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Marco Di Leo Doubles up Marco Di Leo Doubles upMONTEREY, Calif.  – The lap charts show Marco Di Leo leading every lap of the two races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – the opening rounds of the 2006 Skip Barber National Presented by RACER – but his lead in each was never more than two or three car lengths, and both races had late- race cautions that put those leads under further major threat. But both times Di Leo fought off the advances and left the A1GP event an impressive double winner.

Di Leo, younger brother of Champ Car Atlantic driver Dan, had taken pole in qualifying for race one and was immediately at the head of a five-car train: Jonathan Goring, Alex Doman, Alexander Rossi and Joel Miller were all on top of each other for the opening seven laps. (The second-fastest qualifier was Justin Moon, but after the warm-up lap, his fuel cell was found to be leaking. He jumped into a spare but would have to start from pit lane…) zzzz 

On lap eight, when Goring overcooked the Turn 11 hairpin, Rossi had the run on him up the front straight and then out-braked Goring into Two to take over second place. Just past halfway, the five-car train was down to three as Doman and Miller lost a few car lengths to the leaders. Di Leo was in charge but it was still anyone’s game. Then ‘‘Enzo’’ Pastor threw his R/T 2000 into the Turn Six beach on lap 14. Di Leo’s ‘‘lead’’ was gone and now it was going to be a NASCAR finish: green-white-checker. At the green, Rossi was unable to make a legitimate run on Di Leo, but behind the leaders Kyle Lawrence, who was in a solid sixth, went off the road at the exit of Two. He was stuck in the mud and the corner was covered by a yellow. On the last lap, Miller and Goring were in a wicked wheel-to-wheel fight for third place. As they blasted down into Two, Miller never saw the flag and passed Goring. Oops. The move pushed both cars out to the outside, which meant Moon went past the both of them – after the incident area. (Wait a minute, where did Moon come from? Scything through the field, dead-last starting Moon had knocked off two sometimes three cars per lap. The full course yellow had then put him right back in the hunt. Really, an amazing drive.) Meanwhile, Di Leo kept Rossi behind him – barely – for the win. While the officials sorted through the evidence of who did what, Moon and Miller were on the hot seat, so Goring was sent to the podium celebration. Sadly for Goring, Moon was cleared of any crimes and rightly took his amazing P3. Miller was not exonerated and though he crossed the line fourth, he would be classified 15th after 15 seconds were added to his race time.

Race two was nearly as frenetic, but this time in wet-to-damp conditions. Di Leo was on pole by virtue of points following race one (more big rain resulted in A1GP officials having to ask to dramatically modify the schedule yet another time, to which Skip Barber Racing assented, again, for the sake of the show) and again he retained the lead at the start. Despite a lot less grip than Saturday, we saw no greater gaps between the leading cars. In fact, the racing was even closer. But Di Leo had been exuding confidence all weekend and never put a wheel wrong, despite Rossi attaching himself to his gearbox. By the last lap, with a dry line developing in some areas (and definitely not on other parts of the track), he who could sniff out the bits of grip here and there was going to have an advantage. Moon has shown previous mastery of this very handy talent in Skip Barber regional races at Laguna and leapt at Rossi out of the Corkscrew and through Turn Nine. He went to the outside of Rossi going into Ten… and made it work. Rossi, in fact, spun to the inside (‘‘I think his right-rear got my left-front,’’ Rossi said afterward) and another podium for Rossi was tossed, as Goring gladly accepted the handout.

Heidfeld gets wrists slapped by Race Stewards Heidfeld gets wrists slapped by Race StewardsNick Heidfeld and David Coulthard had a heated battle in Bahrain Sunday with the result that Heidfeld ran Coulthard off course. The Stewards were not happy with his actions and called both drivers to the officials office afterwards.

A statement issued by the FIA said: "The Stewards, after hearing the explanation of both the drivers and viewed video recording of the incident, determine that the driver Nick Heidfeld was involved in an incident as defined by Article 52 of the 2006 Formula One Sporting Regulations in that he forced the car driven by David Coulthard off the track.

"The Stewards accordingly reprimand the driver of car number 16 Nick Heidfeld."

Bahrain post-race press conference Bahrain post-race press conference
Stoddart’s airline in trouble Stoddart’s airline in troubleFormer F1 Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart's airline, OzJet, is in trouble and have suspended all but charter flights effective immediately.

"Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, we have not had the support we needed to operate in that environment against big, established carriers," Stoddart said. "It's very, very disappointing, particularly, I'm sure, for those people who had started traveling regularly with us between Melbourne and Sydney and many of our very diligent and loyal employees. Sad to say, there have not been enough of those regular customers."

"We will now concentrate, with a reduced workforce, on charter operations. We have given it a go in a very tough area of the Australian aviation industry and, as much as we would have hoped, it has become clear that we were not going to achieve in the immediate future the kind of revenues that were needed to keep OzJet in the air as the airline was envisaged. Charter operations may well be more rewarding.

"OzJet will retain its Air Operator's Certificate, a minimum of two Boeing 737 aircraft for charter work and about 30 per cent of its staff.

"OzJet will focus its future flying around ad hoc and VIP charters, something there is clearly a demand for in Australia as little, if any, competition exists in that market," Stoddart concluded.

Duran gives Team Mexico victory in USA, France champions Duran gives Team Mexico victory in USA, France championsA1 Team France have been crowned World Champions, winners of the first World Cup of Motorsport after finishing second in an exciting A1 Grand Prix of Nations Sprint race at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. As the Teams head into the Feature race, the fight is now on for valuable championship points as four A1 Teams battle for third place.

Nicolas Lapierre (FRA, left) A1 Team France after winning the A1GP championship. A1 Grand Prix, Rd10, Race Day, Laguna Seca, Monterey, USA 

The action began as soon as the pack moved off the grid with New Zealand's Matt Halliday overtaking France and then Mexico, slipping 'Black Beauty' into the top spot. Despite the heavy rain and slippery conditions, all 22 A1 cars made it through the first corner in A1 Grand Prix's first-ever wet race. The early overtaking continued with Mexico making its move on New Zealand on the uphill approach to the famous Corkscrew turn, regaining the lead lost as they left the grid but just seconds after, new driver Max Papis lost control of the Italian car bringing out the first safety car of the race.

The rain eased as the safety car pulled in at the end of lap three with Mexico now leading the pack ahead of New Zealand, France, Malaysia, Portugal and Ireland with Italy re-joining the back of the pack. As Mexico increased their lead, France's Nicolas Lapierre kept the pressure on New Zealand but battles further down the field ensued as teams fought for valuable championship points. zzzz

Third place outsiders A1 Team Malaysia came under a string of attacks, first from Portugal's Alvaro Parente - their closest rival in the points table - and then from Great Britain's Robbie Kerr and then Ireland's Ralph Firman on lap six.

As the clouds opened and the rain began to fall again, New Zealand's Matt Halliday was obviously struggling with the lack of grip. France kept up the pressure and finally on lap seven, Lapierre took the chance pushing the tricolor car past New Zealand, recovering from a major slide himself.

The slippery conditions were a common problem and A1 Team Germany was the next to go, spinning off the track but managing to get back and remain in the top 10 with only Canada's Patrick Carpentier squeezing past.

The safety car was deployed again at the end of lap eight as A1 Team Malaysia's bright yellow car was recovered from the gravel trap after a solo spin. The clock ticked on and despite the predicted 22 lap race, with 15 minutes to go only nine laps had run and it became clear that the race would be run by the clock. With the safety car still out, A1 Team Lebanon lost their point scoring position, heading into the back of A1 Team Germany on the start/finish straight.

With only 10 minutes remaining the safety car came in and racing resumed. The Netherlands' Jos Verstappen was the first to attack taking on Australia with new driver Indy Racing League and Toyota Formula One test driver, Ryan Briscoe behind the wheel. The move failed and as the two cars touched, the bright orange car spun off the track, sliding in the run-off and heading the wrong way down the track before spinning again and rejoining the race.

But that was not the last that was heard of Jos Verstappen as a second collision with Brazil's Christian Fittipaldi saw both cars leave and re-join the track twice on their way through the Corkscrew. A1 Team Switzerland, with new driver Giorgio Mondini behind the wheel, also fell victim to the Corkscrew cutting both corners, damaging his nose cone and ensuring that the only team who could unseat France finished outside of the points.

Winning his first race in A1 Grand Prix, nineteen year old Salvador Duran said: 'I lost some gears at the start, and Team New Zealand got past and then France as well. When Italy spun and the safety car came out I managed to recover a few positions. It was difficult to get on the power and very very difficult to pass, and when I was behind New Zealand I couldn't see anything at all.'

Speaking about his prospects in the Feature race, Salvador Duran said: 'Nicolas is very experienced, he will be trying to win the next race. Having won the championship now, he has nothing to lose. I will be conscious of that. But we will be out there trying to make up a few positions in the championship.'

Speaking on behalf of new World Champions, A1 Team France, Nicolas Lapierre said: 'I feel great, it was a team job, Alex, the mechanics and engineers and Jean Paul. I might be in front of the camera now, but it really was a team effort. It will be difficult in the next race because obviously the team is excited and wants to celebrate, but we have to concentrate on the job, and I think we can win the next race.'

Finishing the race in third place, from seventh on the grid, Alvaro Parente said: 'The race was very hard. I couldn't see a lot. I had quite a few good overtaking moves and I'm really happy to be in third. It was very hard to see braking points and other cars in such wet conditions, but you just have to follow your instincts.'

Pos Driver Team Time
 1. Salvador Duran Mexico 31:07.422
 2. Nicolas Lapierre France + 1.771
 3. Alvaro Parente Portugal + 8.040
 4. Robbie Kerr Great Britain + 12.791
 5. Ralph Firman Ireland + 24.390
 6. Patrick Carpentier Canada + 26.027
 7. Timo Scheider Germany + 26.416
 8. Matt Halliday New Zealand + 30.474
 9. Bryan Herta USA + 31.034
10. Ryan Briscoe Australia + 34.647
11. Stephen Simpson South Africa + 35.971
12. Mathias Lauda Austria + 51.760
13. Christian Fittipaldi Brazil + 54.200
14. Jos Verstappen Netherlands + 55.266
15. Adam Khan Pakistan + 57.676
16. Giorgio Mondini Switzerland +1:00.478
17. Tengyi Jiang China +1:13.008
18. Tomas Enge Czech Republic + 1 Lap
19. Max Papis Italy + 1 Lap
20. Ananda Mikola Indonesia + 4 Laps
21. Graham Rahal Lebanon + 7 Laps
22. Alex Yoong Malaysia + 9 Laps

Four-way battle for 3rd place Four-way battle for 3rd placeA1 Team France may well wrap up the inaugural A1 Grand Prix series at Laguna Seca today, providing they can outscore A1 Team Switzerland, but it's the battle for third place overall that looks primed to provide the fireworks.

With as many as 21 points available for each of the A1 Grand Prix of Nations events at the Californian circuit and at Shanghai International Circuit on 2 April - running 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for the top 10 finishers - as many as 11 nations could yet claim the bronze medal position. These are Great Britain, Brazil, Netherlands, New Zealand, Malaysia, Portugal, Ireland, Canada, Czech Republic, Italy and Australia. However, it is the first four of these who are most likely to be the effective challengers.

With 73 points to its name, A1 Team Great Britain leads the pack, heading Brazil on 70, Netherlands on 69 and New Zealand on 64. Of this quartet, A1 Team New Zealand is best placed after qualifying, lining up third for the Sprint race. Great Britain is sixth, but race-winners Netherlands are back in 12th and Brazil only 19th, making their job all
the harder.

Beyond these four nations, A1 Team Malaysia, on 53 points, may be able to make up ground as Alex Yoong has qualified its car fourth. A1 Team Portugal, on 51 points, is seventh on the grid and the ever unlucky A1 Team Ireland, on 50, will start eighth.

Industry News
Automakers giving secrets away to Chinese Automakers giving secrets away to ChineseThis NY Times article is an interesting read - All the major automakers from Germany, Japan and the USA are clamoring to form joint ventures with Chinese automakers so they can get into the rapidly expanding Chinese market. However, in doing so these automakers are giving away all their secrets to their Chinese partners who are poised to start exporting cars to the USA. They are already selling cars in Europe. With workers making $200 per week with no burden of pension plans, there is little doubt the Chinese will be able to make the same car for far less money, or a superior car for the same amount of money, thereby putting further pressure on the American automakers who are already losing market share.
Ferrari is back Ferrari is backA promising start to the 2006 F1 season for Ferrari. Michael Schumacher was a close second today in Bahrain, and with a bit better strategy, might have won.

