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Lorenzo sets new record to win pole in Qatar
Fiat Yamaha Team new recruit Jorge Lorenzo, at 20 the youngest rider on the grid, took an incredible pole position on his MotoGP debut in Qatar tonight. The Spanish rookie is the first rider in ten years to take pole position at his debut premier-class race and heads the first all-Yamaha front row since Sachsenring in 2002.

Following on from an impressive opening night yesterday, Lorenzo continued with more of the same in the first session this evening and finished second. As a result he headed into this evening's Qualifying session as one of the clear favorites for a spot on the front row and, with 20 minutes to go, he slotted in a Michelin qualifying tire and went straight to the top of the time sheets. It was a night for the rookies as pole position was briefly surrendered to fellow Yamaha new-boy James Toseland, but Lorenzo's final qualifying lap was too good for his competitors and a time of 1'53.927 saw him smash the previous pole record by over a second.

Jorge Lorenzo - Position: 1st Time: 1'53.927 Laps: 22
"Only in my dreams did I imagine being on pole at my very first MotoGP race; I can't believe it! This is something great for all of Yamaha; there are three Yamaha riders on the front row and this shows how hard they have been working. Tonight my M1 was working very well and with the Michelin qualifying tires it was excellent, but also our race pace is very good. Tomorrow will of course be very difficult; it's my first MotoGP race so there is a lot to think about, but I am excited and of course we will try to do our best and see what happens! The team and Michelin have done a great job over the winter so this is a thank you to them. I will try to get a good start and I will have to concentrate very hard on the first lap when the tires are cold, and then we'll see what happens. Tomorrow is another day however and for the moment I just want to think about this and celebrate a special night for me and for Yamaha."

Daniele Romagnoli - Team Manager
"Like Jorge says, tonight is like a dream for us and we couldn't ask for more. We've done a great job with Yamaha and Michelin during the winter and the rider has adapted very well to a MotoGP bike. Also the team have done very well setting up the bike for him so well done and thank you to all of them. Today the Michelin qualifying tires worked perfectly but we're also consistently fast with race tires, so it's quite exciting. I want to thank Yamaha for doing a great job in the winter and giving us a very competitive bike, we're in good shape for the first race and now we are just waiting to see what happens tomorrow!"

1.  Jorge LORENZO (Fiat Yamaha) 1:53.927
2  James TOSELAND (Yamaha Tech3) 1:54.182
3  Colin EDWARDS (Yamaha Tech3) 1:54.499
4.  Casey STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 1:54.733
5.  Randy DE PUNIET (Honda Lcr) 1:54.733
6.  Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda) 1:54.880
7.  Valentino ROSSI (Fiat Yamaha) 1:55.133
8.  Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda) 1 :55.170
9.  Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Jir Honda Scot ) 1:55.185
10. John HOPKINS (Kawasaki) 1:55.263
11. Chris VERMEULEN (Rizla Suzuki) 1:55.540
12. Alex DE ANGELIS (Honda San Carlo) 1:55.692
13. Loris CAPIROSSI  (Rizla Suzuki) 1:56.070
14. Toni ELIAS (Alice Ducati) 1.56.251
15. Shinya NAKANO (Honda San Carlo) 1:56.434
16. Marco MELANDRI (Ducati Marlboro Team) 1:56.730
17. Sylvain GUINTOLI  (Alice Ducati) 1:57.198
18. Anthony WEST (Kawasaki) 1:57.445

Circuit Lenght: 5380 m
Lap Record: 1.56.528 C. Stoner 2007 (Ducati)
Circuit best lap: 1.53.927 J.Lorenzo 2008 (Yamaha)


FIA tells teams to snub Stepney UPDATE Former Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney has expressed his delight after he escaped being charged by Formula One's governing body over the sport's 'spy' saga.

Stepney was sacked by Ferrari last year for passing data to then McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, something he has admitted to.

But he has strenuously denied providing Coughlan with a 780-page dossier that the FIA found in Coughlan's possession, sparking a scandal that ultimately led to McLaren being fined a record £50million.

Stepney said today he was "delighted that the FIA have backed down" from their threat to ban him from motor sport.

Despite deciding not to impose a suspension, the FIA have advised teams it would be inappropriate to employ Stepney.

"As Mr. Stepney is not a license-holder of the FIA, no formal action may be taken against him under the International Sporting Code," the FIA said in a statement.

"As a matter of good order, the FIA recommends to its licensees that they do not professionally collaborate with Mr. Stepney without conducting appropriate due diligence regarding his suitability for involvement in international motor sport.

"This recommendation stands until July 1, 2009."

Stepney hit back, insisting it had taken six months for the FIA to even approach him for his version of events.

"They may want to do some due diligence themselves before simply accepting one side of the story," he said.

Stepney admitted Coughlan had obtained very limited information as a result of his carelessness.

He said: "Frankly, I should have known better. But it sure as hell wasn't the 780-page dossier the FIA saw and which I've just been shown for the first time by the Italian authorities." Sporting Life

The FIA wants Nigel Stepney to never step foot in a F1 paddock again
03/08/08 (GMM)  F1's governing body has advised motor racing organizations to not employ sacked Ferrari spy Nigel Stepney.

In a press statement released late on Friday, after a meeting with the Briton, the FIA said it is not able to totally ban Stepney from international motor sport because he is "not a license-holder" of the Paris body.

But "As a matter of good order, the FIA recommends to its licensees that they do not professionally collaborate with Mr. Stepney without conducting appropriate due diligence regarding his suitability for involvement in international motor sport".

The FIA, adding that Stepney "admitted" to passing secret Ferrari information to McLaren's Mike Coughlan, said the recommendation will stand until 1 July 2009.

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Tagliani and Bachelart hint at their future prospects
Here's some interesting news tidbits from Radio-Canada (French CBC) on Alex Tagliani as well as an interview with Eric Bachelart.

First Tagliani:

"Je discute avec une équipe Champ Car, Conquest, et une équipe IRL, Rahal/Letterman "
Translation: I'm talking to a CC team (Conquest), and an IRL team (Rahal Letterman Racing)

"J'ai entendu dire que Kevin Kalkhoven essayait de faire un /deal/ avec un autre partenaire, qui viendrait avec son pilote. Il y a des rumeurs qui courent à Homestead.  J'ai l'impression que ça me prendrait pas mal plus d'argent pour avoir le volant. Car ça a l'air d'une entente importante."
Translation: I heard Kevin Kalkhoven is trying a deal with another partner (Gore), which would bring his driver (Power). Rumors are circling in Homestead. I feel I have to bring a lot more money, because that deal looks very important.

"On devrait avoir une réponse de Kevin lundi. .... C'est vraiment plate, car ça ne se joue plus au niveau du talent, mais au niveau de l'argent"
Translation: We should get an answer from Kevin Monday (March 3). It sucks because it depends on money not talent.

Second, Bachelart, titled: "I hope I survive"

"Nous avons maintenant deux châssis Dallara à l'usine, mais Dallara, qui fournit l'IRL, n'a pas assez de pièces détachées. L'entreprise italienne est débordée. Il y a eu en une fois un afflux d'équipes, avec très peu de préavis, et ça pose problème "
Translation: We now have two Dallaras in our shop. But Dallara does not have enough parts. The italian manufacturer is overbooked. Too many teams suddenly made orders, with little warning, it's causing problems.

"Nous sommes moins impliqués (qu'en Champ Car), on n'a pas grand-chose à dire, admet M. Bachelart. On nous dit: "Vous faites ça, et puis c'est tout""
Translation: We have less of a say then we did in CC, we can't do much. [IRL officials] told us 'You do this and that's all'.

"Mont-Tremblant, Toronto et Edmonton étaient des épreuves populaires. Et le Canada est un marché important, mais je ne peux pas répondre pour Tony George."
Translation: Mont-Tremblant, Toronto and Edmonton are very popular events. Canada is an important market for us, but I can't speak on Tony George's behalf.

"Ce serait encore trop d'ovales pour moi. J'aimerais un meilleur /split/, dit-il. J'espère survivre sur ovale cette année"
Translation: There's too many ovals for me. I prefer a better split, I just hope I survive on ovals this year.


Champ Car files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after Kalkhoven denied it UPDATE #2 The official cost to Indy Racing League founder Tony George to unify open-wheel racing is $10 million, according to information contained in Champ Car's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing this week.

George agreed to pay $2 million apiece to Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe, Champ Car's primary owners, and $6 million for Champ Car's assets, which include a mobile medical center.

Additionally, George committed cars and engines to Champ Car teams that will participate in the IndyCar Series, worth $1.8 million per entry. So far, six have signed on, pushing the commitment to $20.8 million.

Kalkhoven's team, known as KV Racing, announced its intention to field two cars this year. Forsythe's Indianapolis-based team, Forsythe Championship Racing, will cease operations.

George also vowed to continue the tradition of the Long Beach (Calif.) Grand Prix by giving it a spot on the IRL's schedule. This year, the IRL will pay television costs associated with the April 20 race. Kalkhoven and Forsythe also have obligations to the event.

In filings with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis, Champ Car listed among its creditors companies owned by the series' owners, a group that also includes Dan Pettit and Paul Gentilozzi.

The debts include:
$1.825 million to Cosworth, an engine-building company owned by Kalkhoven and Forsythe.
$645,883 to PKV Racing, a race team which Kalkhoven and Pettit owned.
$424,861 to RuSPORT, a race team Pettit bought from founder Carl Russo.
$327,961 to Forsythe Championship Racing, which Forsythe owns.

Champ Car filed Chapter 11, a reorganization, because it will continue to operate some aspects of the company, primarily by the junior class known as the Atlantics division. Under the agreement, Champ Car's owners are not allowed to compete with the IndyCar Series as owners of another series.  The contract with Champ Car and the IRL will not be finalized until the court settles the bankruptcy case. Indy Star

03/06/08 Champ Car yesterday filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, igniting what could potentially be a bidding war for its assets. The Indy Racing League last month agreed to acquire certain assets of Champ Car, but the bankruptcy court could open things up. “To the extent that another buyer would come in and pay more, that would be better for the creditors,” said Jeffrey A. Hokanson, an attorney with the Indianapolis-based law firm Hostetler & Kowalik, which represents Champ Car. If another bidder offered a higher amount, Hokanson said IRL officials could counter offer. “It can amount to an auction,” he added.

But motorsports experts don’t expect another suitor to swoop in this time. “A judge certainly has the right to hand it over to another buyer if one shows up, but I don’t anticipate that,” said Tim Frost, a Chicago-based motorsports business consultant. “This is part of the procedural motions Champ Car had to go through to make the transaction with the Indy Racing League happen. I believe this is the final chapter of open-wheel unification.”

A likely scenario, Hokanson said, is for the bankruptcy to be used as a tool to complete the IRL-Champ Car unification, and to sell the remaining assets such as engines, chassis and office furniture and supplies to satisfy creditors.

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Roush calls Lee White an "ankle biting Chihuahua'' UPDATE On Friday afternoon, Lee White backpedaled.

"I don't know if the situation with the No. 99 car was intentional," White said in a statement. "And I apologize that it has come across like that. Obviously, I can't make that call. I drew the same circumstantial conclusion as others have. I trust and respect the decision NASCAR made.

"I've known Jack Roush for almost 25 years and consider us friends. . ."

03/08/08 And so the war of words continued Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Some Roush Fenway Racing executives hit the roof when the general manager of Toyota's Sprint Cup program said that the Roush team of Carl Edwards did do something to the oil tank cover in Edwards' car last week at Las Vegas because it makes the car better. 

White used to work with Roush many years ago and there's little love lost between the two. 

The article stated: "Lee White, GM for Toyota Racing Development, said the manufacturer's testing at wind tunnels in Germany revealed removing the cover on the oil tank (located in a steel box behind the driver's seat) resulted in 170 extra pounds of downforce, the aerodynamic measurement of keeping a car glued to the track.'' 

Roush was furious about White's comments: "I got woken up this morning to the news that Lee White, on behalf of Toyota, had made some disparaging remarks in USA Today. Lee White worked for me in the eighties, and I won't say more than that, but I can give you some (off-the-record) insight to Lee. Lee is a real nice guy. I respect him, but he's also a great racer and will seek any advantage that he thinks he might have an opportunity for. 

