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Malaysia hopes to draw 125K  The Sepang International Circuit (SIC) are looking at having almost full attendance for the Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix, which will be held at Sepang F1 Circuit from April 6-8.   The SIC caretaker manager, Datuk Azmi Murad, who is also the senior general manager of operation services for Malaysia Airports, said yesterday that they were targeting to draw 125,000 spectators to the GP. The circuit, which has been the venue for the GP since its inaugural year in 1999, can fill a maximum of 135,000 spectators. 

A 125,000-spectator attendance will be a more than 20% increase compared to the figure for last year’s race, which drew a crowd of 107,634. 

But the SIC are optimistic that they can reach the target, especially with the various promotions in place and also the fact that the government are helping out too in conjunction with the Visit Malaysia Year. 

“We will be going all out to achieve this figures. For the last two years, the Malaysian GP attracted a 40:60 ratio between international and local spectators,” said Azmi.  “This year is Visit Malaysia Year and, with the worldwide promotions already in place, we hope to reach a 50:50 ratio. Malaysians are known to purchase tickets at the last minute but we hope to create the awareness early.”

Webber: Toyota wasting its money on Williams team  The Williams Formula One team that took Alan Jones to his world title will not bounce back from the disasters of 2006, according to former lead driver Mark Webber.

Australia's only current Formula One grand prix driver said his old team nearly destroyed his career and had few prospects for improvement.

Webber, who will drive for Red Bull this season, sees Williams as a Toyota B team, taking its engines from the world's No.2 carmaker but without the necessary strengths to re-emerge as a force in Formula One.

"It looks tough for them, it really does," Webber said.

"They might have new engines, but not a lot has changed in the structure, so there's no real reason why the results should be any different for them this year.

"I thought I would go to Williams and then finish my career at Williams, but it was a tough gig for the credibility of a lot of people. That's what happens when there's such a huge drop in form."   More at Fox Sports

Champ Car teams test standing starts  ANGLETON, Texas – Katherine Legge leisurely rolled her Dale Coyne Racing Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone Champ Car to a stop on the front straight as a rainy Monday faded to gloom, while rookie Graham Rahal sidled up alongside and stopped.

Both drivers fixed their eyes on a bank of lights perched over the track, revving their 750-horsepower Cosworth XFE powerplants higher and higher as each of the four red lights glowed one-by-one. The scarlet lights went dark as the two Champ Cars rocketed from their spots to make the first side-by-side test of Champ Car’s new standing-start procedure – which will go into effect at the start of the 2007 season.

Champ Car will institute the standing-start procedure beginning in Las Vegas, marking the first time that the starting method will be used in the modern era of Champ Car World Series competition. Today, the drivers got their first chance for side-by-side practice of standing starts, albeit on a wet MSR Houston road course where rains cut the session from 60 to 30 minutes. More ...

Short and Wet First Day for Paul Tracy  Angleton, Texas – The first day of the Champ Car World Series Pre-Season test at MSR Houston turned out to be quite uneventful for Paul Tracy as the Forsythe Team opted to run only a limited amount of laps due to the adverse weather conditions at the Southern Texas road course. Tracy turned the third quickest time during the damp morning session with a lap time of 1m32.063s, but never went back out after the rain fall increased. The Forsythe Team decided to pack up early and prepare for a full day of testing tomorrow.

Paul Tracy (#3 INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone/Panoz)
Third Fastest in Morning Session
1m30.063s / 93.067mph / 149.776kph
“Well I haven’t really done much today, we managed to do a few laps this morning and then waited hoping that the track would dry but it just kept raining more and more and we just decided to call it a day. Obviously it’s quite an inconvenience because with this new car we need as much testing time as possible, we need to learn how to set it up, what it likes and what it doesn’t, so every day is very important. Tomorrow the forecast looks much better so we should be able to get quite a bit of dry running in so we can continue with our preparations.” More ...

Track News
Long Beach track construction begins  The 33rd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach took its first step toward the green flag when construction began this morning on Shoreline Drive, the famed racing circuit's front straightaway. Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster (L, in Gehl forklift) and Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President & CEO Jim Michaelian before and while dropping a concrete block into place.

The setting of the first of more than 14 million pounds of concrete blocks that line the 1.97-mile circuit in downtown Long Beach marks the beginning of two months of work preparing the 11-turn racing circuit for the nearly 200,000 fans expected April 13-15.

Grand Prix Association of Long Beach Director of Operations Dwight Tanaka and his staff of 40 will put in more than 30,000 working hours installing concrete blocks, three miles of fencing and 16,000 bolted-together tires, along with 15 huge spectator grandstands, seven pedestrian bridges and eight giant-vision boards for full-circuit TV coverage. More ...

Top-5 start for Conquest Racing  Conquest Racing took their Champ Car DP01 out today for the first time during day one of the two-day open test at the MSR Houston track. The new car performed flawlessly allowing Nelson Philippe, who is testing with the team, to place himself fifth on the combined time sheet.

The team completed their initial shakedown of the car in the morning session and continued to discover the new DP01 in the afternoon session once the rain stopped. Philippe ended both sessions in fifth place.

“I’m very, very excited with my first day of testing with Conquest Racing. It was definitely a very productive day. Keeping in mind that the team was not in Sebring, ending up where we did today is a good start,” expressed a cheerful Philippe. “We will continue working on the setups tomorrow and hopefully it will stay dry.  I’m very happy for the guys, we had no problems and they did an excellent job. I look forward to continuing our work tomorrow.” More ...

Wilson and Bourdais tops in Houston testing  UPDATE ANGLETON, Texas – As the first rains of the day fell in the paddock of MSR Houston this morning, 2006 Champ Car World Series runner-up Justin Wilson looked to the skies and remarked that it looked a little like his native Britain.

It became more and more like home for Wilson as the day progressed, but as the deluge created a miniature English Channel through the paddock Wilson showed himself at ease in the rain, setting the fastest time of the day in the opening outing of a two-day Champ Car test session at the 2.38-mile MSR Houston road course.

Wilson set a quick time of 1:30.162 (95.029 mph) in the rain on a day that was better suited for tugboats than Champ Cars. Wilson was followed by three-time defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais, who splashed his way to a top time of 1:30.378 (94.802 mph), as the two frontrunners were the only cars to get under the 92-second barrier, besting the remainder of the field by more than 1.5 seconds. More ...

Minardi Team USA endures difficult conditions  Despite today’s unseasonable weather menu for southeastern Texas, which included heavy rain, hail and blustery winds, Minardi Team USA launched into a busy program at the second of three scheduled Champ Car pre-season tests.  Following on from its initial experience of the series’ new Panoz DP01 at Sebring three weeks ago, the Indianapolis-based team has now received its second car. 

Dutch racer, Robert Doornbos, is once again driving for Minardi Team USA at the test, and after some initial shakedown laps late yesterday and first thing this morning to familiarize himself with both the new chassis and the 2.38-mile (3.83-km) MSR Houston road course, he got down to some serious running.  The damp, windy conditions were not conducive to setting great lap times, but Doornbos and his engineers nonetheless took advantage of the wet track surface to work on suspension settings and accumulate useful mileage on the second car. 

They clearly did a solid job, as the Dutch driver recorded the fourth fastest lap of the morning, with only Champ Car regulars Justin Wilson, Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy ahead of him.  The early part of the afternoon session was plagued by torrential rain, and virtually all teams elected to stay under cover until the downpour abated.  Once it had, Doornbos recorded a total of 16 laps, and although his best effort, of 1 min 33.617 secs, wasn’t an improvement on his fastest lap of the morning, it still saw him retain fourth place on the timing screens at the end of the session.  The team was also able to gather some useful data on standing starts during the late afternoon, which will be used to develop the system further over the remaining pre-season test days. More ...

track news
Longtime IMS executive McAtee dies at 53  Longtime Indianapolis Motor Speedway executive Buddy McAtee died Feb. 12 in Indianapolis. He was 53.

McAtee passed away at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis with his family at his side.

An employee of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its affiliated companies since 1987, McAtee was promoted to the position of president, chief operating officer and executive producer of IMS Productions on Jan. 15, 2007 after serving as vice president and executive producer since 2002, and leading the company to new heights of creative programming, broadcasting and profitability. More ...

Rains hits Houston testing  Heavy rain hit the MSR Houston track Monday from around 11:00 AM to 3:30 PM, which slowed the testing. A number of drivers did get out for some wet weather running. The track is still damp at 3:00 PM Central time and Sebastien Bourdais is the first to venture out.

One of last year's rookie of the year contenders Dan Clarke has arrived and is hanging out in the Minardi pit dressed in civilian clothes. Ditto for Jan Heylen who was present at the first test in Sebring as well. Both drivers are still in search of more money.

IMSA announces fuel supplier  In a two-year technical and marketing partnership, VP Racing Fuels has been appointed as the Official Fuel Supplier of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), the sanctioning body announced today. VP Racing Fuels, known for its technical racing fuel expertise, will formulate and provide all supply logistics as the IMSA-sanctioned American Le Mans Series adopts multiple ethanol enriched gasoline blends to be used in competition this year and into the future, starting with the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 17.

VP Racing Fuels will first supply IMSA 100/E 10, a tightly controlled specification of its street-legal StreetBlaze 100 octane ethanol-enriched gasoline. The move further demonstrates the relevance of the American Le Mans Series as its partners showcase the technological advances of their consumer brands on the race track.

