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PitFit to shape up Forsythe Atlantics Team PitFit to shape up Forsythe Atlantics TeamIndianapolis, IN – PitFit Training (PitFit), the recognized leader in developing driver-specific fitness, nutrition and human-performance programs to expressly address the physical and mental demands of the motorsports industry, today announced it hosted a four day mini-camp for the four racers of Forsythe Championship Racing’s Atlantic team. The team is known as the “Track Pack” and consists of James Hinchcliffe, Andreas Wirth, Leonardo Maia and Richard Philippe. The mini-camp was held at PitFit headquarters, located in Indianapolis, March 13-16.

The drivers were taken through a driver evaluation process on the day of their arrival. The next three days consisted of participation in a variety of exercise sessions that involved driver-specific strength training, stamina drills, and reaction activities to improve alertness while in the race car. Using Theraband stability balls and the Bodyblade, each driver was pushed to his physical limits. Drivers also experienced swim training at Indiana University. The camp concluded with super intensity intervals on the Jacobs Ladder, a grueling device in which drivers must grab specific sections of a rung or risk falling off. zzzz 

Racer James Hinchcliffe said working out with Leo and his staff is not like going to the gym and lifting weights. “It’s so driver specific and it helps you in the car,” he explained. “It’s always good to go there and get a refresher on what you need to do.” Hinchcliffe said PitFit is constantly developing their driver program. Each driver took something specific away from the camp. “Each of us had our strengths and weaknesses,” he added. “And we have our own areas to work on. But we had a bit of fun too.”

“We were very excited to work with the Forsythe Atlantic drivers,” said Jim Leo, President of PitFit Training. “I have worked with both of Forsythe’s Champ Car drivers, Paul Tracy and Mario Dominguez, and we are well aware of the expectations of the Forsythe program. These young drivers learned to push themselves this week, and I expect them to be at the front of each race in 2006.”

Sebring winner fastest at Brands Hatch Sebring winner fastest at Brands Hatch12 Hour of Sebring winner Tom Kristensen was fastest on the second day of German DTM testing at Brands Hatch on Tuesday as Audi dominated the top of the timesheets.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Kristensen Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline 41.587 104
 2. Ekstrom Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline 42.010 102
 3. Tomczyk Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline 42.065 121
 4. Margaritis AMG-Mercedes 42.103 110
 5. La Rosa AMG-Mercedes 42.149 132
 6. Green Salzgitter AMG-Mercedes 42.155 98
 7. Kaffer Audi Sport Team Phoenix 42.238 91
 8. Schneider Vodafone AMG-Mercedes 42.277 79
 9. Stoddart AMG-Mercedes 42.292 122
10. Scheider Audi Sport Team Rosberg 42.318 88
11. Lauda AMG-Mercedes 42.602 94
12. Ickx Futurecom TME 42.846 127
13. Stippler Audi Sport Team Rosberg 42.927 52

track news
Artist Owens creates Long Beach poster Artist Owens creates Long Beach posterLONG BEACH, Calif. - Noted auto racing artist Randy Owens has created the artwork that is featured on the official 32nd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach poster and souvenir program cover.

The artwork depicts several Champ Cars, including last year's Long Beach winner Sebastien Bourdais, as they make the sharp left-hand turn from Shoreline Drive onto Pine Avenue with the new Pike at Rainbow Harbor in the background.

Owens was introduced to auto racing in 1978 and was immediately bitten by the horsepower bug. A Maryland native, Owens has established a strong presence on the American art scene, having published more than 200 handmade serigraph (silkscreen) editions, each crafted in his unique realistic style, filled with color and motion that evoke the atmosphere and excitement of the sport.

The 2006 artwork is Owens' fourth for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  He has staged more than 150 exhibitions of his work in five countries, including the famed l'art et l'automobile gallery in New York, the Axis galleries in Tokyo and at the National Automobile Museum in Reno. zzzz

Owens continues to travel and show his newest works at races from Long Beach to Laguna Seca to Daytona to Indianapolis. Owens will have booths in the Lifestyle Expo and on Vendor Row during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend.

The posters will sell for $15 and be available at Owens' booths as well as all the official Grand Prix merchandise booths. Anyone who buys a poster can get it autographed by Owens at his Expo booth location.

Tickets for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which runs April 7-9, can be purchased from the Grand Prix ticket office by calling the toll-free ticket hotline at (888) 82-SPEED.  A handy ticket brochure - which includes circuit map, grandstand and parking locations, ticket prices and order form - can be obtained by calling the ticket hotline. Tickets are also available online at longbeachgp.com or ticketmaster.com.

