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IRL hits two home runs IRL hits two home runsThe IRL's split screen ESPN TV broadcast of today's Toyota Indy 200 from Homestead coupled with a simulcast showing in-car camera shots on sister station ESPN2 was deemed very popular by one and all.  Whether they do it again will largely depend on whether the sponsors liked it.  A quick poll by AutoRacing1.com found most fans watched the race or switched to ESPN2 and ignored the TV ads in the right-hand window during commercial breaks meaning the sponsors who paid for those slots got near-zero value.

Although attendance was pretty much non-existent for Friday and Saturday, on race day a healthy crowd showed up indicating the IRL's marketing efforts may be paying off.  Sunday's attendance was estimated at 30,000.  It's not known how many of those in attendance received a "free" ticket.  What's perplexing is that fans show up for IRL races but have no interest in practice and qualifying.  Some believe that shows the IRL lacks hard-core fans and that theory is supported by its dwindling TV audience. 

However, it's not for lack of trying on the IRL's part and their marketing efforts dwarf that of arch-rival Champ Car which does its best to remain largely invisible.  The IRL has a loyal TV partner in ESPN and ABC who are doing their best to get the word out about the IRL.  The IRL's sponsors are also beginning to help market the series and drivers. Mark C.

IRL "Vision" of pack racing results in costly wreck IRL "Vision" of pack racing results in costly wreckThe IRL's "vision" of 100% throttle "pack" racing once again cost the teams a lot of money in Homestead as IRL costs continue to rise. A big 7-car wreck in the 4th turn at Homestead wiped out 7 cars in one fell swoop and sent Danica Patrick to the hospital with a concussion and other observations. Ironically Tony George's "Vision" race team lost both cars to wrecks this weekend in Homestead, one in the IPS race (right) on Sunday morning and the other when his stepson Ed Carpenter put his car in park (Bobby Rahal's words) in the middle of the big wreck resulting in an even bigger wreck. In his first race as a team owner Tony found out how expensive his vision of open wheel racing can be.
Gregg leads every lap in Homestead Gregg leads every lap in HomesteadTravis Gregg won his first race in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, leading all 67 laps of the Miami 100 while holding off Jaime Camara, his teammate at Sam Schmidt Motorsports.  Camara, a Brazilian making his first oval-track start, made a couple of late attempts to pass, but he came up short.  His car was very good on all lines," Camara said. "I tried to force him to the bottom, but he was good there, too." [Editor's Note:   These 100% throttle glued-to-the-track cars are a waste and neither teach a driver anything nor allow one to assess a drivers talent.]

Results Sunday of the Miami 100 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series event at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any) and money earned: 
1. (1) Travis Gregg, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
2. (2) Jaime Camara, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
3. (5) Jon Herb, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
4. (7) Wade Cunningham, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
5. (11) Jay Drake, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
6. (3) Nick Bussell, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
7. (6) Marty Roth, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
8. (4) Mishael Abbott, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
9. (12) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Infiniti, 67
10. (9) Chris Festa, Dallara-Infiniti, 34, accident
11. (10) P.J. Chesson, Dallara-Infiniti, 34, accident
12. (8) Al Unser, Dallara-Infiniti, 21, mechanical         
Race Statistics      
Winner's average speed: 151.002 mph      
Time of race: 00:39:32.0418      
Margin of victory: 0.0713 of a second      
Cautions: 1, 8 laps      
Lead changes: 0      
Lap leaders: 1-67 Gregg      
Point standings: Gregg 53, Camara 40, Herb 35, Cunningham 32, Drake 30, Bussell 28, Roth 26, Abbott 24, Simmons 22, Festa 20, Chesson 19, Unser 18

Champ Car owners make Cosworth competitive again Champ Car owners make Cosworth competitive againUPDATE Cosworth not only found a buyer; it found a buyer who wasn't afraid to do what was necessary to keep the Cosworth-designed Chevrolet engine competitive in IndyCar racing. Somewhat ironically, Cosworth's new owners are Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe, who also own the Champ Car World Series. Despite that seeming conflict of interest, Kalkhoven has maintained that he hopes Cosworth remains in the IRL even after Chevrolet withdraws its support for the program.

Contacted Saturday, Kalkhoven expressed delight upon hearing that 'his' engines powered cars to 1-3 spots on the Homestead grid.   "Cosworth is showing that as the world's leading independent race engine manufacturer it is capable of providing competitive engines in any series," Kalkhoven said. "I am delighted at their grid positions and hope we have a great race."

GM Racing's IRL Program Manager Joe Negri gave Chevrolet's side of the story.  "Even though we're getting out of this series, we haven't lifted off the throttle," Negri said. "If anything, we've worked harder and Panther has worked harder too because it is everybody's best interest for us to go out as winners. And that is fully our intent.   Cosworth is working as hard as they can as well because it is in their best interest as well as ours in this last year," he added. "Obviously, they need to get customers for the future, and Panther needs to run strongly to attract support from another manufacturer for the future. So there is no reason for any of us to back off. We all have egos."

"This is definitely a horsepower track, though the chassis matters a bit more here than it does at a place like Texas," Panther's Andy Brown said.  But Brown maintains that the Chevrolet engine didn't just gain 30 horsepower overnight and that the writing has been on the wall for all in the IndyCar Series to see.

"We were very quick at Texas last year but nobody noticed because they were caught up in saying that our cars were illegal (for failing a rear wing stress test post-qualifying)," Brown said. "What they failed to notice was that we came from the back of the field to the front using an unpainted wing element straight off the Dallara truck."  ESPN.com

03/05/05 Since taking over ownership of Cosworth from Ford late last year, Champ Car owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe must be doing something right. By removing Cosworth from the red tape of corporate America, the engineers at Cosworth appear to be making significant strides.

Not only is this year's Cosworth F1 engine significantly improved and far more competitive, Tomas Scheckter shook up the Honda and Toyota camps at Homestead today by putting his Cosworth Chevy powered car on pole position. His rookie teammate Tomas Enge was third fastest.

Enge, a former Formula 3000 star and Formula 1 driver from the Czech Republic, will make his third career IRL start on Sunday in Panther’s Rockstar Chevy. “We were fast in the morning practice session and I didn’t think we would go any faster,” Enge revealed “But my engineer promised me that we were going to go 214 mph, and everybody did a great job. The Chevy engine has improved from last year – big time!”

Heidfeld and Schumacher blame each other Heidfeld and Schumacher blame each otherNick Heidfeld is adamant that Michael Schumacher was solely to blame for their crash during the Australian GP.  The Germans clashed with 15 laps of the race remaining when Heidfeld, trying to overtake, was forced on to the grass by the World Champion. The Williams then hit the side of the Ferrari, sending both cars into the gravel.

"I think that I made a good move," declared Heidfeld. "Michael just came out of the pits and obviously he had a bad exit from the first chicane because he wasn’t on the ideal line.  I went alongside him and I could have out-braked him but he didn’t leave me any space and pushed me on to the grass, where braking is obviously impossible."

Michael Schumacher says that he wasn't to blame for the crash.  "With this type of thing there are always different opinions and mine is that it is impossible to blame either one of us," maintained a chastened Schumi. "I saw him behind me just as I came out of the pits and I made it clear I was defending my position. At one point I lost sight of him in the mirrors and went into the corner when I felt I'd been hit.  I have seen the incident on film: Heidfeld was on the grass and so was not in full control of his car. I can't blame him for trying to overtake me. My car was slightly damaged in the collision and there was no point in going on."

Mistakes cost McLaren drivers Mistakes cost McLaren driversMcLaren Mercedes drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen finished the opening race of the 2005 season at Albert Park in Australia in sixth and eight places respectively.

Raikkonen stalled at the start which meant he had to start the 58- lap-race from the pitlane. Both drivers were on a two-stop-strategy which saw Montoya coming in on laps 23 (9.224 seconds) and 42 (7.404 seconds) whilst Kimi came in on laps 25 (6.263) and 39 (9.019 seconds).

Juan Pablo Montoya "I'm pleased that we seem to have the speed with the MP4-20 package, and I would have been able to finish higher up had things gone our way. I lost some valuable time during my second stint as I was pushing really hard on the in-lap and got the rear tire on the grass at Turn Eight. Later on there was a misunderstanding with one of the Jordans which meant I was pushed off the track. Towards the end I slowed down to conserve the package for Malaysia. After the race I have been told that I also had lost one of my deflectors which obviously affected the overall speed and the handling of my car."

Kimi Raikkonen "The result might not show this but we have the pace to challenge for victories, which is great. However today my race was really over when I stalled the car at the start and had to begin my race from the pitlane. In the opening stages I was stuck behind Michael Schumacher which lost me some time, but when I got past him in the first round of pitstops I was able to pick up speed again. However my deflector came off and went underneath the car. The team removed it during my scheduled second pitstop but the loss obviously affected the handling of my car in the closing stages. I really look forward to Malaysia where hopefully we should be able to get the result we believe we are capable of and have some more consistent weather."
Ron Dennis "Juan Pablo's race was unfolding as expected until he went on the grass. He also lost a deflector but if things had gone our way he would have finished on the podium. Kimi's grand prix was effectively over after he stalled the car at the start. During the race he was hampered by the loss of a deflector which subsequently jammed underneath the car. The positive outcomes of the opening race are the very good performance from our Michelin tires and that we had the pace to win and as a result are looking forward to Malaysia and the rest of the season."

Norbert Haug "Kimi's speed was reasonable, however after having to start from the pitlane a better place than eighth was not possible. Juan Pablo complained about handling problems in the last third of the race which we later discovered was due to a loss of a deflector. Our starting positions - tenth and from the pitlane – didn't help to get a better result. After only 15 laps, Kimi was already 40 seconds behind the leader and this was still the case after 58 laps." McLaren Mercedes

IRL using more sex to lure fans IRL using more sex to lure fansMove over Danica Patrick, the IRL male drivers are shedding their clothes too.  This Palm Beach Post article says, If the Indy Racing League is looking to entice female fans with its new, edgier, sexier marketing campaign, it should be thrilled with the reaction of one of its own people Friday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  "Look at that," Danica Patrick exclaimed when she was shown a media-guide picture of fellow driver Darren Manning posed in a doorway, his unbuttoned shirt revealing well-toned abs. "He must work out."
Forgive Patrick a little playful sarcasm. Having done temperature-raising photo spreads for men's magazines FHM and Maxim, the 22-year-old racer appreciates a rare opportunity to switch to ogler from ogle-ee.  "I dig it," she said. "I think it's cool.  I completely am fine with and embrace the fact that these guys are using their good looks to sell something."

"Something," in this case, is the IRL, which opens its 10th season today with the Toyota Indy 300. Its profile blurred by the lengthening shadow of NASCAR, the IRL continues to try to return open-wheel racing — its brand, anyway, as opposed to its competitor, Champ Cars — to its former glory.  A key step in the effort is to show fans what IndyCar Series drivers look like without their helmets.  Or, in the case of Tomas Scheckter, without anything but a towel.

"I did not know that was there," Scheckter (right) said of a shot of his mirrored reflection lathering up for a shave. "I know I did the shoot. I just get told what to do, but I did not know they put it in the media guide.  I suppose anything to try to make the series a little bit more popular," said Scheckter, 24. "If it can help in any way it's good."

"We decided that we could do a better job of not only defining our brand, but describing our brand," said Ken Ungar, IRL's senior vice president for business affairs.  The IRL asked 17 ad agencies to submit proposals. The winner was the Nashville firm Gish, Sherwood & Friends, which called its campaign "Adrenaline. Amplified."  "These guys are hot," Ungar said. "They understand the Echo Boomer, the generation which is our target."

With Manning and Scheckter, the emphasis is clearly on sex appeal. Ungar uses the phrase "superbly conditioned athletes" and notes that Scheckter placed second last year in a revival of the made-for-TV Superstars.

"It's not exploitative," Ungar said. "It's kind of natural. It's 'I'm shaving, or I'm a triathlete and I'm swimming in the ocean,' in the case of Tony Kanaan. But you can see through that, that hey, these are very attractive people. And that is absolutely part of celebrity." More....  (Related Indy Star article)

IRL gets jump on Champ Car IRL gets jump on Champ CarThis Florida Today article says, The Indy Racing League opens its 17-race season in Homestead today with the Toyota Indy 300, getting a head start in what is now the ninth year of the rancorous division in North American open-wheel racing.

With the rival Champ Car World Series not set to kick off its 14-race schedule until April 10 in Long Beach, Calif., the IRL will enjoy two more exclusive racing weekends -- March 19 in Phoenix and April 3 in St. Pete -- before Champ Car fires its engines.

Once both series get going at full bore, they will go head-to-head on the same day five times. But for now, IRL has the spotlight and expectations are high for 2005. More....

Notes from Melbourne Notes from Melbourne
BAR slip in rule loophole BAR slipped through a rule 'loophole' in Melbourne, when the F1 team ordered both drivers to retire their healthy cars with a lap to run. ''This failure to finish,'' read a statement, ''provides the opportunity to use new engines in (Malaysia) without ... penalty.'' If they'd completed the lap, both men would've been automatically subject to the FIA's new 'one engine per two races' regulation. BAR's move is likely to be controversial. A grumpy-looking Button rued the Brackley-built car's poor pace at the Australian grand prix and groaned: ''We have a lot of work to do.'' Sato, of Japan, agreed that the Honda-powered racer is 'off the pace.'

Champion gloomy A gloomy Jacques Villeneuve did not enjoy his full time F1 return at Albert Park. The French-Canadian, champion of 1997, started the Australian grand prix a lucky fourth, but fell down the order and rolled over the line 13th. Even teammate Felipe Massa, at the back of the grid, finished ahead of the former Champ Car and Indy 500 winner. Villeneuve, 33, said: ''We were a lot slower than I thought we would be. The car was very difficult to drive and I couldn't get any grip. ''That's it.''

Coulthard's next hotel F1 racer David Coulthard will soon open a new Monaco-like 'Columbus' luxury hotel in Scotland, it is reported. Born in Twynholm, the 33-year-old star of team Red Bull, with business partner Ken McCulloch, is expected to name Edinburgh as the location, the Scotland on Sunday newspaper said.

Briatore snubbed job offer Flavio Briatore says Renault president Patrick Faure wants him to stay F1 principal until '09 or 2010. But the Italian, whose contract runs out in July this year - speaking in the Melbourne paddock - revealed that he turned down the offer. ''It's not automatically because I do not want to stay,'' he said, ''it's because I do not want to sign yet. ' I cannot be motivated forever. I am (motivated) now, but who can say how long that will last.'' Briatore, perhaps tired of the stress of running a top team, is thought to be considering a full time role as Fernando Alonso's driver-manager.

'I blame Schu' - Heidfeld Nick Heidfeld pointed a straight finger at German compatriot Michael Schumacher following their clash during the Australian GP. The little 27-year-old, Mark Webber's new Williams teammate, said he made a 'good' overtaking move into turn three. ''Michael wasn't on the ideal line,'' said Heidfeld, ''and I could have out braked him -- but he pushed me onto the grass.'' Because Nick's FW27 shunted out of the race, BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen noted that the German will 'now (be allowed to) get a fresh engine' for the Malaysian GP.

'I'm stressed' - Karthikeyan India's Narain Karthikeyan admitted he struggled to cope with his F1 debut. The 28-year-old Jordan driver said he felt 'a little tired' on the eve of the Australian grand prix, apparently due to 'mental stress. ''Also I have still not got over the jet lag from England,'' he added. ''I've been waking up at 5 o'clock every day. ''I put a lot of pressure on myself because that's the way I am.'' But he denied that becoming India's sportsman of the moment, handling Mark Webber/Australia-like media attention, had much to do with it. ''This is what I'm used to,'' said Narain, ''just on a much bigger scale.''

No Ferrari 'crisis' Ferrari will leave Albert Park keen to uncover the progress of their new F2005 model, which is presently testing on European circuit. Rubens Barrichello finished second in the 'old' car despite starting mid-field, but said the new one should give Maranello 'even more pleasure. ''At least we showed we have no crisis,'' the Brazilian mocked. ''We're here, we fight.'' Technical director Ross Brawn agreed that Ferrari is 'looking forward' to racing F2005. He also defended the performance of Bridgestone's tire: ''We probably could have been more aggressive in choice.''

Skaife wins V8 Supercar race Multi-titled Mark Skaife won the third Qantas V8 Supercars race and took overall honors for the weekend after a rip-roaring three-race series from Australia's top national racing category. Skaife's HRT Commodore finished third in each of the other two Qantas V8 Supercar races as consistency and pace proved a winning combination. The man who has dominated the national V8 Supercar scene for the last two years, Marcos Ambrose (right), flew the Ford flag with second place today in his Falcon, narrowly ahead of Stone Brothers Racing team-mate Russell Ingall.

Schu won't decide 'til '06 Schu won't decide 'til '06(GMMF1.NET)  Michael Schumacher will not decide whether or not to continue in F1 beyond '06 'until the middle of next year.'  That's the promise of Willi Weber, the German's countryman and long time manager.  36-year-old Schumacher's current Ferrari agreement will end in December next year.  ''(In mid-'06) we'll see where we are, if we continue (in F1).''

Asked if it's Ferrari or retirement, though, Weber left 'everything' open.  ''But I do not think it realistic that he will want to change teams,'' Willi hinted.

Weber said a new Schumacher contract would not be motivated by money -- not as far as Michael is concerned, anyway.  He grinned: ''Okay, yes, making a lot of money is interesting -- that's my job!''

