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Roush says NASCAR has too many rules Roush says NASCAR has too many rules"There are too many rules," Jack Roush said in Atlanta today. "And the specificity of the rules requires an area of precision that is both beyond the capabilities of the hardware and the people who are working on them."

So Roush says NASCAR should, like basketball coaches sometimes implore the refs in the playoffs, "Let them play."

"That's exactly right," Roush said. "These cars are becoming much more like IROC cars every year, and that's not a good thing. If you have to be in this business for five years to understand all the written rules and then by observation and osmosis to ingest all the understandings around the rules and the things below the line and the things that aren't written down, that's just too much complexity.  We've got too many templates, too many rules, too many limitations to suit my fancy. Every time we have a chance to spend more money to do the same thing, we seem to do it.

"Right now they're talking about replacing every one of our engines and every one of our cars in the near future, just so they can get a tighter grip on things. Sure, there are some safety impacts. But the engine thing is just about getting a tighter grip. When you look at all the people they have and all the things they're controlling, they're really trying to control the things we race in. We need to have an area to be able to compete with one another with innovation. But when they see somebody being creative, innovative, they think they've got to stop it.  That is against the sense of individuality we've enjoyed over NASCAR's 60-year history. We're on a slippery slope here.

"Whether Jimmie Johnson's car was in compliance or Kyle Busch's car was in compliance, for things that happened on the track, or for things the crew chief did knowingly or unknowingly, I really don't care. And I don't think it improves the quality of racing to care about that.  Any penalty or no penalty would have been satisfactory to me."

But Roush added, "If there were a mechanism intended either to hold the car down or raise it up, that's a capital offense, and should be dealt with differently."

Briscoe crashes again Briscoe crashes againF1 reject Ryan Briscoe is turning out to be another AJ Foyt IV - he crashes all the time.  Briscoe’s day in Phoenix eventually ended in the pits after a brush with the wall on lap 89. The Target crew worked diligently to repair the damage and got him back out there to put a few more laps under his belt and gain some more valuable experience, but it was finally decided that the damage was too extensive to fix in the pits.

As for AJ Foyt IV - his car has so much downforce dialed in he doesn't crash as much anymore.  He's just a moving chicane week in and week out carrying all that extra drag.

Sebring 12 Hours: Audi leads at halfway Sebring 12 Hours: Audi leads at halfwayADT Champion Racing was halfway to its first victory at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as its No. 1 Audi R8, with driver Tom Kristensen, continued to lead Saturday afternoon in the 2005 American Le Mans Series' season opener.

The No. 1 Audi, which has led most of the day, lost the top spot for about 15 minutes during green-flag pit stops. Marco Werner pitted and yielded the car to Kristensen, giving the No. 2 Audi R8 of Frank Biela the lead. Shortly after that, Biela pitted and relinquished the lead to the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola EX257 AER of Butch Leitzinger. About 10 minutes later, Leitzinger came in to put Kristensen up front.

In LMP2, the No. 27 Kruse Motorsport Courage C-65 Judd and Harold Primat held a four-lap lead over the No. 10 Miracle Motorsports Courage C-65 AER, with Jeff Bucknum, behind the wheel.

A pair of Corvette Racing C6-Rs battled between themselves for the top spot in GT1, the tightest battle on the course. The No. 4 entry, with Jan Magnussen piloting, led the No. 3 car and Max Papis by 3.6 seconds at the halfway point.

The No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, with driver Patrick Long, led the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Johannes Van Overbeek by two laps.

A record crowd was at Sebring International Raceway, one so large that the track cut off access through the main gate at 10:30 a.m., the earliest time in the race's history. An alternate parking area was created off-site to accommodate the overflow crowd.

Sebring disappointment for Care Larbre Ferrari at Sebring Sebring disappointment for Care Larbre Ferrari at SebringAfter running without any technical problems for the entire week, the 12 Hours of Sebring today dealt a cruel blow to the Ferrari 550 Maranello of the Care Larbre team and its Champion driver line-up. Just before the six-hour mark, the car suffered gearbox failure which ultimately lead to the Ferrari's retirement from the race. Reigning Champ Car World Series Champion, Sébastien Bourdais, who was at the wheel at the time, had no warning this was about to happen and was stranded out on the back straight of the track before being towed back to the paddock. The reason for the failure has not yet been determined but it was serious enough to prevent any repairs being possible.

Sébastien Bourdais (F): "It is disappointing because we have been working hard but we weren't fast enough. I was surprised with the race pace we had, which was pretty much a second off the pace of our competitors. Having said that, I think a podium finish would still have been reachable as we were very consistent and weren't making any mistakes. "My first stint went very well, and I was lapping in the 1m59s. The older tires in the second stint made it a bit harder, probably slowing us by a second a lap. But in endurance races you have to keep going as, even if you lose 20 seconds, you only need a safety car and you can find yourself back in the lead again. It's too bad as we were hoping for a reliable car - it's strongest point in the past - but this just proves that nothing is certain in racing. I've really enjoyed being here at Sebring with Care Racing and Larbre Competition, and working with Christophe and Fabrizio. Let's hope we can do it again one day."

Champ Car gaining or losing momentum? Champ Car gaining or losing momentum?A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Is the reason all the teams are waiting till the last minute to sign and announce drivers because they want to maximize unofficial subsidies by Champ Car? Champ Car has to have 18. If there aren't 18 the owners have to pony up subsidies or add to their own teams to avoid defaulting the event contracts. I also want to say that 4 out the 5 last AutoWeeks have not had a word about Champ Car. It's like they fell off the end of the earth. If I were a sponsor, I would want to see press releases in every issue of every auto publication. They have obviously lost their momentum. John Schieving Denver, CO Dear John, As we wrote in this article, Champ Car is quietly behind the scenes laying the foundation for 2006 and beyond. And, as we wrote in this article, it's shaping up to be the best field of drivers in 10 years in Champ Car. The next two weeks will see a number of new driver/sponsor announcements. If you analyze each of the drivers pictured in the second article it's hard to find much weakness and it's that level of talent that will help raise the level of awareness for Champ Car. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the foundation is being laid and that is most important right now. Mark C.
Mixed emotions for Jarno Trulli Mixed emotions for Jarno TrulliJarno Trulli was filled with mixed emotions after qualifying his Toyota a fine second on the provisional grid on Saturday, after hearing of the death of a friend back home in Italy. Trulli posted an impressive time to split the Renault pair of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella in the first of the two aggregate qualifying sessions for Sunday's race.

"At the moment I have mixed feelings as I'm sure I'm happy about my result but on the other hand I'm shocked because I've just heard the news that a friend of mine has just died," said Trulli.  I want to dedicate this front row to Stefano. He was a rescue pilot. Yesterday there was a fire I think in Italy and he was really unlucky after landing on the water and taking off as I think he hit the electrical cables." AFP

Michelin has Bridgestone's number, Ferrari left floundering Michelin has Bridgestone's number, Ferrari left flounderingFerrari were left reeling at the Malaysian Sepang circuit today as Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello took provisional 12th and 14th positions respectively on the grid for Sunday’s 56-lap Malaysian Grand Prix. The team has started the season with a modified version of the F2004 chassis that dominated the Malaysian event last year. 12 months on and the team are racing the updated chassis whilst developing its successor, the F2005, in tandem. The team naturally are very unhappy with their qualifying positions but as ever vow to push hard and try and secure as many points as they can from Sunday’s race. Today’s session may well hasten the team's decision to bring the F2005 into service sooner rather than later, a decision that could have ramifications throughout the season.

Michael Schumacher “Naturally, I am not happy with the way things went. Yesterday and after the first 45 minutes of today’s practice, the situation seemed better, but already in the last free practice, we begun to understand that we would be struggling. It’s clear that, on a quick lap, with new tires, our performance is not at the same level as our rivals, but we know that over a distance things are different, as indeed we saw yesterday. And that’s what counts, isn’t it? So I still expect to be competitive in tomorrow’s race, while I don’t think things will change significantly in second qualifying. It’s a very long and tough race and our aim is to finish in the points, if not on the podium.”
Rubens Barrichello "To be honest, I am very disappointed because this morning we were looking better than in qualifying when I just did not have enough grip. It was a bit of a struggle. However, the balance of the car was okay and I think my tire choice will mean that I will be much stronger than this in the race on Sunday.”

Jean Todt "It was a very difficult qualifying for us and we are unhappy with the result. We reckoned we would be competitive in the race, but we were also aware that, at the moment, our package is not sufficiently competitive over a single timed lap. I do not expect tomorrow morning’s qualifying to significantly shake up today’s order and so we can expect a very tough race, complicated by not starting from the front row, with all the risks that can entail. One thing is certain: we will tackle the race with maximum determination, with the aim of bringing home as many points as possible.”

Ross Brawn "Obviously, this was a disappointing session for us. Tomorrow, we have the second session on the same set of tires and with the fuel load with which we will start the race. We are hopeful that we will be able to recover at least some of the ground we have lost today. Both drivers are happy with their car balance and we will be trying to go well in the race, knowing that we can bank on consistency in performance and a good race pace.” Ferrari

Jon Herb wins IPS crashfest at Phoenix Jon Herb wins IPS crashfest at PhoenixUPDATE Jon Herb beat Chris Fiesta in today's Phoenix 100 IPS race at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway, but not before almost 1/2 the field was taken out in accidents.
Results Saturday of the Phoenix 100 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series event Mar. 19 at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed, reason out (if any):
1. (4) Jon Herb, Dallara-Infiniti, 90
2. (3) Chris Festa, Dallara-Infiniti, 90
3. (9) Wade Cunningham, Dallara-Infiniti, 90
4. (8) Arie Luyendyk Jr., Dallara-Infiniti, 89 
5. (11) Nick Bussell, Dallara-Infiniti, 89
6. (1) Travis Gregg, Dallara-Infiniti, 88
7. (14) Scott Mayer, Dallara-Infiniti, 87     
8. (10) Al Unser, Dallara-Infiniti, 40, Accident 
9. (13) Mishael Abbott, Dallara-Infiniti, 31, Accident
10. (7) Marty Roth, Dallara-Infiniti, 9, Accident
11. (2) Jaime Camara, Dallara-Infiniti, 8, Accident
12. (6) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Infiniti, 8, Accident
13. (5) Jay Drake, Dallara-Infiniti, 0, Accident
14. (12) P.J. Chesson, Dallara-Infiniti, 0, Accident
15. (15) G.J. Mennen, Dallara-Infiniti, 0, DNS
      Race Statistics
      Winner's average speed: 89.711 mph
      Time of race: 1:00:11.5901
      Margin of victory: 0.7052 of a second.
      Cautions: 5 for 38 laps.
      Lead changes: 1 among 2 drivers.
Lap leaders: Gregg 1-21, Herb 22-90.
Point standings: Herb 87, Gregg 82, Cunningham 67, Festa 60, Camara 59, Bussell 58, Drake 47, Abbott 46, Roth 46, Unser 42.
03/19/05 The cash register keeps ringing over at Dallara in Italy as the IRL and IPS cars crash into the Phoenix walls. Today's IPS race saw 1/2 of the field (7 cars) taken out due to accidents and the race is only at the 3/4 mark. Eliminated so far were Marty Roth, Al Unser, Mishael Abbott, Jaime Camara, Jeff Simmons, Jay Drake, and PJ Chesson. The race had to be shortened to 90 laps before more equipment was lost.  There is a race in two weeks in St. Petersburg and the torn and battered equipment must be repaired in time.  Jon Herb currently leads.
Davidson almost missed big break Davidson almost missed big breakAnthony Davidson was in his hotel packing his bags and preparing to fly home on Saturday when the phone rang.  A few hours later the BAR test driver had qualified for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

"I was still massively jet-lagged after only arriving here on Thursday night and was just packing my bag in a bit of a daze when (team manager) Ron Meadows rang me," he told Reuters in an interview.

"He had quite a bit of urgency in his voice and he said 'Where are you?'" I said I was in the hotel.  He said 'Don't get excited yet but you might be driving today'. I think I stopped breathing for a second and I'm sure my heart missed a beat."

For Davidson, desperate to secure a regular drive in Formula One after coming close last season, Sato's misfortune meant a scarcely believable opportunity.

"In the back of my mind I kept thinking 'he'll be all right, of course he'll be all right," he said. "I've done this loads of times, hanging around at the circuit, you never get that scenario."

The chances of such a recovery were eliminated when doctors put Sato on a saline drip after the driver's temperature hit 38.5 degrees C.

His manager Andrew Gilbert-Scott said a subsequent blood test had revealed Sato was not suffering from a serious illness: "It's a normal viral infection," he said.

"I could go to sleep right now, I'm knackered," he said after qualifying.  The problem was having to do (three days of testing in) Jerez in between (Australia and Malaysia)," said Davidson. "The race drivers stay out for these two. I would have definitely done the same.  In part from Reuters

Jensen lands Konica-Minolta sponsorship for Champ Car team Jensen lands Konica-Minolta sponsorship for Champ Car teamEric Jensen told the Toronto Star - his Champ Car team will be sponsored in Canada by Konica-Minolta, the film and camera people. He said he has U.S. sponsors lined up but "because they're American, I want to wait until Long Beach to make those public."

He will also wait before making another important announcement: the driver.  "The driver is the least of my worries,'' he laughed, saying there are any number of talented chauffeurs on the market, but that he has plenty of other things to worry about first.

He emphasized that, although he's driven in Indy Lights and Toyota Atlantic, it won't be him.   "No way,'' he said. "I'm going to be too busy getting a team together,'' adding that he plans to augment his existing Toyota Atlantic crew with experienced people from the ranks of Champ Car and Formula One.  The driver is 70 per cent of the equation,'' he said, "but you need a solid, professional team to back him up. You need good mechanics who can prepare the car, who can take it apart between races and rebuild it. You need good engineers who can set the car up, trim it out and make it perform to its capacity.  Several have said to me over the years that when I made the move up (to Champ Cars) that they'd like to come over (from Europe). It's a pretty demanding environment in F1. After a couple of years of it, a lot of guys are looking for a change to something that isn't as stressful.   Champ Car is less stressful and a heck of a lot more fun, so I'm looking to hire some pretty good guys. I expect to have about a dozen people on the payroll by Long Beach.''

Jensen, who hopes to introduce his driver at the end of the month as part of a Molson Indy press promotions day, also said he didn't want anything to take away attention from the announcement of his sponsor.

Said Jensen: "This is a good-news story about a major Canadian corporation joining up with a Canadian-owned racing team to run a full-season in one of the world's great racing series that is of great importance to Canada.

"Champ Car is the one series that reaches just about all of Canada. The top Canadian drivers are in Champ Car. We're in the key cities of Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. In comparison, Formula One is only in Montreal and NASCAR doesn't race here.''

Konica-Minolta has a summer-long promotion planned in which the purchasers of single-use cameras, film and digital cameras can win either a 2005 Ford Mustang or a trip to the 2006 Long Beach GP.

"The chance at the Mustang is a good tie-in with Ford, because our cars are powered by Ford-Cosworth engines,'' Jensen said.

"And this partnership (with Konica-Minolta) emphasizes the importance of Champ Car in the Canadian market and is a perfect illustration of how a Canadian company can use auto racing to market its products.''

Malaysia: Press Conference Saturday qualifying Malaysia: Press Conference Saturday qualifyingFernando Alonso put in a sensational lap to take Provisional Pole position for Sunday’s 56-lap Malaysian Grand Prix. With the fastest four runners all lapping quicker than the 2004 Pole winning time, Alonso took the number one slot ahead of Jarno Trulli in the Toyota and Australian Grand prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella. Here the three talk of their qualifying performances. Transcript
Michelin sweep the top ten in Malaysia Michelin sweep the top ten in MalaysiaMichelin and its partners dominated the opening qualifying session for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, second round of the championship. Renault star Fernando Alonso – who became the sport’s youngest pole position winner when he qualified fastest at the same track in 2003 – set the pace with a 1:32.582s lap, less than one tenth of a second clear of Jarno Trulli in the Toyota. Six Michelin teams took a clean sweep of the top 11 positions. Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) was third, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren), Ralf Schumacher (Toyota), Mark Webber (Williams), Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren), Nick Heidfeld (Williams), Jenson Button (BAR), Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing) and David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing).
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin Motorsport Director “Everything that has happened so far this weekend suggests that Michelin is in very good shape for tomorrow’s race – but we are aware that grand prix racing is a three-day process. Anything can happen after the starting lights go out – and these are likely to be the hottest temperatures we have to deal with this season. It will be interesting to see how our tires perform over 56 laps but we are approaching the race with a measure of confidence. It was very encouraging to see three of our partner teams grouped within 0.3s in the top four places today – proof once more of Michelin’s ability to be competitive and versatile in equal measure.”

Pat Symonds, Renault Executive Director of Engineering “Sepang is renowned as the first circuit of the season to put tires under severe stress. That was especially so today, with 51-degree track temperatures. The tires’ grip was impressive on their first flying lap – and their consistency was even more so.” Michelin

Verstappen to test for HVM Verstappen to test for HVMUPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Jos the Boss is a big hero over here in The Netherlands.  We have been waiting for a long time for him to get back into the big leagues.  He ran with the awful Arrows team in F1 so we hope that given the right situation in Champ Car, where all the cars are Lolas powered by the same Cosworth Ford engine, that he can show his true talent.  He might be a bit rusty but give him some time. Hans Schneider, Amsterdam, NL 03/19/05 Popular Dutch driver Jos Verstappen will test next week for the Herdez team (HVM) and may end up in the Champ Car World Series. Tomorrow he flies to Indianapolis, the headquarters of HVM. Team personnel from HVM will be there to welcome Jos. Monday Jos will get a seat fitting in the Lola Ford he will drive. Tuesday Verstappen will fly to Sebring where he will test Wednesday, and possible also Thursday.