Ticket prices range from $35 for Friday/Saturday general admission up to $115 for a three-day ticket that includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seats in upper levels of the grandstands.  Pre-paid parking packages are also available when ordering through the Grand Prix Ticket Office. Handicapped seating, Bosch Champ Car Garage passes, super photo tickets and a variety of hospitality club packages are also available.

Brazilian racer Danilo Dirani to drive for Condor Brazilian racer Danilo Dirani to drive for CondorFONTANA, California – Last season the Condor Motorsports team guided a polished rookie driver with a strong European racing background to the Atlantic series championship. In 2006, the veteran Atlantic Condor team hopes to key a title run for another driver with an accomplished overseas racing resume to the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

Brazilian racer Danilo Dirani has joined the Bloomington, California-based Condor Motorsports team for the upcoming season. After some impressive performances over the last two seasons in the competitive British Formula 3 Championship, the 23-year-old Dirani joins the Atlantic championship hoping to follow in the footsteps of last year’s series champion Charles Zwolsman. On Tuesday, Zwolsman joined Mi-Jack Conquest Racing for the 2006 Champ Car World Series season.

Dirani will compete this year in Champ Car’s top development series with sponsorship from the Canary Fund as well as Functional Card, M TEL and Perkons. zzzz

“Danilo is a very talented driver and we’re excited to welcome him to the team this season,” said Condor Motorsports team owner Carlos Bobeda. “Atlantics will have one of the most competitive series in racing this season and we’re looking forward to defending our championship with one of the top rookies in the field.”

In 2005 Dirani won the first two rounds of British Formula 3 competition at Donington. He went on to claim sixth place in the championship after securing a fifth-place series finish in 2004 behind a pair of wins and three poles. Winner of several regional and national karting championships in his native Brazil, Dinari also won the South American Formula 3 title in 2003.

Dirani spent Tuesday with the rest of the 2006 Atlantic field, testing the limits of his new #1 Mazda-Cosworth/Swift 016.a/Yokohama Atlantic car at the California Speedway road circuit. The native of Sao Paulo will return to the track for another full day of testing on Wednesday before making his official series debut April 7-9 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Champ Car

Honda begins Vallelunga test Honda begins Vallelunga testThe first day of the Honda Racing F1 Team’s three-day test at the Vallelunga circuit in Italy began this morning with Anthony Davidson driving chassis RA106-02 and James Rossiter driving the brand new chassis RA106-05. This is the first time that the team has tested in Vallelunga and has the advantage of exclusive use of the circuit this week.

Intermittent rain showers prevented any dry tire running in the morning session, so both drivers completed some early wet set-up runs.

The circuit dried out sufficiently by 2pm to allow Anthony and James to begin their dry running programmes. The circuit continued to steadily improve throughout the afternoon session with track temperatures reaching a high of 26˚c and ambient temperatures reaching 20˚c.

Anthony ran through a tire evaluation completing 140 laps in total, while James ran through a chassis programme concentrating on various set-up options in the new chassis 05, completing 97 laps.

Anthony and James will remain in their respective cars for the second day of the test tomorrow.

1. A. Davidson - 01:15.775
2. J. Rossiter - 01:16.416 Honda

McLaren team begins Paul Ricard test McLaren team begins Paul Ricard testThe Team McLaren Mercedes test team returned to track duties today at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track in the south of France, following a three week break due to the Bahrain and Malaysian Grands Prix. However the session was affected by wet weather conditions, with heavy rain overnight and drizzle during the day, making track conditions difficult.

Pedro de la Rosa was at the wheel of chassis four of MP4-21, with the planned programme for the week to shakedown the new car. The Spaniard ventured out of the garage on a couple of occasions during the morning, which allowed the test team to complete some initial systems checks. The afternoon saw Pedro, who was running on intermediate Michelins, complete more significant running on track, which was in the 2E-SC configuration at 4.11km in length, taking his total for the day to 637km over 155 laps.

Gary Paffett was scheduled to drive an interim MP4-20 today, with his focus on Michelin tire selection for Australia and San Marino. However with the wet track conditions, the team would not have obtained any useful data from tire testing so Gary did not complete any running. zzzz

Testing is due to continue for the team at Paul Ricard until Friday, with Pedro and Gary present for the week. Team McLaren Mercedes will be joined on track by Renault, Toyota and BMW-Sauber from tomorrow.

