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RB4 passes eleventh hour crash test
(GMM)  A Red Bull Racing spokesman has confirmed reports that the team's RB4 single seater passed its last FIA crash test late on Thursday.

The news reportedly reached Melbourne, where the race team is set up in Melbourne, just hours before Mark Webber took the Adrian Newey-penned car to fifth place in morning practice.

The spokesman said the final FIA test in Britain, which the car had previously failed, was to ensure the strength of the front of the Renault-powered racer.

Had the RB4 not passed the test, after skipping official scrutineering at Albert Park on Thursday, the team had an earlier specification nose on standby.


Spy Coughlan leaves McLaren team
(GMM)  Suspended McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan has now had his contract with the British team officially terminated, reports on Friday said.

The Briton, who was central to the espionage affair last year alongside sacked Ferrari technician Nigel Stepney, reportedly could not be fired for legal reasons but is no longer part of the Mercedes-powered team, the reports claim.

It is also rumored that the FIA will - as in the case of Stepney - shortly recommend that motor sport organizations not employ Coughlan until mid 2009.

Mercedes' racing boss Norbert Haug insisted to Motorsport-Total.com that Coughlan's official departure will not weaken the silver team.

The German said McLaren had functioned well without Coughlan since July of last year.

"And I am sure we are technically stronger today than we were three quarters of a year ago," he added.


Peugeot on top Thursday night in Sebring
The flip-flop at the top of the timing charts for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida continued with Peugeot asserting itself in night practice for the season-opening race for the American Le Mans Series. Stephane Sarrazin posted a lap of 1:45.584 (126.155 mph) in the diesel-powered Peugeot 908 as teams got their first chance of the year to see Sebring International Raceway in the dark.

Sarrazin will team with Nic Minassian and Pedro Lamy as the Peugeot races for the first time in North America on Saturday. Sarrazin’s time was 0.859 seconds better than the lead Audi R10 TDI of Tom Kristensen, who will drive with defending Series P1 champions Allan McNish and Dindo Capello.

The order is the opposite of how the front row of the grid will look for the start of Saturday’s race. The Audi will start on the inside with the Peugeot on the outside.

The sister Audi of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner was third overall and in LMP1 at 1:46.719 (124.814 mph).

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Hamilton to win 2008 title - Hakkinen
(GMM)  Retired double world champion Mika Hakkinen has tipped Lewis Hamilton to win the 2008 title.

The Finn told Bild newspaper that he thinks Hamilton, the Briton who drives for his former team McLaren, is good enough to stop countryman Kimi Raikkonen from successfully defending his crown this year.

Hakkinen said of Hamilton, who is 23: "He was sensational in his debut and is even stronger now.

"His toughest opponent will be Kimi," Hakkinen, who is 39, added.

"When you are champion, you discover new strengths.  Those two are the best," he said.


Electrical problem for Heidfeld's BMW
(GMM)  Nick Heidfeld broke down with an electrical power problem aboard his BMW Sauber in the Friday morning free practice in Melbourne.

The problem also triggered his in-car fire extinguisher, with the resulting mess now needing to be cleaned up.

Speaking with the media, the 30-year-old - who expects to be back in action this afternoon - expressed surprise that the four Ferraris and McLarens were so far ahead of their nearest challenger -- Mark Webber's Red Bull, which was more than a second slower than the fourth placed McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen.


Ferrari boss to keep eye on Hamilton
Stefano Domenicali
(GMM)  Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali has refused to rule out making a future bid for McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton.

The 42-year-old Italian, who has replaced Jean Todt in the Maranello based team's top job for 2008, praised Hamilton's rookie season last year but thinks this season will be a real test for the young Briton.

Asked by The Guardian if 23-year-old Hamilton might one day race a red car, Domenicali said: "I can't give a straightforward answer, yes or no."

He heralded Hamilton's driving last year under the "very, very high" pressure of an unexpected title assault.

"I think he learnt a lot last year, and this year will be very important for him," Domenicali added.

"If he's able to manage his talent and to grow as a person and as a driver, well, Ferrari is always looking at the fastest drivers."

Domenicali, however, does not agree with Hamilton that there will be less pressure on the British driver this season.

"He's trying, as is normal, to say, 'I'm freer this year'.  I don't think so.  But let's see," he said.


Practice notes: Friday 1, Melbourne UPDATE (GMM)  David Coulthard completed just five laps in his Red Bull before his Renault engine began smoking in the pitlane.

The Austrian team, meanwhile, only passed its mandatory frontal crash test at the eleventh hour, and it also emerged that Honda had a close call when it passed the front and rear FIA tests for its RA108 just days ago.

The cause of the black flag was a spin and stalled engine for Renault rookie Nelson Piquet, in turn 13.

Force India intends to debut a quick-shift gearbox around the time of the British grand prix in July, it emerged on Friday morning.

03/13/08 (GMM)  Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima both reported gearbox problems with their Toyota-powered Williams cars.

Rosberg did not set a lap time at all, and Japanese rookie Nakajima was the slowest in the field.

Renault rookie Nelson Piquet brought out the red flags when his R28 was stranded on the racing line.  BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld also broke down.


Don't compare Lew with Schu says Webber
Schumacher has no equal, and certainly not Hamilton
(GMM)  Mark Webber says it is premature to start comparing Lewis Hamilton with Michael Schumacher.

Webber, Australia's only current grand prix driver, lives in England, where the hype surrounding Hamilton's debut season for McLaren last year saturates the F1 media.

Red Bull racer Webber insists he does not resent Hamilton, but he told the Independent: "Let's just say that nobody is talking about him anywhere else in the world."

Webber said that because 23-year-old Hamilton has been on the grid for "five minutes", it is therefore ridiculous to compare him with F1's record-beating seven time world champion.

"When he wins the championship, then he's got six more to win before he can be compared to Schumacher," Webber added.

"Yeah, he had a great first year.  It was extraordinary what he did.  But great sports stars are measured by longevity.  Pele, Steffi Graf, whoever.

"Also, his career has gone off like a rocket ship, but it won't always be like that."

Webber also thinks the press is still fixated on that fact that Hamilton is F1's first black driver.

"That's got a shelf life.  He won't stop being black but it will stop being a novelty," he said.

Similarly, Force India's technical boss Mike Gascoyne is reserved when he assesses Hamilton's 2007.

"He did have a double world champion alongside him," the Briton told Racer magazine, referring to Fernando Alonso.

"Would he have won as many races with another rookie alongside?  I don't think he would," Gascoyne added.


McLaren lineup may not cope in '08 - Blundell
(GMM)  Former McLaren driver Mark Blundell has questioned whether Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen can effectively lead the British team from the cockpit this year.

Following the departure of Fernando Alonso, the Mercedes-powered team's new lineup has just 34 grands prix of racing experience between them.

Blundell rates his British compatriot Hamilton highly, but thinks his new role as de-facto number one is a big weight to carry with only one season behind him.

"The dynamic has changed for Hamilton and we don't know yet how that will affect him," Blundell, who raced 63 times in the 90s and its now a commentator, wrote in a column for the Daily Telegraph.

He said double world champion Alonso was a famously controversial figure in the Woking team last year, but still contributed greatly to McLaren's top form.

"He brought a lot of direction to the team in terms of technical expertise and how to set up across a race weekend," Blundell added.

Hamilton, meanwhile, last year as a rookie "just turned up and drove", Blundell said.

"Now a sporting megastar, (he) has to develop in this new role while at the same time win a championship," he added.

Kovalainen, meanwhile, has talent but is still largely an unknown quantity, Blundell insists.

"If things don't go quite right for McLaren, the driver pairing does not yet have the depth to get them out of difficulties," he added.