Sir Jackie and Mark Webber Sir Jackie and Mark Webber(GMMF1.NET)  Sir Jackie Stewart and Mark Webber meet for dinner 'quite often.'   That's the claim of the knighted triple world champion, dressed at Albert Park in a blue tartan hat in a new role representing Williams' sponsor Royal Bank of Scotland.  ''He lives nearby (in England),'' the Scot said, ''and we see a lot of each other.  His strength is his mind, but my recent advice to him is to give himself time, to feel his way into the new team.''
Ferrari continue to test F2005 Ferrari continue to test F2005(GMMF1.NET)  As F1 qualified and raced in Melbourne on Saturday and Sunday, Ferrari - and the brand new F2005 model - returned to the test track.  On Vairano's long straight, Ferrari-Maserati GT test driver Andrea Bertolini took to the wheel in freezing Italy for aerodynamic assessment.  ''He covered a total of 258 kilometres' (on Saturday) and continued a day later, according to the Maranello-based team's motor sport press office.
Michelin pan F1 tire rule Michelin pan F1 tire rule(GMMF1.NET) Michelin has hit out at a ruling that forbids a driver from changing tires during a GP simply because they're worn out.

Motor sport director Pierre Dupasquier said the rules dictate that, in such a situation, the car should be withdrawn. ''It's better for the spectators to keep as many cars in the event for as long as possible,'' the Frenchman, also noting that allowing a tire change would help suppliers discover why the tire compound didn't last the distance, argued.

He also said Michelin men would 'visually' check tires during fuel pit stops, while the team keeps a tab on pressure via an on-board sensor.

Briscoe crashes, to start from back Briscoe crashes, to start from backToyota F1 castoff and now Indy Racing League rookie Ryan Briscoe will start his first event from the back of the grid after crashing in practice for the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Nearing the end of Saturday morning practice, the Australian's primary No. 33 Target Panoz-Toyota hit the wall after Briscoe lost control as he headed into the pits and spun back on to the track. The car could not be repaired for qualifying, and the Chip Ganassi  team opted not to participate in the timed session to prepare the back-up car for final practice and warm-up.

“I was coming in reasonably fast but went wide through pit-lane and got into the grass, which got me up onto the track," Briscoe admitted, "It's a good thing it happened in practice as there weren't a lot of cars on the track when I went up there. Fortunately, I came out of it relatively unscathed.

“I'm a little disappointed not to have participated in qualifying, as it would have added to the experience of my first IndyCar race weekend. But, on this kind of race track, starting position is not imperative. I might be starting last but, hopefully, I'll have a lot of the cars in my mirrors before too long. I'll be looking to move my way through the pack and take in and learn as much as I can as I go, but I want to be smart about it and get to the finish.”

Button to climb mountain Button to climb mountain(GMMF1.NET)  Prior to the next race, at Malaysia's grand prix near Kuala Lumpur, Jenson Button will half-climb a huge mountain in southern east Asia.  Borneo's Kinabalu poses a 'great way' to keep fit and 'bring a bit of variety' to a mundane training schedule, the English F1 driver told British tabloid newspaper The Mirror.  Button, 25, will be accompanied by sixteen BAR mechanics.
Schu's new V10 Schu's new V10A new engine has been fitted to world champion Michael Schumacher's Ferrari car ahead of the Australian grand prix. Despite a new rule mandating that a single V10 last two race weekends, technical director Ross Brawn said engineers identified some data 'we didn't like' in Schu's unit.

Following a wet and changeable Saturday stint, the German, 36, only completed an out lap in the second session, opting instead to preserve the single-race tires.

Meanwhile, after BAR's Takuma Sato crashed on Saturday, the team said the Japanese would race the repaired chassis on Sunday.

New quali 'sh*t' - DC New quali 'sh*t' - DCAggregate qualifying in F1 is 'artificial' and 'a farce,' David Coulthard growled following the largely futile Sunday session at Melbourne's Albert Park.  The Scot, albeit an auspicious fifth on the grid, said adding up the times from two sessions does not create a level playing field -- especially in the event of fickle weather.

''Poor (Felipe) Massa,'' he said, referring to the young Brazilian who - yesterday - found himself stranded in a rain shower.

33-year-old DC, who said skill had little to do with his own qualifying triumph, added: ''To not get another opportunity to have a go is, to my mind, ludicrous.  ''You may as well pull the grid from a hat.  I think it's shit.''

Homestead void of fans Homestead void of fansUPDATE Based on this photo taken at the start of IRL qualifying today it is clear this reader stands to be corrected.  There was definitely more than 50 to 100 people in attendance.  If you add in all the team crew members and race officials clearly over 500 people were in attendance. 03/05/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Just got back from Homestead. Left after IRL qualifying. The grandstands were pretty much empty, maybe 50 to 100 people. Hardcore fans should have been there to see their driver. I was there to see mine. I am starting to think the IRL is not going to make it. There just isn't enough hardcore fans like me who really love it. I expect a better crowd tomorrow because free tickets are readily available, but that's just a false facade.

I feel sorry for the Grand-Am teams. They won't have many fans there to watch. Why don't they run their races during the week. If no one is there to watch anyway, what difference does it make what day of the week they run. That might help TV ratings. Miguel Sanchez, Coconut Grove, FL

Chevy ticked at Boris Chevy ticked at BorisBoris Said is in hot water with General Motors. After finally getting a Chevy deal [#36 Chevy] to run the Cup tour this season, Said, a star road racer, has angered GM execs by jumping in James Finch's Dodge this week. "I got in a lot of trouble," Said said. "Jay Frye, my team manager, was mad. I really tried to get a Chevrolet ride, called and called and called. But they didn't help me. For some reason they've never really wanted to help me. I was trying to be politically correct. But I didn't have a ride. But this is a good car and a good team, and I've known Marc Reno (the crew chief)." Winston Salem Journal
Aussie heads to US in search of a ride Aussie heads to US in search of a rideBack-to-back Australian V8 Supercar champion Marcos Ambrose is to pursue racing interests in North America in 2006 and plans to leave the V8 Supercar Championship Series at the end of the current race year. Ambrose is discussing several opportunities with Ford USA and hopes to have a firm program in place within a few months. His eventual goal is a drive in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. In the meantime, Ambrose is totally focused on winning his third consecutive V8 Supercar title in his Pirtek Falcon for SBR, Ford and their fans in 2005. Ambrose is in the process of competing in three V8 Supercar support races at the Foster's Australian Formula One Grand Prix this weekend and will start his "three-peat" championship campaign at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide on March 17-20. SBR co-owner Ross Stone said that Ambrose would move to the USA with the blessing of his team and sponsors and will release him from his contract a year early at the end of 2005. Ambrose said it was important to make his intentions clear at this stage of the year to be fair to his fans and end any speculation with US testing expected to get underway in the near future. Ford Australia President, Tom Gorman, said Ambrose's ambitions were something that all Ford fans could share. At this stage Ambrose is set to test with a tier one Ford NASCAR Busch team  spanning a two-day period in the near future. Further tests will be arranged as Ambrose's V8 Supercar schedule permits, according to John Szymanski, Director, Sponsor Development, Ford Racing Technology. Ford Racing
Fisichella retains pole for Australian GP Fisichella retains pole for Australian GPLineup for the Australian GP where Giancarlo Fisichella has retained pole position based on his lucky qualifying lap on Saturday just before the rains came ruining it for his chief rivals. Aggregate times from Saturday and Sunday morning
Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired
1 6 Giancarlo Fisichella  Renault 3:01.460
2 16 Jarno Trulli  Toyota 3:04.429
3 7 Mark Webber  Williams-BMW 3:04.996
4 11 Jacques Villeneuve  Sauber-Petronas 3:06.846
5 14 David Coulthard  Red Bull Racing 3:07.212
6 15 Christian Klien  Red Bull Racing 3:07.477
7 8 Nick Heidfeld  Williams-BMW 3:09.130
8 3 Jenson Button  BAR-Honda 3:12.128
9 10 Juan Pablo Montoya  McLaren-Mercedes 3:14.645
10 9 Kimi Räikkönen  McLaren-Mercedes 3:15.558
11 2 Rubens Barrichello  Ferrari 3:16.822
12 19 Narain Karthikeyan  Jordan-Toyota 3:17.092
13 5 Fernando Alonso  Renault 3:17.466
14 18 Tiago Monteiro  Jordan-Toyota 3:20.329
15 17 Ralf Schumacher  Toyota 3:22.717
16 20 Patrick Friesacher  Minardi-Cosworth 3:28.363
17 21 Christijan Albers  Minardi-Cosworth 1:49.230
18 1 Michael Schumacher  Ferrari 1:57.931
19 4 Takuma Sato  BAR-Honda
20 12 Felipe Massa  Sauber-Petronas
Fernandez allowed to race after crashing Fernandez allowed to race after crashingHometown hero Adrian Fernandez embarrassed himself by crashing on his qualifying run today in Mexico City for the NASCAR Busch Series race.  NASCAR has adopted a new procedure for establishing the starting race fields in the NASCAR Busch Series that will go into effect this season, NASCAR officials announced today. NASCAR has changed the system by simplifying the procedure with teams no longer accruing provisionals throughout the season to gain entry into the starting fields. While starting positions one through 42 in the NASCAR Busch Series still will be determined by qualifying speed, the new system will assure the highest-ranked 30 positions of the NASCAR Busch Series owner championship points that have entered the event prior to the entry deadline one of those starting positions in the field, providing they have made an attempt to qualify. The remaining 12 positions will be assigned to those drivers with the fastest qualifying speeds whose car owners are not among the top 30. The final starting position – the champion’s provisional – can be utilized by a car owner whose driver is a current or past NASCAR Busch Series champion who participated as a driver during their 2004 season and was entered in the event for that owner in that car prior to the entry deadline. If there is more than one series champion vying for the position, it will be given to the most recent series champion. If the final provisional starting position – 43rd in the NASCAR Busch Series – is not filled by a current or past series champion, it will be assigned to the next eligible car owner according to qualifying results. Through the first five races of the season for the NASCAR Busch Series, the top 30 of the 2004 owner championship points entered in the event prior to the entry deadline will be assured one of the 42 starting positions in the field, provided they have made an attempt to qualify. In addition, the owner’s entry must have made an attempt to qualify in all 34 events in 2004 to be eligible for one of those 30 positions. From the sixth race on, the highest-ranked 30 positions of the current owner championship points will be assured one of those positions as long as their entry has made an attempt to qualify in the previous 2005 events up to that point. In the event that conditions prevent qualifying from being run, starting positions will be assigned according to the respective series’ 2005 Rule Book. NASCAR PR
Industry News
Chicago Motor Speedway demolition photos Chicago Motor Speedway demolition photosDemolition photos of Chip Ganassi's 1-mile Chicago Motor Speedway.  There is supposedly still a lawsuit pending against Chip Ganassi by Charles Bidwell, his partner in the project. 
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Wayne Taylor wins 2nd in row Wayne Taylor wins 2nd in rowIn the second-closest finish in Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series history, Rolex 24 At Daytona winners Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli picked up their second-straight Rolex Series triumph in the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday.

Driving the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley, Angelelli claimed the lead from the No. 8 Rx.com/Synergy Racing BMW Doran of Burt Frisselle on Lap 43 of the 109-lap race and held off a hard-charging Butch Leitzinger in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford by 1.198 seconds to secure the victory. The margin of victory was second only to the 2004 VIR 400 presented by SunTrust, when Angelelli and Taylor beat eventual Daytona Prototype co-champions Scott Pruett and Max Papis to the stripe by a scant 0.87 seconds. Angelelli led a race-high 67 laps.  More.....

NASCAR gives Fernandez "The Call" NASCAR gives Fernandez "The Call"UPDATE The same reader writes again, Dear Autoracing1.com, I just saw that NASCAR did it again.  I don't see Adrian Fernandez in the Mexico lineup.  What happened, did he wreck or something?  So what does NASCAR do?  Their timing and scoring pops up fast time for Jorge Goeters, another Mexican. Who?  Where did he come from?  Never drove a NASCAR car before.  How utterly convenient.  Do the NASCAR Goobers see what's going on yet?  The NASCAR "call" is alive and well.  NASCAR must be pretty worried about a bad crowd on Sunday to pull this stunt. Michael McFahey, Bridgeport, Conn03/05/05 A reader writes, NASCAR's ability to make the "right" guy go fastest and take pole to help the Sunday race crowd is so transparent it's sickening. The Friday crowd was horrible in Mexico City so who does NASCAR's timing and scoring conveniently spit out as fastest, why of course Adrian Fernandez (right), a Mexican hero, who has never even driven a stock car before.  Fernandez is way past his prime yet he's the fastest?  How utterly convenient indeed.  By putting Fernandez at the top of the charts it makes headlines in Mexico and helps the attendance Saturday and Sunday.

Having been a NASCAR fan for years, I have seen them pull this stunt over and over again.  Remember when Dodge entered Winston Cup for the very first time?  Miraculously two Dodge's sat on the front-row at their very first race in Daytona to give Dodge some big headlines and a big thank you for entering the sport.  When the green flag dropped for the race the majority of the field passed them on the first couple of laps and they ran like bricks the rest of the race.  The Dodges didn't win a race until they adequately paid their dues.

I can give you numerous examples of questionable qualifying times over the years in NASCAR to get a team some headlines by putting them on pole, especially when a team's sponsor is thinking about leaving the sport.  The NASCAR Goobers are too blinded by their love for NASCAR to see it. Michael McFahey, Bridgeport, Conn.  Dear Michael, Not sure about your conspiracy theory but remember Fernandez comes from Champ Car, i.e. open wheel, and open wheel drivers dominate in NASCAR these days.  So although Fernandez has seen his better days in Champ Car he is still able to hold his own in the NASCAR Busch league. Mark C.

IRL signs air filter deal IRL signs air filter dealThe Indy Racing League and K&N Engineering, the world's leader in performance filter technology, have announced a partnership that makes the Riverside, CA-based company the Official Air Filter Used by the IRL IndyCar® Series.

The agreement is a multi-faceted marketing partnership and includes television, radio, print and internet advertising. Additionally, K&N will partner with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway serving as the Official Performance Filter of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and offering a $10,000 performance-based prize award for the Indianapolis 500 (details to be announced at a later date).

"We are proud to officially partner with the 'World's Best Performance Air Filter' for the 2005 season," said Ken Ungar, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs for the Indy Racing League. "With its commitment to quality, excellence and innovation, K&N's product enhances on-track performance as the only air filter used by the IndyCar Series. Additionally, K&N's relentless drive and race-bred innovation provide a unique marketing platform that aligns well with the IndyCar Series brand."

IRL struggles for relevance IRL struggles for relevanceIt can be said that Tony George, the man who split American open-wheel racing when he hatched the Indy Racing League, created a monster in the world of motor sports.  That monster is known as NASCAR.

By pulling his power play and breaking away from CART -- using his ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 for leverage -- George precipitated the downfall of open-wheel racing in the United States and parted the sport for NASCAR to blow right through unobstructed.

CART, now known as Champ Car, nearly died before the 2004 season. This year, as Sunday's season-opening Toyota Indy 300 approaches, it's George's own IRL that is in line to be a potential casualty. Declining television ratings, vast expanses of empty seats at races and fewer participants don't bode well as the IRL enters its 10th season.

Originally, George's vision was to create a racing series that would run exclusively on oval tracks in the United States and would provide opportunities for American drivers, all while containing costs.  Since the IRL's 1996 debut, George's original concept has steadily crumbled.  More at Monterey Herald

Gregg wins IPS pole Gregg wins IPS poleQualifying Saturday for the Homestead-Miami 100 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series event on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine and speed: 

1. (7) Travis Gregg, Dallara-Infiniti, 189.256
2. (1) Jaime Camara, Dallara-Infiniti, 187.913
3. (21) Nick Bussell, Dallara-Infiniti, 187.088
4. (42) Mishael Abbott, Dallara-Infiniti, 185.916
5. (6) Jon Herb, Dallara-Infiniti, 185.821
6. (4) Marty Roth, Dallara-Infiniti, 185.426
7. (33) Wade Cunningham, Dallara-Infiniti, 185.337
8. (3) Al Unser, Dallara-Infiniti, 185.333
9. (19) Chris Festa, Dallara-Infiniti, 184.849
10. (36) P.J. Chesson, Dallara-Infiniti, 184.354
11. (20) Jay Drake, Dallara-Infiniti, 184.144
12. (24) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Infiniti, 183.718