"(The oil tank cover) was tight and it was secure when the race started. Sometime in that 400 miles, that thing decided to pack it in and vibrate loose. It may have been when one set of tires was on the car that was vibrating more, I have no idea. I was not complicit. Carl Edwards was not complicit and I'm going to treat Lee White and Toyota for their accusations in USA Today like they were an ankle biting Chihuahua and be done with it.''


Snow causes Nationwide qualifying to be canceled
Nationwide Series qualifying for the Nicorette 300 was being canceled due to snow at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  The field will be set on 2007 series final owners points, which puts Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton on the pole. Kyle Busch, driving the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, starts second. Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards, the 2007 driver champion, starts third. Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer starts fourth since his No. 2 team swapped points with the No. 21 in the offseason and Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann rounds out the top five. 

There are only 43 cars entered, so all competitors made the field.
The race is scheduled for a 2 p.m. EST start. There is a 30 percent chance of snow flurries and rain, but it is expected to dissipate by early this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.


Webber admits 'niggles' in brutal winter season
(GMM)  Mark Webber has admitted that an unusually arduous winter testing period left Red Bull's race lineup with "physical niggles" ahead of the first grand prix of the 2008 season.

The Austrian owned squad appointed Swiss teenager Sebastien Buemi as its official test driver in January, but the team nonetheless opted to leave the pre-season's cockpit duties to racers Mark Webber and David Coulthard.

Despite their collective age of 67, Coulthard and Webber are, however, considered among the fittest on the formula one grid, and Webber told the Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun that he "couldn't be physically better prepared" for his home race.

"Red Bull chose not to use any test drivers this year -- David and I did all of the work ourselves," Webber, 31, said.

Coulthard, the oldest driver currently on the grid, recently sat out one of the last days of the test season with a neck twinge, and Webber reveals that he too felt the effects of the intense preparation of the new Adrian Newey-penned RB4.

"It's probably the most intense off-season, in terms of doing mileage, that I've ever had.  David and I got through it in the end, but we had a few physical niggles towards the end because you are just doing so many miles," he said.


The Science of ...Missing Oil Tank Covers
Danny LaDue asks: Can you explain the location of a NASCAR oil tank reservoir and how the lack of one could improve aerodynamics?

Thanks for the question, Danny. I can–with a little help from Josh Browne, Chief Race Engineer at Red Bull Racing, who helped me disentangle a couple of things I heard on television.

First, the location. Unlike your car, the oil in a NASCAR car isn’t stored in the engine (which would be a wet sump system). NASCAR uses a dry sump system, in which oil is stored in an oil tank reservoir. The oil tank reservoir is located behind the driver’s seat and is surrounded on the sides and top by sheet metal, which forms the oil tank. You can see a picture of the oil reservoir in the Stock Car Science Building A Car section. The sheet metal plays an important role in minimizing heat radiating into the car, traps fumes from the hot oil, and serves as an additional firewall. This function is so important that NASCAR doesn’t allow the top of the tank to be attached using quick connect fasteners. The teams usually duct tape the lid on. The picture below shows the location of the oil tank with respect to the chassis. It doesn’t show the cover, which would sit on top of the tank. (added) The oil reservoir itself is closed and pressurized.

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As previously rumored on these pages, The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) announced today that the Association has entered into an agreement in principle to sell the sanctioning, promotional and management rights for its AMA Pro Racing properties to the Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG), based in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Led by Roger Edmondson, the founder of the CCS motorcycle racing series and currently the President of the Grand American Road Race Series LLC, and Jim France, Vice Chairman/Executive Vice President of NASCAR, DMG will assume responsibility for the AMA Superbike Series, the AMA Motocross Series, the AMA Flat Track Series, the AMA Supermoto Series, the AMA Hillclimb Series and ATV Pro Racing. The agreement in principle does not include the AMA Supercross and AMA Arenacross Series, the rights to which are held by Live Nation. Daytona Motorsports Group will license the use of the AMA name and trademarks to promote their motorcycle racing activities.

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No Indy 500 for Robby Gordon
“It was more of a fact if we’re on the outside of the top 35, we really weren’t going to have a shot at making the Chase in 2008, we needed to do something big. Let’s go try to win Indy or something. That’s the pure racer coming out in me that wants to succeed. That deal is off.” Dodge Motorsports PR


Allison brothers mother dies
Kitty Allison, mother of legendary NASCAR drivers Bobby and Donnie Allison, died Thursday at the age of 101.

The Matriarch of the Allison Family, Kittie (Mom) Allison passed away on Thursday evening, March 6, 2008. She and Ed (Pop) had 13 children, 8 of whom are still living, 25 grandchildren, 32 great grandchildren and 1 great granddaughter. Mom was a devout Catholic and an inspiration to everyone she knew. Born and raised in New Jersey, Mom lived in Miami, Florida most of her life and raised her children there. She and Pop moved to Hueytown, Alabama to be near their family and racing in the 1970's.

A Lifetime Member of the Winston Cup Ladies Auxiliary in Racing (WAM) Mom was always on the racing scene and flew to many tracks with her son Bobby to watch him and Donnie race. For the last few years, she made her home at the Little Flower Catholic Assisted Living Community in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mom will be greatly missed by her family and all who met her over the 101 years of her life.

There will be a Viewing and Rosary Service at Browns Service Funeral Home-West at 2885 Allison-Bonnett Memorial Parkway in Hueytown, Alabama on Tuesday, March 11th -- Viewing at 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm with the Rosary being said at 7:30 pm. The Funeral Mass will be at St. Aloysious Catholic Church in Bessemer, Alabama at 751 Academy Drive, Bessemer, Alabama at 10:00 am on Wednesday, March 12th with burial following at Highland Memorial Gardens in Bessemer, Alabama. In lieu of flowers, any donations can be made to: Little Flower Assisted Living, 8700 Lawyers Rd., Charlotte, NC 28227 or St. Aloysious Catholic Church, 751 Academy Dr., Bessemer, Alabama 35022 or Victory Junction Gang Camp


Unification was just the start to repairing open wheel racing
When the great open-wheel racing unification (or merger or semi-hostile takeover) occurred last month, it was a big story here in the racing capital of the world.

But beyond Indy's borders, it was greeted by a massive yawn. On ESPN, in papers around the country, it was a small story, a back-page mention, reduced to small agate type right next to the news that Joe Schmo was hired as Towson State's men's volleyball coach.

The best news is, finally, there's hope for open-wheel racing in this country. No longer will fans and sponsors be confused by which circuit is which. No longer will drivers be forced to make a choice between the leagues. And maybe, just maybe, the exodus of open-wheel drivers to NASCAR will slow or even stop. The bad news is, it wasn't big news, except in Indianapolis.

After 12 years of civil war, America has turned its lonely eyes to NASCAR, and it's not going to return its gaze to open-wheel racing for many years -- if ever. The merger won't bring back Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya or Sam Hornish Jr.

In the great race to earn America's attention, NASCAR has a 10-lap advantage on the late-starting folks from the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series.

"Is there going to be a miracle change overnight?" asked IRL team owner Michael Andretti during an interview with WNFI-1070 AM. "No. But now we have something positive to build on. We've had a lot of positive things happen the last few years, but there was always that black cloud hanging over us. Now we can expose fans to the good things we've been doing, and we can move forward without explaining why there's two series and all the rest.

"I don't know how long it's going to take to get the sport back to where it was (before The Split), but I'm hoping in three to five years, it's significantly bigger."
There is work to be done.

A lot of work.

"We've got a long, long list (of things to do), and right now, we're trying to get some (Champ Car) guys down here (to Florida) for some testing," IRL founder Tony George told the station last week. "We hope that all of those who want to come have the ability to come.

"The good news is, we're finally all together and we're going to work together to get the best positive result."  More at Indy Star

Racing News

Nevada Drives Deal to Host Land Rover’s U.S. G4 Challenge
Click image to play video
Athletes throughout the U.S. will gather in Nevada to participate in the annual Land Rover G4 Challenge. Twenty individuals will compete in various driving and outdoor adventure activities in hopes of advancing to the event’s international race, to be held in early 2009 in Asia. Prior to heading overseas, contestants must complete a series of off-road driving excursions and adventures that will take place in the Nevada Passage. The Nevada Passage, erected in 2005, was developed by the Nevada Commission on Tourism and is a made-for-TV course designed to highlight the state’s topography. This year marks only the second time a U.S. team has participated in the global competition and the first time the Land Rover G4 Challenge will raise funds for charity: the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


Skinner puts Allmendinger's Toyota in field
(Left to right) AJ Allmendinger and Mike Skinner talk about Skinner taking over the No. 84 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride for four races.
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
Mike Skinner qualified AJ Allmendinger's Toyota for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Atlanta.

Are you happy with your performance tonight and getting the car in the race?
“That was our first and foremost mission -- to make the race, but we have a long ways to go with this car.  There is a great group of guys here and I feel like we made gains today, but we have a lot more gains to make.  That is not our goal -- to come here and qualify in the back.  So we are just going to work really hard and hopefully -- I know we aren’t going to get to test before Bristol -- but hopefully we can go and do a little testing before Martinsville and maybe a little bit more before Texas.  Maybe we can go somewhere like Kentucky or somewhere.  Our first goal was accomplished so now we have to try to keep fenders on and build on it.”

How did the car feel from practice to qualifying? 
“I thought we could probably make the race.  I know everybody stepped it up an awful lot out there, but the car was all over the race track.  We never did get the car down solid in the racetrack.  I got it pointed one time off of two there and it felt pretty good.  Then I got down there in three and four and the thing jumped sideways in the middle of the corner.  It is just really, really hard to predict what it is going to do right now.  These guys are going to work hard on it.  We have some really good people and good engineers.  I just have to get to know them a little bit so I know what language to speak.” This is the second week in a row that you basically step into a new car and get it into the race. 

Are people going to start calling on you if they need to get cars in the race?
“Unless it says Toyota on the back, I’m not going to be driving it.  I have a great deal with Toyota and the Tundra brand and the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) folks.  I bleed Toyota through and through and if it doesn’t say Toyota I probably won’t be driving it.”


Stoner tops opening practice in Qatar
Qatar GP practice continues tomorrow night, with racing on Sunday night, all illuminated by Losail’s awesome 5.4 million watt lighting rig.

Free Practice Nr 2

1.  Casey STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 1:55.442
2.  Jorge LORENZO (Fiat Yamaha) 1:55.453
3.  James TOSELAND (Yamaha Tech3) 1:55.812
4.  Colin EDWARDS (Yamaha Tech3) 1:55.942
5.  Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Jir Honda Scot ) 1:55.963
6.  Alex DE ANGELIS (Honda San Carlo) 1:56.120
7.  Randy DE PUNIET (Honda Lcr) 1:56.234
8.  Chris VERMEULEN (Rizla Suzuki) 1:56.279
9.  Valentino ROSSI (Fiat Yamaha) 1:56.395
10. Loris CAPIROSSI  (Rizla Suzuki) 1:56.922
11. Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda) 1 :56.962
12. Shinya NAKANO (Honda San Carlo) 1:57.011
13. Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda) 1:57.045
14. Marco MELANDRI (Ducati Marlboro Team) 1:57.091
15. Toni ELIAS (Alice Ducati) 1.57.311
16. John HOPKINS (Kawasaki) 1:57.461
17. Anthony WEST (Kawasaki) 1:57.934
18. Sylvain GUINTOLI  (Alice Ducati) 1:58.500

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


Sebring test deemed a success
IndyCar Series drivers completed almost 3,000 laps in four days of testing at Sebring International Raceway March 3-6 in their final tune-up before the start of the 2008 season.

The test on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn course afforded drivers and teams an opportunity to prepare for the road and street courses on the 2008 schedule as well as familiarize themselves with the new paddle-shift system and variable assist steering rack.

"It's good to see the cars run consistently as they did, as flawlessly as they did," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations of the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series. "Once again, that's a reflection of our strong partners in all areas of suppliers and manufacturers - engines, gearboxes. The new paddle shift seems to be as flawless as anyone could hope for. The drivers and teams got a good opportunity to learn a lot of information for the road and street courses as we approach the 2008 season."