Pos Driver Constructor Time Laps
1 Pedro de la Rosa Team McLaren Mercedes 1m14.264 155


More on Zwolsman to Mi-Jack Conquest More on Zwolsman to Mi-Jack ConquestUPDATE Here is the full transcript from today's announcement.

03/21/06 Indianapolis, Indiana, March 21, 2006 – Mi-Jack Conquest Racing announced today it has signed last year’s Atlantic champion, Charles Zwolsman, to a full-time ride for the 2006 Champ Car World Series season.

The Lelystad, Netherlands native produced an impressive rookie season in the Atlantic series in 2005, winning the championship on the strength of three wins, five poles and eight podium finishes. After competing in the Champ Car finale in Mexico City last year, a reward for winning the support series title, Zwolsman is looking forward to his first full season in the Champ Car World Series with considerable enthusiasm. 

“This is a great career opportunity for me, and I’m grateful to Eric Bachelart and the Mi-Jack Conquest team for giving me this chance. Each level that you climb in racing is a new challenge and there is always a learning process. Mi-Jack Conquest puts a lot of emphasis on developing young drivers, so I feel I’m in the right place to learn everything I can and contribute to the success of the team,” said Zwolsman.

Eric Bachelart, the co-owner of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, said he is delighted to have the promising Dutchman on board for the 2006 campaign.

“Charles did a fine job winning the Atlantic Series title last year,” stated Bachelart. “When he tested with us in December, he performed well. There was a nice chemistry between Charles and the team right from the start, and he provided us with some great feedback. He is endowed with a lot of talent and he is a pleasure to work with. I believe we can expect some very positive things from him.”  zzzz

Signing the 2005 Atlantic champion reinforces Mi-Jack Conquest Racing’s commitment to working with young, talented drivers and helping them make the leap into Champ cars. In line with this commitment, MJCR is also fielding a team in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship in the 2006 season.

“We are striving, as much as we possibly can, to assist young drivers in advancing to the next level,” added Bachelart. “They are the future of Champ Car racing, and Charles certainly falls into that category.”

Zwolsman started his racing career in Europe, where he won several karting championships. He moved on to race cars in the German and French Formula Ford series in 1999 and in 2000, he finished second in the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup. The following year, he was third in the German Formula Renault Championship. Before joining the Atlantic Series in 2005, Zwolsman raced in the German F3 series in 2002 and the Formula 3 Euro Series in 2003-04.

Zwolsman and Mi-Jack Conquest Racing continue to prepare for the 2006 Champ Car World Series season, which gets underway in Long Beach on April 9. Until then, Zwolsman will be keeping busy by participating in the two-day Champ Car Open Test in Fontana next week, fine-tuning the sets-ups on his #34 Lola-Ford-Bridgestone. Mi-Jack Conquest Racing

Most Popular Driver voting begins Most Popular Driver voting beginsInternet voting for the NASCAR NMPA Chex Most Popular Driver began this past weekend at www.mostpopulardriver.com. Under the Chex® banner for the second year, the Most Popular Driver Award has become the largest fan-based award in motorsports. Since General Mills started sponsoring the award in 2002 more than 13.4 million votes have been cast. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the award the past three years. This year more than 40 Nextel Cup Series drivers are eligible for the esteemed NASCAR NMPA Chex Most Popular Driver Award, which is administered by the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA). It has been awarded annually since 1956 and is one of the oldest awards in racing. What started as a simple poll of the drivers has grown to include NASCAR members and has now become a completely fan-driven award. Today, fans determine who receives the most popular driver award by voting on the General Mills' Web site, www.mostpopulardriver.com. Fans may vote on the site once each day through Monday, November 20, 2006 at 11:59 a.m. CST. By winning his third consecutive award, Earnhardt Jr. became one of only four drivers to win the award at least three times, joining Bill Elliott, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. Elliott's 16 titles top all drivers, followed by Petty, who won nine times. General Mills
Stewart's Crew - Top Honors in Atlanta Stewart's Crew - Top Honors in AtlantaTony Stewart's pit crew captured the Checkers® / Rally's® Double Drive-Thru Challenge competition in Monday's rain-delayed NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The program awards $10,500 per week to the top pit crew. In addition, the pit crew with the most wins will be awarded a $105,000 bonus at the completion of the 36-race schedule. Stewart's No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet spent the least amount of time on pit road (322.141 seconds) during Monday's 500-mile race. The winning performance by the No. 20 crew lifted Stewart to a fifth-place finish. "The entire team fought hard at Atlanta," said Stewart, the reigning Nextel Cup champion. "We worked on the Home Depot Chevrolet on just about every stop. The guys made all the right adjustments and got me great track position all day long. We had a top-10 car but scratched out a top-five thanks to the pit crew." Stewart's over-the-wall crew consists of: Jason Lee (jackman), Tom Dean (front-tire carrier), Ira-Jo Hussey (front-tire changer), Jody Fortson (rear-tire carrier), Todd Foster (rear-tire changer), Jeff Patterson (gasman), Brian Larson (catch can) and Scott Geerts (windshield). The team's crew chief is Greg Zipadelli and the pit stop coordinator is Paul Alepa. DMF Communications
Sneak Peek: Foyt hopes to build with Giaffone Sneak Peek: Foyt hopes to build with GiaffoneFor the first time since the 2002 season, racing legend A.J. Foyt will field his familiar No. 14 in the IRL IndyCar® Series for a driver not named Foyt.