NASCAR just misses Tornados NASCAR just misses TornadosNASCAR not only dominates TV, sucks up all sponsorship, etc, etc, but is also just plain lucky!!!! In the middle of what will turn out to be LA's 2nd (if not 1st) wettest year in history, last weekend NASCAR got just enough sunshine at just the right time to run at Fontana. But their luck was compounded yesterday - tornados - unheard of in SoCal - dropped down a mile or so away from the Speedway!
BAR will sacrifice for win BAR will sacrifice for win(GMMF1.NET) BAR would trade a spot on the constructors' tally for a maiden win, team CEO Nick Fry revealed. ''We will make the trade off,'' he vowed in Melbourne. ''We've improved a lot since 2002 but we didn't win a race and were a country mile behind Ferrari. ''We shouldn't pat ourselves on the back too much.''
'Alonso won't leave' - Flav 'Alonso won't leave' - Flav(GMMF1.NET) Fernando Alonso is unlikely to leave Renault at the end of 2005, according to the Spaniard's F1 boss Flavio Briatore. The colourful Italian acknowledged that Alonso's current contract is nearing an end, and admitted speculation linking the 23-year-old to Ferrari. But he told La Gazzetta dello Sport: ''While Schumacher is there, he won't go -- Schumacher doesn't want him as teammate.'' And Briatore added: ''After Ferrari, the second best team is Renault.''
Final Fontana TV ratings Final Fontana TV ratingsThe final national rating of 7.9, the FOX broadcast of last Sunday's Auto Club 500 from California Speedway is the highest rated non-Daytona 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event since the second race of the 2001 season, according to data released by FOX Sports. It was also the top rated sports television event of the weekend.  In addition, the Los Angeles market rating rose 33 percent to a 4.0 rating for last Sunday's race, from a 3.0 rating for last year's Auto Club 500, which was contested in May, according to FOX Sports information.  The Auto Club 500 on FOX has seen its rating grow from a 5.3 rating in 2003 to a 6.1 rating in 2004. This year's race was the first time the event was held as the second race of the season, coming off the Daytona 500, which garnered a 10.9 television rating on FOX. Last year's final national rating for the second NASCAR event on FOX was 6.6. Busch The Stater Bros. 300, broadcast Feb. 26 on FX, was the highest-rated NASCAR Busch Series event in FX broadcast history and had a 55% increase in households (2,212,000) over the season’s second race last year at Rockingham (1,424,000), also broadcast on FX. In addition, viewers (3,305,000) increased 83% over last year’s second event (1,803,000).
Stoddart 'screwed' Stoddart 'screwed'Paul Stoddart and a Victorian supreme court judge have thrown the future of global motor racing in Australia into doubt, the governing FIA said. With cars deemed illegal by stewards at Albert Park, Stoddart - the Minardi F1 chief, also Victoria-born - headed to the court for an injunction. ''If Australian laws ... allow a Judge to act in this way, it will be for the World Motor Sport Council to decide if a (FIA) event of any kind can ever again be held in Australia,'' read an FIA dossier, thought to have been drafted by president Max Mosley. Stoddart said he's being 'royally screwed' for meddling in the politics of Formula One, and also for acting as 'shop steward for the so-called teams' group of nine. ''(Max Mosley) retired once ... and he needs to do it again,'' he fumed in the Australian media.
Jourdain is a father Jourdain is a fatherFormer Champ Car driver turned NASCAR Busch league driver, Michel Jourdain Jr. is now a father.  His wife, Nora, last weekend gave birth to their first child, a son.
Mexico race will run rain or shine Mexico race will run rain or shineNASCAR's Busch Series race in Mexico City will run rain or shine.  Goodyear has brought rain tires just in case.  The race must go on because NASCAR isn't going to make a 2nd trip to Mexico this year.  The weather forecast for Sunday is: A few showers early, followed by isolated thunderstorms later in the day. High 76F. Winds S at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 30%. .
Tug of War over Mark Smith Tug of War over Mark SmithUPDATE Jordan may launch a legal challenge to recoup Mark Smith, who fled the Silverstone-based team following the announcement that it would be sold.  New managing director Colin Kolles said in Melbourne that the situation is not clear 'at all.'  Late last month, Red Bull - also under new management - announced that Smith, the lauded former Renault designer, had signed on to become deputy technical director.  But Jordan's Kolles said: ''We still have a contract with (Smith).  'That's a fact.''  Red Bull's Christian Horner denied knowing about the potential dispute and said Smith was due to start work at Milton-Keynes 'imminently.' 03/04/05 The Jordan F1 team are disputing Red Bull's signing of technical director Mark Smith, claiming he is still under contract with them.   Smith quit Jordan on 31 January after their takeover by Midland, having only re-joined his old team a month earlier.

But Jordan team boss Colin Kolles said: "The situation with Mark Smith is not clear at all. We still have a contract with him - that is the fact."  But Red Bull's Christian Horner said: "He will be joining us imminently."  The team boss added: "Colin's comments today are the first I have heard of anything to the contrary."

Kolles and Horner are both new faces among the team principals this season after the Midland Group run by Russian-born Canadian businessman Alex Shnaider bought Jordan and Red Bull purchased Jaguar. BBC Sport

Bridgestone on the lookout Bridgestone on the lookout(GMMF1.NET) Bridgestone, although a key Ferrari collaborator, is on the lookout for another F1 partner, Hiroshi Yasukawa said at Albert Park. The Japanese tire supplier's motor sport manager hinted that, with the new loss of Sauber and Michelin now supplying seven teams, one option is to look up and down pitlane. ''But our company always respects contracts,'' he cautioned. Yasukawa hinted that the main disadvantage, despite Ferrari's mammoth testing program, is a lack of mileage compared to their French rival.
No rain for ninth Oz GP No rain for ninth Oz GPJarno Trulli and his nineteen F1 rivals rested easy on Saturday night -- it won't rain for Sunday's final qualifying or Australian grand prix.  A weather source in Melbourne predicted a drop or two in the evening, but an overcast sky and eighteen degrees - and no anticipated rain - awaiting the ninth running of the event. ''Well, I really hope tomorrow is just stable,'' said Toyota's Jarno Trulli, a lucky second place on the rain-fuelled provisional grid.  ''It doesn't matter if it's wet or dry -- we just want it to be stable.''
Stewart fearful of Mexico Stewart fearful of MexicoAbout a half-dozen Cup regulars have entered the Mexican race - it's a rare off week for the Nextel series - but Tony Stewart won't be among them. He's wary of traveling to a still-developing nation.   "Anywhere you go where they've got to get the Federales or the police or whatever they are to escort your rigs to the track, that's not somewhere where I want to race," Stewart said.
Australian statements in full Australian statements in fullThe FIA has threatened to pull future Grand Prix events out of Australia after legal intervention in the Minardi team saga. Minardi's attempts to participate in this week's Australian GP without modifying their cars to new team regulations have dominated the headlines and led to team principal Paul Stoddart seeking a court injunction to overturn a stewards' ruling.

What follows is the full four paragraph statement released by the FIA on Saturday in which they explain their stance on recent legal decisions in Australia as well as the response from Confederation of Australian Motor Sport.

Federation Internationale de l’Automobile
'Yesterday, a Judge in Melbourne issued an injunction ordering that two cars be allowed to run in Saturday’s practice sessions notwithstanding that they did not comply with the regulations for the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship. The team concerned subsequently announced that it had withdrawn the proceedings and presented cars which complied.

The Stewards of the Australian Grand Prix and the FIA were given no notice of these proceedings and were given no opportunity to be present when the Judge heard the case. A hearing which the FIA could attend was scheduled for 1415 hrs after the sessions had taken place.

Apparently the Judge thought it right to interfere with the running of a major sporting event, overrule the duly appointed international officials and compel the governing body to allow cars to participate in breach of the international regulations, all this without first hearing both sides of the case.

If Australian laws and procedures do indeed allow a Judge to act in this way, it will be for the World Motor Sport Council to decide if a World Championship motor sport event of any kind can ever again be held in Australia.'

Confederation of Australian Motor Sport
'The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) acknowledges today’s press release issued by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and shares the concerns expressed in regard to the way a competitor sought to involve the Supreme Court of Victoria in issuing an ex parte injunction without notice to the FIA and CAMS.

CAMS needs to ascertain the details presented to the judge. The motor sport judicial process adequately provides for the determination of sporting matters and the Victorian Supreme Court has confirmed on multiple occasions that all sporting judicial processes should be exhausted prior to seeking legal avenues.

The President of CAMS, Mr Colin Osborne confirmed that the issue would be discussed by the FIA World Motor Sport Council on 30 March 2005.'  Source FIA/CAMS

Aussies take speeding seriously Aussies take speeding seriouslyF1 and Champ Car fans and team members take note, don't speed in Australia when visiting for your race.

A reader writes, I note there was some humorous reporting on speeding in the F1 parade in Melbourne.  They do take speeding seriously there and as a result it is a pleasure to drive in  AU and NZ.  The attached photo was taken last February as we headed north from Sydney (we drove up the coast to the Barrier Reef).  The temperature that day was 104 def F.  100 km is 62 mph of course.  30 km over the limit is just under 19 mph over the limit.  Note the fine of $565.  We had experiences driving several hundred kilometres at the speed limit with no one passing us.  In North America that would simply never happen.   I gather that in most States of AU if you exceed 30 kph over the limit they can take your license away on the spot. Don Leslie, FL.

Narain to foot the bill Narain to foot the bill(GMMF1.NET)  Lead-foot rookie Narain Karthikeyan will foot a whopping $6700 fine because he forgot to engage the pitlane speed limiter at Albert Park.  Within a second or two of his competitive grand prix career, the first ever Indian in F1 floored the Jordan and broke the FIA-imposed limit -- by 27km/h.  ''I do need to calm down a bit,'' he admitted.  Team principal Trevor Carlin said Jordan would only ever pick up a drivers' tab in the event of an equipment failure.  He smiled: ''He won't do that again!''
Bernie tells Stoddart to sell team Bernie tells Stoddart to sell team(GMMF1.NET)  'Nuisance' Paul Stoddart should sell Minardi and stay away from F1.  That's the wounding claim of grand prix impresario Bernie Ecclestone, at the end of an embarrassing political chronicle at the Australian grand prix.  Bernie, 74, is historically supportive of Paul's cash-strapped team, based in Italy.  But he told UK's The Sun: ''If you can't sustain running a team then you should get out.  That's ... what Eddie Jordan did and that's what Paul should be doing.''
Minardi farce at an end Minardi farce at an end[Editor's Note: This was yet another of F1's infamous political wranglings that grabbed headlines by the F1 frenzied media and ultimately amounted to nothing more than a ploy to keep F1 in the headlines worldwide.  Amazing how Stoddart said he could not afford to make their car legal and would run them in 2004 trim, yet when push came to shove his mechanics made the changes necessary in a matter of hours and the Minardi cars passed inspection.  Why could this have not been done in the off-season?  The F1 media is so intent on sensationalizing every F1 story they can't see that they were once again had.]  (GMMF1.net)  Nearing the end of a bitter and twisting saga in Melbourne, Paul Stoddart's Minardi Formula One team is back on track.  A team statement effectively said the Australian succumbed to every political and legal stumbling block and ordered untried adaptations to be made to last year's PS04B car.  ''We don't feel there is anything more to prove,'' Paul told the media.

Dutch rookie Christijan Albers said the hobbled-together 2005 aero package actually 'felt okay.  ''We can certainly work with it,'' he added.

Stoddart, who earlier obtained an injunction at the Supreme Court against the stewards' decision to disallow the non-compliant F1 model, is said to have backed down following a threat from the FIA. ''Threats were made to the Australian grand prix,'' Stoddart - angrily pointing the finger at Max Mosley - admitted.  ''I am not going to be accused of interfering in the long-term future of motorsport.''

Despite  the protestation that only Ferrari opposed Minardi's political plight, hardly a sympathetic face saluted team owner Paul Stoddart at Albert Park.

Red Bull's Christian Horner expressed delight that the stewards threw out Stoddart's requested exemption from the 2005 regulations.  ''The FIA is the referee,'' he said, ''and the rules are the rules.''

Nick Fry, CEO of BAR-Honda, called the stewards' decision - challenged by Stoddart in the Supreme Court but ultimately dropped, despite victory - 'brave.  ''Good on them,'' he added.

Colin Kolles denied that Jordan's new owner ever agreed to let Minardi run an illegal aero spec in Australia.  ''We managed to bring the cars to the 2005 regulations,'' he said, referring to Jordan's pre-season woe, ''so I think it should be possible for Minardi.'

Another record attendance in Oz Another record attendance in OzUPDATE A strong Saturday crowd of 91,700 people turned out at Albert Park despite one of the more changeable performances from Melbourne's notoriously fickle weather.  The three-day attendance passed the quarter-million mark with another large turnout expected on Sunday. 03/04/05 On top of Thursday's resounding success with People's Day, Friday produced another record attendance as crowds flocked to Albert Park for the start of the F1 action.  The final figure of 82,300 was 800 more than the previous best, set last year.  "Record attendances for the first two days show how much fans are enjoying our 10th Grand Prix," said Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker.  "They also mean we have a fantastic weekend in store, especially since it looks as though McLaren has closed the gap on Ferrari."
Fernandez fastest in 2nd practice Fernandez fastest in 2nd practiceFriday in Mexico was a crash fest for the NASCAR Busch Series as car after car crashed on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track made famous by Formula One and Champ Car. In the end, as always happens in NASCAR, the right man came up fastest on the NASCAR timing system, local hero Adrian Fernandez.  The latest to crash was Carl Edwards. Story....
Both Minardi cars on track at last Both Minardi cars on track at lastBoth Minardi drivers participated in Saturday practice for the Australian Grand Prix, running their cars with 2005-spec aero packages, fully complying with the revised regulations.
Team boss Paul Stoddart had wanted to use Minardi’s 2004 car this weekend, but after much controversy over the plan, including a trip to Victoria’s Supreme Court, he finally decided to comply with the stewards and modify the team’s machines, rather than pursue legal action.

Austrian Patrick Friesacher was the first car out onto the Albert Park circuit as Saturday’s opening practice began in wet conditions. He completed 11 laps and Dutch team mate Christijan Albers 10, as they acclimatized themselves to their revised Minardi machines.

So far NASCAR a flop in Mexico So far NASCAR a flop in MexicoHopefully for NASCAR's sake the rest of the weekend goes better.  On Friday the grandstands were largely empty as the Mexicans found better things to do with their time, like work.


Travis Gregg fastest in IPS Travis Gregg fastest in IPSIn preparations for the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series Homestead-Miami 100, Travis Gregg led a Sam Schmidt Motorsports sweep of the top-three spots.

Gregg posted a lap of 28.4137 seconds, 188.149 mph in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Products/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. His teammates, rookies Jaime Camara and Chris Festa were second and third, respectively.

Pos. Car Name C/E/T Speed
1. 7 Travis Gregg D/I/F 188.149 mph
2. 1 Jaime Camara D/I/F 187.418 mph
3. 19 Chris Festa D/I/F 186.780 mph
4. 21 Nick Bussell D/I/F 186.471 mph
5. 4 Marty Roth D/I/F 186.348 mph

TRAVIS GREGG (No. 7 Lucas Oil Products/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We weren't trying to get the fastest speeds out there today. What we wanted to do was get a good setup. We didn't work too much on qualifying. It just turned out that we were the quickest." (About leading a Sam Schmidt Motorsports sweep of the top-three spots): "This is a championship-winning team. They do a great job with setups and it shows. I expect us to be in the top-three, so today isn't a coincidence to me."

CHRIS FESTA (No. 19 SpacePak/CareCentric/SSM Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We ended up third overall. We just wanted to work on our race setup during the first session and see how the car worked in dirty air. Unfortunately, we didn't get much of a chance to run in dirty air. My teammates did get to run in the dirty air, so we can take the information from them. The last session was more of a qualifying run. We thought we learned a lot about our car today, so things look good for qualifying tomorrow."

JAIME CAMARA (No.1 CELG/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "The day was good for us, but we were trying different setups for the race. They were all very good, but I think our concern is qualifying. It's a different setup, and I think we have to do a good job to start up front. I think the race will be very difficult to pass. Everybody knows the track really well. I ran with (Marty) Roth for like 20 laps, and it was very difficult to pass."

Rice leads Friday practice times Rice leads Friday practice times2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice picked up where he left off from his last visit to Homestead-Miami Speedway. Rice, who was fastest during the IRL IndyCar® Series' only day of Open Testing on the 1.5-mile oval in January, turned the fastest lap on the opening day of practice for the Toyota Indy 300.

Rice recorded a lap of 25.0382 seconds, 213.514 mph, in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone. Bryan Herta was second-fastest with a lap of 25.0812 seconds, 213.148 mph, in the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Tomas Scheckter was third-fastest with a lap of 25.0957 seconds, 213.025 mph in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Pos. Car Name C/E/T Speed
1. 15 Buddy Rice P/H/F 213.514 mph
2. 7 Bryan Herta D/H/F 213.148 mph
3. 4 Tomas Scheckter D/C/F 213.025 mph
4. 17 Vitor Meira P/H/F 212.532 mph
5. 26 Dan Wheldon D/H/F 212.465 mph


BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "The car is good but we have some things still to work on. With the new undertray (of the car) and a few others added bits, we are still learning about the 2005 car. But that is true for everyone here. It feels good to be fast again here. We were good in the test, too. The weather is different and the wind is more of a factor than we had at the test. It is a big difference coming to Homestead this year as opposed to last year. Last year, I was new to the team and we surprised ourselves by winning the pole. Now we come here with a solid team, engine and race car. We have more confidence this year. We made some mistakes last year that took us out of the championship. I think we know more now, and I feel good about this team. The thought process is different this year and we are much more familiar with each other. That makes adjustments and changes a lot easier. The fastest lap was a draft lap as were most of the top laps today."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "To have the quickest time of the session doesn't do a lot for you, but it's a great feeling to start the first session of the first race of the year as the quickest. The XM Satellite Radio crew is still trying to get settled in and work with our setup. We're fairly happy with where we are. At this time last year, the XM Satellite Radio crew was thrashing to get all of our pit equipment built. This year, we had a whole winter to prepare, and I was really expecting for us to come out of the box stronger this season. So hopefully, this is a good indication that we have."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We got quite a bit done given we didn't get a full practice in due to the rain. We focused on race setup and the Marlboro Team Penske car handled well in traffic. Tomorrow morning, we'll work on our qualifying setup. It doesn't matter where we start because you can move through traffic here and my crew is great on pit stops which can help us gain track position. I'm really looking forward to Sunday and the first race of the season."

DANICA PATRICK (No.16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent /Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Even though this was my first day in the IRL IndyCar Series, today seemed like any other day in a race car. I am just trying to go faster than everybody else. It doesn't matter if it is local people or the best in the world, as a driver you are always just trying to find a way to go faster. I didn't think the Argent/Pioneer car seemed right this afternoon. Maybe it was a setup issue, but the car was much better in the early session. We just have to figure out what went wrong this afternoon. This is where having a three-car team is an advantage for us. Obviously Buddy (Rice) and Vitor (Meira) were quick today, so we have a solid knowledge base to look at our car and make some decisions. I just wasn't able to hold the car flat and now we have to go back and figure out why."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a good day today, and the Marlboro Team Penske car is looking strong. Tomorrow, we'll work on our qualifying set-up and I think we should be in good shape. I can't wait until Sunday - I know it's going to be an exciting show for the fans."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "It was OK, but the Target car was just not as comfortable as we would have liked it. The Target crew did a really good job making changes with such little time between the practice sessions with the schedule getting changed but we didn't quite get all the things we wanted to try done today. It definitely is good to be back on track and to get the season started and I think we got things off on the right foot today."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Everything is just starting right now, but the Menards/Johns Manville Honda felt really good. The conditions were a lot different than for the test last month. The air was heavier. It doesn't matter what the conditions are for us. This team is good, and they can adjust to everything. We still have some work to do but probably not as much as some of the other teams right now. We did our homework for this race. There is a long way to go until Sunday afternoon and the race, but I'm pleased with the progress with our team. Running the three cars helps us gain information. Honda is still the engine to have, and we feel good working with them. The track was much different today with the rain and the other rubber from the sports cars, but having our homework already and knowing the different conditions is the key. This team is so good at making the right adjustments."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No 4. Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "Our time today just proves the hard work Chevy put into this program during the off-season. We hardly even touched the car this afternoon. Everybody wants to see how their car runs in dirty air, and I think it's going to be a lot tighter on Sunday than it was here last year. I can't wait for the race. I want to put that Pennzoil car back in victory lane."