"They simply do not have the experience to match the Ferrari boys.  That is an area for concern."


Raikkonen tops opening practice in Melbourne
Formula One got back on-track for the start of the 2008 season in Albert Park, Melbourne, with the first practice session of the season. After the usual slow start, by the end of the session, Kimi Räikkönen had clocked the fastest time in his Ferrari, a 1m26.461s, almost half a second faster than his nearest rival.

It took half an hour for the first of the big guns to emerge, with Kimi Räikkönen braving the action after thirty minutes. He was soon followed by team-mate Massa, with the McLaren following suit before too long. At the beginning of the session, it was Toro Rosso's Sébastien Bourdais who got the ball rolling with a 1m35.239s after quarter of an hour. Team-mate Vettel and Toyota's Jarno Trulli also got their chances at the top of the timesheets.

Prior to a five-minute interruption, when Nelson Piquet spun his Renault, forcing the reg flags to emerge, Lewis Hamilton had clocked the fastest time, a 1m27.085s. It looked as though his time would go unbeaten until Kimi upped his pace towards the end of a run to clock two quick times, the first being a 1m26.823s, followed by a 1m23.461s. Hamilton's attempt at a response, as the track conditions improved to their optimum, could only come to within half a second, with his time of 1m26.948s.

Behind Lewis was Felipe Massa in third, who clocked a 1m26.958s right at the end of the session too. Heikki Kovalainen made sure it was an all Ferrari/McLaren top four as he clocked a 1m27.114s on his McLaren debut. Red Bull's Mark Webber was another late improver, clocking a 1m28.263s to demote former champion Alonso to sixth. The Spaniard, who clocked a 1m28.360s had several trips across the gravel in his R28.

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Star Mazda announces revised schedule
With the unification of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League now official and a new open-wheel landscape beginning to take shape, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear has announced a revised 12-race schedule for 2008 with all races in major markets and all of them broadcast on the SPEED Channel. A revised broadcast schedule will be announced shortly.

Events at Houston, Cleveland and Toronto have disappeared from the schedule, but the Star Mazda Championship will still begin its 18th season with its traditional date at the 56th annual Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring International Raceway on March 14 and wind up the season at the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 18. The most substantial change to the schedule involves running two Star Mazda Championship races during the Portland weekend, July 26 – 27, and the addition of a double race weekend at the brand-new New Jersey Motorsports Park, September 13 – 14.

Previously-scheduled Star Mazda Championship races at Miller Motorsports Park, Watkins Glen, Portland (now a double weekend), Road America, Trois Rivières, Mosport, Road Atlanta and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca remain unchanged.

“Given the challenges and short time frame that the unification presented us with, this new schedule represents the minimum possible disruption while preserving the maximum possible benefits to our teams, drivers, sponsors and corporate partners,” says Star Mazda Championship President Gary Rodrigues. “We even wind up with three races where we are a featured event rather than a support race. I would like to particularly thank Mazda for their extraordinary efforts and their commitment to the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, of which the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear is a proud and important part.”

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racing news

Forsythe Performance Research offers Winning Services
Forsythe Racing Inc., a long-time leader in the motorsports industry, has formed Forsythe Performance Research (FPR) to provide its high-tech services to the motorsports industry.

The announcement, made today by FPR Vice President Neil Micklewright, signals a new direction for the Forsythe team that boasts an incredible record of success in motorsports, dating back to its first season in 1983 when the Forsythe Racing team, with rookie driver Teo Fabi, earned the pole at the Indianapolis 500 and finished second in the season-long CART standings.

“We’re looking forward to offering our expertise and unique technological tools to help those in motorsports who place a premium on performance,” Micklewright said. “Many of our technical and engineering services are simply not available anywhere else in the U.S., and we’re eager to work with teams, corporations and any others involved in racing, whether it’s in the IRL, NASCAR, ALMS, Grand-Am, Atlantics or any other racing series. We’re all about winning, and we’ll do everything we can to remain on the cutting edge of technology with Forsythe Performance Research.”

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IndyCar news tidbit
Andretti Green Racing co-owner Michael Andretti will be the grand marshal for the Festival of States Night Parade on April 3 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Through an association with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Andretti will be joined by IndyCar Series drivers...Indianapolis radio listeners have another source for racing news. WFNI-1070 AM debuts "Trackside with Cavin and Kevin" from 7-9 p.m. (ET) March 13.

The show, with hosts Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star and Kevin Lee of the IMS Radio Network, will be broadcast every Thursday during the racing season. The program's airtime will adjust in May to accommodate "The Talk of Gasoline Alley with Donald Davidson" and IMS Radio Network programming. The show will also be available at 1070thefan.com and via Podcast. The program, featuring the IndyCar Series, will include interviews with many of the top drivers, team and league officials and industry insiders. Tony Kanaan is the first scheduled guest...Sarah Fisher will walk the runway at the Simply She 2008 Show March 14. Proceeds benefit the American Heart Association.


Sebring Practice 3: Game on for Audi and McNish
Allan McNish leads the Peugeot
Audi’s Allan McNish got down to serious business Thursday morning at Sebring International Raceway with the quickest time of the week in preparation for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. The Scot turned in a time of 1:43.195 (129.076 mph) around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit that will play host to the opening round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series.

McNish’s time came on his second-to-last lap of the 55-minute session. The Audi R10 TDI he will share with Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen was a full second quicker than another diesel-powered entry, the Peugeot 908 of Stephane Sarrazin, Pedro Lamy and Nic Minassian. Third overall and in LMP1 was the second Audi of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner.

Saturday’s race will be the first between Audi and Peugeot since the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans, an Audi victory. Sebring also will mark the first race for Peugeot in North America.

Timo Bernhard was quickest in LMP2 and fourth overall for Penske Racing. His Porsche RS Spyder posted a time of 1:45.220 (126.592 mph), good enough for a 0.7779-second cushion over Ryan Briscoe in the sister Penske machine. Bernhard will team with Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard; Briscoe will join Sascha Maassen and Patrick Long.

Porsches held the top three spots with Butch Leitzinger turning in a 1:46.348 (125.249 mph) in the first of Dyson Racing’s two RS Spyders. He will drive this weekend with Marino Franchitti and Andy Lally.

Corvette Racing held the top two spots in GT1, paced by Jan Magnussen’s lap of 1:56.269 (114.562 mph) in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R. Magnussen will drive with Johnny O’Connell and Ron Fellows in the first factory car. The second Corvette was less than 0.3 seconds behind with Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis driving.

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Curious to see where we really stand - Rampf
This weekend, the BMW Sauber F1 Team starts the hunt for its maiden race win in Formula One. Willy Rampf, Technical Director of the Munich and Hinwil based squad describes the characteristics of the "Albert Park Circuit" and expects first hints regarding the competitiveness of the grid.

"Melbourne represents the perfect venue for the Formula One season kick-off," he says. "It's a great city with a fantastic ambience. It goes without saying that we all are very curious to see where we really stand when all the teams will put their cards on the table, in the qualifying session on Saturday."

The circuit in the Albert Park is considered as a stop-and-go circuit with numerous slow corners. For the first time, you will see how the drivers will cope with the new standard ECU. As traction control and engine braking control are history, now, "Braking into the corners and accelerating will represent special new challenges for the drivers," adds Rampf. "The track layout is particularly demanding for the rear tires, hence, the drivers will have to opt for a very sensitive attitude when it comes to handling the throttle

According to Rampf, good traction and brake stability represent the top priorities while working on the setup for Melbourne. Furthermore, a sufficient brake cooling also will be vital, as "Melbourne is - apart from Montreal - the most demanding circuit for the brakes." And there is another rule change coming into force from Melbourne. "The first race of the season also represents the first stage in the gearbox cycle. According to the new regulations, a gearbox must survive the Saturdays and Sundays of four Grand Prix weekends, this year," concludes the Technical Director.  Source BMW Sauber

track news

Yokohama official tire of Sebring, Road Atlanta
Yokohama has been named the official tire for Sebring International Raceway and Road Atlanta. The agreements are for three years.  They are designed "to reinforce Yokohama's overall commitment to the American Le Mans Series," say Yokohama officials, "where Yokohama currently supports Mazda's BK Motorsports P2 team and the Panoz Esperante of Team PTG in GT2."