Jean Todt: " Today we had everything we needed to win, perhaps we needed just that extra little bit of luck!  Nevertheless we saw that this weekend our car-engine-Bridgestone tire package was competitive from the first to the last lap. This is of fundamental importance for team morale and to show that we and our technical partners have worked in the right direction over the winter. This race confirms that there are four teams capable of winning and Ferrari is one of them. Michael made it to the second step of the podium. It's a pity about that qualifying lap that wasn't acknowledged this morning because of the 110% rule, because maybe that bit of extra fuel would have been enough to stay ahead. However we say this with hindsight and it's the sort of thing that is a typical part of racing and we have to accept it. Felipe drove a great race: his spin and the subsequent problem with the tire change stopped him from doing as well as he could have done. His performance today is still a good sign for the rest of the season. We have a lot of work to do but we'll do our utmost to fight for the championships. Today's result gives an extra boost to the team, the drivers and Bridgestone."

Michael Schumacher: " All in all this is an excellent result and I'm certainly not complaining about finishing second. If someone would have told us during the winter months that this is the way we would have finished the first race of the season, I wouldn't have believed them. Today we must be really pleased with the result. On the other hand, I still have some mixed feelings because it seems that we could have been ahead and could have won the race. Considering how it ended up, it's now clear that the qualifying lap that wasn't acknowledged in as far as refueling this morning was concerned, was the decisive factor that played against us. It's a pity, because yesterday I had to back off because of the traffic. In any case it's a great day for us because we know that we have a good car and we have an excellent potential to develop during the course of the season and this is very important. This year the fight for the championship will be very close: there are several good teams, all of which are capable of battling for the title and it's great to be one of them." zzzz

Felipe Massa: "I must say that it really was a pity. Right from the start of the weekend I had a very competitive car and it's a shame that I wasn't able to pick up some points. When I spun I was very close to Alonso and I just touched the brakes but then I lost the rear end and spun off. During the pit stop I lost a lot of time to change the right rear tire and that's when I lost any chance of finishing in the points. For the rest of the race I was flat out all the time and I managed to climb back up to 9th. It's a pity that I've come away from this race with no points, but I'm looking forward to get my own back because I know that we have everything it takes to perform well."

Ross Brawn: "Obviously very frustrating to have come so close to winning a race but after the season we had last year we can take a great deal of encouragement from today's performance. Now we have to work on all those bits and pieces to find that little bit extra to win the next race and the one after that. We are in a close fight at the front and it's down to us now to get everything else right and try and win this championship. Felipe was going very well until he spun and we need to find out what caused it. He had a very good race after that. When he came in for the pit stop we had a problem with the right rear gun. The back-up system didn't work either. We're going to have a careful look and see what caused this error." Ferrari

Berger can go to the restaurant Berger can go to the restaurantThe entire Toro Rosso F1 minnow team are happy with their result in Bahrain.

Tonio Liuzzi: "We were expecting a bit more after the start we had to the weekend. But it was good to see the checkered flag in a reasonable position. Unfortunately during the race we did not have the pace we needed.

Scott Speed: "I'm pleased to have got through to the checkered flag in my first grand prix without making any mistakes. The balance of my car was not quite right during the first stint, but we were able to fix that at the first pit stop. After that, I think our pace improved and was good.

Gerhard Berger (Team Owner): "It's a really good result for us. With not many of the frontrunners stopping, finishing mid-field is about the best we could expect. It reflects our place in the order and the team can be more than happy, having performed well all weekend. Well done to everyone who worked so hard to get here. For Red Bull to get all four of its cars to the finish is also a result. From a personal point of view, I have to say this was a special day, watching my first race as a team owner. I am very happy, because in this team's previous life, people could sometimes feel sorry for you if you worked here. But I think after this race, I can go to the restaurant without having to hear bad comments!"

Wallace, Mayfield to start at back Wallace, Mayfield to start at backJeremy Mayfield and Kenny Wallace will have to start in the back of the field of the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 on Sunday after a practice accident Saturday morning. Wallace broke a water line, and Mayfield drove into the fluid before spinning. Both drivers had to go to backup cars because of damage to their primary cars.
Something you won’t see in American open wheel racing Something you won’t see in American open wheel racingAs can be seen in the photo to the right, the massive tire deflection of the Renault F1 Michelin rear tire as Fernando Alonso flies around the Bahrain circuit Sunday in the season opener.  With their high tire sidewalls, there is much flex, or 'give,' in the tire and this really allows the drivers to throw the car around in the corner, even get it a bit sideways, and still maintain control.  The driver has a much better feel for what the back end of the car is doing.

Meanwhile, American open wheel racing continues to use lower profile tires which invariably give the driver less feedback at the limit of adhesion and when they break loose the driver is just along for the ride. This of course leads to a much more conservative drive-on-rails approach by the drivers - all of them.  You won't see an IRL or Champ Car tire sidewall flex like that. 

It's too bad that this oversight in American open wheel racing was not corrected when the all-new car will be introduced in 2007.  Unfortunately there is no change planned meaning North American open wheel fans will be treated to many years of follow-the-leader racing on hard stiff tires.

Likewise NASCAR, also with high sidewall tires, puts on an entertaining show on road courses, again with the drivers able to get the car sideways and still gather it up.

And while some may scoff at such minutia, the fact of the matter is the devils in the details, always has been, always will be.

No Sponsorship on NASCAR Hall of Fame No Sponsorship on NASCAR Hall of FameIn a sport famous for slapping sponsor names on every available inch of sheet metal and fire-retardant racing suit, it appears NASCAR has finally found something it doesn't want to sell. The historic moment comes deep on the 63rd page of a contract between NASCAR and the city of Charlotte to build a NASCAR Hall of Fame in the city's downtown by the end of the decade. "Neither party shall sell any naming rights or presenting sponsorship for the HOF (e.g. 'The XYZ Company NASCAR Hall of Fame' or 'The NASCAR Hall of Fame presented by ABC Company') without the other party's prior approval." Yes, it's true. The folks who this year will bring you the "Banquet 500 presented by ConAgra Foods" and the "Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500" don't want a bunch of corporate names getting in the way of the clearly stated "NASCAR Hall of Fame." "We think that would probably go beyond the bounds of good taste," said Mark Dyer, NASCAR's vice president of licensing.  More at Pensacola News Journal
New boss for Hockenheim Ring New boss for Hockenheim RingThe Hockenheim Ring will soon have a new managing director with the announcement that Rene Jaeggi, the boss of the FC Kaiserslauten soccer team is to take on the role. The 57-year-old Swiss is under contract to Kaiserslautern until the end of the year but will then come in to try to sort out the mess at Hockenheim, where debts have reached $35m.

No race promoter makes money after signing a deal with Bernie Ecclestone, so unless Jaeggi can get government money to help subsidize the event, they will continue to lose money.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Bahrain GP retains title sponsor
Rivals point finger at Ferrari 'flex'
Bernie says 'knockout' is a hit
Renault slump in qualifying
Schu's pole
Tires worsen Toyota nightmare
Schu lauds Massa challenge
Schu struggled for motivation
F1 leaps to help Honda 'truckie'
Confusion supreme in top-ten dash
Rossi put on Ferrari back-burner
Jani is star of future
FIA to study STR's V10 data
Kimi denies 'teammate' rumor
Kimi will struggle to score a point
BMW enjoying Sauber union
Bahrain testers on top
Out and about in Bahrain
EJ turns to TV
Alonso nearly penned Ferrari deal
Firman qualifies 8th after qualifying accident Firman qualifies 8th after qualifying accidentLaguna Seca, USA: A1 Team Ireland will start tomorrow's USA A1 Grand Prix from 8th place on the grid after Ralph Firman suffered an accident on his third qualifying run, damaging the front left hand suspension. Highly competitive over the first two qualifying runs when he was 2nd fastest overall, Ralph caught a puddle on the inside of Turn 4 and went off the track, breaking the front left hand steering arm and damaging the lower wishbone.

He was able to return to the pits where the mechanics repaired the damage in just over 15 minutes and Ralph completed a fourth qualifying run, setting his fastest time of the day. Ralph's practice session this morning was also affected by suspension problems, the upper left rear wishbone and track control arm assembly suffering from a manufacturing fault. This was spotted after practice and the assembly replaced in time for qualifying.

Ralph Firman said, "The car was very good over the first two qualifying runs and we were in a very competitive position. Unfortunately on the third run I caught a puddle just where the kerbing meets the track at Turn 4 and went off, bounced across the grass and hit the barrier a glancing blow. It's a shame and I am sorry for the team who did a great job repairing the damage and getting me out again. At least I know that we have a competitive car for tomorrow's race."

Foyt spins....what else is new? Foyt spins....what else is new?A.J. Foyt IV spins through turn four to bring out a caution just before the mid-way point of the Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Busch Grand National race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Foyt returned and finished four laps down in 37th position. (Photo by David Allio)

The most serious incident occurred on the 160th of 200 laps when Jamie McMurray tapped John Andretti on the backstretch, sending him ricocheting off the wall and into the path of Tim Sauter. Both drivers walked away from the wreck.

Kahne Captures First Las Vegas Win for Dodge Kahne Captures First Las Vegas Win for DodgeWith the threat of weather hanging over the race, Kasey Kahne battled Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick all day for his fourth career NASCAR Busch Series win. Harvick, Kenseth and Kahne traded the lead throughout the afternoon, but it was ultimately Kahne who took the lead on lap 177 and never relinquished it.

Kenseth won the Busch Pole earlier in the day and was trying to become only the fourth driver to win the race from the pole. Leading most of the first 100 laps, Kenseth looked to be in control of the race. After a round of green flag pit stops, Kahne became the leader after stopping earlier than Harvick and Kenseth. The final 100 laps saw the potential of another green flag pit stop, but a caution came out with 51 laps to go. Harvick was the leader after this round of pit stops but just 18 laps later is when Kahne took the final lead change of the day.  zzzz 

With a late race caution, only three of the 16 drivers on the lead lap decided to gamble and take fresh tires. Jason Leffler, Tony Stewart and Ashton Lewis Jr. restarted the final three laps in 14th, 15th and 16th, respectively. They finished 11th, 12th and 13th.

Kahne’s win was the first for Dodge at Las Vegas. Kenseth finished second, followed by Harvick, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. Only one driver, Jason Keller, has competed in every Las Vegas race.

(9) Kasey Kahne was the winner of the Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Busch Grand National race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Kahne started in tenth place and led three times including the final 28 laps for his first victory at the 1.5-mile superspeedway. (David Allio)

Harvick continues to lead the series points, with Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley, Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer rounding out the top five.

The NASCAR Busch Series returns to action next Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.


Fin Car Driver Make Laps Status
1 #9  Kasey Kahne Dodge 206 Running
2 #17  Matt Kenseth Ford 206 Running
3 #21  Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 206 Running
4 #16  Greg Biffle Ford 206 Running
5 #60  Carl Edwards Ford 206 Running
6 #20  Denny Hamlin Chevrolet 206 Running
7 #64  Jamie McMurray Dodge 206 Running
8 #18  J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 206 Running
9 #2  Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 206 Running
10 #41  Reed Sorenson Dodge 206 Running
11 #32  Jason Leffler Chevrolet 206 Running
12 #33  Tony Stewart Chevrolet 206 Running
13 #25  Ashton Lewis Ford 206 Running
14 #47  Jon Wood Ford 206 Running
15 #00  Johnny Sauter Chevrolet 206 Running
16 #1  Jason Keller Dodge 206 Running
17 #66  Ken Schrader Ford 205 Running
18 #90  Stephen Leicht Ford 205 Running
19 #5  Kyle Busch Chevrolet 204 Running
20 #11  Paul Menard Chevrolet 204 Running
21 #06  Todd Kluever* Ford 204 Running
22 #35  Regan Smith Ford 204 Running
23 #50  Danny O'Quinn Jr.* Ford 204 Running
24 #156  Kevin Lepage Chevrolet 204 Running
25 #99  Michael Waltrip Dodge 204 Running
26 #77  Burney Lamar* Chevrolet 203 Running
27 #88  Mark McFarland* Chevrolet 203 Running
28 #58  Kevin Conway Dodge 203 Running
29 #27  David Green Ford 203 Running
30 #131  Steve Park Chevrolet 203 Running
31 #4  Mark Green Dodge 203 Running
32 #22  Kenny Wallace Ford 203 Running
33 #59  Stacy Compton Ford 202 Running
34 #01  Jay Sauter Chevrolet 202 Running
35 #165  Spencer Clark  Ford 201 Running
36 #34  Paul Tracy Chevrolet 200 Running
37 #38  Anthony Foyt* Dodge 200 Out of Race
38 #14  Tracy Hines* Dodge 199 Running
39 #184  David Gilliland Chevrolet 192 Out of Race
40 #43  Aaron Fike Dodge 173 Out of Race
41 #36  Tim Sauter Chevrolet 158 Out of Race
42 #10  John Andretti* Ford 154 Out of Race
43 #12  Joel Kauffman* Dodge 70 Out of Race

Race fuel strategies could be intriguing Race fuel strategies could be intriguingToday was the debut of the new qualifying format: to recap, all 22 cars go out for 15 minutes at the end of which the slowest six cars are eliminated and occupy the last six places on the grid. After a five minute break, the remaining cars go out again for another 15 minutes and again the last six drop out. Finally, the remaining ten, this time running the fuel load with which they intend starting Sunday's race, go on track for a final 20 minute shoot-out.

