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Mowlem: Corsa headed in right direction
The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is a tough enough race for even the most seasoned teams in the American Le Mans Series. But for a first-year full-season outfit such as Corsa Motorsports, the task of competing in America’s greatest sports car race is daunting at best.

Not that this matters to the bunch from Sandy, Utah. After racing in the Series twice last year, including at Sebring, the Steve Pruitt-owned team is eager to take on the challenges of the world’s most physically demanding race. Corsa Motorsports has entered Sebring with Gunnar Jeannette, Johnny Mowlem and Ralf Kelleners slated to drive the team’s Ferrari F430 GT. It also will make the Series racing debut for tire partner Hankook.

“We are all keenly aware that the Sebring race will be a very public 12-hour tire test for us,” said Mowlem, who was part of Risi Competizione’s GT2-winning effort in 2007 with the F430 GT. “Both Corsa Motorsports and Hankook knew that they were taking on a big challenge, not just with the tire development program that they've committed to, but doing it in the most competitive sports car environment that they could have chosen: the American Le Mans Series. The package - in terms of the car, team and drivers (although all proven in the Series before) - is new to itself. We just aim to go about our job in a quiet and professional manner and keep the program moving forward as efficiently as possible.”

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Ford owners told to disable cruise control
The National Highway Safety Administration today urged owners of more than 4 million unrepaired Ford Motor Co. vehicles that are at risk of fire because of a defective cruise control deactivation switch to "immediately" get it fixed.  The Detroit News reported Monday that Ford won't have an adequate supply of parts to repair trucks and vans until June.

Ford has urged owners to take vehicles into dealerships to get their cruise control deactivated as an interim fix until it has enough parts on hand to fix the cruise control. 

Ford expanded its recall by 3.6 million vehicles last August, but NHTSA has continued to receive complaints of fires -- about 60 since then.


Case mounts against McLaren
Statements and information gathered by Italian investigators during an unannounced swoop on McLaren's headquarters in Britain and the homes of its top executives have been turned over to magistrates preparing an industrial espionage case against the British Formula 1 team.

McLaren has already been condemned by the international racing federation FIA for the illegal possession of technical data belonging to Ferrari.

The British team was fined 50 million pounds and stripped of all its points in the 2007 constructors championship, which it was leading. The British team now faces criminal charges in Modena, the city which has jurisdiction over Ferrari's home town Maranello.

Working with British police, Italian investigators on Wednesday gathered information and documents at McLaren's headquarters in Surrey and from the private homes and offices of team boss Ron Dennis and executives Martin Whitmarsh, Jonathan Neale, Rob Taylor and Paddy Lowe.

Although McLaren has admitted having the technical data for Ferrari's 2007 race car, it has always denied using the data for its own benefit.

However, Modena magistrates said on Thursday that they had ample evidence which ''clearly showed the responsibility of top company management and technical staff'' not only in regard to obtaining the Ferrari data but also using the information for its own car and in deciding race strategy.

The material gathered Wednesday by Italian investigators, working with British police, mostly involved computer data and email records. ANSA

track news

Las Vegas announces another sellout, but seating reduced by 10K
The NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a virtual sellout for the seventh consecutive year, but Dodge has made sure that at least 700 more race fans can attend Sunday's UAW-Dodge 400. The LVMS ticket services office had only single seats remaining for Sunday's race at the close of business on Thursday. However, event co-sponsor Dodge has made 700 tickets available to race fans. These tickets were part of the Dodge allotment as part of its race entitlement with the United Auto Workers.

"Announcing a virtual sellout for the seventh consecutive year really confirms the demand for NASCAR tickets in Las Vegas," said Chris Powell, LVMS general manager. "We had a higher renewal rate this year, which also suggests the facilities and service race fans are receiving are like no other."

Race fans can purchase one of the 700 tickets only by calling the speedway ticket services department at (800) 644-4444 or in person at the speedway box office.

Powell said he decided not to erect a 10,000-seat temporary grandstand above the third turn of the 1.5-mile tri-oval based on advance ticket sales. A temporary grandstand has been erected for several Cup races at the track.

"I'd attribute that to the economy," he said. "The good news is that ticket sales haven't fallen off to the degree the economy has. I'm heartened that we're on the verge of a sellout."


Quote of the Week
“I got a call from Neil (Micklewright, president of Forsythe Racing) this morning and he said, ‘I’ve got some bad news for you.  Neil said he’d been trying to get ahold of my manager but he was having a colonoscopy today. That’s ironic ‘cause that’s what I feel like I got.” Paul Tracy upon learning his Forsythe Team was closing its doors and he was out of a ride for 2008


Stoner leads first night practice times in Qatar
The MotoGP riders commenced their final preseason test session at Losail this evening, experiencing for the first time the 5.380 km Qatari track’s awesome new lighting system that will illuminate the first-ever floodlit motorcycle GP on March 9.  Casey Stoner turned the fastest lap time on night 1.

Testing began at 6pm following a spectacular ceremony to turn on the unique lighting system, the world’s largest permanent sports floodlighting project. The 5.4 million watt network is powerful enough to light up a road from Doha to Moscow!

Official Lap Times

1.    Casey STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 1:55.330
2.    Jorge LORENZO (Fiat Yamaha) 1:56.019
3.    Randy DE PUNIET (Honda Lcr) 1:56.062
4.    Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Jir Honda Scot ) 1:56.121
5.    James TOSELAND (Yamaha Tech3) 1:56.251
6.    Alex DE ANGELIS (Honda San Carlo) 1:56.571
7.    John HOPKINS (Kawasaki) 1:56.614
8.    Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda) 1:56.621
9.    Valentino ROSSI (Fiat Yamaha) 1:56.749
10.  Colin EDWARDS (Yamaha Tech3) 1:56.762
11.  Toni ELIAS (Alice Ducati) 1:57.007
12.  Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda) 1:57.010
13.  Shinya NAKANO (Honda San Carlo) 1:57.223
14.  Chris VERMEULEN (Rizla Suzuki) 1:57.522
15.  Loris CAPIROSSI  (Rizla Suzuki) 1:57.551
16.  Marco MELANDRI (Ducati Marlboro Team)  1:57.593
17.  Sylvain GUINTOLI  (Alice Ducati) 1:57.644
18.  Anthony WEST (Kawasaki) 1:57.787

Circuit Length: 5380 m
Lap Record: 1.56.528 C. Stoner 2007 (Ducati)
Pole Position: 1.55.002 V. Rossi 2007 (Yamaha)


Williams adds 2 new sponsors
The AT&T Williams team today announced a new sponsorship partnership with All Saints, the rapidly growing fashion label part-owned by Kevin Stanford, the retail entrepreneur. All Saints has agreed its first sponsorship deal with Williams F1 which will see its logo appear on the car and within the team environment.

Of the new partnership, Kevin Stanford commented, “I’m probably one of only a handful of non-professionals to have ever driven a Williams car and I’m thrilled to be able to sponsor such a great British team. This deal offers fantastic international exposure for All Saints and fits perfectly with our ambitions for the brand.”

AT&T Williams Team Principal, Frank Williams, commented, “Kevin has been a keen supporter of the team and I am delighted that All Saints will be joining us as a partner. I look forward to the contribution we can make to All Saints international ambitions.”

The AT&T Williams team today announced a new sponsorship partnership with mydiamonds.com, the new diamond jewellery website to be launched shortly by Aurum Holdings, which owns Royal Jewellers Mappin & Webb, as well as Goldsmiths and Watches of Switzerland. Mydiamonds.com has agreed a sponsorship deal that will see its logo appear on the car as well as within the team environment.

Of the new partnership, Justin Stead, Chief Executive of Aurum, said, “This sponsorship deal offers an exciting, global marketing platform to launch mydiamonds.com. It forms an important part of our strategy in establishing mydiamonds.com as a destination online store for loose diamonds and diamond jewellery.”

Frank Williams, Team Principal of the AT&T Williams, commented, “We are delighted to welcome mydiamonds.com to the team and look forward to playing a significant role in the launch of this exciting development in online jewellery retailing.” 


Scott Speed to Race NCTS Limited Schedule
Red Bull Racing Team announces Scott Speed, driver of the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, to race a limited schedule in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in the No. 46 Morgan-Dollar Motorsports entry. Speed’s No. 46 will carry a Red Bull paint scheme for his NCTS debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 7, followed by a second NCTS race at Martinsville Speedway on March 28. Speed will get additional seat time participating in the NCTS open test at Martinsville Speedway on March 12 – 13. Speed’s foray into NCTS racing is part of a development program aimed at getting the Red Bull driver ready for top-level competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Red Bull may consider additional opportunities for Speed as the 2008 season progresses. Scott Speed will continue his run for the championship racing full-time in the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series under the wing of Eddie Sharp Racing.

Scott Speed on Truckin’: “Every time I’m in the car I’m learning something. It’s a lot more helpful for me to drive the races because for me to get into a truck or Cup car and go fast by myself has been really easy. It’s been easier than I thought, to be honest.  What’s difficult and what I’m learning a lot about is how the other cars around you affect your car.  The reason we went this route is because the truck is the most similar to the COT and it is very sensitive to how the other cars around you, where they are and what they’re doing to your car. This is kind of the method behind our madness here.”


Forsythe Championship Racing to fold, Atlantic program to continue
Statement from Neil Micklewright, VP of Operations for Forsythe Championship Racing Ltd., LLC: 

“Forsythe Championship Racing is announcing today the cessation of its racing operations. After 13 years of competition in CART and the Champ Car World Series, the team has been unable to secure the necessary sponsorship to be able to compete in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series in 2008. Forsythe Racing Inc., the parent company of FCR, will participate in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Champ Car finale, with drivers to be announced.”