An interview with Flavio Briatore An interview with Flavio Briatore
Q: Flavio, the Formula One season begins this weekend after a turbulent winter. What is your perspective on the current situation?

Flavio Briatore: I think we need to start talking about F1 as a sport again. Recently the discussion has been only about finance and bureaucracy. But I don't think the public is interested in how much we spend, or whether we sign the Concorde Agreement: they want to be entertained.

At the moment, we are not doing anything to make our customers happy. The money in our sport comes from providing people entertainment, providing racing. And I think people are finally starting to understand that entertaining our customers is what matters.

Q: Providing a better show has been a constant preoccupation of yours...

FB: I think the demands from our audience are very simple: people want one thing, and that is to see a good race. Our basic job is to make a car, organize races and then produce a championship where the drivers can overtake, fight each other and compete for the title until the last races -- and it doesn’t matter that those drivers are from the same team if they are allowed to fight each other. Recently, Ferrari haven't let their drivers do that.

Q: Isn't the problem simply that Ferrari have been too strong in recent years?

FB: I don't think so, no. Ferrari were not so strong in 2003 -- the championship was lost by Williams and McLaren that year, not won by Ferrari. Last year, Ferrari had a strong overall package: their tires, car, reliability and of course the driver, because Michael (Schumacher) has a big role to play in that. To fight them, we don't need to slow Ferrari down, we need to do a better job. And that begins with me.

Q: What about the format of the race weekend in 2005 -- are you happy with it?

FB: I think so, for this year. But for me, it is not ideal: I think it would make sense to test on Friday, qualify on Saturday then race on Sunday. At the moment, we test outside of the races, spend a lot of money going round empty circuits and entertain nobody. We need to generate audiences and revenues from our testing, because the current situation doesn't make sense.

Q: You must be proud of what you have helped to create with Renault since 2000?

FB: I am, and I want to finish the job. Formula One still motivates me: I have been working in this business for sixteen years now, and it is hard to find the kind of job where you have different challenges every day after that long. When I came back to this team in Brazil, 2000 it wasn't like a racing team -- the morale and organization were bad. So we started building and improving. 2001 started off like a disaster, but we made a lot of progress. And it has carried on since then.

Last year, we finished third in the championship, and the team has also brought up a young driver in Fernando. He now has a very experienced, hungry team-mate in Giancarlo. 2005 will be an important year for this team, and the last two years were preparation for this. We need to carry on improving, and I want to finish the job we started -- which means winning a championship. Let's wait and see the results we have this year.

Q: Ultimately, a successful season for Formula One will come down to providing good racing and challenging Ferrari. Can you do that?

FB: I think so. We all know that you need to put Ferrari and Michael under pressure. Every driver can be quick in a perfect situation but in the past, people like Hill, Hakkinen or Villeneuve were able to put pressure on Michael, and he started making mistakes. For the good of the sport, it is time we managed to do that. I hope Renault can be one of the teams, but it should not be only us: McLaren, Williams, BAR and Toyota need to start delivering as well.

McLaren gets diamond sponsor McLaren gets diamond sponsorSteinmetz, creators of the world's finest diamonds, and West McLaren Mercedes are delighted to announce the start of a glittering Formula One Partnership.  The diamond group joins the team as an Associate Partner from this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

"Formula One is a test not only of mental and physical strength, but more importantly of excellence in design and engineering – values that Steinmetz is proud to share with West McLaren Mercedes. Steinmetz is synonymous with rarity, beauty and luxury, just like the team's cars, and we are pleased to be joining the illustrious ranks of a winning Formula One team," said Nir Livnat, CEO of Steinmetz.

Ron Dennis, Chairman and CEO of the McLaren Group commented: "We strive for perfection and flawless performance in all that we do at West McLaren Mercedes and are very proud of our Partnership with the Steinmetz Diamond Group. Precision engineering and uniqueness are at the core of Steinmetz's success, and these strongly reflect our integral values."

"Today's announcement marks the third new Partner to join West McLaren Mercedes for the 2005 season," Dennis continued. "This illustrates the continued global magnetism of the sport of Formula One and the team." McLaren

RE/MAX renews with Jordan RE/MAX renews with JordanJordan Grand Prix has renewed its sponsorship agreement with RE/MAX Europe, part of the RE/MAX International real estate network which lists and sells more real estate than any other network world-wide. RE/MAX Europe first sponsored Jordan in 2003 and the deal sees the relationship extended for a third year.

The RE/MAX brand will be displayed on the Jordan Toyota EJ15 cars throughout the Formula One World Championship, as an integral part of the company’s successful pan European brand marketing & advancement, which also includes the FIS Ski World Cup, the RE/MAX Long Drive Golf Tour and advertisements with Soccer in the UEFA Cup.

Colin Kolles, Jordan MD  "We are really pleased to be working with RE/MAX again and their continued commitment to the team demonstrates the unique value that an association with Formula One brings as a business and marketing tool. The partnership has worked well for Jordan and RE/MAX in the past two years and I hope that we can improve our mutual results even further in 2005."

William Soteroff, RE/MAX Europe MD  "Formula One is the premier venue for brand marketing and advancement. We believe that RE/MAX Europe and Jordan Grand Prix will make our 1,100 Broker Owners and 6,500 Sales Associates and thousands of customers across Europe proud. Our continued affiliation will help to insure that RE/MAX Europe will keep pace with our growing business and ever expanding customer base, utilizing the excitement of Formula One." Jordan

Heavy rain hits Melbourne on Saturday Heavy rain hits Melbourne on SaturdayHeavy rain effectively washed out the third practice session of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.  Michael Schumacher in the Bridgestone-shod Ferrari, topped the timesheets ahead of teammate Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen.  This year there is two 45-minute sessions separated by a 30 minute break and then later the first of two qualifying sessions. The second qualifying session takes place Sunday morning with the ‘aggregate’ time counting for the grid positions.
McMurray wrecks primary car in Mexico McMurray wrecks primary car in MexicoJamie McMurray's weekend nearly ended before it began. But thanks to a generous teammate, McMurray will race in Sunday's historic Telcel Motorola 200 Busch Series race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.  McMurray, one of six full-time Nextel Cup drivers who are racing in Mexico this weekend, crashed his No. 42 Dodge early in the first practice session at the 2.52-mile road course.  McMurray was approaching a 180-degree right-hand turn when he lost control and hit the barrier.  "I had followed a car through the esses and really wasn't driving in that deep," McMurray said. "I just drove up in there, and the car was tight and just snapped loose on me. The walls have like murals in them, and the car didn't slid. It just sucked it in, and I couldn't get off the wall."  McMurray was able to joke about the murals, saying, "It's awful Catholic as you pass by."

Many drivers went off course during the session, and a few cars suffered minor damage. Jason Keller and Randy LaJoie were among those who had what appeared to be sheet-metal damage. (Right - Many driver crashes on the tough Mexico City road course. CIA Stock Photo)

One driver who didn't have many problems was Busch Series rookie Carl Edwards, who ended up the fastest in the session at 102.567 mph. Edwards, the first driver on the track Friday morning, edged road-race veteran Boris Said, who went 102.344 mph.

"The car's great," Edwards said. "Road racing is different. It's more about the driver and the line you take and the braking points than it is the car setup. When we go to an oval like California, if a car is just a little bit off, you're slow. Here, it seems like if you're car is a little bit off, you can make up for it."

But Edwards is still getting used to driving a road course.   "I'm not used to having to slow down so much," Edwards said. "It's really easy for me to apply the brakes softly, like you would on an oval, and then let off too early and overcook the corner.  On these ovals we go to, you go, go, go. When you apply the throttle, you're going toward the floor. Here, there are so many sections where you just baby the throttle, and it's steady-state, constant-speed cornering. That's a lot different than what I'm used to."

Mexico City native Adrian Fernandez (right), an open-wheel star in his home country, was third-quickest at 102.283 mph. Fernandez, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, is attempting to make his first NASCAR race.

Sorenson was fourth-fastest at 101.878 mph, followed by another Mexico City native, Michel Jourdain Jr., at 101.654.

Ron Fellows was sixth, followed by Jorge Goeters, Robby Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Carlos Contreras. NASCAR

Law wins Grand-Am pole in Homestead Law wins Grand-Am pole in HomesteadUPDATE #3 With Meurmans making it clear that Robert Doornbos will stay in F1 (Doornbos is said to have $5m and $10m - available from Muermans) it now becomes quite possible that he could replace Scott Speed at Toro Rosso opening the door for Red Bull to move Scott Speed to Champ Car which certainly could use another American driver.  This all made sense to us when we first surfaced this rumor way back on October 23rd and it still makes sense to us today.

12/11/06 This rumor is upgraded back to 'speculation' per this SPEEDTV article which says that Scott Speed's F1 ride could be in jeopardy, especially with Sebastien Bourdais testing for the team this week. "At the end of the day we’ll chose the one who will be the quickest in our car. I would like to give him [Bourdais] a chance," said Berger. "I think he’s a guy doing an extremely good job in the States, and I would like to see where he is. He did quite well in Europe, and he’s doing very well in the States, and I’d like to see where his potential is."

10/26/06 Based on this related rumor, this rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.

10/23/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If Robert Doornbos is indeed going to take Scott Speed's ride in F1, why doesn't Champ Car jump in and see if they can get Speed to drive in Champ Car. It would benefit the series with another American driver to replace NASCAR bound Allmendinger. Rod, Orlando, FL.

Dear Rod, If the rumor is true about Speed, then yes, it would make sense for him to move to Champ Car. Having another American driver in Champ Car would indeed be a plus for the American-based series, but it will be a loss to the series if they lose the sponsorship backing Doornbos had and the potential of a new team that it brought. Scott Speed is also a Red Bull driver, as is Allmendinger, it's quite possible that Red Bull will move Allmendinger to NASCAR and SPEED to Champ Car. Mark C.
Marlboro to sponsor pole awared Marlboro to sponsor pole awaredPhilip Morris USA has announced that the Marlboro Pole Award will make its debut at the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As part of the brand's sponsorship commitment in the 2005 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series, the program will award the winning pole sitter $10,000 at each race, with the exception of the Indianapolis 500, on the 2005 IndyCar Series circuit.

The $160,000 program continues the successful IRL pole award, which started in 1997. The driver who wins the pole will be presented with their award during a post-qualifying ceremony at each event. Philip Morris USA will continue its Lap Leader Award program at the Indianapolis 500 where it will present $50,000 to the driver who leads the most laps at the annual May Classic.

"We're very pleased to announce Philip Morris USA's participation in the IRL pole award program for the 2005 IRL season," said Denise Ferry, Director, Marlboro Racing. "As part of our sponsorship in the IRL series we're glad that the opportunity was available to take ownership of this season-long program. As part of our partnership with the IRL, one of our goals is to participate in a program that recognizes outstanding achievement on a race-by-race basis and we feel this program meets with our objectives."

"We are pleased that Philip Morris USA has decided to participate in the pole award this season," said Ken Ungar, Senior Vice President, Business Affairs, Indy Racing League. "It is an award coveted by teams, as it recognizes and rewards those who push the competition to the highest level, both for each race, as well as for the Championship."

In addition, journalists will have the opportunity to participate in the Marlboro Pole Award program by entering an on-site contest to predict who will qualify on the pole in a given race. Ballots will be available in the press room starting with the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and continuing at each event (with the exception of the events in Japan and Indianapolis). The journalist, who correctly predicts the pole winner and is closest to the winning pole speed, will be awarded a MOMO Design watch. The presentation will take place in the press room after the official starting grid has been distributed.

Bryan Sellers gets GT pole in first ever start Bryan Sellers gets GT pole in first ever startChamp Car Toyota Atlantic driver Bryan Sellers will start his first-ever Rolex Sports Car Series race from the class pole position on the strength of a best lap at 1:21.283 (101.866 mph) in the No. 61 TRG East Porsche GT3 Cup that he will share fellow Rolex Series rookie Ryan Dalziel.

“It feels great,” Sellers said. “I’m really pleased with the way things have gone. It’s a great team. I’m really pleased with all the people here. It’s a great group of guys. I think we have some tuning to do on the car to make it a bit better yet, but it’s obviously still very good. I think we have a good driver lineup and a good team to go and challenge for the race tomorrow. The question that I have right now is what the race pace is going to be like. Obviously, it’s not going to be a qualifying pace anywhere near what we ran, because that would be pretty hard to do. That is my concern. How fast are you going to have to run in the race to stay in front of the guys? Pit stops and whatnot are obviously interesting, too, because Ryan and myself have never done them.”

Starting second on the GT class grid is Andrew Davis in the No. 73 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 Cup after a best lap of 1:21.451 (101.656 mph). Starting at the front of a class field is nothing new to Davis, who qualified third in the Daytona Prototype class at Barber Motorsports Park last year. Nevertheless, he was clearly pleased with his qualifying performance today.

“I’m really happy to be on the front row,” Davis said. “I ran with (co-driver) Jim (Tafel) and (team manager) Tony (Dowe) at Daytona. It’s great to be back with them again. It’s a great opportunity for me. The worst thing about it was I came in a couple of laps early. We thought we were in a pretty good spot there so I went ahead and came in. I wish now I would have stayed out there, because I had a couple more tenths at least in the car. It would have been nice to be on the pole, but front row, to get up there with this Tafel Racing Porsche with Mesco as one of our great sponsors, it’s awesome. It’s really great for our team.”

David Murry originally qualified the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup third, but will start from the rear of the grid owing to a technical infraction. As a result, 16-year-old Colin Braun will start third in the GT class following a best lap of 1:21.611 (101.457 mph) in the No. 64 Auto Gallery/TRG Porsche GT3 Cup. BMW Team PTG fills out the top five in GT, as Justin Marks put the No. 16 BMW M3 fourth on the grid at 1:21.864 (101.143 mph) and Joey Hand is fifth in the No. 21 M3 at 1:21.985 (100.994 mph).

Homestead Friday AM practice times Homestead Friday AM practice timesPractice times from Homestead Friday morning
Pos  Car  Driver  Chassis-Engine  Time  Gap  To 1st  Speed 
1.  7  Bryan Herta  Dallara-Honda  25.081      213.148 
2.  15  Buddy Rice  Panoz-Honda  25.115  0.034  0.034  212.861 
3.  26  Dan Wheldon  Dallara-Honda  25.162  0.047  0.081  212.465 
4.  17  Vitor Meira  Panoz-Honda  25.171  0.009  0.090  212.388 
5.  4  Tomas Scheckter  Dallara-Chevrolet  25.207  0.036  0.126  212.081 
6.  27  Dario Franchitti  Dallara-Honda  25.224  0.017  0.143  211.938 
7.  6  Sam Hornish Jr.  Dallara-Toyota  25.294  0.070  0.213  211.357 
8.  11  Tony Kanaan  Dallara-Honda  25.295  0.001  0.214  211.343 
9.  55  Kosuke Matsuura  Panoz-Honda  25.308  0.013  0.227  211.239 
10.  24  Roger Yasukawa  Dallara-Honda  25.309  0.001  0.228  211.232 
11.  2  Tomas Enge  Dallara-Chevrolet  25.320  0.011  0.239  211.136 
12.  3  Helio Castroneves  Dallara-Toyota  25.330  0.010  0.249  211.052 
13.  8  Scott Sharp  Panoz-Honda  25.331  0.001  0.250  211.042 
14.  16  Danica Patrick  Panoz-Honda  25.413  0.082  0.332  210.369 
15.  9  Scott Dixon  Panoz-Toyota  25.500  0.087  0.419  209.644 
16.  33  Ryan Briscoe  Panoz-Toyota  25.527  0.027  0.446  209.421 
17.  10  Darren Manning  Panoz-Toyota  25.618  0.091  0.537  208.685 
18.  83  Patrick Carpentier  Dallara-Toyota  25.643  0.025  0.562  208.476 
19.  51  Alex Barron  Dallara-Toyota  25.659  0.016  0.578  208.348 
20.  14  A.J. Foyt IV  Dallara-Toyota  25.759  0.100  0.678  207.543 
21.  91  Paul Dana  Dallara-Toyota  26.194  0.435  1.113  204.090 
22.  20  Ed Carpenter  Dallara-Toyota  26.375  0.181  1.294  202
Formula BMW
Rising star Lacroix eyes Champ Car Rising star Lacroix eyes Champ Car[Editor's Note: Among the drivers from Canada that vie for a ride in the major leagues, following the footsteps of Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani and to some extent Greg Moore are in order: Andrew Ranger, Michael Valiante, Bruno Spengler and Kevin Lacroix, with Antoine Bessette as a long shot. Andrew claims he has a chance for Champ Car and so does Michael. Maybe, before the elevator doors close will there be a hand grabbing one of those two by the Nomex and taking him on board for the 2005 season. Spengler is driving in the DTM championship this year as a member of the Mercedes junior team. Bessette has tested Formula Atlantic and Formula Renault V6. He’s 22 but very talented. His decision lies between a series with a solid past and no bright future and another with a not so bright past but a foreseeable interesting future! The next one has to be Kevin Lacroix who was a proven kart driver, always racing with older guys. He is turning 16 in a few weeks and is already a BMW scholar. He was named Shifter Kart Magazine Rising Star for 2005 and we hear Champ Car is his ultimate goal.]

