Champion Alex Criville, who won 15 races in his top-flight career and the 1999 world title. zzzz

Pedrosa in among the big names

Despite admitting to being extremely tired after the Sepang tests, triple World Champion Dani Pedrosa had every reason to be happy with his Sepang performance.

A time of 2:01.51 was good enough to lift the 20-year-old from Sabadell in northern Spain into the top four as he and Honda get ready for his MotoGP debut.

"I'm sure Dani will do a great job," said his teammate Nicky Hayden.

"He's a great rider and has lots of talent, so I'm sure he'll teach them a trick or two."

Pedrosa himself was struck by the difference on the big RC211V in the wet. "The tires are bigger and have more edge grip," he observed, "but on the exit of the corners it slides more."

Some insiders have questioned whether the diminutive Pedrosa can handle the physical excesses of the MotoGP bike, but he is working flat-out on his fitness levels as well as learning the Honda. "We've definitely learned a lot in the test," added Hayden, "and we can look forward to taking it to Phillip Island (where they test next).

"If what we like here works there, then it's pretty good for our weapon."

Rossi ramps up the new Yamaha

Though 'only' fifth overall in the Sepang times, World Champion Valentino Rossi is adamant that his new Yamaha looks the goods.

"Yamaha is working especially hard on improving the stability of the bike and making it easier to find the right setting," said Rossi, who was the early pace-setter during the Malaysian test." The engine is also better."

Teammate Colin Edwards was quick to agree, even though he was one of the riders to come off his bike without much harm in the course of the week.

"Usually with a new bike you have to compromise in some areas to improve others," said the American, who will be looking for his first MotoGP win in the new season.

"But it seems that with this bike they've improved all over."
Source www.grandprix.com.au

Legge says Champ Car test went really well Legge says Champ Car test went really wellWith rumors that Katherine Legge will move up to Champ Car in 2006, a lot has been said about whether she is ready.  From her own assessment, it sounds like she is, and we do know that she is undergoing intense physical training with a personal trainer in Indianapolis to make herself strong enough to drive a Champ Car fast an entire race distance.  So how did her long-distance testing go last week at Sebring?

"The test went really well," she told Crash.net , "I was really apprehensive going in, because I've been in Indianapolis [where PKV is based] for a few weeks, I know the test plan, I've been at the shop every day and have been working very hard physically, but I still didn't know what to expect.

"Doing 200 miles, two hours, around Sebring by yourself is pretty lonely, but it was actually fun too. I was surprised at that, because the cars are pretty brutal to drive and I didn't know if I'd get through the race distance consistently. Physically, I thought I'd get through it, but my times were pretty consistent too, and the whole team was fairly happy.
Doing a proper race distance was a big step, as it was twice as long as I had driven before. We did 50-minute races in the Atlantic car and, obviously, the Champ Car is a very different car to drive. However, it was good to get it out of the way now and do it this early on because, if I am going to do Champ Car in 2006, I have to know where I am at.

"I learnt so much this time, even down to using a drinks bottle, which I had never done before. Everything was new to me, including pit-stops. You look at them on the TV and you think they're easy, that it doesn't look that difficult, but, when you actually do one and there's the possibility of running one of your crew over, it's a big step. Fortunately, we did maybe 20 practice stops on the first day and, then, on the second day, we did live ones, and it was no problem at all. It is just another one of those things that you have to do to get experience. All in all, I think I came away having learned more in two days than I ever have in my life."

"There's so much that you learn while you're just driving round," she explained, "Thirty laps at a time is a long stint, and you get the chance to reflect on why you are doing things, and why you are doing them in a certain way, or ask why you don't try them another way. You get to tweak things, and everything just slows down in your head.

"It's not that you are driving round banzai, more that you are trying to learn what kind of style to use. For example, going in to the hairpin, I tried so many different things, and you learn what works for you and what doesn't. You just start thinking about it more and, because we weren't focused on times that much, it gave me the chance to really knuckle down and learn."

Schumacher says Honda and Renault will be ones to beat Schumacher says Honda and Renault will be ones to beatAlthough many in the paddock are predicting that Ferrari will bounce back with a vengeance this season, the team's number one driver Michael Schumacher believes it's Renault that the other teams will have to watch out. Having tested alongside the reigning F1 Champions at Barcelona last week, Schumacher had the opportunity to observe them, as well as his other rival teams, up close.

"Renault looks well prepared, as well as Honda - they also look to be prepared," the German told Autosport. "After them, BMW seem to do a reasonable job, considering it's their first car. But, as I said, Renault seem to be best prepared - they are the ones to beat. They are looking very fast. This is the picture we get at the moment."

Industry News
Tire Tips From Bobby Hamilton Tire Tips From Bobby HamiltonNORWALK, Conn. Now that the checkered flag has  dropped on the racing and holiday travel season, many drivers are getting  their vehicles in gear for 2006. NASCAR legend and AutoVantage spokesman  Bobby Hamilton says it's a good idea to start at the bottom.

"On and off the track, I know how important it is to take care of your  tires since they're the only thing between your vehicle and the road," said  Hamilton. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says  underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure. And tire failure can  lead to accidents. No one wants that. Whether I'm racing on the track or have  my family in tow on the highway, a little tire maintenance goes a long way  toward a safer ride."

Brad Eggleston, vice president of AutoVantage, said, "As we continue in  the winter driving season, one of the best precautions is proper tire  maintenance, which keeps your vehicle humming during the often hazardous  winter road conditions. In addition to proper tire maintenance, AutoVantage  helps you save money on winterizing your car, tune-ups and any necessary  repairs for the changing seasons." Hamilton says there are some simple tips to keep your tires in tow for a safer ride: zzzz

1. Under Pressure: A tire doesn't have to be punctured to lose air. Tires naturally lose air over time. NHTSA advises checking the pressure in all your tires (even the spare) at least once a month with a tire gauge. Some circumstances may call for more frequent checks, such as before you set out on a long trip or if you've just traveled on uneven or bumpy surfaces.

2. How Much Air?: NHTSA says your tires should be inflated to the psi, or pounds per square inch, recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer. This number can be found on a placard on the inside of the driver's side door frame, the inside of the glove box or trunk lid. Filling your tires above the recommended psi can affect maneuverability, make the ride harsher, and sometimes lead to loss of control and crashes. Underinflating can result in tire stress caused by overheating, irregular wear of tread, tire failure and sometimes loss of driver control and crashes.

3. Time Matters: When you check your tire's pressure is almost as important as how often you check. To get an accurate reading, you should always check pressure when a tire is "cold." That has nothing to do with the temperature outside; it means when a tire has been sitting still. NHTSA says the optimal time for checking pressure is at least three hours after your vehicle has been driven. Even if you only drive your car around the block, the tire still needs to rest for three hours to get an accurate reading.

4. Tread Test: Since tires are the only thing between you and the highway, you'll want to make sure your tires have the proper amount of tread. Many tires have tread wear indicator bars molded into the tread. If you can see a solid bar of rubber across the width of the tread, it's time to buy new tires. Also, you can do the "penny test" by placing a penny, Lincoln head down, into the tread groove. You need new tires if you can see the top of Lincoln's head.

5. Rotation, Rotation, Rotation: Most manufacturers recommend rotating tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. However, some four-wheel drive vehicles require rotation even sooner, such as every 4,000 miles. When in doubt, always check your owner's manual.

6. "X" Marks the Spot: Some tire manufacturers recommend all-season tires be rotated in a "modified X" pattern to help promote a more even and uniform treadwear pattern for all four tires. That means only the tires being moved to the drive axle are crossed to the opposite side of the vehicles. The remaining two tires are moved from the drive axle to the free-rolling axle, remaining on the same side of the vehicle. Ask a tire professional about other rotation strategies.

7. Spare Your Spare: For a quick fix of an underinflated tire or flat tire, buy a small air compressor that plugs into your cigarette lighter. It costs about $20 and can be found in most auto parts stores.

8. Goodbye Flats: Never change a flat on the side of a busy highway. Many tire companies are offering run-flat tires since studies show 70 percent of all drivers have had a flat at one point or another. Run- flat tire technology allows you to continue driving on a flat tire for many miles so you'll have a better chance to get off the busy highway and into a service station. A tire-pressure monitoring system alerts you when you have a flat.

9. Take a Peek at Your Tires: It's important to visually inspect your tire's well being on a regular basis, too. Consumer Reports says consult a professional if you see cracks or cuts on the sidewalls. The magazine suggests replacing a tire at once if you see bulges or blisters, which signal potential weak spots that could lead to tire failure.

10. Blowout Beware: If you experience a blowout or rapid loss of tire pressure, it's important to know what to do and what NOT to do. NHTSA says don't step on the brake and don't abruptly take your foot off the accelerator, the two most instinctive things to do. Both can lead to loss of control. Instead, stay calm and gradually release the gas pedal, correct the steering and continue to slow down and pull off the road once your vehicle has stabilized.

Ganassi does not want wing Ganassi does not want wingWhile the wing on the NASCAR "car of tomorrow" is intriguing, team owner Chip Ganassi said that he didn't want to see a wing on the cars. Ganassi said he is happy that NASCAR has had dialogue with the teams and considered their input - and he hopes that could include eliminating the idea of a wing on the cars. Ganassi has had experience with wings in open-wheel and road racing. "There better not be a wing on the car of tomorrow," Ganassi said. "It is an area that is wide open and rampant for cheating, and it's an area that's very hard to police. Why they would want to get involved in something that's hard to police, I have no idea." NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Bob Bell talks of the new R26 Bob Bell talks of the new R26Renault today officially unveils the new R26 that the team hopes will carry them to their second straight championship success. Bob Bell talks of the team's ambitions with the new car.

Bob, was the R26 designed with a specific philosophy in mind?
"The R26 is an aggressive development of a proven and successful design philosophy. The R25 had no obvious weaknesses, which was reflected in our championship win. The task for 2006 was therefore to assess the impact of the engine regulation changes for the chassis, integrate the new challenges they posed, and then continue on our development path under stable chassis regulations. We have worked on saving weight, improving stiffness and improving the car in every area."

What challenges did the introduction of V8 engines pose for the car design?
"The most obvious one was a packaging issue. The V8 engine is significantly shorter than the V10, and this meant re-assessing the mechanical architecture of the car before making major design decisions. Subsequently, we have had to integrate the increased external vibrations generated by the V8 into account during the design of ancillary components and joints, to ensure they can withstand this new operating environment. And finally, uniquely at Renault, we have had to adapt the mechanical layout of the car to suit the 90° v-angle of the V8, which is more open than the architecture of our previous engine."