Officials from Forsythe Racing Inc. confirmed today that popular Canadian racer James Hinchcliffe and Mexican rising star David Garza, who logged the fastest and second-fastest times, respectively, in a recent open test at Sebring International Raceway, will continue in the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

The two-car team will participate in the upcoming open test at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on March 10 and 11, as well as the full 12-race Atlantic season, which begins on April 18-20 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Hinchcliffe, a 21-year-old native of Toronto, is returning to the same operation with which he competed in his rookie Atlantic season in 2006. That season produced Hinchcliffe’s lone Atlantic victory to date at Portland, a pole position at Montreal and a total of three podium results, placing him 10th in the championship as part of a four-car operation. Last season, Hinchcliffe competed with Sierra Sierra Enterprises, improving greatly from his rookie campaign with three pole positions and five podiums en route to fourth in the championship.

The 19-year-old Garza, from Monterrey, Mexico, competed in his rookie Atlantic season in 2007 with US RaceTronics. He earned career-best results in each of his first six starts, topped by best finishes of eighth at Cleveland and the first race of the doubleheader at Edmonton. He finished 10th in the Rookie of the Year standings and 17th in the overall championship. As was the case in 2007, Garza’s car will carry sponsorship from Monterrey, Mexico-based Axtel, a leading carrier of communications services in Mexico.

Forsythe Racing Inc. owns a total of 27 victories and 27 pole positions in Atlantic competition and claimed the 1998 title with driver Lee Bentham, making it the most successful operation currently competing in the Atlantic Championship.


History-making Qatar test gets underway tonight
MotoGP history will be made this Thursday in Qatar, as the Losail International Circuit plays host to the World Championship’s first ever full night test. Two days of premier class testing from February 28th-29th will be followed by a further three of lower cylinder class action concluding on March 3rd, all under the history-making floodlights of the Qatari track.

The MotoGP Official Test marks a visit to uncharted waters for the riders, although several have had fleeting experiences of similar conditions. The only participants to have seen the lighting project in action thus far –Ducati Marlboro’s Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alex de Angelis, Anthony West from Kawasaki and Tech 3 Yamaha representative James Toseland- did so back in November, at a test with street bikes limited to just three fully illuminated corners.

Five-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi and premier class veteran Loris Capirossi have also ridden the Losail track at night, as part of the initial assessment trial ahead of the 2006 race. Both will be keen to see how the track looks in their role as key members of the Riders Safety Commission, and as previous winners of Grand Prix events in Qatar will be using the opportunity to adapt their experiences to the new circumstances of night riding.

The entire 800cc field will be in action over the course of the two day MotoGP test, with even the walking wounded not wanting to miss time on track ahead of the opening race of the season. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Kawasaki’s John Hopkins, who undertook limited laps at the last Official Test in Jerez due to their respective hand and groin injuries, have previously had good rides in the Persian gulf, and with the absence of any testing activity at the circuit in preseason need to make the most of the final opportunity for laps of Losail before the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.

Aside from aforementioned former World Champion Rossi, the two other premier class title winners have also still to ride an 800cc bike in Qatar at night. 2007 World Champion Casey Stoner and his predecessor Nicky Hayden both had successful times in Jerez just over a week ago; Stoner was the victor of the BMW M Award on his Ducati Desmosedici GP8, whilst Repsol Honda’s Hayden was the fastest rider overall at the test.

The MotoGP equivalent of a full house is completed by Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen, Yamaha factory man and winner of races at Losail in both 125cc and 250cc Jorge Lorenzo, Honda satellite riders Shinya Nakano, Randy de Puniet and Andrea Dovizioso, Tech 3 Yamaha veteran Colin Edwards and the Alice Team Ducati duo of Toni Elias & Sylvain Guintoli.

The world’s largest permanent sports lighting project will be officially switched on in a ceremony ahead of the MotoGP Official Test on Thursday, with the riders taking to the track for seven hours of testing per session from 5pm-12am local time.


Teams to test slicks again in April
(GMM) Formula one teams will once again trial slick tires when testing resumes at the Barcelona circuit in mid April.

Following the first slick tests at Jerez in December, the sport's sole tire supplier Bridgestone on Thursday revealed that teams will once again be provided with "experimental" slicks in anticipation of a rule change for 2009.

"Of course, we are looking to a possible bigger (regulation) change for next season, and that is why we will be evaluating our latest slick development tire when we next test in April," the Japanese marque's technical manager Tetsuro Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi also confirmed that Bridgestone's tires for this season have only been slightly modified compared to 2007.

"We have modified the super soft compound, but this will not be seen in use until later in the year. The other compounds, the hard, medium and soft, are the same as last year," he said.

As was the case last season, Bridgestone's medium and soft compounds will be supplied to teams at the forthcoming Australian grand prix.


BMW to axe 8,100 jobs
Luxury German carmaker BMW AG confirmed Wednesday that it was axing 8,100 jobs as part of a restructuring effort aimed at boosting the group's profits.  The Munich-based company said it plans to cut 5,000 temporary employees with the rest largely comprising full-time workers. A total of 600 jobs from BMW's international operations are also be slashed.


7 million dollar deal for Schumi
Seven time World Champion, Michael Schumacher, has signed a deal of $7 million.  Manager Willi Weber closed this multi-million dollar deal as Schumi will give his name to the "Michael Schumacher Avenue Shopping Centre' in Dubai.


Key IRL unification quotes
TONY GEORGE (Founder, Indy Racing League): "This is all about looking forward. At the risk of taking a glance back, it was just last fall on the anniversary of my grandfather's death that I was thinking to myself that it really had been 30 years since the sport of open-wheel racing had been truly unified. There were periods of years over the last 30 years where we worked more closely together and better together. But by and large, there were periods of years where we weren't so good at that.

"Last month when the calendar turned over to 2008, I was wondering to myself, 'Is it possible this could ever happen?' Lo and behold, I got a call that just made me feel really warm. I felt like this was perhaps going to be the best year of my 48 to have a chance to do something that's very important to me and very close to me, and that is to help bring about the unification of open-wheel racing.
"But it wouldn't have been possible without Kevin and Gerry (Forsythe), in particular, coming to me, expressing a desire to work with me, to do what's right and what's best for all of the drivers and the sponsors and, most importantly, the fans, the suppliers that make open-wheel racing in North America a great sport, something close to all of us.

"They've been a pleasure to work with in helping bring this about. I think we've all realized that there's a lot of challenges. The thing about having a long offseason, it's good and bad. You start thinking about things. Fortunately, it's long enough that we have a really good shot at bringing this together, albeit very late in the year. We have put our teams together to work on coming up with a good plan to integrate teams into one series, to integrate some events where we have the opportunity to fill some slots. We've got a lot of challenges that go along with doing all those things, but I think we're going to successfully overcome those.

"But this day is really all about the fans, the fans who supported open-wheel racing, in general, who supported Champ Car, who supported IndyCar through the years. There are some that have supported them individually, and there are some that have supported them collectively. To all those, we appreciate your support."

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Rahal team Day 1 test report
On a day when the open-wheel racing world gathered at Homestead-Miami Speedway to celebrate the American unification of the sport, Rahal Letterman Racing spent its day putting in work - so that it might have a chance to celebrate at the end of March.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) took to the 1.5-mile Homestead oval for the first day of the IndyCar Series’ two-day open test, joining 13 other IndyCar drivers in preparation for the March 29 season-opening Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300.

The reigning Bombardier Learjet IndyCar Rookie of the Year spent the day looking to benefit from lessons learned from a earlier Homestead test as he gets ready to embark on his first full season of IndyCar Series competition. The team made great gains from its test sessions, but ended up 11th on the time charts today after posting a best lap of 25.3934 seconds (210.527 mph).

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Wheldon tops opening day of IRL testing UPDATE Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andretti Green Racing topped a six-hour test session Wednesday night on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dan Wheldon led the way with a lap of 25.0619 seconds—213.312 mph—in the Ganassi No. 10 Dallara-Honda.

Rank Car Driver Name Time Speed Best Lap Total Laps
1 10 Wheldon, Dan 25.0619 213.312 116 136
2 9 Dixon, Scott 25.0660 213.277 107 136
3 3 Castroneves, Helio 25.1211 212.809 115 148
4 11 Kanaan, Tony 25.1227 212.796 13 94
5 6 Briscoe, Ryan 25.2127 212.036 82 160
6 2 Foyt IV, AJ 25.2179 211.992 21 103
7 26 Andretti, Marco 25.2465 211.752 6 109
8 27 Mutoh, Hideki 25.2476 211.743 81 114
9 20 Carpenter, Ed 25.2691 211.563 29 68
10 15 Rice, Buddy 25.3716 210.708 57 104
11 17 Hunter-Reay, Ryan 25.3934 210.527 44 102
12 4 Meira, Vitor 25.3987 210.483 52 93
13 7 Andretti, Marco 25.4632 209.950 6 10
14 23 Duno, Milka 25.6276 208.603 65 68
15 14 Manning, Darren 25.6369 208.528 12 85

Ryan Briscoe
Fifteen IndyCar Series drivers tested under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for the start of the 2008 season. A 16th driver, Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick, sat out the first night of testing due to illness.

Testing from 4-10 p.m. (ET) on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval marked the first official on-track activity of the year. The series will continue testing at the facility Feb. 28 before returning for the season-opening race on March 29.

Nineteen Indy Pro Series cars also will test at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Feb. 28.


Honda to deep-six US motorcycle plant
Honda Motor Co. plans to stop making motorcycles in the United States next year and transfer the work to Japan, pulling the plug on its first U.S. plant.  The 330,000-square-foot Marysville, Ohio, plant, built in 1979, turns out large Gold Wing touring and VTX cruiser motorcycles. The work will be shifted to a plant in Japan that can produce bikes more efficiently.

The Ohio plant employs 450 workers. Honda said there will be no layoffs when production ends in spring 2009. The workers will remain with the company, helping produce cars, trucks, engines and parts and filling other jobs at Honda's operations in west-central Ohio, the company said.

"There were a lot of people who felt disappointment," said plant manager Jan Gansheimer, noting that many employees are motorcycle enthusiasts who have spent much of their careers at the plant. "There were some emotional considerations."


Atlanta Motor Speedway raises purse
When NASCAR's visits Atlanta Motor Speedway March 7-9, a combined purse of $6,763,848 for its Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series races awaits them. The total award is a record for the 1.54-mile quad-oval, which will kick off the weekend with the American Commercial Lines 200 Craftsman Truck race March 7. followed by the Nicorette 300 Nationwide Series event March 8 and the Kobalt Tools Sprint Cup race on March 9.  The Cup purse of $5,060,012 will exceed $5 million for the first time in track history.