As part of the partnership, Yokohama signage will be placed in key areas of both tracks, including the crossover bridges and other camera-view areas.

"Additionally, Yokohama will incorporate dealer tie-ins in each local market prior to major events, as well as entertain key VIP guests through hospitality programs."

Yokohama also is the official tire of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.

"Motorsports is an integral part of our marketing strategy," says Robert Dole, Yokohama motorsports manager.


Charter colors for Carpentier at Bristol
Patrick Carpentier is looking forward to his first trip to Bristol Motor Speedway for this weekend's Food City 500. Carpentier has never even set eyes on the legendary bull-ring. It will be his sixth start in the Sprint Cup Series and the team's second race sporting the Charter Communications colors. The #10 Charter Dodge is currently ranked 46th in Owner Points. They are currently 153 points out of the top-35. This will be his first attempt at qualifying and racing at Bristol. Being outside the top-35 in [46th] owner points, Carpentier will have to qualify on time. GEM PR


Rosberg thinks BMW set to surprise
Nico Rosberg
(GMM)  Nico Rosberg on Thursday suggested that he does not agree that countryman Nick Heidfeld will be pushing for just fifth place in the Australian grand prix.

Several specialist European publications have revealed that German driver Heidfeld's 2008-spec BMW Sauber is actually better than the team is claiming, having sandbagged at tests and not divulged the lap times of secret qualifying simulations.

But BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen played down the Melbourne paddock rumor, insisting that the F1.08 is not yet on the same level as Ferrari and McLaren.

Theissen suggested that, instead, BMW will be among the lesser battle with teams like Williams, while Heidfeld told the press in Australia on Thursday that fifth place would be a good result for him on Sunday.

But Rosberg, who drives for the aforementioned Toyota-powered British team, is quoted as saying by the German news agency DPA in reference to BMW Sauber: "I can't imagine that they could have done such poor work."


Raikkonen sports new tattoo in Australia UPDATE (GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen blanked the media in Melbourne when quizzed about his new 'iceman' tattoo.

The reigning world champion's short-sleeved Ferrari shirt on Thursday revealed to Albert Park paddock dwellers that Raikkonen, 28, seemed to have celebrated his 2007 triumph with the decoration of his inside left forearm.

He was asked by the newspaper The Australian if he could talk about his tattoos.  "No," Kimi answered.

When asked if they have some personal meaning, Raikkonen replied: "I wouldn't have them if they were not personal."

His manager, David Robertson, defended the Finn for not opening up to the press.

"He has never kissed arse in his life," Robertson said.  "He has always just been Kimi.  What you get is exactly how he feels."

Kimi Räikkönen
(GMM)  At his first grand prix as reigning world champion, Kimi Raikkonen strolled the Melbourne paddock on Thursday with a huge new tattoo in plain sight.

Having gone over his small 'smiley' tattoo on his right arm with a big black patterned affair one year ago, the 28-year-old Finn's short sleeves on Thursday revealed a new tattoo on the inside of his left forearm.

In big black lettering, it predictably reads 'Iceman'.

Also at Albert Park on Thursday, Ferrari driver Raikkonen posed with the supergroup Kiss, who will play after the race on Sunday night.


Latest F1 news in brief UPDATE Updates shown in red  below.

  • Spyker sponsor switches to Ferrari
  • Toyota not ready to lead field - Trulli
  • Webber eyes long F1 career
  • Coulthard slams Montreal, Fuji tracks
  • Button smiling again with Brawn on board
  • Dubai backing powers Super Aguri takeover
  • Piquet off the pace says RBR's Marko
  • Davidson expects to fight for last in Aus New
  • Dennis - I will miss Alonso New
  • Stoddart won't rule out F1 return New

Spyker sponsor switches to Ferrari
(GMM)  Former Spyker sponsor Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, has become a sponsor of the Ferrari team.

The company began a three year contract with Silverstone based Spyker last season, but the arrival of Force India owner Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher brand has forced Etihad to switch teams.

"We are pleased to enter into this new partnership, that reinforces our links with the United Arab Emirates," said Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, as the Italian team confirmed a three year agreement.

The Etihad logo will be seen on the back of the F2008's rear wing, the turning vanes and on the drivers' helmets, Ferrari said.

Toyota not ready to lead field - Trulli
(GMM)  Jarno Trulli has poured cold water on speculation that Toyota could be set to spring a major surprise on the F1 world when the action kicks off at Albert Park this weekend.

The Italian ended the final day of the last group winter test at Barcelona recently with the quickest time, but he denies that his TF108 is ready to lead the field at grands prix.

"McLaren and Ferrari are in another world," he told the local Herald Sun while testing a 'Trulli' go-kart near the Albert Park circuit.

Trulli, 33, said the so-called Big Two outfits will be superior to all comers by "one second a lap, at least, this weekend".

He does admit, however, that Toyota has taken a step forward for 2008 compared with its "very bad" car last season.

"So, for me, the chance of fighting for points is already a good result," Trulli said.

"Last year the car behavior is opposite to what I like.  But this year, to stay with BMW, I think it's possible," he added.

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Briatore launches a scathing attack on Ron Dennis
Ron Dennis
Flavio Briatore last night slammed rival Ron Dennis, saying he only had himself to blame for the way McLaren imploded last season and then blew the drivers' title in the last race to hand the crown to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

The Italian also slammed Dennis for allowing Hamilton's struggle with Alonso - who won the world championship twice with Renault and has now rejoined the team - to turn into anarchy.

Briatore even claimed that there was so little support for Alonso (right) within McLaren that when he won a race, the Renault mechanics celebrated more than their McLaren counterparts.

Flavio Briatore
"I know about what Hamilton said about Fernando," Briatore said, "and that he taught him how not to behave as a world champion. But whatever happened, none of it was Fernando's fault. He was just managed really badly.

"It is not possible to have the drivers 100 per cent in competition against each other because you destroy the team. And in the end, we see the result.

"It was almost impossible for McLaren to lose the drivers' championship but in the end they managed it.

"Fernando tried to do the best possible. But he is the kind of guy who needs to have the right ambience in the team. He needs support like everybody else and he didn't have it there.

"Fernando is an amazing guy and my people at Renault were very happy when he came back. I could see it in the smiles on their faces.

"Last year, whenever he did well, our mechanics supported him before the McLaren mechanics. He never fitted into their team but now he's happy and smiling again."


Rahal: 'I've always felt that this was my path in life'
Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal noshes on jalapenos straight from the jar, enjoys playing Nintendo Wii while hanging out with friends in his crib above the four-car garage, apologizes for his room being in disarray and savors Honey Nut Cheerios and chocolate milk for breakfast.  So what makes him different from other teenagers?

Just that the 19-year-old enters the IndyCar Series with a tradition-rich and successful Indy-car racing team, will compete against (among others) his father's established and successful team, and carries the legacy of one of motorsports' most renowned names to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. It's pretty heady stuff for someone who graduated from New Albany High School nine months ago.

But the second son of Bob and Debi Rahal isn't fazed -- and hasn't been since his karting days -- by racing expectations based on his surname. The affable young man, who has been schooled since he can remember at the side of his championship-winning father, also is grounded in a work ethic that is a prerequisite to – and advised for continued -- success.