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Yasukawa to compete in Beck Motorsports car at Motegi
Roger Yasukawa, who has made 37 IndyCar Series starts, will compete in the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi in the No. 77 Interush Dallara/Honda/Firestone through an agreement between Wellman Racing and Beck Motorsports.

"Racing at Motegi has always been highly important to me and my fan base in Asia," said Yasukawa, who last competed on the 1.5-mile oval in 2005. "I certainly am looking forward to doing my best in the Interush No. 77 and meeting their affiliates and customers."


Peugeot to use Sebring as LeMans warm-up
As Peugeot Sport Director Michel Barge underlined during the presentation of the team's 2008 season, Team Peugeot Total's priority objective this year is victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours. To prepare for this exacting race, the team went straight into an intensive test program after last November's 1000 Milhas Brazil at Interlagos with a view to continuing the development and reliability-enhancing of the 908 HDi FAP which turned out to be competitive out of the box. But nothing can replace actual competition and this is why a car has been entered for the 12 Hours of Sebring. This race promises to be tough not only because of the notorious characteristics of the track but also because of the formidable competition Peugeot Sport faces in the American classic and which it will face again on the European rounds of the Le Mans Series and at Le Mans itself.

To prepare for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Team Peugeot Total made the trip out to Florida last January to take part in the Winter Test staged by the American Le Mans Series organizers. Three of the four Peugeot drivers who will contest the 2008 Le Mans Series – namely Portugal's Pedro Lamy and Frenchmen Nicolas Minassian and Stéphane Sarrazin – profited from the opportunity to take turns at the wheel of the 908 HDi FAP. To the surprise of many, the car immediately proved a match for the former airfield's infamous uneven concrete slabs. "This track is very different from modern European tracks," commented Stéphane Sarrazin who was clearly in his element at Sebring. "It's pretty bumpy in places but the car seemed to be well suited to track from its very first runs and we were pleasantly surprised by our performance which says a great deal for the 908 HDi FAP's excellent chassis."

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Go behind the scenes with Acura on SPEED
Tune in on Saturday, March 8 to SPEED to view the premiere of the new documentary “Acura Motorsports: Advancing to Victory” and witness the trials and tribulations that have gone in to preparing for the American Le Mans series.

The documentary will feature behind-the-scenes footage and in-depth interviews with the owners and drivers of the three Acura teams: Andretti
Green Racing, Lowe’s Fernandez Racing and Patr¢n Highcroft Racing. Viewers will have an insider’s look as the three teams work together and share information in an unprecedented way as they all work toward the ultimate goal: the LMP2 class championship.

You'll also get a look into the development of Acura's new chassis along with driver changes, last season's unexpected Sebring win and a look at this year's competition.

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racing news

Jim Beam to sponsor Penske at Indy 500
Jim Beam will continue to be an official sponsor of the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 through a partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This sponsorship, as well as a season-long sponsorship of the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., makes it possible to once again provide Jim Beam racing fans the opportunity to experience the Jim Beam 1100 – two historic races totaling 1100 miles on the same day. Jim Beam will continue its recent Memorial Day Weekend tradition by offering race fans the opportunity to win a VIP trip for four to attend both the Indianapolis 500® and the NASCAR® 600-mile race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 25, 2008 by signing up through regular mail or online at jimbeam.com.1 Jim Beam will sponsor Team Penske IndyCar Series® drivers Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe in addition to NASCAR driver/team owner Robby Gordon to further support the Jim Beam 1100 promotion.

In addition, Jim Beam will support driver Robby Gordon’s H3 Hummer entry in a number of high-profile, international off-road races, including the rescheduled Dakar Rally in Budapest, Hungary from April 20-26, 2008.


Rain threatens Atlanta Qualifying
With rain falling Friday morning the remainder of the day at Atlanta Motor Speedway looks iffy at best.  Qualifying for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. EST, and the National Weather Service predicts 100 percent chance of rain throughout the day. Temperatures could reach the 60s, but could dip to the mid-30s by tonight. There is a 50 percent chance of rain for tonight.  With the top 35 teams in owner points from last year set in the field, 13 drivers are vying for eight spots.

track news

Kentucky track granted extension on appeal deadline
Kentucky Speedway won’t have to file its appeal in its antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. until April 21.  The track got a two-week extension on its appeal deadline, the final extension it will be allowed. The original date was March 5, and that had been extended to April 7.

No date for a hearing has been set in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. NASCAR and ISC have until May 27 to issue their initial response to Kentucky’s appeal, and final briefs in the case are now due July 11.


Bourdais will be outclassed in qualifying - Berger
Gerhard Berger
(GMM)  Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger has revealed that Sebastian Vettel is likely to outclass his teammate and formula one newcomer Sebastien Bourdais in qualifying for the first race of the 2008 season next weekend.

Bourdais, the reigning multiple Champ Car series champion, admitted recently that he has not yet come fully to terms with a grand prix single seater, and his Toro Rosso STR2-B, on low fuel and new tires.

"In testing, Vettel was faster than our new driver, Bourdais," former grand prix winner Berger confirmed to the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell.

The Austrian legend explained that the switch from Champ Car and slick tires to F1's grooves is making it initially difficult for Frenchman Bourdais, who is 29, to "get the maximum" out of the package.

Berger added: "The good news is that on the long runs in testing, both of them were equal.  But in qualifying, Bourdais still needs to improve.

"With Vettel he has an absolute top-man at his side, who has the complete package -- the speed as well as the quality of his feedback and the ability to motivate the team," he said.


Mercedes unveils new F1 Safety Cars
(GMM)  Mercedes' performance brand, AMG, on Friday revealed details and photos of the new Formula One Safety Car and Medical Cars for the 2008 season.

The 525 horsepower Safety Car, to be driven as usual by 36-year-old German pilot Bernd Maylander, is based on the newly launched SL 63 AMG roadster.

The Safety Car was last updated by Mercedes-Benz in 2006, in the form of the CLK 63 AMG.

The new model is 220 kilograms lighter than its factory counterpart, and also features better brakes, cooling, a rollover bar, some carbon fiber bodywork and numerous other racing modifications.

The Medical Car, meanwhile, which is driven at all races by France's Dr Jacques Tropenat, and occupied by official F1 doctor Dr Gary Hartstein, is based on the C 63 Estate model.


Cooper and Mazda reaffirm support for Atlantic Series
The best open wheel training series in the world was not included in the IRL buyout of Champ Car, which is one of the dumbest moves series officials could have made
With the recent unification of the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series and the Champ Car World Series, the 35th Anniversary season of the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will be a watershed event in the history of North America’s longest-running open-wheel driver development series.

Series co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe have pledged to continue the popular championship, which will open its season on April 18-20 at the legendary Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. In light of the open-wheel unification, Atlantic Managing Director Vicki O’Connor and her staff continue to work feverishly to solidify key details on the 2008 series, such as the 12-race schedule, prize package and incentives, sanctioning body and television coverage, with announcements expected soon.

However, none of this would be possible without the continued support of series partners Mazda and the Cooper Tire & Rubber Company.

Mazda joined the series as a sponsor and engine supplier in 2006 and has identified the Atlantic Championship as the top rung on its MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder, which includes the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear, the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Championship Presented by Mazda and the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup. As part of the program, Mazda ensures that the Star Mazda champion receives a ride in the next season’s Atlantic Championship, which will again be the case this year with Dane Cameron. Mazda has also included Atlantic in national television advertising campaigns.

“Mazda is fully committed to all rungs of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder, including our top rung, the Atlantic Championship,” said Robert Davis, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Quality for Mazda North American Operations and the man responsible for Mazda’s North American motorsports operations under the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development banner. “Mazda is working diligently with Vicki O’Connor, Cooper Tire, event promoters and tracks to produce the best possible 2008 season with an eye on 2009. Mazda is working with the best interests of our fans, teams, drivers and sponsors in mind.”

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Bridgestone to mark Extreme Wets
(GMM)  Bridgestone in 2008 will mark its extreme wet compounds with a white line in the bottom of the middle groove, the official F1 tire supplier announced on Friday.

Throughout last season, at the behest of the FIA, the Japanese marque marked the softer of the two dry-weather compounds on offer at grands prix with a similar white line, and the practice will continue this year.

Because the practice did not extend to wet tires, however, some observers and teams remarked that it was difficult to differentiate normal wets from the deeper-grooved 'extreme' tires when they were circulating on the tracks.

The wet tire marking has therefore been introduced for 2008 "at the request of the teams and in consultation with the FIA", Bridgestone said.

The tire supplier says it is happy with the concept of marking its products for formula one because it enables "the media and the public to further understand the strategies employed by various teams and potentially increase their enjoyment of the race".


Coulthard to make history in Saudi Arabia today
Before hitting the streets of Melbourne next week, Red Bull Racing star David Coulthard will make a short stop when he visits Saudi Arabia to take part in the first ever Formula One street demonstration.

The Scot will be appearing on a temporary racetrack in the parking lot at the Al Basateen Centre tonight when he will pilot his Red Bull racer down the road to the SAMBA building in front of thousands of excited fans.

From there he will make his way down under for the opening race of the 2008 Formula One season that will get underway with the official first practice session in one short week’s time.


Tracy getting worried he won't have ride
Tracy isn't smiling right now
Two weeks have passed since U.S. open-wheel racing unified and Paul Tracy still isn't part of an Indy Racing League team.

His Champ Car World Series team, Forsythe Championship Racing, announced plans to close shop. No IRL team has assembled a program for Tracy.

The first race is in three weeks. Tracy, Champ Car's highest-profile driver and an Indianapolis 500 veteran, is starting to get nervous.

"For sure," he said Thursday by telephone from Las Vegas. "I want to go racing. But I've got nothing."

Tracy has been trying to get team owner Gerald Forsythe, who owns his contract, to change his mind regarding the Indianapolis-based team -- to no avail. Tracy has also talked with IRL founder Tony George about a ride but nothing has materialized.

"He told me to give him a few days," Tracy said of George.

Tracy, a 17-year veteran of Champ Car/CART, has high standards when it comes to future employers. He isn't interested in driving for George-owned Vision Racing, a second-tier IRL team. He initially asked George to approach the Penske and Ganassi teams about hiring him.

Andretti Green Racing is the other major IRL team, but it already has four drivers. However, Tracy said AGR officials recently sent an e-mail of inquiry to one of Tracy's biggest financial backers, Monster Energy Drink. Tracy said Monster's issue is timing.

"They have the capability of (sponsoring an IRL car), but they're a public company that's not going to throw $5 million around willy-nilly. They need to be presented a program with a marketing strategy, and then they'd have to take it to their board. That takes time." Indy Star


Toyota's GM says #99 knew they were cheating
Lee White, GM for Toyota Racing Development, said Carl Edwards' team knowingly caused a lid to come loose on an oil tank in his Ford because it increased the car's speed during Sunday's victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Edwards was penalized 100 points by NASCAR for the missing cover. Roush Fenway Racing has denied the infraction was intentional, saying a bolt broke because of a vibration. The team said it wasn't certain it achieved a gain in performance. White said the manufacturer's testing at wind tunnels in Germany revealed removing the cover on the oil tank (located in a steel box behind the driver's seat) resulted in 170 extra pounds of downforce, the aerodynamic measurement of keeping a car glued to the track. White also said video of a pit stop showed a member of Edwards' pit crew pulling on a right rear fender to open a 3-inch gap to an inner panel. Toyota testing showed that would create about 70 pounds of downforce, White said. NASCAR said the only issue with the car during inspection was the lid. More at USA Today


Home Depot Sells Off Sponsorship For Some Races
In an era where multiple primary sponsors have muddled the bond between driver and car, one of the more consistent images has been the orange No. 20 Home Depot ride of Tony Stewart.

But that relationship will be tweaked somewhat this year, as Joe Gibbs Racing President J.D. Gibbs told the Press Wednesday that the home improvement warehouse has sold off the primary sponsorship for some races to another company.

"At times we'll bring people to them and say, 'Hey, what do you think,' and usually in the past they say, 'Thanks but no thanks,'" Gibbs said. "I think they found a partner here that makes sense for them."