Foyt tabbed Brazilian Felipe Giaffone to replace his grandson, A.J. Foyt IV, who is now competing in the NASCAR Busch Series. The addition of the former IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year and Honda engines to the ABC Supply Co, Dallara/Honda/Firestone has the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner optimistic.

"In the short time that I've had to work with Felipe, I think we can have a good year," Foyt said. "We seem to communicate well, and I think we'll have a lot of fun. We have a new paint scheme on the car, so it's a fresh look. ABC Supply has some big plans, and I'm happy to have my team be a part of it."

  Giaffone, who finished 15th for Foyt in last year's Indianapolis 500, knows it may take time to contend for wins. But he has simple goals for this season - his first full-time season since 2002.

"Any driver's goal is always to win but we know the competition is going to be really hard out there, but my goal is to finish the most races that I can in the top 10 and then the top five," said Giaffone, who missed portions of the 2003 season due to injury and replaced the retired Robbie Buhl at Indianapolis in 2004.

"To win a race you've got to be in the right place at the right time. I've been there, and I think there's no reason why we couldn't do it again. First you've got to finish to win, and sometimes, you have to take chances to win a race, but I think my goal is to finish races strong and then I think we can build up ourselves to a win later in the season."  zzzz

Car numbers: 14
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Honda/Firestone (ovals)
Drivers: Felipe Giaffone, 31, of Sao Paolo, Brazil
Race engineer: A.J. Foyt
General Manager: Jack Starne
Chief mechanic/Team manager: Craig Baranouski

A.J. Foyt, team owner: "I think having the one engine formula for the series will make the field more even. Personally, I'd like to go back to where we do our own, but since that's not the case, this is the next best thing."

A.J. Foyt Enterprises 2005 IndyCar Series season
(With A.J. Foyt IV and Jeff Bucknum)
Starts 17 (Foyt 15, Bucknum 2)
Victories 0
Top 5 0
Top 10 3 (Foyt 2, Bucknum 1)
Poles 0
Laps led 0
Best start 12th (Kentucky - Foyt)
17th (Infineon - Bucknum)
Best finish 9th (Homestead, Kentucky - Foyt)
10th (Infineon - Bucknum)
Running at finish 12 (Foyt 10, Bucknum 2)
Points rank 18th (Foyt 231 (20th)
Bucknum 63 (25th) IRL

Malaysian GP postscript Malaysian GP postscriptINDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, March 21, 2006 - Californian Scott Speed gained more valuable Formula One experience even though he didn't quite make it to the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 19. A clutch lever problem ended his race 14 laps from the finish while he was running in 11th place.

Afterward, Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost cautioned fans not to expect Speed and teammate Tonio Liuzzi to have too many finishes in the points this year. Toro Rosso is a small team taking on some very stiff competition in this 18-race season that includes the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"If Tonio had not had an accident and had to pit after the opening lap," Tost said, "I think he could have maybe finished a couple of places higher up than 11th. Scott did not finish because of what looks like a failure with the clutch lever on the steering wheel.

"What we learned from this weekend is that if the works teams sort out their problems, we will struggle to finish in the top 12. So it will be very difficult to pick up points this season. We have to up our game and do a really good job, especially in qualifying, because if we get into the top 10 on the grid, we might bring home some points."

Speed left Malaysia on March 20 and headed to Cairns, a town on the northeast corner of Australia and close to the Great Barrier Reef. The plan is to get in some hot-weather training before the Australian Grand Prix on April 2.