Designed to bring some excitement to the qualifying procedure after the previous one car at a time format proved a bit dull, today's effort suggests the rule makers have succeeded. Kimi Raikkonen suffered a suspension failure in the first part of the session which brought out the red flags with a few minutes to go. So once the track was open again, all remaining 21 cars rushed out on track at the same time, causing the sort of traffic jam that had not been seen on a Saturday afternoon for a many a year.

Tomorrow morning, the cars that took part in the final section of qualifying will take on an amount of fuel calculated by the FIA, to bring them back up to the level with which they began the final stint. Those outside the top ten can do what they wish in terms of fuel loads, which promises an interesting variety of race strategies.

Terrorist threat taken seriously Terrorist threat taken seriouslyAn FBI directive stated that a posting on an extremist message board "advocated suicide attacks against sporting events as a cost-effective means of killing thousands of Americans," according to an ABC News report. The ABC report also states that the government does not believe there is an imminent threat. Sunday's Cup race is expected to draw more than 130,000 fans, making it the largest concentration of Americans at a single sporting event that day. A NASCAR spokesman touts the series security as "some of the best security in sports." NASCAR's head of security is a former secret service officer. Roanoke Times
Raikkonen suspension failure unexpected Raikkonen suspension failure unexpectedKimi Raikkonen will start tomorrow's Bahrain GP race from the back of the grid after a right rear suspension failure on his first flying qualifying lap meant that he failed to set a time.
“There is not much I can say about today. It is very disappointing to not even complete one timed lap as I believe that the team had a good strategy for the new qualifying system, and I could have been amongst the quickest. Although it is far from ideal to start from the back of the grid, there are overtaking opportunities at this track, and I have done this before and still achieved good results. We will just have to see what happens in the race tomorrow.”

“A painful first experience of the new qualifying. Our overall competitiveness is still difficult to judge as the fuel load used for the final qualifying still plays a significant role in respect of race strategy. Juan Pablo's set up is still not perfect and Kimi's car suffered a rear suspension lower wishbone failure which was caused by a manufacturing fault, which, after many thousands of kilometres of testing, is difficult to come to terms with.”

“It is a shame that Kimi suffered from a rear suspension failure. In more than 8000km of testing we have not experienced such a breakdown. We have what we think is a good strategy and a solid basis for a good performance in the race and our speed so far looks OK.”

Bernie praises new qualifying system Bernie praises new qualifying systemUPDATE Jensen Button believes the 2006 format, which was voted for by fans, is an ideal solution.

The Honda driver said: "The new qualifying system is quite interesting. It's always go, you are always doing something.

"For me was very exciting. I'm sure it's the same for all the fans out there.

"It was non-stop, especially with Raikkonen having his problem. It was good fun and it's nice to be up here in third.

"It's great having to do it at certain times in the hour - we have to be out on the circuit three times.

"It's good for the fans and I'm sure it's going to make for some upsets this season and very different grids."

Former world champion Schumacher, who has criticized the sport for tinkering with qualifying in the past, offered his approval.

"It matters very much what the fans think but it looks like after so many changes we have achieved something that is more exciting and everybody likes it," he added.

"There is more opportunities and it is fairer if there are changing weather conditions and so on."

03/11/06 Bernie Ecclestone praised Formula One's new qualifying system after a dramatic knock-out session in Bahrain today. Michael Schumacher took top spot to equal Ayrton Senna's record of 65 pole positions and cap a thrilling hour's action. In contrast to the pedestrian one-lap system, the new knock-out format - which eliminates six drivers after each of two 15-minute sessions before a final shoot-out - proved action-packed.

"It's very good. It's precisely what I wanted to happen - some of the good guys getting knocked out in the first session. It makes it much more exciting. It's producing what we thought about - it looks good and has worked well. It's going to be a good championship. You can see that the top half a dozen cars are all very competitive. I'm very, very happy with this format."
Eau de NASCAR: Licensing and the Smell of Money Eau de NASCAR: Licensing and the Smell of MoneyThis NY Times article talks about the fact that NASCAR is perhaps the only traditionally male sport that is making a concerted effort to market itself to women.
14 dead and counting during Daytona Bike Week 14 dead and counting during Daytona Bike WeekThree people died Friday in area motorcycle accidents, setting a new record for Bike Week deaths in Volusia and Flagler counties in Florida.

Twelve motorcyclists have died in wrecks since March 3, exceeding the 10 bikers killed in Volusia and Flagler counties during Bike Week in 2000 and again 2002.

Fair weather is drawing more riders to the outdoors this year, putting more of them on higher-speed roads, said Capt. Mike Coffin with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

"Whenever you get these bikes going 55 (mph) and above, the chances are there's going to be a wreck," Coffin said.

But some motorcyclists were simply stopped at a red light at the time of the crash. Some of those killed were wearing helmets, and some were not, police reports show.

There also were deadly motorcycle accidents in Orange and St. Johns counties. Counting those two, a total of 14 riders have died during Bike Week. More at Daytona Beach News Journal

Duran gives Team Mexico pole in Laguna Seca Duran gives Team Mexico pole in Laguna SecaA1 Team Mexico (pictured right) snatched its first pole position in the closing minutes of qualifying today, unsettling Series’ leaders France, out to claim the World Championship title this weekend. Lapierre’s job will now be slightly tougher tomorrow despite his team’s only rival A1 Team Switzerland, who had its second segment time disallowed for failure to comply with weighing procedures, sitting sixteenth on the grid.
While the battle for first is now a two horse race, competition is heating up for third place. Contenders A1 Team Malaysia, put in its best qualifying session ever, taking fourth place on the grid, behind A1 Team New Zealand, another possible for third place. Great Britain, Netherlands and Brazil, lying sixth, twelfth and nineteenth respectively, will also be putting the pressure on Malaysia as they fight for crucial, championship deciding points.
With Graham Rahal behind the wheel, A1 Team Lebanon also achieved its best ever qualifying results. On a track that boasts a straight named after his father, Rahal secured eleventh place on the grid, putting the team in a strong position to score its first ever points.
First time pole sitter Salvador Duran (pictured right) said: ‘It has been great so far, everything went right. We have good competition from France, but I think we have a car to win, we have been fast in qualifying and we can be fast in the race. We have the car now, and we have the team, I think we have the best team in the Series now.’
Salvador is not intimidated by the more experienced drivers lining up behind him on the gird. ‘It is very difficult to pass here, but I am racing with experienced drivers and it is easy to race with them. I hope to get into the turn one first, I’m confident that these guys have a lot of experience and I respect them. But I think I can be as quick as them.’ zzzz
Asked if he was surprised to lose pole position in the last session, second place man Nicolas Lapierre said: ‘Not really. My last lap was not that good. I made a mistake in the last corner which cost us pole. But we are here to win the championship, and we qualified in front of Switzerland which is the main thing. But I am disappointed to lose pole after leading in the first three sessions. As a driver, of course I want to win every race I take part in, so it will be a compromise between winning the race and getting the points to win the championship.’
Speaking about his qualifying session, Matt Halliday, third on the grid for A1 Team New Zealand said: ‘The track is difficult in places, there is a bit of water on the curbs but we have a good package and a good starting set up. We are looking for a good result tomorrow.’
Asked if having raced at the circuit in 2001 in the Indy Lights competition was an advantage, Matt commented: ‘It is more important to have a good set up than know the circuit. We are a team here on our own, if we get lost on set up, we can’t share data with another team.’

A1 Team Driver Aggregate Time
1 Mexico Salvador Duran 2.30.744
2 France Nicolas Lapierre 2.30.895
3 New Zealand Matt Halliday 2.31.596
4 Malaysia Alex Yoong 2.31.810
5 Australia Ryan Briscoe 2.31.964
6 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 2.31.970
7 Portugal Alvaro Parente 2.32.042
8 Ireland Ralph Firman 2.32.098
9 Germany Timo Scheider 2.32.307
10 South Africa Stephen Simpson 2.32.535
11 Lebanon Graham Rahal 2.32.560
12 Netherlands Jos Verstappen 2.32.571
13 Italy Max Papis 2.32.745
14 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 2.32.838
15 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 2.33.249
16 Switzerland Giorgio Mondini 2.33.299
17 USA Bryan Herta 2.33.602
18 Canada Patrick Carpentier 2.33.641
19 Brazil Christian Fittipaldi 2.33.686
20 Austria Mathias Lauda 2.34.338
21 Pakistan Adam Khan 2.36.325
22 China Tengyi Jiang 2.37.715
Despite a regulation which allows A1 Teams to switch drivers between Qualifying and the Sprint race, all teams have decided to retain their qualifying selection and there will be no driver changes.
The Sprint race will be contested over 50 miles lasting up to 30 minutes in duration. With a rolling start at 13.30 PST, tomorrow’s race will be run over 22 laps of the 3.6 km circuit. The outcome of the race determines the grid positions for the Feature race which will start at 15.00 PST with a standing start. The Feature race will be run over 100 miles (44 laps) lasting up to 60 minutes in duration.
Bahrain post-qualifying press conference Bahrain post-qualifying press conference
France back on top in Laguna practice France back on top in Laguna practiceThe French A1GP team has dominated all season and the weekend in Laguna Seca appears no different as they are back atop the speed charts in the practice session leading up to qualifying.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Nicolas Lapierre France 1:16.840 23
 2. Stephen Simpson South Africa 1:16.847 + 0.007 27
 3. Robbie Kerr Great Britain 1:16.873 + 0.033 25
 4. Salvador Duran Mexico 1:17.011 + 0.171 20
 5. Ryan Briscoe Australia 1:17.466 + 0.626 32
 6. Tomas Enge Czech Republic 1:17.551 + 0.711 25
 7. Patrick Carpentier Canada 1:17.732 + 0.892 20
 8. Bryan Herta USA 1:17.845 + 1.005 19
 9. Matt Halliday New Zealand 1:17.907 + 1.067 25
10. Graham Rahal Lebanon 1:18.057 + 1.217 17 zzzz
11. Max Papis Italy 1:18.101 + 1.261 27
12. Ananda Mikola Indonesia 1:18.174 + 1.334 27
13. Timo Scheider Germany 1:18.212 + 1.372 17
14. Christian Fittipaldi Brazil 1:18.281 + 1.441 25
15. Alvaro Parente Portugal 1:18.319 + 1.479 10
16. Alex Yoong Malaysia 1:18.329 + 1.489 26
17. Ralph Firman Ireland 1:18.547 + 1.707 14
18. Mathias Lauda Austria 1:18.566 + 1.726 24
19. Jos Verstappen Netherlands 1:18.973 + 2.133 20
20. Adam Khan Pakistan 1:18.987 + 2.147 12
21. Giorgio Mondini Switzerland 1:19.654 + 2.814 25
22. Qinghua Ma China 1:19.975 + 3.135 17
Petty movie back on Petty movie back onThe Disney-backed movie on Richard Petty is on again and filming could start this fall or early spring 2007, said Bill Scott of Petty Enterprises. The movie was expected to be filmed in either 2004 or 2005, but that changed after the script was rejected. Scott said the script has been rewritten, and movie officials are revising it. Scott said actor Dennis Quaid is scheduled to play Lee Petty. Roanoke Times
Tire testing at Lowe’s Tire testing at Lowe’sThe repaving at Lowe's Motor Speedway is expected to be finished this weekend. Goodyear has scheduled a tire test there March 28 and 29. Scheduled to test are #21-Ken Schrader, #29-Kevin Harvick, #10-Scott Riggs and #43-Bobby Labonte, along with Bobby Hamilton in his Craftsman Truck. Roanoke Times
Industry News
Another big recall for GM Another big recall for GMGeneral Motors Corp. is recalling another group of its best-selling pickups to fix tailgate cables that may break and cause injuries, bringing the number of U.S. vehicles recalled for the problem to 4.47 million.