How significant has the change in engine regulations been for the chassis design?
"To be honest, the engine change has not made a huge difference to the cars. There is continuity in the chassis regulations, and the dialogue between the teams at Enstone and Viry is open and effective, which has ensured optimum installation of the engine in the chassis. I believe a car that was quick in 2005 will be once again in 2006." zzzz

What are the major differences compared of the R26 compared to its predecessor?
"In visual terms, the aerodynamic package is completely new. The most striking elements are the smaller sidepods to take account of the reduced cooling capacity of the V8 engine, but there are no carry-over items in any area. Under the skin, the major mechanical change is that we will be using a 7-speed titanium gearbox for the first time. The V8 engines have less torque than their predecessors, and moving to a seven speed gearbox allows us to exploit very effectively the power and torque characteristics of the new engine."

In 2005, car development continued up to the final race – will the program be as aggressive in 2006?
"Absolutely. We have some very promising short and medium-term developments already planned for the car. Firstly, we had two R26 chassis running in just our second test of 2006, which doubles the effective mileage on the new car, and ensures both drivers are fully comfortable ahead of the opening race. Secondly, we will introduce a major aerodynamic update just before the opening races. The car that runs in Bahrain will be quite different to the machine that has been testing so far."

Finally, the R26 has quite a reputation to live up to, defending two world championships. Can it deliver the goods?
"We certainly think so. More than ever, the true level of competitiveness will not become clear until we begin running seriously at the first race, so I don’t think it is worth drawing too many conclusions before then. But we are very aware that after a successful season, it is difficult to maintain winning momentum. We have not been complacent in any area, and our design approach has not been a conservative one. The same is true in Viry, where the engine team has done a fantastic job balancing reliability and performance. The R26 is an aggressive statement from the team, and it says that we mean to stay on top in 2006." Renault
'Complacency has no place at Renault' 'Complacency has no place at Renault'The following is a statement from Renault Team President Patrick Faure speaking at the launch of the new R26 challenger.

"For the Renault F1 Team, the motif of 2006 is continuity. We enter the year with an unchanged line-up in our management, our drivers and our technical team. What is more, we hold the title of world champions, and since mid-way through last season, our groups at Viry-Châtillon and Enstone have been working to their maximum to ensure we maintain consistency of performance in 2006. In terms of performance objectives, there can be only one: to be fighting for the world championship in the final races.

"After winning both world titles in 2005, it might be tempting to think that Renault has achieved its objectives in Formula 1. We are here to win, and we have done so. But this is a team of true racers and competitors. Winning just once is not enough, and our team has been built to maintain this level of performance.

"Nor indeed is solitary success sufficient for the Renault Group. We must continue winning to draw full value from our Formula 1 involvement, and capitalize on the fact that we are champions. 2006 will be a year of renewal for Renault, and the Formula One program has an important role to play in that project. World championship success has energized the image of the Renault Group. In the medium term, this will allow us to develop increasingly dynamic road products and derive increased commercial return on our investment. But in the immediate future, it also demonstrates values of performance, technical excellence and reliability, which represent a formidable platform to accompany our commercial expansion into new markets such as China and Russia. Mobilizing the company to pass this message to our customers will be a priority in 2006. zzzz
"Our driver line-up will certainly be the subject of much speculation this season as people look to 2007. We will make our decisions in due course, as befits a leading team. The current focus is firmly on the coming season. Fernando Alonso is a committed, professional sportsman.

"It will be important for his reputation to maintain his effort and performance until the end of 2006. He enters the year as world champion, and will be determined to do justice to that title. Giancarlo Fisichella played a valuable role in our 2005 championship victory. He demonstrated remarkable mental strength in overcoming a number of challenges, and is now fully integrated in the team. I am sure he can establish his presence at the front of the field this year.

"The entire team expects intense rivalry and exemplary teamwork from our drivers: For every team on the grid, success in 2006 will once again rest upon how successfully they can adapt to change. The introduction of new V8 engine regulations will place an even greater premium on finding the delicate balance between reliability and performance. It was a challenge at which our team excelled in 2005, accompanied by our technical partner Elf, and we are extremely pleased with the results of the RS26 so far. Revised tire regulations once again mean Michelin are faced with new challenges as the year approaches. This will be their final season in Formula 1, and we are confident that with ever closer collaboration between our technical teams, we can make it a winning one.

"The 2005 season provided fans of Formula 1 worldwide with a compelling spectacle, and we hope to see more of the same in 2006. We can expect an intense battle at the front of the field between ourselves, McLaren, a resurgent Ferrari and perhaps other challengers. That has been our preoccupation this winter: preparing a technical response capable of keeping us at the top. Complacency has no place at Renault. We are focused on repeating our successes." Renault

Densham discusses the new R26 Densham discusses the new R26Renault Chief Designer Tim Densham discusses the new R26.

Tim, the role of the R26 will be to defend the world championship – has that changed your approach to the design phase?
"It hasn’t affected the decisions we have made with the car. The real benefit is that we can work from a solid baseline. Rather than changing everything, we know the R25 was a good car, so we have focused on the areas that will help us improve: reviewing each component to make it better than its predecessors, in terms of weight and stiffness. The fact that the car is defending a world championship doesn’t change the maths we use to make those calculations."

When did work on the R26 begin?
"The initial discussions about the vehicle design began with our colleagues in Viry, in October 2004, and design work really began to take off from April 2005. The main thing to stress about the design phase, though, is that it is a collaborative effort. We work with the aerodynamics department to identify the areas that will bring most performance gains, and try to package the mechanical elements as tightly as possible to give aero maximum freedom. The challenge comes from balancing that freedom, and the wish not to compromise the good mechanical qualities of the R25."

You have had to deal with a significant change in engine architecture with this project. Has that had a big impact on chassis design?
"Not particularly. The fact that we are running a V8 engine does not require a shift in the car’s design philosophy. For example, a shorter engine does not automatically mean the car’s wheelbase changes – it is something we have reviewed, and decided upon in consultation with the aero team as the best solution for the overall package. The R26 is an evolution of the concept we have been honing in recent years, not a clean break."  zzzz

The V8 is obviously smaller than its predecessor – has that given you a lot more freedom in how you package the car?
"There are several aspects to this really. Firstly, the engine is shorter, lighter and develops less power than the V10: that has allowed us to make a good step forward with the compact packaging of components such as the radiators, which can be smaller, allowing more extreme bodywork shapes. Secondly, the ‘v’ angle of the engine has opened out, from 72° to 90°, which has led us to review how we install some of the ancillary systems. Finally, there is the issue of vibrations, and particularly lateral vibrations, from the V8 engine. We have paid particular attention in the detail design phase, to mount accessories in such a way that they can function correctly in this environment."

Did the late changes to qualifying have an impact on the design of the R26?
"No. They came too late to really affect the design of the car, but they are not a worry. If you have a good car, I believe it can perform in any circumstances, on high or low fuel."

The R26 and the RS26 V8 did not run until January – is this a worry when it comes to problem solving?
"Not at all. We anticipated that there would be a lot of small problems to solve in the opening weeks. We know that reliability ahead of the first race is paramount, so we have been working hard on getting the right solutions in place quickly. But that was the advantage of getting the car to run very early in January, to ensure we are ready for the opening race of the season. Looking at how you manage the winter period, whether you run an interim car or not, there are no right answers. Every solution is a compromise, and ours was the best one for our circumstances."

What parts of the new car are you most pleased with?
"As a designer, the really satisfying part is to see how the whole car comes together, rather than any individual parts. This is a further evolution down the path of what we believe to be the most effective way of designing an F1 car. It looks like a real team effort, and each part of the car flows into the next one. You cannot isolate one key area and say, ‘that’s why this car will be quick’. It is lots of small details that come together, and that’s what gives you satisfaction as a designer." Renault
Fisichella looking to take on Alonso Fisichella looking to take on Alonso2005 was far from a dream season for Giancarlo Fisichella as his team-mate dominated within the team and out on track. The Italian vows to turn things around in 2006...

Giancarlo, first things first. There is a new season ahead of us, and you will have set yourself clear targets. Can you share them with us?
"It is simple for me: I am aiming for the world championship. This is a team that is defending the world title and working hard to win it again, so I am looking forward to a great season. I want to score points, win races and be in the fight for the championship until the last races of the season."

Looking back to 2005, you had a season of some mixed fortunes. What do you think you learned?
"2005 was an interesting year for me, but it is in the past now. I needed a lot of determination at certain points, and there were some very good battles, some sweet moments and also some difficult times. I am now completely comfortable within the whole team. We work very well together, I think the reliability problems from last year have been resolved, so I am looking forward to a very strong year working together."

Tell us a little about the car you will be driving, the R26…
"It’s a great-looking car isn’t it? It looks really good to me, and the first impression I had gave me a lot of confidence. From the outside, it looks quite similar to the R25, like a development of that car. That was what we wanted it to feel like too, because that car was very nice for the drivers. When I got in the car in Jerez, it felt good straight away. I remember in 2005, my first run was a very nice surprise – the car was excellent. I have the same feeling with the R26." zzzz

Of course, the V8 engines are also brand new for the coming season. What was your feeling with the RS26?
"I was impressed, and I think the whole engine team has done a fantastic job to get this engine ready for the new season. Of course, there is much less power than with the V10, but none of the bad things people were talking about. At the wheel, the vibrations do not really feel different to the V10, and the power delivery is very smooth. There is less torque, but the power is very progressive, without any weak spots as the revs increase."

Do you have to alter your driving style to cope with the V8 engine?
"There is not too much adaptation, in my opinion. The cars are definitely easier to drive, but I don’t think it will favor one type of driver. With reduced power, it is important to be very smooth on the exit of the slow speed corners, because if you make a mistake then it is much harder to recover the time on the following straight. For me, the key thing will be to make as few mistakes as possible and be very consistent. But when it comes to some drivers benefiting more than others, I don’t see it happening. All the drivers in the top teams are quick, they are great drivers, and even the guys with an aggressive style will know how to adapt. We will all be driving flat out, on the limit."

In late 2005, you mentioned that some parts of last year’s car were not perfectly suited to your style. Has that situation improved with the R26?
"It is still very early to say. The important thing is that there are two months between the first test and the opening race of the year. That is a good period to build up my confidence with the car, to fine-tune it and to adapt my style so that we can start the season in a very strong situation."

2006 will also see numerous changes to sporting regulations, including tire changes in the race and a new qualifying format. What is your opinion?
"There will definitely be some interesting strategies in 2006! In terms of the tire changes, I think it is a better choice. There were times last year when we had some problems with those rules, and the possibility to change tires makes things a little bit safer in my opinion. The new qualifying format is very interesting for the drivers too. I think we will have some new tactics to try, but I am pleased to have an hour of qualifying again, and to be able to do more than one lap. I hope the spectacle will be a good one for the fans."