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Stewart Defends Goodyear Criticism
Stewart hammered Goodyear
Tony Stewart defended his harsh criticism of the tires Goodyear brought to Atlanta last weekend and said that it was time to speak out after years of closed door meetings failed to produce a solution.

"You finally get to the point where, if you get frustrated enough, now it's gone from doing things in a nice, calm manner to I want to make sure I get somebody's attention about this," Stewart said Wednesday. He had called the tires "the most pathetic racing tire I've ever been on in my professional career."

Some of Stewart's critics dismissed the remarks, saying Stewart was just being his usual outspoken self. But many drivers have agreed that the tires were subpar, including former champions Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett.

"I think we are all pretty frustrated. Tony took it to the fullest," Kevin Harvick said. "But he's definitely right in the way the tire stuff has worked out. None of us really enjoy the way that we had to race."

Stewart said all the drivers were fed up with the hard tires at Atlanta, and he just drew the most attention because he was the most outspoken in his criticism.

"Everybody talked about (it)," he said. "Just nobody got real vocal about it until after the race. When you're stuck in a car for 3 1/2-4 hours and it drives like crap, you're going to be upset about it.

"Guys are screaming at their crew chiefs that it was the worst car they've ever driven. Well, it wasn't the crew chief's fault. It wasn't the team's fault. These guys spend millions of dollars to build these cars. It was the tire we were running and tires should never, ever be the deciding factor in a race."  More at AP Article


BMW Sauber F1 Team and Certina extend their partnership
The BMW Sauber F1 Team is extending its partnership with Certina. The Swiss sports watchmaker has been an Official Partner of the team since it was founded and reaps the benefits of the brand's global visibility, advertising rights and the use of various BMW Sauber F1 Team event platforms. The Certina logo will remain visible on the pit stop lollipop and will now also appear on the helmets and on the cuffs of the overalls worn by drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica. 

In the words of BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen: "Precision timekeeping in every situation is the key evaluation criterion in Formula One. From that point of view, this involvement is utterly authentic. We are proud to have a partner in Certina, makers of sporty, high-performance timepieces." 

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Melbourne: Thursday Press Conference
With: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari).

Q. Fernando first of all. Back with Renault again. How different is it from the last time you were there? Fernando Alonso: Not very different. The technical group is exactly the same, most of the mechanics as well. Not very different to be honest.

Q. After last year do you think they have lost a little confidence?

FA: Maybe a little bit. Of course after winning two years in a row when I left in 2006 they were confident and they were believing in themselves a lot. Now for sure you know no good results last year, maybe a little bit lacking in confidence now but I think they know that were are able and they are able to do good things. They have nothing to prove to anybody, so it is just a matter of time and good work with everybody to put in a better place again.

Q. How much do you feel it is your job to pull them up and get them motivated again?

FA: I will try to do the best job we can. For sure coming back to Renault for me is a great challenge and for them too I think because they are extra motivated this year to have the success we have had in the past and I am extra motivated as well so we all have the same goal and the same target.

Q. What was the biggest difference initially in the cars without engine braking and without engine braking when you first experienced it?

FA: Less than I thought to be honest. The first time I test was in Jerez and I was expecting more problems than we had. Okay, in the long run you feel the drop in the tires and you feel the loss of traction and the braking stability but nothing too big, similar with some times we had last year as well, so as I said not a big difficulty.

But it still does change circuit to circuit and at some circuits there is nearly no difference compared to last year and at some others it is a little bit more, so I imagine that every circuit will be different and maybe Monaco and places like this will be a big difference compared to last year. But we will see.

Q. Has development diminished the difference?

FA: Yes, all the teams are working in that direction to try and get the mechanical side and the aero side to what we lost in terms of electronics, so for sure with the set-up and all the other things around the car we are trying to deal with the loss of the electronics.

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Stoddart won't return to F1 until Mosley goes
Paul Stoddart
Paul Stoddart, formerly the team boss of the Minardi F1 team, is in Melbourne this week to work as a radio commentator and says he would like to get back into F1, but only if there are some changes at the FIA. The ever-controversial Australia, who clashed with the FIA on several occasions in the past (but allied with the federation on other occasions) said that he would probably not come back if Max Mosley was still FIA President.

Stoddart says that he looked at buying Super Aguri.

"If a team were to come onto the market at a sensible price that I felt I could do something with, then I would be interested," he said. "There is a monumental difference between starting a new team and taking an existing one - all kinds of financial differences. So if you ask me if I would be interested in starting a new team? Not until Mosley has gone. Would I be interested in buying an existing team? If the right opportunity came along I would definitely be interested." Grandprix.com


$20M 4th Qtr. loss for SMI
Speedway Motorsports Inc. posted a $20.2 million loss for the fourth quarter of 2007 and sharply smaller profit of $38.4 million for the full year on Wednesday.

The company blamed large losses at Motorsports Authentics, which sells die-cast collectibles and other merchandise with NASCAR team and star logos. The losses were the result of costs and charges for inventory and tooling, as several NASCAR drivers changed teams and sponsors at the end of last year, Speedway Motorsports said.

Motorsports Authentics is a 50-50 joint venture between Speedway Motorsports and International Speedway Corp., which is controlled by NASCAR's France family. Speedway Motorsports also was hit by smaller revenues from broadcast contracts for races run at its tracks. The company, run by CEO O. Bruton Smith.

Speedway Motorsports' total revenue in 2007 totaled $561.6 million, down 1.0 percent from $567.4 million in 2006.


Roush team won't appeal
Roush Fenway Racing announced today that it will not appeal the penalties imposed by NASCAR following its post-race inspection of the No. 99 car at Las Vegas.

“We have conducted a thorough internal investigation and have found no evidence whatsoever that anyone intended for the bolt/nut fastener to fail to secure the lid for the entire race,” said Jack Roush, team owner. “We have subsequently added protective measures to insure that the lid will remain fastened even if a failure of this type should again occur.”

Geoff Smith, president of Roush Fenway Racing said, “We realize in the NASCAR system of penalty administration that simple negligence,  by itself, is never sufficient grounds to overturn or reduce a penalty.  Consequently, no appeal will be made of the penalties assessed by NASCAR.”


Ned Jarrett to wave green flag in son's final points race
Former NASCAR Cup champion Ned Jarrett will be the honorary starter for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, waving the green flag for what will be his son Dale’s final points race. Jarrett, named to NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers list, replaces Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. Witten was scheduled to serve as honorary starter but due to family obligations was unable to attend the race. A two-time champion in 1961 and 1965 Jarrett, who competed in NASCAR’s top series from 1953-1966, finished his career with 50 career victories, which ties him with Junior Johnson at 10th on the all-time win list. Ned and Dale Jarrett are one of only three father-son combinations to have won at Bristol Motor Speedway. Bobby and Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the others. The elder Jarrett is thrilled at the prospect of waving the green flag at Bristol Motor Speedway on Dale’s final points race. "I'm very pleased to have been asked to be the honorary starter for the Food City 500," he said. "And to be asked to do it for Dale's last race makes it even more special. Bristol has been a memorable place for both Dale and I, especially since we've both won here and I'm very honored to be able to be in the flag stand for his last points race." BMS PR


Sebring: Peugeot leads practice 2
Things are starting to heat up at Sebring International Raceway. Nic Minassian went to the top of the timing chart Wednesday afternoon with a lap of 1:45.989 (125.673 mph) for Peugeot in the day’s second practice session for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. The factory diesel-powered LMP1 is racing in North America for the first time.

The top spot in each of the week’s previous sessions has alternated between Peugeot’s 908 and the Audi R10 TDI. That’s appropriate because Minassian said the surface at Sebring has changed just as often.