St-Eustache, March 4th . – Kevin Lacroix earned another title this week when he was named the 2005 Motorsport Rising Star among drivers coming out of karting by Shifter Kart magazine. For the St-Eustache, Quebec native, this is the last homage karting could pay him after a winning career spanning over eight year. Comparing this to hockey, it’s as if Kevin was named first round pick among all juniors aspiring to professional level. This nomination corresponds with the announcement of the team with which Kevin will enter the Formula BMW championship in 2005 and the Benefit gala he will star in next March 30.

“This nomination by Shifter Kart Magazine really thrills me, admits Kevin. People vote for this from everywhere in America. It puts a happy ending on my kart career and gives me an extra boost as I start my first open wheel season.”

AIM Motorsport to host Kevin After the training camp in Spain, Kevin received a BMW scholar. From there, the team made some testing and has since opted for Toronto-based AIM Motorsport “We were down to two teams, says Sylvain Lacroix, and AIM was in our opinion the best team for Kevin. They have a strong reputation for giving good cars to their drivers, whatever the series. The BMW FB2 will be prepared in our own shop in St-Eustache but we will work with Ian and Keith Wyllis at the racetracks. AIM Motorsport was one of the most respected team last year, the first of the Formula BMW in USA : they had their share of podiums and finished second in the general standings.”

A Benefit gala on March 30 An organizing committee is presently setting up a Benefit gala that will be held next March 30 at the Laval Sheraton hotel, north of Montreal. More than 500 guests are expected to attend an evening where Kevin and the new BMW FB2 will be the star attraction. “We think up to 500 people will be there, claims Nicole L’Écuyer, one of the organizers. Evening will start with a cocktail and a five-course meal will be served. Than Kevin will take to the stage to unveil the BMW with the new livery. Evening will end with a performance from Daniel Lavallée, one of Quebec’s outstanding entertainer. Tickets are available now for 150$ at (450) 623 – 8888.

Renewed sponsorship Kevin Lacroix will enter Formula BMW USA series in 2005 with the support of sponsors that have believed in him for many years: Uni-Select network, SKF MotorSports, Raybestos, Tenneco, Pennzoil, Auto Parts Plus and Lacroix Auto Parts. His web site can be visited at www.kevinlacroix.com

Formula BMW
Herrington to drive No. 2 Jensen MotorSport entry Herrington to drive No. 2 Jensen MotorSport entryJensen MotorSport is pleased to announce that Daniel Herrington (18) of Winston-Salem, North Carolina is set to return to pilot the team’s #2 entry in the 2005 Formula BMW USA championship.

Daniel drove a limited schedule with the team in 2004, with a best race result of 10th at the Montreal Grand Prix, and a best qualifying position of 7th at the Cleveland Grand Prix. “With a productive off-season including 11 test days, the team expects Daniel will be challenging for race wins and pole positions throughout the 2005 season”, states team owner Eric Jensen.

The team continues its off-season testing program on the US west coast later this week, in preparation for the first round of the USA championship the weekend of May 1st at the Laguna Seca road course in Monterey, California.

Minardi clear to start qualifying Minardi clear to start qualifyingMinardi will start Saturday's first qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix after securing a temporary injunction against a stewards' ruling.  The stewards had earlier dismissed Minardi's bid to compete with last year's cars that do not conform to new aerodynamics regulations.

"We are in," said Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart.  We will be running all day Saturday and then we'll have to wait and see what happens."

Stoddart said the Victoria Supreme Court had scheduled a second hearing at 1415 local time (0315 GMT) to decide whether or not Minardi should be allowed to race on Sunday.  The F1 minnows had earlier received the unanimous agreement from rival teams to take part in the race with last year's car, but fell foul of the stewards.

Stewards said it was "inappropriate and unacceptable" for Minardi to race with cars which did not meet 2005 technical rules.

"It is our view that it is inappropriate and unacceptable to alter the technical regulations with which all competitors comply in order to suit the individual needs of one competitor," read a statement from the stewards.

Stoddart responded: "We had a very fair hearing from the stewards (but) with a heavy heart they've decided against us.  What I can say is that under no circumstances will we seek to disrupt this event in any shape or form. I compliment the stewards on their fairness."

The stewards' decision meant Minardi did not take part in either of Friday's two practice sessions. BBC Sport

NASCAR drivers not happy with new rules NASCAR drivers not happy with new rulesBeginning with last Sunday's race at California Speedway, the Nextel Cup cars had a new aero package in place that included a shortened rear spoiler and softer tires.   NASCAR's intention in taking off an inch on the rear spoilers down to 4 1/2 inches and asking Goodyear to provide tires that wear quickly is to create less of a dependence on downforce while placing more of an emphasis on a driver's ability to race his car, especially through the turns.

The most vocal critics were the drivers with limited talent.  These drivers like 100% throttle racing to mask their limited driving talent. 

"I don't think that makes any sense to take that inch off and say it's going to make it better running side-by-side,' Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "Somebody's got to wake up here, you know what I mean? The lightbulb's got to come on.

"Taking the spoiler off is going to make it more difficult to drive. The softer tires give us more grip, so it (goes fast) and then it falls off. That's OK. That's not a bad idea. But we need some more downforce.'

"It's really hard to pass,' Jamie McMurray said. "When you get up underneath the guy, you get tight and you have to put so much wheel in it that you get loose. Then you don't have anything back there to help you.'

"They took a half-inch away last year and then to take a whole inch was a pretty bold change,' Greg Biffle said. "I don't know about anyone else's car my car was real bad behind other cars. If I'm coming up through there and I could get maybe six car-lengths from McMurray, I stalled out. I couldn't do anything and it was just one car by itself.  It's the same problems that we always have when you're behind another race car.  When we go to Texas or Atlanta, that's when you're going to see something,' he said

Michelin likes challenge of new regulations Michelin likes challenge of new regulationsPierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director said after Friday practice, “We have had two productive sessions and consistent weather conditions enabled us to gather plenty of vital data. Tire wear has been quite significant, as is customary on the opening day here in Melbourne, but the track has evolved in the manner we anticipated."

“Despite the latest regulation changes, which were designed to cut average speeds, lap times are not too far away from those achieved in Melbourne last year. Without these changes, it is clear that speeds would have escalated considerably, so the FIA has done a good job. The 2005 rules have also given us a whole new range of parameters with which to work – and Michelin thrives on such challenges. So far, I am very happy with our progress.”

Court grants Minardi injunction Court grants Minardi injunctionLate Friday Minardi was granted a court injunction to compete in qualifying sessions for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after race officials had ordered them to comply with new regulations.

Minardi team principal Paul Stoddart sought the court injunction after FIA stewards had told his team they had to comply with the 2005 safety regulations to participate in the Australian GP.

The court was adjourned until Saturday when the issue could be discussed further, the presiding judge said.

Stoddart said outside the court he was relieved his cars could get on the track on Saturday.  "Now it's in the hands of the court, I really can't say anymore than that except that Minardi will be participating tomorrow, as usual, at the Grand Prix," Stoddart said. "It's really fantastic to actually get on the track in the wake of all the publicity."

Earlier FIA stewards blocked Minardi's efforts to start their cars over the weekend unless the struggling team complied with new regulations.  AFP

An impressive start from Red Bull Racing An impressive start from Red Bull RacingRed Bull Racing third driver Vitantonio Liuzzi was fastest in the opening free practice session as the 2005 Formula One season began in Melbourne. The Italian ended the day fourth on aggregate after spinning off the track during the afternoon. His team mates David Coulthard and Christian Klien were fifth and tenth in the first session, 12th and 17th in the second.

David Coulthard We are reasonably happy with the progression of what we did today. The use of the tires and car ran without any mechanical problems so now the questions is our tire choice and what the weather will do tomorrow. I am really looking forward to knowing exactly where we stand, in term of performance against the other teams.”

Christian Klien “I didn’t do many laps this morning, when the level of circuit grip was very low. In the afternoon I planned to do three runs to check tire consistency with the two different compounds. The chassis balance felt good, so I was quite confident, but the brakes started to feel a bit soft as temperatures increased. I had a throttle problem on my third run, which forced me to stop early. My lap time reflects as much.”

 Vitantonio Liuzzi "My first hour on the track was quite good because we improved throughout the session. I am trying to do the best job I can for my team mates and was pretty happy with the way things started. The RB1 responded well to changes and everything seemed positive. The morning turned out to be much better then the afternoon, of course. I put a wheel on the grass while overtaking another car – one of our own that had just come out of the pits, I think – and spun because I picked up some dirt on my tires. That ended my day, which was a real shame.” Red Bull Racing

Australian GP - McLaren - Practice Australian GP - McLaren - PracticePedro de la Rosa undertook the majority of the running today for McLaren Mercedes and set a fastest time of 1:25.376s and completed 46 laps. Race drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya finished in second and fifth positions overall after setting fastest times of 1:25.676 and 1:26.227 respectively during today's two Free Practice sessions. Raikkonen completed 15 laps in total whilst Montoya did 18.

Kimi Raikkonen Juan Pablo and I did limited amount of running today. After my first run we decided to change the gear ratios, which meant I only did one run in the first session, but it didn't affect our program. It's good to be back racing again, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend."

Juan Pablo Montoya "The track got faster and faster as more rubber was laid down. I limited my running to conserve the package, and we will rely a lot on Pedro's feedback in the debriefs to help us make the right tire choice. Its great being in Australia with my new team, and I look forward to tomorrow when we will get more of an idea where we are compared to the competition, but so far so good."

Pedro de la Rosa "I focused on evaluating our Michelin tires today. This is the first time we have been able to run at relatively high track temperatures, so we learnt a lot. On one of my laps during a long run in the second session one of the Jordans and me touched and I ended up in the gravel, but there was no damage so I was able to carry on. I really enjoyed driving in front of the enthusiastic Australian spectators and will spend the rest of the weekend helping the engineers." McLaren

Australian GP - BAR Honda - Practice Australian GP - BAR Honda - PracticeB•A•R Honda's season got underway in Melbourne today with the first free practice sessions of this weekend's curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix. After seven intensive weeks and 28,000 kilometres of pre-season testing, the B•A•R Honda 007 finally made its race weekend debut at the Albert Park circuit.

Race drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato were at the wheel of Championship car numbers 3 and 4, whilst third driver Anthony Davidson, frequently the star of Friday Free Practice last season, supported the engineering team's performance analysis from outside of the cockpit as the team's second place success in the 2004 Championship precludes the use of the third car.

As is typically the case with day one on Melbourne's park roads, the morning's limited running was determined by the dirty track conditions. Once the circuit had cleaned up, the team were able to focus on conducting back to back tire comparisons and general set-up work, adapting the 007 to the Albert Park track characteristics.

At the end of this afternoon's second session, the team were encouraged by a generally positive and trouble-free start to the weekend. Jenson Button set the eighth best time while Takuma Sato was 18th.

 Jenson Button "It's great to be back on the racetrack again. It's still difficult to know where we are in respect to the other teams but I think our sessions went to plan and everything seemed to run smoothly. We know which direction we want to go in tomorrow, so generally I'm pleased with the start we've made here today."

Takuma Sato "I had a difficult start today. I didn't have good grip and there was a small issue with the brakes in the first session. I was happier with the balance when this was fixed for the second session. I think that we can continue our improvements tomorrow but there is still a lot of work to do." BAR Honda

Toyota Friday: Ralf happy Toyota Friday: Ralf happy
Ralf Schumacher "Generally, I am quite satisfied with the work we have achieved today. The car did not have any technical problems in either of the two sessions. We did a lot of work in preparation for Sunday's race and we are developing things in a positive direction. I am a little surprised because I think our performance is better than I expected but we still have a lot of work to do overnight to improve the car further. I am looking forward to qualifying already!"

Jarno Trulli "Today, we spent time developing and improving the balance of the car for this track. We also carried out some important tire testing for the race, but we honestly have to wait and see what happens tomorrow. There is a good chance that the weather will take a turn for the worse and, if it rains, we will be faced with completely different track conditions, which will make Saturday a bit of a gamble for everybody. Nevertheless it is nice to be back in Australia racing after the winter period."

Ricardo Zonta "Use of the third car this weekend is very important to assess the Michelin tires for the grand prix, especially with the introduction of the one-race tire regulation. We did two long runs to see the effects of each of the compounds and I think it was a useful day. We now just have to look into the data to see which tire type is best for our TF105 car here in Melbourne. As always, the Albert Park track was dusty and slippery in the first session and kept on improving as more rubber went down. We saw a lot of cars going off in both sessions and that made it difficult to get a clean lap."

Mike Gascoyne - Technical Director Chassis "It is good to get the first day of running under our belt after the many weeks of pre-season testing. We have spent today simply getting used to the new regulations, especially concerning the tires. Ricardo worked on tire evaluation and long runs to compare both Michelin compounds. It is always difficult at Albert Park because the circuit changes so much throughout the weekend, but the data will tell us more ahead of tomorrow's sessions. Ralf and Jarno concentrated on improving the balance of the car as the track evolved and overall, I think we can be reasonably happy."

Ferrari Friday report - not pushing hard yet Ferrari Friday report - not pushing hard yet
Jean Todt: "The first day of the first Grand Prix of the season was different to usual for various reasons. First and foremost, the championship starting today is the longest in the history of Formula 1. Then there is the introduction of new technical and sporting regulations - one engine for two Grands Prix, one set of tires for qualifying and the race, among the most important changes- which have given a different flavor to what we were used to seeing on a Friday last year. There has been an immediate effect as a result of the engine rule, with all the teams doing less laps. These three days are very important because, for the first time since winter testing, we will get a reasonably clear picture of the pecking order between the teams. Unlike our rivals, we decided to come to Australia with an updated version of last year's car, the F2004 M, preferring to take as much time as possible in the design phase of the F2005, which was launched exactly a week ago in Maranello. Tires will play a decisive role and we know we can count on a great partner in Bridgestone, in whom we have total confidence."

Michael Schumacher: "It is always a nice moment to be back on track for the start of a new season. I am quite happy with this first day. We nearly completed our full program although I had a small electrical problem in the morning, which meant I had to pit earlier than expected. It was fixed very quickly, so we did not lose much time. In my view, we have enough information to make our tire choice. It looks as though our pre-season idea of who would be our main opposition was pretty accurate, although I was surprised at the pace of the Red Bull and Sauber cars."

Rubens Barrichello: "I am happy with the situation although it is very difficult to understand everyone's true pace. Tomorrow, we have a qualifying session on low fuel, so it is possible some people were already trying that configuration today. I had a slight problem with the balance of the car, a bit of traffic and I also went off the track. I expect to be looking better tomorrow."

Ross Brawn: "This was the first day of running, getting used to the new format. It seems that everyone was following quite similar programs, with not much running in the morning and a reasonable program in the afternoon. We did more laps on one type of tire than the other, but I think we have enough information to make a judgment for tomorrow. The cars are handling quite well and there have been no major problems. We are quite pleased with the work we have done and the position we are in."

Renault Friday report - working on race setups Renault Friday report - working on race setupsThe Renault F1 Team had a solid first day of practice in Melbourne today. The day’s program centered principally on tire choice for the race on Sunday, and the team will analyze data tonight in order to take the correct decision.

Fernando Alonso recorded the seventh best time with a lap in 1:26.562 seconds while new team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella was tenth fastest on a 1:26.667.

Fernando Alonso “As always on the first day in Melbourne, conditions were very slippery, and the poor grip makes it hard to achieve a good balance on the car. The tire choice is not clear at the moment, and we will have to analyze our data this evening in order to make our decision.”

Giancarlo Fisichella “Positions were not important today, as it was about testing the two tire compounds. We had a good day overall, and did the laps we needed. There is still work to do on the car balance, but I am still very optimistic for the rest of the weekend.”

Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Operations Under the 2005 regulations, every lap in practice is precious, and we therefore had to accomplish as much work as possible in parallel today in order to make the necessary evaluations and tests for our technical programs. The second session provided us with plenty of information, and was free of incident; on this basis, we possess as much information as possible in order to make our choices on tires and engine settings for the rest of the weekend.” Renault

Massa once again easily faster than Villeneuve Massa once again easily faster than VilleneuveSauber Petronas drivers Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve finished sixth and 16th respectively after today's first practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

With the current set of rules, both drivers ran a limited program in order to conserve engines. Felipe Massa recorded a best lap of 1:26.357 while Villeneuve lapped in 1:27.513.

Felipe Massa "I'm happy with the way things went today. The car was quick, consistent and stable, and for our first proper run against everyone else it was good. I did a long run and the performance was reasonably consistent, so everything is working right and it's a good start to the new season."

Jacques Villeneuve "The new rules on engine life mean that you don't get much time for set-up work on the car, but the long run I did seemed okay. The first lap on the tire seems to be the problem, for me at least, and we need to do some more work on that. This morning it also felt as if I had a long brake pedal, but really we just need to do a small adjustment to suit me."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal "It is good finally to stop all the talking and to move into action. It has been a long winter! This first Friday of the season has been positive for us as we have adapted to the new rules governing the tires, aerodynamics and preservation of the engines, and developed our new relationships with Michelin and our new driver, Jacques." Sauber

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Mark not keen on F1 quali
Stoddart 'naïve' - Mosley
DC not 'trendy' enough?
'Monday' F1 testing
Alonso worried about R25
Speeding in Melbourne More to follow.....
Kasemets readies for a his first full season in Atlantics Kasemets readies for a his first full season in AtlanticsTonis Kasemets heads to Memphis Motorsports Park Friday March 19th to “shake the dust off” of his Swift 014, in final preparation for the Atlantic season.  After a very active off-season, Tonis “can’t wait to drive the car !”  He adds:  “The Atlantic Series is an absolutely great place to race.  It’s definitely the best place for me.  Combine the Series strengths with the strong TV package and the prize money:  No other Series can match it !  The prize money alone makes me want to stay in Atlantics.” 