About 3 or 4 seats are still up for grabs in Champ Car and Jos hopes to land one of them. Jos said in a short statement  "I am ready for it. It has been a long time, also for my fans,” Verstappen’s personal site reports the Dutchman as saying. “We have made the first step. The preparation is not optimal but I will show them what I'm worth. I want to compete, so with good lap times I want to convince the team that I am the right man for the job.”

Pat Symonds calls for tweak in qualifying format Pat Symonds calls for tweak in qualifying formatRenault director of engineering Pat Symonds has proposed a slight change in the qualifying format to keep its luster. Symonds said he would like to see it to remain under aggregated times but be held over Friday and Saturday instead. The new regulation, sparked by a tropical storm which struck the Japanese GP last October, sees pole position determined by aggregated times of two single two lap sessions held on Saturday and Sunday.

“I do not think there is anything wrong with aggregate qualifying times. It has made the first qualifying relevant, something we failed to achieve in 2003 and 2004. It is just a matter of improving the presentation. The only real criticism I have is the time-tabling because I think we have got the rhythm of the build up to the race wrong. The Sunday papers should be able to give the fans a judgment of what is going to happen in the race that afternoon. This means knowing the qualifying result. From a team point of view, the Sunday workload is intense. There is little time to plan strategy and repairing a car damaged in qualifying will be a hard task.”

Symonds feels the Sunday morning will be better served by having more support races. “This is something racing enthusiasts also enjoy. Sunday morning should feature junior formulae, such as the GP2 series and some saloon car racing, to build up to the GP as the pinnacle of the event.”

Dixon thinks Toyota is gaining on Honda Dixon thinks Toyota is gaining on HondaHonda-powered cars have won 15 of the past 16 IRL races, including the March 6 season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Scott Dixon said he is confident that Toyota is gaining on Honda in the horsepower department -- he just isn't sure if it will come in time for Saturday's XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.

"I think looking over it last year, (I) probably did get frustrated," Dixon said. "(Toyota) made some changes over the winter ... I know they have made some good gains, it looks like, for Phoenix.  They definitely have got a fire underneath them at the moment. They are under a lot of pressure from a lot of us. It's a little frustrating, especially on ovals because the only way you can pick up speed is to work a lot harder and get a lot faster. We have faith in Toyota, and I'm sure they are going to get it together and hopefully produce some big horsepower."

But Dixon said he isn't expecting the really big gains until next month, when the series heads to Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

"It seems to work out that way, and I know it has in the years past," Dixon said. "Motegi is such a big race for Toyota and Honda that that's when they pull out a lot of the horsepower which, ideally, is just before the (Indy) 500.  That's when they seem to bring out more stuff. You have the Japan race just before the Indy 500 where they -- because they are both Japanese engine manufacturers -- they try to pull out all the stops and that's where the power starts to crank up and you get more of a fair idea of how you're going to fare over the year. That's why you kind of hope to wait until then, I think, to hopefully get a big burst of power."

Dixon said he was hopeful that Honda's power advantage might be neutralized this weekend because the race is being held on a 1-mile oval.

"It helps you in some ways," Dixon said. "If you've got a better car, it's going to work over a longer distance, which hopefully that's the case for us and that's what we sort of have to work on now is more for a long stint in the races and try to pass people like that.  "As far as acceleration, it sort of hurts you a little more because you have big wings on and it's hard to pull those around and you may not have the equal power that the Honda can accelerate to. But I think handling-wise and for duration of a race, it does help us a little because the tracks are shorter at the moment."  in part from Las Vegas Sun

RCR Sues ESPN over the number '3' RCR Sues ESPN over the number '3'The stylized No. 3 symbolizing the legacy of Dale Earnhardt has been reproduced on jackets, on stickers with an angel's halo, on the walls of local restaurants, and on countless other products and memorials to the late racing legend. RCR Enterprises Inc., which owns the trademark rights to the stylized No. 3, says that one of those memorials went too far. RCR, of Welcome, is owned by Richard Childress. RCR filed a federal lawsuit this week against ESPN Inc., the all-sports cable-television network that recently produced a film about Earnhardt's life. The film and its related products use a stylized No. 3 similar to the trademark owned by RCR, according to the lawsuit. RCR is owned by Richard Childress.

"(ESPN's) use of a colorable imitation of the Stylized 3 Mark in connection with a motion picture, DVDs and books is a purposeful attempt to draw a connection between those products and RCR's Stylized 3 Mark," the lawsuit argues. "Defendant has used and is using a colorable imitation of the Stylized 3 Mark in commerce to advertise and promote itself and its products and services," the lawsuit continues. "Defendant has offered and is offering, in commerce, products and services for commercial sale or for commercial profit under a colorable imitation of the Stylized 3 Mark." Josh Krulewitz, a spokesman for ESPN at its headquarters in Bristol, Conn., said that the company did nothing illegal. "We did not make use of the plaintiff's trademark, and our use of the No. 3 was entirely legal," he said. In the lawsuit, RCR charges that ESPN is violating its trademark, is competing unfairly under federal law and is diluting the symbol used by Earnhardt when he was driving for RCR for 20 years. "The Stylized 3 Mark is distinctive and has become famous through extensive advertising, promotional expenditures, careful control and over 20 years of continuous use and commercial exposure," the lawsuit says. "Defendant's use of a colorable imitation of the Stylized 3 Mark has resulted in and will continue to result in a lessening of the capacity of the Stylized 3 Mark to identify and distinguish authorized products and services."

RCR is asking the court to order ESPN to stop using any stylized No. 3 that could resemble its own trademark, and to recall and destroy any products that include such a symbol. Company officials are also asking for damages, attorneys' fees and "three times all gains, profits and advantages derived by them from (ESPN's) infringement, dilution, unfair competition or unfair trade practices." They also want interest. The two symbols have some similarities and some differences. The No. 3 used by Earnhardt was a block number italicized to the left. The No. 3 used by ESPN in its marketing has rounder edges, and it leans to the right. Winston Salem Journal

Teams to run extra cars to fill Indy field Teams to run extra cars to fill Indy fieldIs Tony George paying for all these cars to save embarrassment for the Indy 500?  The Indy Star reports - The Indianapolis 500 is set to receive a host of confirmations for the May 29 race. Among them:
  • Buddy Lazier will be assigned to Panther Racing's third Dallara/Chevrolet, a move that will be announced Thursday.
  • Jaques Lazier will soon have his name on the new Playa Del Racing entry organized by Gary Sallee. The car will be a Panoz/Toyota from Ganassi Racing.
  • Adrian Fernandez will be signed to drive Morris Nunn's Honda-powered Panoz. That will set up a scenario in which Fernandez competes against the two-car team he owns with Tom Anderson (drivers Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura).
  • Sam Schmidt will be listed as a team owner for an entry that will use a Chevrolet engine. Schmidt has Richie Hearn and Max Papis on his short list of drivers.
  • Scott Mayer will drive a second car for A.J. Foyt, a Dallara/Toyota to be entered along with the one for A.J. Foyt IV.

In each case, official announcements are being planned. Team representatives stopped short of confirmation Friday at the Indy Racing League's event at Phoenix International Raceway.

Tidbits from Sepang Tidbits from Sepang
F1 'no' to Monday testing Forget Monday testing. That's the gist of a message delivered to Bernie Ecclestone, who suggested that - to save money - teams could stay on after a grand prix to test. ''The drivers are hopeless on a Monday,'' insisted Ross Brawn, technical director at Ferrari. ''It'd be a waste of time.'' Brawn's opposite number Mike Gascoyne, of Toyota, concurred that - coupled with the F1 supremo's 19-race calendar - an even longer GP schedule is 'totally unfeasible. ''People are away from home a long time,'' said the Briton. ''I just don't think we could do it.''

New Minardi to be delayed? Minardi might have to wait even longer for their 2005 car. The back of the grid team, a whopping seven seconds off the pace with the interim model in Saturday qualifying, said Faenza HQ was lumped with an 'unexpected ... workload' following the Australian GP. Owner and principal Paul Stoddart explained in a statement that further modification of the old car - in light of Melbourne's political battle - could ''delay the introduction of the ... PS05, planned for Imola.''

No Button penalty - yet Contrary to reports, BAR driver Jenson Button will not necessarily be penalized 10 grid places at the Malaysian GP. The Briton did spend a Saturday practice session in the pit with an engine drama, but the oil-leaking Honda was fixed, not changed, a statement indicated. 25-year-old Button, though, added: ''There's still a chance (it'll be changed). They're checking if it's okay. ''It held on for qualifying, but that's only one lap.''

Hornaday wins truck race Hornaday wins truck raceIt didn’t take Ron Hornaday long to remember the way to victory lane in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.  In just his third start behind the wheel of the No. 6 GM Goodwrench Silverado, the former two-time series champion scored his 27th NCTS victory in an exciting green-white-checkered finish by just eight thousandths of a second over fellow Team Silverado driver Bobby Labonte.  Labonte, in his third appearance in the No. 47 Chevrolet All Star Silverado fielded by Morgan-Dollar Motorsports, overcame a lap 77 spin through the grass of the tri-oval to challenge Hornaday for the win. The pair had the crowd on their feet for the two-lap shootout.  Labonte made his move on the outside as they exited turn two on the final lap. The two charged through turns three and four headed for the checkered flag side-by-side.  Hornaday was able to gain just enough grip on the bottom side of the track to pull of the win by just a blink of an eye.
Blown Button Blown ButtonBAR is not having a good Malaysian grand prix weekend.  After a feverish Takuma Sato pulled out of the event, teammate Jenson Button blew a Honda engine - fitted fresh after the 'loophole' saga, remember - in Saturday practice.  It'll cost the Englishman, 25 - who sat out the whole second session while his crew went to work - ten grid positions.
Honda man to retire Honda man to retireHonda's Shoichi Tanaka, 61, will retire later in 2005.  The Japanese, 'racing president' for BAR's engine marque, is - following Honda's part acquisition of the Brackley-based grand prix team - a member of the BAR board.  ''Honda does not want to completely own the team,'' Tanaka, a forty year Honda veteran, said recently, ''we just want to win the world championship.''  And of retirement?  ''I'll remain a spectator,'' he vowed.  ''I am lucky that, when I go, Honda will continue to be strong.''
Schmidt, Andretti-Green Host Spinal Cord Injured Schmidt, Andretti-Green Host Spinal Cord InjuredSome 75 people with spinal cord injuries experienced motorsports and hope Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, site of this weekend’s Indy Racing League events.  

Sam Schmidt, a quadriplegic car owner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, hosted Phoenix-area patients at the speedway. The group from three organizations – Joni and Friends, Arizona Spinal Cord Association and Good Samaritan Rehabilitation Hospital – toured the speedway, were the guests of Andretti-Green Racing for lunch, and met various drivers, including Sam Schmidt Motorsports drivers Jaime Camara, Chris Festa and Travis Gregg. Schmidt and Andretti-Green Racing hosted the program through the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.

“It is really important for people to see that life continues after a spinal cord injury, and it can continue pretty well, regardless of your circumstances,” said Schmidt. “There is hope. That’s what the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation is all about – continuing to work to help people overcome injuries that today might look overwhelming. There have been tremendous strides, amazing strides, made in treating spinal cord injuries in just the past few years. While that research and work continues, we want all of those affected to know there is hope for the future.”

“Day At The Races” is part of the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation's program to provide a behind-the-scenes look at IndyCar racing for patients suffering from a disabling injury and their families.

“These are the types of things that capture a lot of attention in the Indy car pits and garages,” Schmidt said. “Andretti-Green Racing, for example, has really gotten behind our program, especially what we are doing with ‘Day At The Races.’ They gave us their hospitality tent (Friday), like they have at other races, and put a lunch together for our guests. They are involved in our Gala in May, which is a key fund-raiser for the Foundation, and have been completely supportive of everything we are trying to do.”

Queen Mary in trouble Queen Mary in troubleThe Queen Mary, a backdrop of the Long Beach Grand Prix since Formula One engines first pierced the thick salty air of one of America's busiest shipping ports, appears to be in trouble.  This CNN.com story gives the details.
Brawn slams ’Friday’ car rule Brawn slams ’Friday’ car ruleGet rid of F1's 'third' car rule. Thus, Ross Brawn slammed the Friday practice regulation - particularly with a team of McLaren's caliber allowed to freely run a spare - as 'nonsense.

''It was intended to enable the poorer teams to sell a third car (to a pay driver),'' Ferrari's technical director said. ''But now I don't agree with it at all.

''It's a huge benefit (to McLaren). It doesn't make sense, I can't see the logic in it.''

Williams' Sam Michael agreed, while Pat Symonds, of Renault, said more generally that Friday - now fundamentally a parade of third cars and bored race drivers - should be scrapped and turned into a free test day.

Ralf’s son unwell Ralf’s son unwellRalf Schumacher's son is not well.  Like Melbourne winner Giancarlo Fisichella, it's believed Ralf - the Toyota driver in Malaysia for the grand prix - contemplated returning to Europe to be with David.  But, instead, wife Cora flew back to Austria when information arrived that their son's only problem is a bad cold.  ''Hopefully he'll be better soon,'' Schumacher, 29, said at Sepang.
’I’m fit enough’ - ’Ant’ ’I’m fit enough’ - ’Ant’Anthony Davidson vowed to 'give it all I've got' after taking over the ill Takuma Sato's Malaysian GP seat.  ''It's tough enough here for a regular driver,'' said BAR's English tester, 25, ''but I feel fit enough, mentally too.''  Japan's Sato, 28 - 'running a temperature' according to a subsequent BAR statement - is believed to have a viral infection.  ''I've been advised to rest,'' he said, ''but should be back in the car ... for Bahrain.''
No ’F1 fever’ in KL No ’F1 fever’ in KLMalaysia is not yet suffering from grand prix fever.  That's the assessment of Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, more accustomed to the jam-packed grandstands of Monza, Melbourne or Monaco.  ''It would be nice to see more people on the Friday and Saturday,'' the Brazilian, on Friday, told Malaysia's 'Star' newspaper.  But Fernando Alonso, Renault's 23-year-old Spaniard, said there are 'more people' here at Sepang, host to F1 since 1999, every year.
Ferrari debut ’depends’ - RB Ferrari debut ’depends’ - RBKuala Lumpur (GMMf1NET)  Whether or not Ferrari debut their new car at the next race depends on how the old one fares in Malaysia, according to Ross Brawn.  The team's technical director admitted at Sepang that there's 'an option' to fast-track F2005, originally slated for Spain (8 May), to Bahrain (3 April).  ''A lot is riding on this weekend,'' he said, ''and on next week -- when the race drivers test the car for the first time.  I want to hear what Michael (Schumacher) and Rubens (Barrichello) say ... before we decide sometime mid-week.''  Brawn admitted that F2005's possible early debut meant Schumacher, who could've raced a new engine in Malaysia, is still using the Australia-spec one this weekend.  He said the engine did, though, get a 'little bit warm' in the Albert Park gravel.
Industry News
Mass exodus of execs at Molson Coors Mass exodus of execs at Molson CoorsJust weeks after the merger that created the world's No. 5 brewer, Molson Coors Brewing Co.'s executive suite is about to get an overhaul as the company announced that nearly a dozen top people will depart. Early Friday, Molson Coors said the 11 employees, all higher-ups in departments including legal, finance, sales and personnel, decided to leave after exercising change-in-control clauses in their contracts as a result of the merger. Molson Coors expects that severance costs related to the exodus will be between $13 million and $17 million, excluding some taxes and benefits, in the first quarter. What effect, if any, this has on their racing involvement remains to be seen.
Phoenix a ghost town Phoenix a ghost townUPDATE It will rain here Saturday so the race promoter won't make much in the way of revenue from either day. 03/18/05 A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1, Stopped by to see some practice and qualifying today at Phoenix.  Hardly anyone was there.  I'm a big NASCAR fan so I was expecting to see thousands of die-hard IRL fans there rooting for their favorite driver to take pole.  This series is in serious trouble.  I can't imagine how many free tickets they give away for the race to get what little attendance they do get.  NASCAR is King. (Photo - crew services AJ Foyt IV car). Ken Trout, Tempe, AZ
NASCAR impound rules for 2005 NASCAR impound rules for 2005Impound Rules: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Impound Procedures In 2005
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will impound cars after qualifying in 21 of 36 championship events plus the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. The following are tracks in which NASCAR will implement this procedure: Feb. 27-California; Mar. 20-Atlanta; Apr. 3-Bristol; Apr. 23-Phoenix; May 7-Darlington; May 14; Richmond; May 21-Lowe’s (All-Star Challenge); June 12-Pocono; June 19-Michigan; July 2-Daytona; July 17-New Hampshire; July 24-Pocono; Aug. 14-Watkins Glen; Aug. 21-Michigan; Aug. 27-Bristol; Sept. 10-Richmond; Sept. 18-New Hampshire; Oct. 9-Kansas; Oct. 30-Atlanta; Nov. 20-Homestead.
Following qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event, the cars will be escorted to their respective garage stalls by a NASCAR Official (with the exception of the top five cars, which will be placed in a designated area for post-qualifying inspection).