“Everything is OK with the car,” he said. “But it’s amazing how much the track changes from day to day. It’s really a learning experience. While I’ve done quite a bit of testing this year, I have been on the shorter side of the circuit more often testing for other series. But it’s good to get as much work as possible for this race.”

Acura continued its strong performance with Adrian Fernandez posting the fastest time in LMP2 and second overall. The Mexican star turned in a lap of 1:46.029 (125.626 mph) in the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b. Fernandez and teammate Luis Diaz placed second in class and third overall in last year’s race and are running the next-generation Acura chassis for the first time, just like the other two Acura teams: defending P2 race winner Andretti Green Racing and Patr¢n Highcroft Racing.

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Wiggins' HVM Racing to enter series
Keith Wiggins will return to his roots for the 2008 IndyCar Series season. The team that has competed in the Champ Car World Series since 2001 under various banners such as Herdez Competition, HVM Racing, CTE Racing/ HVM, and most recently Minardi Team USA, has announced that it will compete in the IndyCar Series under the HVM Racing banner.

The Indianapolis-based team took delivery of its first Dallara chassis this week and is preparing for the Open Tests at Sebring International Raceway on March 19-20.

"We will field three cars at Long Beach in April under the Minardi Team USA banner, along with the other Champ Car teams, but our focus now is getting up to speed with the Dallara as soon as possible," Wiggins said. "Announcements will follow in the coming days regarding who will pilot our cars in Long Beach and for the 2008 IndyCar season. We are looking forward to this new chapter in our book, and will tackle this challenge with the same integrity that we always have." IndyCar.com


Highlights: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, KV Racing Technology teleconference
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing drivers Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson and KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser and drivers Oriol Servia and Will Power were guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.

Background on Graham Rahal: Graham Rahal is competing in his first season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.
a. Age: 19 (Birthday is Jan. 4, 1989)
b. Career Starts (Champ Car): 14
c. Best Finish: 2nd (Houston)
d. Career Top-Five Finishes: 5
e. Career Top-10 Finishes: 11
f. Best Start: 4th (Cleveland, Edmonton, Elkhart Lake)
g. Career Highlights: Finished second in the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic championship, becoming the youngest race winner in series history
h. 2007 Highlights: Finished fifth in Champ Car

Background on Justin Wilson: Justin Wilson is competing in his first season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.
a. Age: 29 (Birthday is July 31, 1978)
b. Career Starts (Champ Car) / 2007: 54 / 14
c. Career Victories/2007: 4 / 1 (Assen)
d. Career Top-Five Finishes/2007: 29 / 9
e. Career Top-10 Finishes/2007: 41 / 12
f. Career Poles/2007: 5 / 2 (Portland, San Jose)
g. Career Highlights: Finished second in Champ Car in 2006 and 2007. Competed in Formula One in 2003.
h. 2007 Highlights: Finished second in Champ Car, recording a victory and two poles 

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SPEED opens F1 season with live coverage from Australia
SPEED opens the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship season this weekend with live coverage of the Australian Grand Prix from Albert Park in Melbourne. SPEED begins with live coverage of practice beginning at 11 p.m. ET. Host Bob Varsha returns to headline the popular F1 on-air team that includes former driver David Hobbs and former mechanic Steve Matchett in the booth, with longtime F1 journalist and former team manager Peter Windsor on the grid. The complete weekend F1 schedule on SPEED:

• Thursday – Practice (11 p.m. ET, LIVE)
• Friday – Qualifying (11 p.m. ET, LIVE)
• Saturday – Inside Grand Prix (11:30 p.m. ET)
• Saturday – Australian Grand Prix (midnight ET, LIVE)
• Sunday – Australian Grand Prix replay (1:30 p.m. ET)

Below, the SPEED on-team offers insight into the 2008 season (Note: Steve Matchett was unavailable as he is visiting race shops across Europe for the new “RPM – Racing Per Matchett” features to run during SPEED F1 weekends):
Does Lewis Hamilton continue to amaze or suffer a bit of a “sophomore slump?”
Varsha: It all depends on the car, and though we won't know for sure until Melbourne, it appears that the McLaren will be good again. On the other hand, he won't have a two-time world champion helping develop the car, and he'll have to cope with being the team leader.
Hobbs: In winter testing, Lewis has been very quick. He also does not seem the type of guy who would have a sophomore slump.
Windsor: He will continue to amaze.  Lewis to my eye is as good as anyone we’ve seen since a Scots sheep farmer named Jim Clark decided to drive for Team Lotus.  It is difficult to fault Lewis.  McLaren-Mercedes, however, may well fall into a mini-slump.  That will be nothing to do with Lewis; that will inevitably be due to the absurd battering taken by the team in 2007.  Momentum kept them alive almost through to Brazil; in 2008 it will be more difficult.

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Sebring: First practice times
The Audi of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen, and Allan McNish turned the fastest lap in the first official practice session for this weekend's 12 Hours of Sebring Sports car race.  Prior days were considered 'test' sessions.