Forsythe backs Conor Daly  Champ Car series co-owner and race team owner Jerry Forsythe announced today that he will support the rising career of 15 year old karter Conor Daly. “We are always interested in young talent and Conor has proven to be a driver that we want to keep an eye on” said Jerry Forsythe. Conor will compete in the Stars of Karting and WKA National karting series in 2007, in addition to the Skip Barber racing series.

15 year old  Conor Daly, son of former Formula One/Indy Car driver turned TV commentator Derek Daly,  will drive an Italian built birel chassis for Motorama Kart Parts,  Moorsville, Indiana (mkpshop.com) this season. He will also race cars in a program to be announced shortly. Conor races his karts exclusively on Bridgestone tires and is sponsored by Cytomax Performance Drink.

Wilson tops Bourdais in morning Houston testing  
Pos Driver # Team Lap Time Behind Leader Behind Previous
1 J. Wilson 9 RuSPORT 1:30.162
2 S. Bourdais 1 Newman/Haas Racing 1:30.378 0.216
3 P. Tracy 3 Forsythe Championship Racing 1:32.063 1.901 1.685
4 R. Doornbos 14 Minardi Team USA 1:32.286 2.124 0.223
5 N. Philippe 34 Conquest Racing 1:32.847 2.685 0.561
6 G. Rahal 2 Newman/Haas Racing 1:33.163 3.001 0.316
7 N. Jani 21X PKV Racing 1:33.168 3.006 0.005
8 A. Figge 29 Pacific Coast Motorsports 1:33.981 3.819 0.813
9 A. Wirth 19 Dale Coyne Racing 1:34.314 4.152 0.333
10 R. Dalziel 28 Pacific Coast Motorsports 1:35.573 5.411 1.259
11 O. Servia 10 RuSPORT 1:35.817 5.655 0.244
12 K. Legge 11 Dale Coyne Racing 1:39.256 9.094 3.439
13 A. Tagliani 8 Rocketsports Racing 1:41.717 11.555 2.461
14 S. Pagenaud 15 Team Australia 1:43.715 13.553 1.998
15 N. Jani 21 PKV Racing 1:44.709 14.547 0.994
17 R. Doornbos 4 Minardi Team USA 0.00 0.00
Honda has no plans to enter NASCAR  Honda's senior vice-president of automotive operations John Mendel says American Honda and HPD are far too busy with their ALMS and IRL programs to even think about NASCAR for some years to come at least. "We've got more than enough on our plate right now with IRL and ALMS," Mendel observed. "Certainly, NASCAR does come up frequently and there's no doubt that there's as much racing in Honda's blood from motorcycles to Formula One as anyone out there. If we build it, we race it, and NASCAR always comes up. But we race to win and we race to learn, and I think NASCAR is a bridge too far at this point in time.

"We're certainly engrossed in the development of the ALMS program and as sole engine supplier to the IRL we're continuing to develop and expand the IRL to make it one of the premier open-wheel series in the world. I think NASCAR is a maybe someday, but there are no current plans. We try to do what we do well until we get too far afield in other endeavors."

Now that Toyota has arrived in NASCAR many people believe Honda cannot be far behind. Robert Clarke says NASCAR does not fit into HPD's operational philosophy but admits that some American Honda board members would like to see a NASCAR program. "We have no plans for NASCAR," Clarke declared. "It's something that comes up in every board meeting, but it's not being driven by HPD. It just does not really fit HPD's objectives. But our mission statement is that we exist to support American Honda's motorsports objectives. So if American Honda were to decide it needs to be in NASCAR in order to properly promote its products we would be required to support it. More ...

De La Rosa fastest in Barcelona Monday  McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa beat BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica by just a thousand of a second to top Monday testing in Barcelona.

Pos  Driver        Team                      Time      Laps
 1.  de la Rosa    McLaren-Mercedes     (B)  1:22.634   76
 2.  Kubica        BMW-Sauber           (B)  1:22.635   60
 3.  Alonso        McLaren-Mercedes     (B)  1:22.726   56
 4.  Wurz          Williams-Toyota      (B)  1:23.037   44
 5.  Massa         Ferrari              (B)  1:23.077   29
 6.  Raikkonen     Ferrari              (B)  1:23.215   79
 7.  Trulli        Toyota               (B)  1:23.239   74
 8.  Kovalainen    Renault              (B)  1:23.491   55
 9.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota      (B)  1:23.602   78
10.  Glock         BMW-Sauber           (B)  1:23.653   61
11.  Fisichella    Renault              (B)  1:23.869   79
12.  Montagny      Toyota               (B)  1:24.015   64
13.  Klien         Honda                (B)  1:24.227   51
14.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault     (B)  1:24.291   80
15.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault     (B)  1:24.531   83
16.  Davidson      Super Aguri-Honda    (B)  1:24.574   66
17.  Barrichello   Honda                (B)  1:24.934   24
18.  Sutil         Spyker-Ferrari       (B)  1:25.581   83

England’s Baker Joins Andersen Racing  Andersen Racing announced today that British hot shoe Jonny Baker has joined its team to contend for the 2007 Star Mazda Championship presented by Mazda.

Baker, of Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, England, joins Ricardo Vassmer and one driver who has not yet been named as the Fairfield, N.J.-based team's primary drivers for the 12-race Star Mazda season.  Phil Saville and Michael Fitzgerald will also drive in selected Star Mazda events this year with the team, including the season opener Friday, March 16 at Sebring, Fla.

All the events are broadcast on SPEED in one-hour, tape-delayed telecasts.

Baker, 22, has been running with Team JLR in England for the last two years.  He had two podium finishes last year in the UK Formula Ford Championship and finished ninth in that series' final point standings for the season.  He finished second in the 2005 UK Formula Ford Scholarship Cup with four victories, and fifth in the national class that year. In 2004 he finished second in Class B of the British Race Drivers' Club single-seater championship with four victories.

Philippe moves to Fortec Motorsports  Richard Philippe and Fortec Motorsport are pleased to announce that 17 year old Richard Philippe will be joining their World Series by Renault team for the 2007 season. Richard will partner James Walker as the team aims to deliver strong results in it's maiden World Series by Renault season. "I'm ecstatic about the move to Europe and to the very competitive Renault World Series! I can already sense a great atmosphere within the team and I look forward to learning a lot this season," commented the French driver. After being the youngest Formula BMW USA Champion in the History of the series following his 2005 season and competing in the Champ Car Atlantic series in 2006, Richard continues his rise up the motorsport ladder choosing to change continents with his move into the Formula Renault 3.5 category. [Editor's Note: Recall our earlier rumor that Richard Philippe would be moving to Europe next year.]
track news
LVMS welcomes smaller fuel cells  NASCAR’s decision to use 13-gallon fuel cells for both the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 and Sam’s Town 300 will make for an even more exciting race,” said LVMS general manager Chris Powell.  “With the increase in the banking from 12 to 20 degrees, there are a lot of unknowns including race set up and tire compounds the teams will face for both races. This decision should keep the racing tighter and give the teams more opportunities to measure tire wear.”  “Plus, we moved the pit road 275 feet closer to the grandstands, so this will give all of the race fans even more opportunities to watch the excitement of the all-important pit stops.”
Carlos Contreras Joins ESPN Deportes'  Carlos Contreras, the first Hispanic driver in NASCAR, has joined ESPN Deportes’ experienced team of hosts, analysts and reporters for ESPN Deportes’ coverage of the 2007 NASCAR season.   Contreras will serve as analyst for numerous races, joining analyst Alex Pombo and play-by-play commentator Andrés Agulla in the booth.  He will make his first appearance on ESPN Deportes’ flag-to-flag coverage of the NASCAR Busch Series: Stater Bros 300 Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET, live from the California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. 

“We are excited to have Carlos on our team,” said Chris Calcinari, vice president of production and operations, ESPN Deportes.  “Carlos will bring real world insight, experience, and inside information to our productions, and his on-the-track experience will be a tremendous asset for our NASCAR telecasts.  For the first time in the history of Spanish-language television fans will be able to follow NASCAR action in Spanish and we have assembled the most knowledgeable team to offer top-notch coverage.” More ...

Seen in Houston - I  UPDATE We inadvertently left Robert Doornbos in the Team Minardi car from the list below.

02/12/07 So far out on the track today at MSR Houston in the 2nd Champ Car sanctioned test of the new Panoz DP01 are:

Justin Wilson and Oriol Servia RuSPORT (Mario Dominguez has not been seen)
Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal - Newman/Haas
Ryan Dalziel and Alex Figge - PCM
Simon Pagenaud - Team Australia (Will Power expected later)
Neel Jani - PKV Racing
Paul Tracy - Forsythe Racing
Alex Tagliani - Rocketsports
Andreas Wirth and Katherine Legge - Dale Coyne Racing

Bruno Junqueira is in street clothes so far.

Rocketsports Racing Houston Testing News  Three weeks ago, Champ Car-veteran driver Alex Tagliani climbed into the cockpit of the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone for Rocketsports Racing’s first test with the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car and in 2007.  Together they will hit the racetrack for more testing time outside of Houston, Texas this week. 

After taking delivery of a second Panoz Champ Car over a week ago, the Rocketsports crew worked diligently to ensure that it would be ready to run for this next test.  The plan is to have Tagliani run the new car for a brief shakedown and then continue working on the car from Sebring.