Once the car is pushed to the garage stall, only two crew members will be allowed to remain in the garage.
The following work list will be allowed:
1. Shut off electrical switches and master power switch;
2. Remove radio;
3. Check air pressure in tires;
4. Cover the car; and,
5. Crewmembers exit garage and garage doors close.

Pit road selection will be immediately after the last car has qualified.
Procedure for race day for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams:

Garage Stall A maximum of two (2) crew members per car, accompanied by a NASCAR Official, will be allowed in the garage stall.

Below are the procedures that will be completed in the garage stall:
Teams May:
1. Plug in oil heater (if teams use a generator, it must remain outside the garage);
2. Open hood;
3. Prime oil system;
4. Back car out of garage to start;
5. Turn master switch on;
6. Open oil cooler bypass valve (optional)’
7. Start engine;
8. Close hood;
9. Set tire pressure;
10. Torque wheels;
11. Install radio and water bottle;
12. Remove or repair tape on front of car (i.e. grille, valance, brake ducts.); and
13. If applicable, BST or Pi Research may replace equipment batteries under NASCAR supervision.
Teams May NOT:
1. Enter the garage without a NASCAR Official present;
2. Jack up any part of the car;
3. Add water or pressurize the cooling system;
4. Climb inside the car;
5. Adjust wedge bolts, shocks or sway bars;
6. Add fuel, oil or brake fluid;
7. Remove air box; or
8. Adjust fenders, spoiler or any body components.

Fuel Pumps: A maximum of three (3) crewmembers per car at anytime, escorted by NASCAR Officials, may go to the fuel pumps. For Tracks 1 mile and under, a maximum of two gallons of fuel will be added. For Tracks 1 ½ miles, a maximum of three gallons of fuel will be added. For Tracks above 1 ½ miles, a maximum of four gallons of fuel will be added.

Height Platform A maximum of three (3) crewmembers per car at anytime, accompanied by NASCAR Officials, may escort the respective car to the height platform.
Teams May:
1. Adjust front and rear wedge bolts: A maximum of one (1) turn for front bolts. A maximum of 1 ½ turn for rear bolts.
2. Adjust track bar at frame end adjuster. No maximum on track bar adjustment.
3. Adjust external shock bleeds.
Teams May NOT:
1. Change any components.
2. Add spring inserts.

Scales A maximum of three (3) crewmembers per car at anytime, accompanied by NASCAR Officials, may escort the respective car to the scales. Any car that does not meet required weight specifications may be subject to penalty. After completion, the generator will be reconnected to the car and pushed to pit road. Generators will be permitted out on pit road with the car. NASCAR

Paul Dana finds wall too Paul Dana finds wall tooThe Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone driven by Paul Dana made contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2 during the morning practice session.  “I just lost the back end in the apex between one and two,” said Dana, an IndyCar Series rookie who was checked at the infield care center and cleared to drive. “We’ve been fighting an understeer. There’s not a lot of grip down there, and we’ve really been struggling. It was a little bit loose the previous lap and I should have pitted.”  Again, the Dallara cash register went ka-ching.
Davidson replaces sick Sato Davidson replaces sick SatoUPDATE Further to the statement issued by Lucky Strike B·A·R Honda earlier this morning, the team can confirm that medical tests performed on Takuma Sato have concluded that his fever is symptomatic of a viral infection.  Takuma is running a temperature and will now spend the rest of the weekend resting. Takuma Sato - "I am obviously extremely disappointed that I have had to retire from the Malaysian Grand Prix - a race that I have prepared extremely hard for.  Having discussed my condition with the medical staff and the team, I accept their advice that it is not sensible for me to take part in such a physically demanding race.  I would like to take this opportunity to wish my team-mate Anthony Davidson well as he steps in for me for the rest of the weekend.  I have now been advised to get plenty of rest and look forward to getting well again in time to be back in the car in Bahrain." 03/18/05 Lucky Strike B·A·R Honda driver Takuma Sato has been forced to withdraw from tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix for medical reasons.   Takuma developed a fever yesterday evening, and after receiving attention from the Sepang Circuit Medical Centre appeared to show some signs of recovery.  However, this morning the fever had started to recur.   In view of the fact that this is such a physically demanding race for the driver, the Team and Takuma have accepted the Medical Team's view that the most sensible course of action is to retire from the rest of the weekend's running.  Anthony Davidson will replace Takuma in car no. 4 with effect from this morning's Free Practice sessions and will take part in tomorrow's race.
Bonilla wins both races in Sebring Bonilla wins both races in SebringPole sitter Gerardo Bonilla let Matt Varsha and Cole Nelson duke it out behind him as he took care of business up front to win his second race of the week in the Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER.

The hairiest moment for Bonilla came within seconds of the start, a moment which pretty much defined the rest of the race. As the pole sitter, at the green Bonilla flew into Turn One with abandon -- but was shocked to find ''no grip.'' ''With the weather yesterday, we hadn't been on the BFG slicks since Wednesday,'' Bonilla said. ''Today, the track was totally different, which you really can't feel on the pace laps. First time into One, I got so stupidly sideways, I can't believe I saved it.''

Next up: Virginia International Raceway, April 22-24. Bonilla says he thinks he can ''pole-pole, win-win'' there, too. He's not being cocky about; rather, he simply anticipates taking full advantage of his experience in these cars before the teenagers in his mirrors ''eventually catch up.'' Let's see.

(1) Gerardo Bonilla, Orlando, Fla., 10 laps, 89.981 average mph 2. (2) Matt Varsha, Atlanta, Ga. 3. (6) Cole Nelson, Atwater, Calif. 4. (11) Alan Sciuto, Orange, Calif. 5. (4) Garrett Zine, Rio Linda, Calif. 6. (5) Adam Tran, Vancouver, B.C., Canada 7. (10) Paul Albert, Ottawa, Ont., Canada 8. (12) Andy Rossetto, Grafton, Wis. 9. (3) Lucas McConnell, Springfield, Va. 10. (8) Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, N.Y. 11. (7) Jordy Vorrath, White Rock, B.C., Canada 12. (9) Eoin Ryan, Co. Tipperary, Ireland 13. (18) Chris Cook, Coopersburg, Pa. 14. (20) Jimmy Holden, Tiona, Pa. 15. (22) Terrick Mansur, Oranjestad, Aruba 16. (23) Alain Roger Matrat, Annapolis, Md. 17. (24) Jeremy Morales, Glen Head, N.Y., 9 laps 18. (13) Casey Neal, Middletown, Ohio, 8 laps (mechanical) 19. (15) Richard Heistand, Sunny Isles, Fla., 4 laps (withdrawn) 20. (16) Pablo Sanchez Lopez, Xochimanga, Mexico, 1 lap (contact) 21. (21) John Angelone, Bridgewater, N.J., 1 lap (contact) 22. (14) Lorenzo Mandarino, Burnaby, B.C., Canada, 0 laps (contact) 23. (17) Winston de Wardt, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 0 laps (contact) 24. (19) Jimmy Locke, Center Barnstead, N.H., 0 laps (contact) Race length: 10 laps of 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course for 37.0 miles Time of race: 24 minutes, 40.311 seconds Winner's average speed: 89.981 mph Margin of victory: 5.119 seconds Lap leaders: Bonilla, 1 - 10 Fastest race lap: Bonilla, 2:27.266, lap 9 Fastest qualifier: Bonilla, 2:28.711

Jarno Trulli stars for Toyota at Sepang Jarno Trulli stars for Toyota at SepangThe pace in the final practice session ahead of Saturday qualifying saw the fastest four runners all lapping faster than last year’s Pole Position. It was Jarno Trulli who set the pace in his Toyota TF105, in a most impressive 1:32.832s with Christian Klien just fractions of a second slower than the leading Toyota in his Red Bull Racing Cosworth.

Third position fell to Fernando Alonso who lapped just five-hundredths of a second slower in his Renault than pace setter Trulli. Ralf Schumacher was fourth fastest in the second Toyota edging out David Coulthard in the second Red Bull Cosworth.

Session 4
1. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota 1:32.832
2. Christian Klien Austria Red Bull-Cosworth 1:32.870
3. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault 1:32.880
4. Ralf Schumacher Germany Toyota 1:32.951
5. David Coulthard Britain Red Bull-Cosworth 1:33.092
6. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault 1:33.194
7. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.349
8. Nick Heidfeld Germany Williams-BMW 1:33.468
9. Mark Webber Australia Williams-BMW 1:33.517
10. Anthony Davidson Britain BAR-Honda 1:33.580
11. Juan Pablo Montoya Colombia McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.689
12. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari 1:33.943
13. Felipe Massa Brazil Sauber-Petronas 1:34.002
14. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari 1:34.102
15. Jacques Villeneuve Canada Sauber-Petronas 1:35.532
16. Tiago Monteiro Portugal Jordan-Toyota 1:37.824
17. Narain Karthikeyan India Jordan-Toyota 1:38.126
18. Christijan Albers Netherlands Minardi-Cosworth 1:38.673
19. Patrick Friesacher Austria Minardi-Cosworth 1:38.974
20. Jenson Button Britain BAR-Honda No Time

Session 3
1. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault 1:34.715
2. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari 1:34.883
3. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault 1:34.930
4. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.054
5. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota 1:35.573
6. Ralf Schumacher Germany Toyota 1:35.645
7. Juan Pablo Montoya Colombia McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.850
8. Jenson Button Britain BAR-Honda 1:36.162
9. Nick Heidfeld Germany Williams-BMW 1:36.434
10. Mark Webber Australia Williams-BMW 1:36.465
11. David Coulthard Britain Red Bull-Cosworth 1:36.888
12. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari 1:36.903
13. Felipe Massa Brazil Sauber-Petronas 1:36.987
14. Anthony Davidson Britain BAR-Honda 1:37.049
15. Christian Klien Austria Red Bull-Cosworth 1:37.204
16. Jacques Villeneuve Canada Sauber-Petronas 1:37.850
17. Narain Karthikeyan India Jordan-Toyota 1:38.444
18. Tiago Monteiro Portugal Jordan-Toyota 1:39.349
19. Patrick Friesacher Austria Minardi-Cosworth 1:41.398
20. Christijan Albers Netherlands Minardi-Cosworth 1:42.023

Maserati back to Sebring after 48 years Maserati back to Sebring after 48 yearsAfter 48 years, Maserati is back with a factory racing car in Sebring, where in 1957 Juan Manuel Fangio and Jean Behra won the 12 Hours race with a 450S, the last victory in the US with a factory car.

Maserati presents directly a MC12 in compliance with the rules of IMSA. The car matches FIA GT1 specs. and carries a ballast of 50 kilos. The team will not score points for the Championship. The drivers are Italians Andrea Bertolini - Ferrari-Maserati official tester, Fabrizio De Simone and Fabio Babini - Pirelli tester.

The team didn’t test before in Sebring, a very demanding circuit for the car, under the mechanical point of view. The track is very hard with tires and set up and has a lot of bumps. So there are a lot of things to do and to test. The staff is working well, progressing session by session without any mechanical failure. It is very important to find a good set up to find the right balance and to make the right choice of tires, in order to be consistent during the long race.
Due to the bad weather conditions, IMSA today has decided to cancel the official qualifying session. The starting grid of the race comes from yesterday practice results. The Maserati drivers set the 9th position and are confident for the race. This evening schedule includes a night practice session, while tomorrow a warm up session.

The 12 Hours of Sebring will start on Saturday, March 19 at 10.45. Live TV coverage is provided by Speed Channel and Motors TV in Europe.

Claudio Berro, Maserati Corse Director says: “Maserati Corse is pleased to have the opportunity to display our car in front of audiences in North America. This is the most important sales market for Maserati, so this development is very important for our sales. We received an invitation from IMSA to race and we accepted it. The ACO and FIA recently came together for the same rules and regulations and we comply within the FIA regulations. The ACO says there is a 66 mm difference between GT1 cars and our car and seven to ten kilos. We are not concerned about the protest made by Aston Martin. We will respect IMSA’s decision.”

Andrea Bertolini :"Aston Martin is very fast and so is Corvette. I hope for the race that our car is very consistent. At the moment, the car is not easy because we don't have more time. We have a short time to practice."

Fabrizio De Simone :"It's a quite different track compared to the ones we have in Europe. The differences are mainly in the bumps and in the fast corners, especially Turn 1 and Turn 17. The different asphalts on this track. these are the main things...they are big differences. We have been testing since Monday until today. We are still working to get our setup for our car.”

Fabio Babini: "It's not easy to drive here for the cars are all different. It's not easy for the bumps on the tracks. But I'm excited to drive at Sebring. American racing is very spirited racing."
Babini finished third in his category in Sebring, in 2002.

The participation of Maserati in the ALMS has been made possible thanks to the fundamental co-operation of important partners, including Pirelli and the team Risi Competizione, that will support Maserati logistically. The MC12 is using Pirelli Racing P Zero tires, developed in 2004 and currently used on an exclusive basis in the FIA GT Championship. The successful cooperation between Maserati and Pirelli continues in the American Le Mans Series.

Carpentier survives terrifying wreck Carpentier survives terrifying wreckPatrick Carpentier made heavy contact with the outside wall of Turn 2 in practice at Phoenix today in preparation for Sunday's XM Satellite IRL race.  His car was totally demolished and caught fire for a moment.   Carpentier was flown to the hospital complaining of some aches in the rib and chest area.  All x-rays were negative and he has been cleared to drive this weekend if he feels up to it.  The impact was so hard if not for the SAFER Barrier we hate to think what might have been the outcome.  The cash register at Dallara was singing today as four IPS cars found the wall as well.

"I was pushing the car to the limit. Trying to make it very neutral so I wouldn't lose too much time mid-corner. We made it a little bit too neutral, and it just snapped. When I corrected it, it bit me and went straight to the wall. It is unfortunate. I am disappointed. We will keep pushing hard, but we will be a little more careful next time. I was amazed because I am used to hitting the wall without the SAFER barriers. I was expecting a much bigger hit than that, it was still big, but the barrier cushioned the hit. It does its job very well. I am just so disappointed. If it happens in the race when you are fighting that's one thing, but in practice it is so disappointing."

Carpentier was unable to participate in the qualifying session which took place less than two hours after the accident. He will start after all qualified cars from the 20th position. His best practice lap of the day was 172.726 mph (20.8423 seconds.).

Costs continue to spiral up in IPS Costs continue to spiral up in IPSFour cars did not make qualifying attempts for this weekend IPS race in Phoenix because of incidents in practice earlier in the day: Scott Mayer (No. 11 ABC Supply-QPS Staffing) and P.J. Chesson (No. 36 Genoa Racing Special) made contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4; Mishael Abbott (No. 91 Hemelgarn Johnson Motorsports) and G.J. Mennen (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc.) made contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2.  The cash registers are ringing at Dallara.
Qualifying results for IPS Qualifying results for IPSTravis Gregg still doesn’t know what it’s like to see a car in front of him at the start of a Menards Infiniti Pro Series race.  Gregg, of Camden, Ohio, won his second consecutive pole of the 2005 season with a qualifying lap of 156.295 mph for the Phoenix 100 at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval. Gregg has started all five of his races in the series from the front row.  That includes three poles – the previous two he finished first (March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway) and fifth (2004 at Kentucky in his series debut).

1. (7) Travis Gregg, Dallara-Infiniti, 156.295
2. (1) Jaime Camara, Dallara-Infiniti, 155.377
3. (19) Chris Festa, Dallara-Infiniti, 155.106
4. (6) Jon Herb, Dallara-Infiniti, 153.853
5. (20) Jay Drake, Dallara-Infiniti, 153.188
6. (24) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Infiniti, 152.599
7. (4) Marty Roth, Dallara-Infiniti, 152.223
8. (5) Arie Luyendyk Jr., Dallara-Infiniti, 151.910
9. (33) Wade Cunningham, Dallara-Infiniti, 150.641
10. (3) Al Unser, Dallara-Infiniti, 147.427
11. (21) Nick Bussell, Dallara-Infiniti, 146.811
12. (36) P.J. Chesson, Dallara-Infiniti, no speed
13. (27) G.J. Mennen, Dallara-Infiniti, no speed
14. (91) Mishael Abbott, Dallara-Infiniti, no speed
15. (11) Scott Mayer, Dallara-Infiniti, no speed

Schumacher forced to apologize Schumacher forced to apologizeWorld champion Michael Schumacher was forced to apologize on Friday for crashing into Nick Heidfeld at the first race of the season in Australia. Schumacher was subjected to a 30-minute barrage of scrutiny as the 18 other drivers on the grid aired their views over who was to blame for the crash between the two Germans in the Australian Grand Prix. And insiders revealed the seven-time World Champion lost out 19:1 in an unprecedented driver vote with even his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello siding against him in the poll. The source, who asked not to be named, confirmed: "The drivers discussed the accident between Michael Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld for about 30 minutes and it was decided Schumacher was in the wrong. They voted 19:1 that Schumacher should apologize to Heidfeld. He accepted the decision, stood up and verbally apologized in front of everyone in the room."
Champ Car Drivers Visit Milwaukee to Kick off the Race Season Champ Car Drivers Visit Milwaukee to Kick off the Race SeasonThe Milwaukee Mile officially kicks off its 2005 racing season on Saturday night with the "Winners Circle Celebration for Variety®, The Children's Charity of Wisconsin" and Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford drivers Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay will be in attendance.

The "Winner's Circle Celebration" supports the Variety's® mission to "provide life-saving and life-enriching assistance to children challenged by physical and mental disabilities, poverty, abuse and neglect".