Class Pos Car No Class Team Best Time Speed Diff Make
1 1 1 LMP1 AUDI SPORT NORTH AMERICA Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish 1:45.491 126.267 0.000 Audi R10 TDI
2 2 07 LMP1 PEUGEOT SPORT Pedro Lamy/Nic Minassian/Stephane Sarrazin 1:45.508 126.246 0.017 Pegueot 908 Hdi
3 3 2 LMP1 AUDI SPORT NORTH AMERICA Lucas Luhr/Mike Rockenfeller/Marco Werner 1:46.465 125.112 0.974 Audi R10 TDI
4 1 26 LMP2 ANDRETTI GREEN RACING Bryan Herta/Christian Fittipaldi/Marco Andretti 1:46.632 124.916 1.141 Acura ARX-01b
5 2 7 LMP2 PENSKE RACING Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas 1:46.978 124.512 1.487 Porsche RS Spyder
6 3 6 LMP2 PENSKE RACING Patrick Long/Sascha Maassen/Ryan Briscoe 1:46.988 124.500 1.497 Porsche RS Spyder
7 4 9 LMP2 PATRÓN HIGHCROFT RACING David Brabham/Scott Sharp/Stefan Johansson 1:47.922 123.422 2.431 Acura ARX-01b
8 5 20 LMP2 DYSON RACING Marino Franchitti/Butch Leitzinger/Andy Lally 1:48.170 123.140 2.679 Porsche RS Spyder
9 6 15 LMP2 LOWE'S FERNANDEZ RACING Adrian Fernandez/Luis Diaz 1:48.185 123.122 2.694 Acura ARX-01b
10 7 16 LMP2 DYSON RACING Chris Dyson/Guy Smith 1:48.653 122.592 3.162 Porsche RS Spyder
11 8 27 LMP2 HORAG RACING Didier Theys/Fredy Lienhard/Jan Lammers 1:49.220 121.956 3.729 Porsche RS Spyder
12 4 37 LMP1 INTERSPORT RACING Clint Field/Jon Field/Richard Berry 1:49.699 121.423 4.208 Lola B06/10-AER
13 9 32 LMP2 BARAZI-EPSILON Juan Barazi/Michael Vergers/Jean Ravier 1:50.643 120.387 5.152 Zytek 07S
14 10 8 LMP2 B-K MOTORSPORTS Ben Devlin/Raphael Matos/Gerardo Bonilla 1:51.433 119.534 5.925 Lola B07/46-Mazda
15 5 12 LMP1 AUTOCON MOTORSPORTS Mike Lewis/Chris McMurry/Bryan Willman 1:55.216 115.609 9.725 Creation CA06/H-Judd
16 1 3 LMGT1 CORVETTE RACING Johnny O'Connell/Jan Magnussen/Ron Fellows 1:58.311 112.585 12.820 Corvette C6.R
17 2 4 LMGT1 CORVETTE RACING Olivier Beretta/Oliver Gavin/Max Papis 1:58.368 112.530 12.877 Corvette C6.R
18 1 45 LMGT2 FLYING LIZARD MOTORSPORTS Jörg Bergmeister/Wolf Henzler/Marc Lieb 2:02.402 108.822 16.911 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
19 2 71 LMGT2 TAFEL RACING Dominik Farnbacher/Dirk Muller/Rob Bell 2:02.421 108.805 16.930 Ferrari F430 GT
20 3 62 LMGT2 RISI COMPETIZIONE Mika Salo/Jaime Melo/Gianmaria Bruni 2:03.009 108.285 17.518 Ferrari F430 GT
21 4 46 LMGT2 FLYING LIZARD MOTORSPORTS Johannes van Overbeek/Patrick Pilet/Richard Lietz 2:03.192 108.124 17.701 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
22 5 87 LMGT2 2:03.476 107.875 17.985
23 6 73 LMGT2 TAFEL RACING Allan Simonsen/Jim Tafel/Pierre Ehret 2:03.548 107.812 18.057 Ferrari F430 GT
24 7 44 LMGT2 FLYING LIZARD MOTORSPORTS Darren Law/Seth Neiman/Alex Davison 2:04.258 107.196 18.767 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
25 8 21 LMGT2 PANOZ TEAM PTG Joey Hand/Tom Milner/Tom Sutherland 2:04.986 106.572 19.495 Panoz Esperante GTLM
26 9 61 LMGT2 RISI COMPETIZIONE Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Eric van de Poele 2:05.278 106.324 19.787 Ferrari F430 GT
27 10 48 LMGT2 CORSA MOTORSPORTS Gunnar Jeannette/Johnny Mowlem/Ralf Kelleners 2:05.666 105.995 20.175 Ferrari F430 GT
28 11 28 LMGT2 LG MOTORSPORTS/RILEY TECHNOLOGIES Lou Gigliotti/Doug Peterson/Marc Goossens 2:06.041 105.680 20.533 Corvette C6
29 12 5 LMGT2 VICI RACING Uwe Alzen/Craig Stanton/Nathan Swartzbaugh 2:07.081 104.815 21.590 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
30 13 007 LMGT2 DRAYSON-BARWELL MOTORSPORT Jonny Cocker/Paul Drayson/Tim Sugden 2:08.776 103.435 23.285 Aston Martin DBRS9
31 14 40 LMGT2 ROBERTSON RACING Andrea Robertson/David Robertson/David Murry 2:09.058 103.209 23.567 Doran Ford GT-R
32 15 11 LMGT2 PRIMETIME RACE GROUP Joel Feinberg/Chris Hall 2:09.235 103.068 23.744 Dodge Viper Competition Coupe
33 3 008 LMGT1 BELL MOTORSPORTS Terry Borcheller/Chapman Ducote/Antonio Garcia 59:59.999 3.700 0.000 Aston Martin DBR9
34 16 77 LMGT2 AUTORACING CLUB BRATSLAVIA Miroslav Konopka/Mauro Casadei/Pierre Ehret 59:59.999 3.700 0.000 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
35 6 10 LMP1 ECO RACING Ben Collins/Harri Toivonen/Simon Wright 59:59.999 3.700 0.000 Radical R10-AER ECO


Capello's Audi fastest in Sebring practice
Audi's Dindo Capello fired back at Peugeot on Wednesday by posting the fastest time for the first official practice session for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, the opening race of the 2008 American Le Mans Series. Capello's lap of 1:45.491 in the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI was 0.017 seconds better than Stephane Sarrazin in the Peugeot 908.

The top three cars all are diesel-powered factory prototypes as the Series races into a green future with all cars powered by either clean diesel, E10 or cellulosic E85.

Capello will team with Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen this weekend, the trio hoping to claim its second Sebring overall win in three years. Sarrazin is partnering with Pedro Lamy and Nic Minassian in the Peugeot, which is competing in North America for the first time.

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XM to broadcast all ALMS races
The American Le Mans Series announced today a partnership with XM Satellite Radio, the nation’s leading radio company. The 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, which runs this Saturday from 10:05 a.m. to 10:05 p.m. ET, can be heard on XM 166. XM will broadcast from 10 a.m. until noon and then again from 9 p.m. until finish. 

This year marks the first time that every event on the American Le Mans Series schedule will be broadcast on XM. Additional races will be heard on XM Sports Nation (XM 144) and XM 166 during the season. More information for the Series’ coverage on XM is available online at www.xmradio.com/alms.

“We are certainly pleased to welcome XM as an American Le Mans Series media partner. With our fans’ active lifestyles, XM Satellite Radio is a great new opportunity for them to follow the Series live from event to event. We are also looking forward to the marketing partnership that XM brings to the Series with the many manufacturer relationships we already have in common,” said American Le Mans Series CEO and President, Scott Atherton.

In addition to American Le Mans Series race coverage, XM and the series will work cooperatively on a broad marketing program to reach auto enthusiasts who are the Series’ core fans. XM automotive partners Acura, Chevrolet, Ferrari and Porsche are participants in American Le Mans Series racing.

“XM is excited to bring racing fans full American Le Mans Series season coverage for the first time. XM is dedicated to providing racing fans and auto enthusiasts with access to the fast-growing and exciting form of racing represented in the Series," said Kevin Straley, vice president, talk programming, XM Satellite Radio."

In addition to American Le Mans Series coverage, XM’s motorsport coverage includes the IndyCar Series season, the “Andretti-Green Racing Hour,” “Dale Jr.'s Unrestricted,” “Michael Waltrip Out Loud,” and shows from premiere motorsports broadcasters like Claire B. Lang’s “Dialed In” and Joe Castello’s “Power Shift.” XM Sports Nation also offers the popular Performance Racing Network (PRN) show “Fast Talk” and “Alltel Pit Reporters.”


IRL Teleconference: Rahal and Wilson; Servia, Power and Vasser
Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

Jimmy Vasser, Oriol Servia and Will Power, KV Racing Technology

MODERATOR: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us. The guests to start the call are Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson who will drive for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in the IndyCar Series. And we'll also be joined by Jimmy Vasser and Oriol Servia and Will Power from KV Racing Technology.

Graham is the 19‑year‑old son of 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal. He made one Indy Pro Series start in 2006, winning the pole for the Liberty Challenge on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And he went on to finish second that season in the Champ Car Atlantic Series.

Justin has finished second in the Champ Car standings in each of the last two seasons, and in four seasons overall he recorded four race victories and six pole positions. And he raced in Formula One in 2003 and started the race on the road course in Indianapolis.

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Gordon named cover driver for EA NASCAR game
Electronic Arts Inc. officials announced Wednesday that Sprint Cup driver Jeff Gordon will appear on the cover of EA Sports NASCAR 09 game.

“It’s exciting being on the cover of NASCAR 09,” Gordon said. “The game is as real as it gets, and it’s been great being involved with it on this level. I look forward to helping gamers in NASCAR 09.”

Gordon is a four-time Cup champion who is sixth all-time with 81 victories. As part of the game’s new “career mode” known as “Sprint for the Cup,” Gordon will serve as a guide and mentor to users of the game.

NASCAR 09, which will be available in North America on June 10, will be available for Playstation 2 and Playstation 3, as well as
Xbox 360.


Team Australia announces jump to KV Racing Technology
Australian driver Will Power will begin the next exciting chapter in his racing career with the announcement today that he will front a renewed Team Australia effort in this year’s unified IndyCar Series.

Power will drive the #8 Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia Honda/Dallara/Firestone in the 2008 IndyCar Series in his third full season driving for Craig Gore’s Team Australia squad, with the Aussie Vineyards-backed team taking on a new form in 2008.