“I am very excited to get back into the Rocketsports Champ Car this week,” said Tagliani.  “The Sebring test was for shaking the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car down and we did not get in as many miles as we were hoping to.  But this test will give us the opportunity to prepare the car so that it is ready to go racing this season.  The guys were able to learn a lot about the new Champ Car during the first test in Sebring; now we can move forward working with what we have learned as a continuation for progress in the pre-season.  Also, I was able to get comfortable with the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/Panoz/Bridgestone and I feel that I will be able to help in this process behind the wheel even more during our second run together.  More ...

Barcelona action starts, Massa stops  (GMM)  Ferrari's run of poor reliability continued on Monday morning, as the penultimate test of the winter kicked off in Spain.

At the newly modified Circuit de Catalunya, dry and sunny Barcelona weather played host to ten of F1's eleven teams.

Brazilian Massa's 'F2007' ground to a smoky halt on his first lap of the day, and a corner marshal was quickly at the rear of the car to give a squirt of fire extinguisher fluid.

The red car was covered by Ferrari technicians and towed back to the pits.

Massa's teammate Kimi Raikkonen was among those in action on Monday morning, as was world champion Fernando Alonso in the MP4-22 McLaren.

Successful Shakedown for Petersen/White Lightning  Petersen/White Lightning Racing’s new Ferrari 430 GT was shaken down Saturday at Ferrari’s Fiorano circuit in Italy. Tim Bergmeister piloted the GT2 contender to nearly 190 trouble-free miles in damp conditions. The Nevada-based team gained valuable experience and knowledge with the V8-powered machine as they embark on an exciting 2007 season in the American Le mans Series. “This is a major weekend for myself and the team,” Team Owner Michael Petersen said. “It was very exciting for Dale and me when we ordered the Ferrari. Now, for me, it all feels that much more real. There are so many cool things we have experienced in our careers but to actually take delivery of the car and to have our first laps with it at Fiorano is right up there.” More ...
Q and A with Jacques Villeneuve  Speaking to his official website, Jacques Villeneuve confirmed that he is about to release his debut album, Private Paradise and explained his motivation and the process behind putting it all together…

Jacques, tell us a bit about where this album came from...
Well, it came from loving music to start with and you can't get into music or making an album if you don't love music. Well, some people do but it always comes out in the end. I bought a guitar in '96 when I started racing in Formula One, and started writing some songs. Finally last year I decided to rent a studio and to record them properly and professionally to see how they would sound and then of course the goal was to release it. The only way you can do something properly and get the right people involved is if it is ultimately going to be released.

This isn't just a passing interest - you buy thousands of CDs and you really know your music. Explain a little bit about that and also about the challenge of becoming as good at music as you were at motorsport...
I am stupidly passionate about music, it has become a bit of drug. I buy tons of CDs - and some of them are not that good, I spend days listening to each and every one of them, putting notes on every song to know which songs are good and which songs are bad so that when you do your little MP3 collection you know which songs to put on and so on. It makes my wife crazy, but you know it's cheaper than buying watches or stuff like that! It's not a passing interest, you either love music or you don't, and if you do then it remains. More ...

Peugeot confirms driver lineups  Although the six drivers who will compete in the Peugeot 908 HDi during its debut season were already known, we did not know which drivers would be paired together in the two cars. The French team has now confirmed its final lineups for the 2007 Le Mans Series and Le Mans 24 Hours. Right, Sebastien Bourdais tests the Peugeot 908 HDi at Paul Ricard, Photo by Peugeot Sport

After a series of test sessions with the new car and a physical training course in the Pyrenees, the team has confirmed that Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin will drive one of the two cars in the Le Mans Series while Marc Gene will partner Nicolas Minassian in the sister machine.

For the Le Mans 24 Hours, Champ Car title holder Sebastien Bourdais will join Lamy and Sarrazin, while former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve partners Gene and Minassian. More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
Rossi denies F1 'distraction' in 2006
Ralf happier with new Toyota
Heidfeld doubts title assault for BMW
Ferrari has room to improve - Marc Gene
Diesel 'feasible' for F1 engines - Marc Gene
Sauber lands pit lane TV gig
Spa test given green light for July
Ralf doubts impact of new tire rule
Racing News
Quotes of the Week  UPDATE
MICHAEL WALTRIP, NASCAR driver and team owner, Michael Waltrip Racing
"It's probably nothing, but time will tell," he said. "It's easy for people to assume the worst when they get something confiscated, but from all the research I've done with my people, we wouldn't do anything to make that motor not be right.  We'll see. If we're in real trouble, they would take the car. We're just having to go through a little hurdle here - make things more interesting  We might have an engine problem that's just causing some blow-by with the oil, we don't know yet," Waltrip said. "They're not mad at us over it. We're not in trouble, they just don't know what happened and we don't either.  We just started the motor with a new intake and it was fine. ... I'm just glad to talk to Mike and those guys and understand it like I do. They were light-hearted about it. I've seen Mike get so mad his lips quiver when he tries to talk and that's when you know you've done something wrong and he was far from that."  (Commenting after qualifying for the Daytona 500 when his car was impounded after a foreign substance was found inside the intake manifold) 

TONY STEWART, NASCAR driver, Joe Gibbs Racing
Others might be thinking it, but as usual, Tony goes public, blaming the new tires "Goodyear was nice enough to bless us with."  He continued, "I'm curious why we had a harder right-side tire this time around.  That's been Goodyear's trend, to protect themselves from the tires going down. It really caught a lot of us off-guard."  (Comments made after winning the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona blaming the majority of the driver's fish-tailing on rockier right-side rubber) 

DALE EARNHARDT, Jr., NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated
"The main factor is the ownership part. It has nothing to do with money and nothing else really. I really like my team; I like how things are going. Max (Siegel) is going to be great for the company. The motors are improving, everything is on an upswing. My father has been gone for almost six years now; I want majority ownership."  When asked if he wanted over 50%, Dale Jr. responded, "Absolutely." (Commenting on wanting majority ownership of Dale Earnhardt Incorporated when signing his new contract)

"Yeah, that was exactly the reaction. It wasn't so much. The reaction was more like 'I don't make the statement and make it a habit of seeking out attention all the time.' She (Teresa Earnhardt) portrayed it as I was out there waving a flag 'hey, look at me, I can dance, I can sing and check me out.' Like I'm trying to do all this different stuff. I enjoy my radio show, it's an hour long and takes no time to do. My TV show takes five days out of the year to shoot. These things are easy. I've got work delegated to other people for editing and all that stuff. I don't have to mess with it, it don't take no time at all. And it's fun. It's fun to create it; it don't make no money but it's fun to create and see the finished product; it's great. So it was, that was a little like a low blow there."  (Responding to comments made by his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt, about Dale Jr. needing to chose between being a public figure or a race car driver) More ...

New car, new logo and new look for Conquest Racing  With its new Panoz DP01 car ready to take its first laps Monday morning at the MSR Houston track during the Champ Car World Series open test, the Conquest Racing Team saw it as the perfect occasion to reveal its new logo. With a new car and a new look, the Team is ready to take on the 2007 season, a season that starts with the familiar face of Nelson Philippe returning to the Conquest Team for the two-day test.

The new and improved logo which will be used by both their Champ Car and Atlantic teams was created by Manifest, a strategic marketing and creative services agency that specializes in motorsports.

“After celebrating our ten years of existence, we thought it was a good time to update our image and give it a more modern look all while keeping our team colors of orange and grey,” explained Conquest Racing owner Eric Bachelart. “With our new car taking its first laps and with our new look, we can say that today marks the ‘official’ beginning of our 2007 Champ Car season.” 

The team will be kicking off their 2007 pre-season testing with Nelson Philippe behind the wheel of the Conquest car. Philippe, who became the youngest winner in Champ Car history, previously drove for the outfit in his rookie year in 2004 as well as in 2005. Testing gets underway at 9:00 a.m. eastern time Monday morning.

Gatorade Duel lineups set  NASCAR officials announced the lineups for the 150-mile Gatorade Duel qualifying races scheduled for Feb. 15 at Daytona International Speedway. The races, scheduled for 2 p.m. EST, will determine the final lineup for the Daytona 500.

Gatorade Duel at Daytona, Race 1

1. David Gilliland, No. 38 Robert Yates Racing Ford, 186.320 mph
2. David Ragan, No. 6 Roush Racing Ford, 185.300
*3. Boris Said, No. 60 No Fear Racing Ford, 185.212
*4. Johnny Sauter, No. 70 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet, 184.850
5. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 184.767
6. Casey Mears, No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 184.634
7. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet, 184.449
*8. Jeremy Mayfield, No. 36 Bill Davis Racing Toyota, 184.351
9. Tony Stewart, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet, 184.260
10. Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet, 184.139 More ...

NASCAR catches more cheaters  Following qualifying Sunday, NASCAR also announced it had disallowed the qualifying times for the cars of Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth.  NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter said both cars had unapproved aerodynamic enhancements. Both drivers will start at the rear of the field of the second 150-mile qualifying race on Thursday.

Jim Hunter said both infractions are considered as serious as the one that caused #48-Johnson's crew chief to be suspended after Daytona 500 qualifying last year. While the crew chiefs have not been suspended, NASCAR has not ruled out anything, and penalties are forthcoming.

Philippe to test for Conquest Racing  Conquest Racing boss Eric Bachelart told AutoRacing1.com "We will test Nelson Philippe both Monday and Tuesday at Houston."