Finally, you will be team-mate to the reigning world champion in 2006. A lot of people will be wondering whether that changes anything in your approach?
"The easy answer to that is no. Fernando had a fantastic season in 2005, and he did a great job. But everybody starts the championship on an equal footing. We are on the same level in the championship and in the team. From my point of view, it starts again from zero in Bahrain, and I hope we can have a good rivalry this year." Renault

Kovalainen out to learn Kovalainen out to learnAfter a season in GP2 Heikki Kovalainen in which he finished runner-up to Nico Rosberg in the Championship chase, Kovalainen moves to Renault as the team's official test driver and he is determined to make the best of his opportunity.

Heikki, you will fulfill the role of test driver for the Renault F1 Team in 2006. What are your objectives for this year?
"I think the goal is simple: I need to develop as a driver. This is a perfect opportunity to work alongside Fernando and Giancarlo, and to learn from them. They are both at the top of our profession, proven race winners, and fantastic drivers. For me, it is great to be in a situation where I can compare myself with the guys who are representing the team at the races."

Do you have specific areas in which you want to develop?
"I think it has to happen in every area. I don’t think I have any particular weaknesses at the moment, but everything needs to step up a level. The main goal is to develop my driving, but I need to learn how to give good technical feedback as well, to understand how the team works at the races, and most of all to get a lot of miles. The test driver’s role is an important one, because the decisions you make have a direct impact on how competitive the team is at the races. So I have to make sure I am doing a good job in every sector."  zzzz 

Do you think a test driving role is a good way for a young driver to begin an F1 career?
"For sure, I think it is a much better option than going racing with a smaller team, for example. When you are learning, it is really important to be in a good car, a good team and working with top level drivers. In a smaller team, you don’t get so much testing and things are always limited in one area or another. For me, to have the opportunity to test with Renault, and work with the best in the business, is absolutely the right decision for my future."

Does testing demand a different style compared to when you go racing?
"Not really. My philosophy is always to go flat out, at 100%. I have discussed it with the engineers, and they have said that if you go off sometimes, it is not a problem – but that for their work, it is best to be driving flat out. If you are at nine tenths, you cannot give an accurate answer about what is happening with the car. Plus that is when you lose concentration and can make mistakes, when you are not on the limit. My approach will to be pushing hard all the time, to feel the changes to the car and give reliable feedback. Flat out is my philosophy."

What are your impressions of the team so far?
"What is really impressive is the level of precision. There are always new parts to test, new developments on software, things are never standing still. Compared to junior series, that is very different. At Renault, the other thing that has really struck me is how the team works together. There are the chassis guys in England, the engine team in France, but they come together in a very smooth way. When you see that collaboration, it is hard not to admire it."

Does the role of test driver bring pressure?
"I think the pressure will come from inside myself: I constantly want to improve, to do things better and to learn more. Being a test driver for the world champion team is certainly a big responsibility, and I am aware of that. But they have the trust in me to develop and do a good job. It is a fantastic opportunity, and I am determined to deliver on it." Renault

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Webber tries new Williams
'Minardi' to keep racing in 2006
Cosworth dismiss V10 advantage row
Rosberg's no pay driver
Speed would prefer V8 grunt
Ferrari owner back in the black
Montoya on hunt for new team
MF1 set to launch new weapon
Biaggi to test MF1 car again
A new cloud over British GP
A fourth Spanish test track
Scenes from Vegas Cup testing Monday Scenes from Vegas Cup testing MondayThe big NASCAR test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway started today and the Speedway also took the opportunity to make official its aggressive expansion plans.  See related story.


Martin to drive No. 6 truck in Daytona Martin to drive No. 6 truck in DaytonaMark Martin will kick off his 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule in the series’ season opening Daytona 250 on Friday, Feb. 17. Martin, who plans to run a limited schedule in both the Craftsman Truck and Busch Series in 2006, will compete in four races over Daytona Speedweeks, including the Budweiser Shootout, the IROC season opener, the Craftsman Truck opener and the famed Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.

It will mark Martin’s fourth career start in the truck series, his second consecutive; he finished eighth in the ’05 series finale at Homestead. Martin won at North Wilkesboro in 1996 in his second career truck series start, and finished third in his first start at Richmond that same year. This will be Martin’s first venture in the series at Daytona, although he did take part in a truck at Daytona with teammate David Ragan two weeks ago.

“I’m excited to get out there in the truck,” said Martin, who plans to go full-time in the series in 2007. “We had a chance to test the truck at Daytona a couple of weeks ago and I really had a ball out there. I’ve been excited about the Truck Series for a while now, and I can’t wait to get out there in the No. 6 Ford F-150 and see what we can do against the competition.

“The truck is really fast and Mike Beam and the entire No. 6 crew have really put together an awesome team for David (Ragan) and myself for 2006 and we are really looking forward to sharing the Ford F-150 for 2006.”

Martin will run a limited number of Truck races in 2006, sharing the seat with up and comer David Ragan. Martin will be in the seat for the first three races of 2006 at Daytona, Fontana and Atlanta before handing over the reigns to Ragan at Martinsville. Martin is currently scheduled to make seven starts in the No. 6 Ford F-150.
Sadler spins in Vegas Sadler spins in VegasElliott Sadler, in a Robert Yates Racing Ford Fusion, spins out of turn four during Monday afternoon testing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Sadler missed the wall but flat-spotted all four tires. Photos by David Allio


Bourdais highlights SPEED Channel’s driver of the year voting Bourdais highlights SPEED Channel’s driver of the year votingIn 2005 Sebastien Bourdais has added several awards and accolades to his impressive resume including a second Vanderbilt cup, a third Bridgestone Passion for Excellence Award, a Bridgestone Pole Award and he also helped France win its first Nation’s Cup in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Now, Bourdais has a chance to add another award to that list having been nominated for SPEED Channel’s Driver of the Year.

Bourdais is very familiar with being a candidate for this prestigious award, having been nominated in all four quarters of 2005 season. Last season he was nominated three out of four quarters and lay claim the title of people’s champion in the SPEED Channel Driver of the Year standings, capturing top honors in the fans' vote.

During the 2005 Champ Car season Bourdais led the series in wins, poles and laps completed recording six wins and five poles on his way to the title. More important to his championship hopes was the fact he scored nine consecutive top-five finishes and completed more than 99 percent of the scheduled race laps last year. Bourdais became the seventh driver in the last forty years of Champ Car World Series racing to record back-to-back championships. Even more impressive he is only the third driver to accomplish this feat in his second and third years of competition, joining the ranks of Champ Car Champions Mario Andretti and Alex Zanardi. In 2005 Bourdais also became the first Champ Car driver in eight years (Al Unser Jr., 1997) to win a race in International Race of Champions (IROC) competition when he took the checkered flag in Texas.

Bourdais will be dueling for the Driver of the Year honor with fellow champions Tony Stewart (NASCAR), Dan Wheldon (IRL), Steve Kinser (World of Outlaws), Greg Anderson (NHRA) and Tony Schumacher (NHRA). zzzz

In its 39th year, the Driver of the Year Award will be determined by an independent vote of an 18-member panel of blue ribbon auto racing journalists and broadcasters. Drivers' achievements are evaluated using the following criteria: Track Performance, Sportsmanship, Humanitarianism, and Fan Recognition.

Race fans can also let their opinion count in on the award as a fan poll will decide 19th vote. Fans can vote for the award by log going on to www.speedtv.com and clicking on the Driver of the Year logo. Voting will continue through February 11th and the victor will be announced on Wednesday, February 15th at 8:00pm ET. Champ Car

Quote of the week Quote of the week"It was amazing watching him (Franck Montagny) go. He didn't know the car, and on the first morning he clocked a 50.9 sec. lap, everyone was floored"  -- Katherine Legge after her Sebring test last week where she drove a PKV Champ Car alongside Franck Montagny
Roth readies for return Roth readies for returnThere hasn't been a lot of down time during the racing off-season for Toronto's Marty Roth. Since the end of the 2005 Indy Racing League Indy Pro Series season, Roth has put in thousands of miles - both in the race car and in the air. Roth has spent several weeks training to fly his new airplane - a six-seat Aerostar Super 700, which cruises at 245 knots and is pressurized up to 30,000 feet. He'll use it to fly from race to race in 2006.

He's also logged more than 1,000 miles in his Indy Pro Series car, preparing for his fifth season on the circuit. "Last year, we just wanted to get to the races and the tracks," said Roth, who drives the No. 4 Roth Racing Dallara. "This year, we've really prepared for it. Between the race at Homestead and the two races at St. Petersburg, you've got a quarter of your season over in the first two weeks. You've really got to be prepared for the first green flag to drop."

The team's preparations for 2006 actually started late last year when Roth hired Mark Weida as engineer and Jason Lucas for data acquisition. The testing has allowed the team to get to know each other before the season starts. "The team has really gelled together," Roth said. "They've made huge improvements in the car. I'm real happy with these guys. It's a real nice mix."

So far in the off-season, Roth's testing has been exclusively on road courses. "Last year, we had a good speedway car, but we were lacking on the road courses and the short ovals," said Roth, who had a career-best, second-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in September. "Right now, we have a really good road course car. All of our testing has been by ourselves, so I'm really looking forward to the Open Test at Homestead (March 4 & 6) to run with some other guys."

In addition to his preparations for the Indy Pro Series season, Roth is already readying himself and the team for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. This will be his third Indy 500. He finished 24th in 2004 and 31st in 2005. "I've already been talking with Honda," Roth said. "We're committed for the 500, and we're going to start off from the beginning, with the Open Test in April. Last year, we missed some time at Indianapolis working on our deal, but this year we're going to make sure we're out there every day." That type of commitment and preparation fuels high hopes for Roth in 2006. IRL

Wheldon joins elite company Wheldon joins elite companyDefending IRL IndyCar® Series champion Dan Wheldon joined elite company after teaming with 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and former IRL driver and current NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Casey Mears to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance event.

Wheldon, the first IndyCar Series driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series championship in the same season, became the first driver since Arie Luyendyk to win the Indianapolis 500 and Rolex 24 in a 12-month period.