BMW encouraged: 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve finished seventh in Malaysia to earn the first points for the former Sauber team now owned by BMW. His teammate, Nick Heidfeld, retired with an engine failure.

"The performance was good," BMW Sauber Team Principal Dr. Mario Theissen said. "Both cars were quick. Both cars could stick with the front train of the race. That was positive. It was also positive that we earned the first two points with the new team.

"I'm disappointed about the engine failure with Nick's car. He almost completed the two race weekends with the same engine, and it would have been good to disassemble an engine after two races to see where we are."

Testing agreement: The 11 F1 teams have agreed to limit their testing during the season to 36 days. zzzz
Podium visit: Renault team boss Flavio Briatore nominated Giancarlo Fisichella's race engineer, Alan Permane, to attend podium ceremonies after the Malaysian Grand Prix and collect the trophy for the winning constructor.

"What a feeling!" Permane said afterward. "During the last lap, Flavio came on the radio and told me I would be going up if Fisi won. It was a great feeling to see the team down below, the anthems, the trophies, and then the drivers soaking me in champagne! Fisi did a fantastic job, and it's brilliant to see him bounce back like this. He will be dying to get to Melbourne, and I know he's going to be a force to be reckoned with."

Permane's nickname is "Bat" because when he started at the team he worked such long hours that they were convinced he only came out at night.

Toyota turnaround: After struggling in the season opener in Bahrain because its cars could not generate enough heat in the tires, the Panasonic Toyota team performed better in Malaysia where Ralf Schumacher started from the back of the field and finished eighth.

"If we had planned a three-stop strategy, we could have qualified Ralf third or fourth and we could have been racing for a podium today," chassis technical director Mike Gascoyne said after the race. "That's all ifs, so we have to do it. Our race pace is close to Ferrari's."

The team is closing in on a solution for its tire problems, Gascoyne said.

"We now understand it, and we will try and stay on top of it," he said.

No easing off for Renault: Mild Seven Renault may have won the first two races of the season, but the team is not easing off.

"Nobody in the team is resting on their laurels," said executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, "and we know we have a fight on our hands. There were half a dozen new components on the car for the Malaysian race, and there will be more aero developments for Melbourne in two weeks time. We are pushing flat-out to continue improving our level of performance."

Next event: The next race on the schedule is the Australian Grand Prix on April 2. The United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, round 10 of 18, is scheduled for July 2.
2006 USGP tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2006 United States Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, July 2.

Fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday, while online orders can be made at any time. USGP

Racing News
Bourdais and Claire chosen for CARA Charity event Bourdais and Claire chosen for CARA Charity eventThe popular CARA Charities’ “Raceway Rendezvous” charity spectacular, set for Friday April 7 in the Long Beach Harbor, will be hosted by the two-time defending Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais and his fiancé, Claire Ragot, as they serve as the honorary chairpersons for the “Pirates of the Adrenaline” event at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Bourdais, last year’s Long Beach winner, came to the United States three years ago and has left a sensational mark at the wheel of the No. 1 McDonald’s® Ford-Cosworth Lola for perennial series contenders, Newman/Haas Racing.  The 27-year-old native of Le Mans, France has recorded back-to-back series titles including sixteen victories and eighteen pole positions in those three seasons on the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Bourdais added to his impressive U.S. record last Saturday by teaming on the Panoz squad to capture his first 12 Hours of Sebring in the GT-2 sports car class.

"Claire and I are looking forward to being hosts of CARA's ‘Pirates of the Adrenaline,” said Bourdais, who’ll be married in May in France.  “We always try to do as much as we can for others and this event will allow us to help CARA Charities, the Long Beach Grand Prix Foundation as well as the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps.  Claire and I were moved by the experience we had when we went with Paul (Newman) to L'Envol, the camp in France.  Going to the camps really makes such a difference in a child's life and we're proud to have a small part in that. So raising money at the Long Beach event will assist several groups and Claire and I feel good about helping."  zzzz

This year’s CARA Charities’ Raceway Rendezvous is the fourth annual edition of fun, food, entertainment and raising funds for charities and this year will be enjoyed on the Long Beach Harbor with a unique party on Hornblower’s SS Endless Dreams cruise ship. The “Pirates of the Adrenaline” extravaganza features an on-board casino night with celebrity guests and variety of party favors. Guests also will have chance to be involved in a special auction.