Tailgates on 805,368 of GM's 1999 and 2000 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models may drop unexpectedly when cables snap, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday. Those models were built before the 3.66 million pickups covered by a 2004 recall. There were 84 injuries linked to the latest recall, GM spokesman Alan Adler said. The agency counted 134 in the initial one.

'Fisi cost me pole' - Massa 'Fisi cost me pole' - Massa(GMMf1NET)  Ferrari debutant Felipe Massa claims he could have snared pole position from teammate Michael Schumacher in Bahrain.

The young Brazilian pointed the finger at Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella, who allegedly held him up on a flyer.

''I think he took pole away from me,'' Massa said, ''because I was improving my lap time at that moment.  But this is still a great start.''

Seven time world champion Schumacher's top spot matched the all-time pole record of 65, belonging to the late and great Ayrton Senna.

''This is confirmation of all the hard work we have done to come back,'' the German beamed.

However, it must be remembered that the final top-ten shootout for pole was conducted with race-levels of fuel, meaning that the red cars could be light.

Perhaps the second-to-last segment of 15-minutes, with all cars running light, was more indicative of the true state of play in Bahrain.

At the end of session two, Renault's Fernando Alonso set the quickest time.

''The Renault F1 (Team's) cards are still held very close to their chest,'' read a team qualifying document.

Raikkonen to start dead-last in Bahrain Raikkonen to start dead-last in BahrainAfter breaking down on Friday, McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen will start the first grand prix of 2006 from the very back of the grid following a suspension failure in F1's new 'knockout'-style qualifying in Bahrain.

Reminiscent of his unreliable run to the championship's runner-up spot last year, the Finn failed to set a lap time in the session's first 15-minute segment before bouncing off the Sakhir track with apparent rear suspension failure.

With a wheel skewed and his rear wing missing, Raikkonen, 26, limped back to the pits as the Saturday session was stopped.

With better fortune, Michael Schumacher equaled Ayrton Senna's record of 65 career pole positions, with teammate Felipe Massa completing a dream team debut - and a perfect result for Ferrari - by trailing him by less than a tenth of a second.

Honda's Jenson Button is third, ahead of Fernando Alonso (Renault) and Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren).

Neither Toyota runner made the top-ten cut, with Ralf Schumacher even failing to make it past the first 15-minute segment and thus in the company of Raikkonen, MF1 and the sluggish Super Aguri duo.

Bahrain: Button pips Schumacher in Practice 3 Bahrain: Button pips Schumacher in Practice 3Under windy conditions that created a sandy and dusty circuit for the final practice session ahead of qualifying Jenson Button set the pace for Honda over Michael Schumacher. The Honda driver recorded a best lap of 1:31.857 in the closing minutes of the practice session, pushing Schumacher down to second fastest just 0.011s behind.
 P. No Driver Team - Engine Tires Times Ave/Gaps
 1. 12 BUTTON Honda M 1'31"857 212.104 Km/h
 2. 5 M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1'31"868 + 0'00"011
 3. 1 ALONSO Renault M 1'31"975 + 0'00"118
 4. 2 FISICHELLA Renault M 1'32"050 + 0'00"193
 5. 6 MASSA Ferrari B 1'32"826 + 0'00"969
 6. 17 VILLENEUVE BMW Sauber M 1'32"913 + 0'01"056
 7. 8 TRULLI Toyota B 1'33"038 + 0'01"181
 8. 3 RAIKKONEN McLaren Mercedes M 1'33"262 + 0'01"405
 9. 7 R.SCHUMACHER Toyota B 1'33"523 + 0'01"666
10. 9 WEBBER Williams Cosworth B 1'33"876 + 0'02"019
11. 15 KLIEN RedBull Ferrari M 1'33"944 + 0'02"087
12. 11 BARRICHELLO Honda M 1'34"009 + 0'02"152
13. 16 HEIDFELD BMW Sauber M 1'34"094 + 0'02"237
14. 14 COULTHARD RedBull Ferrari M 1'34"142 + 0'02"285
15. 4 MONTOYA McLaren Mercedes M 1'34"406 + 0'02"549
16. 10 ROSBERG Williams Cosworth B 1'34"434 + 0'02"577
17. 19 ALBERS Midland Toyota B 1'34"541 + 0'02"684
18. 18 MONTEIRO Midland Toyota B 1'35"026 + 0'03"169
19. 20 LIUZZI Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'35"351 + 0'03"494
20. 21 SPEED Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'35"532 + 0'03"675
21. 22 SATO S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'36"994 + 0'05"137
22. 23 IDE S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'41"889 + 0'10"032
TV News
USA TV reminders for Sunday USA TV reminders for Sunday

Courtesy of TVRacer.com

12:00am-12:30am SPEED
NASCAR Performance
2:30am-3:00am SPEED
Formula 1 Bahrain
6:00am-8:30am (L) SPEED
Inside Drag Racing
11:00am-11:30am ESPN2
NASCAR RaceDay Las Vegas
11:00am-11:30am (L) SPEED
11:30am-12:00pm ESPN2
Formula 1 Replay Bahrain
12:30pm-3:00pm (R) SPEED
NASCAR RaceDay - Green Flag Edition Las Vegas
3:00pm-4:00pm SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup  Las Vegas
4:00pm-8:00pm (L) FOX
Arenacross Dallas
5:00pm-6:00pm SPEED
AMA Supercross Lite Indianapolis
6:00pm-7:00pm -125cc SPEED
Speed News 
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
A1GP Laguna Seca
7:00pm-9:00pm (SDD) OLN
NASCAR Victory Lane Las Vegas
8:00pm-9:00pm (SDD) SPEED
Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain
Bob Varsha (F1 Analyst)
Micah Roberts (Station Casinos)
9:00pm-10:00pm (L) SPEED

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

A dusty morning in Bahrain A dusty morning in BahrainDust hangs over the Bahrain formula one venue on Saturday morning after a windy night.

The Sakhir area, meanwhile, is heading for cooler conditions for qualifying at 2pm, with an expected top of 22C.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Bernie hints that F1 war is over
Violence in Bahrain
V10 storm rains on STR's advantage
F1 teams pen test agreement
McLaren won't change Montoya's engine
Williams' longest sponsor stays put
Doornbos cops whopping fine
Renault on top, say rivals
V8s make Bahrain 'easier' - Kubica
Fisi marks decade on F1 grid
Webber predicts 'wild' qualifying
Bahrain heads for Sunday sellout
Rip-off at Sakhir
BMW not a Bahrain contender - Heidfeld
Ferrari is 'private' team, Todt insists
Boris Becker in Bahrain
BMW defends modest goals for 2006
Ralf wants to end career at Toyota
Zanardi in Turin
Cope withdraws from Vegas race Cope withdraws from Vegas raceDerrike Cope was planning on driving the #74 McGlynn Racing Dodge an Las Vegas until some unfortunate news came his way. On Thursday, Cope updated derrikecope.com with: "My update for Las Vegas is a disappointing one. I am here in Las Vegas, but I just got word that the Transporter has broken down and will not make it here for this weekend. It is unfortunate for all of us, but they got out of town late and with this happening it is impossible for them to get here in time. I just spoke to Ray McGlynn [owner] and the sponsor and they said that we will just have to rebound and get ready to go to Atlanta next week. I will give you an update next week prior to leaving for Atlanta." derrikecope.com
Biffle wins pole in Vegas Biffle wins pole in VegasFord driver Greg Biffle has won the Nextel Cup pole for Sunday's race at LVMS over the Chevys of Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson. Full report to follow.
Herta’s love affair with Laguna Seca continues Herta’s love affair with Laguna Seca continuesSome drivers excel at certain tracks and for Laguna Seca in California that driver is America's Bryan Herta.  Always fast in a Champ Car at Laguna, Herta topped the delayed practice today for the A1GP cars despite turning the least number of laps of any driver practicing here.

Photo to right of Bryan Herta at the bottom of the famous 'Corkscrew,' courtesy of A1GP.

'It was a good session and a good start to the weekend. We sat out the first part of the session, as the track was still dirty and as I know the track I didn't need to go out and learn it. The car is good, I struggled with balance in a few corners, but I'm pleased to be quickest. We haven't had the results we wanted so far this season, but we hope to put that right here,' Bryan said. 

Heavy storms overnight which covered the surrounding mountains with snow meant the track was still wet when the session began. Commenting on the weather conditions Bryan said: 'there is a first for everything, it was surprise to wake up to that this morning. I think the people at Laguna Seca have done a brilliant job in giving us a race track that we can race on in such a short time. The car is good, it's a bit difficult in the cold conditions, with the Cooper Tires, the set up needs to be a bit different. It is a truly great circuit here though, and I'm glad that A1GP chose to race here.' 

Asked how important it was to do well at the team's home race, Rick Weidinger, Seat holder for A1 Team USA said: 'It's extremely important to do well here. We've got the right driver, the right race track. I'd like to say the right time of year, but it would be nice to have been here when it was warmer! When 'We the People' finished at the top of the time sheets, we were extremely happy.  Bryan did a great job after only a few laps on track.'

The Californian circuit, with its fearsome reputation, mainly due to the unique Corkscrew downhill section, caught out a number of drivers who slid off in different parts of the track. Matt Halliday for A1 Team New Zealand brought out the first red flag of the session, with South Africa's Stephen Simpson causing the second when he spun but remained on track and was able to re-start unaided. A1 Team Indonesia's Ananda Mikola brought out the last red flag of the day which concluded the session two minutes early when he went off into the gravel. zzzz

A1 Team Mexico's Salvador Duran who recorded the second fastest lap time of the day said: 'The first session went well, its always good to finish in the first three. I think we can still do a better lap time though. I think we have shown that we have good pace and that we can be at the top. Other teams will not stop working between now and tomorrow, and drivers like Jos will get quicker, and we will need to work hard too'.

Hoping to put a disastrous home race behind him, A1 Team Mexico driver, Salvador Duran commented: 'It was a bad race in Mexico, but that is motor racing, and that's how it goes. It all went wrong. But I'm happy to be here now, I love America!' 

Asked how he was coping with the famous Corkscrew, Salvador replied: 'It is difficult, but so is the corner before, with a bump and a fast left. It will be a very interesting race, but we will have to see what the weather does.' 

Third fastest, Jos Verstappen in the Dutch car said: 'I still have to learn the track, the car felt good, but there are a lot of areas we can improve. I am not on the limit yet, and we can go quicker. The track is very slippery, and the water across the track seemed to get worse. I still have to learn the track, but it is a very nice circuit, great to drive, but not easy to learn.  I hope the weather stays dry for the rest of the weekend.' 

Official Practice Session 1 (16.05 - 17.05)

  A1 Team Driver  Time
1 USA Bryan Herta 1.18.620
2 Mexico Salvador Duran 1.18.948
3 Netherlands Jos Verstappen 1.19.085
4 Portugal Alvaro Parente 1.19.169
5 France Nicolas Lapierre 1.19.176
6 Lebanon Graham Rahal 1.19.318
7 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 1.19.445
8 Ireland Ralph Firman 1.19.458
9 New Zealand Matt Halliday 1.19.501
10 Brazil Christian Fittipaldi 1.19.565
11 Germany Timo Scheider 1.19.603
12 Malaysia Alex Yoong 1.19.624
13 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 1.19.731
14 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 1.19.905
15 South Africa Stephen Simpson 1.20.189
16 Italy Max Papis 1.20.190
17 Australia Ryan Briscoe 1.20.585
18 Switzerland Giorgio Mondini 1.20.758
19 Pakistan Adam Khan 1.21.667
20 China Tengyi Jiang 1.21.823
21 Austria Mathias Lauda 1.22.074
22 Canada Patrick Carpentier 1.22.464

Today's first official practice session was delayed from the scheduled time of 13.00 - 14.00 to allow the 22 participating A1 teams extra time to set up their race cars following a delay in the A1GP freight arriving from Mexico. As a result, there will be two practice sessions tomorrow morning (09.15 - 10.15 and 11.15 - 12.15) before Qualifying takes place at the regular time of 14.15 - 15.45.

Delays at Laguna Seca Delays at Laguna SecaUPDATE Cars finally made it onto the track with Bryan Herta, Team USA, currently sitting atop the charts with a 1m18.620s lap.  That compares to the Champ Car lap record of 1m5.347s. The weather is clear and cool.

03/10/06 No cars have turned a wheel today, not even the support series, for this weekend's A1GP race at Laguna Seca. Safety issues with the track was the excuse, but what's the real story? We are hoping for 4PM PT practice but who knows. Cars are on pitlane and corners are stationed for first time today.