During the off season, Kasemets was afforded many opportunities:  A 2-day Champ Car Test, a Grand Am DP test, enjoying more SCCA action and spending time with Team Newman at the Rolex 24.  Having climbed through Club racing and most Open Wheel feeder series since making the U.S. his home in 1994, Tonis finally sees his chance to show his tenacity to find his greatness. 

Kasemets: “I only ran a partial season last year in Atlantics due to circumstances beyond my control.  Those roadblocks are now behind us.  This season, we are finding a way to run the entire schedule.  I’m taking advantage of the ‘whiners’… those who continue to complain about the lack of solid, concrete plans for their own programs.  As it’s said: ‘Where there is a will there is a way.’  Many thanks to my sponsors over the years who’ve helped me get to this point.  Somehow, we are staying the course. My dream remains intact; nothing is going to pull me away from this.”

2005 is also another first for Kasemets:  Team Tonis enters the Toyota Atlantic Championships as an independent, one-car team.  Many who have worked with Tonis throughout his rise in North America remain part of Team Tonis.   Our thanks to all who’ve made this journey a success.  With 11 records on 10 courses in the Continental United States, this is one Shooting Star to keep your eyes on!   For more information: http://www.toniskasemets.com/contact.asp

Liuzzi leads opening practice in Oz Liuzzi leads opening practice in OzThere are four drivers in the picture for the Honda F1 test drive next year as it is not virtually certain that Anthony Davidson will be moving on to race for Super Aguri. Our spies in the team say that the four men in question are Christian Klien, Gary Paffett, Timo Glock and James Rossiter. Klien has the most experience in F1 cars and thus must start as the favorite while Glock is an interesting new name on the list having been left out of BMW's plans which were announced earlier this year. Grandprix.com
Indian's no safety threat Indian's no safety threatMelbourne (GMMF1.NET)  Narain Karthikeyan denied he is racing into F1 in 2005 a typical 'pay-driver.'

Jordan's 28-year-old, the first ever Indian on the grid, said - just like Jenson Button - he's won races in British F3.  ''And also in the (Nissan) world series,'' NK said in Melbourne, ''so speed-wise I'm not bad.''

Australia's Mark Webber also rejected the suggestion that Karthikeyan, albeit with very little F1 cockpit time, posed a safety threat at Albert Park.  ''He's been in Europe for years,'' said Mark.  ''He's a good little driver.''

Hyped up for Webber letdown Hyped up for Webber letdownMelbourne (GMMF1.NET)  Mark Webber is relieved that, in a day or two, Australians will do little more than wrap their fish and chips in this week's newspapers.

The local F1 racer admitted that media is in turbo-hype mode as he prepares to debut for top team Williams at Albert Park  ''It's a little bit unrealistic to say I'm going to go out and beat Michael (Schumacher) and (win) the championship,'' he mock-smiled.

28-year-old Webber said the main problem, with just one Aussie driver in F1, is that local hacks have no-one else to write about.  ''That's dangerous for me,'' he admitted, ''but I don't read too much of it, anyway.  ''I arrive (in Australia) as late as possible, leave as soon as possible.''

Minardi grounded Minardi groundedMinardi's cars did not exit pitlane on Friday morning, with Jean Todt continuing to refuse to sign a rule dispensation agreement.

Paul Stoddart met with the FIA at Albert Park early Friday morning, but emerged amid speculation that the governing body declined to sanction a formal request for Ferrari's consent.

''I'm being messed about, completely messed about,'' the Australian said prior to morning practice.

50-year-old Stoddart has, at least, prevented the calamity from extending further up pitlane, having assured Red Bull and Jordan that - should Minardi race and be in a points-scoring position - the drivers would move over for either team.

But he said 'half of Australia' now thinks Ferrari 'are a bunch of pricks,' and vowed not to run a 2005-legal aero kit 'because it hasn't been tested' and may be dangerous.

''And we haven't got enough (parts), anyway.  But I'm not giving up.''

IRL reaches new level of ineptness IRL reaches new level of ineptnessBruce Martin writes in this week's National Speed Sport News - "At least NASCAR has the right idea on trying to become the big-time, unlike another racing series in the United States which is on the verge of putting an entire form of American racing into extinction.

The IRL reached a new level of ineptness last week. It came up with a good idea to celebrate its 10th season of competition with a two-week "Green Flag Tour" that would make a stop in every IRL market before concluding with next weekend's season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Great idea -- but, this is the IRL we're talking about.

They decided to make the Southern California stop on the tour on Thursday and Friday. It seems they didn't realize, or didn't care, that all the local motorsports media were at California Speedway covering NASCAR.

"We got a phone call at 10 a.m. telling us that Dario Franchitti and Mario (Michael?) Andretti were available for interviews that day," said one Southern California motorsports writer. "We told them we couldn't do it because we were covering the NASCAR activities."

California Speedway and Phoenix Int'l Raceway officials warned the IRL it wouldn't be a good time for the "Green Flag Tour" to stop in.   The local media black-flagged the "Green Flag Tour," and once again, the IRL proved why NASCAR rules racing in the United States.

NASCAR understood a long time ago that to be successful, the sport has to be personality driven with a compelling story. NASCAR has "Good Guys and Bad Guys" and that gives fans something to choose from.   The IRL thought it could take the Indianapolis 500 on the road, but unfortunately it's being marketed by people who don't know the difference between Lloyd Ruby and Jack Ruby.

Someday, Hollywood may make a movie about this, but just like its races, the viewers would probably stay at home.  There once was a day when the Indianapolis 500 -- not the Daytona 500 -- was the biggest race of the year.   There was also a time when dinosaurs walked the earth. "

Johansson Leads First Rolex Series Practice at Grand Prix of Miami Johansson Leads First Rolex Series Practice at Grand Prix of MiamiStefan Johansson clocked a best lap of 1:14.750 (110.769 mph) in the No. 02 New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley to lead a 46-car field in the opening day of practice for Saturday’s Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway (SPEED Channel, 3 p.m. ET). The top 11 cars in the session turned laps within 0.57 seconds.

While this was Johansson’s first Homestead appearance with the Ganassi team, the Swede did run a Daytona Prototype in the Hoosier Tire Introduction Test last December at the 2.3-mile South Florida road circuit. However, today’s run was in an entirely different car, and was more impressive given the fact that he ran a limited number of laps in the session.

“We only did two runs,” Johansson said. “The first run was to get dialed-in, and the natural progression is that on the second run, you go in a little bit deeper everywhere and run a little bit harder. The car’s pretty good at the moment. I think we’ll be in pretty good shape (in qualifying). I’m sure (co-driver) Cort (Wagner) will do a good job. The car is nice to drive at the moment. If the conditions don’t change dramatically, I think we should be in pretty good shape.”

Second-quickest was Butch Leitzinger in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford for Howard-Boss Motorsports following a best lap of 1:14.896 (110.553 mph). Johansson’s teammate, defending Rolex Series Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett ran the third-fastest lap of the session at 1:14.903 (110.543 mph), followed by two-time defending Miami champion Andy Wallace in the No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford at 1:14.906 (110.539 mph). Guy Smith rounded out the top five in the No. 39 Orbit Racing Pontiac Riley at 1:15.033 (110.351 mph).

Valiante still hoping, still waiting Valiante still hoping, still waitingArticle in today’s Vancouver Province Newspaper:
"Burnaby's Valiante still trying to hitch a ride"

The 2005 Champ Car World Series season starts in five weeks and Michael Valiante is in a familiar situation. Despite driving for Walker Racing in last years season ending Mexico City race and an off season dealings that showed promise he'd start the season in Champ Car, nothing has developed. "If anything happens, it will probably happen just before Long Beach at the last minute." Valiante said from Oklahoma, where he's priming for the start of the karting season with his Italian Motors team. Long Beach, Champ Car's opening race is scheduled for April 10. Meanwhile, Valiante plans to enter more Grand-Am races, after his experience last month racing in the Rolex 24-Hours of Daytona. "But if I had a choice, I'd definitely choose Champ Car," the Burnaby native said." Its what I basically was raised doing. I love constantly pushing (an open wheel car) and testing its limits."

Green aims to make St. Petersburg best street race Green aims to make St. Petersburg best street raceUPDATE A reader adds, The IRL is not even successful at pulling people to all of the other IRL races - which are targeted to the 'core' oval track race fan, how possibly can Barry Green be serious about pulling street/road race fans to this farce. Unless they use the 'false hope' numbers of 'sold' tickets (sponsor tickets handed out for free to anyone who will take them), this won't happen. - Tim Bogert, Charlotte, NC 03/03/05 Come the first weekend of April, the streets of downtown St. Petersburg will be ringing with the sounds of screaming Indy cars.  The investors responsible for bringing Grand Prix racing back to the city are hoping those dulcet tones will be accompanied by the equally sweet sound of clanging cash registers.

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has already lined up far more corporate sponsorship dollars than the city's last Grand Prix race in 2003, its organizers say. And they're hoping to pull in about 60,000 to 70,000 spectators during three days of events, up from an estimated 50,000 over three days in 2003, according to former Championship Auto Racing Teams team owner Barry Green, who is managing director of the race.

"Our goal is to make this the best street race in this country," Green said Monday during a luncheon with reporters. More at St. Petersburg Times

The silence is deafening The silence is deafeningUPDATE #3 And another reader - I agree with Peter Swanson. I'm a long-time CART/Champ Car fan, and even I'm done with this. It's ironic that the other series that we're both excited about (ALMS) is heading the same way as Champ Car: erosion of the sponsor market by a competing series. I'm just hoping the Australian GP this Saturday night isn't a snooze-fest. I'd like a racing series to excite me for a change. Tim Bogert, Charlotte, NC 03/03/05 Yet another writes, OWRS may have some big irons in the fire but the fans are getting cold and moving on.  It's like a barbeque where the meal was supposed to start at 6:00PM but the coals are just getting warm at 7:00PM.  Time to move on.  I love Champ Car, but get tired of waiting each year.  I am much more excited about ALMS this year. Peter Swanson 03/03/05 Another writes, The silence is indeed deafening from Champ Car- thank goodness F1 kicks off tonight. But for the last 10 years the IRL has made one announcement after another and it has meant nothing to the series. They have a radio deal, network T.V. and cable and still nobody watches because they have no fans, so it does not matter how many stations-radio or T.V. they are on. I think Champ Car is trying to do things right from a business standpoint- it’s just not at a pace the fans would like to see. At some point Champ Car are going to have to have a marketing team that can turn the casual fan who attends the races into a T.V. viewer. Having said that, the teams that are set could and should be doing a PR tour of sorts. Brian Kellione, Colorado Springs 03/03/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, After reading the radio deal that the IRL got it started me to question whether Champ Car can do anything right.  They have an incomplete driver lineup with the opener coming up in a few weeks, lack of sponsors or any real meaningful announcements of any kind. One has to wonder can Champ Car do anything right? It sure looks like they don't know what the heck is going on. They are acting like a bunch of amateurs. Maybe they know what they are doing but from the fans standpoint it doesn't seem that way. The silence is deafening. Alfred Martin, Columbus, OH  Dear Alfred, We have been deluged with similar emails.  We are told there is a plan, and there will be 18 cars and a 14 or 15 race season.  We will have to see how it all plays out, but OWRS has some big irons in the fire. Mark C.
The Open Wheel war must end The Open Wheel war must endUPDATE A reader writes, I can't seem to find Mr Olson's email address on SPEEDTV.com. If you can find it for me, I'd be more than pleased, and would LOVE the opportunity, to enlighten him about who exactly it to blame. His conclusions about what should be done have some merit, but he should lay the blame where it belongs - at the feet of Mr Tony George. There's a saying about family-owned businesses: The first generation builds the business (Tony Hulman), the second generation maintains the business (Mari Hulman), and the third generation destroys it.

This what Tony George inherited (Indy 500 Pole Day 1991):

This is what he has created (Indy 500 Pole Day 2004):

Here's just one side-affect of Tony George's IRL -- Fontana in 1997 (CART) vs. Fontana in 2004 (IRL):
Fontana 2004

Fontana 2004

 Keep up the great work on your website. www.autoracing1.com is one of only two web sites that I pay money to access. I'll be renewing soon. Alan Saliwanchik

03/03/05 This SPEEDTV.com article lays heavy criticism on the IRL and Champ Car for continuing down the separate roads.  Thursday morning, I’ll fly to Miami. I won’t encounter traffic any more unusual than the daily grind on Highway 836. I won’t pay criminal rates for a hotel room near Homestead-Miami Speedway. I won’t have to wait long for dinner at the Capri. I won’t have a hassle finding a seat in the impossibly tiny media center. I probably won’t hear the words “Toyota,” “Indy” and “300” in the same sentence until I arrive at the racetrack.

To a deafening and unnerving silence, the IRL IndyCar Series will open the 2005 season this weekend at Homestead, two weeks after much of the free world went agog over the Daytona 500. The only significant racing sounds you’ll hear from Florida this weekend will be muffled yawns and a breeze blowing through Homestead's empty seats.

The hardcores will be there, of course, that small niche of fans that follows the IRL through thick and thin, and the usual group of Brazilians will be waving their flags for Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Vitor Meira. But most of South Florida and almost all of America won’t have a clue about this race. The crowd won’t be much more than that of a Texas high school football game, and the viewing audience won’t be near that of a dog show.

It’s time for this to change. Long past time. More.....  [Editor's Note:  Tony George started the split in 1995 and has refused to merge with Champ Car even though Champ Car has made overtures on a number of occasions.  The author of this article doesn't know who to blame for the mess.  Imagine that.]

Improved traffic flow in Vegas Improved traffic flow in VegasLas Vegas Motor Speedway’s ever improving vehicle flow for its March 11-13 NASCAR Weekend should be even better for this year’s event, according to LVMS officials. Over the past three years, the completion of the 215 beltway, new interchanges and wider roads have helped make ingress and egress from the speedway’s property a seamless experience for race fans. “The combination of better traffic planning, cooperation from all areas of transportation and law enforcement and the continued education of our race fans has dramatically improved vehicle flow over the past several years,” said LVMS general manager Chris Powell. “While the traffic plan itself is virtually the same as last year, we expect this year to be even better than the past years.” One notable difference for race fans attending the Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Busch Series event on Saturday, March 12 will be the unimpeded flow following the event. In past years, incoming traffic for races at either the dirt track or Bullring had conflicted with traffic exiting the superspeedway. There are no racing events scheduled for Saturday night this year. LVMS PR
F1's latest farce - Red Bull and Minardi F1's latest farce - Red Bull and MinardiRed Bull have agreed to Minardi’s request that they can race in Australia using last year’s cars.  Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, had earlier gone on record that he wouldn’t support Minardi’s request, arguing that “rules are rules” and adding "My position and that of Red Bull is that nothing would be more frustrating for us in a debut race to finish ninth with a Minardi ahead of us and a point taken from us."  However, Horner relented after Paul Stoddart and Horner met in Melbourne and Stoddart agreed that if Minardi finished in the top eight and ahead of Red Bull in the race then they would give up their points and position.  F1's latest farce to grab headlines.
Big TV rating boost for CA market Big TV rating boost for CA marketWith a preliminary national rating of 7.9, the FOX broadcast of last Sunday's Auto Club 500 from California Speedway is the highest rated non-Daytona 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event since the second race of the 2001 season, according to data released by FOX Sports. It was also the top rated sports television event of the weekend. In addition, the Los Angeles market rating rose 33 percent to a 4.0 rating for last Sunday's race, from a 3.0 rating for last year's Auto Club 500, which was contested in May, according to FOX Sports information.

The Auto Club 500 on FOX has seen its rating grow from a 5.3 rating in 2003 to a 6.1 rating in 2004. This year's race was the first time the event was held as the second race of the season, coming off the Daytona 500, which garnered a 10.9 television rating on FOX. Last year's final national rating for the second NASCAR event on FOX was 6.6. "This rating shows the significance of Southern California and is great news for everyone in the industry. As the host of NASCAR racing in Southern California, California Speedway along with NASCAR and FOX have done a tremendous job in promoting the sport, creating new fans and bringing the sport to the people, especially here in our market," speedway President Bill Miller said. "From a sponsorship standpoint, the exposure for our partners is tremendous in helping them reach potential customers and getting their identity to the viewing audience. The 2005 NASCAR season is off to a tremendous start with great momentum coming off of the Daytona 500 and carrying through the Auto Club 500."
World Series by Renault
Will Power joins Carlin Motorsport Will Power joins Carlin MotorsportWill Power has been confirmed this week as an official driver in the British outfit, Carlin Motorsport. Alongside Andy Zuber, both will contest the 2005 World Series by Renault.  The Aussie ace Will Power has been finally confirmed in Carlin Motorsport. Power (21) did not failed to impress in Paul Ricard and Barcelona where he set a new lap record of the World Series.

Trevor Carlin, Team Principal, who is in Australia overseeing the Midland owned Jordan F1 team's, said "We selected Will from four potential drivers and his first few laps in testing at Paul Ricard proved that it was a good decision. He and his team mate Andreas Zuber are an ideal signing - they work well together and will push each other to race wins this season."

Power is delighted to start the season soon. "The World Series by Renault was always my objective for this season and I am pleased not only to have secured a drive in the series but really pleased to be driving for Trevor Carlin - our initial tests have been so good and I am very confident of delivering great results for me and for the Carlin team."  Carlin Motorsport

IRL confirms XM Radio deal IRL confirms XM Radio dealIRL, XM Satellite Radio announce multi-faceted partnership that includes broadcast rights, marketing and entertainment initiatives: XM Satellite Radio and the Indy Racing League today announced a multi-faceted, multi-year agreement to broadcast IRL IndyCar® Series races live and nationwide on XM, beginning with the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 6. IRL programming will be heard on Extreme XM (XM Channel 152).