“We want to thank Sebastien and Claire for their participation in Raceway Rendezvous at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach,” said Mary Lou Bogner, executive director of CARA Charities.  “The Toyota Grand Prix has a tradition for so many years.  It is a legendary event for over 30 years.  We, at CARA, are thrilled to have a charity event that helps the needy in the Long Beach area.  With Sebastien and Claire serving as the honorary chairpersons, they give us a great way to participate in one of racing’s premiere North American motorsports events.”

The Friday evening cruise begins at 6:30 p.m. with boarding in Rainbow Harbor at Long Beach Harbor (next to the Aquarium).  At 7:30 p.m., the cruise will hit the seas for 45 minutes with many activities on board.  For those wishing to debark from the ship, the Endless Dreams will return to port at 8:30 p.m. and return to the harbor for another 45-minute cruise.      

CARA Charities, one of motorsport’s leading charitable organizations, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary with more than $4 million donated to needy causes. 

Tickets are now available for the April 7 “Pirates of the Adrenaline” Long Beach Harbor cruise with individual tickets priced at $150 per person.  Sponsorships also are available. For more information on tickets and sponsorships, contact the CARA Charities headquarters by e-mail at carachar@aol.com or by calling 317-299-2277.

track news
GAINSCO Auto Insurance announces race sponsorship GAINSCO Auto Insurance announces race sponsorshipDALLAS, TEXAS  -  GAINSCO Auto Insurance, a provider of personal auto insurance and primary sponsor of the No. 99 Blackhawk Motorsports Grand Am entry, announced today that it will be the title sponsor of round seven of the 2006 Rolex Grand American Sports Car Series at Phoenix International Raceway, May 12-13, 2006.

The GAINSCO Grand Prix weekend, billed as the fastest three days in Phoenix, will feature two Grand Am Cup races, the GT Live motorsports entertainment exhibition, and the feature event: the Rolex Series GT and Daytona Prototypes race at 6:30pm local time on Saturday night, May 13.  zzzz

“GAINSCO is one of the fastest growing insurers in today’s personal auto insurance marketplace,” said Glenn Anderson, president and CEO of GAINSCO. “Arizona is a key component of our success thanks to the outstanding support of our agency partners. Our goal is to build a long-term presence in the state, and the GAINSCO Grand Prix provides an ideal platform from which to further reach out to our agency partners and customers here.”

“At GAINSCO, we’re driven to provide exceptional performance,” Anderson added. “Our 99 car symbolizes that same level of drive and performance, so we’re looking forward to an exciting and successful GAINSCO Grand Prix.”

With 25 entries, the 250-mile Grand Am race at PIR will be more competitive than ever before. The 2006 field features legendary names from all areas of motorsports: Gurney, Fernandez, Fittipaldi, La Joie, Pruett, and Wallace, among others. Thousands of fans will watch the world’s most talented drivers vie for the GAINSCO trophy at speeds of over 185 mph in their exotic Daytona Prototypes, battling each other around the 1.5 mile road course for 166 laps under the lights and cool desert sky.

Television coverage of the GAINSCO Grand Prix begins at 3:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday, May 14 (tape delay) on the SPEED Channel.

Mi-Jack Conquest signs Zwolsman Mi-Jack Conquest signs ZwolsmanINDIANAPOLIS – Charles Zwolsman has been signed by MI-JACK Conquest Racing for the 2006 Champ Car World Series.

Zwolsman comes from Condor Motorsports, where the best newcomer of 2005 celebrated a number of great victories and won the 2005 Toyota Atlantic championship. In his first Toyota Atlantic season the 26-year old Dutchman scored five pole positions, celebrated three victories and finished among the Top 3 at eight races. As a reward for winning the title in the Toyota Atlantic championship he was allowed to participate in the last Champ Car race of the season in Mexico City where he finished on a respectable 13th place. In 2006 Zwolsman will take part in all 15 races of the Champ Car World Series.

MI-JACK Conquest Racing has been established in 1997. The team from Indianapolis, led by team boss Eric Bachelart and co-owner Michael Lanigan was very successful in the Dayton Indy Lights championship. After one season in the Indy Racing League, 2002, they switched over to the Champ Car World Series. Rookie race drivers such as Nelson Philippe, Justin Wilson and Andrew Ranger gave their debut in this American racing series with MI-JACK Conquest Racing.