The racing-themed annual fundraiser has invited championship winning drivers from the various racing series that compete on the famous one-mile oval in West Allis, Wisconsin. Vasser and Hunter-Reay are among five drivers that will be participating in the festivities and on hand for one-on-one interviews.

An evening highlighting championship drivers fits Vasser's racing resume honoring his racing career. No stranger to the fans in Milwaukee, the 1996 Champ Car champion has competed on the famed mile for the past 12 years taking a win in 1998.

Hunter-Reay recorded Champ Car history during his 2004 Milwaukee Mile run when he earned his first Champ Car pole that saw him take the green flag to set a new single-event Champ Car record by leading all 250 laps to take his second Champ Car career win.

As the Milwaukee Mile gears up for an exciting season, The Champ Car World Series is ready to get the 2005 season underway in a few weeks. The Milwaukee Mile will see the 750hp Champ Car racing machines lap around the oval on June 4 for the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 Presented by U.S. Bank, Round Three of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Sebring: Dyson team fastest on Friday Sebring: Dyson team fastest on FridayThe Dyson Racing team looks like it wants to crash Audi's party at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. A pair of Lola EX257 AERs flexed their muscles during Friday's sole practice session, signaling what should be an electric race Saturday in the season opener for the American Le Mans Series.

The No. 20 entry of Guy Smith and Chris Dyson set the pace with a lap of 1:49.114, a little more than 0.1 seconds faster than the No. 16 car of James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace. The two Dyson cars bested both ADT Champion Audi R8s, which had posted the fastest laps in each previous session.

The No. 37 Telesis Intersport Racing Lola B05/40 AER posted the fastest time in LMP2 at 1:51.508. Gregor Fisken, Jon Field and Duncan Dayton were fifth-fastest overall. The entry was four seconds quicker than the No. 27 Kruse Motorsport Courage C-65 Judd of Phil Bennett, Ian Mitchell and Harold Primat.

A Corvette posted the best time in GT1, but it was the No. 5 Pacific Coast Motorsports Corvette C5-R of Alex Figge, Ryan Dalziel and Dave Empringham that turned a lap of 1:57.223. That bested the favored No. 3 and No. 4 Corvette Racing C6-Rs by more than half a second.

The No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Lucas Luhr, Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister turned the quickest lap at 2:04.037.

The green flag for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is scheduled to drop at 10:45 a.m. EST Saturday.


1. No. 20 Dyson Racing Lola EX257 AER, C. Dyson, G. Smith, 1:49.114
2. No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola EX257 AER, J. Weaver, A. Wallace, B. Leitzinger, 1:49.256
3. No. 2 ADT Champion Racing Audi R8, E. Pirro, F. Biela, A. McNish, 1:49.698

1. No. 37 Telesis Intersport Racing Lola B05/40 AER, J. Field, D. Dayton, G. Fisken, 1:51.508
2. No. 27 Kruse Motorsport Courage C-65 Judd, I. Mitchell, P. Bennett, H. Primat, 1:55.018
3. No. 10 Miracle Motorsports Courage C-65 AER, J. Bucknum, C. McMurry, I. James, 1:56.167

1. No. 5 Pacific Coast Motorsports C5-R Corvette, A. Figge, R. Dalziel, D. Empringham, 1:57.223
2. No. 3 Corvette Racing C6-R, R. Fellows, J. O'Connell, M. Papis, 1:57.800
3. No. 4 Corvette Racing C6-R, O. Gavin, O. Beretta, J. Magnussen, 1:57.911

1. No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, P. Long, J. Bergmeister, L. Luhr, 2:04.037
2. No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, T. Bernhard, R. Dumas, S. Maassen, 2:04.716
3. No. 50 Panoz Motor Sports Esperante GTLM, B. Auberlen, R. Liddell, E. Naspetti, 2:04.741

Stoddart a marked man Stoddart a marked manAs speculated by AutoRacing1.com over the past several days, Paul Stoddart's days in F1 might be numbered.  MINARDI Formula One boss Paul Stoddart says his "cards are marked" after the upheaval he sparked at the Australian Grand Prix.  
Stoddart, who was due to meet Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone at the Malaysian Grand Prix today, was preparing for retribution following his war of words with the FIA.   Ecclestone decided to make a rare trip to a 'flyaway' grand prix to try to head off a potential crisis in the sport.

While Stoddart is bunkering down for a protracted fight, he is waiting for the FIA to strike back after the Australian won a legal challenge against the sport's controlling body in Melbourne.

"It was a victory for Minardi, yes, but at a price - I'm not naive or stupid enough to believe there won't be retribution for this," Stoddart said.   "I'm just waiting to see which way it's going to come from.   Everyone tells me that my cards are marked," he said.  If the price to pay for it is that we sort Formula One out then it's a fair price to pay - even if that meant me going.  But I'm also a fighter so if anyone starts playing games I will do it by the book - but as I proved in Melbourne I will do it aggressively by the book, he said.  People will want to have some pretty strong ammunition before they come firing." The Australian

Industry News
Motegi gets SAFER Barrier Motegi gets SAFER BarrierTwin Ring Motegi, the 1.5-mile egg-shaped oval built by Honda and located in Tochigi Prefecture about 60 miles of northeast of Tokyo, will have completed installation of 4,184 linear feet of the revolutionary energy-absorbing SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction system) Barrier in time for the IRL IndyCar® Series Indy Japan 300 on April 30, the series' third visit to Japan.

The SAFER Barrier, which consists of rectangular steel tubing backed by polystyrene foam blocks that is installed in front of the track's traditional cement walls, is designed to reduce forces incurred by a car in an accident and increase driver safety. The technology is tailor-made to address each track's design and at Twin Ring Motegi, the barriers are being placed in turns 1 and 2 (2,568 feet) and in turns 3 and 4 (1,616 feet).

At Twin Ring Motegi, the installation will feature the same second generation SAFER Barrier which is nearing completion at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Version 2 SAFER Barrier features four major improvements:
. The barrier sections, which were straight in Version 1, are slightly rolled, or curved, to provide a smoother impact surface.
. A universal Styrofoam shape was created that is compatible with IndyCar Series cars and stock cars.
. Improved attachment points anchor the barrier to the existing concrete retaining walls.
. An increase of five steel tubes welded together form the barrier's exterior instead of four used in the Version 1 barrier.

All the materials - 344 tons (or 4.64 miles) of steel tubing, 753 foam blocks and 19,500 pieces of hardware/fasteners - for the SAFER Barrier installation at Twin Ring Motegi were manufactured in the United States by Mooresville, Ind.-based Elrod Corporation. The materials took 26 days to ship after being trucked to Chicago and traveling by rail to Los Angeles and Seattle and loaded on the same vessel for Japan. The system will be installed by the Japanese under the supervision of two Elrod employees with extensive experience installing the SAFER Barrier.

Mazda announces ALMS entry Mazda announces ALMS entryMazda North American Operations (MNAO) and MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development today announced that Mazda will return to the top level of professional sports car racing as an engine supplier in the LMP-2 class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The company will provide engineering and technical assistance to BK Motorsports, overseeing the development and deployment of a RENESIS-based three-rotor rotary racing engine. It is hoped that BK Motorsports’ success will lead other teams to choose the RENESIS rotary race engine.

Unlike in the past when Mazda’s greatest racing success – victory at the 1991 running of the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans – was from a full factory-supported program, BK Motorsports is a privately funded and run team with monetary support from Sportsbook.com. Mazda has provided extensive engineering support to the team to ensure the success of the engine. In addition, technical assistance and engine construction and tuning will be undertaken by SpeedSource Race Engineering, which also runs a championship-winning Grand Am Street Touring program with the RENESIS rotary-powered RX-8.

"There’s nothing like the sound of a full-race Mazda rotary engine at 9,000 rpm, and anyone who’s heard one is not likely to forget its distinctive tone," said Steve Sanders, Manager, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development for MNAO. "As one of the original funding and marketing partners in the ALMS series, and one of the most successful sportscar engine and chassis manufacturers of all time, it’s an absolute thrill for Mazda to be back in top-flight sportscar racing in North America."

Ganassi goes for thrill ride Ganassi goes for thrill rideUPDATE An hour after touring the South rim of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and parts in between, Chip Ganassi’s nervous grin was replaced by a wide smile. It was a natural transition after the flight in a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Never had “Thrust” – the nickname on the patch attached to his flight suit – experienced anything so intimidating yet invigorating. Strapped into the rear seat of $27 million aircraft delivering 27,000 pounds of thrust, the IndyCar Series team owner said it was “the ride of a lifetime.”

“You know you’re sitting on top of a lot of horsepower, and when we were taxiing that thing felt like a bound-up spring ready to explode,” he said. “When we got to the end of the runway and (Col. Pat Shay) said, ‘OK, we’re going to go to the sky,’ you understand what G suits are all about for the first time in your life.

“That was just the start of it, and it was the ‘E’ ticket ride the rest of the day. There aren’t many first things you get to do in your life when your 46 years old and today was one I’ll never forget.”

03/15/05 IRL IndyCar® Series team owner Chip Ganassi will receive a ride of the lifetime when he visits Luke Air Force Base on Thursday, March 17. Ganassi will spend the morning participating in a training session at the base in preparation for a ride in an F-16 that afternoon.  Col. Pat Shay will pilot Ganassi in the F-16.  Col. Shay’s flight with Ganassi will be the last of his 25-year career at Luke AFB. Shay, a former winner of the Air Force’s “Top Gun,” is scheduled to retire in November, following a four-month tour in Iraq.  Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon also will visit the base for a tour of the facility and to watch their team owner take his ride. All participants will be available for one-on-one interviews during the event.
Walker Racing announces 2-car lineup for 2005 Walker Racing announces 2-car lineup for 2005Walker Racing announces its plans to compete for the full 2005 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season, expanding to a two-car Lola lineup starting at the first event in Long Beach California on 10th of April. Walker Racing enters its fifteenth season and is not only changing to the Lola chassis, but is also increasing its effort to become a two car team again after running a single car in 2004.

Piloting car #15 will be the Canadian star from Montreal Quebec, Alex Tagliani who starts his fifth season in the Series. Tagliani scored his first Champ Car World Series victory last season with a win in Elkhart Lake, and has earned 10 podium finishes in his 91 series starts. He will be joined on the Walker squad by Queensland, Australia rookie Marcus Marshall (pictured right), driving Car #5. Marcus who has competed in several European formulae ranging from Formula Renault to F3 and of late Carrera Cup, now makes his home at Walker Racing.

 “I am really excited about this whole deal and to be racing in Champ Car because this is really where I wanted to be,” Tagliani said. “Derrick has a well-established team here and a team that is very motivated to do well. We won’t have a lot of testing time before Long Beach but that could be an advantage, because we will have more days to use during the year. This is a team with a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to the year.”

The most immediate plan for both drivers will be their participation in a two-day “shakedown” test session at Sebring International Raceway on the 23rd / 24th March 2005. Said team owner Derrick Walker: “It’s a big thanks to the team for working real hard to ramp up in the time we have left, needless to say I am really happy to welcome Alex and Marcus (pictured left in recent test for Walker) to our organization. I have to give Team Rahal a special thanks for their assistance to us in adapting to the Lola chassis”

Walker continues, “Media speculation had us gone from the series and closing our doors but the reality is we have had the elements of our two car multi-year commitment for nearly two months now. It takes time to find new sponsor partners. This commitment is clearly an indication of how the series is gaining strength and the renewed interest of companies in the future of the Champ Car World Series.”

Today’s announcement is only a part of the Walker Racing 2005 plans.  During the next two weeks there will be further exciting announcements made regarding Walker Racing’s sponsor partners.

Wheldon leads 2nd practice in Phoenix too Wheldon leads 2nd practice in Phoenix tooPractice 2 times from Phoenix.  Dan Wheldon was again fastest.
Pos  Driver  Chassis-Engine  Time  Gap  Speed 
1.  Dan Wheldon  Dallara-Honda  20.376    176.680 
2.  Helio Castroneves  Dallara-Toyota  20.392  0.016  176.537 
3.  Tomas Scheckter  Dallara-Chevrolet  20.468  0.076  175.887 
4.  Tomas Enge  Dallara-Chevrolet  20.475  0.007  175.825 
5.  Sam Hornish Jr.  Dallara-Toyota  20.512  0.037  175.503 
6.  Darren Manning  Panoz-Toyota  20.562  0.050  175.080 
7.  Scott Dixon  Panoz-Toyota  20.579  0.017  174.933 
8.  Bryan Herta  Dallara-Honda  20.618  0.039  174.605 
9.  Ryan Briscoe  Panoz-Toyota  20.642  0.024  174.406 
10.  Kosuke Matsuura  Panoz-Honda  20.657  0.015  174.278 
11.  Buddy Rice  Panoz-Honda  20.673  0.016  174.142 
12.  Scott Sharp  Panoz-Honda  20.686  0.013  174.027 
13.  Alex Barron  Dallara-Toyota  20.726  0.040  173.695 
14.  Vitor Meira  Panoz-Honda  20.732  0.006  173.645 
15.  Roger Yasukawa  Dallara-Honda  20.835  0.103  172.785 
16.  Patrick Carpentier  Dallara-Toyota  20.842  0.007  172.726 
17.  Dario Franchitti  Dallara-Honda  21.038  0.196  171.121 
18.  Tony Kanaan  Dallara-Honda  21.096  0.058  170.648 
19.  A.J. Foyt IV  Dallara-Toyota  21.140  0.044  170.297 
20.  Danica Patrick  Panoz-Honda  21.154  0.014  170.184 
21.  Ed Carpenter  Dallara-Toyota  21.610  0.456  166.592
Kanaan to start from rear Kanaan to start from rearTwo-time defending race champion Tony Kanaan won’t attempt to make it three in a row from a favorable starting position March 19 in the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage.  Kanaan reported in the morning practice session at Phoenix International Raceway that the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone was overheating. The team changed the engine.  According to Indy Racing League Rule 1.4B12(a)(i): In general, a team cannot make an engine change during a two-day race weekend. If the team does it before quals, the car does not make a qual attempt. If the team does it after quals, the car has its qual time disallowed. In both cases, the car would start at the rear of the starting grid. IndyCar.com
Wheldon leads opening practice in Phoenix Wheldon leads opening practice in PhoenixPractice 1 times from Phoenix
Pos  Driver  Chassis-Engine  Time  Gap  Speed 
1.  Dan Wheldon  Dallara-Honda  20.443    176.098 
2.  Bryan Herta  Dallara-Honda  20.481  0.038  175.770 
3.  Helio Castroneves  Dallara-Toyota  20.522  0.041  175.421 
4.  Dario Franchitti  Dallara-Honda  20.544  0.022  175.230 
5.  Buddy Rice  Panoz-Honda  20.622  0.078  174.567 
6.  Scott Dixon  Panoz-Toyota  20.736  0.114  173.611 
7.  Scott Sharp  Panoz-Honda  20.739  0.003  173.587 
8.  Darren Manning  Panoz-Toyota  20.756  0.017  173.443 
9.  Tomas Scheckter  Dallara-Chevrolet  20.795  0.039  173.121 
10.  Ryan Briscoe  Panoz-Toyota  20.862  0.067  172.566 
11.  Alex Barron  Dallara-Toyota  20.881  0.019  172.406 
12.  Vitor Meira  Panoz-Honda  20.916  0.035  172.115 
13.  Kosuke Matsuura  Panoz-Honda  21.000  0.084  171.428 
14.  Tomas Enge  Dallara-Chevrolet  21.013  0.013  171.323 
15.  Danica Patrick  Panoz-Honda  21.056  0.043  170.972 
16.  Patrick Carpentier  Dallara-Toyota  21.099  0.043  170.627 
17.  Sam Hornish Jr.  Dallara-Toyota  21.230  0.131  169.571 
18.  A.J. Foyt IV  Dallara-Toyota  21.720  0.490  165.743 
19.  Ed Carpenter  Dallara-Toyota  21.813  0.093  165.042 
20.  Paul Dana  Dallara-Toyota  22.067  0.254  163.141 
21.  Tony Kanaan  Dallara-Honda  22.115  0.048  162.785 
22.  Roger Yasukawa  Dallara-Honda  22.653  0.538  158.917
Weather cold, rainy for NASCAR in Atlanta - again Weather cold, rainy for NASCAR in Atlanta - againIt's rainy, cold and dreary, so it must be time for a NASCAR race in Atlanta.  Why NASCAR doesn't move this race to a different date is beyond us.
US Military Announces New NASCAR Sponsorship US Military Announces New NASCAR SponsorshipLarry Fowler announced today that USMilitary.com will be the primary sponsor for their No. 92 car driven by Stanton Barrett for the Golden Coral 500 in Atlanta this weekend. In addition, USMilitary.com will be the primary sponsor at a second race to be determined.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the USMilitary.com,” said team owner Bob Jenkins. “As a one car team just starting out there is a tremendous amount work and investment required to run each week. This partnership helps us to keep moving forward as a full time competitor in the NEXTEL Cup. I have the utmost confidence in our driver Stanton Barrett and crew chief Fred Wanke to give USMilitary.com a strong car this weekend.”

“USmilitary.com is a web site used to provide our nation's youth the ability to research and compare which military service would be best suited for them,” commented Larry Fowler Director of USMilitary.com. “We are thrilled to partner with Front Row Motorsports, we feel that NASCAR is a great fit and will provide us an enormous amount of exposure over the course of the weekend. We look forward to this being the start of a long term relationship.” You can get more information about USMilitary.com at www.usmilitary.com. USMilitary.com offers info on Army, Navy, Marines, national Guard, Air Force and the Coast Guard.