Q&A with Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton
With pre season testing now at an end there is not a lot for drivers to concentrate on, apart from the start of a new season. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton spoke to the team’s official website about how the testing program progressed, how he is coping without driver aides on the car and his winter fitness program….

You are coming to the end of the winter testing program – how has it gone so far?
Winter testing has gone really smoothly. We have had steady reliability and the car is feeling good. We have had some great testing days, easily covering the mileage and getting confidence in the car.

Today was your last session with the car before Australia, how was the week?
We had another productive day on track in Barcelona. It has been a good week, in addition to the test development program we have been working with the race team on getting back up to speed with activities such as pit stops. As just said the car is feeling good, but as always we still have work to do. A Formula 1 car is under continuous evolution, and when you look back at how far we have come since the MP4-23 first hit the track in January, it is encouraging. The work doesn’t stop for anyone just because testing has concluded.

Have you fully adapted to driving without traction control?
Yes, falling back into my old style of driving has been pretty easily. I drove without traction control for many years, so it is what I am used to - there is nothing new.

What areas of the car are you concentrating on in testing at the moment?
Currently, we are focusing on looking after the tires which means managing them as best we can for long race distances. On top of that we are improving our aero performance.

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Top 100 F1 drivers of all-time
In his new book, Who is Formula One's greatest driver?, veteran Formula One journalist Alan Henry has produced a ranking of the Top 100 Formula One drivers of all time.

His choices are controversial: the most prolific world champion in history does not make the top ten, one driver in the top 20 never won a Grand Prix, and Henry’s number one never won the world title.

Here, in reverse order, are the rankings:

100. Brian Redman
99. Jochen Mass
98. Stefan Johansson
97 Piers Courage
96. Trevor Taylor
95. Eugenio Castellotti
94. Jacques Laffite
93. Stuart Lewis-Evans
92. Wolfgang Von Trips
91. Ralf Schumacher
90. Roy Salvadori
89. Mike Hailwood
88. Raymond Sommer
87. Luigi Musso
86. John Watson
85. Jarno Trulli
84. Innes Ireland
83. Tom Pryce
82. Tony Brise
81 René Arnoux
80. Thierry Boutsen 

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Q&A with Heidfeld and Kubica
Nick Heidfeld
Q. Did you enjoy the winter break?

Nick Heidfeld: I'm pleased to say the winter break was not actually that long thanks to the regular testing we've been doing. And in between times I've been getting through some intensive fitness training. I've got a small studio at home where I can do special exercises aimed at building up the muscles in the neck, arms and torso. I managed to spend some time with my family over Christmas and the New Year, which I really enjoyed, of course.

Robert Kubica: My winter break was pretty similar. I also spent a few days with my family and chilled out a bit. And, like Nick, I stepped up my fitness training, which included joining the team for the training camp in St Moritz. I mainly focused my training on the endurance side.

Q. Coming out of the winter break, how hard is it to motivate yourself again for testing ahead of the new season?

RK: It's not an issue. For me the short break was enough to recharge my batteries. I also like being in the car for testing. Plus there was the added incentive - and honor - of being the first person to drive the new BMW Sauber F1.08 on the track.

NH: As far as I'm concerned, the winter break could have even been a bit shorter. I love being in the car and look forward to every opportunity to drive it. All in all, I would prefer it if we tested less and raced more often. Almost five months without a race is just too long, if you ask me.

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Hamilton can be 2008 champion says Alonso
(GMM)  Despite describing his relationship with Lewis Hamilton as "non-existent", Fernando Alonso has flagged the possibility that the 23-year-old could be crowned world champion in 2008.

While playing down his own hopes of winning a third drivers' title with Renault this year, Alonso told BBC radio's Five Live program that his former McLaren teammate might win the championship at his second attempt.

Rather than subscribe to the theory that a driver's second season is often more difficult than the first, Alonso said experience makes life "easier" on the F1 grid.

Asked specifically if Hamilton could win the 2008 title, the Spaniard answered: "Possibly, yes.

"After a year, you know all the circuits and how the races go," Alonso, 26, said.

"You understand the pressures so there are many things that will give him an advantage compared to last year."

Alonso also said Hamilton's new teammate, Heikki Kovalainen, and Ferrari's Felipe Massa could win the title, but singled out reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen as the favorite.

"He has the self confidence and he is obviously very quick, so he has put himself in a very strong position," he said of the Finn.


Latest F1 news in brief
  • More F1 testing to come next week
  • Police raid McLaren bosses' British homes
  • Watson backs Hamilton in Alonso stoush
  • Ferrari clearly ahead says Niki Lauda
  • Third place unlikely for Williams - Rosberg
  • Renault 'not racing to win' - Piquet

More F1 testing to come next week
(GMM)  The final group test of the 2008 pre-season concluded late on Wednesday afternoon, but the cry of formula one engines in Europe will be heard again before - and while - the circus travels to Australia for the opening grand prix.

After Toyota's Jarno Trulli topped the times with a low-fuel dash in Barcelona, official Formula One Management freight - including the cars - is due to begin the journey to Melbourne next Thursday.

Ferrari's equipment, however, will apparently make its own way from Italy, with the Maranello based team confirming that Luca Badoer is due to shake down the Melbourne-spec F2008s at Fiorano on that very day.

McLaren will make the March 6 deadline, but only after some last-minute aerodynamic testing on the runway of the Spanish island of Menorca early next week.

Honda's Brackley factory, meanwhile, has completed four versions of its RA108 single seater, meaning that two will fly to Australia next week while the others clock up more miles at an exclusive test at Jerez.

At the Spanish circuit, the Japanese team's new car - dead last as Barcelona testing wrapped up on Wednesday - will finally be equipped with the definitive Melbourne bodywork.

"We have been doing a lot of work to overcome our handling issues but the pace and the lap times are not there yet," Jenson Button said.

Police raid McLaren bosses' British homes
(GMM)  Overseen by local police, the British homes of McLaren bosses including Ron Dennis were raided by Italian criminal investigators on Wednesday.

The Mercedes-powered team confirmed in a statement that the private dwellings of "a number of McLaren executives" - four in total - were swept by the Italians as Modena magistrate Giuseppe Tibis continues to investigate the transfer of stolen information from Ferrari, otherwise known as the espionage scandal.

As well as the raids in the homes of the McLaren bosses, a "similar process has been performed at the McLaren Technology Centre", the team added, including inside Dennis' own office.

The Guardian newspaper, however, reported that police "did not take anything away" from any of the McLaren executives' homes.

A source told the British publication that police said "there was absolutely nothing to worry about.  Nothing physical was taken".

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George gets unification for cheap
Tony George will pay less to acquire the Champ Car World Series than he offered in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2004, but his commitment to the unification of open-wheel racing still likely will cost him about $30 million.

The actual amount of last week’s offer was not revealed at today's news conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which featured George, founder of the Indy Racing League, and Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. But IRL spokesman Fred Nation said it was less than the $13.5 million George offered in a failed bid four years ago. It was awarded to a group led by Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe for $3.2 million, because they were committed to keeping the series intact.

For his money, George will get all of Champ Car’s assets, tangible and otherwise, including its traveling medical center, trademarks and all historical documents. But none of that amounts to much in direct money.

George, meanwhile, agreed to supply all Champ Car teams that join the IRL with two cars — one new, one used, with an average value of $400,000 each — and an engine lease that costs just under $1 million. League officials are expecting between nine and to 12 cars, which would mean adding $20 million to George’s commitment.

It also bears noting that George and the Champ Car owners currently only have an agreement in principle to unify; they don’t yet have an actual contract. Nation said that is one of the many things still to be finalized since the two sides announced their landmark agreement last week.

“There just has not been time to do the final contract,” Nation said.

That document would become public if Champ Car filed bankruptcy, which isn’t a given, a series spokesman said today.

“Champ Car Inc. is still a work in progress,” said David Higdon, the executive vice president of the Indianapolis-based series. “(Bankruptcy) might not be necessary. (The decision) still has to get through all the lawyers.” Indy Star


Sarah Fisher forms IRL team
Lynn St. James, Sarah Fisher and Janet Guthrie
Sarah Fisher, a veteran of 67 IndyCar Series starts, announced the formation of Sarah Fisher Racing. Fisher, who will drive the No. 67 car in honor of her successful USAC midget car, will begin competing in 2008 at the Indianapolis 500.

Fisher was joined at a press conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway by female racing pioneers Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James. Guthrie was the first woman to start the Indianapolis 500 in 1978 while St. James earned Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors in 1992. The two combined for 10 Indianapolis 500 starts.

SARAH FISHER (Driver/co-owner Sarah Fisher Racing): "We're trying to build outwards from (Indy)," said Fisher, 27, who has 67 IndyCar Series starts and will drive the No. 67 car in honor of her successful USAC midget car. "We have things in place. We're in final negotiations contract-wise with our primary sponsor. Things are looking really good. We would love to run Texas, Chicago and Kentucky. We would love to have some more opportunities, and we're working on those constructively. As a first-year start-up team, we know it's small. We want to build the right way. Our 2009 program actually looks a lot better than our 2008 program. That's real exciting to us and hopefully we can be in a lot more races come that time.

"Going into the off-season this year, I kind of looked at all my options and evaluated sort of where I wanted to go and what my plans were big picture-wise. The best option for me was to start my own team because I think in the long run that's a better plan for us and for me going forward.

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Jeff Lepper to be the Official Voice of the USTCC

Jeff Lepper - "Official Voice of USTCC"

Jeff Lepper has been appointed as the Official Voice of the United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) for the 2008 season.  Lepper will be announcing the races at the events so the spectators can better feel the action on the track.  Lepper has a tremendous amount of experience in announcing having previously been the track announcer for Speedworld Raceway Park in Phoenix, Arizona.  Lepper also has radio experience as he is currently a DJ for KUIC Radio 95.3 in Vacaville, CA.  “Jeff is in a unique position having lots of racing experience himself.  He knows the cars very well and won the USTCC Championship with his dad in 2004 so he is a perfect fit” said Ali Arsham, USTCC Coordinator.