This of course is a surprise to everyone because it was thought he would drive for either Forsythe Racing or Minardi Team USA.  While a test does not assure he has locked in a ride, it could eventually lead to that.

LVMS statement regarding smaller fuel cells  "NASCAR's decision to use 13-gallon fuel cells for both the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 and Sam's Town 300 will make for an even more exciting race," said LVMS general manager Chris Powell. "With the increase in the banking from 12 to 20 degrees, there are a lot of unknowns including race setup and tire compounds the teams will face for both races. This decision should keep the racing tighter and give the teams more opportunities to measure tire wear." "Plus, we moved the pit road 275 feet closer to the grandstands, so this will give all of the race fans even more opportunities to watch the excitement of the all-important pit stops."  LVMS PR
NASCAR gives "The Call" again  A reader writes, How convenient that both Yates Fords are on the front row of the Daytona 500. Never one to miss out on a good headline and to bring attention to a sponsor who came in and saved the Yates team from going belly up over the winter, it seems too convenient that NASCAR's timing and scoring conveniently spit out the two fastest times for the two Yates cars giving the team, Ford, and sponsor M&Ms and Snickers some much needed publicity. After a dismal year in 2006 in just three months they have turned the program around and are now tops? These feel-good underdog stories happen far too often to be believable, and they insult my intelligence. Brad Stokes
KHI announces new primary sponsor  Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) announced today a partnership with Bowling Green, Ky., based Camping World for the 2007 season. Camping World will sponsor the No. 33 Busch Series Chevrolet for 11 races and KHI’s second Truck Series entry, the No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado for 12 races.  RVs.com will also come on board this season in conjunction with Camping World, as an associate sponsor in presenting both the No. 33 Busch Series Chevrolet and the No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado Truck.

Driving duties for the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet will be shared by NEXTEL Cup driver Tony Raines, road course specialist Ron Fellows and KHI newcomer Cale Gale. The No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado Truck will make its debut at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with Gale behind the wheel. NEXTEL Cup driver Clint Bowyer and Two-time Busch Series Champion Kevin Harvick will share seat time with Gale in the No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet Silverado.

"I’m proud to have Camping World jump on board here at KHI,” said Kevin Harvick, co-owner and CEO of Kevin Harvick Inc. “Camping World has been around the sport for a while and knows what it takes to be competitive. We look forward to working with them on both the Busch and the Truck Series programs this season.”

Alarmed reader  UPDATE #4 A reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1.Com, I find it necessary to reply to Mr. Madison's assertions concerning Champ Car.
First, no fan of open wheel racing in the U.S. should, in my opinion, take ANYTHING published by the "Star" on the subject of open wheel as anything other than IRL generated propaganda. Also in my opinion the "Star" hasn't published anything unbiased since Robin Miller was given the Hulman Family Trust two-step to the door.

Second, BOTH major open wheel series are equally mired in the mud of a motorsports marketplace that remains enamored with all things NASCAR. Nothing is perfect for either series. Where would the IRL be if Andretti-Green decided to take all that sponsorship and race elsewhere? Third, to imply ride-buying is unique to Champ Car is completely disingenuous. What has the Indy 500 boiled down to? When corporate America begins to recognize they are wasting millions trying to reach consumers that tuned out of NASCAR two seasons ago (and no number of Juan Pablo's fans is going to bring them back) and begin to once again invest in open wheel then and only then will the ride-buying cease.
The facts that plague the open wheel business model have not changed: road racing and oval track racing no longer mix. The split fragmented the marketplace and I doubt the much debated reunification of the two series could ever change that. The fact that road racing is the global standard and oval racing is all about "Red Necks" and NASCAR is indisputable and this sad fact has forced the IRL, once again, to abandon their revisionist history business plan du jour, as evidenced by their thirst to add road racing to their schedule.
The bottom line, Mr. Madison, is my money is on Champ Car’s long term survival as Champ Car is supported by true fans of motor racing while the IRL is dependant on a handful of "Indy 500" fans spending some money on a couple of the support races that fill out the IRL's annual schedule of inferior, boring, dumbed down, 100% throttle racing.
If Kevin and Tony could simply agree on a common engine/chassis formula the fans, the sponsors and the marketplace could take care of the rest. Tony knows this. And it must scare him to death. J.N. Anderson, Shaker Heights, Ohio

02/11/07 Another reader writes, I was reading the Indy Star's latest Q&A section with Curt Cavin and it's quite apparent that many fans and casual observers in Indianapolis get the feeling that Champ Car's collapse is in evitable. As we start the 4th of Kevin Kalkhoven's 5-year plan I see no signs of the series turning around. Few sponsors and even fewer big name drivers. I suspect the 5-year plan is to make Champ Car profitable by then, and if not KK will try to sell the series off at pennies on the dollar or just bankrupt it. Rather than merge I suspect Tony George is just waiting them out - banking on the fact that when Champ Car collapses he will have his pick of teams and races. When is AutoRacing1 going to start painting the picture about Champ Car the way it really exists, because from where I sit these guys just don't get it. James Madison

Dear James, Champ Car president Steve Johnson has gone on record a number of times saying lots of good announcements are coming, so we'll have to give him and Champ Car the benefit of the doubt up until the opening race of the season. There is now exactly two months before the opening race, so there is some time. By now we know who is driving where in most other race series, including Atlantics, but year in and year out this continues to be the struggle in Champ Car largely because they are so dependent on ride-buyers and who can bring the most money in the 11th hour. Clearly to everyone this is not the way it should work. As for Kevin Kalkhoven pulling the plug at the end of his 5-year plan, we can't comment on that as no one is privy to an exit strategy if there is one. Mark C.  More ...

Gronholm dominates in Sweden  Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen won their fifth Swedish Rally today as BP-Ford World Rally Team closed to within a point of the leaders in the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finns dominated this second round of the 16-event series in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, winning 11 of the 20 snow and ice-bound speed tests. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed their eighth podium in the last 11 rallies by finishing third in another Focus RS.

The 39-year-old Finn led the four-day rally in central Sweden from midway through the first leg. He stamped his authority on the rally with five consecutive special stage victories yesterday and was able to pace himself through today's final leg. Grönholm's 26th career victory took him to equal second in the all-time standings alongside Carlos Sainz. More ...

Walker Racing Completes Atlantics Houston Testing  Walker Racing completed the second of three pre-season tests this weekend for the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Series Powered by Mazda in Houston, Texas.
Piloting the No.5 and No.10 Walker Racing Swift 016a.chassis for the two day test were the team’s newest members Swiss Simona De Silvestro (right) and Briton Ryan Lewis. Both drivers proceed to adapt and work out the kinks in the car as they logged in laps around the 2.38 mile MSR Houston road course.
After searching for the precise setup yesterday, the Walker Racing clan found the right combination with De Silvestro in this morning’s session. The 18 year-old clocked the fifth fastest time of 1:18.967 in this morning’s session, and by the end of the day improved her lap time with a 1:19.891. More ...
Daytona 500: Toyota Day 1 report  Today's NASCAR Nextel Cup practice sessions marked the first time all three Toyota teams -- Bill Davis Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Team Red Bull -- participated in on-track activities in preparation for this year's Daytona 500.

Eight Toyota Camrys took to the track today in NASCAR Nextel Cup practice. Bill Davis Racing had three Camrys practice: Dave Blaney, Jeremy Mayfield and Mike Skinner. Michael Waltrip Racing had three Camrys practice: Dale Jarrett, David Reutimann and Michael Waltrip. More ...

Stewart slams Goodyear  Throughout the first 69 laps of Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, a handful of drivers proved their prowess with great saves in the corners. Elliott Sadler had no chance, but that didn't mean he was without one great and wise move shortly thereafter. When Junior pulled around to Sadler's wreck scene to apologize (just another one of those things people like about him), Sadler was smart enough to gladly accept and move along. Not much future being on the wrong side of that argument.

With the exception of Junior's last-lap slip, the majority of fish-tailing was blamed --by Stewart, anyway --on rockier right-side rubber. A year ago, Stewart's post-Shootout concern was slam-drafting. This time, he took aim at an old nemesis of his: The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Others might be thinking it, but as usual, Tony goes public, blaming the new tires "Goodyear was nice enough to bless us with."

"I'm curious why we had a harder right-side tire this time around," he continued. "That's been Goodyear's trend, to protect themselves from the tires going down. It really caught a lot of us off-guard."

No doubt it was quite a wakeup call for Kyle Busch, who went skittering off course when Stewart crowded his rear bumper seven laps from the end. It might have cost him the win, but it gained the younger Busch brother one big fan.

"That save he made in Turn 2 will be one of the top five saves of the year," Stewart said. "I thought for sure he was going straight to the wall." Daytona Beach News Journal

Yates to turn over Cup team to son  Robert Yates plans to turn over the running of his Nextel Cup organization to his son, Doug, after this season. This will be Yates' 40th season in the industry since beginning with Holman-Moody in 1967. "We're giving it a shot so this year I can quit while I'm ahead," Yates said on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. "Hopefully, I can quit and get in the rocking chair and watch Doug do what he's going to do for the next 20 years." Yates added that Jack Roush's decision to sell 50% of Roush Racing to John Henry and Fenway Sports Group in Boston -- an official announcement will be made Wednesday -- will only strengthen the engine program he shares with Roush. Yates said he will own 50% of the engine program, with Roush and Fenway Sports Group getting 25% each. ESPN.com
Toyota fairs well in first Cup outing  Brian Vickers finished eighth and Dale Jarrett 18th as Toyota made its Nextel Cup debut.  Vickers led two laps, slid back in the pack but rallied at the end as the handling improved following the break at the 20-lap mark.