Team Australia has joined forces with KV Racing Technology in an exciting partnership for the motorsport program that Gore created in 2005, which uses motorsport as a marketing tool for Australian companies, including Gore’s own Aussie Vineyards company and it’s Au wine label, wanting to increase their brand awareness and sales on a global scale, with a major focus in the United States.

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STR3 race debut planned for Turkey
The Scuderia Toro Rosso wants to race their new car for the very first time at the Turkish Grand Prix which is scheduled for May. The first test session with the new car is scheduled for April as the F1 teams will be testing at Barcelona. Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli said to the reporters at Melbourne: "We are planning to take one to the test at Barcelona in the beginning of April, and then to make our debut in Turkey." F1technical.net


Unification sets the stage for sponsorship growth
Cut through the clutter. Nix the noise. Before the unification announcement, North American open-wheel racing was akin to the Democratic presidential primary season. That's all history.

The IndyCar Series has strong brand attributes and the most famous race in the world as its cornerstone event. Without confusion about "Which series are you now?" and a competing message, its voice will be heard more clearly in the business community. Greg Gruning, the Indy Racing League's vice president of sales, already is taking the message across the land.

"I think the platform becomes elevated with a unified series," Gruning said. "The clutter is gone and the value of the series takes another step forward. It is an unprecedented opportunity for corporations. We're open for business. What we have is an even more powerful story.

"Unification creates the excitement around not only the open-wheel product on the track. We'll have a bigger footprint, a broader platform to launch off with the brand attributes, especially as we visit corporations today."

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Power joins Servia at KV Racing Technology
Will Power
KV Racing Technology co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser announced that the team will campaign two cars during the 2008 IndyCar Series season.

"In conjunction with our commitment to the IndyCar Series, we have re-branded the team as KV Racing Technology and agreed to a sponsorship arrangement with Aussie Vineyards -- Team Australia. This will allow Will Power to join teammate Oriol Servia in what I believe will be the most competitive and exciting open-wheel racing series. We want to welcome both Aussie Vineyards -- Team Australia and Will Power to our team and we look forward to a very successful season in 2008 and for many years to come."

Oriol Servia
KV Racing Technology is entering its sixth year of competition and its first in the IndyCar Series. Servia, who came to an agreement with the team earlier this year, will be behind the wheel of the KV Racing Technology No. 32 Honda/Dallara//Firestone entry. Power will drive the No. 8 Aussie Vineyards -- Team Australia car.

"I am very excited that KV Racing Technology will be competing in what I think will become the most challenging open-wheel series," Vasser said. "Speaking from past experience, this series will be one of the most difficult to win because it requires a driver and a team to race on a variety of different tracks. To win the championship you have to be competitive in all disciplines of open-wheel racing."

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Kubica says impossible for BMW to win
Robert Kubica
BMW driver Robert Kubica has described his own team's goal of winning a Formula One race this season as "impossible." The Polish racer has flatly rejected the notion that BMW can overcome the might of front-runners Ferrari and McLaren and capture their first victory.

Kubica has even gone further and cast doubt on the conventional pre-season forecast that BMW will be leading the pack behind the two F1 powerhouses. "To win a race we have to have the fastest car in the field," Kubica told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. "For the moment we are not there, but we are working on it and we will see if we can achieve that."

But the 23-year-old says BMW's target for 2008 is too ambitious. "At the moment it is impossible for us to win a race, but in Formula One it can turn around so quickly," he said.

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Walker Racing withdraws from IndyCar Program UPDATE In this article posted on the Walker Racing website, Derrick Walker explains to the fans "Where we go from here...the story behind the story!"

Over the last 48 hours we have been flooded with calls and emails from fans and colleagues offering their support and we thank you for it all. We really do. It means a lot to all of us at Walker Racing. Now here is the story behind the story!

Up until a few days ago, I was of the belief, because of commitments that had been previously made to me, that we were to continue the Team Australia program into 2008. In addition, we had other new sponsorship opportunities that were progressing towards an agreement but, suddenly, both deals evaporated in the span of two days. Faced with that situation, I met with the employees and advised them of the difficult road ahead and the fact that we were starting all over again with new sponsor relationships. As of right now, these commitments and new opportunities have ruined the great plans we had been working on for the last two months.

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Braking analysis for the Melbourne F1 circuit
Click image to enlarge
Following last three years initiative's success, the Brembo ID Card of the Melbourne circuit, offered by Brembo, which contains some very interesting information and data about the circuit and the technical features of the braking systems, is shown to the right.


Star Mazda season preview
When the cars competing in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear take to the track for the opening race of the 2008 season at the 56th annual Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring, the drivers under those colorfully-painted helmets will represent a diversity of nationality, gender, age and family relationships totally unique in the world of auto racing.

Included in the mix are racers from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Ireland and Gibraltar.  There are two fast young female drivers, drivers ranging in age from 16 to 64, a father/son team and a brother/sister team. 

And the series in which they are competing offers equal diversity.  For the younger drivers on their way up the Motorsports ladder, the Star Mazda Championship – now in its 18th year as one of the most prolific and successful open-wheel driver development series in auto racing today -- is the college basketball, the triple-A baseball, the Junior A hockey of auto racing, a high-speed training ground for future stars of the sport, such as the most recent American Formula One driver Scott Speed, Indy Car stars Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal and prototype phenom Colin Braun as well as the newest addition to Michael Waltrip’s NASCAR Sprint Cup team, Michael McDowell, who won the 2005 Star Mazda Championship.

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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Button says points unlikely at Aus GP
  • McLaren's manual starts impress Heidfeld
  • Kovalainen not eyeing pole at Aus GP
  • Massa: We are in much better shape this year

Button says points unlikely at Aus GP
(GMM)  Jenson Button has ruled out scoring points in Melbourne this weekend, but flagged a growing sense of optimism from within the Honda camp.

The Japanese squad's new 2008 car was badly off the pace in recent group testing, but team members say a bodywork update at a subsequent Jerez session - where the RA108 circulated alone - delivered a significant performance gain.

British driver Button suggests that the improvement is so exciting that the Brackley based team now has no idea where the car will slot in on Sunday's Australian GP grid.

"I don't think we are going to be challenging for points but we are going to be a lot closer, actually racing in the mix with the slower part of that middle pack," he is quoted as saying from Melbourne by the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.

"I don't think they've got a lot to worry about - a lot of the teams - but I think we'll be a little bit closer," he added.

Button's Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello is also encouraged by the Melbourne-spec package that he tried at Jerez.

"In my 16 years of formula one, I never had an improvement as big as I had last week," he said.

McLaren's manual starts impress Heidfeld
(GMM)  Ferrari is believed to have ultimately the quickest car, but Nick Heidfeld reckons the red team's silver rivals might get off to a faster start when the 2008 season gets racing on Sunday.

The German, who drives for BMW Sauber, has told the magazine Sport Bild that one of the most impressive revelations of the recent winter period for him was the speed at which McLaren's MP4-23 got off the line when its drivers were practicing race starts.

Coinciding with the introduction of the McLaren-supplied control ECU this season, traction and also launch control has been banned.

Heidfeld, 30, suggests that the Mercedes-powered team will have the jump on its rivals when it comes to how Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen make their manual starts in 2008.

"McLaren have a starting system that allows Hamilton and Kovalainen to pull away with only 9,000 revs.  On the other hand, we (BMW) need to use much higher speeds when we begin to accelerate," the 30-year-old said.

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Hamilton disagrees with Prost criticism
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday made it clear that he does not agree with quadruple world champion Alain Prost's criticisms of formula one.

Frenchman Prost, who - behind Michael Schumacher - is the second most successful driver in the sport's history and also a former team boss, recently slammed the current format for not challenging the drivers enough.