TUMS Top 10 from Fontana
The second stop of the 2008 season at the newly renamed Auto Club Speedway of Southern California once again had the stars of the Sprint Cup Series experiencing several indigestion-causing incidents. From weepers and rain delays to four car accidents and red flags, the Auto Club 500 proved to have several TUMS moments.

The Top 10 TUMS honors go to:

10. The sparse crowd at the Monday’s rain-delayed race shows that NASCAR still has a long way to go in Southern California.
9.  Denny Hamlin has early problems and is out of contention right after the green flag falls.
8.  It was a TUMS moment for all the drivers who fell victim to a slippery race track in California.
7.  After a top-10 run in Daytona, Elliott Sadler spins out and tags the wall.
6.  NASCAR schedules a truck and Nationwide race on the same day and then is forced to hold a Sprint Cup and Nationwide race on Monday. The double-header concept is sidelined by Mother Nature.
5.  All the track personnel logs endless laps around Auto Club Speedway in an effort to dry the track.
4.  Michael Waltrip’s Toyota develops an oil leak on the parade laps and finds himself behind before the race even starts. Waltrip would later spin and hit the wall.
3.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fans see their guy involved in a wicked four car crash that takes out Casey Mears, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Reed Sorenson.
2.  All the drivers that never got a chance to qualify when rain washed out pole day.
1.  All the brave fans that held out hope for over six hours of red flag down time on Sunday only to see the race postponed until Monday.


Tony George, Kevin Kalkhoven Unification Press Conference Transcript
Homestead-Miami Speedway

MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone. We'll begin with Tony George with some opening comments. Tony.

Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven address the media
TONY GEORGE: Good afternoon, everyone.
Thank you for being here. This is a very exciting day. To be here with Kevin, representing his partners in Champ Car, to publicly address all of you and confirm that, in fact, we are going to unify the sport of open-wheel racing in North America for the 2008 season.

This is all about looking forward. At the risk of taking a glance back, it was just last fall on the anniversary of my grandfather's death that I was thinking to myself that it really had been 30 years since the sport of open-wheel racing had been truly unified. There were periods of years over the last 30 years where we worked more closely together and better together. But by and large, there were periods of years where we weren't so good at that.

Last month when the calendar turned over to 2008, I was wondering to myself, 'Is it possible this could ever happen?' Lo and behold, I got a call that just made me feel really warm. I felt like this was perhaps going to be the best year of my 48 to have a chance to do something that's very important to me and very close to me, and that is to help bring about the unification of open-wheel racing.

Kevin Kalkhoven waits for a SPEEDTV interview with Robin Miller
But it wouldn't have been possible without Kevin and Gerry (Forsythe), in particular, coming to me, expressing a desire to work with me, to do what's right and what's best for all of the drivers and the sponsors and, most importantly, the fans, the suppliers that make open-wheel racing in North America a great sport, something close to all of us.

They've been a pleasure to work with in helping bring this about. I think we've all realized that there's a lot of challenges. The thing about having a long offseason, it's good and bad. You start thinking about things. Fortunately, it's long enough that we have a really good shot at bringing this together, albeit very late in the year. We have put our teams together to work on coming up with a good plan to integrate teams into one series, to integrate some events where we have the opportunity to fill some slots. We've got a lot of challenges that go along with doing all those things, but I think we're going to successfully overcome those.

GEORGE: But this day is really all about the fans, the fans who supported open-wheel racing, in general, who supported Champ Car, who supported IndyCar through the years. There are some that have supported them individually, and there are some that have supported them collectively. To all those, we appreciate your support. It's an honor, again, to be here.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Tony.


KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Well, it's a heck of a crowd. We must be doing something right by this unification. Thank you all for coming here. Very impressive.

I want to join Tony in expressing my satisfaction about what is happening in terms of the unification. Tony and I have actually talked on and off, I would guess, for, what, four years. It's been a long and hard road to be able to get here, but we are here.

I think that the winners today are the fans, the teams, the drivers, and indeed the potential that we have to be able to grow the sport over the next few years.

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National Guard, Delphi to back Meira
National Guard, Delphi announce backing for Vitor Meira

Vitor Meira will have about 500,000 more fans rooting for his first victory. "That kind of support will help take me to Victory Lane," the veteran IndyCar Series driver said during a news conference to announce that the Army National Guard will be a co-primary sponsor with Delphi of the red, white and blue No. 4 car prepared by Panther Racing.

There are about 350,000 men and women in the Army National Guard. Combined with about 150,000 Delphi employees worldwide, the third-year Panther Racing driver will have a strong fan base. "It's fantastic," said Meira, who has 25 top-five finishes in 76 IndyCar Series career starts. "I mean, we've been working on this for the whole off-season. It really paid off. It's really, really good to have National Guard on board with us. It's unbelievable how much not only the know-how but respect and everything that comes with what they have. 

"To be representing that, it's going to be awesome. We have a lot to learn with each other. It's a new season for us. It's a new adventure for the National Guard."

Panther Racing announced that the Army National Guard will be a co-primary sponsor of the No. 4 IndyCar Series car driven by Vitor Meira. Delphi will continue as the other co-primary sponsor.

The National Guard's activation plan surrounding its sponsorship is to recruit, enlist and retain soldiers. It is the oldest component of the United States Armed Forces with the duel mission of providing states with units trained and equipped to protect life and property while serving the nation with units ready to defend the country and its interests around the world.

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Gold Coast race officials fly to Indy to finalize
Nelson Philippe celebrates win in Surfers in 2006
Gold Coast Indy 300 General Manager Greg Hooton and Chairman Terry Mackenroth will fly to the US this today to finalize a deal to make the iconic Australian event a part of a new era of international open-wheel racing.

The Australian race was confirmed as an important part of the new unified IndyCar Series between the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series, which was formerly ratified with a media conference in Miami, Florida this morning.

At this stage the 2008 IndyCar Series consists of 16 race weekends, starting at Miami on March 29 and will grow to 18 with the inclusion of Australia and Edmonton.

IndyCar Series organizers will meet with Hooton and Mackenroth and with Edmonton officials in an effort to make their inclusion in the 2008 championship as seamless as possible.

Existing Champ Car teams will run their 2007 Panoz DP01 chassis for the last time in a one-off race at Long Beach in April on the same weekend as the IRL race at Motegi, Japan and both races will count towards the 2008 IndyCar Series title.

“There were a lot of positive words said about our event at today’s media conference and we look forward to our discussions over the next few days,” said Hooton.

“Obviously there are a lot of logistical issues that we need to work our way through in this important transitional period, but the new-look series wants to accommodate us.

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Meijer to sponsor Marco
Marco Andretti
Meijer today announced a newly-expanded sponsorship program with Andretti Green Racing’s #26 entry and driver Marco Andretti which will allow Meijer the opportunity to rise to the level of major sponsor in two of its key markets during the 2008 IndyCar Series season.

Meijer, the Midwest-based retail and grocery supercenter giant, will serve as an associate sponsor on the #26 Honda-powered entry driven by the 2006 IndyCar Series rookie of the year at all but two events. Meijer will be featured as Andretti’s major sponsor during event weekends at Kentucky Speedway and The Raceway at Belle Isle.

"We're excited to see Meijer’s program evolve with us in this way and feel it will be a great step forward for both Meijer and Marco,” said Michael Andretti, who co-owns Andretti Green Racing with partners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree. "Meijer has always done a great job activating its program through all 181 of its Midwest stores, but having an opportunity to stand tall as a major sponsor at Kentucky and Belle Isle will surely take the program to a new level.”

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Highlights of IRL merger press conference UPDATE General remarks and answers to questions posed by the media during a news conference to confirm and celebrate unification of open-wheel racing in the United States.

Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven

Opening remarks

"I want to join Tony (George) in expressing my satisfaction about what is happening in terms of the unification. Tony and I have actually talked on and off I would guess for, what, four years. It's been a long and hard road to be able to get here, but we are here.

"I think that the winners today are the fans, the teams, the drivers, and indeed the potential that we have to be able to grow the sport over the next few years. I've said many times that in itself, unification isn't some sort of magic bullet to be able to get us forward. It's going to take an awful lot of hard work. This is something that is going to still require a huge amount of work, but I think the long-term potential is extremely exciting for everybody associated with this."

About the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix

"I'm also looking forward to being able to bring the series to Long Beach. This year is going to be an exciting time a we're going to actually have our final Champ Car race in one respect for the DP01s prior to moving entirely over onto the Dallaras. I think the combination of the '500' with all its stature and Long Beach with its 34 years of history now is going to be two anchor points of what will be an incredibly successful and interesting series."

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Milwaukee Mile Welcomes Unification, offers 2 for 1 tickets
For the first time in a dozen years, The Milwaukee Mile will host all of the best American open wheel race teams, in the Sunday, June 1 running of the ABC Supply / A.J. Foyt 225, adding to the rich and longstanding open wheel history at the world’s oldest active motor speedway.

At a nationally-televised news conference held earlier today, Indy Racing League CEO Tony George joined Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven to announce a unification of America’s premiere open wheel series, uniting as the IndyCar Series.

Sunday, June 1st will mark the unparalleled 51st time The Milwaukee Mile holds an IndyCar Series race the Sunday following the Indianapolis 500.

With today’s announcement, it is foreseeable to have four-time Milwaukee Mile Champ Car event winner Paul Tracy racing with two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves and 2006 & 2007 Milwaukee IndyCar Series race winner Tony Kanaan, in what will feature an all-star cast of talented drivers and teams.

“We welcome and endorse today's IndyCar Series announcement," Milwaukee Mile Chairman Craig Stoehr said.  “We consider it a victory for our loyal fans, who will now get to see Indianapolis 500 stars Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon and Marco Andretti race wheel-to-wheel at 170mph around our historic one-mile oval against Champ Car standouts Paul Tracy, Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal, among many others, on Sunday, June 1st.”

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Trulli tops final test day in Barcelona
Jarno Trulli had fastest time at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on Wednesday, though he was likely running in qualifying trim.