Zwolsman is not unknown to MI-JACK Conquest Racing. He already met the team on 13 and 14 December at Sebring International Raceway. He proved to be the fastest of all participating MI-JACK Conquest race drivers at a 2-day test session there. In order to make his race series more interesting for a broader audience, the owner of Champ Cars, Kevin Kalkhoven, wanted Zwolsman as the champion of the Atlantic series to drive in this international series as well.  zzzz

ERIC BACHELART (TEAM-BOSS OF MI-JACK CONQUEST RACING: “Charles did a great job last year winning the Atlantic series title and we could not be more pleased about having him join Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. We have a history of working with talented rookie drivers and Charles is definitely one of them. When he tested with us in December, he did an excellent job, provided us with great feedback and there immediately was a good chemistry between him and the team. He is also very pleasant to work with and I think we can expect great things from him.”

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: “We have finalized the deal with Conquest Racing. I will be leaving for the US next week for the fitting of a car seat already. On 29 and 30 March I will be testing with MI-JACK Conquest Racing on the California Speedway (Fontana) to get back into the rhythm. After all it has already been 3 months since I sat in a racecar for the last time. For me a dream has come true. The Champ Car World Series is the highest racing series that uses Formula cars in the US. This is an amazing opportunity for me and I definitely plan on making the best of this opportunity and get some good results. I would like to thank the Champ Car organization, Rick Gome of ‘Goman representation in sport’ and of course the team for the efforts they have made to place me in this race series after all. I surely cannot wait to finally go race with this team!”

Cheever adds another driver to Indy Pro team Cheever adds another driver to Indy Pro teamIndianapolis, Ind. – Nick Bussell has joined Cheever Racing’s comprehensive driver development program and will team with Chris Festa in a two-car effort in the IRL Indy Pro Series.

Bussell, a 22-year-old from Ionia, Mich., has 14 Indy Pro Series races to his credit, including a top finish of second at Pikes Peak International Raceway. He established a series record by finishing all 14 of his races in 2005.

Bussell will join Festa on Eddie Cheever Jr.’s team, which is designed to develop young American racers for the future. The season begins Sunday at Homestead- Miami Speedway. zzzz

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to expand our effort to train and develop the best young drivers,“ Cheever said. “The Indy Pro Series offers an established platform, and we look forward to showing Nick and Chris the path to the Indianapolis 500.“ In his first season of IPS competition, Bussell finished fourth in the final standings while racing for two teams -- JL West Motorsports and Vision Racing. He started on the front row for the Liberty Challenge on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and was running at the finish of all 14 races.

“This is going to be a really good opportunity for me,” Bussell said. “With the amount of experience a guy like Eddie Cheever has, it’s is going to go a long way toward helping me progress. There are a lot of things I can gather from his knowledge and his years of experience. I’m really looking forward to this.” The announcement also continues Bussell’s affiliation with Indy Racing League founder Tony George, owner of Vision Racing.

“I am happy to continue my an affiliation with Nick by supporting his IPS program with Cheever Racing,” George said. “He made a big impression with all of us at Vision Racing and we are happy to be in a position to continue supporting his career development. I am certain this will be a good experience for him in a year that promises to be most competitive." The No. 52 Cheever Racing entry, with sponsorship to be announced soon, doubles the effort and commitment of the first Indy Pro Series team for Cheever Racing, one of the original teams of the IRL IndyCar Series. Festa, who finished sixth in the final Indy Pro Series standings in 2005, joined Cheever’s training program in January.

“With two events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and a good combination of oval and road course races, the Indy Pro Series is a good place for America’s future open-wheel racers to be driving and learning,” Cheever said.

Spanners in the works on Tuesday Spanners in the works on TuesdayThere was a false start at Paul Ricard on Tuesday, as F1 action prepared to kick off again.

McLaren testers Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett turned up in southern France, but even after lunch it was still pouring with rain.

Pre-Melbourne testing will also take place at Valencia (Spain), Fiorano and Vallelunga (both in Italy) this week.

Like at rainy Paul Ricard, there are a few other spanners in the works behind the F1 scenes.

The 'flexi' wing saga is refusing to go away, with Honda boss Nick Fry warning that every other team will race similar designs in Melbourne if the FIA does not outlaw Ferrari's shady interpretation of the rules.

However, it has also been suggested that BMW-Sauber and McLaren have already run comparable wings in 2006.

''The FIA is of the opinion that our car is legal,'' Jean Todt said after the race at Sepang, ''but if they want us to do something, we will do it.''