As the exclusive satellite radio partner of the IRL, XM will transmit the IMS Radio Network's pre-race, race and ancillary programming on the Extreme XM channel, plus IRL news updates and additional programming heard on a variety of XM talk channels.

In addition, XM Satellite Radio will be an associate sponsor of the IndyCar Series Fan Experience, a one-of-a-kind, interactive mobile entertainment experience at IRL events designed to bring fans closer to the excitement of the IndyCar Series. The Experience's live performance stage will be known as the "XM Satellite Radio Live" stage, offering up live entertainment at each and every race across the country. The Experience is divided into four properties - Pole Position, Tech, XM Satellite Radio Live, and Pit Stop.

XM will host top music acts to perform at the XM Satellite Radio Live stage at various events during the 2005 season, such as Velvet Revolver at the upcoming XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 19. 

XM is the title sponsor of the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 and the primary sponsor of the Andretti Green Racing car driven by Bryan Herta in the IndyCar Series.  The XM agreement with IRL is the latest joint effort between the nation's leading provider of satellite radio and the league's drivers, teams and tracks. 

"The IndyCar Series boasts some of the most exciting competitions in professional sports, and we know that XM Satellite Radio fans and IRL fans alike are going to love hearing every minute of the action on XM," said Steve Cook, executive vice president of  sales, marketing and customer operations, XM Satellite Radio.

"Like the IndyCar Series, XM Satellite Radio is an industry leader using cutting-edge technology to thrill and entertain its subscribers," said Ken Ungar, the IRL's senior vice president, business affairs. "We are thrilled that our fans can find the IndyCar Series on XM Satellite Radio wherever they live or travel from coast to coast."

In addition to being the exclusive satellite radio partner of IRL, XM is the official satellite radio network of Major League Baseball, with games for every team all season long; the exclusive satellite radio network for NASCAR, with every race in all three national championship series, and the official satellite radio service of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, and Pac-10 college sports conferences, offering college football and basketball games for more than 30 schools.

The latest models of XM radio receivers, such as the portable Delphi XM2go MyFi radio, the Delphi XM SKYFi2 radio, and the Audiovox XR9 radio, have sports tickers that display the current scores for professional and college sports teams on the XM receiver's display screen. IRL

Rice's Letterman Top 10 Rice's Letterman Top 10Here are the Top Ten reasons Buddy Rice likes racing as read by him on The Late Show with David Letterman (his team owner) last night:
10. "It's way more exciting than my previous job, running an unlicensed daycare."
9. "When I win, 12 guys who smell like rubber and methanol run over and hug me."
8. "Winning takes guts, determination and my lucky underpants."
7. "All the motor oil I can drink."
6. "Anything over 200 miles an hour I start making noises like a kitty! Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow."
5. "Just so my neighbors know who they're dealing with, when I mow the lawn I wear my helmet."
4. "Switch the "R" and the "C" in 'Racing' and you get 'Caring'."
3. "All the excitement of driving like a New York City cab driver without the risk of getting shot."
2. "Between the g-forces and the fumes, I get a good buzz."
1. "In racing, Jose Canseco doesn't stick your ass with a needle."
Fittipaldi Becomes Global Spokesperson for Power2Ship Fittipaldi Becomes Global Spokesperson for Power2ShipPower2Ship, Inc, a Web-based Collaborative Marketplace for the freight transportation industry, announced that Emerson Fittipaldi, the world-renowned Formula One and Champ Car racecar driver, has agreed to become the Company's worldwide spokesperson. Fittipaldi has been a successful corporate spokesperson and made numerous personal appearances for many prominent companies such as Michelin, SAP, EMC2, Ericsson, Mercedes-Benz, British Airways, and Hugo Boss. Richard Hersh, Power2Ship's Chairman and CEO commented, "Emerson Fittipaldi's excellent reputation brings a valuable marketing resource to Power2Ship." In addition, Power2Ship has given Fittipaldi the rights to market the P2S MobileMarket (TM) proprietary freight transportation services to Brazil, one of the world's largest freight transportation markets. Fittipaldi commented, "Power2Ship's MobileMarket (TM) provides a winning solution that maximizes opportunities for all parties involved with transporting freight. I am pleased to become their spokesperson and look forward to introducing their proprietary logistics services to my home country of Brazil." [Editor's Note: Might sponsorship from this company help Fittipaldi restart his Champ Car team?]
IRL confirms switch to ethanol IRL confirms switch to ethanolContinuing its technical leadership in the world of automobile racing, the Indy Racing League's IndyCar® Series has partnered with the Ethanol industry to become the fuel supplier beginning with the 2006 season.

Ethanol is an alcohol derived primarily from grain. As a clean-burning and renewable fuel that is non-toxic and 100 percent biodegradable, it reduces harmful air pollution and improves racing's environmental footprint. Its high octane rating delivers strong engine performance by helping engines resist detonation so they can run higher compression ratios.

The announcement was made today at historic Union Station on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where Tony George, the chief executive officer of the Indy Racing League, along with IRL President Brian Barnhart and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Ken Ungar teamed with several high-ranking ethanol industry leaders and political figures, including Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

The target for the 2006 season is a maximum blend of 90 percent methanol and 10 percent ethanol for the IndyCar Series. This percentage of ethanol corresponds with ethanol blend commonly available to consumers at gas stations. Blend specifics will be determined in cooperation with the league's 2006 engine manufacturer partners.

Beginning in 2007, the fuel will be 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in IndyCar Series cars, the same fuel that has the potential to replace at least 10 percent of the nation's gasoline supply.

In his February State of the Union address, President George W. Bush recognized ethanol fuel as a reliable supply of affordable, environmentally responsible energy.

"My budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology - from hydrogen-fueled cars, to clean coal, to renewable sources such as ethanol," he said, during the Feb. 2 address.

"We are proud to partner with the Ethanol industry to showcase a great American fuel source," Ungar said. "We feel a commitment to the environment and our country's energy security is consistent with our sport's legacy of race-bred innovation and leadership."

The Indy Racing League has been in discussion for several years with a coalition of ethanol industry companies led by the major ethanol facility engineering and construction firms IMC Inc., Fagen Inc., and Broin Companies. Other groups involved in the discussion were the ethanol trade and advocacy groups including the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington, D.C., the American Coalition of Ethanol in Sioux Falls, S.D., the United States Senate Biofuels Caucus and the Governor's Ethanol Coalition.

Race car engines operating on ethanol have demonstrated excellent performance due to the fuel's high octane content.  IndyCar Series cars have run on methanol fuel since the late 1960s, and will continue to do so during the 2005 season. Internal dynamometer testing has shown that there are no technical barriers to replacing methanol with ethanol. 

"The transition between methanol and ethanol in our cars should be very smooth," said Phil Casey, the Indy Racing League's senior technical director. "Our cars won't sound differently, smell differently or run differently than they have in the past. There will be a seamless transition from methanol to ethanol in our cars."
Ethanol is the only proven commercial scale renewable transportation fuel currently available in the marketplace. The 2006 season will not be the first time ethanol fuel has powered a car in the famed Indianapolis 500. At the 1927 race, a car driven by Leon Duray was fueled by ethyl (grain) alcohols.

"Ethanol has long been common in many Midwest markets, and over the last several years it has succeeded in meeting market demand in California and the Northeast," said Dave Vander Griend, president of ICM, Inc. "Production capacity for ethanol is keeping pace with the increased demand for quality fuel additives, and we are partnering with our petroleum customers as we move into new markets. We are extremely proud of this partnership with the IndyCar Series, and are eager to demonstrate the quality and performance of our product on the world stage."

The IndyCar Series continues to set the standard in technological leadership in automobile racing. Over the past several years, the IRL has been on the forefront of many advances in auto racing, including the introduction of the SAFER Barrier in 2002 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the use of three Delphi IRL Chevrolet Safety Trucks, which travel to all races, and are equipped with video cameras in the front and rear; and the use of a device on IndyCar Series cars that measures and communicates the impact of a crash to rescue and safety workers on the scene. Controlled by Delphi's accident data recorder (which also is required on all cars) a light illuminates when a crash reaches or exceeds a pre-set threshold, informing safety workers that an injury is more likely.

To help build anticipation and awareness for this significant milestone among the IndyCar Series' dedicated fans, the ethanol industry is sponsoring one entry in this year's IndyCar Series lineup. The No. 91 Ethanol Hemelgarn Dallara/Toyota/Firestone entry will be driven by Paul Dana.  Team owner Ron Hemelgarn was one of the founding members of the Indy Racing League, and his cars won the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and the 2000 IndyCar Series Championship. IRL

Andy Wallace signs with Creation for LeMans Andy Wallace signs with Creation for LeMansCreation has stolen a march on many of its rivals for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans by securing the talents of one of sportscar's most experienced drivers, Andy Wallace. Team owner, Michael Jankowski, is delighted with the team's new signing. "Andy has done more Le Mans races than I can remember. He brings fantastic experience to the team as well as knowledge and pace." The Briton won the French endurance classic overall with Jaguar in 1988, and has subsequently had two GTP class wins. He has also won the 24 Hours of Daytona (3 times), the Sebring 12 Hours, Petit Le Mans, Championships and more races in more series than most. For his 17th participation at Le Mans, Andy will be joining Nicolas Minassian and Jamie Campbell-Walter at the wheel of the Michelin-shod DBA 03S-Judd.

Speaking from the US, where he is taking part in this weekend's Homestead-Miami round of the Grand-American Series, Wallace was enthusiastic about his latest Le Mans adventure. "I'm obviously extremely pleased to be joining Creation. They did a fantastic job last year in all their races even if, in some of them, they were not particularly lucky. With the few, but important, changes they've made for 2005, I really think they are on the right track. When you look at what Creation have done in the short time they've been around, I think they will be a force to be reckoned with. It will be nice to join up with Jamie again - we competed together in a Lister in the 2002 Spa 24 Hrs - and I'm looking forward to driving with Nic. He's really fast and a really nice guy! The team seem to be right on top of all the things that matter and I certainly consider that having Michelin tires is a big bonus for Le Mans. They are just so superior there. It's going to be a tough race because of the competition but, as long as we don't have any reliability problems, Creation has a good shot of being at the front - especially at the finish."
Champ Car teams testing at Portland Champ Car teams testing at PortlandAfter the series opening weekend at Long Beach April 8-10, most of the Champ Car teams have already confirmed the short trek north to test in Portland the following week. Seven teams have confirmed testing at Portland International Raceway on Wednesday, April 13th and Thursday, April 14th. Teams include Newman/Hass, Rocketsports, PKV, Mi-Jack Conquest, Forsythe, Walker, and RuSPORT.  There is also a possibility that some of the teams from the Trans-Am Series may be there on Tuesday, April 12th.
Dead: Indy 500 1911-1995 Dead: Indy 500 1911-1995Here is yet another article, this one by Ed Hinton of the Orlando Sentinel, lambasting Tony George and the IRL for killing the sport of Indy Car Racing. The ending says it all:

Consider, again, the long hemorrhage of major talent from open-wheel racing into NASCAR. The old CART regime must be blamed for letting Jeff Gordon get away. But Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Casey Mears came out of open wheel for the more lucrative work in NASCAR. Kurt Busch got a call from an open-wheel team one day and a NASCAR team the next, and it was no contest, he says.

And there are more former open-wheelers in the NASCAR pipeline, from Boston Reid to potential female standout Erin Crocker to prodigy Chase Austin. For this dubious IRL open-wheel 10-year anniversary, maybe a friend of mine will revive a T-shirt idea he had a few years back, for this May. It would read:

Indianapolis 500


Brian Cunningham Joins Alex Job Racing in 24 Car Brian Cunningham Joins Alex Job Racing in 24 CarBrian Cunningham will join Alex Job Racing as the third driver of the number 24/Alex Job Racing/Bell Micro Products/Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for Sebring and Petit Le Mans.  Cunningham joins full-time drivers Randy Pobst and Ian Baas for the endurance portion of the ALMS races rounding out a strong all American entry.

The Danville, Kentucky resident is coming off of a 2004 season where he drove a number of races in a Porsche, BMW and Cobra.  Cunningham's racing resume includes multiple wins in both Grand Am and ALMS as well as runner up finishes in both championships.  Last season he placed fifth at Sebring with J3 Motorsports in their 911.  Also in 2004 he posted victories in the Marcus Motorsports Cobra at Virginia International Raceway and Summit Point. 

The 35-year old Cunningham has spent the last 16-months focusing on opening a new Porsche dealership in Lexington, Kentucky.  Together with Philadelphia 76ers NBA star Jamal Mashburn, the duo will open Porsche of Lexington in June of this year.

Seeking Jean Todt Seeking Jean TodtPaul Stoddart drove to Melbourne's Crown Casino hotel on Thursday evening, in a desperate bid to resolve the crisis that threatens to sideline his Minardi F1 team.  The Australian is seeking Ferrari's signature on a document to allow the Faenza-based team to use last year's Minardi car in the grand prix here.

''No news,'' Paul said after emerging from a failed hunt for Jean Todt.

''He's not in his room, he's not in the hotel.  'I've left messages everywhere, so let's hope my mobile rings a little later.  'I don't want this to spill into tomorrow, but it looks like (it will).''

Stoddart's 'deadline' is 11am on Friday morning; the time of the start of free practice.  Another team principal, though, may also be siding with Ferrari -- Red Bull. Christian Horner said 'every team' must abide the rules.

Sherman Gets Back to Road Racing Roots in Mexico Sherman Gets Back to Road Racing Roots in MexicoBrent Sherman spent three years racing on road courses before ever stepping foot in a stock car. In 2001, Sherman competed in six Grand Am road racing events including a series best fourth-place finish at Watkins Glen International. This weekend at the Telcel Motorola 200 in Mexico City, Sherman will revisit his road racing roots. "I'm excited to get back to a road race course. It's been a couple of years since I've raced on one." Sherman said. Sherman is optimistic that the No. 58 Serta Mattress/Hickory Farms Dodge Charger will be setup for what is sure to be a difficult qualifying run with a field of at least 51 competitors. "It'll be just as difficult to get into this race as the last two. There are several talented Mexican drivers as well as Nextel Cup regulars trying to get into this race," Sherman said. "Hopefully my road racing experience will help ensure us a spot in the field." Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is a 2.518-mile road course located in Mexico City. Performance Plus
Melbourne, the longest and toughest season is about to start Melbourne, the longest and toughest season is about to startScuderia Ferrari Marlboro will start its defense of the Constructors' and Drivers' titles that have not left Maranello since 1999 and 2000 respectively. These statistics mean that the Italian team must start the 2005 season as favorites. However, in reality it looks like being a tough and much more competitive championship than last year's.
Tough? Certainly, as the calendar features no less than nineteen grands prix, making it the longest season in the history of Formula 1. The races are crammed into a similar time-period to 2004 and that means there are no less than six sets of "back-to-back" events (races just one week apart.) The European summer is going to be particularly intensive: there are five weekends in the month of July and there are grands prix on four of them!

Competitive? Definitely, as the many major car manufacturers involved in the sport are keen to put an end to the Scuderia's winning streak. McLaren-Mercedes underperformed last year and results from winter testing indicate they have made great steps forward. BAR-Honda and Renault can also be expected to improve.

With the new technical and sporting regulations only being ratified quite late in 2004, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has decided to start the year using last year's car. This is not quite accurate as the car, now known as the F2004 M (M for modified) has been adapted to comply with the new regulations. The chassis has been fitted with additional side-intrusion panels to meet stricter crash test requirements. As per the rules, the front wing has been raised, the rear wing brought further inboard and the diffuser (the rear part of the floor) has been altered as the FIA intended, with the aim of reducing aerodynamic downforce by around 25%. As expected, much work in the Ferrari wind tunnel has seen this figure reduced.

The incredible reliability of its V10 engine has been a cornerstone of Ferrari's success and this year, the final season of the 3 liter V10 rule, will put an even greater emphasis on reliability. As from 2003, a driver had to use the same engine for one complete race weekend, but this year the engine must remain the same for two grands prix.

Perhaps the biggest rule change of all concerns tires: drivers must now use the same set of tires for both qualifying sessions and the race. In terms of the show, this probably means less pit stops than in the past, even though refueling is still allowed. In practical terms, the rule means Ferrari has spent much of the winter testing in close collaboration with tire partner Bridgestone, to come up with tires that can last over 300 kilometres, rather than around 100, while still giving sufficient grip. A driver who has the skill to look after his tires throughout Sunday afternoon and a chassis that is "kind" to its tires will be very advantageous throughout the season.

As far as the sporting regulations for 2005 are concerned, the biggest change concerns the qualifying format. First qualifying takes place as usual on Saturday afternoon, but now, second qualifying takes place on race morning and grid positions are decided by aggregating a driver's time from both sessions.

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro plays the consistency card as far as its driver line-up is concerned, with Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello embarking on the sixth year of their partnership, Melbourne sees several drivers having switched teams, with Minardi and Jordan featuring an all-rookie line-up. In the Jordan camp, Narain Karthikeyan has the honor of being the first ever Indian driver to compete in a grand prix.

Although it is a temporary facility, erected and dismantled each year, the 5.303 km Albert Park circuit provides an interesting challenge as the season curtain-raiser. It has a reputation as something of a car breaker, although engine failures are not that common here, even though they spend around 67% of the lap at full throttle. Actually, on a track where grip is poor, the most common reason for retirement is driver error, which might stem from the fact this is the first race of the year and even the stars of the show might be a bit "rusty" when it comes to racecraft after a four month break!

Although all the teams have tested extensively over the winter, Melbourne will be the first time that they have all run on the same track, at the same time and in the same conditions, so the weekend should provide a pointer as to the pecking order among the teams and drivers for the first part of the season.