Gibbs wouldn't divulge who the partner is, saying, "I'll let them go into all that detail when the time is right." He did add, though, that the agreement is more than a one-off deal.

Stewart, a member of the Coca-Cola Racing Family, ran a car with the soft drink company's sports beverage, POWERade, as the primary sponsor at Dover in 2006.


Alonso given no chance
Fernando Alonso to struggle with slow Renault?
Kimi Raikkonen has written off Fernando Alonso's chances of winning this year's world title, saying the Renault R28 is not fast enough.

Alonso, who rejoined the team after a tension-fraught 2007 season with McLaren, has struggled during pre-season testing as Renault battle to recover from last year's slump.

The Spaniard has found himself almost a full second off the pace of F1's leading teams, Ferrari and McLaren, prompting Raikkonen to suggest that Alonso will not be a part of this year's title race.

"Fernando is a good driver, but his options depend on how good the Renault car has been developed. By his declarations, it seems that they lack speed," the Finn said.

Team-mate Felipe Massa also believes Alonso will be out of the running this season.

"My main rivals will be Kimi and Hamilton," the Brazilian told AFP.

"If you have to take on Alonso it's better that he's driving for the French team than McLaren because it seems to me that Renault aren't at the same level as McLaren." SkySports


Hornish would consider Memorial Day double
Sam Hornish Jr. is focused on NASCAR Sprint Cup racing this season, but he hasn’t completely forgotten his IndyCar Series roots. He admits that at some point he might consider running the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in May.

A rookie with the Penske Racing NASCAR team, he still thinks about returning to Indianapolis in an open-wheel car someday.
“I'd consider it,” he said. “… Obviously with Penske Racing having both an IndyCar team and a stock-car team, that would be optimal for me to be able to do it. You have to go through getting the sponsors to be interested in that. Obviously I think that we need to be doing a little bit better in the points at that point in time to even think about that.”


GM ends Wagoner's pay cut
General Motors Corp. is ending the self-imposed pay cut Chief Executive Rick Wagoner took in 2006 just after the company posted a $10 billion annual loss.

Wagoner's annual salary will be restored to $2.2 million this year, the same as he earned in 2003 through 2005, GM said Thursday in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. His base salary was $1.3 million in 2006. The company hasn't announced Wagoner's 2007 total compensation.

In addition to his salary, Wagoner, 54, also will get shares of GM stocks and bonuses if he meets certain targets.

Wagoner accepted the pay cut to aid a turnaround plan that called for shuttering U.S. factories and laying off tens of thousands of workers.

"This says they're getting back to business as usual," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "He has met key objectives. And, when you meet the objectives of a corporation, you're rewarded."


Czech Republic team driver change
A1 Team Czech Republic has made a surprise driver switch for the rest of the season, with Filip Salaquarda being recalled to race instead of Josef Kral for the final three meetings.

Seventeen-year-old Kral had been announced by the team as its lead driver for the rest of the season, however, was not able to impress in Durban, with a best finish of 16th in the Feature race.

He will now be replaced by Salaquarda for the final three meetings of the 2007/08 campaign, beginning with Mexico next weekend. The 24-year-old had his only two previous A1GP caps at Shanghai, one of the other circuits remaining on this season’s A1GP schedule.

‘I am very happy that I will do all three remaining events of the A1GP season,’ Salaquarda said.

‘I do not know the track in Mexico but I am eligible to participate in the rookie test, so I should learn the track quickly. I raced in A1GP in Shanghai last year and Bands Hatch is no stranger to me.

‘I am really looking forward to all the races because I feel that I am well prepared. I am fully focused on the A1GP and I hope that I will not disappoint the team’s faith in me.’

The team has not ruled out using Kral again next season, however.

'I am not excluding cooperation with Josef Kral in the future but it is not today’s topic,' said seat holder Antonin Charouz.


Trulli says Toyota one second behind Ferrari
Timo Glock disagrees with Jarno Trulli
(GMM)  Toyota's 2008 race lineup, Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock, do not agree about the respective virtues and weaknesses of the new TF108.

In fact, while GP2 champion Glock thinks the 2008 car is set to look fairly competitive over a single qualifying lap this season, Trulli is not so sure.

"Our main problem is over the longer distances," Glock told the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

"In that area we do not yet have the car where we want it to be."

In total contrast, 33-year-old Trulli is more upbeat than reigning GP2 champion Glock about the TF108's strengths in race trim.

"We could be the big surprise of the year," the Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport, albeit warning that the car in qualifying specification is "not so special" in the days leading up to the first race in Australia.

Glock said: "It would be great if we could score points (in Melbourne), but this is going to be very difficult.

"There is a fierce battle among a lot of teams," he added.

To the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell, meanwhile, Trulli predicts a time deficit to the leading Ferraris at Albert Park of about one full second per lap.

And "we are a good three tenths behind the BMW Sauber team, but that does not mean that we are the fourth power," he said.

racing news

Racing names make Forbes richest list
We went through the Forbes list of The World's Billionaires.  Of the 1,125 richest people on the planet, we spotted these racing names.

Rank Name Net Worth ($ Billion)
127 John Menard Jr. 7.3
288 Bernard Ecclestone & Family 3.7
428 Roger Penske 2.7
553 Alexander Shnaider 2.2
843 James France 1.4
843 Tracy Krohn 1.4
962 Vijay Mallya 1.2
962 O. Bruton Smith 1.2

track news

Paving Complete At Darlington Raceway
Paving of the racing surface at Darlington Raceway has been completed, track President Chris Browning announced.  "This begins a new chapter in the history books at Darlington Raceway," said Browning. "We are very excited to be finished with the paving so that we can now focus on preparing for the upcoming Dodge Challenger 500 race weekend, May 8-10."

Paving at Darlington Raceway began in mid-January, took nearly 15,000 tons of asphalt to complete and replaced a surface that was laid in 1994. Construction crews utilized 4 million reference points around the legendary track to ensure that the transitions in the corners and banking stayed true to the track’s original design.

The new racing surface was part of a $10 million capital improvement project that also included an infield access tunnel large enough to accommodate car haulers, motor homes and emergency vehicles and the addition of SAFER barrier walls to interior concrete walls on the frontstretch and backstretch.

"All of the upgrades that we have completed during this capital improvement project will play a vital role in the future of Darlington Raceway," said Browning.


Honda private Jerez test summary
The Honda Racing F1 Team today concluded its preparations for the start of the 2008 Formula One season following a three-day private test at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain.

Race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, along with Test and Reserve Driver Alex Wurz, each spent two days at the wheel of the RA108 cars, which were running with the team's latest aerodynamic and mechanical developments.

With the first race in Australia just over a week away, the test program focused on the evaluation of the new parts to confirm the final specification for the first three flyaway races, along with qualifying, race start and race procedures.

The team's three drivers, who form the most experienced driver line-up on the Formula One grid this year, completed 603 laps, over 2670 kms of running.

Jenson and Rubens now head to Japan for the Honda Motor Sports pre-season press conference which takes place in Tokyo on Monday, before continuing their journey to Melbourne.

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Tafel Racing sponsor announced
Atlanta-based Tafel Racing has announced a season- long marketing partnership with San Jose, Calif.- headquartered Bell Microproducts, Inc (NASDAQ:BELM). The second year American Le Mans Series team will enter the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC for the full 2008 GT2 season. The Bell Microproducts-backed Ferrari will be driven by Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and 2000 American Le Mans Series GT2 class Champion Dirk Muller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco). Bell Microproducts (www.BellMicro.com), a world- leader in computer-based storage solutions as well as other high-tech products and services, will also provide support to the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC during the 10th Anniversary season of the American Le Mans Series.

Bell Microproducts, which has a long history in professional sports car racing, will make its debut with the Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) owned team at the 56th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida on March 15th. 2007 Le Mans Series GT2 Champion Rob Bell (Northants, England), no relation to Bell Microproducts founder Don Bell, will join the driver lineup in the No. 71 Bell Microproducts Ferrari at Sebring. 

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Laguna Seca replaces Champ Car event with IMSA historic race
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca announced that a race for historic IMSA cars will replace the canceled Champ Car World Series race scheduled for May 18 as part of the track's Monterey Festival of Speed. The recent unification of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League resulted in Laguna Seca looking for a replacement event, as the IndyCar Series schedule is unable to accommodate the track this season.

The May 16-18 weekend will include four different types of races: the Grand-Am Sports Car Series, the Atlantic Series, Formula BMW and the Historic IMSA race for cars from the 1970s and '80s.

Additionally, Kruse International will hold a classic-car show and auction on Saturday, May 17; 150 cars are expected to be auctioned. AutoWeek


Dreyer & Reinbold signs Townsend Bell
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has signed IndyCar Series veteran driver Townsend Bell to drive in selected races for the 2008 racing season, including the Indianapolis 500.

Bell, 32, who will drive the No. 23 car in races that Milka Duno is not scheduled to race, hasn’t been in the IndyCar Series since the 2006 Indianapolis 500.

“I’m ready to get going,” Bell said from Sebring International Raceway where he participated in the IndyCar Series Open Test. "There are a few new things (associated with the car), and obviously the driver has a lot of rust. That showed up on the very first lap. I've done 15 laps in one of these cars on a road course at Sonoma a year and a half ago, and prior to that I hadn't been on a road course in three years. This is just a lot of cobwebs getting out of the system. The first couple of laps when the track was green it was like, 'Oh, yeah, these things are pretty fast.' ''

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Briscoe still on top at Sebring
Heavy rain brought an end to the final day of an Open Test at Sebring International Raceway about 45 minutes early, but not before Ryan Briscoe turned in a quick lap of 52.4202 seconds, 114.689 mph to top the speed chart. He edged Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves by three-hundredths of a second.

Together the two Team Penske drivers were more than a half second quicker than anyone else. Briscoe also led testing on March 5 as the second group of IndyCar Series drivers completed a day and a half of testing. A previous group of drivers tested on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn circuit March 3-4.

“The track was really quick this afternoon; Helio turned a fast lap mid-session, so we had something to shoot for,” Briscoe said. “We went out on new tires, but we weren’t quite happy with the car, so I had to come in. We made a change, which proved to be very effective. It is amazing what a small adjustment can do to lap times around this circuit. The Team Penske car was performing very well at the end of the session and I think we made a lot of progress today.”

Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon were third and fourth, respectively.

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UAW-Dodge 400 scores highest TV rating in LVMS history UPDATE More viewers tuned in to watch Sunday's UAW-Dodge 400 than any other race in Las Vegas Motor Speedway history. The 11th annual event drew a 7.1 final national rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. The previous high rating was a 7.0 in 2002. It was also the fifth most-watched non-Daytona race in NASCAR history. The race's rating increased nearly 13 percent from last year's 6.3. The UAW-Dodge 400 was the highest-rated NASCAR event, excluding the Daytona 500, in two years. This was the eighth consecutive year the event was televised by FOX Sports. "Each year the Las Vegas NASCAR Sprint Cup race has been in the top five in television ratings, but this year's TV audience was extraordinary," said Chris Powell, LVMS general manager. "There's an excitement level around Las Vegas that makes this event a must-see for many race fans. We're very proud of the role our facility plays in the overall success of the sport." The UAW-Dodge 400 was the highest-rated sporting event of the weekend. It easily outdistanced other events such as the NBA's Lakers-Magic (3.4) and Bulls-Cavaliers (2.3) games, the PGA Tour's Honda Classic (2.4) and the NCAA's Tennessee-Kentucky (1.9) and Duke-N.C. State (1.6) men's basketball games. The NASCAR Sprint Cup event also saw huge gains in some key NASCAR markets as the event earned increased ratings in Detroit (38 percent), Chicago (35 percent) and Los Angeles (30 percent). Saturday's Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide race drew a 2.1 rating on ESPN2. It was the highest cable rating for a Sam's Town 300 at LVMS, but can't be compared to last year's event, which aired on ABC Sports. The 2.1 rating was much higher than the 2007 average of 1.4 for NASCAR Nationwide (formerly Busch) Series events.