Wheldon joined previous 500 and 24 hours winners: Mark Donohue (1969 Rolex 24, 1972 Indy 500), Arie Luyendyk (1990, 1997 Indy 500 and 1998 Rolex 24), Al Unser Jr. (1992, 1994 Indy 500 and 1986-1987 Rolex 24), Al Unser Sr. (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987 Indy 500 and 1985 Rolex 24), A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977 Indy 500, 1985 Rolex 24), Mario Andretti (1969 Indy 500, 1971 Rolex 24) and Bobby Rahal (1986 Indy 500, 1981 Rolex 24).

"There are some great names that have won the Rolex 24 At Daytona and some even more impressive ones that go hand-in-hand with Chip Ganassi Racing. To be on both those lists is very special," Wheldon said. "This is simply one of the biggest races around, and to be a part of winning this for Team Target and the whole crew is something I've very proud of for sure. This team prides itself on winning the big races, and now I can say I'm a part of delivering one of those for the whole organization."

Dixon and Wheldon joined Scott Sharp as the only Indy Racing League regulars to capture an overall victory at Daytona.  In all, seven drivers who will compete in the IndyCar Series in 2006 competed in the Rolex 24. In addition to Dixon and Wheldon, Dario Franchitti (8th), Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice (11th), Danica Patrick (50th) and Sharp (52nd) also competed in the event.

Racing News
George gets another award for SAFER Barrier George gets another award for SAFER BarrierIndianapolis Motor Speedway President and Chief Executive Officer Tony George received the Jack O'Neal Safety Award for his role in the creation of the revolutionary SAFER Barrier on Jan. 28 during the United States Auto Club Champions Night.

IMS Director of Engineering and Construction Kevin Forbes accepted the award on behalf of George at the annual prize-giving event, which took place at the Westin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. Forbes supervised the installation of the energy-absorbing barriers at the Speedway and helped develop the system.

The O'Neal Safety Award is one of several that George and the SAFER Barrier development team have won for motorsports engineering and innovation. In 2002, they received the Louis Schwitzer Award, SEMA Motorsports Engineering Award and GM Racing Pioneer Award. George received the inaugural Pioneering and Innovation Award at the Autosport Awards Dec. 5, 2004, in London for his leadership in the development of the SAFER Barrier. zzzz

George was one of two IMS officials honored at the Champions Night. Longtime IMS Historian Donald Davidson received USAC's Eddie Edenburn Award. Davidson formerly also served as USAC statistician and historian.

The SAFER Barrier first was installed on the four outside retaining walls of the Speedway's historic 2.5-mile oval in May 2002 after nearly four years of development by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy Racing League and University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility. NASCAR joined in the development of the project in September 2000.

Since its first installation, the SAFER Barrier has been adopted by nearly every major oval-racing facility in America.

An improved, second-generation SAFER Barrier was installed at IMS in March 2005 based on data collected from racing impacts during events. The improvements included a fifth steel tube added to the exterior, a slight curvature of the barrier to provide a smoother surface, improved attachment points and a universal Styrofoam shape that is compatible with both IndyCars and stock cars. IMS

’FW28’ debuts at Valencia ’FW28’ debuts at ValenciaUPDATE Prior to the start of the Valencia test proper tomorrow, the WilliamsF1 Team rolled out their 2006 race car, the FW28, for its inaugural laps today. With Nico Rosberg behind the wheel, the team recorded 43 trouble free laps despite the poor, wet weather. Tomorrow, the team will start testing the new car in earnest, with the program extending until Friday Feb 3 at the Spanish circuit. Commenting on today’s promising progress, WilliamsF1’s Technical Director, Sam Michael said, “Today was spent completing filming work with the FW28 before the proper testing begins tomorrow. It was cold and damp in the morning and then rain settled in for the afternoon. Even so, we managed to complete a few systems checks on the FW28 with no problems at all. Tomorrow Mark will drive the FW28 and Nico will drive the FW27C interim car, both with V8 engines.” WilliamsF1

01/30/06 (GMMf1NET)  Williams' brand new 'FW28' racer debuted at Spain's Valencia circuit early Monday morning.

In cold conditions, F1 rookie Nico Rosberg took the controls of the blue and white machine, after it was officially launched at the team's Grove (England) factory last Friday.

McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari - with Valentino Rossi - will start testing at the 'Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo' from Tuesday, before Renault, Toyota and Honda get going a day later.

Wood to run 7 Cup races, McSwain to crew chief Wood to run 7 Cup races, McSwain to crew chiefUPDATE Jon Wood will run a limited Cup schedule starting midsummer. Wood, a third-generation racer, will drive the #47 Ford, which is likely to be sponsored by the Air Force. It will be the first time in 14 years Wood Brothers Racing has fielded a second car. Fatback McSwain will be the crew chief. Sporting News

01/26/06 Michael “Fatback” McSwain, who stepped down as crew chief from the Wood Brothers #21 Ford to oversee the team’s move from Mooresville, NC, to Harrisburg, NC, and the competition end of the team’s merger and expansion, will be back atop the pit box later this season. McSwain will be the crew chief for Jon Wood’s #47 Wood Brothers/JTG Racing Ford, which will be entered in seven Cup races. And there could be more such work in the future. “Have I done my last (full-time) crew chiefing? Have I been on the pit box for the last time? I don’t know,” McSwain said. “Me personally, the only thing that I’d like to do that I haven’t done … I’d like to win a championship. If I could take a young guy who’s learning to be a Cup crew chief and help him or teach him, that’d be equally as gratifying as me doing it myself.” Speed Channel

Eurosport to carry all Champ Car races live Eurosport to carry all Champ Car races liveUPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Thank you for this information.  I was wondering what was going on with respect to Champ Car TV coverage here in Europe this year.  I was very happy that I was able to watch all of the Champ Car races live in 2005. Go Sebastien!  Pierre Trudeau, Paris 

01/29/06 European viewers will be able to watch all 2006 Champ Car races live on either Eurosport International (Eurosport1) or Eurosport2.  Below is the preliminary schedule.  Times are shown GMT in Military time.
Eurosport International
Apr 9 22:00 00:00 Long Beach LIVE International
May 14 03:00 05:00 Houston LIVE International
May 14 22:45 23:45 Houston REPL International
May 21 21:00 23:00 Monterrey LIVE International
Jun 4 23:00 00:30 Milwaukee RX2 International
Jun 18 21:30 23:30 Portland LIVE International
Jun 25 21:00 23:00 Cleveland LIVE International
Jul 9 19:00 21:00 Toronto LIVE International
Jul 23 00:15 01:30 Edmonton RX2 International
Jul 30 22:00 00:00 San Jose LIVE International
Aug 13 21:30 23:30 Denver LIVE International
Aug 27 19:45 21:45 Montreal LIVE International
Sep 24 20:00 22:00 Road America LIVE International
Oct 15 23:00 00:30 Korea RX2 International
Oct 22 23:00 00:30 Australia RX2 International
Nov 5 20:00 22:00 Mexico City LIVE International

May 14 10:00 11:00 Houston REPL Eurosport 2
Jun 4 20:00 22:00 Milwaukee LIVE-2 Eurosport 2
Jul 23 19:00 21:00 Edmonton LIVE-2 Eurosport 2
Oct 15 06:00 08:00 Korea LIVE Eurosport 2
Oct 22 05:00 07:00 Australia LIVE Eurosport 2

Racing News
AWR Changes Its Name to Andersen Racing AWR Changes Its Name to Andersen RacingFAIRFIELD, N.J., - Andersen Walko Racing's Dan Andersen said today that the team is changing its name to Andersen Racing, effective Feb. 1.  The name change was made to better reflect the team's ownership.  Former employee and minority owner John Walko has announced his own new team for the 2006 season.

Andersen Racing is based in a new, 7,000-square-feet, state-of-the-art shop in Fairfield, N.J.

Like Andersen Walko Racing (AWR) did before it, Andersen Racing will again field multiple cars in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. For 2006 its primary drivers will be Brad Jaeger of Cincinnati; Gerardo Bonilla of Orlando, Fla.; and Ramiro Scuncio of Argentina.

AWR fielded cars for Robbie Pecorari, Graham Rahal, Pablo Donoso and Jonathan Klein in 2005.  They posted four victories, 17 podium finishes, 22 top-five finishes and four poles.  Pecorari finished second in the championship and earned its Rookie of the Year award.  Rahal finished fourth for the season, while Donoso was ninth and Klein was 13th.

Mike Garvey gets Marathon backing Mike Garvey gets Marathon backingFindlay, Ohio-Competitive Edge Motorsports has teamed with driver Mike Garvey for the upcoming 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup season. While Mike Garvey may be a new name for some, he is well-known in the racing circuit where he has driven in almost every racing series, including ASA, Craftsman Truck, Busch, and NASCAR Nextel Cup. He is regarded by many race experts as one of the best short-track drivers in any circuit. Through his career, Mike has earned 36 wins, including 22 in the ASA series, tying him with Mark Martin for 5th all time wins. In 2005, Mike qualified nine times for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, with his best finish of 25th place at Pocono. Voted "Most Popular Driver" in two different circuits, Garvey was inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.  Married and the father of two children, he currently resides in McDonough, Ga.

The Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil #51 Chevy Monte Carlo will open up the 2006 season at the California Speedway on February 26 with a fresh focus on elevating performance.  Competitive Edge Motorsports will follow the California race with races at Las Vegas, Atlanta, Bristol and Martinsville. Excited about the new season, the Marathon Chevrolet #51 Team and Garvey will be testing in Las Vegas, January 30 to February 1. "The team has done an outstanding job with the 2006 body and the preparation is going as planned. The cars are really good. It should get interesting this year," said Garvey.

TV News
SPEED adds Elliott Sadler SPEED adds Elliott SadlerNASCAR driver Elliott Sadler will fill the fourth seat on SPEED’s popular Friday night show Trackside with Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds. Waltrip will continue to handle the first-half duties, with Sadler taking over for DW on July 7 at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I’ve been a huge fan of Trackside over the years,” Sadler said. “I’m honored they’ve asked me to be a host and hope to bring race fans a unique perspective. I’ll be working with some great co-hosts and I know this is going to be a lot of fun.”

“SPEED viewers want to see a variety of drivers and crew chiefs with a variety of personalities,” said Chris Long, VP of Studio Production for SPEED. “Elliott is a fantastic driver and he has a lot of fun with everything he does -- his insight and sense of humor will be a great addition to the cast. It’s flattering that Elliott wanted to find time from his busy schedule to work with us, and we expect the viewers are going to enjoy his participation.”

Trackside, now in its fifth season, is a live, Friday night pre-event show from the site of each NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race.

Sadler, 30, from Emporia, Va., currently pilots the No. 38 M&M’S Ford and No. 90 CitiFinancial Ford for Robert Yates Racing. A Chase participant in 2004, Sadler finished 13th in points in 2005 and has three career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories and five NASCAR Busch Series Victories.