"That was another positive day," said Trulli. "We made some progress in understanding the car and the set-up. Even though this is only a test, it's nice to see the mechanics and the guys smiling because today's times are good motivation.

"There is still room for improvement but this shows the team has done a good job over the winter tests. Of course we won't know the real running order until Melbourne but I'm quite confident for the season. It's definitely looking much better than last year so I'm happy for the team."


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Trulli Toyota 1:20.801 83
2. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:21.258 76
3. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:21.293 77
4. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.309 87
5. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:21.368 91
6. Piquet Renault 1:21.443 114
7. Alonso Renault 1:21.454 128
8. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:21.796 124
9. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:21.933 80
10. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.011 88
11. Glock Toyota 1:22.155 49
12. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:22.233 90
13. Massa Ferrari 1:22.286 49
14. Kubica BMW-Sauber 1:22.299 93
15. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:22.465 79
16. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:22.521 97
17. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 1:22.624 61
18. Wurz Honda 1:24.154 82
19. Button Honda 1:24.275 73


Long Beach race to celebrate Champ Car, new era
2007 Long Beach GP
Doug Gifford
The 34th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will become a three-day celebration of Champ Car racing this April 18-20 and signal a new era in open-wheel racing coming in 2009.

It will be the fans’ last chance to see the up-to-800 horsepower, turbocharged Champ Cars run on the famed 1.97-mile, 11-turn Long Beach race circuit, or, for that matter, anywhere else. Champ Car and the Indy Racing League (IRL) signed a landmark agreement Feb. 22 to unify open-wheel racing.

Champ Car drivers competing at Long Beach, like their IRL counterparts racing the same weekend at Motegi, Japan, will earn points toward the 2008 IndyCar Series championship. Several Champ Car teams are expected to join the unified series and compete for the championship.

“For 25 years, we’ve hosted a series that has given our fans countless great racing thrills,” said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “We plan on using the weekend of April 18-20 to celebrate the many notable drivers, great cars and memorable moments that have been a hallmark of Champ Car racing here at Long Beach for a quarter-century.”

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Quotes from Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing on Unification
Details on the unification of open wheel racing in the United States were announced today at Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of the 2008 IndyCar Series season-opener on Saturday, March 29.  Following are quotes from the co-owners and drivers of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing on the unification and their participation in the 2008 IndyCar Series.

Paul Newman, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing:
“When I heard about the reunification, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.  I am very happy that we are going back to the high side.”

Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing:
"We have been loyal supporters of Champ Car but one unified open-wheel series is best for our sport.  Competing in our first full IndyCar season will be one of the biggest challenges our team has faced because of the limited time frame to prepare for the season and get acclimated to the new equipment and race tracks.  We have only competed in two IndyCar Series events at the Indianapolis 500 so we face a steep learning curve.  It will be a difficult season but we have many talented and dedicated employees who will work hard to keep our team competitive.”

Justin Wilson, driver of the No. 02 McDonald’s entry for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing:
“I am very excited about the reunification of open wheel racing and the opportunity this gives everyone for the future.  Not just for ourselves, but also for the young drivers coming up.  My brother was thinking of coming over to race in the United States but the uncertainty made him continue to pursue a career in Europe.  This gives open wheel racing an opportunity to prosper again as one entity.  We are certainly not in the same situation, competition-wise, starting the IndyCar Series season as we would have been in Champ Car but Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing are proven winners and we will all work hard to be as competitive as possible this season.  Now that we are back to one series and we’re racing on ovals and a lot of tracks I don’t know there are going to be a lot of changes but ultimately if we can work our way through the short term, it is good for open wheel racing.  There is opportunity for a great future.”

Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 06 entry for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing:
“I think everyone is glad it is now one series.  It puts a lot of the questions of stability behind us.  It will take a while for the true impact to be apparent but already we are seeing a lot more interest.  You’re seeing open wheel racing on the news more than ever and it’s positive.  The drivers that are truly the best are going to stick around now and the ones that aren’t so good are going to have to work harder to keep their jobs.  I was impressed by the amount of resources the Indy Racing League has from a business standpoint and I’m sure they will all be put to good use to maximize this great opportunity.”


Atlantic series makes plans for 2008 season without Champ Car
The longest-running open-wheel driver development series in North America will contest its 35th Anniversary season in 2008 with today’s announcement that the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will conduct a 12-race schedule beginning April 18-20 in Long Beach, Calif. The announcement was made by series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, who will own the series with Gerald Forsythe.

“The Atlantic Championship’s history and record of developing drivers is so impressive that Jerry and I want to see it continue this season and for many years to come,” Kalkhoven said. “Many great drivers have cut their teeth in Atlantic over the past 34 years before moving on to terrific careers at the highest level of motorsports all over the world, including the Champ Car World Series, IndyCar Series, Formula 1 and NASCAR. An outstanding crop of drivers and teams will maintain that tradition in the 35th Anniversary season this year.”

The 2008 Atlantic Championship will feature a 12-race schedule that begins with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the weekend of April 20, with venues and dates for the remaining events to be released in the near future. The series also will conduct an open test for all 2008 teams and drivers at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on March 10-11.

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Coulthard back in action in Spain
(GMM)  David Coulthard returned to the cockpit of his Red Bull on Wednesday, as the final day of winter testing for most formula one teams kicked off in Spain.

After Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel substituted for the Scottish veteran a day earlier, 36-year-old Coulthard had apparently recovered from a trapped nerve reportedly sustained whilst running at the Circuit de Catalunya on Monday.

Vettel had stayed in Barcelona overnight, in case the treatment to Coulthard's injury had not improved.  Sebastien Bourdais is concluding Toro Rosso's pre-season test program at the circuit on Wednesday.

"All being well, David will be back in the car tomorrow morning," RBR boss Christian Horner had said on Tuesday.


No schedule announcement today
Exactly how many Champ Car venues will be absorbed into the IRL in 2008 likely won't be answered at Wednesday's meeting with reporters. IRL spokesman John Griffin said a revised schedule likely wouldn't be out until the end of the week at the earliest.


NASCAR sponsor Home Depot profits down
The Home Depot  Inc. said Tuesday its fourth-quarter profit fell more than 27 percent and a dour housing market contributed to the first annual sales decline for the world's largest home improvement store chain.

And the company expects more headwinds in 2008.

The results for the latest quarter fell short of Wall Street expectations.

Home Depot also said it plans to open only 55 new stores this year. That's about half as many as it opened last year. Home Depot has been scaling back the number of new store openings in recent years.

The Atlanta-based company said it earned $671 million, or 40 cents a share, in the three months ending Feb. 3, compared with a profit of $925 million, or 46 cents a share, in the same period a year earlier.

Earnings per share from continuing operations in the quarter were 40 cents, compared with 42 cents a year earlier.


SAMAX switches engines
SAMAX racing has shown up at Homestead-Miami Speedway with BMW power in the No. 2 BMW Riley. Defending GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami winner Team Sigalsport is the only other team to be powered by BMW.

The SAMAX team, which consists of drivers Ryan Dalziel and Henri Zogaib, was clearly excited by the new engine so far. For us it’s really good,” Dalziel said. “We were definitely down on power at Daytona, and I think what we have now is very similar to the high-end Fords and Pontiacs that are out there. For us it was a decision we had to make. It was more of a decision on what do we go with, and BMW Dinan seemed to give us the best support.”

As a team, the goal is becoming a power in the Rolex Series week in and week out.

“We wanted to be a number one team rather than a five or six, and that was a lot of our thought process,” Dalziel continued. “For sure Steve Dinan (of BMW Dinan, who built the team’s engine) is pushing very hard and he’s happy he has a built in program to work with, and a team like SAMAX is exactly where he wants to be.”


Honda President Sees No Recession in US
Honda President Takeo Fukui brushed off looming worries about a U.S. slowdown Wednesday, saying sales are strong especially on the East Coast amid growing demand for fuel-efficient cars.

"There is no sign that our sales are shrinking," he told reporters. "I don't foresee a recession. There are plenty of business opportunities."

Fukui said Honda Motor Co. sales were reaching records on the U.S. East Coast, a region where the Tokyo-based maker of Accord sedans and Odyssey minivans had lagged in the past.

He said the shift toward smaller models was continuing in the United States amid rising gas prices and ecological concerns.

The most popular offerings from Honda, Japan's No. 2 automaker, were smaller passenger cars, rather than light trucks or sport-utility vehicles, he added.

But the CR-V, a small SUV, is a strong seller, Fukui said at a luncheon at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.

Fukui's comments follow contrary remarks from Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn earlier this week, who noted that even if the United States is not in recession, its auto industry is.