03/03/08 The overnight TV Rating on FOX for Sunday's UAW 400 from Las Vegas was a 6.2/12 share, up 12.7% over last year's 5.5/11 share overnight rating.


Tequila Patr¢n partners with ALMS
Tequila Patr¢n, an ultra-premium spirits brand, has entered into a marketing partnership with the American Le Mans Series for 2008. The new partnership encompasses title sponsorship of the Long Beach round of the Series as well as a unique trackside activation program to be known as Club Patr¢n. 

The American Le Mans Series race in Long Beach on April 12 will be named the “Tequila Patr¢n American Le Mans Series at Long Beach.” Patr¢n will launch its partnership program at the 56th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida (March 12-15) where Club Patr¢n will appear for the first time. Dubbed by many in the industry as a hospitality club extraordinaire, it features a relaxed club-like atmosphere and a decidedly upscale ambiance where American Le Mans Series adult fans can mingle and enjoy several selections of Tequila Patr¢n beverages. 

“The Patr¢n Spirits Company is looking forward to a great new partnership with the American Le Mans Series and Tequila Patr¢n-Highcroft Racing,” said Ed Brown, President/CEO, Patr¢n Spirits Company. “We are looking for a long-term relationship with the Series, which we believe addresses our marketing objectives better than any other motorsports platform can provide. We also want to add value to the Series’ marketing objectives and are very open to striving to achieve both corporate goals.”

Patr¢n entered the world’s premier sports car series earlier this year through a sponsor association with Highcroft Racing, Acura’s top team a year ago and based out of Danbury, CT. Highcroft races an Acura ARX-01b in the Series’ LMP2 class with drivers Scott Sharp and David Brabham at the helm. Stefan Johansson will join the duo for Sebring’s endurance classic. A year ago, it captured four podium positions and an overall pole at Houston’s Lone Star Grand Prix. 

“To have an ultra-premium brand like Tequila Patr¢n join the Series as a new corporate partner validates and reaffirms our own premium brand positioning as well,” said Ed Triolo, Vice President of Marketing and Brand Development for the American Le Mans Series. “The best part, however, is seeing Patr¢n’s enthusiasm for activating elements that will enhance both of our brands and enhance the at-track experience for our loyal fans.”


Barrichello to race on
Rubens Barrichello
Rubens Barrichello says he plans to race on for 'at least a couple of years' before retiring from the sport.

The veteran Brazilian is set to break Riccardo Patrese's record of 256 grand prix starts during this season and become the most experienced driver in Formula 1 history.

Last season was the first in Barrichello's 15-year F1 career when he had failed to score a point, as the Honda driver struggled with the terrible RA107 chassis.

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IndyCar Series Community Helps New Teams Transition to the Sport
The clock is ticking for teams preparing for the 2008 IndyCar Series season that begins on March 29 under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

No teams are feeling the deadline as much as the teams from the Champ Car World Series that will be joining the IndyCar Series following the recent announcement of unification. To facilitate a smooth transition, the IndyCar Series has paired existing teams with the former Champ Car World Series teams to provide technical and logistical support.

"The difficulty for any new team to come along at this point, so late in the game, is information or lack of information," said Tony Cotman, vice president of competition for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series. "If we can give them a starting point, whether it be on a speedway, short oval or road course, just a basic starting point, as a series it's so much better for us because we have less of a split in the field as far as the haves and have nots. In the long run, it's best for us. We'd like to see the whole field within a second. If we can help them get to a point to do that by sharing information through partnering teams, that's what we'll do. The current IndyCar Series teams have been very good about giving the teams information to get them going."

The present pairings*, based on factors such as previous relationships, geographical proximity and similar team size, are:

  • Andretti Green Racing-Dale Coyne Racing
  • Target Chip Ganassi Racing-KV Racing
  • Rahal Letterman Racing-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
  • Vision Racing-Conquest Racing
  • A.J. Foyt Racing-Pacific Coast Motorsports
  • Team Penske-Walker Racing
  • Roth Racing-Team Minardi.

*Note: Not all former CCWS teams listed have committed to the IndyCar Series. When they do commit, this will be their partner team.

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India to be a major F1 destination
Vijay Mallya at his recent Force India 2008 launch
With Vijay Mallya introducing his Force India team this year and India all set to hold its first race in 2010, Formula One will become more popular in the country, CEO of Bahrain International Circuit Martin Whitaker said on Thursday.

Whitaker praised Mallya for his efforts and hoped that Force India would give a major boost to Formula One.

He said the number of Indian fans has increased considerably and they expect more visitors from the country to come and watch the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 6.

Gulf Air, who are the title sponsors of the event, would introduce a special service for the Indian fans who would be eager to visit Bahrain to watch the race.

"To cater to the needs of the Indian fans, the Gulf Air would offer daily flights to Bahrain so that they can watch the Formula One race.

"Now India is a growing force in the Formula One and it's great to come and offer our welcome," Whitaker said at a press conference here.

The race would start in Melbourne on March 16 and Bahrain would hold the third race of this year's FIA Formula One World Championship.


Porsche profits soar to $2.5bn
Porsche Automobile Holding SE, Stuttgart, has recorded a pretax profit of 1.65 billion Euros ($2.5 billion) in the first six months of the current financial year 2007/08.

The prior year result on a comparable basis was 1.341 billion Euros. This includes the proportional VW result for the fourth quarter of 2006 of about 272 million Euros and it is adjusted for the one-off effect of the revaluation of VW stake that resulted in an appreciation of 521 million Euros, said an official spokesman.

Calculated on a comparable basis the group result after taxes increased from 0.897 billion Euros in the previous period to 1.295 billion Euros in the reporting period.

Operating result before taxes grew in line with the increase in the turnover and sales figures. Turnover grew by 14 per cent to 3.49 (prior year: 3.07) billion Euros and sales reached 46,736 vehicles versus 39,265 units in the comparable period for the prior year.

The expansion of the dealer network, in particular into the new markets, and also the increased attractiveness of Porsche’s product range contributed to these successes.

The new top models of the successful 911 sports car series introduced during the reporting period, the 911 Turbo Cabriolet and the 911 GT2 were received with great enthusiasm by customers.


Cheaters prosper in NASCAR
Carl Edwards gets to keep his Vegas trophy despite the fact his car was illegal (i.e. the team cheated to win). How is this possible?
NASCAR giveth and then NASCAR taketh away.

Everything that is ... except a victory.
Carl Edwards got a gift win in Las Vegas last week when rather than being penalized for a loose wheel during a crucial pit stop, NASCAR was in a benevolent mood.

Because one of Edwards' crew members was obstructed by a cameraman in the No. 99 pit box, NASCAR ruled no penalty for the errant tire that rolled away during the stop.

Such an occurrence usually is grounds for a one lap penalty, which would have taken Edwards out of contention for what turned out to be his second straight series win.

"I thought we were going to receive another penalty," said Edwards, who earlier in the race was sent to the rear of the field for another pit road miscue. "But NASCAR made a judgment call in our favor that I believe was the right one. I'm very grateful for them giving that to us."

Edwards' crew chief Bob Osborne was also relieved at the no-call.

But the situation became even more compounded following the race when Edwards did not pass post-race inspection. The oil reservoir lid was off on the No. 99 Ford.

The opening could create an aerodynamic advantage for the car by allowing it to vent air, providing downforce and reducing drag. Simply put, it's cheating.

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RLR/Andersen Racing Signs J.R. Hildebrand
J. R. Hildebrand
RLR/Andersen Racing is pleased to announce that J.R. Hildebrand, the 2006 Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 champion, will drive its No. 25 Indy Pro Series car this season.

Hildebrand, 20, a native of Sausalito, Calif. who resides in Indianapolis, joins Andrew Prendeville of Las Vegas as RLR/Andersen Racing's two Indy Pro Series drivers for the 16-race season. The Palmetto, Fla.-based team also fields multiple cars in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and the F2000 Championship presented by Hoosier Racing Tire.

With the announcement, Hildebrand is reunited with engineers Dominic and Nicholas Cape, who guided him to his F2000 championship in 2006 before becoming RLR/Andersen Racing's chief Indy Pro Series engineers in 2007. Hildebrand and the Cape brothers had a phenomenal year in 2006, winning a record 12 of 14 F2000 races enroute to the title. They also set the record for the most consecutive victories in a season with seven; the most laps led in a season; and the most poles in a season.

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Kanaan welcomes more competition in IndyCar
Tony Kanaan, a former IndyCar Series champion, welcomes the new teams and drivers from the former Champ Car series, a long-awaited merger he says will help restore the popularity of open-wheel racing in the United States.

"I'm probably one of the few guys that's been on both sides, so I couldn't wait to hear the news," Kanaan said Wednesday. "I think it's great. I do believe we have a lot of work to do, though."

The Brazilian driver came to the Indy Racing League with Andretti Green Racing in 2003 after five years in CART, the Champ Car predecessor. With last week's announcement of the unification of the two major open-wheel series in the United States, at least eight more cars, and possibly as many as a dozen, are expected to join the IRL's top series this season.

"It's going to be a big transition time for all of us, especially the Champ Car teams," said Kanaan, the IndyCar champion in 2004. "But also for the series adapting, changing some things not just this year but for the future. But the biggest thing is it's done. It's up to us now. No more excuses from anybody, the race community, the journalists, drivers, teams.

"We have one goal now, to make the series grow more and more and more each year, which we haven't been doing in the IRL for many years. ... So let's go race."


Robby Gordon penalties overturned UPDATE
Robby Gordon's reaction: The following is a statement from Robby Gordon regarding Wednesday's decision by the National Stock Car Racing Commission restoring his 100 owner and driver points as well as reversing the six-week suspension of crew chief Frank Kerr. The commission did increase the fine from $100,000 to $150,000. Gordon is now 21st in driver points.

Robby Gordon: "We see this as good news. We are grateful the commissioners rescinded the points penalty and suspension but disappointed by the fine. Still, we see this as a victory for Robby Gordon Motorsports. We feel like justice was done and appreciate NASCAR creating a system that allowed us to take our appeal to the National Stock Car Racing Commission. Now we plan to put this issue behind us and concentrate on making the "Chase" in 2008 as well as getting the Jim Beam Dodge into victory lane. I want to thank the thousands of fans and our sponsors who have supported us through this episode and want everyone of you to know how much we appreciate all that you have done. Our goal is to be a model team in the future and never go through something like this again."

03/05/08 The National Stock Car Racing Commission on Wednesday heard and considered the appeal of Robby Gordon Motorsports regarding the No. 7 car. The appeal concerned three penalties issued by NASCAR following opening day inspection on Feb. 8 for the Sprint Cup Series event at Daytona.

The infractions concerned Section 12-4-A of the NASCAR Rule Book "Actions detrimental to stock car racing"; Section 12-4-Q "Any determination by NASCAR Officials that the car, car parts, components, and/or equipment used in the Event do not conform to NASCAR rules" and Section 20-3.1-A: "Unapproved front bumper cover."

The penalties assessed were:

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Alonso not so strong as last season - Raikkonen
World Champion Kimi Raikkonen believes that Fernando Alonso "is not so strong" as last season when he was driving for McLaren. During a press conference at Helsinki, Raikkonen said that he believes Ferrari and McLaren will be the teams to fight for the title.

Raikkonen: "Fernando is a good pilot, but his options depend on how good the Renault car has been developed. By his declarations, it seems that they lack speed."

Although the Finn is certain that Ferrari and McLaren will battle for the Championship title, he does not believe that this fight will be limited to a one-on-one between himself and Lewis Hamilton. Raikkonen said that teammate Felipe Massa and countryman Heikki Kovalainen will be battling in the front as well.

"I do not believe that the Championship fight is only mine and Hamilton's. Both teams have two single-seaters and two very fast pilots, so surely it will be a very tough fight."


RaceFanRadio.com show debuts March 6
All Access IndyCar Series," a 60-minute behind-the-scenes look at the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series debuts at 7:30 p.m. (ET) March 6 on RaceFanRadio.com.

The weekly show is hosted by Patrick Stephan of TracksideOnline.com.

"We are ecstatic about producing this show and are thrilled to work with the best open-wheel series on the planet," RaceFanRadio.com CEO Charlie Brown said. "The production team we have assembled to create this project will deliver a very unique look into what goes on behind the scenes of these two series that fans are going to talk about all season."