Kevin Kalkhoven is here, talking with Max Papis and Emerson Fittipaldi.

Kahne tops Vegas practice Kahne tops Vegas practiceDodge driver Kasey Kahne topped the speed charts for Friday's NASCAR Nextel Cup practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Chevys took 7 of the top 10 positions. Qualifying is up next.
Rank Car Driver Make Speed Time
1 #9 Kasey Kahne Dodge 171.521 31.483
2 #11 Denny Hamlin* Chevrolet 171.325 31.519
3 #5 Kyle Busch Chevrolet 171.266 31.530
4 #66 Jeff Green Chevrolet 171.076 31.565
5 #31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet 170.902 31.597
6 #99 Carl Edwards Ford 170.832 31.610
7 #2 Kurt Busch Dodge 170.810 31.614
8 #48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 170.805 31.615
9 #25 Brian Vickers Chevrolet 170.363 31.697
10 #18 J.J. Yeley* Chevrolet 170.266 31.715
11 #19 Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 170.014 31.762
12 #29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 169.988 31.767
13 #24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 169.988 31.767
14 #10 Scott Riggs Dodge 169.827 31.797
15 #12 Ryan Newman Dodge 169.726 31.816
16 #41 Reed Sorenson* Dodge 169.689 31.823
17 #16 Greg Biffle Ford 169.625 31.835
18 #20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 169.587 31.842
19 #43 Bobby Labonte Dodge 169.513 31.856
20 #07 Clint Bowyer* Chevrolet 169.300 31.896 zzzz
21 #01 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 169.199 31.915
22 #22 Dave Blaney Dodge 169.035 31.946
23 #6 Mark Martin Ford 168.956 31.961
24 #8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 168.834 31.984
25 #37 Mike Skinner Dodge 168.750 32.000
26 #1 Martin Truex Jr.* Chevrolet 168.703 32.009
27 #26 Jamie McMurray Ford 168.655 32.018
28 #17 Matt Kenseth Ford 168.629 32.023
29 #42 Casey Mears Dodge 168.482 32.051
30 #32 Travis Kvapil Chevrolet 168.408 32.065
31 #96 Terry Labonte Chevrolet 168.224 32.100
32 #38 Elliott Sadler Ford 168.209 32.103
33 #88 Dale Jarrett Ford 168.051 32.133
34 #7 Robby Gordon Chevrolet 167.916 32.159
35 #4 Scott Wimmer Chevrolet 167.796 32.182
36 #21 Ken Schrader Ford 167.785 32.184
37 #61 Kevin Lepage Ford 167.780 32.185
38 #45 Kyle Petty Dodge 167.598 32.220
39 #195 Stanton Barrett Chevrolet 167.043 32.327
40 #55 Michael Waltrip Dodge 166.795 32.375
41 #34 Chad Chaffin Chevrolet 166.395 32.453
42 #40 David Stremme* Dodge 166.333 32.465
43 #14 Sterling Marlin Chevrolet 165.771 32.575
44 #49 Brent Sherman* Dodge 165.385 32.651
45 #00 Hermie Sadler Ford 164.901 32.747
46 #89 Morgan Shepherd Dodge 164.189 32.889
47 #178 Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 164.179 32.891
48 #92 Randy LaJoie Chevrolet 163.448 33.038
49 #102 Brandon Ash Dodge 161.890 33.356
Champ Car ’06 TV broadcast team Champ Car ’06 TV broadcast teamNot only do Champ Car World Series fans rely on 18 of the world's best drivers to provide breathtaking racing action on each stop of the 2006 schedule, but they also count on four of the sport's top broadcasters to describe every moment along the way.

This year's lineup carries a wealth of both racing and television experience featuring a pair of men that once made their living behind the wheel of turbocharged Champ Cars. Former Champ Car pilots Derek Daly and Jon Beekhuis will bring the knowledge learned from thousands of Champ Car laps to the broadcasts while veteran broadcaster Rick Benjamin returns for his third season as host. The final member of the quartet that will chronicle all of the action of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season is a new one, as off-road racer and action sports commentator Cameron Steele joins the Champ Car crew as a pit reporter.

"With their vast experience both behind the wheel and behind the mike, this year's broadcast team will give our viewers a real sense of what goes on under the helmet and in the Champ Cars," said Champ Car President and CEO Steve Johnson. "Our broadcast will be further enhanced by having men that know what it takes to drive in the heat of battle, as well as by having a play-by-play man that has seen as much racing as anyone. We look forward to welcoming Cameron to the Champ Car family as well."  zzzz

Daly is no stranger to anyone connected with the Champ Car World Series as the former Formula 1 driver and veteran of 63 Champ Car starts takes the microphone for his 21st season of television work. His extensive knowledge of the Champ Car paddock allows him to take viewers behind the scenes of a race weekend, providing valuable insights at each and every race.

Benjamin returns for his third season in the booth and will host the events on CBS Sports, NBC and SPEED throughout the 2006 campaign. Benjamin's portfolio includes many years of racing coverage throughout the country and most recently included a stint with the NFL's Carolina Panthers radio network.

The team of Beekhuis and Steele will cover Pit Lane from front to back, getting all the latest strategies from the key decision makers as the race unfolds. Beekhuis, a four-year veteran of the Champ Car battlegrounds and a 14-year veteran of Champ Car telecasts, returns pitside and will use his skills to help viewers better understand exactly what it takes to win a race in the ultra-competitive Champ Car World Series. Steele may be new to Champ Car but is no novice in the racing world, having competed in the grueling Baja 1000 as well as many other off-road races. He also has considerable motorsports broadcast experience with various networks.

The team will make its first appearance in less than a month on NBC's live coverage of the season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which takes place Sunday, April 9. Qualifying takes place Friday and Saturday on the streets of Long Beach with the green flag waving to start the 2006 campaign at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Champ Car
Track News
LVMS announces Condo Tower plans LVMS announces Condo Tower plansCondominium projects have sprung up across Las Vegas, but a site for luxury living like no other is about to emerge in the northeast valley. Trophy Towers, a multi-story condominium with panoramic views of both the world-famous Las Vegas Strip and Las Vegas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile superspeedway, is the latest addition to LVMS's multimillion-dollar makeover.

Speedway officials and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman made the announcement Friday.

"I have said many times that I want to make this the greatest speedway in the world," said Bruton Smith, chairman of LVMS's parent company, Speedway Motorsports. "We announced a few weeks ago that we were making major improvements to our infield area and to the racing surface itself. And this is another step in separating this speedway from all others."

Smith has overseen condominium projects at three other SMI speedways:  Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Each project has been met with rave reviews. zzzz

"When Bruton announced that he was building condominiums in Charlotte, there were a lot of naysayers," said Chris Powell, general manager of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "But the man has been a visionary in this sport. There is no doubt that once Trophy Towers is completed, it will be the talk of the Las Vegas Valley as well as the racing world."

In addition to the private units, Trophy Towers will feature a swimming pool, spa, workout room, private parking and high-tech security. The individual units will range in size from approximately 1,750 square feet to 3,500 square feet for the penthouse. Each condo will have views of both the Strip and the speedway.

AI Design Group of Charlotte, N.C., is the architect for the project. AI Design also has planned the speedway's infield renovation and has been involved in many projects at other SMI facilities.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is owned and operated by Speedway Motorsports, a leading marketer and promoter of motorsports entertainment in the United States.  In addition to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the company owns and operates the following premier speedways: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Infineon Raceway, Lowe's Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.  The Company provides souvenir merchandising services through its SMI Properties subsidiary, and manufactures and distributes smaller-scale, modified racing cars through its 600 Racing subsidiary.  The Company also owns Performance Racing Network (PRN) which broadcasts syndicated motorsports programming to more than 710 stations nationwide including XM Satellite and NASCAR.com.  For more information, visit the Company's website at www.gospeedway.com.

A1 Grand Prix
Papis represents Italian team at Laguna Seca Papis represents Italian team at Laguna SecaTeam Italia has appointed drivers Max Papis, Max Busnelli and Enrico Toccacelo to represent Italy this weekend at Laguna Seca. Papis will become the fourth driver to race for Team Italia at the A1 GP Championship.

Max Papis, who has already won at Laguna Seca in the past and knows the racetrack well, will be the primary driver during Friday’s practices.

“It’s a great honor to represent Italy especially at Laguna Seca where I have already raced eight times and have great memories of my victory and podiums in CART”, says Papis. “The track is very physical demanding and extremely technical since it alternates of quick turns and high speed to returning from second gear like the well-known “corkscrew”.  Laguna Seca has seen great maneuvers from Italian drivers like the well-known and splendid overtake of Zanardi on Herta at the corkscrew, and my victory after having started from the last row of the grid. It will be fun to run with Graham Rahal after I have raced and won for his father, Bobby”, added Max. “I will do my best and look forward to a great result for my country, the team and Piercarlo Ghinzani who is doing a great deal for Italian Motorsports.” zzzz

Max Papis has won twice at Laguna Seca: in 2005 driving for Team Cadillac in the Speed World Challenge Championship, and in 2001 driving for Team Rahal in the CART FedEx Championship Series.

This will be Max Busnelli’s first visit at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “The track reminds me of Mugello, which is also very technical. I will be ready to drive if I will be chosen to race”, says Busnelli.

Vegas NASCAR race nearly sold out Vegas NASCAR race nearly sold outLas Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) announced that it is nearly sold out for Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, with only a few single-seat tickets remaining LVMS.

The track is expecting a crowd of 105,000 for tomorrow’s Busch Series Sam’s Town 300 and 150,000-plus for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400.  LVMS GM Chris Powell said that 68% of the fans “will come from outside Nevada.”  Meanwhile, LVMS on Monday will begin construction on a $27M infield media center and garage.  The facility, by Behade Builders, “will allow fans to look down from the second floor as pit crews work on cars.” Las Vegas Review Journal

Also, SMI Chair Bruton Smith today was to officially announce that the company, which owns LVMS, “will build a pair of 10-story condominium towers overlooking” the track’s second turn. Las Vegas Review Journal

Cablecam, which will be suspended above the track, will be featured at a Nextel Cup race for the first time on Fox’ NASCAR coverage.  The camera “can move anywhere within a 250,000 square foot area” covering the front stretch, the start/finish line and pit road. Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL.

Forsythe Racing Houston test report Forsythe Racing Houston test reportHOUSTON, Texas – The Lone Star State is all about horses and oil, and the two came together this week at Houston Motorsport Ranch on the outskirts of the city as Forsythe Racing rode into town for a two-day test session with drivers Paul Tracy and Mario Dominguez.  With 750 turbocharged Ford-Cosworth horses on tap, hundreds of gallons of high-octane fuel being consumed and with local TV, radio and newspapers out in force to give the local market a taste of what to expect at the upcoming Houston Grand Prix in May, it was a Texas-sized event at one of the newest racing facilities in North America as the team gets ready for the 2006 edition of Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Paul Tracy (#3 INDECK Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone): “Overall I’m very happy with how things went.  This is our first time at this track and let me tell you, it’s one of the most fun tracks I’ve ever driven.  It’s got a nice combination of slow, medium and high speed corners, with one of the quickest road course corners anywhere.  I was coming in there in seventh gear and not even lifting at the turn in; just a great place to test everything from shocks to aero.  All the people here have been very welcoming and I’m excited to be back in Houston.  I’ve won here in the past when we raced downtown and it’s a great market for Champ Car.”

Mario Dominguez (#7 INDECK Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone): “We had a very good test even though the second day got cut short a little by some high winds.  What an amazing facility this is!  It’s great to have so much interest from the Latin fans here in Houston; it’s very close to home for me (Dominguez hails from Mexico City).  I’m glad the media got to come out and see first hand what a Champ Car can do.  This is a really big market for us and I’m looking forward to racing in front of all the Hispanic fans. The last race here was fantastic and I expect this one to be even better.  And it’s really great to be working with Michael Cannon again.”   zzzz

Engineer Michael Cannon recently rejoined the Forsythe Team after a stint at HVM Racing.  “It’s really good to be back with the Forsythe organization. A big part of this test was for me to get reacquainted with the team and Mario.  It was very windy at the end but we still managed to run a lot of test items, so I’m pretty satisfied.  We’re all looking forward to the open test at Fontana (March 29-30) to see how we stack up against everybody else.  It’s going to be a great season in Champ Car and we expect to be right up front.”

Team Manager Phil LePan:  “This was another productive test, one of the best we’ve ever had. This place is a great test facility with a lot of variety.  We’re very happy to have found a track that we can work with so well. The test ran smoothly and we got through a lot of test items that will help us during the season.  Now it’s on to Fontana for our final test session and then we get down to business at Long Beach!”