"It's more speed, less brains, less tactics, less strategy and much less work together between a driver and the engineers -- and that is not formula one I like," he said.

But at a local beach near Melbourne on Wednesday, McLaren driver Hamilton took issue with Prost's critique.

"I'm a bit surprised by that," he said, also expressing surprise that Prost did not welcome this year's ban on driver aids including traction control.

"Obviously he has a right to his own opinion, but for me I think it's even more challenging and a lot harder than it is with traction control," he said.

The Briton also specifically disagreed with Prost's claim that two-thirds of the drivers on Sunday's Melbourne grid could win at the wheel of a Ferrari or McLaren.

Hamilton replied: "I think what you'll see (in 2008) is the top, top drivers will rise above the good drivers."

He indicated that he was confused about Prost's two-thirds reference, because it is obvious that formula one drivers are all highly skilled.

"If not, why are you here?" Hamilton said.


F1 'not always rosy', Rosberg insists
(GMM)  Formula one is not always as glamorous as it seemed at the Albert Park circuit and around the sunny Australian city of Melbourne on Wednesday, Nico Rosberg insists.

As pitlane buzzed with activity, and trendy sunglass-wearing millionaire drivers either strolled the paddock with seemingly nothing to do or 'worked' alongside pretty girls at local beaches for PR events, observers taking in the last few days before the 2008 season opener would have been forgiven for envying members of the grand prix circus.

But to the German newspaper FAZ, Williams racer said there is a downside to the constant trekking from the world's exotic locations and five-star hotels.

"It is easy to forget that a life like this is also incredibly hard.  You are constantly on the go, never at home, always awaiting the next appointment.  You never have time for yourself," the German said.

"Formula one is not always rosy," he added.

But even 22-year-old Rosberg, one of F1's hottest young properties, admits that life could be worse.

"It is also a cool job," he grinned, also suggesting that it would be easy to get carried away with the glamour lifestyle.

"I am very cautious and understood that reality quite often has little to do with this world," Rosberg added.


McLaren snaps up Ferrari sponsor
(GMM)  Olympus, the former formula one sponsor for Ferrari, has switched camps to McLaren, the British team announced on Wednesday.

The Mercedes-powered outfit said the company will be 'official supplier of photographic services' in 2008, with British snapper Jon Nicholson to spend the season in the McLaren garage to capture the on and off track action.

"It's always a tremendous boost for (the team) when we announce a new partner and to be able to do so only a few days before the start of the new season in Australia makes it even more significant," said team boss Ron Dennis.

Olympus sponsored Ferrari until the end of last year.


New Ferrari boss cautious but optimistic
Former Ferrari sporting director, Stefano Domenicali, who now heads up the Ferrari F1 team, is optimistic but cautious about making predictions for this season.

"I think that, as always, we need to be very careful when analyzing the data from winter testing," says Domenicali, when asked for his views on the coming season. "However, our car seems to be a good one, but we need to see exactly where the others are both in terms of performance and reliability. I am pretty sure that this year reliability will make the difference, especially in the first half of the season."

"So I want to be cautious and not say much about this until we can see what is going on. We have a great respect for all our competitors but we know we can do something good this year," he added.


Q & A with Toyota's Pascal Vasselon
Pascal Vasselon
Panasonic Toyota racing is currently in Australia awaiting the official start of the season opening Grand prix here at Albert Park, waiting to see if their efforts during winter testing will pay off and they will move up the leaderboard and score solid points right from round one.

Here the team’s technical director, Pascal Vasselon, gives and insight into this weekend’s event and explains what they are hoping to achieve by the end of it…

Is it possible to judge how competitive the teams are from winter testing?
Experience shows it is impossible to make accurate predictions just from testing times because in the last years everyone has always been quite surprised to see the pecking order in Melbourne. However, what you can do is get a good idea of what the different performance windows are for the different teams, so you have a broad idea of which teams will be close to each other but any more than that is difficult. When you look at your own performance you try to give yourself a window of where you will likely be.

Are you optimistic about the Australian Grand Prix?
Yes, we are optimistic, particularly because the second half of winter testing went well and the estimated window of competitiveness has been clearly improving since the tests in Bahrain. So we are definitely hopeful and willing to fight close to the front, although despite the very competitive results in Barcelona, which gave us impressive hard facts to show our competitiveness, we are fully aware that this is only testing and everything has to be done from Melbourne on.

Read more & Comment...

Sydney willing to host F1 night race
(GMM)  Sydney has counted itself as still in the hunt to snatch the Australian grand prix from rival city Melbourne.

Even though Bernie Ecclestone recently dismissed the famous Australian city's positioning for the event, the F1 boss might be interested in new claims that Sydney would be prepared to consider a night race.

While the race's current paymasters have categorically ruled out Ecclestone's demand for floodlights at Albert Park, New South Wales state premier Morris Iemma has promised to look into installing the infrastructure at the Sydney circuit Eastern Creek, which is currently a venue of the A1GP series.

"It's not a blank check, but it could be held at a place like Eastern Creek, obviously with modifications," Iemma is quoted as saying by Melbourne's Herald Sun.

"If formula one is looking for a night race then Eastern Creek could be converted to suit them," he added.

Melbourne based major events minister Tim Holding, however, played down the prospect of a successful formula one bid by Sydney.

"The proof of the pudding is in the tasting," he said.  "They have to secure some events and people will take them seriously after that."


Lewis names Kimi as main title threat
Kimi Raikkonen
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton has singled out reigning champion Kimi Raikkonen as his man to beat to the 2008 title.

The Briton's McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen has been earmarked by experts as a dark horse for this season, and Brazilian Felipe Massa will this year drive the same Ferrari as that used by Raikkonen to defend his crown.

But speaking to the Daily Telegraph, 23-year-old Hamilton said of his stated Finnish rival: "He is the guy I want to go out and beat to win the title.

"Kimi got stronger throughout the whole of last year and will start at the level he finished in October.  I can only imagine he will get better but that is the same for me," he added.

Hamilton, meanwhile, rejected the theory that 'second season syndrome' might thwart his progress in 2008, even though some of his staunchest supporters - like Sir Jackie Stewart - are warning that life in the paddock can be tougher in the year following a meteoric debut.

"I have always found that in every category my second year has always been, I wouldn't say easier, but twice as strong," he insists.

"Going into this year I have no doubts that I will be stronger."

Hamilton also denied Fernando Alonso's recent claim that, after a tumultuous season as teammates in 2007, their relationship is "non-existent".

Hamilton, rather, insists that "I still speak with Fernando".


Vettel - no plans to employ a manager
Sebastian Vettel
(GMM)  He is only 20 and still a formula one rookie, but Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel is one of the only racers on the grid that does not have a manager.

The German news agency SID revealed that the former BMW Sauber test driver has always handled his own affairs at the pinnacle of racing.

Vettel said he has no plans to start looking for a manager, even though he is now considered among the sport's most promising flock of rising young racers.

"Until now I have always arrived on time to get to the grid.  There is no reason why that would change in the near future," he added.


Coulthard buys Aussie undies for F1 season
David Coulthard
(GMM)  Forget gear ratios, horsepower or tire compounds, the first thing on David Coulthard's mind when he touched down in Melbourne this week was his diminishing supply of underpants.

The veteran Scot told a news conference in the Australian city that his first stop-off after the 20-hour flight from Europe was to buy 40 pairs of smalls that can only be found Down Under.

"I've got a bit of Australia wrapped around my nether regions when I do all my grands prix," said the 36-year-old Red Bull driver, revealing that he always wears 'Holeproof Underdaks' when he's at speed on the 18 circuits on the calendar.

Coulthard added: "I always go and stock up at the beginning of every season and buy my underdaks for the season ahead."

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