An interview with Raphael Matos and Tony Kanaan

: We have two guests joining us today. Joining us in a few minutes be will be IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan, and with us to start the call is Indy Pro Series driver Raphael Matos. Good afternoon, Raphael.

Raphael Matos
RAPHAEL MATOS: Good afternoon, how is everybody.

THE MODERATOR: We're doing great, thank you. Sounds like you are back in Brazil. This kind of a last trip home before the start of the season?

RAPHAEL MATOS: Exactly. We have a week off now before the season starts, and you know, I just came back to Brazil to see my family. And it's going to be tough to come back to Brazil for a few months, so I'm just chilling out in Brazil a little bit.

THE MODERATOR: Raphael will be driving the No. 27 AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing entry in the Indy Pro Series in 2008. He made four starts with Guthrie Racing in 2006, winning both races at St. Petersburg, and finishing fourth on the road course at Indianapolis. Last year, he won the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, recording six victories.

First of all, Raphael, congratulations on your ride. You were a guy that made your decision to come over to the Indy Pro Series during the winter even before the unification announcement. Tell us a little bit about that process and about your decision to come compete in the Indy Pro Series full‑time.

RAPHAEL MATOS (1:30): Well, it was basically, you know, I won the Atlantic Championship and the prize was going to Champ Car World Series. And it was difficult for me to get the deal done in Champ Car on time, and I was getting afraid that I was not going to get the deal done in time. And they made me a really good offer and one of those things I just couldn't refuse the offer they made.

And it was really good for me in terms of long‑term future, and that's the main reason I took the offer. AGR, they have put so much effort into this program. I knew it would be a winning program and that was the biggest thing for me being a winner on a team that I knew I had the chances of making a career in Indy Racing League, I believe.

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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Sutil confirms McLaren, Williams talks
  • UK government to be pressed for support
  • Hamilton risks becoming F1 'loser' - Hill
  • Irvine slams F1 as 'tiddlywinks'
  • BMW to be third force again - Heidfeld

Sutil confirms McLaren, Williams talks
(GMM)  Winter speculation that he was a contender to switch to a more competitive team was right, Force India driver Adrian Sutil has confirmed.

The 25-year-old German driver told the SID news agency that, following an impressive rookie season in 2007, his management entered talks with McLaren and Williams about this year.

After both British teams selected other drivers for 2008, however, Sutil insists that he is simply happy to have impressed some of the right observers with his performances last year.

"I am not sure that disappointed is the right word," he said, on the verge of another season at the rear of the grid with the Silverstone based team.

"All winter I was content that I had a solid contract with Force India.  When we signed the contract, it was always planned that we would be here longer than one year."

Sutil says he was pleased when paddock gossip singled him out as a possible replacement for Fernando Alonso at McLaren, and Alex Wurz at Williams.

"Of course it was good when, after only one year (in F1), my name is being associated with McLaren and Williams," he said.

"We certainly looked at what we could do, and of course it is a dream to move to a top team.  Talks did take place," Sutil said.

"Let's see what the future brings."

Sutil insists, however, that despite the takeover of Spyker by Vijay Mallya and a bigger budget, Force India in 2008 can only realistically expect to begin the new season "where we ended last year".

He says he will be open to offers for 2009.

"My goal is to be with a competitive team as quickly as possible.

"It is also important to wait and see what can happen with this team in the next few years.  Perhaps we will get some success," Sutil added.

UK government to be pressed for support
(GMM)  The government's role in British motor sport will on Thursday be debated in the House of Lords.

Kevin Eason, the sports business correspondent for the Times newspaper, revealed in his column that the UK government will face questions by Lord Astor of Hever, who "wants to know how ministers will help Britain's ($2.5bn) motor sport industry to retain its world leadership".

The British government's minimal role in motor sport has come under the spotlight recently, as it becomes clear that the annual race at Silverstone is perhaps the only event on the F1 calendar that is not directly helped financially by the state.

British grand prix promoters, the Silverstone-owning BRDC, have also been warned by Bernie Ecclestone that its race fees will no longer be subsidized beyond 2009, while also under pressure to move ahead with plans to update the ageing former World War II airfield.

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Mexico team announces lineup for home race
A1 Team Mexico has confirmed its driver lineup for its home race next weekend – with David Martinez being recalled to the squad to join racer David Garza.

Garza has been competing for Mexico since Zhuhai, scoring his best result in Durban, by finishing in eighth in the Sprint race. However, because Garza is now ineligible to take part in rookie session, 26-year-old Martinez will drive on Friday morning. ‘Racing for Mexico in my country will be a dream come true,’ Garza said. ‘I am really looking forward to race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez since half of my family lives in that city.

‘I am extremely proud to have been elected to drive in Mexico and I am really committed of getting as much as possible out of this opportunity. Since my first race in A1GP, I have been dreaming of that moment, so this would be the best time to get out all that we have been learning since and put everything together to get a podium for my country.’


GP2 Testing  Pantano tops second day
Giorgio Pantano topped the timesheets on the second and final day of testing here at the Barcelona circuit in Spain on Wednesday, the experienced Italian driver recording a best time of 1:26.351 to set a new track record in the final test session before the launch of the GP2 Main Series 2008 season, that will take place next week in Le Castellet.

The afternoon session started thirty minutes earlier than originally scheduled and lasted for three and a half hours in order to make due for the shortened session in the morning.

Thirteen drivers overall posted times quicker than 1:27.000 despite the fact the session was interrupted by numerous red flags.

In the morning session it was Bruno Senna who set the fastest lap time with a 1:26.396, but the session was stopped a little ahead of schedule due to excessively windy conditions. Also joining the club of drivers under 1:27.000 were ART Grand Prix Romain Grosjean and Piquet Sports Pastor Maldonado who was followed by teammate Andreas Zuber with a 1:27.255.

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Team Penske takes over at Sebring
Team Penske took over at Sebring International Raceway where Tony Kanaan and Andretti Green Racing left off. Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves led a half day of an Open Test on a 1.7-mile, 11-turn course as eight drivers completed 456 laps.

Kanaan and Andretti Green Racing swept a day and a half of testing March 3-4. The second set of drivers are testing March 5-6.

Briscoe's best lap, 52.7757 seconds, 113.916 mph, was faster than Kanaan's best lap from March 4 by 0.0852 of a second.

"The track seemed to clean up really quickly during the afternoon and the rubber that the guys laid down the last couple of days is still there," Briscoe said. "It's just a bit tough here sometimes, because you're chasing the track conditions. Overall, we're really happy with the work we got done today on the Team Penske car. We did a lot of setup work, just trying to build a database of tools we can work with when we go to St. Petersburg."

Castroneves best lap was 113.465 mph. Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon, Buddy Rice, Darren Manning, Vitor Meira and Milka Duno rounded out the time sheet.

The final day of testing is scheduled for 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 6.

track news

Monterey Festival of Speed schedule announcement
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca announced today the complete schedule for the Monterey Festival of Speed weekend, taking place May 16-18.  Four different race series will participate in the weekend’s events including the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Series Powered by Mazda, Formula BMW Americas, and the latest addition to the schedule, Historic IMSA cars from the 1970s and 1980s.  There will be plenty for any age group to see and do during the three days of on-track activity.

All four series will be on track Friday, May 16 for practice sessions from 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., with the Rolex Sports Car Series qualifying from 4:45 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Cars will be on track Saturday, May 17, starting at 8:00 a.m. with Formula BMW and Atlantic Championship qualifying at 11:10 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., respectively. The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series will run their fifth race of the year at 1:45 p.m., followed at 4:45 p.m. by the first Formula BMW race. 

Cars will be on track starting at 8:00 a.m., Sunday, May 18 for practice sessions. Qualifying for race #2 of the BMW Formula Americas will take place at 9:45 a.m., immediately followed at 10:30 a.m. by Historic IMSA qualifying.  The open-wheel Atlantic Championship race begins at 1:00 p.m., followed by the open-wheel Formula BMW series at 2:30 p.m. for their second race of the weekend.  Historic IMSA cars will then race at 3:30 p.m. to conclude the weekend’s events.

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Roush team reacts to No. 99 penalty
Roush Fenway Racing president Geoff Smith’s statement on the penalty given to the No. 99 team following Sunday’s Las Vegas race.

“The bolt holding the lid in place failed in its purpose as a result of vibration harmonics generated by the car and the race track during the race.  The bolt was secure enough to survive  225 miles of practice, perhaps up to 399 of 400 miles of the race and the scrutiny of numerous inspections.  It’s a tough business for any race team to have to pledge $100,000, 100 points and a six race crew chief suspension as an indemnity payment to NASCAR against a promise forced from us by NASCAR that no bolt will ever fail its purpose under race conditions.  We are currently evaluating whether or not the circumstances justify submitting to the unpleasantness of the appeal process, but from a competitive standpoint, we believe it is in our best interest to have Bob Osborne begin serving the penalty now.  Chris Andrews, our chief engineer, will be at the track on Friday and Saturday to lead the No. 99 team and general manager Robbie Reiser will join Chris on the pit box Sunday during the race.  We are confident that we have the depth of talent in our organization and the strength in Carl Edwards and  the No. 99 team to overcome this penalty, should that end up being the final outcome of this unhappy episode.”


NASCAR slams Edwards team for cheating
NASCAR has issued penalties and fines to the No. 99 team that competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as a result of rule infractions found last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The No. 99 car driven by Carl Edwards was found to be in violation of Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-Q (car, car parts, components and/or equipment used do not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-2.1J (any device or duct work that permits air to pass from one area of the interior of the car to another, or to the outside of the car, will not be permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, the inside of the car to the trunk area, or the floors, firewalls, crush panels and wheel wells passing air into or out of the car) of the 2008 NASCAR rule book. The violations were found during post-race inspection at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 2.

As a result, Edwards and car owner Jack Roush have been penalized 100 championship driver and 100 championship owner points, respectively. In the event the 99 team qualifies for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the team will not receive the 10 bonus points for the UAW-Dodge 400 victory used for determining the Chase seeding order. Crew chief Bob Osborne has been fined $100,000, suspended from the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, suspended from NASCAR until April 30 and placed on probation until Dec. 31.


Dallara Daytona Prototype makes track debut
Dallara DP-01
The new Dallara DP-01 Grand Am Daytona Prototype car made its track debut on Monday 3rd March at the Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw, South Carolina USA

This first test run marks a significant moment for the Dallara company as they return to competition as a sportscar constructor. The 3 day test which was in preparation for the upcoming first event in Homestead was conducted by Wayne Taylor Racing, the official Dallara development team and Doran Racing who ran a Dallara bodied Doran chassis.  Dallara personnel were on hand to assist and deal with any issues that might have occurred. 

The new car which is the result of significant investment in time and resources is being raced by Wayne Taylor Racing for sponsor SunTrust Banks, Inc and Doran Racing in the 2008 Grand Am Daytona Prototype championship.


Andrea Toso - Dallara’s Head of R&D and man in charge of the Dallara Grand Am project 
“The test has been really a pleasure. It’s been smooth – incredibly smooth. We put a lot of mileage on the car and the drivers are happy with the aero package. The car is very stable.  It’s a great result to end up the test with no real problems. We’ll see what the performance will be like at Homestead. You never know, but I’m confident that they will finish the race, and they can finish the race strongly.”

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Atlantic teams ready for 2nd test
As the start of the 35th Anniversary season of the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season draws closer, 10 teams representing 20 cars have committed to participating in Spring Training at the picturesque Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit on March 10-11.

All of the teams and drivers in attendance will undoubtedly be gunning for Forsythe Racing Inc. teammates James Hinchcliffe and David Garza, who claimed the top-two positions on the time sheets in testing at Sebring International Raceway last month. Toronto’s Hinchcliffe—who is entering his third year of Atlantic competition in 2008—was quickest on both days of the two-day test and will return to the cockpit of the No. 3 machine, while second-year Atlantic driver Garza of Monterrey, Mexico was second-quickest at the Sebring test and will again pilot the No. 7 car on the Monterey Peninsula.