"The car wasn't bad, but it was our first race and we have a top-10 [finish]," Vickers said. "We wish we could have done a little bit better there at the end. The car was just tight all night."

Jarrett started on the pole, but knew he was in for a long night right from the start. "We knew this car was light on downforce and especially light on the front," Jarrett said. "It did exactly what the wind tunnel told us it would probably do.

"If we could have built another one, we would have. We can buy a lot of parts and pieces, but we can't buy time."

Conquest Racing completes MSR Houston test  Angleton, Texas – With their 2007 driver lineup complete, the Conquest Racing Atlantic Team took to the MSR Houston track yesterday and today for the second of three Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda open tests. Conquest drivers, Matt Lee (Pictured right) and Giacomo Ricci ran strong and consistent both days, completing nearly 400 laps combined.

American rookie Matt Lee put in the eighth quickest time of the weekend of the 24 car field. His new teammate, Ricci, who signed on with the team only a couple of days ago, performed well in his first official test, clocking the 11th fastest time of the two days despite having to run with a heavier fuel load due to a fuel pick-up problem. Like the majority of the field both Conquest drivers registered their quickest laps in the Saturday morning session. More ...

Martin thinks he has a car that can win 500  “That was awesome guys…we can win, we can win the Daytona 500,” said an energized Mark Martin as he pulled his No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet into the garage after finishing sixth in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.

“It’s just a pleasure to drive this car for the U.S. Army team and to work with these guys -- and to run good is just a bonus,” added Martin. “The car was really fast, did well on the long runs and handled well in the corners. That wasn’t a win, but I believe that if we can make our car handle that good on Sunday, I think we can have a shot to win the Daytona 500. " More ...

Hinchcliffe again on top at MSR Houston  They say Canadians are at home in cold weather and James Hinchcliffe certainly proved that he was comfortable in the unusually frigid conditions in Texas on Saturday. The Sierra Sierra Enterprises racer completed a dominant two days on the MSR Houston road circuit as he led both sessions for the second consecutive day to complete a clean sweep of the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda open test.

The 20-year-old Toronto native shattered the unofficial Atlantic track record on the 2.38-mile fast road circuit located about 30 miles south of Houston. After dominating Friday in his first test session with the Sierra Sierra squad, “Hinch” once again rose above the cold, cloudy and windy conditions on Saturday. His fast lap of 1:18.345 (109.363 mph), posted in this morning’s session, eclipsed the previous series track mark of 1:18.669 set last year by Hinchcliffe’s former Forsythe Racing teammate Andreas Wirth during a series test session. For good measure, Hinchcliffe went out and led the final session of the day as well, although his time was slightly slower than his blistering morning pace. More ...

Irate fans prepare to sue Montreal F1 chiefs  (GMM) A group of Canadian formula one fans are pressing ahead with plans to sue organizers of the grand prix in Montreal.

Led by spectator Scott McColl, they are annoyed that their trackside view of the race in 2005 was obstructed, despite paying for tickets to the same grandstand they enjoyed 12 months earlier.

Canada's The Gazette newspaper said the grandstand had been moved, and spectators' view of the start-finish line, pits and podium was also blocked by the addition of "podium suites".

Although no date has been set, a Superior Court judge in Quebec gave the go-ahead to McColl's request for a class action.

In court documents, McColl says the 2005 seats "provided no views whatsoever", but the judge vowed to determine whether the grand prix organizers had misled patrons about the nature of their vantage point.

Race organizers could not be reached for comment.

It’s white gloves for Earnhardt in NASCAR  The only incident in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway came within a few hundred yards of the finish line.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. bumped Elliott Sadler from behind, turning Sadler sideways into Denny Hamlin. Kasey Kahne was caught up in the aftermath when he was unable to avoid Hamlin's spinning car.

 "It's self-explanatory if you watch the tape," Junior said. "I got into the back of Elliott trying to bump draft and he wasn't up on the straightaway yet. I got into him too early and wrecked him and wrecked both racecars. I'm sorry about that.

"We were back there, trying to do what we could do and I was trying to help a friend of mine and just got over-zealous and overdid it."

Golden boy Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets the white gloves treatment when it comes to NASCAR. Remember NASCAR's ban on bump drafting in the corners? Well when it come to their Golden boy it's OK. Junior admitted that he "bumped drafted" the No. 19 car in the middle of a corner in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout causing a wreck. Was he penalized? Of course not.

Gerhart wins Daytona ARCA race  Bobby Gerhart captured his third straight ARCA 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series victory Saturday night and his fifth overall win, taking the checkered flag for the 44th annual ARCA 200 at historic Daytona International Speedway. Surviving a green-white-checkered finish, Gerhart held off second-place finisher Marc Mitchell and third-place finisher Jeremy Clements

"On the green-white start, the biggest trouble I had was not getting too far out that the guys would get a run on me," said Gerhart, driver of the No. 5 Lucas Oil Chevrolet. "I just did what I had to do."

"His car was strong today," said Marc Mitchell, driver of the No. 93 Ergon Pontiac. "There wasn't any catching him.

"Actually, I wanted it to end before the green-white-checkered - I was calling for it. The green-white-checkered was an interesting finish and I'm glad it ended the way it did. We had a great run coming down the back straightaway. Got a good push from Jeremy. I thought better of it and stayed on the inside and stayed for second place." More ...

Daytona 500 Practice Speeds (Combined)  
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed
1 88 Ricky Rudd Ford 48.374 186.050
2 38 David Gilliland Ford 48.446 185.774
3* 14 Sterling Marlin Chevy 48.534 185.437
4 24 Jeff Gordon Chevy 48.625 185.090
5 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge 48.639 185.037
6 6 David Ragan # Ford 48.655 184.976
7 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevy 48.658 184.964
8 40 David Stremme Dodge 48.702 184.797
9 42 Juan Montoya # Dodge 48.731 184.687
10* 60 Boris Said Ford 48.791 184.460 More ...
Daytona 500 Practice 2 speeds  
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed
1 88 Ricky Rudd Snickers Ford 48.190 186.761
2 *14 Sterling Marlin Waste Management Chevrolet 48.363 186.093
3 38 David Gilliland M & M's Ford 48.387 186.000
4 *36 Jeremy Mayfield 360 OTC Toyota 48.424 185.858
5 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet 48.501 185.563
6 42 Juan Pablo Montoya #Texaco/Havoline Dodge 48.509 185.533
7 40 David Stremme Coors Light Dodge 48.526 185.468
8 5 Kyle Busch CarQuest/Kellogg's Chevrolet 48.558 185.345
9 20 Tony Stewart The Home Depot Chevrolet 48.580 185.261
10 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge 48.593 185.212 More ...
Daytona 500 Practice 1 speeds  
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed
1 88 Ricky Rudd Snickers Ford 48.374 186.050
2 38 David Gilliland M & M's Ford 48.446 185.774
3 *14 Sterling Marlin Waste Management Chevrolet 48.534 185.437
4 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet 48.625 185.090
5 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge 48.639 185.037
6 6 David Ragan # AAA Ford 48.655 184.976
7 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Budweiser Chevrolet 48.658 184.964
8 40 David Stremme Coors Light Dodge 48.702 184.797
9 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Texaco/Havoline Dodge 48.731 184.687
10 *60 Boris Said SoBe No Fear Energy Drink Ford 48.791 184.460 More ...
Yates Fords tops in Daytona 500 practice  The Robert Yates Racing duo of Ricky Rudd and David Gilliland were first and second, respectively, in the morning practice and were at the top of the speed charts in the afternoon as well. Both drivers, along with car owner Robert Yates, spoke about the team's performance heading into tomorrow's qualifying session for the Daytona 500.

RICKY RUDD -- No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion

YOU CAN'T BE MUCH HAPPIER WHEN YOU'RE FIRST ON THE BOARD. "Not really. It went really well with our test down here. I wouldn't say it's a problem, it's a good problem to have because we had two fast cars and had to make a decision on which one to bring back. Knowing how well we tested they didn't touch the car. It went back home and it was 100 percent legit. We rolled it through tech when we ran fast in practice down here, so they just brought it back the way it was and it picked up where it left off." More ...

Menard picks up PEAK sponsorship  Long-time racing supporter and sponsor to some of the most celebrated drivers in motorsports history, Old World Industries of Northbrook, Illinois, has today announced that its PEAK Antifreeze brand will re-enter Nextel Cup in 2007 by entering into an agreement with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated [DEI] to sponsor top Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Paul Menard and the #15 PEAK/Menards DEI Chevy. Menard, entering his first full season of Nextel Cup action, will have PEAK adorn his #15 Chevy throughout the entire 2007 season. PEAK will serve as Primary sponsor during Speedweeks at Daytona, and in the Fall Bristol Nextel Cup race. Menard will also appear within PEAK advertising, promotions and in-store merchandising programs at Menards stores throughout the United States. For Speedweeks in 2007, it will definitely be "PEAK Week" in Daytona. In addition to seeing the iconic PEAK mountain logo on the hood of the #15 DEI Nextel Cup Chevy, PEAK will also adorn the hood of DEI's #15 PEAK/Menards Busch Series car for Saturday's race, as well as the hood of Thorsports' #88 PEAK/Menards Chevy for Friday's Craftsman Truck Series race. PEAK Antifreeze can be found at major retailers like Menards, AutoZone, Advance, CSK, NAPA, O'Reilly, Pep Boys, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target and Walgreens. In total, Old World products are sold on the shelves of more than 200,000 outlets nationwide, across every retail channel - whether automotive, mass merchandise, home/hardware, food/drug, or convenience. For more information about PEAK see www.peakantifreeze.com.
Marco to test NASCAR next, but stay with AGR  Michael Andretti told autosport.com that they plan to put son Marco Andretti in a NASCAR next to broaden his horizons. 