"We are very lucid on the situation of the industry that there is a recession in the United States, at least in the car market," he said in Seoul, South Korea. More at Washington Post


Thousands of Fans "Stand Up for Robby"
Robby Gordon
Jim Beam Bourbon announced the brand will continue the "Stand Up for Robby" initiative, begun this past weekend at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California. Originally intended to be a one-weekend show of support for Gordon and the team, overwhelming fan reaction has encouraged Jim Beam to continue the campaign enabling fans to offer their opinions and sign a petition requesting NASCAR reduce or overturn recent penalties imposed against the #7 Jim Beam Dodge race team. "Standing up for what is right is more than a philosophy for Jim Beam, it is a mantra we live by," said Sam Seiller, Senior Director, Whiskies Group, Beam Global Spirits & Wine. "Getting behind our driver is the right thing to do in this situation. We are pleased to see so many fans on the same page and voicing their support for a guy who showed grit, determination and character in driving to an 8th-place finish in the Daytona 500." Gordon and the #7 Dodge race team last week filed an appeal to NASCAR officials in response to a 100-point penalty and six-race suspension and $100,000 fine for crew chief Frank Kerr announced by NASCAR. Fans attending last weekend's NASCAR events in Fontana, Calif. and throughout the country were encouraged via a grassroots and online public relations effort to join the "Stand up for Robby" cause. To date, more than 8,500 fans have visited www.jimbeam.com and signed a petition to be distributed to NASCAR in advance of the appeal hearing. Upon the team's notification of the appeal hearing date, Jim Beam will announce the timing of submission of the petition to NASCAR officials. In addition to circulating the petition and distributing the letter to NASCAR, Jim Beam printed and distributed "Rally for Robby" T-shirts to fans in attendance during the NASCAR race weekend at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California. Throughout the race weekend, fans wearing the shirts showed their support for the #7 Jim Beam team. Gordon expressed appreciation for the encouragement provided by Jim Beam and fans throughout the country, and said his team's focus is on competing well on the track and awaiting a fair hearing at the appeal. "It's great to know we have a sponsor like Jim Beam that has our back," said Gordon. "Jim Beam has stuck by our race team for four years and believes we made an honest mistake. I'm also happy to see fans jumping onboard to support our team." At track and online activities will continue this week as the Sprint Cup Series visits Las Vegas. Fans attending the events can buy "Rally for Robby" shirts at the Robby Gordon Motorsports merchandise hauler. Fans elsewhere looking to show their support can purchase the T-shirts and sign the petition online at jimbeam.com. Jim Beam Racing PR


Latest F1 news in brief
  • Alonso says title unlikely in 2008
  • Alonso happy to have left McLaren
  • Alonso not convinced after racism storm
  • Stewart predicts tough ride for Hamilton
  • Alonso-Hamilton feud now over says Briatore
  • Vettel happy after taste of future in RB4
  • RBR budget not on scale of works teams - Horner
  • Mallya questions FIA's racism reaction
  • Sutil thinks Force India can take on Honda
  • Bernie defends Kimi's party reputation
  • Spy affair 'damaged' Dennis - Ecclestone

Alonso says title unlikely in 2008
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso has downgraded his chances of winning a third world championship this year to just "30 per cent", but denies that he is being overly pessimistic.

"No, not at all," the former McLaren driver told Spanish radio Cadena SER whilst in Barcelona for the final test before Melbourne.

"To say that we will be between position seven and nine on the grid in Australia is not pessimistic, I just respond honestly to questions.

"The truth is that we simply lack a car to fight for the podium," Alonso, who returned to Renault at the end of a tumultuous 2007 campaign, added.

The Spaniard estimates the per-lap deficit of his R28 single seater to the front runners as about half a second per lap.

"The car is better than it was last year, but we continue to struggle with the Bridgestone tires," he explained.

Alonso happy to have left McLaren
(GMM)  Despite probably dropping out of the hunt for the world championship, Fernando Alonso insists that he is happy to have left the McLaren team.

The 26-year-old has returned to Renault, the scene of his drivers' titles in 2005 and 2006, but a team that is not likely to have him in contention for the crown this season.

Comparing Renault with McLaren, Alonso told the Spanish radio station Cadena SER: "There are fewer people, which makes you feel more comfortable and you know exactly who is in charge.

"Inside McLaren there were so many people that it was difficult to know who to turn to.  There is a much better environment here," he added, referring to Renault.

Alonso also denies that his new rookie teammate for 2008, Nelson Piquet, is simply a carbon-copy of Lewis Hamilton, with whom he clashed memorably in 2007.

"Not at all," he insists.  "I am quite calm, there is no troubles, it is quiet and smooth."

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tv news

SPEED to televise open wheel merger press conference UPDATE A reminder that this press conference will be held today at 12:30 p.m. ET on SPEED.

02/25/08 SPEED will interrupt regularly scheduled programming Wednesday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. ET to broadcast coverage of the scheduled IndyCar Series press conference from Homestead-Miami Speedway formally announcing the merger with the Champ Car World Series for 2008. SPEED’s Robin Miller will be on-site providing commentary and perspective.

racing news

New Minardi website launched
With the new seasons his return to the world of the Web part of the history of Formula 1 and the Italian motorsports: reopens its doors to all his fans Minardi.it, the new website signed Gian Carlo and Giovanni Minardi.

Minardi.it is introduced to his visitors with a dresses completely renewed, with new services and contents, coming from the only experience ripened in the world of motorsports by Gian Carlo Minardi which, with his Minardi Team, has furrow for beyond 20 years the stage of the Formula 1 and the most important international circuits.

The new portal, together with his services, allows to have a total covering of the various appearances which characterize the world of the motorsports, passing by the press office to the legal advices concerning contracts of sponsorships trade them, partnership technique, supply of materials and services, from the athletic preparation to the management.

Inside will be the release of Team that have decided to associate their name with that of Minardi, all results of the pilots managed by the Manager Giovanni Minardi, interviews with Gian Carlo Minardi and many projects for a living always better, and by real actors with the MinardiTteam, the new racing season.

The new photo gallery, along the exclusive section "MINARDI TV", will allow all visitors to relive the past Formula1 seasons in and present Team Minardi and to live for anybody who is the thrill of being at the wall with the team.

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track news

Engineers to investigate Fontana track’s water woes
Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker said Monday that engineers will arrive this week to determine what can be done to correct drainage problems on the 2-mile track.

Water seeping up through seams in the asphalt played havoc with track drying efforts during the Auto Club 500 race weekend, delaying the completion of the Sprint Cup Series race by one day. The seepage, referred to as “weepers,” was also blamed for two accidents during the early laps of the Cup event.

“A leaky race track is unacceptable,” Zucker said. “We will have engineers here [Tuesday], and we will fix it.”

Auto Club Speedway, which hosts two Cup races annually, is one of 12 tracks owned by International Speedway Corp.

Zucker said that when it became evident that water underneath the track was a big part of the problem, the company’s engineers were notified.

“It’s something we want to jump on immediately, because it’s has to be fixed,” she said.

“This wasn’t a problem with water over the past few days; this was a problem with water over the past month. A significant amount of water has fallen in this part of the country that normally doesn’t.”


Vision Racing confirms Carpenter, Foyt in cars
Ed Carpenter
Vision Racing has signed drivers Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV, who will both return to the team for the 2008 IndyCar Series season.

Carpenter will be participating in his fourth consecutive season with Vision Racing in the No. 20, while Foyt is returning for his second season with the team. Foyt will drive the No. 2 car.

Carpenter, who has been with the team since its inception in 2005, is determined to make his fifth season overall his best. Last year, Carpenter recorded six top-10 finishes.

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League acts as info clearinghouse for prospective teams
Kevin Blanch answers his office phone with a pleasant but perfunctory "IndyCar Series clearinghouse."  The series' technical director fielded dozens of phone calls from prospective teams before the open-wheel racing unification announcement Feb. 22, and the number has grown exponentially since.

"The (Champ Car World Series teams) have a lot of questions such as how do we set up their pit lane, what's available on pit lane?" said Blanch, who can empathize as a former team manager with Panther Racing. "A lot of things that are new to us – using the paddle shift system – are also new to them because they haven't been in the loop or involved in the conversation. They have a lot of general questions and we are trying to provide clarification."

Rulebooks and technical bulletins have been distributed, and sanctioning Indy Racing League personnel and IndyCar Series teams have offered assistance. Each new team will be paired with an existing IndyCar Series team for help with baseline setup, gearing and other technical details for oval races.

There are 66 Dallara chassis in circulation, with six ordered from the factory in Italy. Conquest Racing, which announced a two-car team Feb. 25, already is preparing its cars.

"Can I fit my bodywork? Can I put Bondo on my wing? They're also looking how to make engine stands and quick-lifts, so we're getting them in contact with other IndyCar Series teams that have been gracious to let them borrow items and let them look at things at the shop," Blanch said. "They've seen our races, understand what we do and they want to make sure they blend right in and go on. They want to speed up their learning curve. We can help them to save them a lot of time."

Blanch also is the clearinghouse for about 25 spec parts sold by the sanctioning body to keep costs low, guarantee quality and equality.

"Teams don't have to worry about making them, finding them, the quality," Blanch said. "They know they are going to get the same part the next guy coming in will get. It's a non-issue. Those are 25 things they don't have to mess with."

Verbal assistance will continue at the racetrack, where the IndyCar Series has scheduled March 19-20 (Sebring International Raceway road course) and March 24-25 (Homestead-Miami Speedway oval) Open Tests for transition teams that will be using the Dallara/Honda/Firestone package. The GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 season opener is March 29 under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway followed by the April 6 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"Not only is it in my best interest as the guy who has to inspect (the cars) when we have to start racing, it's also in the team's best interest because we don't want to lead them astray," Blanch said.

"We'll advise them, 'Hey, you might want to spend 20 minutes to fix that instead of wasting three hours on the racetrack.' We want to make this as smooth and pleasurable as possible for everybody.

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V8 Supercars bosses to look at car safety
V8 Supercars Australia chief Wayne Cattach has raised the possibility of a car design overhaul after yesterday's death of driver Ashley Cooper.  Cattach said V8SA would make a detailed review of the cars to see if safety could be improved.

He left open the possibility of a radical revamp of car design to make them safer through a purpose-built design rather than the current method of using production-based cars.  American racing series NASCAR has introduced a purpose-built racing machine this year to help improve its safety. Cattach said a similar solution could be looked at.  But he warned any change would involve heavy financial costs.

"I guess it's really the cost of making that rather massive change," Cattach said yesterday.

"If there was supporting evidence to do that, then I guess we would do it. At this stage there is nothing on the drawing board to affect that. Certainly we wanted to keep the cars in a form that gave our manufacturers the chance to market cars from them.

"In other words, not go down the NASCAR route, but have them as a silhouette of the road cars and have them have swinging panels and so on and so forth.

"That would be a very big exercise, to start with a clean sheet of paper, (but) it might be something that we need to consider.

"Certainly if we are in any way unsure about the strength and safety of our cars, well, that might be one option.

"But at this stage I wouldn't draw that conclusion. I think the cars have, by and large, protected the drivers well.

"If you look at some of the colossal crashes we've had over time with very little injury, I think that's a testament to the strength of the cars."

Cooper, 27, suffered massive head and internal injuries when his Holden Commodore slammed into the barriers at the fast Turn Eight corner on the Adelaide street circuit on Saturday.


Detroit to host unified series
With last Friday’s long-anticipated announcement of the unification of North American open-wheel racing under the IndyCar Series banner, the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is excited to welcome the new-look series back to the Motor City this summer.