Champ Car teams will make the journey to Fontana, California, March 29-30 for an open test on the infield road course at California Speedway.  That test will lead into the opening event of the season; the 32nd running of the fabled Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 7-9, followed by a return to Texas May 11-13 as the Grand Prix of Houston lights up the night around Reliant Stadium and the 8th Wonder of the World, the Astrodome.  For more information, please visit the official website of Champ Car at http://www.champcar.ws.

KUMHO and Miracle Motorsports return in ALMS KUMHO and Miracle Motorsports return in ALMSRANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA…KUMHO Tire and Miracle Motorsports are returning to the American Le Mans Series in the LMP2 class for the 2006 season. The two companies joined forces for the first time in 2005 and finished second in the LMP2 class championship.

On the way to their runner-up finish, KUMHO and Miracle scored class wins at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Lime Rock and Road America, as well as three second place finishes. Additionally, KUMHO and Miracle made their rookie appearances together at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the tires and team ran well.

For 2006, Miracle will again campaign the Courage 65 with a 2.0 liter AER turbocharged powerplant. Andy Lally and James Gue will drive the car, with team owner John Macaluso planning to join them behind the wheel at Sebring and Le Mans. After a successful winter test, KUMHO will bring two new compounds to Sebring, along with last year’s race-winning tire.

“We tried some different compounds at a Sebring winter test and managed to pick up a bit of speed compared to last year,” said Rudy Consolacion, KUMHO’s motorsports manager. “We should have a good combination of speed and durability, which is what you need for a fast, bumpy surface like Sebring.” zzzz

Consolacion said that KUMHO and Miracle thought long and hard during the off season about moving up to P1, but decided to stay in P2 for the 2006 season. “We feel as though we have some unfinished business in P2, especially at Le Mans,” said Consolacion. “We’re stepping up our testing and development program this year to see how much more we can get out of the tire before we make a decision about moving to P1 next year. Johnny Mac (Macaluso) and the Miracle guys did a great job for us last year. We’re looking forward to working with them to extract as much as we can out of the car and the tires this year and seeing if we can challenge the Penske Porsches and the Intersport Lola.”

KUMHO and Miracle will be aided by recent IMSA rule changes that increased the size of the air restrictor on the team’s AER engine. “IMSA gave us a 2 millimeter larger air restrictor (from 43 mm to 45 mm) to help us try and catch the Porsches,” pointed out Macaluso. “That’s good news because we can now go to a taller sixth gear, which will help us pick up a few miles per hour on the long straights. The engine should also rev better and have more power exiting the corners.”

Miracle is the two-time defending LMP2 class champion at Sebring, and although he knows the Penske Porsches will be formidable opponents, Macaluso thinks the team has a chance to three-peat at this year’s race on March 18.  “We’ve been working on making the car reliable. We can’t beat the Porsches on outright speed, but it’s a 12-hour race and anything can happen.”

Bahrain: Friday Press Conference Bahrain: Friday Press Conference
Free ticket giveaway for A1GP race Free ticket giveaway for A1GP raceUPDATE We are getting reports that Laguna Seca is a ghost town today and no one is checking security - anyone can drive in for free and watch the proceedings. It was raining but the rain had stopped and the sun was peeking through.

03/07/06 There have been rumors of free ticket giveaways at all A1GP races.   Someone sent us this link - appears to be a free giveaway to us.  Not sure if everyone is invited for free and we are not sure who these coupons were distributed to.

NASCAR's global aspirations NASCAR's global aspirationsA reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I read with great interest Steve Levinson's article on NASCAR's global aspirations and I could not agree more. NASCAR really only works in the USA and I doubt they will find much success in the rest of the world, as they are already finding out. The fan base in other countries is much more sophisticated and are not impressed with lumbering stock cars, but I'm sure NASCAR will spend a lot of money trying. If they were smart they would stick to the USA. Nelson Philips, Oakland, CA
DirecTV Will Title Sponsor Martinsville Nextel Cup Race DirecTV Will Title Sponsor Martinsville Nextel Cup RaceDirecTV, a NASCAR partner, will title sponsor the Nextel Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway on April 2. The race will be called the DirecTV 500. During the event, DirecTV will also serve as primary sponsor of Richard Childress Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet driven by Clint Bowyer. The company is an associate sponsor of the car NASCAR.
Champ Car Turbo Tour starts Sunday Champ Car Turbo Tour starts SundayThe groundbreaking 2006 Champ Car World Series Turbo Tour is set to launch this coming Sunday, taking the stars of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford to fans and media throughout North America.

But not only will fans get a chance to see their racing heroes up close as the Turbo Tour covers the country, they will also have the opportunity to hear from them in the comfort of their own homes as Monday night’s Fan Forum from Portland will be webcast live on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.

“We are very excited to be able to bring this opportunity to our fans and accentuate what we are doing with the Turbo Tour,” said Champ Car President and CEO Steve Johnson.  “Our website showcases the technology of Champ Car by bringing special events like Monday’s Fan Forum directly to our fans.”

The Turbo Tour begins Sunday evening in Long Beach and starts a dizzying week of travel that will span North America from Edmonton, Canada to Mexico City. Series stars that will take part in the first-ever tour includes 2004-05 Champ Car titlist Sebastien Bourdais, 2003 champ Paul Tracy, 2005 series runner-up Oriol Servia, 2004 Roshfrans Rookie of the Year A.J. Allmendinger, Champ Car race winners Mario Dominguez and Justin Wilson, the first female to win a major open wheel race in North America Katherine Legge and Champ Car Atlantic driver and former North American karting champion Alan Sciuto. zzzz 

Some of the unique activities of the event include landing on the actual racing surface in both Edmonton and Cleveland and media go-kart challenges in Denver and Mexico City.  The drivers will also participate at a Toronto Raptors game and RodeoHouston 2006. The Rodeo will have an enhanced Champ Car presence as PRC rider Dan Mortensen will be sponsored by Champ Car and will be promoting the series during the event. Dan will ride in the Saddle Bronc competition during Thursday night’s events at Reliant Arena.

Fans will be able to follow all of the exploits of the 2006 Champ Car Turbo Tour via www.champcar.ws, with updates of each day’s activities as well as photos and a daily videostream of highlights from each stop along the way.

Honda: Friday Practice Honda: Friday PracticeThe Honda Racing F1 Team's RA106 race car made its Grand Prix weekend debut today at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain, ending the first day's running at the top of the timesheets. With the team able to run its third car during Friday's free practice session, Anthony Davidson returned to Friday competition and made his mark with the fastest lap of the day - 0.4 seconds ahead of the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher.

Davidson conducted most of the set-up and tire work today, preserving engine mileage on the two race cars of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button. A gearbox problem this morning confined him to the garage for much of the first session but he made up for lost time with this afternoon, achieving a good balance and plenty of data for the race drivers to work with.

Jenson Button set the ninth best time with Barrichello 18th. zzzz

Anthony Davidson
"It's great to be fastest on the opening day of the season but I wanted more from today, not just for me but for the team. It was disappointing to lose the first session to a gearbox problem but we made the best out of the situation this afternoon and completed most of the tire programme. Our focus was on the long runs and we achieved a good result, so coupled with the information we got in testing here a few weeks ago, we have a lot of information to work with this evening. The conditions here are very different though; it's been quite windy today and there's a chance that may continue. However we achieved a reasonably good balance by the end of the session so generally we've made a good start."

Jenson Button
"Not a bad first day. Having said that it's disappointing that we couldn't achieve as much data as we'd hoped for after losing all of the morning session. The track conditions are quite different to those we encountered in testing here three weeks ago so we have some work to do this evening with today's data in order to keep improving for qualifying."

Rubens Barrichello
"Today the focus was on Anthony and the data he could achieve in the third car. The running that I completed this afternoon was useful although I didn't really get a clean lap due to traffic and also the balance of the car was very different to the test here. We have some work to do to get the right balance on my car for tomorrow morning but right now I'm more enthusiastic about what we have been able to achieve with the third car today."

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director
"We ended the day on a very positive note, despite an initial setback this morning when Anthony's running was curtailed in the first session by a gearbox problem. He ended up posting the fastest time of the day. All three drivers feel there is more to come from improving the car balance, so tonight we will analyze all the data gathered with a view to making the tire choice tomorrow and continuing to move forward."

Shuhei Nakamoto, HRD Engineering Director
"The engine ran well and it was good to see Anthony at the top of the timesheets, showing once again the speed and consistency we saw from him on Fridays in 2004." Source Honda

Bahrain GP - Toyota - Practice Bahrain GP - Toyota - PracticeToyota today returned to competitive action after a break of nearly five months as the team took part in free practice for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

On a warm Friday at Bahrain's Sakhir circuit, the only Grand Prix venue in the middle of a desert, Toyota drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli had a difficult start to their preparations for the first race of 2006.

Schumacher completed his program of set-up and tire comparison but Trulli suffered an electronics problem with 15 minutes remaining. Toyota will now look to learn from today's data as it pushes to improve over the rest of the weekend. The duo recorded the 22nd and 24th best times of the 28 cars on track today. zzzz

Ralf Schumacher
"This year we no longer have Ricardo Zonta driving on Fridays but my free practice program is not hugely different. We didn't do much running in the first session while the track was at its dirtiest but we got through our program without technical problems in session two, collecting some useful data. Our lap times were not to the level of some but we are still learning how to make the most of our package in warm conditions. We have a lot of changes on our car from last year and all our testing so far has taken place at lower temperatures. We will analyze the data tonight to make our tire choice for the next two days."

Jarno Trulli
"It was a pity that I was not able to complete my afternoon's work today. The Sakhir circuit was initially very dusty and dirty so like many teams we did most of our running in the second session. I was in the start of a long run for tire comparison when I suffered an electronics problem which brought my session to a premature close. Not the best of days, then, but at least we have some data to work with overnight in preparation for tomorrow. It will be a brand new system of qualifying but the approach will be the same, to put together a quick lap when it matters."

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Chassis
"That was a difficult first day for us. We had a very conservative program for the two free practice sessions. Unfortunately we had an electronics problem which stopped Jarno's car before he'd done any really meaningful running. Ralf was able to complete his limited program but I think we have to wait until tomorrow to see our true level of competitiveness. It's a new situation for us to run without the third car on Fridays, but as one of the top four teams that's how it will be so we have to learn to cope with that. Certainly today we've been struggling for grip and to get the tire in the right operating window. But some of our fellow Bridgestone runners ran quite competitively so that's hopeful for tomorrow." Source Toyota

Schu's family to ride with him Schu's family to ride with himMichael Schumacher's wife and two children will ride with him at every grand prix in 2006.

The German has modified his scarlet helmet to accommodate the names Corinna (wife), Gina-Maria (daughter) and Mick (son) -- in Chinese.

''Now my family will always ride with me,'' Ferrari's 37-year-old said.

Super Aguri delay new car Super Aguri delay new carThe new Super Aguri SA6 will not be ready for the San Marino Grand Prix. The team has been concentrating its resources on developing the SA5 and that means that inevitably the new car has had to take a back seat in the last few weeks and that means that the new chassis will appear later in the European season.
Kimi’s V8 fails Kimi’s V8 failsKimi Raikkonen's 2006 campaign got off to a painfully familiar start in Bahrain, with what appears to have been a Mercedes-Benz V8 engine failure in the second Friday practice session.

If the unit must be replaced, the 26-year-old Finn will be demoted ten places on Sunday's grand prix grid.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Super Aguri rookie Yuji Ide also encountered technical trouble.

A muted start to Bahrain opener A muted start to Bahrain openerSpectators at a warm Sakhir circuit witnessed a scant day of formula one practice as the 2006 championship kicked off in Bahrain.

BMW-Sauber's 'Friday' runner Robert Kubica topped the initial timesheet, and Anthony Davidson (Honda) the second practice hour, but much of the field opted to save tires and engines.

In the morning, both Renaults, both Toyotas, both Williams, both Hondas and both BMW-Sauber racers did not even set a time, as the new V8 formula is debuted and runners brace for a more hectic 'knockout' qualifying system.