"I'm looking at it from a father's point of view, and also from an owner's point of view," he said. "So it is a delicate thing," said the owner of Andretti Green Racing.

"I think the beauty of this team is there are two people (Michael and Mario) who care a lot about Marco and want what is best for Marco and ourselves. And I think right now getting in and getting experience is helping us, as a team.

"You know, the more we can put him in a different car, the better it is and the better he will do for us. That is what we are doing right now. We will put him in a NASCAR, and just doing that will help him.

"For the future we would love to have him for the rest of our time, you know, but it is probably not going to happen. We have him for at least the next two years and we are going to try to make best out of it, so who knows?

"What we know now is what we have. We will make the best of it, and hopefully we win lots of races with Marco.

"I am sure if he continues to do what we know he can do, then I am sure F1 people are going to be wanting to test him. The kid is really good," said the proud father.

Scenes from Bud Shootout practice  Here are a few photos from Friday's Budweiser Shootout practice at Daytona.

(L to R)Last years shootout winner Hamlin, Jarrett leads Earnhardt and Kahne, Jimmie Johnson

(L to R)Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Newman leads Earnhardt

(L to R)Harvick and his new Shell colors, Hendrick crew works on 24 car, Boris Said
Photos by Ford and CIA Stock Photo

Industry News
The Saturn Revival  In 1990 GM launched Saturn. Even with its loyal following, the limited offerings in the showroom have held it back. The radical overhaul of the company introduces 5 all new models.

Industry News
2008 Pontiac G8 unveiled  General Motors introduced the all-new 2008 Saturn Astra and 2008 Pontiac G8 at the Chicago Auto Show this week, building on the momentum of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit – where the Saturn Aura captured the North American Car of the Year award and the Chevrolet Silverado claimed the North American Truck of the Year award.

The G8 sedan represents Pontiac 's continuing commitment to rear-wheel-drive performance, and adds to the G6 GXP and Torrent GXP recently introduced in Detroit.

“It is truly an exciting time at GM, because every few weeks, we get to show off all-new models that reinforce the fact that we’re not only back in the car market, we’re back with the intention to lead it,” said GM North America president Troy Clarke. “The common thread linking all of these great new products is our renewed commitment to design excellence and technological innovation.” 

Ginn Racing Contracts with Martin  Ginn Racing has contracted with Mark Martin Performance to oversee the company's driver development program, which includes Ricky Carmichael, Matt Martin and Matt Bowers. All three are Florida residents -- Carmichael (27, Tallahassee), Martin (15, Daytona Beach) and Bowers (15, Mount Dora). Martin will work with the development drivers while they compete in the late model and super model divisions at Florida race tracks. Once the drivers graduate from Martin's tutelage, they will join Ginn Racing's North Carolina-based development program that will include the ARCA RE/MAX Series and the Craftsman Truck Series. "I don't believe you can ask for anyone better than Mark to oversee the development program and mentor the young drivers," said Jay Frye, Ginn Racing's CEO and general manager. "Having Mark in this capacity will only enhance our development program and the future of Ginn Racing." Martin, who drives the #01 U.S. Army Chevy for Ginn Racing, said, "I love to compete and I love to teach. And I have the best of both worlds with Ginn Racing. I look forward to this role and know that it's going to be a lot of fun instructing a group of young drivers who share a passion for racing." Ginn Racing PR
Stewart done with Indy 500  Tony Stewart's efforts to win the Indianapolis 500 appear to have ended. Asked about whether or not he'd ever run in the event again, the former open-wheel star who has won two NASCAR Cup championships said that he wouldn't completely rule it out, but he couldn't really envision it. "I've learned to never say never, but I look at my life as a book, and it's kind of like it's a chapter that's either on its last page or almost closed," Stewart said. "My contract (with Joe Gibbs Racing)  takes me to 39, and I don't see myself getting back into IndyCar at the age of 39." SceneDaily.com
Waltrip slams Roush  Toyota, Toyota, Toyota. The NASCAR bells have been ringing for months now - warning bells, that is, from its rivals, looking at Toyota's incredible corporate free cash flow while other American car makers struggle.

But Toyota's Michael Waltrip, who owns Dale Jarrett's cars, pooh-poohs Ford rival Jack Roush's gripes about Toyota. Roush said that Toyota has so much cash, while Detroit rivals are hard up, that it might dominate the sport.

"The only person I've heard making those kinds of ridiculous statements is Jack Roush, and I have no idea what Jack is thinking," Waltrip said.

"This is a global society. We're selling Whoppers in Tokyo. Chevrolets are built and sold outside the U.S., in Canada. Fords are made in Mexico. And I've heard that Dodge guy on TV talk about 'German engineering.'

"It's a silly argument that should be put to rest. People should be glad our sport is so popular that people want to come play with us."

TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday and Sunday  
Courtesy of TVRacer.com

NASCAR Live! Daytona
10:00am-10:30am (L) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Practice Daytona
10:30am-12:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Live! Daytona
12:30pm-1:30pm (L) SPEED
1:30pm-2:00pm ABC
NASCAR Nextel Cup Practice Daytona
1:30pm-3:00pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Live! Daytona
3:00pm-4:00pm (L) SPEED
4:00pm-6:00pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR RaceDay -Bud Shootout Preview Daytona
6:00pm-8:00pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup -Budweiser Shootout Daytona
8:00pm-10:00pm (L) FOX
NASCAR Victory Lane -Bud Shootout Wrap-up Daytona
10:00pm-10:30pm (L) SPEED
NHRA Qualifying Pomona
10:00pm-12:00am ESPN2
The SPEED Report
10:30pm-11:00pm SPEED

NHRA Race Day Pomona
11:00am-11:30am ESPN2
AMA Supercross Houston
12:00pm-1:00pm (2/10/07) CBS
NASCAR Live! Daytona
1:00pm-2:00pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Qualifying Daytona
2:00pm-5:00pm (L) FOX
NASCAR Live! Daytona
6:00pm-7:00pm (L) SPEED
The SPEED Report
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
NHRA Pomona
8:00pm-11:00pm (SDD) ESPN2
Michael Waltrip Racing: A New Era
11:00pm-12:00am ESPN2

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

Gronholm leads Swedish Rally  Finland's Marcus Gronholm has the lead after the first full day of the Swedish Rally. The Finn took his Ford Focus into an 11.3 seconds lead over Citroen's triple world champion Sebastien Loeb. Subaru's Petter Solberg was in third place, 22.6 seconds back.

Standings after Special Stage 8
1 Marcus Gronholm (Fin) Ford 1 hour 5 minutes 21.300 seconds
2 Sebastien Loeb (Fra) Citroen 1:05:32.400
3 Petter Solberg (Nor) Subaru 1:05:43.900
4 Henning Solberg (Nor) Ford 1:05:49.200
5 Mikko Hirvonen (Fin) Ford 1:05:52.300
6 Toni Gardemeister (Fin) Mitsubishi 1:05:56.200
7 Daniel Carlsson (Swe) Citroen 1:06:04.400
8 Manfred Stohl (Aut) Citroen 1:06:26.300
9 Chris Atkinson (Aus) Subaru 1:06:30.100
10 Jari-Matti Latvala (Fin) Ford 1:07:01.900

F1 number plates to be sold  (GMM) Swarms of British formula one fans will be licking their lips at news of an upcoming auction of personalized number plates.

It has emerged that the UK's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency later this month plans to put combinations including 'F1 FAN', 'F1 MAD', F1 GPX' and 'F1 SHU' under the hammer.

'F1 SHU' - a reference to the sport's now retired seven time world champion - has a reserve price of £1200 (US $2345).

The auction will take place February 21-23, according to newspaper reports.

Hinchcliffe Leads Sierra Sierra Sweep at MSR Houston  ANGLETON, Texas – There apparently was no courting period needed in the budding relationship between Canadian racer James Hinchcliffe (right) and his new team, Sierra Sierra Enterprises. Friday had all the spark and magic of a dream first date for the pairing as Hinchcliffe convincingly led both the morning and afternoon sessions in the first of two days of pre-season testing at the MSR Houston road course for the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

In his first day testing for the veteran Atlantic Sierra Sierra squad, Hinchcliffe and the team clicked right away and seemed to find more of a groove as the day went along. Running under dark cloudy skies and unseasonably cool conditions in the 50s throughout the day, “Hinch” provided the heat as he led all 25 cars that turned lap times Friday, stopping the clock with a mark of 1:18.785 (108.752 mph). The 20-year-old Toronto native had a cushion of nearly four-tenths-of-a-second over the rest of the talented Atlantic field in the afternoon after pacing the morning session by more than six-tenths-of-a-second over his closest competitor. More ...