F3000 Italia
Minardi is back Minardi is backMinardi F1 team founder Gian Carlo Minardi could not stay out of racing for long.  He is joining forces with the Italian GP Racing team to compete in the upcoming Euro 3000 championship, which was called the Euro3000 Italia series last year.

Minardi, who founded his Formula One squad in 1979, sold the team to Red Bull last year.

"After 20 years in Formula One, and after the recent arrival of Scuderia Toro Rosso, I've thought of taking a step back and go back to my origins," said Minardi. "1980 saw the debut in Formula Two of Minardi, which one year later would get their first victory with the unforgettable Michele Alboreto. It's a well-known story after that.

"Today I want to start a new adventure: together with GP Racing and [technical partners] Bimecc we'll take forwards an ambitious project, and that is to become a reference point for talented drivers who want to become main players.

"The new adventure starts at Monza in March and we hope it'll be able to bring us significant results as soon as possible."

Team Director Tancredo Pagiaro added: "I'm really happy I'm able to announce an agreement which I'm sure will take us very far. The great experience and undoubted capabilities of Gian Carlo Minardi will be extremely useful for our new venture.

"I'm proud of having contributed in bringing back the Minardi name to motor racing and I'm sure we'll get satisfaction from the series which will start in Monza on March 19th. A lot of work is awaiting us, but we are so charged with enthusiasm that we can't wait to start this new adventure."

Industry News
Bidders line up for stake in GMAC Bidders line up for stake in GMACCitigroup Inc., the world's biggest financial-services company, has joined Cerberus Capital Management LP in a group that may bid between $11 billion and $15 billion for General Motors Corp.'s finance unit, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The bidders for a 51% stake in General Motors Acceptance Corp. includes another group headed by Wachovia Corp. and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the people said Saturday. Timing for a possible agreement isn't set, the people said.

"They're continuing to make progress," Standard & Poor's analyst Robert Schulz said in a Jan. 27 interview. S&P has said it may cut GMAC debt deeper into junk if sale talks stall. "So far we're not predicting a deal won't get done."

GM, the world's largest automaker, needs to sell the unit to cut borrowing costs for auto loans after credit-ratings companies such as S&P and Fitch Ratings cut its debt to junk. Detroit-based GM lost $8.6 billion in 2005.

The GMAC deal is " moving pretty fast," GM Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson said Jan. 8. He reiterated Jan. 26 that the automaker expects to be able to sell the majority of the unit, which had a profit of $2.8 billion last year. GM has made more money from selling auto loans and mortgages than its core business of building cars and trucks since 2002. Last year, GM's auto business lost $9.7 billion. Detroit Free Press

Persistence Pays Off for GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Persistence Pays Off for GAINSCO/Blackhawk RacingDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Twenty-four hours. Four drivers. Six hundred and thirty-five laps. Three halfshafts. Two noses. Dozens of zip-ties. Hundreds of bottles of water. Just one goal for GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing: Finish the team’s first-ever endurance race, the 2006 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Today, Alex Gurney, Bob Stallings, Rocky Moran, Jr. and Jimmy Vasser did just that, by bringing home GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing’s battered, bruised and wheezing No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley in 24th place overall, 13th in the Daytona Prototype class, after starting in the third position.

The 44th annual event, billed as “America’s Premier Sports Car Race,” turned into an odyssey of survival for the GAINSCO team, after an early accident with the No. 77 Daytona Prototype and several mechanical failures forced the team to take the No. 99 machine into the garage area four times, losing more than 90 laps in the process. The crew’s repeated efforts to repair the car and return the team to competition despite long odds earned high praise from the team’s drivers.

“Our guys never, ever gave up and still had enough left to be all smiles and jokes as the checkered flag fell,” Gurney said. “I’m incredibly proud of the team effort they showed – it kept us on the track and got us to the finish.”
Stallings, who co-owns the team, said the importance of the finish to the team’s 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series championship hopes made the repairs all the more crucial. zzzz
“This is only the beginning of a 14-race season for us, and the fact that we finished 13th in class means we’ll go home with 18 championship points that we wouldn’t have if we’d have just quit,” Stallings said. “Everyone – our engineer Kyle (Brannan) and the crew chief, Terry (Wilbert) – the whole crew just dealt superbly with anything and everything that was thrown at them – and let me tell you, everything got thrown at them.”
For Vasser, the team’s result could be summed up with a sports cliché: Never give up.
“You just can’t give up in a race like this. Even after we had our problems and I got in the car, the race wasn’t even half over. When something like this happens, you just do your best to give the car back to your teammates in a good position. I had a lot of fun and I’d like to come back and do it again.”
The early laps of the endurance classic went promisingly well for a rookie team – Gurney kept the car in the top-10 throughout his opening stint and Stallings held his ground until he handed the car over to Moran, who clicked off a succession of consistently quick lap times.
The trouble for the team started on Lap 120, when the No. 77 Daytona Prototype spun in front of Moran, far too late for him to stop. The resulting contact severely damaged the No. 99, forcing the replacement of the nose bodywork, undertray and radiator, a process that sent the team behind the wall for 25 laps. Rocky was unhurt in the incident, and was able to bring the car back under its own power. Just 15 laps after the team returned to action, Rocky brought the GAINSCO machine back in – part of the driveline had failed.
The team again made repairs, and quickly climbed back through the field, with Vasser at the wheel in the early morning hours. Then, just after 5 a.m., the driveline trouble came back to haunt the team, forcing yet another visit to the garage area. From then on to the checkers, it was a race to survive for the GAINSCO team – survive the tricky traffic, survive the “slick as snot” track and survive an engine drawing its final breaths.

Rocky, who was making his sports car debut, said, “I feel so bad for the team that we weren’t able to get the results we were hoping for, but I think we all gained a lot of experience and we had a lot of fun. It was great to be with such an outstanding team and hopefully I can come back and do it again.”
Gurney agreed, saying, “It was great to finish our first-ever 24 hour race. We had way more than our share of problems throughout the weekend, but we made it to the end, we got the points and we learned a lot we can take back and digest for next year. We really suffered from a lack of horsepower because we blew our primary race motor in practice, so the car struggled on the straightaways, but the car handled awesome. Late in the race I was still able to turn laps within a few tenths of the leaders despite a really soft engine – that says a lot about our engineering.”
The GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing team will return to their shops in Dallas, Texas to bring the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley back to tip-top shape in preparation for the next round of the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve. That race, held in conjunction with NASCAR’s Busch Series, will take place at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico on March 4. The race will be televised on SPEED Channel. Live timing and Web radio coverage will be available at Grand-Am.com, and team news and updates can be found at GAINSCOracing.com.

Liz Halliday Sebring Winter Test notes Liz Halliday Sebring Winter Test notesThe UK-based American sportswoman Liz Halliday enjoyed a successful official test as she prepares for the 54th Annual 12 Hours of Sebring, completing three days at the circuit in the LMP2 Intersport Racing AER Lola. She shared the driving with Clint Field, whom she will partner throughout the 2006 American Le Mans Series, as well as Clint's father and team owner Jon, who will also drive at Sebring.

The test began with Liz topping the time sheets for the first morning session. She explains: "There were several new cars there, including the Audi R10s and the Lola LMP1 and they were shaking down to start with. I thought that it was quite funny, being quicker than the brand new works Audis!"

Despite this early incentive, there was much work to do in preparation for the opening round of the '06 ALMS season. "The AER Lola is fundamentally the same specification as we used last year but with a couple of developments carried out over the winter," explains Liz. "What we wanted to achieve at the test was to come away with a set-up that will give us a quick car that is as easy to drive as possible for the long race. zzzz

"During the test, we made a range of changes to various aspects of the car and made a lot of improvements over the three days." In fact, the Intersport Racing Lola stayed at or close to the top of the time sheets throughout the test.

"Although we made good progress, there are limits to what we could achieve at the circuit. So now, the crew will continue with the development of the car when they get back to the workshop and introduce a few more changes, including a new aerodynamics package from Lola. So I'm positive that by the time we get to the start, we will have a quick, well-handling and reliable race car.

"In terms of lap times, I was quite pleased with the test. I ended up just 0.5 seconds off Clint's laps, which was closer than I've been before and closer to where I hoped to be," said Liz.

But it wasn't just car settings and racing lines that would prove beneficial from the test. The Sebring circuit is particularly demanding and understanding the physical loads on the driver is as important as those on the car.

Liz explains: "Sebring is a tough track; it's very fast and bumpy and incredibly physical. I realized that I need to improve my endurance and upper body strength for the race, and I want to make sure I am as well prepared as I can be. So I have been speaking to a trainer and have worked out a fitness plan to achieve this between now and the race.

"It's exactly this kind of thing that you need to figure out at Sebring. It can make a real difference to how you feel and how you perform."

Despite the arduous nature of the event, Halliday is looking forward to the race: "Sebring is unique because of its years of history and heritage, but also because of its bumpy, high speed corners and the technical nature of the circuit. Doing the 12 Hours of Sebring is harder than a 24 Hour race, like Le Mans, I think. A lot of people find it the toughest event of the year but that's all part of what makes it special. And after this test, I'm very excited and looking forward to being back in the car with Clint and Jon for the race." www.lizhalliday.com

Aguri pen Bridgestone deal Aguri pen Bridgestone deal(GMMf1NET) Another piece of the 'Super Aguri' puzzle has fallen into place, with news that the Japanese team will wear Bridgestone tires in 2006.

Although engine supplier Honda's works team is Michelin shod, Bridgestone - the Japanese tire supplier - confirmed on Monday that a multi year contract has been penned.

The first Bridgestone shod Aguri car, a modified 2002 Arrows, will appear at a shakedown test next month.

''We are delighted that Super Aguri has chosen Bridgestone to be its official supplier,'' said director of Bridgestone motor sport, Hiroshi Yasukawa.