Le Mans dress rehearsal for Audi R10 Le Mans dress rehearsal for Audi R10As the world’s first automobile manufacturer, AUDI AG aims to take overall victory at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans with a diesel sportscar. The next important milestone in this ambitious project is Saturday 18 March: Audi competes in the 12-hour race at Sebring (US state of Florida) with a pair of R10 sports prototypes.
The long-distance classic, held since 1952, is the most important sportscar race in the USA, the opening race of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and, more importantly for Audi Sport, the dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 17/18 June: The Sebring circuit, a former airfield, is considered to be extremely demanding for both man and machine and, with Le Mans in mind, was the perfect test during the successful R8 project years. Technology proving itself in Sebring also functions, as experience has shown, over twice the distance at the faster race in Le Mans. The main reason for this are the bumps around the American track, but also the predominantly hot and humid weather in Florida tests the engines to the limit.
Audi Sport tested twice with the new R10 at Sebring at the end of January and the start of February and discovered in the process several "teething problems”, which have since been sorted out. The high-caliber squads of Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro/Marco Werner and Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish drive the two Audi Sport North America R10 prototypes at Sebring. With the exception of Tom Kristensen, every Audi driver has already tested the R10. The Le Mans record-winner will have ample opportunity to familiarize himself with the peculiarities of the diesel sportscar during the pre-race tests.
The Audi R10 is powered by a V12 TDI engine producing almost 650 hp and which has more than 1100 Newton meter torque available. It follows in the wheeltracks of the Audi R8, which is the most successful Le Mans Prototype ever with 61 victories form 77 races to date.
Audi has won the 12-hour race at Sebring six times in succession with the R8 since 2000. The R8 is, as a result, the most successful sportscar ever to have competed in this race. The two Audi factory drivers Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen could also write Sebring history on 18 March: Both have already won three times here. One of them could become the first driver ever to win four times. zzzz
The Sebring week begins on Sunday, 12 March for the Audi team with technical scrutineering for the brace of new R10 prototypes. The cars can be seen on track from Monday. Qualifying is on the agenda for Thursday; the race starts on Saturday at 10:43 a.m. local time (4:43 p.m. in Germany) and finishes twelve hours later in darkness. At 10:43 p.m. it will be certain whether the R10 has survived its first acid test.
Quotes before the Audi R10 race debut
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "It goes without saying that we want to get a good result for Audi on the R10 debut and ring in a new motorsport era with the diesel sportscar. However, I would like to stress that Sebring is first and foremost a dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Our tests in Sebring went well. We know exactly how risky the first race is for a completely new car.”
Frank Biela (Audi R10 #1): "We always have high expectations – the same goes for the R10 debut. The car and engine are new; however, I think that we are well prepared. In fact everything went well at the tests and we discovered its potential. From this point of view we are looking forward to the debut in Sebring and want to do a good job for Audi there.”
Emanuele Pirro (Audi R10 #1): "I’m really very proud to be a part of this project. It’s a completely new challenge, especially as nobody has ever attempted to build such a powerful diesel racing-engine. It seems like only yesterday that we started the R8 adventure, which actually finished up being much more successful that any of us ever dreamed. I hope that we’ll have just as much success with the R10. And as with the R8 I’d again like to be the first driver to win with this car…”
Marco Werner (Audi R10 #1): "We are obviously all a little excited as Sebring is the R10s first race. From the tests we know that the car is running well. The main priority in Sebring is to gather experience since our main target this year is Le Mans. However it would be fantastic if we could notch up the new R10s first win in Sebring…”
Dindo Capello (Audi R10 #2): "It’s great to be driving a sportscar again, and even better to be sitting in a new car. Driving the R8 became second nature over the last six years. The R10 is a new challenge for the drivers as well. The greatest task is to continue everything that the R8 achieved in its history. This certainly won’t be easy.”
Tom Kristensen (Audi R10 #2): "I’ve been looking forward to the first race in Sebring since I drove the first few meters with the R10 at the presentation in Paris on 13 December. I haven’t tested the car yet but know from my team mates just how good it is. From where I’m standing it looks as if the engineers in Ingolstadt have once again done a great job. The lap times were competitive from the word go. Now it’s a question of working on the performance over the distance because the stress on the rear tires is enormous. Sebring is a perfect test for Le Mans.”
Allan McNish (Audi R10 #2): "It’s a very special feeling to be involved from the beginning on the Audi R10 project, just as it was with the R8. We all know how successful the R8 was. I hope that we achieve the same with the R10. The first thing is to survive Sebring. We tested there, but the 12-hour race on this tough track is always very difficult. I can’t wait to get stuck in.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director, Team Audi Sport North America): "At the first test in Sebring we had to tackle a few problems, which have since been solved. Nevertheless we don’t know whether the R10 is as reliable as the R8 was – and also whether the lap times we set at the test are worth anything. The Porsche was very fast at the tests, the new Dyson-Lola made people sit up and take note. I’m convinced that it will be a close battle. We’ve done our homework but are expecting a long, hard race.”

Sebring schedule
Sunday, 12 March
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Technical scrutineering
Monday, 13 March
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Test session
3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Test session
Tuesday, 14 March
2:30 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Test session
Wednesday, 15 March
10:20 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Free Practice
1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Free Practice
Thursday, 16 March
09:50 a.m. – 10:50 a.m. Free Practice
3:15 p.m. – 3:40 p.m. Qualifying (Prototypes)
7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Night Practice
Friday, 17 March
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Free Practice
2:30 p.m. Audi Press Conference
Saturday, 18 March
08:00 a.m. – 08:20 a.m. Warm-up
10:43 a.m. – 10:43 p.m. Race Audi

Davidson top Practice 2 in Bahrain Davidson top Practice 2 in BahrainAnthony Davidson was the man to beat in Bahrain today, sending out a message of intent to the Honda Racing F1 Team’s rivals.  Honda Friday tester Anthony Davidson topped the 2nd practice session in Bahrain Friday ahead of the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher and the Williams of Alex Wurz. Schumacher and Wurz were on Bridgestone tires, indicating they are much more in the hunt this year.

Honda made a successful start to its 2006 World Championship campaign in Bahrain today. Anthony Davidson, the team’s third driver, topped the time sheets with a lap of 1:31.353.

After an initial setback this morning when Anthony encountered a gearbox problem, his fast lap got things back on track in the afternoon session.

Conditions at the Bahrain International Circuit were cooler than expected, with the track temperature peaking at only 37 degrees. The track surface was also dusty at the beginning of the day, which was why neither race driver completed a flying lap during the first hour-long session.

The other Ferrari of Felipe Massa was 4th and defending World Champion Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 5.

Vitantonio Liuzzi was a surprise 6th fastest in the V10 Toro Rosso, but his American teammate Scott Speed was way down in 16th, an early indication that the Italian will smoke the American all year long.

Kimi Raikkonen broke down on the circuit in his unreliable McLaren Mercedes and Jarno Trulli did likewise in his Toyota.

 P. No Driver Team - Engine Tires Times Ave/Gaps
 1. 36 DAVIDSON Honda M 1'31"328 213.332 Km/h
 2. 5 M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1'31"750 + 0'00"422
 3. 35 WURZ Williams Cosworth B 1'31"787 + 0'00"459
 4. 6 MASSA Ferrari B 1'32"172 + 0'00"844
 5. 1 ALONSO Renault M 1'32"547 + 0'01"219
 6. 20 LIUZZI Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'32"707 + 0'01"379
 7. 37 DOORNBOS RedBull Cosworth M 1'33"032 + 0'01"704
 8. 2 FISICHELLA Renault M 1'33"204 + 0'01"876
 9. 12 BUTTON Honda M 1'33"234 + 0'01"906
10. 38 KUBICA BMW Sauber M 1'33"235 + 0'01"907
11. 3 RAIKKONEN McLaren Mercedes M 1'33"603 + 0'02"275
12. 4 MONTOYA McLaren Mercedes M 1'33"781 + 0'02"453
13. 16 HEIDFELD BMW Sauber M 1'33"850 + 0'02"522
14. 15 KLIEN RedBull Ferrari M 1'33"883 + 0'02"555
15. 40 JANI Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'33"909 + 0'02"581
16. 21 SPEED Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'34"303 + 0'02"975
17. 11 BARRICHELLO Honda M 1'34"334 + 0'03"006
18. 14 COULTHARD RedBull Ferrari M 1'34"359 + 0'03"031
19. 18 MONTEIRO Midland Toyota B 1'34"818 + 0'03"490
20. 10 ROSBERG Williams Cosworth B 1'34"991 + 0'03"663
21. 7 R.SCHUMACHER Toyota B 1'35"177 + 0'03"849
22. 39 WINKELHOCK Midland Toyota B 1'35"688 + 0'04"360
23. 8 TRULLI Toyota B 1'35"906 + 0'04"578
24. 17 VILLENEUVE BMW Sauber M 1'36"272 + 0'04"944
25. 19 ALBERS Midland Toyota B 1'36"344 + 0'05"016
26. 9 WEBBER Williams Cosworth B 1'37"009 + 0'05"681
27. 22 SATO S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'37"609 + 0'06"281
28. 23 IDE S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'39"038 + 0'07"710

Q and A with Honda Racing’s Gil de Ferran Q and A with Honda Racing’s Gil de FerranHonda Racing has been tipped to challenge for championship honors in the 2006 Formula One season that kicks off in Bahrain and sporting director Gil de Ferran has revealed to the team’s official website that he is confident that this could be the case. With the action due to get underway in under an hour’s time with the opening practice session, we will soon see if his predictions are correct…

You said the team wanted to be challenging for wins in 2006, are you on target to meet this objective?
All I can say is that we’ve had an encouraging start to date. Running the Concept car before Christmas was a good exercise for us as it proved the reliability of the new engine and gearbox, so when we launched the new car in late January we were able to put in a lot of miles straightaway without reliability issues. Despite our obvious positive state of mind, we are also somewhat cautious with our approach to the first race. As ever in F1, you really don’t know what the opposition is doing. Clearly the engine rule change has been a significant one so everybody is on a very steep learning curve, but the harsh reality is that we really won’t know where everyone is until we arrive in Bahrain. The biggest mistake one can make is to underestimate the opposition. We are keeping on our toes by treating all our rivals very seriously.

The new Honda RA106 has clocked up more miles than any other V8 car during pre-season testing; you must be impressed with the car and engine’s reliability?
The engineering groups within the team and Honda in Japan have clearly done a fantastic job. The reliability shown is not only encouraging in terms of results but also has lots of benefits in terms of development. If you’re not stopping all the time to fix problems, you can concentrate all of your efforts on improvement rather than repairs.

Has Rubens Barrichello lived up to your expectations?
As we expected, Rubens has integrated into the team very well. He’s done a good job in the tests both in terms of speed and his contribution to the team’s overall efforts. As you’d expect from such an experienced guy, things are going very well on that front. It’s always beneficial to have a guy with a good feeling for the car - and we’re lucky as that’s also true of Jenson and Anthony. You can clearly see from discussions between all three of them that they are always enthusiastic about the development direction of the car. And exactly the same can be said regarding their conversations with our engineers. zzzz

How has Jenson Button reacted to having a proven winner alongside him as a teammate?
Jenson and Rubens are getting on fine. Jenson is already an extremely focused driver and one with a very competitive spirit. It’s clear to me that both he and Rubens are very competitive people and neither needs much encouragement from the other. To me Jenson looks fitter than ever and he’s already performing at a very high level.

Will the recent test in Bahrain give Honda a head start when we come to the opening race of the season?
We would hope that our recent test there would give us a little advantage over those who didn’t go. It wasn’t easy logistically but we always felt it was going to be a beneficial exercise. It has helped us with our choice of tires, chassis set-up and with our understanding of the engine performance around that particular circuit, as well as uncovering any unforeseen issues. Apart from all of that, it was good for the drivers to experience the V8 engine and new car in a realistic race environment. Everybody at the factory pulled out all the stops to ensure we had enough parts to go to Bahrain for the test and their contribution continues to be an impressive and integral part of our pre-season preparations. Of course, we hope that our decision to go to Bahrain will pay us dividends come the opening race but, as ever, we will have to wait and see.

Honda is allowed to run a third car for Anthony Davidson in Friday’s two free practice sessions; how much of an advantage is this?
It’s going to be invaluable for us. It will help us enormously in determining chassis set-up and tire choices - especially as we have a driver like Anthony Davidson in the car. I think all teams will have mileage restrictions on their race cars, so Anthony’s presence will help on that front too.

How well prepared is Honda to meet the new challenge of a revised qualifying format and the re-introduction of mid-race tire changes?
It’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. The density of PhDs per square meter here at Honda is very high and these guys are giving these issues a lot of thought right now! We are trying to evaluate every single avenue; there have been hundreds of different computer simulations done. It’s very, very hard to win if you don’t have enough speed but if you do have the speed to win, you can certainly make mistakes on the strategy and end up not winning. In a nutshell, it’s something we’re paying a lot of attention to. Honda

Renault duo launch Mégane F1 Team in the Middle East Renault duo launch Mégane F1 Team in the Middle EastDesigned as a celebration of Renault’s world championship victories in 2005, the Mégane F1 Team was last night launched in the Middle East region by Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen.