ENTRY LIST in 2004 Constructors' championship order
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro - Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello
BAR-Honda - Jenson Button, Takuma Sato
Renault - Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella
BMW-Williams - Mark Webber, Nick Heidfeld
McLaren-Mercedes - Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya
Sauber - Jacques Villeneuve, Felipe Massa
Red Bull Racing - David Coulthard, Christian Klien
Toyota - Jarno Trulli, Ralf Schumacher
Jordan - Narain Karthikeyan, Tiago Monteiro
Minardi - Christijan Albers, Patrick Friesacher Ferrari

It’s back to work for Ferrari It’s back to work for FerrariIt was business as usual for the two Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro drivers here in Melbourne, as both Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello faced the media, the German in the official FIA press conference and the Brazilian at the back of the team garage in the Albert Park paddock. Both men had spent the morning taking part in a very different sport when they tried their hand at beach volleyball, playing with members of the Australian women’s Olympic squad in an event organized by team sponsor, Vodafone.

Schumacher was reminded that as Melbourne celebrates its tenth grand prix this year and that first race also marked Michael’s debut for Ferrari. “I remember it well,” he said. “And things have certainly got better and better since then. I really do like this race, because after a winter testing in the cold in Europe, it is always good to leave that behind and come here.” (From the photo during yesterday's festivities, it appears Michael Schumacher indeed does like Oz)

Onto more technical matters and Schumacher admitted that it might be a disadvantage starting the season with the modified version of last year’s car. “We are not on the same level as we were here last year, when we had the new car, which was a very fast toy. But I am sure that many people would be happy to be racing our old car. But we have had an intensive test program this winter and I am quite happy with what we have achieved.”

So how competitive did he think the Scuderia would be in Melbourne? “Reasonably competitive,” he suggested. “But it is difficult to predict as all our testing has been done in much colder conditions than here, although Melbourne has usually been good for us.”

As for the effect of the new technical regulations, Schumacher feels that the engineers have produced a car that has overcome much of the effects of the loss of downforce created by the new rules. “When I first drove the car in 2005 configuration, I felt it was going to be very exciting to drive, with a lot more sliding. But, by the end of testing, I now feel we are pretty much back where we were. The car’s handling is not so extreme and we have found a lot of performance.”

The fact that Bridgestone now only supply two other teams alongside Ferrari was the subject of another question – had this situation created more work for the Italian-Japanese partnership. “We have definitely had to do a lot more work,” agreed Schumacher. “But perhaps having one big company behind one big team is enough to make up for that disadvantage. It certainly seems to have worked well up until now!”

It seems some of the F1 media are not yet in full work mode as the first question for Barrichello was not about the sport but about the famous Carnival in Rio. “I have not been since 1995, because I am always testing,” answered the surprised Brazilian. “But I have very strong memories of it as a child, when it always involved a long journey with my family at Easter.” And what does F1 have in common with Carnival? “Just the colors,” laughed Rubens.

As for this weekend, Rubens is delighted to be racing again. “I could not wait to get here,” he said. “I came to Australia immediately after the presentation of the new car (in Maranello on 25 February.) I like this race very much, as there is a nice relaxed atmosphere, rather like Canada. And, because it’s the first race, there is a special excitement in the air.” Barrichello does not feel that racing here with the F2004 M will be a disadvantage. “When we came here with the new car last year, we had not done much running in testing, but this time I feel we are well prepared. Then, after the Malaysian race, I will try the new car for the first time, but it is too early to say when we will race it.”

Barrichello is looking forward to tackling the new sporting regulations this weekend. “I like a new challenge,” he commented. “With no tire changes allowed, qualifying will actually be less important than in the past, except at circuits like Monaco and Budapest where overtaking is very difficult. It will be strange adapting to racing on one set of tires,” he continued. “We are used to going flat out for 20 laps before putting on new tires. The first few races will be interesting as there will always be a point in the race where we have to decide whether to push hard or to save the tires. Personally, I have always been the best when you look at the data concerning driver tire wear, so the new rule should be good for me. But it will seem strange coming into the pits to refuel and then see the lap times get slower, as you have a heavy fuel load on old tires.” Ferrari

150,000 fans enjoy Melbourne street parade 150,000 fans enjoy Melbourne street paradeUPDATE Here are a few photos from the parade:


03/02/05 Melbourne embraced the spirit of Formula One today with an estimated crowd of 150,000 fans on hand to see the city’s first-ever F1 Street Parade. Three Formula One cars and two of Australia’s own V8 Supercars did ‘laps’ of a specially prepared temporary track around some of the city’s most famous landmarks.

Local hero Mark Webber toured the ‘circuit’ in an open-topped BMW and waved to the huge crowd, many of whom will be at the real circuit at Albert Park to cheer him on this weekend. “It was fantastic to see everyone out there enjoying Formula One so close up, really smelling it and feeling it,” said the 28-year-old Australian. “The drivers looked like they had a ball. It was great to get close to everyone and really feel the spirit – that’s what it was all about.”
Also doing laps up Swanston Street, along Collins, down Russell, back along Flinders and down to the Arts Centre were Minardi boss Paul Stoddart in one of his own F1 cars and his new driver, Dutchman Christijan Albers.

“I think everyone is going to have fantastic memories of a spectacular event,” said Stoddart. “I was so impressed by the crowd: they were very supportive, and they should be very proud of this city. Melbourne is without a doubt the best Grand Prix in the world.”

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor John So was quick to agree. “The parade took all the excitement of the Grand Prix track right to the people,” said Mayor So. “It was a fantastic start to the tenth anniversary of the Grand Prix in Melbourne.”

In a tribute to his home town, Stoddart’s Minardi was decorated in Melbourne logos, with vision from the parade sent around the world.

While Webber took the slow way round, his teammate, Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia, drove a BMW Williams F1 car through the Melbourne ‘circuit’. “My job here is to have fun!” said Pizzonia. “It was nice seeing the nature and Melbourne’s buildings while driving – it was quite special.” AGPC

Formula 3
Kimi to have his own team Kimi to have his own teamWest McLaren Mercedes driver, Kimi Raikkonen, is to set up his own Formula 3 team, in conjunction with his manager, Steve Robertson, himself a former F3 racer. Kimi himself never raced in Formula 3, making the unprecedented leap to Formula 1 direct from Formula Renault.
Ranger to test with Mi-Jack Conquest Ranger to test with Mi-Jack ConquestCanadian youngster Andrew Ranger will test two days next week in Fontana for the Mi-Jack Conquest team.  To date Ranger has raised about 50% of the money needed for a full season and because most Champ Car teams are incapable of raising the other 50% on their own, Ranger remains without a full-time ride.  Walker Racing or Mi-Jack Conquest might run him, but they prefer a driver they can keep in the car the entire season.  We suppose Eric Jensen's team is also a possibility given Eric has stated his new Champ Car team will only run a limited season starting with the Toronto race.
Spectators already lining up for Sebring Spectators already lining up for SebringRace fans are already lining-up in anticipation of the 53rd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, March 19th at historic Sebring International Raceway.

Gates open at 7 am on Wednesday, March 16, but spectators and their motorhomes started arriving this week, a Sebring tradition that dates back several decades.

“All reserved trackside parking has sold out, with the exception of the new Ulmann Straight parking/camping area,” stated Sebring President and GM Tres Stephenson. “However, Sebring International Raceway features over 400 acres of unreserved spectator parking and camping. There are plenty of different ticket options still available.”

Sebring’s popular Superticket is available as a four-day or Saturday only ticket, and allows complete access to the Competitor’s Paddock, where all the race teams are located.

“When the gates open Wednesday morning, March 16th, it will look like the Oklahoma land rush,” stated Stephenson. “A large portion of Sebring’s trackside is available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so fans start arriving over two weeks in advance to get their place in line.”

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring features the world’s finest sports car teams battling on the grueling 3.7-mile Sebring circuit that was originally a WWII B-17 training base known as Hendricks Field. Past winners include Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Al Holbert, Juan Manuel Fangio, Bobby Rahal, Bruce McLaren and Stirling Moss.  Sebring International Raceway

Legendary Manufacturer Maserati Returns to Sebring Legendary Manufacturer Maserati Returns to SebringForty-eight years ago, the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio co-drove a Maserati 450S to victory at Sebring.

The famous Italian manufacturer returns to Sebring next month to enter the 53rd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The exotic Maserati MC12, making its North American competition debut, joins a stellar Sebring entry in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT1 class, including the Chevrolet Corvette factory team debuting its C6R, the new Aston Martin DB9, Ferrari 550 Maranello, Saleen S7R and Dodge Viper.

America's premier sports car endurance race runs Saturday, March 19th, at historic Sebring International Raceway.

"This year's GT1 entry represents one of the most competitive lineups in the five decade history of our race," stated Sebring Raceway President and GM Tres Stephenson. "This will bring back memories of the legendary battles between Ferrari, Cobras and Corvette in the GT classes during the 60s."

Gates open at Sebring on Wednesday, March 16, and remain open 24 hours a day through Saturday. The opening round of the ALMS features many of the cars and drivers competing in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Maserati's impressive racing pedigree has produced many wins in international competition, and it is the only foreign manufacturer to record wins in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Sebring 12-hour classic.

The production based GT1 cars will be joined by a strong field of Le Mans Prototypes, including the Audi R8, going for its sixth consecutive Sebring victory.

Sebring International Raceway offers a wide variety of camping and viewing options. For detailed ticket information visit sebringraceway.com or call toll-free 800-626-7223.  Sebring International Raceway

Schumacher confirms McLaren talks Schumacher confirms McLaren talksMichael Schumacher confirmed Thursday that he has had several approaches from Formula One rivals McLaren to quit world champions Ferrari.  "Indeed, yes, there was an approach from Ron (Dennis), obviously it didn't work out because I'm pretty happy where I have been," said Schumacher, "We have had loads of discussions over the years, we've thrown them around and every so often he comes around and checks up and so it was in 2000, and it wasn't only in 2000."  Asked if Dennis had talked to him since then about leaving Ferrari, the sport's highest-paid driver said: "Yes... I don't think it's fair to get into that detail, but he did and I think that's enough detail."
Petrobras extends Williams deal Petrobras extends Williams dealThe BMW WilliamsF1 Team today confirmed that long term technical partner, Petrobras, has extended and broadened its commercial partnership with the team into the medium term.

Petrobras, the Brazilian petroleum company, has been providing advanced fuel engineering competence to the team since 1998, and under the terms of this extended relationship, will continue to provide a leading edge technical partnership to the team.

The extended relationship is symbolized by the increased branding on the team race cars, but also less visibly by the introduction of a completely new race fuel for the 2005 season.

In light of the new engine regulations, which require the team’s BMW powerplants to compete for two race weekends, Petrobras have developed a new race fuel which helps to extend the life of critical engine components while retaining a strong performance characteristic.

Petrobras’ world-class competence in this field is derived from extensive investment in analysis, research and development and testing of fuel blends with product s from its facilities in Brazil and other countries in South America.

Sam Michael, Technical Director “Petrobras have been a long-standing technical partner of the team that lend us real competitive advantage, and never more so with the recent rule changes to engines. The new race fuel we will be using in 2005 has helped us retrieve some of the engine performance that would otherwise have been lost to the rule changes."

Rogerio Goncalves, Petrobras the technical coordinator “We are delighted to extend our relationship with our long term partners, not just to promote the Petrobras name internationally, but also to present the most demanding competition criteria – such as the new rules this year, and the prospective introduction of biofuels – to ensure we stay at the forefront of fuel technology." Williams

Minardi launch in Oz Minardi launch in OzMelbourne's Paul Stoddart underlined his easy rapport with his home-town fans as he and his new-look Minardi driver line-up went to the 'F1 Experience' in the heart of the General Admission area to unveil the team's car for the start of the 2005 season.

Stoddart set aside the political wrangling over his cars' legality under the new rules as Austria's Patrick Friesacher,  Dutchman Christijan Albers and Chanoch Nissany, the first Israeli to make it to the heights of F1, helped their boss unveil the black racer.

"Today is not about politics," said Stoddart. "We're in a fantastic city - and this is without a doubt the best Grand Prix in the world."

While Melbourne celebrates 10 years, Minardi is also having a birthday - it's 20 years since Gian Carlo Minardi brought the team into Formula One.

Thursday attendance record in Oz Thursday attendance record in OzThe first People's Day at the Australian GP was a stunning success as 77,400 fans took advantage of free entry to the General Admission areas at the Albert Park circuit.

Premier Steve Bracks was on hand to mark the occasion as the Minardi F1 team launched their 2005 car at the centre-piece of the off-track events in the Grand Prix precinct.

"What a great way to celebrate Melbourne's 10th anniversary as a Grand Prix city, by opening up the Grand Prix to as many people as possible," said the Premier.

With autograph-signing sessions led by Australia's own Mark Webber, Ferrari star Rubens Barrichello and British heart-throb Jenson Button of BAR, fans reveled in the festive atmosphere as warm sunshine bathed the Melbourne circuit.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events Mr John Pandazapoulos joined the Premier and Australian Grand Prix Chairman Ron Walker as they cut the ceremonial ribbon round the Minardi car.

The Ethanol myth The Ethanol mythRegarding the IRL's pending announcement on a switch from methanol to ethanol, let me expose this farce for what it really is.  Ethanol is a joke. It is a fraud perpetrated on the public by corporate fat daddies and politicians getting rich(-er) off of taxpayer money.

I have yet to talk to a chemical engineer that has told me otherwise. I also have two chemical engineers in the agriculture field in my family, both working for companies that are owned by cooperatives of Midwestern farmers, that tell me they would love for it to be different, but ethanol is nothing more than pork-barrel politics and corporate profits. Their jobs are effected by ethanol to some degree, so they would surely be ones to sing its praises...one would think.

Here is just one excerpt among many that can be found on the web:

"...The capper, though, is the claim that it takes more energy to make a gallon of ethanol than you get by burning it. One of the most vocal proponents of this view is Cornell University ecology professor David Pimentel. In an analysis published in 2001 in the peer-reviewed Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences and Technology, Pimentel argued that when you add up all the energy costs--the fuel for farm tractors, the natural gas used to distill corn sugars into alcohol, and so on--making a gallon of ethanol takes 70 percent more energy than the finished product contains. And because that production energy comes mostly from fossil fuels, gasohol isn't just wasting money but hastening the depletion of nonrenewable resources..."

I am sure that the IRL is adopting Ethanol because the Ethanol corporate interests are paying them to do it. Also, the ethanol lobby has extensive political connections that I am sure the IRL is interested in accessing.

It is fitting though that the IRL, who has supposedly "won" the open wheel racing war, even though their average attendance is less than little league baseball, you can get great seats on the day of the Indy 500 (as you are walking into the speedway) for less than face value, and television viewership registers below many infomercials. The entire series is lacking in credibility and has turned tail on every principle and statement they have made in the history of the series. So it is fitting that they get in bed with an industry that also has created an artificial market for their product that produces no benefit to the public except wasting their tax dollars through billions of dollars in government subsidies, which go directly to the corporation that primarily controls ethanol production and distribution (can you say Monopoly?). Without government subsidies, these companies would be out of business. Since when are tax dollars supposed to line the pockets of corporate executives?

And to top it all off, Ethanol actually pollutes more than the gasoline we already burn. It encourages over farming of corn, which is already heavily subsidized, only to subsidize the conversion of biomass into alcohol fuels. We would be better off making whiskey I say. There are no advantages to ethanol, and it is heavily documented in the scientific community. Scott Morrison, Orlando, FL

TSN extend F1 broadcast deal TSN extend F1 broadcast dealTSN has reached a new five-year deal with Formula One, effective February 2005 through the 2009 season. TSN will televise all races on the F1 circuit annually, including pre-races and qualifying.

Under terms of the new agreement, TSN will continue to be the official F1 broadcaster for English Canada. TSN has been televising Formula One since 1989. The previous broadcast deal was for three years.

RDS, Canada's top-rated French-language sports network, has also extended its commitment to F1 coverage through 2009. RDS will televise all F1 circuit races annually, including pre-race and qualifying coverage.

TSN will televise all 19 races on the F1 schedule this season, including the Canadian Grand Prix from Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and a new race from Istanbul, Turkey.

The 2005 season gets underway this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix - qualifying on Friday, March 4 at 12 midnight ET, followed by the pre-race and race on Saturday, March 5 at 9 p.m. ET.

This season, TSN will once again use the World Feed and augment the feed with ITV commentators. On Saturdays, TSN will televise F-1 qualifying, with Vic Rauter in-studio and Gerald Donaldson on site at the races. On Sundays, Rauter will anchor the F1 pre-race, which will include key highlights from the second qualifying earlier in the day.   TSN

Melbourne: Thursday Press Conference Melbourne: Thursday Press ConferenceParticipating in Thursday press conference in Melbourne, Australia today were: Jenson Button (BAR), Narain Karthikeyan (Jordan), Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and Mark Webber (Williams). Transcript
Minardi pass scrutineering Minardi pass scrutineeringMinardi's 'illegal' 2004 car today passed official FIA scrutineering at Albert Park.  ''The car complies,'' said Paul Stoddart, who now needs to present an application for dispensation bearing the signature of every other F1 principal.

Only Ferrari's Jean Todt hasn't signed, but - despite the earlier, adverse, phone call - Stoddart vowed to visit the Frenchman's Melbourne hotel later tonight.

He hinted that the backlash by Australian fans, should Ferrari block Minardi's ability to race at home, would likely be unprecedented -- including the burning of team memorabilia.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Webber bites Button
Bernie to Minardi rescue
F2005 still in action
Red Bull bring 'new ideas'
Why Flavio dumped Fisico
Parade 'fantastic' - Webber
Webber wins Schu support
'I can win' - Montoya

Praise from an old F1 enemy
Schu's stingy
Friday should be 'open' test
'Frank said I'm fat' - JPM

Ron had word with wild Kimi
Watch Red Bull - Schumacher
'All we can do is finish'
No boycott at Oz GP
Webber glory may be Nicked
Minardi 'launch' F1 car
Plenty of power, say Red Bull
Williams retain Petrobras
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