Following the triumphant return of world-class auto racing to Motown last summer at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, event organizers are looking forward to an even bigger and better weekend of racing and family fun August 29-31, 2008 as the cars of both the IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series return to the 2.07-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park street circuit on Labor Day weekend.

“We’re very excited that there will be one unified open-wheel racing series moving forward, as a result of the agreement between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car,” said Bud Denker, Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Event Chairman. “We’re proud to continue our relationship with the IndyCar Series and we’re thrilled that some of the best open-wheel drivers in the world will get a chance to experience racing on Belle Isle. With the new-look IndyCar Series as well as the sports cars of the American Le Mans Series raising the competitive bar even higher in 2008, we’re looking forward to a very special weekend in Detroit on Labor Day weekend.”

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Edmonton to learn schedule tomorrow
Racing fans should find out tomorrow whether Edmonton will have a race in the new Indy Racing League schedule this year. IRL president Tony George is expected to reveal details of the agreement in principle he signed last Friday with Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe, co-owners of the now-defunct Champ Car World Series at a news conference tomorrow morning. On Friday, George said there were still details to be ironed out. Among those details are the future of Champ Car races. Reports say the IndyCar Series schedule could absorb three Champ Car races this year -- those in Edmonton, Long Beach, Calif., and Surfers Paradise, Australia. However, both the Long Beach and Edmonton dates conflict with existing Indy-Car dates. Although Edmonton Grand Prix president Jim Haskins said Friday he had not been asked about changing dates, the two weekends following Edmonton's scheduled July 20 race are both open.


Servia testing Ganassi car
Oriol Servia is testing a Ganassi Indy Car at Sebring today.  We hear that one of the Indy Cars PKV Racing is getting is coming from the Ganassi team.


Barcelona Day 2: Hamilton still on top
On the second day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya, Lewis Hamilton was once again on top of the timesheets. He was followed by McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. Testing will continue tomorrow.



Driver Team Time Laps
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.234 81
2. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.434 68
3. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:21.722 72
4. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:22.309 75
5. Massa Ferrari 1:22.513 102
6. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:22.516 102
7. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:22.558 109
8. Kubica BMW-Sauber 1:22.625 94
9. Button Honda 1:22.659 67
10. Liuzzi Force India-Ferrari 1:22.942 89
11. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:22.977 100
12. Trulli Toyota 1:23.023 98
13. Alonso Renault 1:23.112 77
14. Barrichello Honda 1:23.169 74
15. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 1:23.284 77
16. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:23.323 98
17. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:23.458 58
18. Piquet Renault 1:23.467 45
19. Glock Toyota 1:23.561 80


Osborne named “Crew Chief the Race”
Bob Osborne, crew chief of the #99 DISH Network/Office Depot Ford Fusion driven by Carl Edwards, was named “Crew Chief of the Race” Monday in Fontana, California for his team’s win in the Auto Club 500. Bob, who is a 2008 WYPALL Wipers crew chief representative, made the WYPALL brand proud Monday leading his team to a dominant win in the rain delayed two-day affair. Osborne will receive a $1,000 check as a result of his leadership and strategic thinking during the race. The 2008 WYPALL Wipers Crew Chief Challenge is a season-long contest that will determine the best crew chiefs in the Sprint Cup garage. Following each Cup race, a panel will vote to determine which crew chief demonstrated the most outstanding strategy and leadership during the race. It isn’t necessarily the crew chief that goes to victory lane, but the crew chief that made the biggest difference to his team. Representatives from WYPALL Wipers, together with FOX/Speed television analyst Jeff Hammond, and three of NASCAR’s top crew chiefs who represent WYPALL, including Todd Berrier of the Richard Childress Racing #29 Shell Pennzoil Chevy team, Bob Osborne of the Roush Fenway Racing #99 Office Depot Ford team, and Kenny Francis of the Gillett Evernham Motorsports #9 Budweiser Dodge team, make up the panel of judges. In addition to the $1,000 check, the winning crew chief will receive signage to announce the win on their pit box the following week. The crew chief with the most weekly top wins will be honored as the WYPALL Wipers Crew Chief of the Year and will be presented a $20,000 check at the season finale in Homestead, FL. The WYPALL Wipers Chief Challenge will continue throughout the remainder of the 2008 season and spotlight the men behind the machines. For more information, log onto www.wypall.com. WYPALL PR


Lots of Jet Fuel used at Fontana
During the weekend, the jet dryers that circled Auto Club Speedway for more than 10 hours during several rain delays consumed more than 6,500 gallons of fuel. They burned 3,000 gallons on Sunday night as they tried in vain to dry the track. There were reports that the track ran out of fuel and had to have some trucked in from nearby Ontario International Airport on Sunday night. What could an airline do with that much fuel? According to Virgin Atlantic Airlines statistics, a Boeing 737-800 can fly 3,383 miles on 6,875 gallons of fuel. Jet dryers from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Sonoma's Infineon Raceway were used during the weekend. Orange County Register


UAW workers strike American Axle
The United Auto Workers launched a strike against American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. late Monday night after negotiations broke off when the two sides failed to reach a deal on a new labor pact.

The strike sends 3,650 American Axle workers in Michigan and New York to the picket lines and threatens to snarl truck production at General Motors Corp., the parts maker's largest customer.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement that American Axle is looking to dramatically reduce workers' benefits and cut their hourly wage to $14 an hour. He accused the company of failing to provide the union with enough information for it to evaluate the company's proposal. The UAW has a proven record of working with companies to improve their competitive position and secure jobs," Gettelfinger said. "But cooperation does not mean capitulation. Our members cannot be expected to make the extreme sacrifices American Axle is asking for with nothing in return."

The company, in a statement, said labor costs, including wages and benefits, add up to $70 an hour when the industry averages $20 to $30 and hour.

"All of the changes we have proposed have been accepted by the UAW in agreements with our competitors in the United States," Chairman Richard Dauch said.

Dozens of workers in Detroit grabbed picket signs and walked off the job immediately after the contract's 11:59 p.m. expiration time passed with no new deal or contract extension. The last contract was reached in 2004 after a one-day walkout.

GM officials have been closely watching the situation, but wouldn't comment on the talks.

Bargaining teams have been wrestling with the same issues that led to brief strikes earlier this year against GM and Chrysler LLC before the union cut deals with Detroit's automakers that drastically reduced labor costs in the face of competition from leaner foreign-based rivals. Detroit News


Vettel subs for injured Coulthard at Red Bull
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel on Tuesday stepped into David Coulthard's 2008-specification Red Bull cockpit as the Scot sits out the Barcelona session with an apparent neck strain.

Although a chipper Coulthard was spotted at the Circuit de Catalunya as the final test of the 2008 pre-season resumed, Vettel was asked to stand-in as the 36-year-old reportedly receives treatment for a light injury sustained whilst running in the RB4 on Monday.

It is expected that Coulthard will be back in action for the final day's running on Wednesday.

Toro Rosso's test programme is unlikely to be affected by the shuffle, as the Red Bull sister team is testing only with a single car in Spain this week.

On Tuesday, Sebastien Bourdais took over the car that was tested by STR teammate Vettel on Monday.

The Faenza based team will begin the 2008 season with a development of last year's car, before beginning with a similar version of the RB4 after the first few races.


DC expects competitive season for Red Bull
(GMM) David Coulthard has confirmed paddock speculation by agreeing that Red Bull is likely heading for a competitive season with the new Adrian Newey-penned RB4 single seater.

The Scottish veteran, who is sitting out Tuesday's testing at the Circuit de Catalunya with an apparent neck twinge, said he believes the Austrian-owned outfit will be among the fight just beneath big two competitors Ferrari and McLaren in 2008.

"I expect that we will be fighting against BMW Sauber and Williams," Coulthard, 36, told the Swiss specialist publication Motorsport Aktuell.

He explained that the Renault-powered RB4 should be a regular points-getter this year, while the target in "exceptional circumstances" could even be a maiden victory for the Milton-Keynes based outfit.

Meanwhile, Coulthard confirmed another paddock sentiment by telling Motorsport Aktuell that qualifying is not his favourite part of a grand prix weekend.

"In my entire career, the race has always been my stronger quality," he admitted.


Shipping company targets F1
MSC Cruises, a division of the giant Mediterranean Shipping Company, the second largest container shipping firm in the world, is to enter Formula 1 this year as a trackside sponsor at four races. The deal is probably worth in the region $20m but this will depend on the number of signs and bridges at the events in question.

MSC is in the process of building four giant new cruises ships as part of its plan to grab a larger share of the growing cruise ship market. The MSC Fantasia is the biggest ship to be built by a European cruise line and weighs 133,500 tons. This is still smaller than Cunard's flagship, the Queen Mary II, but Fantasia will still be able to carry nearly 4000 passengers after it is launched in December this year. This will be followed by a sister ship called the MSC Splendida in 2009, while the company will also launching the 3000-passenger, 89,000 ton MSC Poesia later this year with a sister ship called the MSC Magnifica due 2010.

The company says that the plan is to make the ships the destination for tourists rather than the ports they visit. The ships will feature all manner of luxury items including a Formula 1 simulator. Grandprix.com


Can Cleveland GP make a comeback?
There will be no auto racing in Cleveland this summer.  Chuck Kosich, general manager for the Grand Prix of Cleveland, confirmed Monday that the entire Grand Prix of Cleveland race weekend at Burke Lakefront Airport is canceled. But he also said plans are moving forward to secure a race date with the Indy Racing League for 2009.

"We have meetings with airport officials soon, as well as [IRL CEO] Tony George, that's about all that I can tell you at this point," Kosich said.

The race was lost Friday when IRL and Champ Car ended a 12-year open-wheel split and became one series again. Most of the Champ Car races, including Cleveland, were not added to the IRL's existing schedule for 2008.

Champ Car and Atlantics were the two biggest races at the Grand Prix of Cleveland the past few years. The smaller support races also have been scrubbed.