The revelation brings Bridgestone's count of F1 teams from three last year to five in 2006, with the remaining six Michelin-shod.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Montagny turns back on F1
Schu says Renault 'team to beat'
BMW exit not good for team, says Williams
Webber says team issues resolved
Sato admits Super Aguri 'relief'
Williams sees end to 'GPMA' threat
Grove is F1 'lifeline' - Karthikeyan
Cosworth aim to stay in F1
Who, and what, is an '06 winner?
Red Bull can win in '07 - Berger
Wurz wants to race again
Rossi 'brave' to test F1 mettle - Webber
4-Nation tour launched to promote season opener 4-Nation tour launched to promote season openerA four-nation tour to promote the Gulf Air Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix was launched yesterday. It is being spearheaded by Gulf Air, the official title sponsor, and the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) to attract spectators from Dubai, the UAE, Beirut, Lebanon, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

"We are committed to building on the success of last year's event and at the same time grabbing the opportunity to promote Bahrain as a hub for tourism and business in the region," said Gulf Air president and chief executive James Hogan. BIC general manager Martin Whitaker said he was proud that Bahrain is staging the first race of the season in March. "This is certainly a huge step forward not only for us at the BIC, but also for Bahrain and the region's motor sport industry at large," he said.
A1 Grand Prix
French team slapped with penalty French team slapped with penaltyA1 Team France has been given a 25 second penalty for taking their drive through penalty during a safety car period. The original drive through penalty was given as a result of two engineers working on one tire during their compulsory pit stop taken at the end of lap two in today's Feature race.
A revised results table can be found below.
A1 Team Driver Time
1 Netherlands Jos Verstappen
2 Switzerland Neel Jani
3 Portugal Alvaro Parente
4 New Zealand Matt Halliday
5 South Africa Stephen Simpson
6 Italy Massimiliano Busnelli
7 Austria Mathias Lauda
8 France Alexandre Premat
9 Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr
10 Canada Sean McIntosh 36 laps
11 Germany Timo Scheider 35 laps
12 China Tengyi Jiang 35 laps
13 Pakistan Enrico Toccacelo 31 laps
14 Mexico David Martinez 30 laps
15 Lebanon Basil Shaaban 27 laps
16 Malaysia Alex Yoong 25 laps
17 Ireland Ralph Firman 14 laps
18 India Armaan Ebrahim 10 laps
19 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 10 laps
20 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 9 laps
Mixed results for Champ Car stars in Rolex 24 Mixed results for Champ Car stars in Rolex 24The turbocharged Ford-Cosworth engines of the Champ Car World Series won’t fire in anger for another two months but some of the stars of the series got an early jump on 2006 preparations with strong runs in this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Six of the men that were on the grid for the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford finale were on hand on Daytona International Speedway, and while the list featured drivers with deep and diverse road-racing resumes, it was a pair of relative newcomers that helped carry the Champ Car banner to the Rolex podium.

RuSPORT drivers Justin Wilson and A.J. Allmendinger helped spark the Michael Shank Racing team to a second-place overall finish in the weekend, scoring a runner-up spot along with co-drivers Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson. The event was Allmendinger’s first-ever foray into endurance racing and the first for Wilson in the United States. The team finished second to the Target Chip Ganassi machine that featured former Champ Car drivers Scott Dixon and Casey Mears along with Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon. zzzz

The team showed notice early that it would be a force as Wilson took the #60 car to the front, wresting the lead from Rocketsports Racing’s Michael McDowell on Lap 93 and holding it for the next 12 laps. Wilson then yielded to Allmendinger, who built a 14-second lead over his stint before an electrical problem found during his driver change cost the team three spots. Undaunted, the team soldiered on as darkness fell on Daytona, running in the top three for the majority of the evening before a damaged toe link dropped the team two laps off the pace.

“The team did a great job, we had a good, strong car all night and I have to thank the team for that,” said Wilson. “It was pretty hairy a couple of times out there, especially when we had the toe link problem, but the guys did a great job getting the car fixed and keeping us in contention.

“This race is a bit tougher than Le Mans in some aspects,” Wilson said of the Daytona event, “The track is shorter and it’s very busy out there. At Le Mans you have a long straight where you can catch your breath a little bit, but here you are always battling. It was a lot of fun.”

Again, the MSR team fixed the problem and the drivers kept the car on the track, making up time and positions as other machines fell to the wayside, and greeted the morning sun from the second spot. Wilson ended his final stint with two hours left in the race, turning the machine over to Allmendinger for the final stint of the day. The Californian held the #58 Red Bull Porsche of David Donohue at bay before a flat tire scuttled its charge and gave the Michael Shank Racing team its first-ever Rolex 24 podium.

“That was the first time that I have ever fought to stay awake in a race car,” grinned Allmendinger. “Really, the car was very strong and I have to thank Mark Patterson and Michael Shank for giving us this chance and for Oswaldo Negri, for teaching me about driving this car. He helped me so much that it felt like I had driven the car before I ever climbed into it. I have to come back here again and try to win one of these.”

The day started with another Champ Car veteran taking the bit and running with it as 2003 Champ Car champion Paul Tracy took the #6 Grayson Elliott/MSR Lexus/Riley to the front at Lap 23 and kept it there for the next 30 laps. Tracy started 12th and in typical Tracy fashion, had the car in third after just five trips around the 3.56-mile layout.

“We had a great car and I was able to make passes pretty much anywhere around the track,” Tracy said. “I got a couple guys right off the bat but the car was so good that I was able to make up ground through the infield section as well as the oval. I was making easy laps and it looked good.”

Meanwhile, things weren’t going as well for the other Champ Car stars that had opted for a weekend in sunny Florida. Sebastien Bourdais, who had started fourth, suffered a broken suspension piece in his #78 Doran/Ford that would eventually doom the team to an early retirement. Jimmy Vasser suffered a similar fate, except for the fact that was watching his car’s problems from the relative safety of his pit stall. The #99 Gainsco/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac/Riley was involved in an accident when another car spun directly into its path, leading to a lengthy stop for repairs that dropped it out of contention. The team battled hard to repair the car and despite the fact that the team was 20 laps down before the 1996 Champ Car titlist got in the car, Vasser and his four-man team kept the car rolling all the way to the finish.

“You just never give up in this race,” Vasser said. “The race wasn’t even half over when I got in the car and the guy that won this race last year won by 11 laps, so you know anything can happen. That in mind, you just want to run hard and give the car back to your teammates in a good spot.”

Tracy’s run for the Rolex ended soon after he got out of the cockpit when a broken halfshaft on his car led to a pair of trips to the garage. The team eventually retired just after the race’s halfway point, ending the day in 54th place, just two spots ahead of the Bourdais entry. McDowell ran up front early in the day in the Finlay Motorsports machine but a late-night problem stole his chance for victory as well, leaving the team to finish in sixth place.

The Champ Car World Series drivers will now get back to the task of preparing for the 2006 championship, a 15-race season that gets underway April 7-9 with America’s Fastest Street Race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Incidentally, Allmendinger and Wilson will be reunited with their MSR teammates at Long Beach as the Grand American Rolex Series will compete as part of the bill at Long Beach, the first appearance for the Grand-Am series on the streets of Long Beach. Champ Car

NASCAR, USAC kill open wheel tradition NASCAR, USAC kill open wheel traditionUPDATE #2 In the latest edition of AutoWeek USAC standout David Steele says of the poor turnout for last week's Copper World Classic at Phoenix, "NASCAR is just like a Wal-Mart. If you put Jeff Gordon out here in a Midget, or Tony Stewart or even Ryan Newman in a Midget, you'd have a good crowd. NASCAR is taking over everything. That's all anyone is interested in."

The author of the article, Curt Cavin goes on to say, Sad but true. And truth be told, even the France family has played a part in ruining what used to be a winter playground for the likes of Gordon, Stewart and Newman. PIR is owned by NASCAR parent company ISC Corp, and there were cries of poor publicity in the Phoenix area for this event. Also, NASCAR has already announced elimination of one of Copper World's four divisions, a stock car series known as the Southwest Series, Elite Division.

It can't all be blamed on NASCAR, though they sure appear to be guilty. Since the early 90's all CART and IRL races have failed at all ISC tracks and we heard the same cries of lack of promotion. A conspiracy? You decide.

Open Wheel Racing desperately needs a strong premier series at the top (i.e. the head) and as long as the IRL and Champ Car stay divided, or as long as both survive and remain separate (i.e. one does not die), the entire food chain of Open Wheel Racing will continue to fall apart. (See related article). The person to blame? The man to the right with the smile on his face, Tony George, the man who split "the top" of open wheel racing by creating the unnecessary IRL. By splitting the top he essentially cut the sports head right off.

It's now up to the team owners in the IRL to put an end to this silliness, by leaving the IRL after 2006 and forcing the IRL to collapse so that Open Wheel Racing can be united again. They are going to have to force Tony's hand, and in the end it will be the best thing that can happen for the sport.

To the team owners, the message is simple - When in doubt, do what's right.

01/23/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, You are completely correct in your article on open wheel racing dying. I have to say this has now reached a point where the only thing that makes any sense is that the France family has a money train to Tony's pocket in order to keep the split going and to ultimately ensure open wheel racing goes away.  I'm sure by now all the IRL team owners have advised Tony to reconcile with Champ Car and I'm sure Kevin and Jerry would love to come to an agreement. He really has to be past the ego thing so it has to be a lot of money and that means NASCAR. It's really about one thing "when in doubt, follow the money." Greg Johnson

Dear Greg, This means that you must subscribe to the conspiracy theory that the France family thinks there is too much confusion in racing - too many forms of racing that dilutes the product, and that in order for racing to reach NFL status there must ultimately be one form of racing - stock car racing, just as every football game is played on a 100-yard field with goal posts and a football. We have heard that theory, but the France family has yet to make such a proclamation, at least publicly. Mark C.

01/23/06 As we predicted, stick a fork in it, it's done.  NASCAR's pressure for USAC to change their Silver Crown cars to superspeedway sleds has destroyed the Copper World Classic at Phoenix.   Robin Miller agrees in this SPEEDTV article (scroll down their page).  The crowd dropped from 30,000 to 3,000, the car count from 48 to 12.  But in all seriousness, this poor turnout makes one reflect on the article written by Mark Cipolloni that says the split at the top of open wheel racing is decimating the lower ranks as well.  It's all precipitated by the split between the IRL and CART and there is one man to blame for it all - Anton (Tony) George.   10 years later and the results of his actions are now resulting in the decimation of an entire form of motorsports.  Are we a NASCAR-only nation now?
Emerson Climate signs with RCR Emerson Climate signs with RCREmerson Climate Technologies has been named an official partner of Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and will be an associate sponsor of the #29 GM Goodwrench/Reese's team in the NEXTEL Cup Series and #2 ACDelco team in the Busch Series. Emerson Climate Technologies, a business of Emerson, is a provider of technology solutions for the global heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration industries serving residential, industrial and commercial markets. Key products of Emerson Climate Technologies include Copeland Scroll compressors, White-Rodgers thermostats and controls, and Emerson motors. Emerson Climate Technologies will use its RCR program as a relationship-building tool with industry-leading HVAC and refrigeration contractors through point of purchase and internet promotions, driver appearances at industry events, show car appearances, bringing contractors to race events, and events at the team's race shop. For more information, visit www.EmersonClimate.com. RCR PR
PKV Racing completes 3rd preseason test PKV Racing completes 3rd preseason testPKV Racing completed its third round of driver evaluations with a two-day test January 26-27 at Sebring Raceway in Sebring, Florida.