Also posting top-five speeds during the Sebring test was Finnish rookie Markus Niemela with Brooks Associates Racing. Niemela will return to the cockpit of the team’s No. 8 machine, one of two entries that the Tucson, Ariz.-based BAR team is expected to bring to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The driver of the team’s No. 10 machine is still to be determined.

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Toronto CEO confirms 2008 race has been cancelled
Grand Prix of Toronto CEO Charlie Johnstone confirmed Wednesday that the 2008 edition of the race has been cancelled.

Organizers held out hope that the race could be held this year on a new date after last month's announcement that the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series would merge this season.

Johnstone said organizers received an impressive show of support from the IRL, Exhibition Place and local officials and partners.

"Unfortunately, we ran out of options and time for 2008," Johnstone said in a statement. "That doesn't mean the future is bleak, but we'll need concrete actions from our partners to solidify the event's foundation and status as a marquee event in North American open-wheel racing."

tv news

SPEED and ALMS team up for new fan feature
SPEEDtv.com, in association with the American Le Mans Series, has launched a new interactive Web feature called “Be The Director.” Each feature will be three- to five-minutes in length and produced and shot from each venue by SPEEDtv.com’s Sportscar Editor Marshall Pruett.

Starting with the 56th Annual Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring, which can be seen in high definition live March 15 on SPEED beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET, Pruett will cover the paddock or search the grounds and provide interactive answers to what sports car fans are seeking.

“The American Le Mans Series is filled with international superstar drivers, Grand Touring (GT) and Prototype cars that are on the cutting edge of technology, some incredible rivalries, along with a ton of personalities and elements to the series,” said Pruett, who’s spent more then 20 years working on and managing various sports car and open wheel race teams. “Giving fans of the series the opportunity to “Be the Director” and dictate some of the videos we shoot is something I’d always wanted to do as a fan.

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Audi to Test Stellar Driver and Technical Lineup
Ingolstadt/Sebring – AUDI AG once again demonstrated its courage to innovate and pioneering spirit with the vision to build a diesel-powered sportscar capable of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the meantime the revolutionary Audi R10 TDI has won twice at Le Mans, and remains unbeaten in its class after 21 races.

In the forthcoming week, Audi Sport returns with the near 650-hp diesel sportscar to the scene where the success story started two years ago: At the 12-hour race at Sebring (US state of Florida), two Audi R10 TDI prototypes line up on the grid driven by Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish and Lucas Luhr/Mike Rockenfeller/Marco Werner. On 18 March 2006, the R10 TDI won at Sebring on its race debut. It was the first victory for a diesel engine in an important sportscar race.

The R10 TDI fits perfectly to the Audi motorsport philosophy. The know-how collected with the V12 TDI power plant on the race track flows directly into the development of TDI engines for road cars. Latest example is the 500-hp Audi R8 TDI Le Mans. The fans can also marvel the first high-performance sportscar fitted with a twelve-cylinder diesel in the Sebring paddock.

It has always been important for Audi to learn in motorsport for production. For this reason Audi Sport is affiliated with the Technical Development (TE). "Audi Sport and the TE have become even more closely integrated in the last year,” stresses Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "We work very closely together in every area. There is an intensive exchange in both directions.”

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Penske Truck Leasing To Sponsor No. 77 Dodge
Penske Truck Leasing today announced that it will serve as the primary sponsor of Penske Racing’s NASCAR Sprint Cup No. 77 Dodge driven by Sam Hornish Jr. for six races this season, beginning with Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The other races will be the June 1 Dover 400, July 5 Coke Zero 400, August 31 Pepsi 500, September 28 Kansas 400 and November 2 Dickies 500.  Penske Racing


Positive Test for Lola's New Sports Cars
Lola LeMans Coupe
Lola Le Mans Prototype sportscars were in action at the LMS Paul Ricard test in the South of France on Sunday and Monday of this week (2&3 March). All eyes were firmly fixed on Lola's all-new LMP1 and LMP2 Coupes, which included a track debut for the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola LMP2 entry. The Hugh Hayden led Speedy Sebah team enjoyed a good initial shakedown test in the South of France with Andrea Belicchi, Xavier Pompidou, Robbie Kerr and Steve Zacchia all driving the Judd powered Lola.

This was the very first LMP2 Coupe to hit the racetrack and despite the car build having only been completed late last week the Lola B08/80 impressed Belicchi, who said: "The Lola was very easy to drive, there's a lot of assistance for the driver and the downforce is beautiful. My first feeling is that it's a very nice car." The Speedy Sebah team are set to name their driver line up in the coming weeks and will undertake a more detailed test at Magny Cours shortly.

The LMP2 Coupe's bigger brother, the Lola B08/60 LMP1 powered by an Aston Martin engine completed more useful laps at Paul Ricard in the hands of the Charouz Racing System team, who set the fifth fastest time of the test despite not going for an out and out quick time. Stefan Mucke was delighted with the way the team's test went and commented: "I like the car more and more. It was considerably better on all sides compared to the recent Snetterton test. Additionally, we took a further step forward here in Le Castellet. Our lap times are not important. The main thing is thorough preparation for the races."


Roush Fenway announces truck entry lineup
Roush Fenway Racing officials have announced their driver lineup for the No. 09 Craftsman Truck Series entry, with Travis Kvapil scheduled to pilot the truck for 10 more races, including this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bobby East will drive in seven races, his first coming at Kansas Speedway on April 26, and John Wes Townley will compete in six races. His truck series debut will be at Mansfield Motorsports Park on May 24.

“I am pleased with the group of drivers we have scheduled to compete in the Zaxby’s Ford F-150,” team owner Jack Roush said.  “Travis has had so much success in the truck series over the years, and he will be a great asset in helping our two younger drivers learn the program. Bobby and John Wes both have a tremendous amount of potential, and I look for them to run well in their respective events.”

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XM Radio to again broadcast all IRL races
XM Satellite Radio, the nation's leading satellite radio service, will open its fourth year as the official satellite radio network of the Indy Racing League (IRL) with the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300, the first race of the IndyCar Series' 2008 season.  The race will be broadcast live on XM's IndyCar Series Racing channel (XM 145) from the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, March 29.

The entire 2008 IndyCar Series season, including the 92nd Indianapolis 500 on May 25, will be broadcast live and nationwide on XM. Motorsports fans will be able to hear pre-race programming, including interviews and commentary, as well as live wheel-to-wheel action on the track as presented by the IMS Radio Network. With the recent unification of open-wheel racing, the IndyCar Series will be expanding its schedule to 18 races, offering a mix of short oval, super speedway and road/street events, making it the most diverse schedule in all of motorsports. 

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racing news

Mark Martin & Jim McElreath to be inducted
NASCAR veteran driver Mark Martin and open-wheel star Jim McElreath have been selected as this year’s inductees into the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame and will be honored April 2 at The Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway.

In addition, Texas Motor Speedway and Happy Hill Farm Academy announced today that Jimmie Johnson, the two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and defending Dickies 500 winner; Sam Hornish Jr., a three-time IndyCar Series champion and last season’s Bombardier Learjet 550k winner; and Indy-car veteran Arie Luyendyk, who won the first nighttime Indy car race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, will also be honored with special awards during the ceremony.


IndyCar Series gained momentum in off-season
Just 25 days remain until the IndyCar Series opens its 2008 season with the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

While teams gear up for the first race, they hope to build on the momentum of a hectic offseason, including the recent announcement that open-wheel racing in the U.S. would unify, moving forward under the IndyCar Series banner and the sanctioning of the Indy Racing League.

Since the checkered flag fell on the 2007 season in September at Chicagoland Speedway, the IndyCar Series has seen a number of impactful announcements on- and off-the-track for 2008.

"From a competition standpoint, we've had a very busy offseason," said Brian Barnhart, president of operations and competition. "We introduced the TEAM program, brought Indy-style qualifying to all of our oval tracks, made several safety enhancements to our cars and brought on a respected race official in Tony Cotman.

"The biggest news of course is the unification and the expectation that several new teams will be joining us. All of these changes should lead to another outstanding season on the racetrack."

The sentiment is the same away from the track, according to Terry Angstadt, president of the league's commercial division.

"The past few months have been exceptional, and we believe the growth and excitement will continue throughout the coming season," Angstadt said. "Unification is adding to the buzz that was created in the past couple of months by Helio Castroneves winning 'Dancing with the Stars,' and Danica Patrick appearing in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue."

Offseason highlights include:

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Overview of new F1 rules for 2008
The Formula One season starts in Melbourne on March 16 with cars without traction control and some new rules. The following summarizes the changes:

Standard ECU
All cars have a standard electronic control unit (ECU) controlling the engine, gearbox and clutch and designed by McLaren Electronic Systems and Microsoft to a specification set out by the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

The introduction of the unit, which gathers data from more than 100 sensors on each car, has allowed the governing body to ban the use of traction control and other so-called ’driver aids’.

Renault estimate that the loss of such systems, which particularly help drivers in wet and slippery conditions, will cost them up to 0.4 seconds per lap.

Some teams, notably Ferrari and Renault, have suggested the unit could give McLaren an early advantage as makers of the system.

Drivers have raised concerns about the safety of driving without traction control in the wet, while welcoming a move that puts more emphasis on individual skill and could lead to more overtaking.

Engine change
Drivers are allowed one ’free’ engine change to their car without the normal 10-place penalty on the starting grid.

This must be a competitor’s first change of the season and it must be a result of genuine engine failure rather than for tactical reasons.

Engines still have to last for two successive races. Any unscheduled change, other than the first, will incur a 10-place penalty as before.

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track news

Glass building collapses in Valencia pits
Teams testing at the Valencia circuit had a scary moment on Wednesday morning when a VIP building, set on top of the pit complex, collapsed on some of the trucks parked behind the garages. Currently, World Series by Renault teams are testing in Valencia, but after all the glass fell down on their trucks the test session was stopped and the building evacuated.

The falling glass injured a few engineers that were working behind the garages but there were fortunately no major injuries.


Montoya Tops Phoenix Test
Juan Pablo Montoya posted the fastest lap on the final day of two days of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing at Phoenix International Raceway Tuesday.  Montoya was the only driver able to break the 131 mph barrier on the second day of the test, set a fast lap of 131.459 mph, at the wheel of his No. 42 Dodge.

Here is pretty good," Montoya said. "Here it's about normal (temperatures). We ran pretty good this morning. As it gets hotter, always gets slicker, but that's pretty normal. I think what's good about where we're testing now; the weather is a little bit more similar than when we run normally. I think that's going to help."

Dale Earnhardt Incorporated driver Paul Menard, who had been fastest in the first session on Monday, finished the test with the second quickest lap. Roush Fenway Racing's Jamie McMurray was third. Test Speeds


Hill calls on FIA to help save British GP
(GMM)  Damon Hill, boss of the British grand prix venue Silverstone, has called on the FIA to help convince Bernie Ecclestone that formula one needs the event on its permanent calendar.

The British Racing Drivers' Club, led by 1996 world champion Hill, this week released computer rendered images of a proposed revamp of the ageing Northamptonshire facility, amid Ecclestone's demands for a better circuit and higher promotion fees.

Hill is hopeful that work on the futuristic track upgrade - pending planning permission - will begin shortly after this year's running of the F1 race, in time for the last contracted GP in 2009.

But he has also pleaded with the Max Mosley-led governing body to participate in the contractual discussions about 2010 and beyond with Formula One Management (FOM), of whom commercial supremo Ecclestone is chief executive.

"(F1) needs the traditional venues to provide a history and prestige which help," Hill told the British newspaper Daily Express.

"Each country has its own case to make but Britain is a very valuable marketplace for F1 and if the FIA could make that case to the FOM to improve the conditions of the contract, then that would be helpful," he added.

[Editor's Note: Everyone is sick and tired of hearing how the British GP is in trouble every year and if the government does not help them with money the British GP will die.  How many times can they cry wolf before the politicians laugh at them.]


Williams and Baugur in cahoots for 2008
(GMM)  British team Williams sets off for the Australian grand prix late this week with hefty involvement for the 2008 season by Baugur, an Icelandic investment group.