NASCAR eliminates Mexico chicane  NASCAR has opted not to use the chicane in the first turn for this year's Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez course in Mexico City.  The Busch Series cars will have different gearing, which will allow NASCAR to make the change as the cars won't be as fast going down the main straightaway and can go into turn 1 at a safe speed, Busch Series Director Joe Balash said Friday.  Balash said it won't significantly change the distance.  "We have changed the gearing in the cars a little bit to take a little bit of RPM out down the main straightaway," Balash said. "We looked at it from a competition standpoint and getting comfortable with the facility."
PPI buys into Waltrip Toyota team  Michael Waltrip Racing has partnered with PPI Motorsports owner Cal Wells for the ownership of the No. 00 car. The team will be known as Waltrip-PPI Racing with Michael Waltrip Racing as the managing partner, MWR general manager Ty Norris said Friday.  That means the car, driven by David Reutimann, will have the points of the No. 32 car from last season, which was 37th in points and not in the top 35 to be locked in for the first five races. Scenedaily.com
Bud Shootout: Practice 2 Speeds  
Pos No Driver Make Time Speed
1. 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge 47.532 189.346
2. 2 Kurt Busch Dodge 47.549 189.278
3. 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 47.560 189.235
4. 5 Kyle Busch Chevrolet 47.596 189.092
5. 10 Scott Riggs Dodge 47.970 187.617
6. 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge 48.008 187.469
7. 20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 48.063 187.254
8. 21 Ken Schrader Ford 48.160 186.877
9. 11 Denny Hamlin Chevrolet 48.174 186.823
10. 01 Mark Martin Chevrolet 48.190 186.761
11. 12 Ryan Newman Dodge 48.264 186.474
12. 38 David Gilliland Ford 48.271 186.447
13. 160 Boris Said Ford 48.286 186.389
14. 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet 48.288 186.382
15. 44 Dale Jarrett Toyota 48.298 186.343
16. 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 48.302 186.328
17. 83 Brian Vickers Toyota 48.303 186.324
18. 16 Greg Biffle Ford 48.330 186.220
19. 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 48.351 186.139
20. 37 Bill Elliott Dodge 48.386 186.004
21. 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 48.420 185.874
Lone Star and Ganassi team split  On Friday at Daytona International Speedway, Chip Ganassi Racing crewmen were busy removing all traces of Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon sponsorship from David Stremme's #40 Dodge and equipment. Ganassi's Web site no longer displays the brand as part of its sponsorship package. North Carolina-based Lone Star Steakhouse, which owns and operates more than 250 restaurants under a variety of names, was acquired by Dallas-based private equity firm Lone Star Funds for about $586 million in December. The publicly-owned restaurant chain shared primary sponsorship of the #40 Dodge with Coors Light in 2006, and was featured in 17 races. Coors Light is listed as the official sponsor for next Sunday's Daytona 500. NASCAR.com
Bud Shootout: Practice 1 Speeds  
Pos No Driver Make Time Speed
1. 11 Denny Hamlin Chevrolet 47.432 189.745
2. 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 47.444 189.697
3. 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge 47.492 189.506
4. 16 Greg Biffle Ford 47.597 189.087
5. 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 47.880 187.970
6. 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 48.038 187.352
7. 10 Scott Riggs Dodge 48.041 187.340
8. 20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 48.079 187.192
9. 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge 48.093 187.137
10. 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 48.098 187.118
11. 44 Dale Jarrett Toyota 48.123 187.021
12. 12 Ryan Newman Dodge 48.154 186.900
13. 21 Ken Schrader Ford 48.177 186.811
14. 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet 48.182 186.792
15. 5 Kyle Busch Chevrolet 48.207 186.695
16. 01 Mark Martin Chevrolet 48.212 186.676
17. 2 Kurt Busch Dodge 48.223 186.633
18. 38 David Gilliland Ford 48.246 186.544
19. 160 Boris Said Ford 48.366 186.081
20. 83 Brian Vickers Toyota 48.404 185.935
21. 37 Bill Elliott Dodge 48.434 185.820
track news
Indy 500 Fan Tour announced  The Indianapolis Motor Speedway kicks off the 2007 Summer of Speed and the 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race by taking the Indy 500 Fan Tour back on the road, giving fans the chance to experience "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Designed to bring the thrill and anticipation of the Indianapolis 500 to fans, the Tour will travel across Indiana and throughout the Midwest. The Tour starts Sunday, Feb. 11 in Indianapolis and continues through the 2007 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27.

The Tour is free for fans of all ages.

"Since the Indianapolis 500 has been an essential part of motorsports history, we wanted to give our fans a way to see firsthand what makes the Indianapolis 500 such a great event," IMS President Joie Chitwood said. "The Fan Tour brings that excitement right to fans' communities, increasing the anticipation for another memorable Month of May at the Speedway." More ...

Hernandez leaves GP2 Series  Sergio Hernandez won't race in GP2 in 2007. The 22-year-old Spaniard, who was involved in the GP2 Series since the debut of the championship in 2005, signed a deal to race in WTCC for the 2007 season with the Italian team Proteam Motorsport.
Crocker wins ARCA pole  Evernham Motorsports' Erin Crocker ran a lap of 49.391 seconds, 182.219 mph to capture the pole position for the 44th running of the ARCA 200 at Daytona International Speedway. Crocker will lead the 41-car field to the green flag, that waves at 1:15 p.m. Saturday for the 2007 ARCA RE/MAX Series season opener.

"This race is real important for us," Crocker said. "It’s a new season, I’m turning over a new leaf, and I’m going to have some fun. I’ve got a pink race car, with no sponsor, no pressure. We’re ready to kick some butt tomorrow. Starting up front is important. Any speedway race can get a little wild, so you either want to be near the front or near the back. Obviously, I wanted to be in the front."

track news
Miller challenges Budweiser  Miller Brewing Co. today issued a NASCAR challenge to competitor Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., and the temporary naming rights to Milwaukee's Miller Park would be stake. The long-standing "battle of the beer cars" on NASCAR tracks would take on added significance during the 2007 Nextel Cup season if Anheuser-Busch accepts Miller's challenge to the Budweiser team. Miller is putting the naming rights to Miller Park on the line for a weekend series between the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008. If the Miller Lite #2 Dodge, driven by Kurt Busch, finishes ahead of the #8 Budweiser Chevy, driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the 2007 season standings, Busch Stadium would be renamed Miller Lite Stadium for a yet-to-be-determined 2008 series in St. Louis. If the Budweiser car finishes the season ahead of the Miller Lite car in 2007, Milwaukee's Miller Park would be renamed Budweiser Park for a 2008 series in Milwaukee. "We're more confident than ever that Kurt Busch and the #2 Miller Lite team are going to be regular contenders for the Nextel Cup championship," said Tom Long, Miller's president and chief executive officer. "It's too bad for Anheuser-Busch that they didn't take us up on our challenge last year, when Kurt and the team were dealing with the first-year 'new team' transition. Kurt already has one title, and now he and the whole Penske Racing garage are focused on adding to that total. We expect to see plenty of Miller Lite flowing in victory lane this year." The new wager was officially proposed via certified letter from Long to Anheuser-Busch president and CEO August Busch IV, and delivered this morning. Busch had not yet responded. Small Business Times
Pecorari joins Van der Steur Racing  Van der Steur Racing has signed young Adam Pecorari to contest the 2007 American LeMans Series season in LMP2 competition. The team will campaign a Radical chassis powered by the AER engine against the factory Porsche, Mazda, and Acura efforts.
“We’re pleased to have Adam join us this year,” said team owner Gunnar van der Steur. “He showed when he raced with us at Laguna that he is tremendously fast, and very technically capable. We know we are going up against some very well-funded teams this year, but we are optimistic that Adam can help us get everything out of the Radical/AER combination.” More ...
Legge Wins SPEED Performance Award  Champ Car World Series driver Katherine Legge was honored last night at the inaugural SPEED Performance Awards. Legge won the award for Biggest Hit of 2007 for her spectacular crash, from which she walked away unscathed, during the Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America at Elkhart Lake last September.

Legge, who tested the Dale Coyne Panoz DP01 car at the Sebring open test in January, was on hand to receive her award, even if it was an honor any race car driver would rather do without.

“I'm glad I am still here to accept this award, it was a pretty serious deal but the Champ Car Safety Team was right there on the spot and did a great job of taking care of me,” said the 26-year-old Brit, after being presented the award by Grey’s Anatomy star and budding sportscar driver Patrick Dempsey. “Hopefully I won't be back to win this again next year!"

Up next for Legge and the rest of the Champ Car field will be the much-awaited MSR Houston open test which takes place February 12 -13. This second open test of the season will mark the first time that drivers and teams will have the chance to test the new standing-start procedure that will be used throughout the season at events where they can be accommodated in a safe manner.

Ricci to Drive for Conquest Racing Atlantic Team in 2007  Conquest Racing is set for their 2007 Atlantic season after announcing that they have signed 2006 F3000 Italian Euro Champion, Giacomo Ricci, to drive their #18 Atlantic entry for the 2007 season. The young Italian will start his new adventure with the second-year Atlantic Team today as he joins teammate Matt Lee at the MSR Houston open test.

Ricci tested with the team at the beginning of January in Moroso and impressed everyone on hand.

“It was obvious after testing Giacomo in Moroso that he was ready to join the Atlantic Series,” said Eric Bachelart, owner of the Conquest Racing Team. “He was very competitive and it will be a pleasure to work with him throughout the season. We look forward to continuing with Giacomo the success we had last season with Graham Rahal. I’m extremely delighted to have this young talented driver join our Atlantic Team.” More ...