Rising open wheel star Katherine Legge was joined by Formula 1 test driver Franck Montagny on the 1.66-mile Sebring “short course," where the team put both drivers through their paces.

Legge, who was testing a Champ Car for the third time, and second with PKV Racing, ran over 450 miles including 260 on the second day when she did a full, 200-mile, race simulation. The talented and determined 25-year-old Brit, who earned three victories last year during her inaugural Atlantic season placing third overall, spent much of her testing time working on a number of race-related issues, including live pit stops.

“With Katherine, we worked on a lot of race-related exercises,” said PKV Racing General Manager, Jim McGee. “Things like pit stops, simulated qualifying runs and a simulated 200 mile race were all part of her program. It was a learning exercise and Katherine did a good job,” McGee noted.

Legge, who previously tested at Sebring with Rocketsports Racing on December 13 and PKV Racing on December 20-21, said “It was an interesting two days of testing. I really have to thank PKV Racing and especially the crew. They were great to work with and I learned a lot. I’ve never had to do pit stops before and we did about 20 of them the first day. It’s a little bit different. It was also very valuable to do the race simulation. I have been working out every day to build up my strength and stamina and the race simulation gave me a good feel for where I am in terms of conditioning. It’s a learning process and I have to remember that everything I do on days like this makes me a better driver.” zzzz

Legge became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America when she captured her debut Atlantic event in Long Beach. The win in Long Beach was named Southern California’s top auto racing moment of the year in voting by fans. Her strong showing in the Atlantics have also earned her a Formula One test for Minardi and an A1 Grand Prix test for Team Great Britain in November.

Montagny, who was Renault’s Formula 1 test driver the last two seasons, made his debut in a Champ Car during the test and ran approximately 350 miles.

Commenting on the test, the 28-year-old Frenchmen, who competed against Champ Car stars Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson in Europe said, “This is the first time I have driven a Champ Car and it was great. I got a good idea about the car and my times were on pace. The cars are not that different from F1 car, but, actually they are more fun to drive and maybe even more demanding physically. It was really great testing a Champ Car and I really want to thank the team and crew. They did a good job. I think it was a productive test and I had a lot of fun.”

McGee said, “Franck was very impressive and very professional. He has a lot of experience and it showed. Franck ran competitive lap times and considering it was his first time in a Champ Car we are very pleased with his performance.”

Summing up the test and the off-season program McGee said, “It was a good test. We accomplished everything we wanted during the two days. The drivers, mechanics and engineering staff did a great job. In fact, all of our preseason tests have been very productive. All the drivers we have brought in have been highly qualified and professional, the team has done a great job preparing the cars and we have accumulated a lot of data. Overall, we are very pleased with the results of our off-season program to date.

This was the third driver evaluation of the off-season for PKV Racing, which is seeking anywhere from zero to two drivers for 2006. In addition to Legge and Montagny, the team tested Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Dalziel and Giorgio Pantano at Sebring on December 12-14. More driver evaluations are expected in the coming weeks before the team makes a final decision on our driver lineup for the 2006 season. PKV Racing

Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 11:00 am Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 11:00 amThe 44th anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona is heading down the homestretch with just one hour remaining in the twice around-the-clock challenge.

The No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi entry with 2003 IRL IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon behind the wheel continues to lead. Dixon is expected to make one final pit stop before the finish.

The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley car driven by Champ Car competitor A.J. Allmendinger is currently running in second place.

Darren Law is sitting third in the No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Porsche, but on its latest pit stop, the car began leaking antifreeze as the team is battling overheating problems with hopes of making it to the finish.

The pole-winning No. 23 Alex Job Racing entry with Lucas Luhr has battled back twice from mechanical trouble and currently sits in the fourth position with an hour to go.

In the GT class, the No. 36 currently driven by Randy Pobst continues to pace the rest of the class in his TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup machine but the No. 65 TRG Pontiac GT driven by Andy Lally is creeping his way towards Pobst.

A1 Grand Prix
Verstappen wins feature race in Durban Verstappen wins feature race in DurbanJos Verstappen has driven a fantastic race to give the Netherlands team victory in the A1GP feature race in Durban, South Africa. Neel Jani brought the Switzerland entry 2nd ahead of Portugal. Full report
Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 9:00 am Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 9:00 amThree hours remain in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley remain in charge of the twice-around-the-clock challenge.

Dan Wheldon, the 2005 Indy 500 winner and the defending Indy Racing League champion, is at the point with a two-lap lead over the No. 60 Michel Shank Lexus Riley and driver Justin Wilson.

Also two laps behind is David Donohue and the No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar (third spot) and Patrick Carpentier and the Cheever Racing No. 39 Lexus Crawford (fourth position).

The Luhr/Long pole sitting Porsche is flying, at least 2 seconds per lap faster than anyone, but they are 4 laps back in 5th place after breaking a half shaft, and so out of contention for the win. If not for two mechanical problems, they were easily the class of the field, and would have won by laps.

Leading the GT class is still the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche.

A1 Grand Prix
French teams wins A1GP sprint race French teams wins A1GP sprint raceDurban - The A1 cars sped off the grid a little later than scheduled this afternoon after crowds in a restricted area forced A1 Race Director, Tim Schenken to delay the start. Excitement built in the packed grandstands which currently line the streets of Durban and as the pace car pulled off for the race's rolling start, the action began immediately.

On the approach to turn one, the bright orange car of the Netherlands slotted in between France and Great Britain, challenging for second place while further down the grid Indonesia and Italy collided bringing out the safety car and pushing the two teams into early retirement.

Great Britain's Robbie Kerr held his position but as he made his move on France heading into turn nine, he locked the front wheels giving space for both the Netherlands and Czech Republic to pass. Clipping a curb lost A1 Team Malaysia's Alex Yoong his front wing and space on the grid he pitted to repair the damage.

As the safety car, caused by the turn one incident, came in at the end of lap five, A1 Team France was leading with the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Great Britain following closely behind. A drive through penalty was given to A1 Team USA for overtaking Portugal in the safety car period, taken at the end of lap seven. zzzz

The racing continued but disappointment was visible amid the crowd as Vulindlela, the car of the home team, pulled into the pits at the end of lap 10 with electrical failure. A1 Team South Africa got straight to work and the car will be back out on the grid for the start of the Feature race.

It was the final stages of the Sprint race when the action climaxed beginning when Nelson Piquet Jr of A1 Team Brazil clipped the inside wall on the hairpin, taking a spin in the early stages of lap 17. China was the next to go, again spinning into the middle of the track where Lebanon, following closely behind, collided with the red dragon taking both cars out of the race.

With the Netherlands sitting on the tail of the leading French, Jos Verstappen seized the opportunity to make his move in the final stages of the last lap. Pulling alongside the race leader on the approach to turn nine, Verstappen went wide, clipping France's rear wing and puncturing his own left rear tire putting him out of the race. 'The chance was there but I ran a little bit too wide. When the chance is there you go for it and that's what I did!' Verstappen said.

After narrowly avoiding the spinning Dutch car, Great Britain's Robbie Kerr took his turn at challenging for pole but the checkered flag dropped with Great Britain just two tenths of a second behind the pole sitter.

Race winner, A1 Team France's Alexandre Premat (pictured right) said: 'I was obviously lucky not to have had a problem when Jos Verstappen tried to overtake me on the last lap. Luckily my car is perfectly okay and now I have to concentrate on making a good start in the Feature race and then stay in front.'

Gaining from the failed Dutch challenge, Great Britain's Robbie Kerr continued: 'That was close. Jos had to have a go and it was unfortunate the cars hit and it put him out. Second position is not one to be chucked away by trying anything.'

Pos Driver Country Time
 1. Alexandre Premat France 31:06.730
 2. Robbie Kerr Great Britain + 0.243
 3. Neel Jani Switzerland + 5.850
 4. Ralph Firman Ireland + 6.160
 5. Tomas Enge Czech Republic + 8.506
 6. Matt Halliday New Zealand + 9.623
 7. Timo Scheider Germany + 10.112
 8. Alvaro Parente Portugal + 14.066
 9. Will Davison Australia + 22.099
10. David Martinez Mexico + 32.780
11. Enrico Toccacelo Pakistan + 36.575
12. Sean McIntosh Canada + 39.260
13. Philip Giebler USA + 42.131
14. Armaan Ebrahim India +1:25.715
15. Mathias Lauda Austria +1:27.136
16. Jos Verstappen Netherlands + 1 Lap
17. Basil Shaaban Lebanon + 2 Laps
18. Tengyi Jiang China + 3 Laps
19. Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil + 4 Laps
20. Stephen Simpson South Africa + 7 Laps

Fastest laps: Ralph Fireman, 1:19.614 on lap 11

Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 8:00 am Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- 8:00 amThe sun has begun to rise on the 44th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona with at least five Daytona Prototypes that have a serious opportunity to win the prestigious sports car race.

In the lead is the No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley, which holds a three-lap margin over the No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar.

In third place on the same lap is the No. 39 Crown Royal Cheever Racing Lexus Crawford. Also in contention is the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing car and the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche Crawford in fifth.

No. 23 car came back from an earlier deficit but gave up the lead around 6:30 a.m. when the team had to change a half shaft.

The No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley was among the leaders during the night but retired with mechanical problems.

A1 Grand Prix
Pakistan driver hospitalized, won’t race Pakistan driver hospitalized, won’t raceUPDATE Kahn has not been cleared to drive it has been announced.  With Pakistan not having a reserve driver on hand to replace Khan  Italian Enrico Toccacelo has replaced him.

Special dispensation had to be granted by the A1GP sporting director to allow Pakistan to run a non-national driver, as the rules of the series insist that drivers have to be representative of the country they race for.

Having not qualified the car, Toccacelo will start today's sprint race from the back of the grid.

01/29/06 A1 Team Pakistan driver Adam Khan missed qualifying for the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Durban after being hospitalized following an accident at Turn 4 of the new street circuit in the Saturday morning practice session and the team has elected to wait until Sunday morning to make a decision on whether the will take part ion the races or not.

Khan climbed out of his crashed car unaided, but it was decided to take him to hospital for a precautionary CT scan. Team manager David Sears said that they might have over-reacted slightly in Adam's treatment, as though he had had a high-speed road accident, and he was taken back to his hotel my 17:00 to sleep off the effect of the anti-inflamatories given to him.