Ferrari responds Ferrari respondsIn response to a document put out today at Sepang on behalf of the other nine teams competing in the Formula 1 World Championship, on the subject of Ferrari private testing, the company’s Managing Director, Jean Todt has made the following statement:

“We have taken note of the document and are somewhat surprised at its content given the fact that the other nine teams failed to show for the FIA meeting on 28th January held in London. The agenda for that meeting included discussion on possible important modifications to the regulations which could have come into effect from 2006 and led to a significant reduction in the costs of the sport. We also note that a meeting is planned, on a date to be decided between 6th to 8th April, when the subject for discussion is the future of the sport. However, this meeting does not provide for the attendance of the sporting authority, the FIA. We believe it is not the job of the teams to decide on the rules, even if they can make suggestions, leaving the sporting authority to establish the rules of the game. The FIA has convened a further meeting for 15th April next, in Paris to raise once more the themes that should have been discussed back on 28th January. We are open to discuss any proposals that can lead to an effective reduction in costs, above all for those teams that do not reap any benefit from the current situation.

“As for the specific point of private testing,” continued Todt, “I wish to go on record and state that Ferrari is the only team moving Bridgestone’s tire development forward, which is also of benefit to the other two teams (Jordan and Minardi) who have an agreement with the Japanese supplier. If we analyze the testing that has taken place in the first months of 2005, it can be seen that Bridgestone runners did a quarter of the total mileage achieved by those teams who are with the other tire supplier. This situation can hardly be seen as advantageous to us. When the previous testing agreement was coming to an end, we tried to find a new compromise, which took the reality of the current situation into account. Unfortunately this did not prove possible and therefore we felt that no testing guidelines were in place anymore and we intend to continue on that premise. Finally, we wish to put on record that the test program currently underway, without artificial limitation and more efficient in terms of its use of manpower and resources, will lead to a reduction in our costs currently estimated to be of the order of over two million Euro." Ferrari

Malaysian heat difficult for drivers Malaysian heat difficult for driversPity the drivers in Sunday's Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix if the safety car is called out. That, and the pit stops, will make for an agonizing experience in Sepang where track temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius -- the cockpit can reach 50 degrees -- and humidity can reach 90 percent. For an hour and a half on Sunday afternoon there will be nowhere to hide. Anything that slows a driver down, such as the safety car, merely piles on the pain. "You want a very fast race, no safety cars and just to get it over and done with," says Williams' Australian driver Mark Webber, who has yet to finish a race at Sepang in three attempts. Reuters
Malaysia Friday Press Conference Malaysia Friday Press ConferenceTEAM PRINCIPALS: Ross BRAWN (Ferrari), Mike GASCOYNE (Toyota), Sam MICHAEL (Williams), Pat SYMONDS (Renault) and Geoffrey WILLIS (B A R). Transcript
Barnhart almost penalized Kanaan Barnhart almost penalized KanaanTony Kanaan might be the defending Indy Racing League champion, but he's not exempt from scrutiny.  League president Brian Barnhart said he considered penalizing the Brazilian for blocking Sam Hornish Jr. late in the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  "He was being very good at using his half out of the middle of the track," Barnhart said of Kanaan.

Barnhart, who put Kosuke Matsuura on probation for causing an eight-car accident, said he didn't intervene because Kanaan and Hornish didn't touch and neither seemed capable of catching Dan Wheldon, who led 128 of the race's final 130 laps.  "I was fairly close (to intervening), but it's one of those real difficult judgment calls," Barnhart said. "It was too close for me to get involved." Indy Star

Friday roundup - Malaysia Friday roundup - MalaysiaFerrari: Michael Schumacher, who had a spin in the heat, insists the F2004M is ''competitive. My session two times don't mean much.'' Teammate Rubens Barrichello spun out of contention in session two, but commented: ''The car feels good.''

BAR-Honda: A hot-looking Jenson Button thinks he's made a 'good start' to the event. Takuma Sato spun in the morning and said the 007's balance is ''good. It's really hot in the cockpit! We're looking good.''

Red Bull-Cosworth: Bad luck for 'third' man Tonio Liuzzi, whose suspension failed in the second session, and Christian Klien, with an electronic glitch. ''The track is really slippery,'' the Austrian said.

McLaren-Mercedes: Kimi Raikkonen dropped it in the gravel in session two, but teammate Juan Pablo Montoya insists the MP4-20 ''has the pace.'' ''I was a little too optimistic into turn 8,'' Kimi admitted.

Minardi-Cosworth: Paul Stoddart, looking over the Friday time sheet, lashed out at the FIA for attacking speed at the wrong end of the grid. ''The top ten cars were ... faster than last year,'' he moaned, whilst pointing out that the PS04B is 3 seconds slower.

Renault: Giancarlo Fisichella complained about oversteer, ''but our basic performance is good.'' Fernando Alonso also mentioned 'nervous' handling.

Sauber-Petronas: Felipe Massa, top of session two, talked about 'encouraging' pace, but ailing teammate Jacques Villeneuve languished with a desperately slower time. ''We need to find more speed,'' he admitted, although Peter Sauber said - due to different programs - the pair's gap 'is not representative.'

BMW-Williams: Forget the lap time, Nick Heidfeld thinks he's pretty quick. Mark Webber would hardly know -- he barely turned an afternoon lap with a gearbox glitch. ''All the improvements we brought,'' said technical director Sam Michael, ''are working correctly.''

Jordan-Toyota: Narain Karthikeyan called Sepang a 'difficult' track for a F1 rookie to learn. ''But I have to go with what I have,'' said F1's first Indian.

Toyota: Jarno Trulli opted out of the morning session, but suffered electronic drama in the afternoon. ''I don't have a clear idea about our performance,'' he said. Ralf Schumacher, though, said TF105 is 'quite competitive.' 'Third' man Ricardo Zonta was Friday's fastest.

New F1 rules called a success New F1 rules called a success[Editor's Note: This smacks in the face of Paul Stoddart's idiotic comments that the new F1 rules forced through by Max Mosley were ruining the sport. Stoddart is losing more credibility each time he opens his mouth and it may not be long before Bernie Ecclestone sees to it that he is bought out and removed from the paddock.] The sport's new rules to slow cars were declared a success Friday by some key F1 technical chiefs, but warned it will not take long for speeds to increase once again. If not for the new rules, the cars would have been significantly faster this year.

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn said: "I think the rules have been successful in slowing the cars down despite some skepticism. They have genuinely slowed them down so have been successful in that. You must remember that without the changes we would be one or two seconds faster than last year so the progress of the tire companies has been slowed down and on the car and I think it was necessary."

At Williams, Sam Michael, agrees that the changes have reduced speeds but admitted they were not as severe as first thought and warned that all teams are racing to get back to where they were last year. "They are not as bad as we thought they were going to be in terms of management," he said. "On the aerodynamics side the downforce levels have changed, but everyone is working very hard to get them back to where they were." "That's why I think you will see a lot of developments in the first three or four races. And also on the tire front, I think both tire companies were quite conservative in Melbourne. The wear rates were pretty low compared to what we may see later on in the year and that is understandable given all the concern pre-season and it won't take long for them to get to the wear rates they intend to reach."

"As to the format of the racing, it is too early to tell," said Brawn. "I think we'll have to see how it goes for a while. It is tough, the two race engine, and not everyone is doing the mileage they might have done. But I think as the season goes on the mileage will build up and there will more mileage on Friday and Saturday than we have at the moment."

Ferrari expects new car to be fast Ferrari expects new car to be fastFerrari expect their new car to shoot them ahead of their rivals and may introduce it at the next race in Bahrain, technical director Ross Brawn said in Malaysia Friday.  "Luca Badoer says he is really pleased with it and I think it will be somewhere between 0.5 and a full second faster than the current car," said Brawn ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

"We have an option to bring it to Bahrain but a lot will depend on this weekend and a lot on next week which is the first week the racing drivers will get to drive the car," said Brawn. "Luca Badoer has been driving it in testing. He is very positive about the car, but I would like to hear what Michael and Rubens say about the car before we make a decision. 

"So, we are testing next week. We could if wanted to stretch it take it to Bahrain and it will depend on our competitiveness this weekend whether we feel the new car could have made a difference to whatever results we get."

And Brawn admitted: "Obviously if we had changed it, we wouldn't have had the option to take the new car for Michael to Bahrain. It could have been an option. So we didn't do it, to give us the option to run the new car in Bahrain."

Formula BMW
Hot Wheels joins Jensen in 2005 Hot Wheels joins Jensen in 2005Jensen MotorSport is pleased to announce that Hot Wheels will join the team for some exciting events during the 2005 racing season.  Hot Wheels is the brand of El Segundo California based Mattel Inc., which produces the world famous line of miniature and scale model cars.

Jensen is pleased to announce that Hot Wheels logos will be on the #43 Formula BMW USA entry of John Zartarian. John, who is 18 years old and hails from Carlsbad California, is set to commence his rookie season in the Formula BMW USA championship. John joins Jensen MotorSport following a successful career in the national karting ranks.

The Formula BMW series is an exciting fourteen race development series, where drivers compete at major race venues including the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis and the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. The 2005 season kicks off at the Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey California on April 30th.

Of interest, the Hot Wheels brand is also an official sponsor of a private party that Jensen MotorSport will again host for friends in the Formula One community at the world famous Monaco Grand Prix. Our party on Monte Carlo beach is the night of Friday, May 20th.  For more details about the team and our plans for the 2005 season, contact us via e-mail at team@jensenmotorsport.com

Nine teams again attack Ferrari Nine teams again attack FerrariIn a press release, Ferrari's rivals have accused the world champions of using an 'unequal advantage' in testing. The teams have all agreed to limit their mid-season testing to 30 days but Ferrari, who have two private test tracks in Italy and run with two full-time test drivers, are reluctant to accept the moves.

"Ferrari refused to sign any testing agreement for 2005 unless it was given an increased allocation compared with its direct competitors," said the statement, distributed by Minardi here ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. "It is unsurprising that the other teams declined to grant Ferrari such a competitive advantage."

"Ferrari's actions not only potentially destabilize Formula One and increase costs, but also provide Ferrari with an unequal advantage over all the other teams. Inevitably, such action on the part of Ferrari can only increase costs within Formula One and undermine the principle of a level playing field in the sport."

And in the statement the teams added: "The nine teams are requesting that Ferrari now reconsiders its position and acts in a responsible manner to support this valuable cost-saving initiative."

Pit stop competition at Sebring Pit stop competition at SebringNine ALMS teams are scheduled to take part in the Klein Tools Pit Stop competition at 6:15 p.m. Thursday in pit lane.  Teams represented include the No. 31 Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, No. 16 and 20 Dyson Racing Lola EX257 AERs, No. 5 Pacific Coast Motorsports Corvette C5-R, No. 63 ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen S7R, No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, No. 51 Panoz Motor Sports Panoz Esperante GTLM, No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C6-R, and No. 24 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.  Thursday's competition is the first of two preliminary rounds, the second of which will be at next month's Grand Prix of Road Atlanta. First prize is $10,000.
Patrick turns heads on, off track Patrick turns heads on, off trackOK, let's get it out of the way right now.  Yes, Indy Racing League rookie Danica Patrick is drop-dead gorgeous and, yes, she did pose provocatively two years ago in FHM, a men's magazine.  Turn to page 22 in the Rahal Letterman Racing media guide and there's also a photo of Patrick wearing a white trench coat and seemingly little else.

That's one side.

Then, there's another side, a side that Indy Racing League co-car owner Bobby Rahal admires, a side that he believes will soon showcase her true hidden talents.  Well, not so hidden.  Before Rahal hired her to a three-year contract to drive a Toyota Atlantic beginning in 2003, then promoted her to an IRL driving position this season, Patrick was making a name for herself in various racing circuits.  More at Arizona Republic

Malaysian GP - Hot times Malaysian GP - Hot timesWith ambient temperatures approaching 40 Centigrade and the track hitting 55 degrees in the afternoon session today, there is talk of this event being the hottest grand prix since the 1978 race in Argentina. On that day in Buenos Aires, temperatures soared to such an extent that the fire extinguisher in Mario Andretti’s Lotus actually exploded!

In Malaysia, it is tires and engines that are likely to suffer more than extinguishers, especially as the majority of drivers will be tackling their second successive race weekend with the same engine as used in Melbourne. Actually, Michael Schumacher is in an unusual position engine-wise: following an engine change on Saturday in Melbourne and the fact he retired on lap 42 of 57 in the race, he has what Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro technical director Ross Brawn described as “spare mileage.”

This meant the world champion completed more laps than team-mate Rubens Barrichello and was able to carry out most of the tire evaluation work. The Brazilian did actually complete less laps than intended this afternoon, as he spun into the gravel trap. Fortunately, his F2004 M was returned to the pits and he was able to rattle off a final trio of laps. Even with this limited running, Rubens was able to conclude that his car feels competitive. He posted the seventh quickest time, having completed 11 laps over both sessions. Schumacher did 35 and was unconcerned about lap times, setting the 16th fastest time, while concentrating on doing long runs. The top three today were Felipe Massa (Sauber,) Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren-Mercedes) and Ricardo Zonta, third driver for Toyota.

Four drivers (both BAR-Honda,) Nick Heidfeld (BMW-Williams) and Cristijan Albers (Minardi) have started this weekend with fresh engines. However, at the start of the weekend, the FIA issued a clarification to the engine change rule aimed at plugging the loophole which allowed engines to be changed after Australia for tactical reasons rather than mechanical failure. Ferrari

Upgrades for Talladega Upgrades for TalladegaThe definition of the term "southern hospitality" can be found in the various hospitality packages offered to fans at Talladega Superspeedway, and track officials announced today they've even taken it up a notch with new Allison Avenue Chalets, a new Green Flag Club and an expanded Paddock Club area.

"For the first time ever, we are excited to offer trackside chalets on the east side of the track near the Allison Grandstand, which are designed to provide excellent option for individuals and corporations to entertain groups of about 50 people during race weekends," said Talladega Superspeedway Vice President/General Manager Rick Humphrey. "We are also introducing the new Green Flag Club which was created to provide a way to allow even smaller groups - about eight people - to have a shared luxury experience while attending our events. The Paddock Club is suited to those who prefer to purchase hospitality experiences on an individual basis, and we are pleased we were able to expand that area to accommodate another 240 people."

The Allison Avenue Chalet package includes 50 chalet passes per day to allow guests access to the air-conditioned chalet Saturday and Sunday, 50 reserved Saturday Allison Grandstand tickets and 50 reserved Sunday Allison Grandstand tickets, inside seating for 24 guests, patio seating for 12 guests, two worker passes per day and 10 Allison Chalet/Hospitality parking passes. The package also includes 50 pre-race pit passes (Sunday only, schedule and weather permitting) allowing guests access to pit road until one hour prior to track activity, closed-circuit television, private security guard, one chalet identification sign, daily cleaning service and weekend newspaper delivery. An option to purchase catering for guests is also included.

The new Green Flag Club was created to give race fans an even more exclusive Talladega Superspeedway race weekend experience, and is ideal for small groups. Membership to the Green Flag Club is available for the first time this spring, and includes: eight reserved tower tickets for the Aaron's 499 on Sunday; a table featuring your company's name reserved for eight guests in the Green Flag Club located in Hospitality Village; four suite/hospitality parking passes; a pre-race pit road tour (time and weather permitting), which is a guided, walking tour of pit road hosted by the Pit Tour Club; catering for continental breakfast, buffet lunch and beverages; eight race scanner rentals; eight souvenir race programs and eight Talladega Superspeedway souvenirs.

The Paddock Club is located just behind pit road, adjacent to Gatorade Victory Lane. Packages to this club are available on Sunday only, and include: a grandstand seat in the expanded viewing area - which is a covered grandstand complete with closed-circuit televisions; catering for continental breakfast, buffet lunch and beverages; pre-race pit pass allowing access to pit road until one hour prior to track activity (time and weather permitting), and a Paddock Club infield parking pass. Paddock Club membership costs only $175. The club viewing area now has 240 more seats, enabling that many more fans to be as close to the NASCAR action as possible without having to join a pit crew!

The first opportunity to enjoy these new and expanded experiences will come with the first race weekend of the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season at Talladega Superspeedway, the Aaron's Dream Weekend set for April 29 - May 1. For pricing and availability, please call 1-877-Go2-DEGA (1-877-462-3342).

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Klien may keep seat
Jumping to Jacques' defense
Schu's no Rambo - DC
Put a buck on Kimi R.
Sepang may be old car's last
BMW 'rumors' - Sir Frank
Tire warning
Briton on F1 brink
'Advice' for Indian rookie
Sam M. planning Webber win
Button backs BAR bypass
Crash-a-holic is F1 'top' man
Third car would be 'big help'
New F1 sponsor (or two)
'What clash?' - Schu rivals
Doornbos impressive for Jordan Doornbos impressive for JordanJordan Grand Prix enjoyed a positive start to the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, running three cars in today’s two one-hour official practice sessions. Team personnel spent their time adjusting the Jordan EJ15 chassis for the requirements of the demanding Sepang International Circuit and were pleased at the end of the afternoon session with the lap times made by the drivers, especially with track temperatures rising as high as 55°C and by the fact that it was the drivers’ first experience on this circuit. Robert Doornbos led the way for the team as the test driver recorded a best lap of 1:37.878s for 17th fastest while Narain Karthikeyan was almost a second slower (1:38.855s) in 19th position while Tiago Monteiro was 21st on a 1:39.755s. Friday’s technical program ran smoothly and the team looks forward to making further useful progress tomorrow.