Although recent rumors that Baugur was keen to buy a slice of the jointly Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head-owned team were apparently wide of the mark, the company's associated brands feature prominently on the newly-revealed livery for Williams' new car for 2008, the FW30.

Fashion label All Saints (rear wing endplates, overalls), mydiamonds.com (rear wing) and London toy shop Hamley's (side pods) - all Baugur brands - have taken up prominent residence on the car's livery, sparking speculation of a closer tie-in with the British team.

It is understood that more Baugur-related sponsorships could come on line later in 2008, now that its intended collaboration with Prodrive has definitively ended, but Sir Frank Williams and team sources will not be drawn on whether any equity will ultimately change hands.


IRL to add #2 and #3 to podiums UPDATE The Indy Racing League plans to honor the top three finishers at the majority of its races with a podium ceremony like ones used in road racing and the Olympics.

But Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which has honored only the winner of the Indianapolis 500 since the race began in 1911, will not have such a ceremony.
"You're not going to even ask me that question, are you?" Speedway spokesman Ron Green said Tuesday.

Indy won't be alone in declining to participate. Texas Motor Speedway has done so, too.

"It's perfectly fine for road-course racing or street-course racing, but you don't do that in oval-track racing," said Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway.

Gossage said honoring more than the winner of a grueling oval-track race is trivializing the accomplishment.

"It's like youth soccer where everybody gets a prize," he said. "What's next? Does everybody get a certificate of participation?"

IRL spokesman John Griffin said all other races on the league's schedule will have a podium celebration, beginning with the March 29 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Indy Star

02/12/08 Copying from Champ Car and F1, and perhaps another signs a merger is at hand with Champ Car, the Indy Racing league will add the 2nd and 3rd place drivers to their victory lane celebrations in 2008 at all tracks except Indy and Texas.  The top-3 finishers will stand atop the podium with the winner one step higher than the other two.


Eury Jr. named “Crew Chief of the Race” in Las Vegas
Tony Eury Jr., crew chief of the #88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevy driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr., was named the WYPALL Wipers “Crew Chief of the Race” Tuesday for his team’s second place finish in the UAW/Dodge 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Eury Jr. helped his team vault to the front of the field in Sunday’s race with strategic two-tire and gas-only calls that gained the #88 team valuable track position at critical times in the race. Eury Jr. will receive a $1,000 check as a result of his leadership and proactive thinking during the race.

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Valvoline to sponsor Gordon at Atlanta
Robby Gordon will race the #7 Dodge with Valvoline sponsorship this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gordon's appeal of a 100-point penalty, $100,000 fine and six race crew chief suspension NASCAR assessed after failing a pre-practice inspection at Daytona will be heard Wednesday in Charlotte. Gordon said: "We are going to carry the Valvoline sponsorship this weekend to help out Gillett Evernham Motorsports. This is pretty cool. I saw on one of the online auction sites someone was auctioning off the Valvoline driving suit I wore in the off road days. It was going for $500! Maybe I should have saved a couple. We're going to make our appeal Wednesday. Yes, I'm confident we are going to get our points back. I think when the commissioners hear what we have to say they will agree the penalty imposed on our single car team is way too harsh for something others have admitted was their mistake. This team didn't try to get anything by NASCAR and there was no cheating. It was a clerical mistake and to jeopardize our team's future over something like this is really sad. All we want is justice and to get back to just worrying about making our cars go faster." RGM PR


Supercomputer gives Renault an edge
Renault’s state of the art technology centre, which will be up and running later in the year, will benefit from a five-fold increase in computing capacity the team announced today. The expansion will place Renault at the forefront of technology-driven research in F1.

A high performance super-computer, due to be installed at Renault’s new Computation Fluid Dynamics (CFD) research facility in June, will provide the team with a massive expansion in computing power and enable engineers to carry out full-car simulations as well as aerodynamic testing without the need for a wind-tunnel.

Renault’s computing systems partner Appro said that the new CFD facility, which uses computer modeling to test, simulate and develop components, will be vastly more efficient than a physical wind-tunnel as a result of their Supercomputer, the Appro Xtrme-X2.

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Scott Goodyear praises Gold Coast deal
Scott Goodyear back in his driving days in the early nineties
IndyCar Series
Open-wheel ace Scott Goodyear might not have raced on the streets of Surfers Paradise since 1994, but he has not lost his love of Queensland’s Gold Coast or the state’s number one event.

The future of the Gold Coast Indy 300 has been secured for at least another six years with a deal being reached with the Indy Racing League’s new-look IndyCar Series and V8 Supercars Australia today.

Now regarded as one of the world’s iconic motorsport events, the Gold Coast Indy 300 is now secure until and including 2013 with major plans already underway for a massive 20th anniversary celebration in 2010.

This year’s event will be held from October 23-26 and will include talented young Australian drivers Will Power and Ryan Briscoe.

Goodyear, EPSN’s IndyCar Series driver analyst in the US, is a former driver in both CART and IndyCar Series events, and was full of praise for the Australian event in a column which was published on www.indycar.com, the official site of the IndyCar Series. 

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Q & A with Williams Patrick Head
Patrick head
The team seems to have faired well in winter testing. What are your expectations for the season ahead?
We want to continue our progress back, from a very low point of 2006, to being a leading team, always in a position to challenge for race wins and the Championship.

The media are speculating that Williams could be the leading team behind Ferrari and McLaren this year, is this realistic?
It is too early to say where we will be in the pecking order. It looks as if Ferrari and McLaren have made strong progress from 2007, BMW have a car that seems quick and Renault have made progress, I am sure some of which is coming from the cockpit with Alonso back at the helm. Red Bull are beginning to look stronger and Toro Rosso are making the best of a car that they are familiar with, they certainly cannot be dismissed. We have certainly made progress, but we will not see where we stand until after the season starts.

What improvements have been brought to the FW30 over the FW29 and how is it technically different to its predecessor?
The FW30 is a progression along the theme of the FW29, although the cooling installations are quite different. Obviously it has benefited from nearly nine months’ of aero development from the original FW29, although some of the changes have been applied during the FW29’s development through 2007.

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Rob Bell completes LeMans preseason test
The Le Mans Series test at Paul Ricard earlier this week was the final opportunity for Rob Bell and his teammate, Gianmaria Bruni, to prepare for the 2008 season with Virgo Motorsport. Although running with their current Ferrari 430 model, the duo were second quickest at the French circuit.

The two day test featured 34 cars which will compete in the European sportscar championship, with a healthy mix of models from the different categories within the Series. Virgo Motorsport ran its 2007 specification Ferrari for the test, with the new car expected to be ready for the first race next month.

Bell said of the test, “We’re comfortable with our performance in this test. We were running the ’07 car with a high mileage engine, yet we were only a tenth off the new Porsche.  We’re losing out on the straights, about 12kph, and it was a 1.8km straight at Ricard, so we weren’t surprised to be behind our title rivals, but I think we’re going to be a match for the Porsche once we’ve got our new car. We also had plenty of time to test different tire options and continue our learning process ready for Spain.

“A tenth isn’t much to find, but we know the Porsche is good on the straights, while we often have the advantage through the corners. I think both Ferrari and Porsche have made steps forward, so it’s going to be more very close racing in the GT2 class. We’re definitely going to be tough competition and feeling very confident ahead of the first race weekend.”

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Danner races Speedcar at Malaysian Grand Prix
Speedcar is said to be a series secretly created to stop NASCAR's worldwide expansion
The Speedcar Series heads to the Sepang International Circuit as the support race to the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix on March 21-23. Appropriately, former F1 driver Christian Danner will be behind the wheel of the ACI Legends Car at the race weekend.

Danner is a motorsports veteran having started his career in Renault 5, advancing to F2 and F3 before the zenith of Formula One. He has participated in 47 Grand Prix events during his racing tenure and is currently a TV commentator in his native Germany. Part of the Phoenix Racing team, the ACI Legends Car is spearheaded by a different celebrity driver at each round of the Speedcar Series’ debut season.

"Speedcar Series stands for the same values that ACI reflects, being an innovative concept in an established industry. It is an ideal partnership to have the Legend’s Car entered in the Series in light of the Legends of Sport building project here in Dubai", said Robin Lohmann, Chairman of ACI Real Estate, leading German project developer in the UAE. The reference was made to the company’s Trilogy developments of the Niki Lauda Twin Towers, Michael Schumacher Business Avenue and the recently launched Boris Becker Business Tower.

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Ingall ecstatic with new 6-year Gold Coast deal
Surfers Paradise
V8 Supercar star Russell Ingall could not be happier with the news that his home race, the Gold Coast Indy 300, has been secured for the next six years.

A deal was reached this week with both the new-look IndyCar Series in the US and V8 Supercars Australia.

Now regarded as one of the world’s iconic motorsport events, the Gold Coast Indy 300 is now secure until and including 2013 with major plans already underway for a massive 20th anniversary celebration in 2010.

V8 Supercars have raced on the streets of Surfers Paradise for championship points for the past seven years – this year’s race will be held from October 23-26.

Ingall, who won the V8 Supercar round in 2003 and was runner-up last season, says that today’s news is a major boost for the event and will make it one of the world’s most spectacular motorsport events well into the future.

“It is great news that the event here on the Gold Coast is going to be even bigger and better for the next six years,” said Ingall, the 2005 V8 Supercar Champion.

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Latest F1 news in brief
  • BMW team manager survives cancer scare
  • Williams chiefs play down 2008 landmarks
  • Ferrari drivers predict close title battle
  • Ferrari still quickest, Massa insists
  • Montezemolo continues to fire against McLaren
  • Richards slates Williams over Prodrive snub

BMW team manager survives cancer scare
(GMM)  BMW Sauber's long time team manager Beat Zehnder has survived a health scare since the final grand prix of last year.

He is now looking forward to the 2008 season opener, but the Swiss newspaper Blick revealed that Zehnder was diagnosed with a tumor and had his right kidney removed -- a similar procedure undergone by Renault boss Flavio Briatore two years ago.

"I am quite okay and the surgery went well," Zehnder reports.

He had to miss many of the pre-season winter tests while ill, but Zehnder said he was kept "constantly informed" about the Hinwil based team's progress with the F1.08 single seater.

Zehnder also told Blick that 32 tones of team cargo will this week commence the long haul trek to Australia for the first race.

Williams chiefs play down 2008 landmarks
(GMM)  Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head have passed up the opportunity to get sentimental about their three decades at the helm of the Grove based formula one team.

The British team has been celebrating the 30th anniversary, as well as its forthcoming 500th grand prix this year, with a series of special liveries over the 2008 pre-season period.

To the British news agency Reuters, however, team boss Williams seemed less keen to big-note his outfit's statistical achievements.

"It's just numbers, isn't it," the 65-year-old, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a road accident in 1986, said.

Engineering veteran Patrick Head, meanwhile, who owns the remaining 30 per cent of the currently Toyota-powered team, also distanced himself from the commemorative test paint jobs.

"I have to say I probably would be put down as an old cynic or whatever, but all this stuff is a bit the product of our marketing and media department," he said.

Head said the department was so keen to properly publicize Williams' history this year because the once ultra-successful team is now, among its manufacturer-backed opponents, often considered a formula one "minnow".

"I think somebody in our organization felt that it might be a good idea to remind people that we have been a fairly significant part of formula one for quite a long time," Head said.

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track news

Sebring unveils $1M in improvements
Sebring Sheraton Chateau Elan hotel
When fans enter the hallowed grounds of Sebring International Raceway this year for the 56th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, they will notice the results of a multi-million dollar improvement campaign truly worthy of American’s oldest and most prestigious sports car race.

The first new edifice fans will see is a new two-story, 10,000 square-foot administration building that houses a new gift shop, registration center, ticket office, business center, conference room, staff offices and archives. Located adjacent to the front entrance, it features the legendary Audi R8 race car in the lobby.

Upon driving across the crossover bridge and into the paddock, the next glimpse is of the new Gallery of Legends that will house the Sebring Hall of Fame. The 7,500 square-foot building will be available year-round for car clubs, vintage racers and special events. During the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, it will house a display of vintage and historic race cars. The building is a project of the Sebring Hall of Fame, a non-profit entity created in 2002 to preserve Sebring’s race heritage.

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