BMW ahead of McLaren, Ferrari - Massa  (GMM)  Felipe Massa says the BMW-Sauber team has got off to the best start of all in the 2007 pre-season.  Ferrari's Brazilian ace suggested to an Italian newspaper that Nick Heidfeld and Polish rookie Robert Kubica could be about to join the usual 'big three' front runners including Renault and McLaren this year.

"The McLaren definitely looks quick but for me the BMW is the best of all at the moment," Massa, 25, told the La Gazzetta dello Sport daily.

At the Jerez and Valencia test tracks, Massa observed that Hinwil based BMW's new F1.07 might not be ultimately the quickest, but it boasts "impressive" consistency over long runs.

He said: "The McLaren is the quickest over a single lap but BMW are impressively consistent even if maybe they are not yet the most reliable.

"For now, I put them ahead of Ferrari and McLaren."

Massa also admitted that Ferrari, whose driver lineup for this year features Kimi Raikkonen in the place of Michael Schumacher, is having "a few problems" so far this winter.

"But we know how to fix them," he added.

Toyota wins first Cup pole of year  Toyota will start the manufacturer's first-ever Nextel Cup race on the pole Saturday night.  The Budweiser Shootout is not a points race. And veteran Dale Jarrett earned the position not with a quick lap, but selecting the right Budweiser bottle in Thursday night's televised drawing.

But the 50-year-old Jarrett will take it. And so will Toyota, whose ballyhooed arrival on the Nextel Cup circuit is nearing fruition.

"We've got a new race team, with UPS as our sponsor, and we'll see what we've got right off," said Jarrett, the only three-time Bud Shootout winner in the 21-driver field. "It should be fun. It's an exciting race."

Scott Riggs will start on the outside pole in Saturday night's 70-lap race (Fox, 8 p.m.), an annual event that has become a high-profile staple in the build-up to the season-opening Daytona 500.


1. Dale Jarrett, No. 44 Toyota
2. Scott Riggs, No. 10 Dodge
3. Boris Said, No. 60 Ford
4. Brian Vickers, No. 83 Toyota
5. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford
6. Kyle Busch, No. 5 Chevy
7. Ken Schrader, No. 21 Ford
8. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevy
9. Ryan Newman, No. 2 Dodge
10. Mark Martin, No. 01 Chevy
11. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevy
12. Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevy
13. David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford
14. Tony Stewart, No. 20 Chevy
15. Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Dodge
16. Bill Elliott, No. 37 Dodge
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 8 Chevy
18. Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Dodge
19. Kurt Busch, No. 2 Dodge
20. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevy
21. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Chevy

COT Splitter won’t need to be replaced  Teams will not need to replace the front splitter if it is broken off during a "car of tomorrow" race, NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Director John Darby said Thursday. Darby said he expect teams will want to have a front splitter - a shelf that sits underneath the front valence to adjust front downforce - on the car, but it won't be a requirement. So just as in the past, a car with a sawed off front end following a crash could be on the track. "The front splitter won't be mandatory," Darby said. "But remember, it is a huge tuning tool. They're going to do everything they can do to make sure that they have a front splitter." Teams will have to replace the rear wing in the event it is damaged, just as they have to replace the rear spoiler on a current car. SceneDaily.com
Champ Car gets more durable, quieter engine  Cosworth's Ken Deagle explained the reasons why the latest version of the Champ Car Cosworth XFE sounds sweeter and sharper.

"I think the different exhaust note that you notice is from the wastegates and a slightly different tailpipe arrangement compared to the Lola's system which was a bit longer and a bit more directional. The new exhaust is shorter and dumps straight out. We've also tuned-up some of the fuel-mapping in the new ECU and because we have a split system where the gear control unit is a separate ECU altogether. And that probably has some effect on the sound as well. The end result is that the engine is a little bit more powerful with a bit more smooth of a power curve.

"A lot of people over the years mistake rev-limiter for valve popping," Deagle added. "But the valve has never been audible in any capacity except for perhaps on a very high-speed oval where if the engine speed was below the maximum rev limit and the valve dumps, you probably would hear that. But on any circuit that Champ Cars typically have run on for the last three or four years, you would never hear that."

Improved pistons and oil control system have enabled Cosworth to add 200 miles to the duty cycle of each engine.

"The engines now will run to 1,400 miles," Deagle said. "The limiting factor on running more than 1,200 miles was the piston. After 1,200 miles they were pretty much used up. The duty cycle just beat them up and certainly, if a driver was a little overzealous on downshifting, that was a negative as well. What we learned in the last two years and last year in particular with piston development with our CA Formula One engine were some slightly different approaches for piston design in materials and manufacturing that carried over to this new program. We've also improved the oil control a little. So while the horsepower output is the same, the internal components have been improved to get an extra 200 miles between rebuilds." ChampCar.ws

Da Matta plans racing return  UPDATE This week's Autosport magazine reports that Cristiano da Matta acknowledges that he will not return to racing until 2008 at the earliest. He's determined to make a comeback, but he's been told by doctors not to test a racing car until next year, but instead to drive go-karts solo. "They don't want me to be exposed to any risk. They worry about how my brain would react to the slightest impact. And I'm not the one who is going to take risks after coming back from where I came from."

11/28/06 Cristiano da Matta’s recovery continues and the 33-year-old revealed his intentions to go back to racing in an interview to Brazil’s Grande Premio website.

“I hadn’t been away from the race tracks since I was six, so this has been very hard for me,” he said. “The doctor made me promise I wouldn’t be thinking about my future, because it would be bad for my recovery, but I don’t think I’ll be able to keep the promise!”

“I’m almost 100% [Back to normal].”

“I feel very well physically, almost ready in fact,” he added. “But I can’t risk hitting my head again now, so I’ll have to wait a little longer.”

"I'm very exited about going back to racing."

Williams questions legality of 2008 rules  (GMM)  Sir Frank Williams has threatened to widen the argument over 'customer cars' in F1.

The boss of the Oxfordshire based team has already sided with Spyker's Colin Kolles in protest of Red Bull and Super Aguri's controversial plans for 2007, but Williams now hints that the legality of Max Mosley's rules for next year could also be challenged in a Swiss court.

Williams, 64, questions the use of customer cars even in 2008 by insisting that the revised rule is not supported by the new Concorde Agreement, which has not yet been completed.

"(FIA president) Max (Mosley) has got to tell us if the rules are going to change," he said.

"Why should (Prodrive's) David Richards come in with an investment of about (US $40m) while every other single team have worked hard to pay their bills?" the magazine Autosport reportedly quoted him as saying.

Williams suggests that teams like Prodrive should be allowed to race but not earn points or prize money, or that independent teams who build their own cars should receive compensation.

He said: "The rules are overt, you must make your own car.  If you buy one from McLaren then you're not a constructor."

Rookie Hamilton says pace ’close’ to Alonso  (GMM)  On the last day of dry running at Jerez this week, McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton pipped his illustrious teammate Fernando Alonso to emerge as the silver camp's quickest race driver.

The English youngster seemed pleased with the feat when he spoke in an interview with the Spanish newspaper 'Marca'.

"It is difficult to read too much into it because we are doing different things, but we are close together," 22-year-old Hamilton said.

"It was a good day for me, but I have worked hard every day so far (this winter) and these are the results." More ...

Survey says Massa to beat Raikkonen in '07  (GMM) Felipe Massa has emerged as a dark horse to win the world championship in 2007. A survey of the Italian magazine 'AutoMotoSport' revealed in a survey that seven out of ten leading grand prix personalities think reigning champion Fernando Alonso will triumph in his first season for McLaren this year.

But the three remaining F1 figures - Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Alesi and even Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali - think Brazilian Massa will have the upper hand on his highly rated new teammate Kimi Raikkonen and emerge with the coveted crown.

Indeed, Raikkonen hinted at his trouble to adapt to the red racer at Jerez this week when he answered "not really" to a question about whether his driving style suited the new control tires.

Racer magazine quoted F1 supremo Ecclestone as saying: "I wouldn't like to put my money on anybody, but I think if I had to, I would probably put it on Massa.

"You've got to have a whole package, it's not just the driver but a package."

McLaren 'not ready' to win first race - Alonso  (GMM) Fernando Alonso has poured cold water on observations that he is now the clear favorite to defend his world titles in 2007.

Despite switching from Renault to McLaren, the 25-year-old Spaniard is clearly piloting the quickest machine so far this winter. But Alonso told 'Tele5' at Jerez on Thursday that his MP4-22 is not necessarily ready to win.

"My lap times look good and everyone seems to be behind us, but the car is far from being ready for Australia and we are running out of test days," the newspaper 'Diario As' quoted him as saying in the television interview.

'As' said it interpreted the comments as a logical playing down of expectations from the back to back world champion, and the campaign also seemed coordinated, with Woking's Pedro de la Rosa, Lewis Hamilton and Martin Whitmarsh all echoing that "we need to improve" the car before the circus touches down in Melbourne.

Alonso added: "At the moment, the thing I like best about this car is the color."

McLaren will fit a bodywork and engine upgrade to the car at the final two tests of the pre-season.

Alonso admitted that the Mercedes-Benz motor "needs a little more power" and also suggested that the handling could be improved.

Asked about the team's rivals, he said: "Ferrari are going very well. Renault will start the year well but as usual they will be slow to improve. BMW could be the great surprise of the year, perhaps even fighting for wins.

"Honda, in my opinion, are not going as well as they say they are."

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