Robert Doornbos “I love this great circuit, which I have practiced a lot on the Playstation. The morning session went very well; I had to do a lot of work for the team, especially in these conditions where it is very important to make the right choice of tires.”

Narain Karthikeyan “Sepang International Circuit is quite difficult to learn because it is very flowing and dusty and for a rookie it is quite tricky to find the correct line, but I have to go with what I have and try to improve my times tomorrow.”

Tiago Monteiro "It was an interesting day. I had to learn the track as quickly as possible and get a feel for it with such high temperatures. We know now which Bridgestone tires we will use for the rest of the weekend and we will adapt our strategy according to our choice.”

A tough start for BMW Williams in Malaysia A tough start for BMW Williams in MalaysiaThe Malaysian GP weekend kicked off today with the first and second Free Practice sessions, which were run in very hot weather conditions. Nick Heidfeld had a productive day, whereas Mark Webber’s track time in the second session was limited to two laps due to a gear shifting problem. Heidfeld was sixth fastest in the first session with a lap of 1:36.551 and 15th in the second session on a 1:37.067s. Webber was tenth fastest in the first session on a 1:36.989s.

Nick Heidfeld "It was a problem free Friday session for me and I managed to do everything we had planned. Several yellow flags and some traffic hampered the second session, but it was the same for everyone, after all. Looking at the final times of today, I am sure we are a lot quicker than it shows."

Mark Webber "Not an ideal day for me, but these things can happen. We had a gear shifting problem, which cost us the running in the second, most important session. Anyway, at least it looks like Nick collected some good information, which was the main objective, so now we can do our homework and be ready for tomorrow."

Ferrari works on race setups Ferrari works on race setupsThe opening day of the Malaysian Grand Prix was a difficult one for the Ferrari team with Rubens Barrichello losing valuable track time due to a spin and Michael Schumacher not showing good pace despite his long run in the second of today’s practice sessions. Barrichello recovered from his off-track excursion to record the seventh fastest time in the second of the two practice sessions while Schumacher completed long runs collecting data for the team to analyze overnight. Schumacher ended the second session 16th fastest, but was faster in the first session with a time which would have been good for ninth overall.

Rubens Barrichello “I made a mistake on my first run out of the pits this afternoon and spun the car. I was lucky that they were able to get the car back to the garage, so I was able to go out again and do three more laps. Michael did a lot of running, so we will have plenty of data to work with. Even with just those three laps, I could tell that the car feels very competitive.”

Michael Schumacher “I am pleased with the amount of work we got through today, which has provided us with plenty of data to analyze overnight. I think we look competitive compared with our main rivals and my times in the second session do not mean much, as I was running on old tires. My times in first practice and Ruben’s performance this afternoon are a better indication of our true level. The car and engine worked well all day. A lot of us spun this afternoon and I think it is due to two factors: the very high temperatures are affecting tire grip and, at some points on the track, the wind is quite strong, which adds to the difficulty of keeping the car on track.”

Massa buries Villeneuve again Massa buries Villeneuve againSauber Petronas drivers Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve finished first and 18th respectively after today's first practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The team ran both drivers on different fuel loads and claim that the 2.8 second gap between the two drivers is due to their different programs. While Massa was delighted to be fastest he admitted that he is not too sure where he stands compared to his rivals. Massa recorded the fastest time in the second session with a 1:35.608s best while Villeneuve recorded a 1:38.121s. In the first session Massa was ninth fastest (1:36.963) with Villeneuve 16th (1:38.416.)

Felipe Massa "At the moment we are not 100% sure where we are, and this was just a Friday, but it's encouraging. We still have a lot more work to do to improve the car and consistency on long runs, but right from the first time I drove the C24 I knew we had a car that can fight for points. I lost probably four-tenths of a second on my quick lap because I had David Coulthard ahead for two corners, then when I overtook him I locked my brakes and lost some time in the next corner. So, overall, I'm happy with the way things are going and the start we've made to the weekend."
Jacques Villeneuve "I spent a lot of time checking out the set-up, and we made some progress. On the long runs we need to do more work for the race and we need to find some more speed."

Juan says McLaren has the pace Juan says McLaren has the paceMcLaren Mercedes drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa finished today's practice sessions at the Sepang circuit in second, fourth and 13th places respectively. Raikkonen spun his car coming into turn eight at the start of the second session and as a result was only able to do a limited amount of laps. Montoya's fastest time was 1:35.620 whilst Raikkonen did 1:35.719 and Pedro de la Rosa 1:37.033. The hot and humid conditions saw track temperatures soar to 56 degrees Celsius.

Juan Pablo Montoya "We have been working on the balance of the car trying different things to see what works for me, and we are going in the right direction. It was quite slippery out there due to the heat, but I didn't experience any problems. We definitely have the pace and now we need to make it work when it matters, which is on Sunday. As always in Malaysia it's very hot in the car, but we are prepared for this."

Kimi Raikkonen "My car felt good and our Michelin tires seem to be working and wearing well. I didn't do as many laps as planned in the second session as I was a little too optimistic going into turn eight, spun into the gravel trap and was unable to continue. However we managed to get the car back to the garage and the guys did a great job to make sure that at least I got a run at the end."
Pedro de la Rosa "The majority of my work today has been to evaluate the Michelin tires and we completed our program as planned. We gained a lot of useful data for working out the right choice for tomorrow. I think we have a competitive package as a result of a good co-operation with Michelin at a track which is especially demanding for the tires."

Ron Dennis "Apart from Kimi's off we completed today's planned program. Our package seems to be working well here at Sepang, and we are looking forward to the rest of the weekend and what should be an exciting race in extremely hot conditions for the team, especially the drivers and the cars."

Norbert Haug "We ran our normal program focusing on tire evaluation and comparison under race conditions. In the second session Kimi could only run for two timed laps after his spin. Juan Pablo completed his program and Pedro did a good job to sort out the tires. The entire team has worked well in the extreme conditions. We expect the race to be one of the toughest." McLaren Mercedes

Malaysia: Massa over Montoya in Practice 2 Malaysia: Massa over Montoya in Practice 2Felipe Massa set the fastest time of the second testing session in Malaysia Friday giving the locals something to cheer about as the Sauber cars carry Malaysia sponsor Petronas.  Massa's best lap was just one hundredth of a second faster than Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren.
1. FELIPE MASSA Sauber-Petronas M 1:35.608
2. JUAN PABLO MONTOYA McLaren-Mercedes M 1:35.620
3. RICARDO ZONTA Toyota M 1:35.677
4. KIMI RAIKKONEN McLaren-Mercedes M 1:35.719
5. RALF SCHUMACHER Toyota M 1:35.838
6. GIANCARLO FISICHELLA Renault M 1:35.841
7. RUBENS BARRICHELLO Ferrari B 1:35.949
8. JENSON BUTTON BAR-Honda M 1:35.992
9. FERNANDO ALONSO Renault M 1:36.103
10. DAVID COULTHARD Red Bull-Cosworh M 1:36.575
11. JARNO TRULLI Toyota M 1:36.841
12. CHRISTIAN KLIEN Red Bull-Cosworth M 1:36.968
13. PEDRO DE LA ROSA McLaren-Mercedes M 1:37.033
14. TAKUMA SATO BAR-Hona M 1:37.044
15. NICK HEIDFELD Williams-BMW M 1:37.067
16. MICHAEL SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1:37.270
17. ROBERT DOORNBOS Jordan-Toyota B 1:37.878
18. JACQUES VILLENEUVE Sauber-Petronas M 1:38.121
19. NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN Jordan-Toyota B 1:38.855
20. VITANTONIO LIUZZI Red Bull Racing M 1:39.349
21. TIAGO MONTEIRO Jordan-Toyota B 1:39.755
22. PATRICK FRIESACHER Minardi-Cosworth B 1:40.940
23. CHRISTIJAN ALBERS Minardi-Cosworth B 1:41.156
24. MARK WEBBER Williams-BMW M No Time
Man held in Letterman kidnap plot Man held in Letterman kidnap plotAuthorities on Thursday charged a man in what they say was a plot to kidnap David Letterman's toddler son and nanny from the talk-show host's Montana home.  Kelly A. Frank, 43, was being held on a felony charge of solicitation, among others.    Montana Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sally Hilander said the plot was uncovered when someone whom Frank had approached about the plan informed local police.  AP
Malaysia: Zonta fastest in first practice Malaysia: Zonta fastest in first practiceThird Toyota driver Ricardo Zonta was fastest in the first practice session in Malaysia. In fact the three fastest drivers were "Friday" drivers with Pedro de la Rosa 2nd for McLaren and Vitantonio Liuzzi 3rd for Red Bull.
1. RICARDO ZONTA Toyota M 1:34.092
2. PEDRO DE LA ROSA McLaren-Mercedes M 1:35.144
3. VITANTONIO LIUZZI Red Bull Racing M 1:35.691
4. MICHAEL SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1:36.011
5. JENSON BUTTON BAR-Honda M 1:36.513
6. NICK HEIDFELD Williams-BMW M 1:36.551
7. KIMI RAIKKONEN McLaren-Mercedes M 1:36.563
8. JUAN PABLO MONTOYA McLaren-Mercedes M 1:36.610
9. FELIPE MASSA Sauber-Petronas M 1:36.963
10. MARK WEBBER Williams-BMW M 1:36.989
11. RALF SCHUMACHER Toyota M 1:37.168
12. DAVID COULTHARD Red Bull-Cosworh M 1:37.338
13. TAKUMA SATO BAR-Hona M 1:37.366
14. CHRISTIAN KLIEN Red Bull-Cosworth M 1:37.642
15. RUBENS BARRICHELLO Ferrari B 1:37.843
16. JACQUES VILLENEUVE Sauber-Petronas M 1:38.416
17. TIAGO MONTEIRO Jordan-Toyota B 1:39.571
18. ROBERT DOORNBOS Jordan-Toyota B 1:40.289
19. NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN Jordan-Toyota B 1:40.375
20. PATRICK FRIESACHER Minardi-Cosworth B 1:43.574
21. CHRISTIJAN ALBERS Minardi-Cosworth B 1:43.691
23. FERNANDO ALONSO Renault M No Time
24. JARNO TRULLI Toyota M No Time
Dominguez all set with HVM Dominguez all set with HVMAutoRacing1.com caught up with Mario Dominguez in Mexico Thursday night. Mario confirmed that his ride with HVM is set for 2005. "We have most of our sponsors (Mexican) signed, there's just a few more deals to wrap up. We will be in Sebring testing next week and ready for Long Beach," said Dominguez. "However, right now I don't have a teammate because the necessary sponsorship has not materialized."

Champ Car and the IRL have pretty much been stripped dry of all the Mexican sponsors they had, but Dominguez was at a loss to explain why. "You know as much as I know about where all the sponsors have gone," said Dominguez. "It's somewhat baffling to me too. The word here in Mexico City is that the people really didn't like the NASCAR race that much so to say the sponsors are going to NASCAR, I'm not sure."

When asked if Champ Car was on the verge of losing the Mexican market completely, Dominguez wasn't sure. "This year they will have me.  I have not heard whether Rodolfo Lavin will have Corona back but Roberto Gonzalez has lost Nextel because they don't want to be involved if they can't be on the car because of the NASCAR deal with Nextel."

Tecate Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pageant Tecate Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach PageantFor the second straight year, the Tecate Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pageant will be held on Saturday, April 9 during race weekend, but this time, there's more at stake than just representing the Grand Prix on Sunday and at various functions throughout 2005-06.  This year's winner will be flown to the Champ Car World Series Awards Night at season's end in Mexico City to compete for the title of the "Face of Champ Car," where she will compete against similar contest winners at Champ Car races in Cleveland, Toronto, Edmonton, San Jose and Australia.  The winner will become 'The Face" of the Champ Car World Series in 2006!

The Long Beach Pageant will be held on the Convention Center outdoor stage immediately following the Saturday night, April 9 "Rock-N-Roar" performance of "Pennywise." The concert and pageant are free to all race ticket holders. (L to R): Melinda DeFazio (3rd), Natalie James (Winner), Lisa Gleave (2nd). 

Interested females between the ages of 21-30  - and who are available for race weekend, April 8-10 - can take part in two preliminary contests leading up to the actual pageant, where finalists will be selected at each event. The first will be held Thursday, March 24 at V20, located in the Pike at Rainbow Harbor Complex, and the second will be held Saturday night, March 26 at Vault350,  350 Pine Avenue.  For information on entering either the preliminaries or the Pageant, log on to "missgrandprix@usa.com or go to www.faceofchampcar.com.

The winner of the Tecate Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pageant receives $1,000 and designer jewelry from "Pepe The Jeweler."  First and second runners-up receive $500/designer jewelry and $400/designer jewelry, respectively.

Last year, Australian-born Natalie James was named 2004 Tecate Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  First runner-up was Lisa Gleave and second runner-up was Melinda DeFazio.  All three women represented the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach at a variety of promotions and parades throughout the year.

The Tecate Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pageant is conducted by Tecate, the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford and Procon Leisure International.

RCR Names Interim Crew Chief for the No.29 RCR Names Interim Crew Chief for the No.29Richard Childress Racing says chief engineer Scott Miller will take over crew chief duties for the team's #29 Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick for this weekend's Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Miller will fill in for crew chief Todd Berrier after NASCAR suspended Berrier for four races for a fuel cell infraction last weekend at Las Vegas. The team has said it will appeal the terms of the suspension. NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Rain washes out Sebring qualifying Rain washes out Sebring qualifyingUPDATE See full storyQuotes from front row teams:
JJ Lehto (Fin). Age: 39. Born: Espoo, Finland. Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco:
“I got pole at Sebring for two years in a row now. Of course we were a bit lucky this time, but we would have had a car to achieve this anyway. Conditions have been very difficult so far. The track has been bad as never before in the previous years and we don’t know yet how the rain will affect the track. But I am pretty confident. The car is good and I am happy I have such a good team around me.”

Marco Werner (D). Age: 38. Born: Dortmund, Germany. Lives: Kreuzlingen, Switzerland:
“Today we’ve seen again how important it is to give 100 percent anytime you are in the car – even in a free practice session. This gave us pole position. Of course, the first place on the grid is not so important in a 12-hour race. But two Audi R8 cars on the front row make up a nice picture when the race starts.”

Tom Kristensen (Den). Age: 37. Born: Hobro, Denmark. Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco:
“Obviously I am very happy we are on pole. I know Sebring well. We’ve tested here earlier this year and I had so many miles in the R8 that I don’t see it as a problem I wont have too many laps before the race. I know that Marco, JJ and Team Champion have prepared a good car.”

Frank Biela (D). Age: 40. Born: Neuss, Germany. Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco: 
“Things are looking good for Audi and for the Champion team. But it is difficult to judge were we are really standing because track conditions kept changing all the time. One time, there was more grip, the next time less – and on top of that the rain on Thursday. I think the situation has never been as open before the start of the race.”

Emanuele Pirro (It). Age: 43. Born: Rome, Italy. Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco:
“Normally at Sebring there is every day more rubber on the track and you get more and more grip. This time this was not the case due to the changing weather conditions. We had to modify the setup a little bit and I am very happy with the work we did. Both our cars very equally fast in all the sessions. We have a very good setup for the race, so I’m looking forward to it.”   

Allan McNish (GB). Age: 35. Born: Dumfries, Scotland. Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco:
“I know the Audi R8 very well and I know Sebring very well. Losing track time because of the weather doesn’t affect me as much as it would other drivers. When I did the installation lap this morning it was too wet to go full throttle. From that point of view it was the right decision to cancel qualifying.”

Dave Maraj (Team Director Team ADT Champion Racing): “It is a very good feeling to have both cars on the front row of the grid, especially as all the AUDI AG board members are coming to see the race. We are well prepared, the cars are running well, we are in a good position and hope to have a nice clean race.“

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “2005 is most likely the last season for the Audi R8. Seeing to of our R8 sports cars start from the front row of the grid at Sebring at the beginning of this season, makes me especially happy as the R8 started its winning streak at Sebring exactly five years ago.”

03/17/05 The American Le Mans Series officials canceled qualifying for the 12 Hours of Sebring due to rain, so the field will start according the their average practice times from yesterday.  More later......
Sellers in two races at Sebring Sellers in two races at SebringBryan Sellers, who graduated from the prestigious Lynx Racing driver development program in 2004, will drive in two different races this weekend at the 53rd annual 12 Hours of Sebring.

Sellers, a standout in the hotly-contested 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship with the Lynx team, will compete in the Pro Formula Mazda open-wheel race on Friday driving for M-J Motorsports with teammate Marco Andretti. 

On Saturday, Sellers will take the wheel of the second factory Panoz Esperante GTLM, #51, co-driven by Gunnar Jeannette and Scott Maxwell, and compete in the GT2 class at the 12-hour event

Sellers is a prime contender to win both events; with his wealth of open-wheel experience (including winning the 2002 Formula Ford Zetec championship with 8 victories and 7 pole positions), he was third fastest in the first Formula Mazda practice session on Wednesday.  And, in his first-ever drive in a production-based sports car, the TRG East Porsche GT3 (pictured right), Sellers captured the pole position at the Rolex Sports Car Grand Prix of Miami three weeks ago and was leading until mechanical problems sidelined the car. 