GPC promoter Mike Lanigan is hopeful the Cleveland event will be on the calendar in 2009. "Tony George said he would welcome sitting down within the next two weeks and trying to see what we can figure out for 2009," Lanigan said when the unification was announced last week. "Tony told me a lot more than the other guys did. And he called me to make sure I understood [the 2008 race dates were] a conflict."

This year, the IRL will race the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Newton, Iowa, on June 22.

"I know that everyone loves the Grand Prix of Cleveland, from the drivers to the team owners and so on," Lanigan said. "There's a lot of rich history here that I'd like to keep going. Now I have to look at this as an opportunity and a challenge that could be good, long-term, for the city of Cleveland. I'm going to try my best to get something for 2009. But I don't have anything right now."  More at Cleveland Plain Dealer


Hitech Racing ready to tackle Superleague car
Reigning British Formula 3 champions Hitech Racing have been entrusted with role of developing the new Superleague Formula car – a task that kicks off this week in the UK. Built by Elan Motorsport Technologies in the US, the new car will be powered by a 750 horsepower, V-12 engine designed and built by Menard Competition Technologies in the UK.

After successful dyno testing last week, the V-12 has been fitted to the Superleague Formula chassis ready for its first run today. The car will conduct straight line testing this week before hitting the track for the first time at Donington Park next week.

Formed in 2003 by experience Formula 3 team manager David Hayle, Hitech’s past driver roster has included Renault F1 test driver Lucas Di Grassi and Estonian Marko Asmer – the newly appointed BMW F1 test driver who earned the team’s first British F3 championship last year.

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Backmarker with Dreyer & Reinbold
Milka Duno
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced that it has signed Milka Duno to drive the No. 23 CITGO-sponsored car in select IndyCar Series races this season.

Duno made seven starts with SAMAX Motorsport in the IndyCar Series in 2007, with a best finish of 11th at Texas Motor Speedway.

"We're excited to bring Milka on board," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "We want to provide her with every opportunity we can to develop as a driver. Her great attitude and hunger for success, combined with her networking opportunities, should make for an exciting race season on and off the track.

"We are also proud to welcome CITGO to our family of sponsors and look forward to working with them this season."  Duno will prepare for the season opener March 29 on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval.

"I'm very pleased to get an opportunity with Dreyer & Reinbold to take the next step in my career," Duno said. "I felt comfortable with them right away in the first few meetings. I think that working together with them will make me move forward.

"I learned a lot last year with the team I was with, especially from my engineer, Steve Challis, and my spotter, Pancho Carter, but I still have many lessons to learn. I hope I learn everything I need to improve and become competitive. This is another step for me."


Hendrick team playing catch-up
Jimmie Johnson admits that skipping the first test of NASCAR’s new car at Atlanta Motor Speedway might have allowed some other teams to gain ground on the Hendrick Motorsports program.  Not that the team isn’t catching up quickly.

Johnson said that when his team arrived at Auto Club Speedway, it was a little off with the new car. He also felt they were off in the test session at the track. But the team worked on the car, finally putting Johnson at the front for 76 laps before he finished second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 500. Teammate Jeff Gordon was third.

Johnson said that it’s too early to analyze where teams rank, as a whole, with the new car.

“The downforce tracks are new to everyone,” he said. “To be honest, we really didn’t focus on it too much last year. We skipped the Atlanta test, focused on the championship, things we had to handle in ’07. So we’re learning. The 48 and 24 may be a little bit behind, but I think we closed up a lot this weekend.”

Edwards was too much for Gordon on Sunday
Harry How/Getty Images for NASCAR
Gordon agreed, also pointing out that this was only one race. Hendrick won 18 of the 36 points races last season and was strong in the new car in the events in which it appeared. Gordon said that this weekend gave the team a better idea of what it had.

After earning two of the top three sports, it’s clear that Hendrick is still on top of its game with the new car – or getting back on top at a high rate of speed.

Still, the drivers caution against reading too much into anything yet.

“Today was a pretty good indication of what we’ve got,” Gordon said. “But this is just one race, one track. We only test at three tracks over the offseason that we are all together that we can have an indication. Scene Daily


Latest F1 news in brief
  • Montezemolo moves to cool Ferrari optimism
  • F1-standard circuit to be built near Moscow
  • Barcelona ramps up anti-racism measures
  • Montreal to improve F1 circuit
  • Schu predicts two-horse race for 2008 title
  • Schu names Rosberg as '08 racer to watch

Montezemolo moves to cool Ferrari optimism
(GMM)  Luca di Montezemolo has expressed concern about the excessive optimism surrounding Ferrari's forthcoming formula one campaign.

With just over two weeks to go until the 2008 season opener, the widespread paddock perception is that Ferrari's F2008 single seater will be the car to beat -- even if McLaren seems to have closed the gap in recent tests.

"I sense too much optimism about Ferrari, as if we will fight alone for the world title," the Italian said on Monday.

Montezemolo insists, however, that he is pleased that the Maranello based team's preparations for the season are going well.

"I am happy that our drivers feel the new car to be competitive," he said, "but it is important that we have our feet on the ground.

"There will be a very tough championship, we know that," said Montezemolo, who announced that Ferrari had entered an agreement with Italy's Olympic Committee (CONI).

Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, who tested the F2008 for the first time on Monday, said he is not concerned about Ferrari's position as pre-season favorite.

"I do not think expectations are a problem," the German is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We know precisely where we are and we know we can win grands prix.  We also know that there is a long road ahead of us.

"In short, we are prepared," the seven time world champion added.

F1-standard circuit to be built near Moscow
(GMM)  The former manager of formula one circuits in Austria and Bahrain has been appointed to oversee the construction of a F1-standard venue near Moscow.

Hans Geist will lead the project that is to take place 80 kilometers west of Moscow, in the town of Volokolamsk, although it is not definite that the venue will bid to host a grand prix.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is reportedly keener to bring his sport to St. Petersburg, while the Volokolamsk venue intends to play host to DTM and MotoGP races when it is ready in 2010.

"The track will be designed by Hermann Tilke to formula one standards.  But the operator may not necessarily have a grand prix, even if the opportunity would be accepted if presented," Geist told the Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten.

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Orientation meeting for Champ Car today at Indy UPDATE The IndyCar Series could reach record participation if a Monday meeting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an indication.

All nine of the Champ Car World Series teams were on hand for an introductory meeting with Indy Racing League officials Those nine teams accounted for 16 car-and-driver combinations last season. If most join the IRL, the league record of 31 cars for a race other than the Indianapolis 500 could be approached.  There were 31 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1997.

"That's absolutely a good sign," said Brian Barnhart, the IRL's president of competition. "This was just an information meeting, but the interest is clearly high."

Three Champ Car teams -- Conquest Racing, Walker Racing and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing -- submitted paperwork Monday to receive cars from the IRL while others are expected to soon. Indy Star

02/25/08 The IRL and Champ Car will hold an orientation meeting today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, after which the IRL "will know which former Champ Car World Series teams are serious about joining the IndyCar Series." Officials from six Champ Car teams accounting for 10 drivers are expected to attend.  If "all participate, the IRL will have 26 cars."  Expect an announcement on Wednesday when the IRL will hold a press conference.


Marlboro stubbed out on billboards in Bahrain
All tobacco advertisements relating to Formula One can no longer be seen on billboards across Bahrain thanks to an anti-smoking campaign by health officials.

The move is part of efforts to stop cigarette and tobacco advertising at all sporting events throughout Bahrain, including the Bahrain International Circuit in the long term, according to sources.

The self-ban on billboards is an extremely significant development in light of a growing "epidemic" of smoking and its related ailments all over the world, said primary care and public health assistant under-secretary Dr Mariam Al Jalahma.

"This is a beginning and will go a long way in our ultimate goal of getting Bahrain to be a smoke-free nation," Dr Al Jalahma told the GDN.

She would not comment on the ban of tobacco advertising in the Formula One race, but said that Bahrain was looking at several "models" across the world to implement anti-smoking laws.

Dr Al Jalahma, who is also the Bahrain Anti Smoking Society chairwoman, said that the ministry and the society have been extremely encouraged with Parliament for approving a new anti-smoking law.


Stewart dominates Nationwide Series Race in Toyota
A fat and out of shape Stewart celebrates his win
For the second straight Nationwide Series race, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch drove their Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas to a 1-2 finish.

Unlike the Feb. 16 Camping World 300 at Daytona, where Stewart edged Busch by .259 seconds, the twice rain-delayed Stater Bros. 300 Monday at Auto Club Speedway was a landslide in Stewart’s favor.

The driver of the No. 20 Camry won the race by 2.408 seconds after Busch wrested the second position from David Reutimann in a battle that lasted 30 laps. In the closing circuits, Kevin Harvick slipped past Reutimann for third place, with Reutimann maintaining fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.

All told, Stewart paced the field for 136 of the 150 laps at the 2.0-mile speedway. In fact, the only laps Stewart didn’t lead came when Morgan Shepherd stayed on the track and led Lap 24 during a round of pitstops and when Stewart pitted from the lead on Lap 98, and the field cycle through a round of green-flag stops. 

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Merger affects Mazda Raceway
The unification of the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League will have an obvious impact on the 2008 season schedule at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  Champ Car was scheduled to be the Sunday feature at the season-opening Monterey Festival of Speed, May 16-18, and had scheduled a weeklong Spring Training test session March 10-14.  Champ Car participation in both of those events has been cancelled.

Open-wheel racing has a long and illustrious history in at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  The news last September that Champ Car was returning to Monterey after a three-year hiatus created a great deal of excitement among fans, sponsors and the community.

“At this point, we know that Champ Car will not be participating in the Monterey Festival of Speed,” said Gill Campbell, CEO/General Manager of the historic track.  “We are in the process of addressing this issue with customers who have purchased tickets, sponsorships, hospitality and vendor space based on a Champ Car race being part of the weekend.”

Fans with questions regarding the Monterey Festival of Speed are encouraged to call the ticket office (1-800-327-SECA) to discuss their options.

The Monterey Festival of Speed features Round 5 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, along with open-wheel races from Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda and Formula BMW Americas.  Additional races are being considered and a revised schedule for the Monterey Festival of Speed weekend will be announced soon. Mazda Raceway PR

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