At the Renault showroom in Manama, the drivers pulled the wraps off the 225 bhp machine – but also had a serious message to communicate. The looks and performance of the Mégane caught the drivers’ eye, but they made it clear that driving on the road is about a lot more than going fast.

“I enjoy my road cars,” explained Giancarlo. “I want to feel good at the wheel, to have a good level of power and good looks – like this Mégane. But I always encourage people to drive carefully, to respect the limits and to never drive drunk.”

Although he was not at the showroom, World Champion Fernando Alonso had recorded an important message beforehand.

“Driving on the track and on the road is totally different – people can be good in races, and bad drivers in normal conditions,” explained the Spaniard. “The real problem for young people is drinking and driving. When they are out with a group of friends, somebody must take responsibility for the group, not drink and take the wheel. It is the only way to stay safe.”

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Toyota not ready for title - Ralf
Kimi didn't hint at Ferrari switch
Formula Chocolate
Red Bull unwraps striking paint-job
DC not musing retirement
F1 war is nearly over - Dennis
Williams to race 'seamless' 'box
Schu denies movie deal sealed
New McLaren is down on power - Montoya
No 'number 1' driver at BMW
Webber eyed BMW move
Rivals 'showboated' - Dennis
Alonso's new yellow lid
'STR' facing Bahrain podium - Haug
Race on, Ralf tells brother
F1 fans brace for muted Friday
Klien told to beat Coulthard
McLaren won't win - tester
Dennis rejects Alonso-saga criticism
FIA adds another 'knockout' rule
Todt scoffs at Red Bull-Schu link
TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Formula One Qualifying Bahrain
6:00am-7:30am (L) SPEED
MotorWeek -Z06/Viper/Cayman
9:00am-9:30am (R)  SPEED
AMA Superbike  Daytona
11:00am-12:30pm (L) SPEED
AMA Flat Track Championship  Daytona
12:30pm-1:30pm SPEED
AMA Formula Xtreme -Daytona 200 Daytona
1:30pm-4:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Driven to Win
2:00pm-2:30pm (R) -Kasey Kahne
2:30pm-3:00pm (R) -Kyle Busch A&E
NASCAR Busch Qualifying Las Vegas
4:30pm-6:00pm (SDD) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Happy Hour Las Vegas
5:00pm-6:00pm (L) FX
NASCAR Busch Series  Las Vegas
6:00pm-9:00pm (L) FX
Speed News 
7:30pm-8:00pm SPEED

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

Accenture re-ups with Williams Accenture re-ups with WilliamsOxford, UK. WilliamsF1 today confirmed that Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, has extended its sponsorship engagement with the team that will take the partnership beyond its eleven year term into the future.

Today’s announcement is the latest of twelve commercial agreements confirmed by the team since the beginning of December and not only reaffirms Accenture’s commitment to using the platform of the F1 World Championship to achieve a number of marketing objectives, but also reinforces Formula One’s ability to continually attract global companies to the sport. For the forthcoming season, Accenture’s branding will remain in its traditional locations on the drivers’ helmets and is now featured on staff uniforms and elsewhere within the team environment.  zzzz

With an eleven year relationship history established in 1995, Accenture is WilliamsF1’s longest standing sponsor, and has continually lent its expertise across a variety of strategic applications at the team’s HQ in an effort to streamline working practices and provide competence in a number of business critical areas in a perpetually challenging environment. The next stage of the venture will see Accenture continue to assist with a number of strategic projects, particularly in relation to providing a better understanding of the cost drivers of the WilliamsF1 business.

Of the extended partnership, James E. Murphy, Accenture’s chief marketing and communications officer, commented, “We have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the WilliamsF1 Team over the past 11 years. The sponsorship has been an excellent platform for Accenture, providing a first-class programme for entertaining clients, alliance partners, prospective clients and stakeholders at 18 race events in 15 countries on four continents. We are additionally pleased to continue our partnership by providing our consulting services to the WilliamsF1 Team in support of their business and racing activities. We are very pleased to be renewing our sponsorship for another three years.”

Frank Williams, Team Principal of the WilliamsF1 Team, confirmed, “Accenture is a world leader in management consulting, technology services and outsourcing. Today’s announcement positively reflects a partnership which has delivered high performance solutions and proved mutually beneficial over many years. I am delighted that Accenture has decided to extend its support of the team and we aim to deliver some strong results on track this year in return.” Williams F1

Kubica tops opening practice in Bahrain Kubica tops opening practice in BahrainPolish driver Robert Kubica (pictured right) performed flawlessly on the first practice day for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Robert set the fastest time, since he had the advantage of driving many laps in his role as the third driver.

Robert Kubica: I think we had a good day, and I managed to do a lot of tire testing. I picked up a puncture at one stage, which interrupted progress, but we still collected a lot of useful information. My impression is that the circuit is easier to drive with the V8 engine, because the two quickest corners are flat out now.

Alex Wurz was 2nd and Kimi Raikkonen 3rd. Michael Schumacher showed the new Ferrari may be on the pace by clocking the 4th best lap time.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Kubica BMW-Sauber (M) 1:32.170 20
 2. Wurz Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:32.310 + 0.140 18
 3. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:33.388 + 1.218 6
 4. M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:33.469 + 1.299 5
 5. Klien Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:34.800 + 2.630 6
 6. Jani Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:34.831 + 2.661 15
 7. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:34.887 + 2.717 6
 8. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:34.925 + 2.755 6
 9. Coulthard Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:35.017 + 2.847 4
10. Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:35.083 + 2.913 8
11. Doornbos Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:35.203 + 3.033 15
12. Speed Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:35.371 + 3.201 7
13. Monteiro MF1-Toyota (B) 1:36.542 + 4.372 9
14. Albers MF1-Toyota (B) 1:36.930 + 4.760 9
15. Winkelhock MF1-Toyota (B) 1:37.918 + 5.748 16
16. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:38.190 + 6.020 15
17. Ide Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:40.782 + 8.612 15
18. Davidson Honda (M) No Time 2
19. Alonso Renault (M) No Time 2
20. Fisichella Renault (M) No Time 2
21. R.Schumacher Toyota (B) No Time 2
22. Trulli Toyota (B) No Time 1
23. Webber Williams-Cosworth (B) No Time 1
24. Rosberg Williams-Cosworth (B) No Time 1
25. Barrichello Honda (M) No Time
26. Button Honda (B) No Time
27. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (M) No Time
28. Villeneuve BMW-Sauber (M) No Time

2006 Sneak Peek: Fernandez Racing 2006 Sneak Peek: Fernandez RacingFernandez Racing's two-car IRL IndyCar® Series effort took opposite paths in 2005, but the team hopes subtle changes will put both Delphi Fernandez Racing and Super Aguri Fernandez Racing in championship contention.

For the first time, the team, which is owned by Adrian Fernandez and his partners Tom Anderson (Delphi Fernandez Racing) and Aguri Suzuki (Super Aguri Fernandez Racing), will use separate chassis. Scott Sharp will pilot a Honda-powered Panoz chassis backed by longtime sponsor Delphi, but Kosuke Matsuura and the Panasonic sponsorship will be featured in a Honda-powered Dallara chassis for the first time.

Despite the change, Sharp expects the competition to be tougher this season.

"The most competitive racing series in the world is probably taking a couple of steps more in that direction with Honda moving to be the universal engine supplier and the series, as a whole, becoming more equal," he said. "I am expecting the races that everyone said 'how do you run that close' to somehow find a way to get even closer."

While the chassis change is the most visible, there are also changes among key personnel of each team. zzzz

Simon Hodgson, who previously served as team manager for the Super Aguri Fernandez effort, takes on the role of team manager for both teams, while race engineers John Dick and Chris Finch and chief mechanic Don Lambert and Tony Leith have switched teams. Dick and Lambert will work with 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Sharp, while Finch and Leith will work with Matsuura.

 "I felt the Delphi Fernandez team hit a great stride towards the latter half of the season last year," said Sharp, who finished fifth in the point standings and won the race at Kentucky Speedway. "Week in and week out we were always right around the top five, and I felt we reached a level of performance that if we would have been able to show in the first half of the season, certainly would have made us championship contenders."

Matsuura, the 2004 Bombardier Rookie of the Year, hopes the potent combination and the experience he gained in his first two IndyCar Series seasons can lift him over the hump this season.

"I have learned a lot these past two years, even through the bad luck we had last season, and feel that we will be very strong in 2006," Matsuura said. "I am ready to challenge for not only race wins, but the championship as well."

Car number: 8
Main sponsor: Delphi
Chassis/engine/tire: Panoz/Honda/Firestone
Race engineer: John Dick
Chief mechanic: Don Lambert
Team manager: Simon Hodgson

Tom Anderson, Owner/Managing Director:  "The Delphi Fernandez team had a great debut season in 2005 with Scott finishing fifth in the championship and scoring six top-five finishes and a win in Kentucky. We are looking forward to building on those results in 2006, and challenging for the championship."

Delphi Fernandez Racing 2005 IndyCar Series season
Starts 17
Victories 1
Top 5 6
Top 10 13
Poles 0
Laps led 60
Best start 3 (Motegi, Indianapolis)
Best finish 1 (Kentucky)
Running at finish 14
Points rank 5
Earnings $1,150,055

Car number: 55
Main sponsors: Panasonic, Autobacs
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Honda/Firestone
Driver: Kosuke Matsuura, 26, of Aichi, Japan
Race engineer: Chris Finch
Chief mechanic: Tony Leith
Team manager: Simon Hodgson

Tom Anderson:  "We are excited to have Kosuke back for a third season. I have always been impressed with his natural driving ability and appetite for speed. With the experience he has gained on the ovals, he has everything he needs for success this season. I am looking forward to a great year."

Super Aguri Fernandez Racing 2005 IndyCar Series season
Starts 17
Victories 0
Top 5 0
Top 10 7
Poles 0
Laps led 2
Best start 7 (St. Petersburg)
Best finish 6 (Infineon, Watkins Glen)
Running at finish 9
Points rank 14
Earnings $893,105 IRL

Herta hoping for win on home soil Herta hoping for win on home soilBryan Herta says familiarity with the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit is a brief advantage. The Andretti Green Racing driver will represent Team USA in the inaugural A1 Grand Prix of Nations, California, this weekend.

"It helps a little, especially in the beginning of the session," said Herta, a two-time open-wheel race winner on the 2.238-mile, 11-corner course. "But those guys learn the track very quickly and I haven't been there for four or five years myself, so it isn't like I've been running around there lately.

"There will be more expectation on me because of the success I've had there and being the American in the U.S. round. I'm ready for that hoping I can bring a win to the U.S. team on home soil."

Twenty-five national teams race identical 520-horsepower open-wheel cars with no electronic driver aids. The penultimate race of the schedule received the final go-ahead March 6 from A1 Grand Prix officials, who had raised concerns about preparation of the facility because of recent heavy rains. zzzz

Two weeks ago in Monterrey, Mexico, Herta was leading the feature race by 28 seconds, but a late extended pit stop dropped Team USA to 13th place.

"We had good pace," Herta said. "I had been out of the car for awhile so it was a good warm-up for me going back to Laguna Seca. We had a top-three speed from the car, but unfortunately we had some problems on the pit stop and didn't get a result to match. Hopefully, we'll take some of the lessons we're learned and try to put the whole weekend together and get a good result."

It helps a little, especially in the beginning of the session, but those guys learn the track very quickly and I haven't been there for four or five years myself so it isn't like I've been running around there lately. There will be more expectation on me because of the success I've had there and being the American in the U.S. round. I'm ready for that hoping I can bring a win to the U.S. team on home soil."

Herta immediately set his sights on the United States A1 Grand Prix of Nations Round.  "The Team and I are going to make adjustments before Laguna Seca," said Herta.  "We believe we discovered a couple of things here which will help our results in the future."

Patrick Carpentier (Canada) and Tomas Enge (Czech Republic), who competed in the IndyCar Series in 2005, also will drive in this round. IRL

RuSPORT and CDW make news in Chicago RuSPORT and CDW make news in ChicagoThe announcement in Chicago Tuesday that CDW would sponsor Justin Wilson in the RuSPORT car got some much needed PR for Champ Car, for RuSPORT and for CDW.  To the right is a photo of Justin Wilson at the CDW headquarters in Chicago.  It appeared in Thursday's Business section of the Chicago Tribune.  If Champ Car ever negotiates a deal for a race in Chicago, perhaps CDW will sponsor it.
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