Sebring will be Seller’s first drive for the Panoz factory team, a seat he hopes to keep for the duration of the 2005 season.  Sellers is a graduate of the Lynx Racing driver development program owned by Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty.  Lynx graduates include 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, 2002 Indy 500 Rookie of the year Alex Barron and Champ Car veterans Patrick Carpentier and Memo Gidley.  The Formula Mazda race at Sebring is scheduled to take the green flag at 2:40 pm Friday, March 18.  The 53rd annual Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring is scheduled to start at 10:45 am Saturday, March 19.

PanAm Championship attracting international interest PanAm Championship attracting international interestThe PanAm Formula Renault Championships will get underway at the end of the month with the Sunshine State Shootout at Homestead Miami Speedway, and the kick off event for the series has attracted interest from teams and drivers from across the globe. The series has also continued to grow its staff to manage and operate the multinational championship, with experienced motorsports professionals being tapped to help the series’ continued growth.
The Championship, which will host races in Canada, the United States, Costa Rica, Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil, has naturally created significant interest for drivers hailing from those countries. Series organizers have also been pleased with the interest shown from drivers, as nearly a hundred potential racers have registered their interest with the series from markets as diverse as France, Italy, Hungary, Ireland, Korea, China, South Africa, Columbia, and the United Kingdom.
The PanAm Formula Renault V6 Champion will earn the once in a lifetime opportunity to test a Formula 1 car, and will also enjoy a fully funded season in the 2006 World Series by Renault Championship, the next step up the Renault ladder to Formula 1. The PanAm Formula Renault 2.0-liter Champion will in turn receive a funded drive in the 2006 PanAm Formula Renault V6 Championship, and have the opportunity to win their way up the ladder as well.
To address the interest in the series and in preparation for the inaugural season, the PanAm Formula Renault Championship infrastructure has continued to sign high-level staff to manage the operations behind the series. Erasmo Saliti will bring his wide experience in the sport and technical background to his role as Chairman of Stewards, a role he held with the Formula Renault Eurocup V6 Championship in 2004. Champ Car veteran Derek Higgins has been retained to manage the race-day officiating duties for all official PanAm meetings as Race Director. Allen Berg is the Managing Director for the series, bringing his experience as a Formula 1 driver as well has his extensive experience and contacts in the PanAm markets to the program.
Brett Ross will be handling the operations and logistics elements behind the multinational series, and Nonie Hinspeter will serve as head registrar and executive assistant. Connie Peplowski will be responsible for all timing and scoring for the two championships, with Joanne Kennedy handing the administrative aspects of the series.
UK-based Martin Sutcliff has been tapped as webmaster for the series, with fellow Brit Trish Carey overseeing the look and feel of the series, managing the promotional materials, uniforms, and podium celebrations for the championships. David Kemply will be overseeing the Parts Department, and David Lambert and Dave Siembida will work with Saliti on the scrutineering staff. Matthew Harper has joined to manage the series sponsors as Sponsor Liaison, and US-based Sunday Group Management is currently retained to provide media services to the series.
The Pan Am Formula Renault Series is intended to provide value to the drivers and teams participating, and cost-containment is a central goal of the Championships. In addition to the ban on in-season testing, the goal of cost-containment will also be addressed by the series being operated as a “container series,” meaning that Series organizers will manage the logistics of transporting the cars from race to race. This will allow a new generation of team owners to participate, as it precludes the need for significant capital investment in many of the elements (such as transporters or a shop) which were traditionally required to operate a race team.

Technical Support— PanAm officials have recently finalized agreements to facilitate trackside support at all PanAm events for the 2005 season.
Tire services and tech support will be provided by Bardi & Company, who has proven their services working with several Renault series in Europe, overseeing all tire supply and service for the 2004 Formula Renault V6 Championship and Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, and will also support the 2005 Renault World Series as well. Representatives from Bardi & Company will be in attendance at all 2005 PanAm official tests and races.
In addition, Renault Sport Technology and Tatuus representatives will be on hand for every PanAm event commencing with the Sunshine State Shootout to ensure full technical support for teams racing in the championship. Homestead will also be the site for a three-day workshop hosted by Renault and Tatuus to brief and prepare teams to work with the powerful Formula Renault V6.
Series officials have also partnered with LRM Motors, who handled all engine support for the 2004 Formula Renault V6 and FR2000 Eurocup, and will also be attending every PanAm event in support of the teams.
Renault Support— In addition to the significant support and interest from Renault Sport from Renault’s headquarters in Paris, the PanAm Formula Renault Championships will also enjoy the support of national Renault departments in Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina. Renault is working to facilitate the future for the series and for those drivers who find success, providing the opportunity to win fully funded racing in the Renault ladder to Formula 1.
Renault will also be providing training to scrutineers working with the PanAm Formula Renault Championship to insure compliance from teams and creating an equal platform for teams and drivers to compete on.
Sunshine State Prizes— The upcoming Sunshine State Shootout will offer a significant prize package to the driver and team that scores the two best results from the three races taking a prize package valued at over $90,000 in a ‘winner take all’ format. The prize package includes free Michelin tires for the entire 2005 Pan American Formula Renault 2.0-liter season, credit for the freight costs for all series-organized tests and races, and all race and test entry fees will be waived. The award will go to the team-driver combination, and will not be transferable to other teams.
While the top driver-team combination will take the big prize, other teams will benefit as well, as the top twenty percent of participating teams will receive the 2004-update kit as awards after the event.

Schedule News— The series has recently confirmed that the series will visit the historic Grand Prix de Trois Rivières, with the 2.0-liter Formula Renaults staging two races during the weekend, and the powerful Formula Renault V6 cars racing twice during the weekend. The full season schedule is currently being finalized, and the series is expected to make additional announcements in the coming weeks. Prospective teams and drivers can find additional information at www.panamracing.com, or contact PanAm Chief Registrar Nonie Hinspeter directly at 1-248-642-0537 and via email at: nonie.hinspeter@panamracing.com .

Champ Car hires new Dir. of Technology Champ Car hires new Dir. of TechnologyThe Champ Car World Series today names veteran race engineer Scot Elkins Director of Technology in the Champ Car Operations Department. 

Elkins takes over as Director of Technology after serving most recently as Chief Engineer at Robert Yates Racing where he was responsible for all engineering functions for the NASCAR team.  His duties included race simulations, race day fuel mileage calculation and Damper build specifications.  Elkins also headed up the team’s wind tunnel and seven post testing programs.

“We are very excited to bring Scot to Champ Car,” said Tony Cotman, Champ Car Vice President of Operations. “He has a very strong background in motorsports and will bring a wealth of knowledge to Champ Car.  We are continuing to grow the series and the addition of Scot is just one more piece that we needed to put into place.”

As technical director Elkins will be tasked with overseeing Champ Car’s technical program and will spend much of his time integrating with teams, engine, tire, and chassis suppliers to keep the series on the leading edge of technology.   He will also be responsible for future development in the series, aerodynamic work and simulations.  He will report directly to Tony Cotman.

“I am looking forward to joining Champ Car,” said Elkins, an Indiana State University graduate.  “It is a strong organization with a very strong base and  keeping the series at the forefront in technological development is one of my primary goals.”

Schumacher keeps Oz engine Schumacher keeps Oz engineThe likelihood of Ferrari racing its new F2005 in Bahrain was increased after the team revealed that Michael Schumacher will start practice in Malaysia with the same engine he used to race in the Australian Grand Prix. The news that Schumacher will use his Melbourne engine was confirmed by the team to ITV-F1 pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz. It means that the German will now be free to access the new car should it become available in Bahrain.
More testing of F2005 at Mugello More testing of F2005 at MugelloThird day of testing this week for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, working today at the Mugello circuit. At the wheel of an F2005, Luca Badoer worked on a technical program centered on general set-up work on the car. The official test driver completed a total of 82 laps (3 of them on the short version of the track,) the quickest being a 1’21’’942. As a reference, Rubens Barrichello holds the record at Mugello. The Brazilian's performance was set in 1'18"704 on 9 February 2004 at the wheel of an F2004. Testing continues at Mugello tomorrow, once again with Luca Badoer behind the wheel.
Charlotte landowner may help HOF Charlotte landowner may help HOFThe NASCAR Museum and Hall of Fame could be built in Uptown Charlotte.  Sources say the owner of land in 4th Ward will offer it as a site for the auto racing showplace.  The site is beside the Brookshire Freeway at Graham Street.  Sources say it is the kind of high-visibility location that NASCAR is seeking because it is near a major highway.  More at WSOCTV.com
Freestyle MX motocross added to Long Beach Freestyle MX motocross added to Long BeachThe Superman Seatgrab are coming to the Grand Prix at Long Beach ....and so are "Rock Solid," "Back Flips" and "Hart Attack."   They're just a few of the dynamite aerial moves race fans attending the April 8-10 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will see at the FreestyleMX.com Tour.

Four of the country's more daring MXers will be starring in three 25-minute shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday of race weekend in the arena at the Auto Club of Southern California Lifestyle Expo. Admission to the Expo is free to all race ticket holders.

They'll also help kick off the weekend festivities as part of Tecate's "Thursday Thunder on Pine" April 7 where - from 6-6:45 p.m. - they'll be bringing their high-air act to the streets of downtown Long Beach as part of the combination car show/pit stop competition/music festival.

The riders, who will jump ramp to ramp at a distance of 80 feet while performing their tricks in the air, are Jim "Backflip" McNeil (Gravity and X Games contender), Doug "Punk Rock" Parsons (Gravity and X Games medalist), Derek Garland (Metal Mulish member and IFMA series rider) and Jeremy Lusk, an IFMA series rider. 

The event will be announced by former X Games announcer and "King of the Cage" host Erik Apple.

"This is an exciting addition to an already-full weekend," said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.  "The sight of these riders doing their 'thing' both at the Expo and on Pine Avenue will certainly be one of the weekend's highlights."

Freestyle MX is one of the nation's most rapidly-growing sports and has become more advanced and daring with backflips, 360s and a variety of tricks invented by the riders themselves.
The Freestyle MX.com Tour was founded in 1996 by Marc Burnett and annually consists of more than 70 shows, including segments on David Letterman's late-night talk show and the KROQ Weenie Roast.

No strangers to auto racing, the Tour has also performed at the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and NHRA events. 

Tickets for the 31st Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will run April 8-10, 2005, are on sale now. The Champ Car World Series will again be the featured racing event. Tickets can be ordered via credit card by using the toll-free ticket hotline,  (888) 82-SPEED. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at longbeachgp.com, in person at the Grand Prix ticket office (3000 Pacific Ave., Long Beach, Calif., 90806).

Ticket prices range from $32 for a Friday/Saturday-only general admission ticket to $114 for a three-day ticket, which includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating on upper levels of the grandstands. Limited pre-paid parking packages are available and can be purchased when ordering tickets. Handicapped seating, Bosch Champ Car Garage passes, hospitality club packages and super photo tickets are also available for purchase.

For up-to-date ticket information, descriptions of the various club ticket packages, or for announcements of special Grand Prix event activities, visit the official Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Web site at longbeachgp.com.

SPEED Channel live at Atlanta SPEED Channel live at AtlantaEvery year, one of the biggest questions fans have is, “Where is Trackside?”  Here is the fan’s complete guide to all Speed Channel productions this week at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Speed stage is located outside the track, behind the Earnhardt Grandstand, near Gate 14.

NASCAR LIVE (Noon, 12:30pm, 1, 3, 4 and 6:00 p.m.)

Hosts: Steve Byrnes, Bob Dillner and John Roberts

Trackside - Friday @ 5:00PM (Taped; airs following World Financial Group 200 race)
Hosts: Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip
Guests: Ryan Newman - #12 Mobil Fed Ex Dodge ,  Mike Bliss - #0 Netzero Chevy,  Matt Kenseth - #17 Dewalt Ford 

NASCAR LIVE (10:30am)
Hosts: John Roberts and Bob Dillner
NASCAR Performance (Saturday 6:30p.m.)
Host: Dick Berggren, Chad Knaus (Crew Chief #48 Lowe's Chevy), Robert "Bootie" Barker (Crew Chief #0 Net Zero Chevy )
NASCAR This AM - 11:00 a.m.
Hosts: John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace

NEXTEL NIGHTS RETURN: Nextel Communications and Atlanta Motor Speedway are bringing the fun and entertainment of Hollywood to Atlanta with the 2005 debut of Nextel Nights, a free movie showing for NASCAR fans attending the Busch race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Academy Award® nominated DreamWorks Animation film, Shark Tale, featuring the voices of Will Smith, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Robert DeNiro, Angelina Jolie, and Martin Scorsese, will be shown on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on the Nextel Vision screen located outside the track. Shark Tale is rated PG for some mild language and crude humor.

Fans are encouraged to bring their own seating, including chairs and blankets, for the movie. Nextel Vision will be located between gates 13 and 14 in the display lot behind the Earnhardt grandstand.

Super Nova seats still up for grabs Super Nova seats still up for grabsChamp Car isn't the only open-wheel series with vacancies left with just a few weeks to go before the season kickoff. The new GP2 championship, which replaces F3000 as the premier steppingstone to F1, still counts two unclaimed seats as its April 23 San Marino debut approaches.

But unlike Champ Car, where most of the openings reside with the less-coveted teams, GP2 has two major competitive rides available with David Sears' Super Nova squad, which, among other things, helped Juan Pablo Montoya to the 1998 F3000 crown.

Pretenders to the jobs include Italian Giorgio Pantano and Frenchman Bruce Jouanny, who have both been linked with Champ Car rides - the former seemingly forever by now, while the latter tested one of Mi-Jack/Conquest cars this winter. The move would be a downgrade of sorts to Pantano, who raced in F1 for Jordan last year, but Coloni GP2 hiring Gianmaria Bruni has done the same thing after driving for Minardi in '04. British F3 standout Adam Carroll is also in Super Nova's frame.

Frontrunner for one of the seats is Japanese Hayanari Shimoda, who shared Super Nova driving duties with Pantano at last week's GP2 group test in Paul Ricard. Shimoda was believed to be a done deal with the team, but Sears has recently remarked that "nothing has been signed yet."  SPEEDTV.com

GP2 Series prepares for launch GP2 Series prepares for launchThe GP2 series is proud to announce that it will officially launch its inaugural championship season on Wednesday April 6th, at Circuit Paul Ricard HTTT, France. The launch of the 2005 campaign will be an opportunity for international media to meet the teams and drivers who will be competing for the very first GP2 series crowns, in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The day will begin at 11.00 CET and will finish at 16.00.

In the afternoon, a qualifying session will allow members of the media to view at first hand the pace of the cars as our drivers do battle for the fastest time of the day. The reward will be the distribution of race numbers for the season to come.

As of 0900 today, members of the media can register for the launch at www.gp2series.com. Press, photographers, television, radio and online journalists will also be able to request accreditation for the 2005 GP2 series championship on a race-by-race, seasonal, or test basis.

Johnny Mowlem Takes a Fast Lap of Sebring Johnny Mowlem Takes a Fast Lap of SebringACEMCO Motorsports driver Johnny Mowlem takes us on a fast lap of the 17-turn, 3.7-mile Sebring circuit behind the wheel of the number  63/ACEMCO Motorsports/Saleen S7-R GT1 racer. 

I cross the start finish line in sixth gear down the front stretch moving over to the right to get setup for turn one.  Braking point is right around the bridge and you begin your turn in.  There is a nice bump about half-way through which marks the apex and you exit and full throttle down to turn two.

Coming into turn two in fifth gear you go down to second, one of the slowest corners on the circuit.  At the exit there is quick blast of full throttle before the left and then go through the gears to sixth on the way down to the hairpin, turn seven.

Braking at the three-and-a-half marker for seven, I turn in gently being careful not to get too much wheel spin and go to fifth flat through the chicane running up to  turn ten.  I brake carefully again, down to third gear for the right hander and get to the middle of the road up to fourth gear, taking the two lefts flat to turn thirteen.

The entry to thirteen is tricky as your braking across the track diagonally.  There is a hole at the apex and the turn has positive camber so it kind of catches you.  The run across the airport is flat working up to sixth gear.

I carry as much speed as possible up the esses, down to fourth through there being conscious that the straight that follows is the fastest portion of the track.

The run down the seventeen sees us get the ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen up to top speed around 165 mph.  This is a good opportunity to pass a lot of GT2 traffic also being mindful of faster prototypes passing as well.  At the end of the back straight I brake at the end of the wall and turn in using the right side of the bridge as an apex marker.  This is the roughest part of the circuit; the bumps can turn the car and cause wheel spin so you really rely on the strength and durability of the Michelin tires.  At the bridge I am flat for the run down the front straight.

Malaysia Thursday Press Conference - II Malaysia Thursday Press Conference - IIJacques Villeneuve, reportedly under pressure to put in a good performance this weekend for Sauber and Kimi Raikkonen face the press ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Transcript
Malaysia Thursday Press Conference - I Malaysia Thursday Press Conference - IAustralian Grand Prix race winner Giancarlo Fisichella and Red Bull racer David Coulthard talk of the Melbourne race as well as this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Transcript
Fisichella reveals drama before Australia win Fisichella reveals drama before Australia winGiancarlo Fisichella has revealed that his victory in the season- opening Australian Grand Prix was far from smooth, after his son had been taken into hospital on the morning of the race.

Renault driver Fisichella claimed only his second career win from pole position in Melbourne, but the Italian returned to Europe immediately afterwards to be with son Cristofer. The youngster was admitted to hospital just hours before the race with an infection, but Fisichella took the decision to race after speaking to wife Luna.