"Providing Adam feels OK tomorrow morning," said Sears, "then of course we'd want Adam to race. If not, then we have been given permission to use A1 Team Australia's second driver Christian Jones as a possible replacement."

On the plus side, A1 Team Pakistan have followed the example of A1 Team Malaysia (Proton) and A1 Team South Africa (Telkom) in unveiling a new sponsor this weekend, with energy drink Aquis new to the fold.

Sato still not confirmed with Super Aguri Sato still not confirmed with Super AguriTakuma Sato is expected to be announced as the lead driver in the new Super Aguri team, but as of now he still has not signed a contract.

"We have been waiting for this news for a long time so now I am relieved and so happy," Sato said in a statement on his personal website. "I was quite sure that the team would be able to get approval from the FIA, but I was anxious waiting for the official announcement."

"Until now the staff at Leafield have been doing their best to prepare for the first race, now finally they can start to operate as an official F1 team, so I think they are relieved too," Sato continued. "And I am so glad that all the staff can now work without anxiety. I am sure being approved by the FIA should increase the momentum."

"We have still not announced my part in the team, so please wait a little longer."

Rolex 24: Porsche runs opposition into ground to take lead Rolex 24: Porsche runs opposition into ground to take leadAlex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports has retaken the lead after 18 hours of running at the Grand American Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Reserve Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona. 

After being as many as eight laps down at the six hour mark, drivers Patrick Long, Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller have raged back to the front by running fast lap times.  The number 23/Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports/Porsche/Crawford has not missed a beat since the early troubles.

On lap 444 at 2:45 a.m. Luhr passed the number two Ganassi car to take second place.  At 4:15 a.m. and lap 486 Rockenfeller took the lead by passing the number one Ganassi car.

Patrick Long set fastest lap of the race at approximately 10:30 p.m. with a time of 1:44.299.  “We are running a stiff pace and the car is responding well.  We are being careful to stay on line and with the handling of the car so good, traffic is very manageable.  The car has been really consistent considering we are 18 hours into the race.”

Mike Rockenfeller was behind the wheel when he drove into the lead.  “The track is dirty and slippery in a few spots, typical of a 24 hour race at this time of the morning.  You have to be careful on new tires and wait two or three laps to get them up to temperature.  The car is really good, just normal 18 hour wear and tear.  We are taking care of everything, I hope we can keep up the pace.”

The Michael Shank Lexus Riley car of Champ Car stars AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson has now moved into 2nd, also coming back from many laps down.  The Ganassi Lexus Riley cars are close behind in 3rd and 4th place.

Leader board at 17h 25min mark

1 23 DP LUHR/ROCKENFELLER/LO 531 0.000 0.000 Active
3 02 DP DIXON/WHELDON/MEARS 528 3LAPS 32.692 Active
4 39 DP FITTIPALDI/CHEEVERJR 528 3LAPS 45.885 Active
5 58 DP DONOHUE/LAW/MAASSEN 527 4LAPS :36.892 Active
11 7 DP DFRANCHITTI/DUNO/MFR 501 30LAPS 33.189 Active
13 65 GT LALLY/BUNTING/VALENT 497 34LAPS :37.871 Active
20 16 DP CDYSON/RDYSON/GAVIN/ 477 54LAPS 2LAPS Active zzzz
23 41 GT WANONNAMAKER/JNONNAM 470 61LAPS :48.806 Active
26 67 GT FLANAGAN/BULLOCK/KRO 451 80LAPS :06.726 Active
31 64 GT EDWARDS/COLLINS/MAGN 442 89LAPS :25.688 Active
41 68 GT PACE/LOWE/GREIST 371 160LAPS 38LAPS Active
48 57 GT RICE/RIGGINS/STEVENS 278 253LAPS 21:30.9 In Pit
62 63 GT SPENCER/SPENCER/MAND 101 430LAPS 17:37.0 In Pit

Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- Halfway Rolex 24: Hourly Update -- HalfwayPit stops were the name of the game as the Rolex 24 at Daytona reached its halfway point shortly after midnight E.T.

Most of the leaders in both the Daytona Prototype and GT divisions made routine pit stops, while some changed drivers, during this hour.

Following the pit stop sequences, the leader remains the same as the No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley continues to forge a torrent pace following their problems earlier in the day.

The No. 02’s teammates, the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley gained a position during this hour to enter the halfway point of the race in second place.

The No. 39 Cheever Racing Lexus Crawford sit in third while another resurgent team, the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche Crawford, now sits in fourth. 

The polesitters suffered problems earlier in the day and at one time were nine laps behind, yet they have been able to claw back and are a mere one lap behind the top three leaders.  Also, the team set the fastest lap of the first 12 hours with a best lap speed of 122.877 mph.

In the GT division, the No. 65 Pontiac GTO.R is at the point while it’s closest competitor, the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup, running on the same lap.

The division lost yet another competitor in the test of endurance as the No. 71 SAMAX Porsche GT3 Cup was forced to retire this hour as the studs on the wheels were too loose and the team could not secure driver safety if they would have continued.

Tracy says NASCAR cars made to handle bad Tracy says NASCAR cars made to handle badPaul Tracy was quoted by SPEEDTV.com that NASCAR cars are designed to handle bad.

“The cars are very labor intensive, very difficult to set up,” he says. “I know from the Michigan test that you’re constantly chasing the car and chasing the handling. It’s always not very good, so you’re chasing after it all the time. It’s not that the cars are crappy cars, it’s the way they’ve designed the series. It’s designed so that it’s very difficult to keep the cars right, so it makes the racing very entertaining. That’s the way NASCAR wants it. They want the cars heavy, they want the tires small . . . and they have lots of power. They burn the tires off of ’em, and that makes the setup very tricky to get right and to keep it right.

“Sitting back and watching races in the past,” he continues, “you see a guy running at the front who comes in for a pit stop and they make like five changes at once. The guy’s running half decent and they change the track bar, put some wedge in it, put a spring rubber in and change tire pressures and you wonder why they made so many changes. The car can’t be that bad. Well, they are that bad.

“You go through a Champ Car race and kind of what you’ve got is what you got. You can turn a wing a half a turn during the race. But these (stock) cars, the level they go from the beginning of the race with sticker tires, every lap gets worse and worse and worse and worse. The handling gets so bad you’ve got to keep playing with it just to try and keep it half decent for longer.”

Tracy says he’s not abandoning Champ Car Tracy says he’s not abandoning Champ CarPaul Tracy told SPEEDTV.com, “People want to say I’m abandoning Champ Car or that I’m a traitor,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years—this’ll be my 16th year. And there’s only a limited shelf life of time left to where I feel that I’ll be able to compete at the level I want to compete. I read an interesting article the other day, where somebody said when Formula 1 drivers get done with Formula 1 they go and race DTM or touring cars in Europe and nobody calls them traitors. That’s just what you do in Europe. That’s the progression. Here, when you want to try tin-top racing they call you a dirty rat!”

“I’m focusing on what I specialize in,” he says. “Champ Cars. My stock car racing is pretty much going to be finished by the time the Champ Car season starts. One race in our summer break (Indianapolis) and then another at the end of the year in September (Fontana) when we’re pretty much done.”

“I’m not focused on leaving Champ Car and going to NASCAR,” he says. “People say, ‘Oh it’s all about the money . . .’ No. I’m focused on the next five years. You’ve got to have avenues. You can’t have one door close and have a bunch of closed doors in front of you. I’m trying to get my foot in the door in a bunch of different places, whether it’s NASCAR, Grand-Am, sports cars and endurance racing. That’s what I’m focused on: what do I do in the next few years.”

Tracy wants to be the next Mario or AJ Tracy wants to be the next Mario or AJChamp Car and NASCAR driver Paul Tracy told SPEEDTV.com, “I want to be the next A.J. Foyt or Mario Andretti,” Tracy says. “Racing has become so specialized that people just want you to do one thing. There’s not anybody who’s been doing some Champ Cars and stock cars in the same season for a long time. It used to happen all the time. Mario would race a sprint car on a Wednesday night then do a Champ Car race on the weekend, a Formula 1 race the next and maybe a stock car or sports car race the following weekend. That doesn’t happen anymore.

“And the thing now is that it seems everybody wants to see a guy fail. Things have become so divided among the fans: you’re either a stock car fan or you’re an open wheel fan or you’re a sports car fan and everybody hates each other. You get all this discontent where you have people saying, ‘He’ll never be able to run with the stock car guys,’ or ‘I’m not gonna watch him unless he races Champ Cars . . .’ or ‘I won’t watch a Champ Car race.’ It’s ridiculous.

“Everything has become so divided, even the mentality of the teams. You’re not a guy who’s been racing cars all his life. You’re pigeon-holed into one category and people think you can’t drive anything else. And that’s bad. It’s kind of frustrating when you think back to the days when the doors were open to drive anything. They’d take the best guy. If Mario was available one weekend and some guy wanted him to drive his stock car, he was welcome to drive it. Now you get pigeonholed. ‘The guy can only drive (Champ Cars). He’ll never be able to figure out how to drive a stock car or an endurance car.’ Give me a break. It’s just a car.”  

A1 Grand Prix
A1 Grand Prix Series lands first car manufacturer A1 Grand Prix Series lands first car manufacturerProton Bhd. through it's wholly owned subsidiary, Proton Marketing Sdn. Bhd. has confirmed their partnership with A1 Team Malaysia through a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the team's parent company A1 Grand Prix (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.

A1 Team Malaysia has thus pulled off a major coup in being the first A1 Grand Prix team to introduce a motor manufacturer to the World Cup of Motorsport.

The sponsorship deal with Malaysia's national automotive manufacturer has been inked through until the end of the third A1 Grand Prix season till April 2008.

Proton Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohd Tarir said that he saw sponsorship of the team as an excellent avenue for Proton to reach an international audience as well as participate in a recognized global motorsport series.

"The sponsorship will allow us to play our role in promoting Malaysia as well as the Proton brand to global spectators all year round," continued Syed Zainal. "At the same time, this sponsorship gives us access to valuable skills and experience in areas of professional race team logistics, support and promotion as well as management know-how. The partnership with A1 Team Malaysia, including the drivers, mechanics and supporting members adds value to Proton's core business and products." zzzz

A1 Team Principal Jack Cunningham said that he was delighted to be taking as the first step in the development of a long-term relationship that will encompass technical and branding opportunities.

"Our new partner Proton has had the vision to see the strength 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," said Cunningham.

It was particularly fitting that the announcement was made here in South Africa, as this is one of Proton's new markets as they started selling their model range here only two months ago.

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