"I knew the problem just before second qualifying," Fisichella said ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. "I was a bit worried, but when I spoke with my wife she told me 'don't worry, we're in hospital but the worst moment has passed and we have to be here just because the doctor wants to see him for a couple of days'. Obviously I was really nervous and disappointed about that. But now he's okay. He's out of hospital."

Fisichella said he had put thoughts of his son's illness out of his mind during the Australian race as he claimed a dominant victory in Melbourne. "As soon as the lights went out I was just concentrated on the race."  AFP

BAR Honda signs new partner BAR Honda signs new partnerLucky Strike B·A·R Honda has today signed a new three-year deal with Celerant Consulting as an official Team Partner.  Headquartered in London, Celerant Consulting has an 18-year record of growth through providing quantifiable business results to some of the world's leading companies.   Celerant will provide B·A·R Honda with substantial financial support and consulting services in specific operational areas to assist the team in its quest for World Championship success.
Eric Guyader, President, European Operations at Celerant Consulting said, "I'm delighted that Celerant has entered into this relationship with B·A·R Honda. We anticipate that by working closely together we can generate outstanding performance and build great relationships with the team and with our clients. It also demonstrates our continuing commitment to motorsport.  Celerant already sponsors dynamic young driver James Rossiter."
Nick Fry, B·A·R Honda Chief Executive Officer adds, "We are very pleased to establish a relationship with such a successful company as Celerant. B·A·R Honda and Celerant share the same goal of achieving world class performance in both strategy and operational excellence, to boost performance. We look forward to working with Celerant both on and off the track".
Tiago Monteiro ready for the Malaysian Grand Prix Tiago Monteiro ready for the Malaysian Grand PrixFollowing a positive start in Melbourne, Tiago Monteiro (pictured right at Melbourne on damp track) is looking forward to the challenge of the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Jordan’s driver stayed in Australia after the Grand Prix followed a strict program, prepared for him by Gerard Gray, Jordan Grand Prix team’s physiotherapist. “I stayed in Australia between the two races to relax and recover from my cold. Nevertheless, I have also gone through a fitness program that my trainer had prepared for me. Malaysia will be another unknown track for me. My goal here is to learn the circuit as fast as I can and obviously try to finish the race. The track is quite different from Melbourne, there are many high-speed corners and the hot temperature and the humidity will probably make it the toughest race of the year. However, I am really looking forward to the challenge” said Tiago Monteiro.
IRL puts Matsuura on probation again IRL puts Matsuura on probation againIndy-car driver Kosuke Matsuura is back on probation for irresponsible driving.  For the second consecutive year, Matsuura caused an accident in the Indy Racing League's season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Again, the Japanese driver is on official alert for four events, beginning with this weekend's XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.  Practice and qualifying at Phoenix are Friday; the race is at 3 p.m. Saturday. Matsuura's probation extends through the Indianapolis 500.

Matsuura's unsuccessful outside pass of Tomas Scheckter in the March 6 race at Homestead led to his own spin in front of a pack of cars. Seven were collected, including those of Scheckter and rookie Danica Patrick, who suffered a concussion.  Last year at Homestead, Matsuura hit Dario Franchitti. Matsuura drew his probation in June after having two incidents in the race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

IRL president Brian Barnhart said the punishment would have been harsher if Matsuura had seemed more reckless.  "It was clearly not a blatant case (of bad driving)," Barnhart said. "This is a case of a guy using poor judgment, and the result of that is risking the health of other people and causing a lot of damage.  "He affected the event."  Matsuura said he understood.  "I have to accept these things; I made a mistake, and I involved seven other cars," he said. IndyStar

Inventor suing Roush and Wood Brothers Inventor suing Roush and Wood BrothersUPDATE A similar suit was dismissed in Chicago back in November, the current one is in North Carolina: Stephen J. Siegel and John F. Shonkwiler recently obtained a dismissal of all claims alleged against Roush Corporation, d/b/a Roush Racing, in a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The suit, brought by Weston Griffith, Jr., alleged claims against Roush and co-defendant Glen Wood Company relating to the alleged use of certain racing equipment leased from the Plaintiff’s company. Roush moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over it. By an Order entered October 26, 2004, Federal District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan granted the motion and dismissed the case against Roush in its entirety. Judge Der-Yeghiayan found that notwithstanding Roush’s participation in several auto races in Illinois over the past few years, Roush was not “doing business” in Illinois or otherwise subject to personal jurisdiction there. The Court concluded that Plaintiff failed to show Roush “attempted to conduct sales in Illinois or maintain offices in Illinois or engage in the type of permanent and continuous activity” that would establish jurisdiction over Roush. Plaintiff’s allegations that he was injured in Illinois and signed an equipment lease with Glen Wood here, without more, were held insufficient to confer jurisdiction. Novack and Macey LLP website 03/16/05 An inventor is suing two NASCAR teams claiming he was not paid for a part that improves cornering speeds. Weston Griffith claims in his lawsuit that a chassis piece he designed has helped the teams since last season. Griffith says he developed a chassis piece -- which he describes as "Part X" in the lawsuit -- and the race teams stole his idea, according to the complaint. "I think they should pay for it," Griffith said. Griffith is suing Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Racing and Pat Tryson, crew chief for Roush driver Mark Martin, in North Carolina Superior Court, Cabarrus County, for compensation in excess of $10,000. Griffith said he made his technology available on a trial basis to Wood Brothers Racing in 2003. Griffith claims his chassis innovation migrated to Roush Racing when team owner Jack Roush hired then-Wood Brothers crew chief Tryson, according to the lawsuit. Roush Racing president Geoff Smith called Griffith's charges "bogus." Eddie Wood, co-owner of the Wood Brothers team, had no comment when reached by phone Tuesday at his shop. Griffith lives in the Chicago area and owns a company called Solid Steel Inc. He has no direct affiliation with any NASCAR race team.

In his suit, Griffith says he approached Wood Brothers Racing with the part near the end of the 2003 season. Griffith said Wood Brothers Racing experimented with his part on its #21 Ford, driven by Ricky Rudd, at a private test session at Kansas Speedway, and the car showed an increase in speed. "They wanted so bad to take the pieces back with them to North Carolina," Griffith said. "I would not let them do it. They wanted to leave the stuff right on their car." After the test session, Griffith said Eddie Wood and he struck a deal to outfit the #21 Ford with "Part X" for the rest of the 2003 season. Griffith said Wood agreed to lease his parts for $20,000. Griffith said he received that payment. Griffith said Roush Racing is using his technology to win races and make large sums of money. "I don't know even what the particulars are of that arrangement (they had)," said Roush's Smith. "You don't lease parts. You buy parts and you break them and guys look at them and they study them and they figure out how to make them better." Griffith said Wood signed a confidentiality agreement when he agreed to lease the parts in 2003. In his suit, Griffith says, the "Wood Brothers also agreed not to share any information concerning Part X with anyone outside of Wood Brothers, and to refrain from testing, altering or defacing Part X in any way." Following the 2003 NASCAR Cup season, Griffith said the Wood Brothers returned seven of eight chassis pieces. After demanding the return of his last piece, Griffith said it was obvious the part had been bored, cut and tested. "They were never supposed to test it," he said.

Griffith theorizes his chassis part has boosted Roush Racing since the start of the 2004 Nextel Cup season. He points to the team's vast success in NASCAR's big-league circuit. Three of Roush's four Cup cars [actually 4 of 5 did] won races last year. Three Roush drivers made the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup playoff segment. Kurt Busch, who drives the #97 Roush Ford, captured the championship. Griffith said he is upset because he is not being compensated for his speed discovery. Daytona Bach News Journal

Bowyer to debut at Phoenix Bowyer to debut at PhoenixRichard Childress said on Speed Channel's NASCAR Nation that his Busch Series driver Clint Bowyer will make his Nextel Cup debut at Phoenix International Raceway in the #33 Chevy with Sylvania as the sponsor.
Schumacher: 'We could have challenged for the win' Schumacher: 'We could have challenged for the win'Michael Schumacher has spent all his time since the Australian GP here in Malaysia. “I had a nice relaxing time,” said the German when he met the media. According to the world champion, his non-finish in Melbourne is already forgotten. “I forgot about it from the moment I walked out of the paddock,” he commented. But when pushed for a further analysis of his collision with Heidfeld, he stuck to his original view. “I still believe it was a racing incident and I cannot believe the media is still talking about when there were so many more interesting subjects in Melbourne. It seems that even when I don’t win, I am in the news!”

Both drivers continue with the F2004 M here in Sepang and Schumacher confessed he was surprised at how competitive the old car was. “I never expected to be as competitive as we were in Melbourne,” he explained. “I even think that if it had not been for the unusual qualifying, we could have challenged for the win. “However, usually in the past, if we have had a big advantage in Australia, much of it disappeared when we came to Malaysia, so I am expecting a harder weekend.”

So when will the new F2005 make its race debut. “If the car is ready, we can use it. Originally, before the car had run for the first time, we had thought in terms of Barcelona. But development has gone well and if our tests in Mugello after this race are as positive as the ones so far, then maybe we can bring the new car earlier than the Spanish GP.”

The new qualifying system has come in for some criticism since Melbourne, but Schumacher feels it should be given more time before a judgment can be made. “I will ask you a question as a reply,” he offered the media. “Can you tell me of one solution that meets with approval from everyone? But it is true that there have been a lot of rule changes over the past few years and I think the main problem is in fact this constant changing.”

Finally, did Schumacher see this season as a case of the other top teams “ganging-up” against the Scuderia? “I think this is a normal situation in any sport,” concluded Michael. “If you have one team or one driver who is dominant, then you have two solutions, to improve yourself, which is not always easy, or to weaken the opposition. I don’t see anything strange in this.” Ferrari

Barrichello: 'A position to challenge for the title' Barrichello: 'A position to challenge for the title'Rubens Barrichello was the first of the two Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro drivers to face the media in the team’s hospitality area at the Sepang circuit. Despite temperatures in the high 30s, the man who finished second in Melbourne did not seem bothered by the heat, having been here for a few days acclimatizing to the conditions. First question, the inevitable one: did having 8 points more than his team-mate make him happy and was it significant for the championship? A smile from Rubens and the answer: “this is going to be a long championship and these first eight points are important but not especially so. And comparing myself to Michael is not the issue. “What is important is that I have the support of the team and it is they who put me in a position to challenge for the title.”
On the subject of this Sunday’s race, the Ferrari man expects a much tougher weekend than the one in Melbourne. “Malaysia is always tougher and this time, we must tackle it with an engine that has already done a grand prix. On top of that, Renault and McLaren have shown they are very strong this year. I think the fight here will be between our three teams and they will provide all the podium places on Sunday afternoon.” Apart from the unknown factor of engine durability, Barrichello also spoke of the tire situation. “Melbourne was quite easy on the tires, but I think that with the conditions here, we will have to keep a close watch on our tires after the halfway point. But overall, I have confidence in the work Ferrari has done, although we will have to be careful as to how we manage the package on the first two days.”

Asked if he felt a race where drivers had to look after their engines and tires was in the best interests of the spectators, Barrichello felt this situation was not so new. “In the past, we have had rules which meant we had to look after the cars in the closing stages of the races, although it is true that the new rules mean we have a different kind of show, where the drivers will not be going flat out all the time. But the public will see plenty of overtaking, especially in the later stages of the race. Personally, I am still enjoying my racing, even with the new technical regs,” he continued.- “I have to admit that when I first drove the car with the reduced downforce in Jerez, I thought it was a joke, but I have got used to it now.” Ferrari

Malaysia to be toughest engine test Malaysia to be toughest engine testWhile the opening round of the season in Melbourne provided an immediate example of the effect of the new F1 sporting regulations, throwing up an unusual grid through the combination of rain and the new qualifying format, the second round in Sepang is expected to highlight the effect of the most important new technical rule that obliges the drivers to use the same engine for two races, Very high ambient and track temperatures and an elevated humidity level have been a feature of the Malaysian GP since its inception in 1999 and the event has provided the engine specialists with a stern test. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has coped well with the challenge, to date winning four of the six races held at the Sepang circuit; one victory with Eddie Irvine and three with Michael Schumacher.

[Photos by Ferrari as team prepares for Malaysia raceUnder 2005 rules, every engine is sealed by the FIA at the end of the first race, so that it cannot be dismantled for inspection or the changing of parts, nor can it be run on a test bed. This is done by placing seals on the exhaust manifolds. After the engine is sealed, it is packed up and transported to the next race venue. So the engines stay with their respective teams.
“Between one race and the next there is virtually nothing one can do to the engine,” explains Ferrari's Trackside Engine Manager, Mattia Binotto. “The only work permitted is that already allowed under normal parc ferme conditions: various ancillaries can be changed such as spark plugs and coils and the engine oil. But in the case of Ferrari, these components normally last the full life of the engine and so there will be no need to change them and no changes are planned, apart from the Shell oil. Given that the engine remains closed up for a long period of time, it is important to change it and ensure no old oil is left in the block.”

In fact, oil, generally a 'forgotten' component in the mind of race fans, now plays an even more important role than usual. “Before qualifying and the race oil specification cannot be changed,” states Binotto. “However, for Friday’s practice where times do not count, we can use a thicker more viscous oil which gives a greater degree of protection to the major components as the engines are not pushed hard on the first day. Having to last two races, we obviously don’t look for maximum performance on the Friday.”

The actual management of the engines over a race weekend has not changed significantly, except that its total life has been extended from three to six days. However, the two race life has to be looked at as a whole. For example, a more cautious approach was adopted in Melbourne, knowing that a severe test would follow a fortnight later in Sepang.

“The process of signing off an engine has also remained unchanged,” continues Binotto. “The mileage has doubled and we have to meet that target and we keep testing until every engine has reached maximum reliability. Last year we doubled the life required from 350 to 700 kilometres, so we had added 350. Now we are doubling what has already been doubled, so we are not adding an extra 350 but 700 kilometres so it is a bigger step. On top of that we are not adding free practice sessions where the usage can be lower and safer. We are adding an extra qualifying and an extra race where we need maximum performance from the engine, so the job is more difficult this year. Also the timing has been tighter because the FIA rules came out quite late. For the first few races all engine engineers will be under pressure. In the medium term everyone will reach these new targets but Malaysia will be very difficult for everybody.”

Looking at the specific demands of Malaysia, it is the combination of heat and humidity, rather than just high temperatures, that presents the real challenge. Bahrain is equally hot, but not as humid. “Humidity means that the air density is rarefied and so the available engine power is reduced as air entering the combustion chamber is reduced,” says Binotto. “Therefore the radiators are less efficient when it comes to cooling. That increases the difficulty of maintaining the engine temperatures within the norms. We therefore need to open up the bodywork as much as possible to aid cooling, but of course the more openings the less efficient the aerodynamics of the car. It will be a difficult race, but we encounter these conditions every year in Malaysia and so they come as no surprise and all the teams will be prepared.”

One interesting engine detail in Sepang is that Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello will tackle the event with different life spans on their engines. Having been caught out by qualifying rain in Melbourne, Schumacher’s engine was changed prior to the race and, having retired on lap 42 of the 57 lap race, the 053 engine in his F2004 M has actually completed around 250 km less than the V10 in his team-mate’s car.

It is not just the engines that come in for a hard time in Malaysia, as the entire car-engine-tire-driver package is severely tested. No one seemed to have trouble making one set of tires last for qualifying and the race in Melbourne but the weather there was more akin to that encountered in winter testing. In Sepang, tires will be faced with track temperatures that can hit 50 C and the nature of the track with wide, long fast corners will add to the strain. While Schumacher and Barrichello have been acclimatizing to the conditions, training in the Far East and Brazil respectively, back in Europe, Scuderia test drivers, Luca Badoer and Marc Gene have been testing with tire partner Bridgestone, in Jerez, Spain to be as prepared as possible for one of the toughest weekends of the year. Ferrari

Ferrari continues F2005 testing Ferrari continues F2005 testingFerrari continued its test program yesterday at Fiorano in mild and dry conditions. Luca Badoer continued with track development of the F2005, again concentrating on fine tuning new components. The official test driver covered a total of 110 laps of the 2.976 kilometer circuit recording a best lap of 57.733 seconds. Ferraro continues testing today, moving to the Mugello circuit, again with Badoer at the wheel of the F2005. Ferrari
Busch to be featured in Life Magazine Busch to be featured in Life MagazineKyle Busch completed an interview at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a Life magazine cover story.  The piece will document the NEXTEL Cup rookie, his family and their path to the present-day success on the race track.  World-renowned photojournalist Harry Benson photographed Busch for the cover, which is slated for distribution in late April.
Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Karthikeyan 'worried'
Indy 'safer' for F1 pilots
Report 'untrue' - Bridgestone
Renault lose key member
Sato's swipe at FIA
'Fisi' eying biggest prize
Kimi 'chilling out'
BAR 'won't be penalized'
German brawl after Oz clash?
Suspended crew chiefs will still compete Suspended crew chiefs will still competeNASCAR crew chiefs Chad Knaus and Alan Gustafson will be allowed to compete in Atlanta this weekend while they appeal their two-race suspensions.  Both were suspended on Tuesday for allegedly cheating at Las Vegas last weekend. Team owner Rick Hendrick appealed, and the National Stock Car Racing commission can't assemble until next week to hear their case, NASCAR officials said Wednesday.  Under NASCAR's rules, the crew chiefs can still compete until their appeal has been heard.  Todd Berrier was suspended for four races, and NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said they expected to receive notice of his plans to appeal in time for him to compete in Atlanta this weekend.
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