The possible protests of rival teams, though, is just one worry for Ferrari.  In addition to the red marque's problems, including dodgy V8 engines, Michael Schumacher just didn't look quick in Malaysia -- and the notoriously fickle Italian press didn't enjoy it one little bit.

''Bahrain had woken our hopes,'' said the La Gazzetta dello Sport daily, ''(but) Malaysia put them to sleep again.''

'Il Messaggero' added: ''At least (Giancarlo) Fisichella let us hear the national anthem on the podium once again.''

Speaking of Fisichella, the Roman winner will know whether he still has a seat at Renault for 2007 after the Monaco grand prix this year, Flavio Briatore told an Italian newspaper.

Briatore also said to La Gazzetta: ''We are not dependent on Fernando.''

Meanwhile, in an Austrian newspaper (Salzburger Nachrichten), Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said that the fates of David Coulthard and Christian Klien will similarly be sealed about mid-season, as men like Juan Pablo Montoya line up at the door.

''To wait until the season is nearly over is out of the question,'' Marko insisted.

There's also a spanner in the works of F1's sale to CVC -- the European Commission has ruled that a full green light will only be shown if the company sells its stake in the promoter of the MotoGP series.

However, 'GPMA' said even the conditional clearance adds 'momentum' to the approaching end of a war about the sport's future.

But although relations appear better between Bernie Ecclestone and the teams, McLaren chief Ron Dennis would not be drawn on whether he will rise to the bait of Max Mosley's threat to quickly close a 'window' to sign up to the 2008 championship.

''That's not under discussion at the moment,'' he told the Guardian.  ''We're still concerned with the commercial issues and don't want to get distracted by the FIA.''

CVC can buy F1, but.....GPMA responds CVC can buy F1, but.....GPMA respondsUPDATE GPMA response to EU approval:
"The GPMA manufacturers and their teams welcome and support the EU clearance of the planned acquisition of SLEC by CVC, conditional upon the divestiture of its subsidiary Dorna. Since CVC announced its intention to acquire SLEC, significant progress in the discussions about the commercial future of Formula One has been made. Today’s approval was actively supported by the GPMA manufacturers and teams and they are optimistic that it will create additional momentum for the ongoing negotiations."

03/21/06 The European Commission has conditionally approved a buy-out of Formula One shares by investment firm CVC Capital Partners if the company agreed to get rid of its interests in Dorna that owns MotoGP to avoid a monopoly situation whereby the company would have too much control over motorsports in Europe.

Under the deal, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and German bank BayernLB are selling their stakes to CVC Capital Partners for an undisclosed price.

The sale would give Britain's CVC majority control over the motor racing company. Ecclestone should still head the Formula One operations after the potential sale, sources have said.

In a statement, the EU said: "The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition by the private equity investment firm CVC of SLEC, the owner of the Formula One Group.

"The Commission's clearance is conditional upon the divestiture by CVC of its Spanish subsidiary Dorna, which is the promoter of the Moto GP motorcycle Championship. In light of these commitments, the Commission has concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the EEA or any substantial part of it."

Speed settling into life as F1 globetrotter Speed settling into life as F1 globetrotterINDIANAPOLIS - After a solid debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix, Scott Speed, America's only F1 driver, headed for round two in Malaysia.

"I left the circuit in Bahrain immediately after all the interviews, changed, grabbed the bags and was off to the airport and flew to Dubai," California native Speed said. "I spent the night there, got up early in the morning for a delayed flight - I really could have slept a lot more! - and went directly to Malaysia."

The first night in Malaysia, Speed and team members of Scuderia Toro Rosso went sightseeing in the city of Kuala Lumpur.
Later, Speed reflected on his first Grand Prix.

"Doing your first Grand Prix is an incredible experience," he said. "There are so many things you learn in one race that it is really hard to soak it all in. But we have had time to go back with the engineers and go over everything that has happened, and we are going to make a few big improvements for this weekend."  zzzz

Training for the intense heat and high humidity in Malaysia was next on Speed's agenda. The temperature was in the 90- to 100-degree range each day while the humidity was anywhere from 55 to 90 percent.

"Our bikes arrived a little bit late," he said, "so I was only able to ride them Thursday. Normally we would do cycling, so we were doing some cross-training with some tennis and running."

He also took time Thursday, March 16 to get his first lap around the Malaysian F1 track.

"It is a fantastic track," he said. "I went around the circuit this morning on my bicycle. It looks like a circuit where you have some options to use some different lines, while Bahrain is more of a straight up circuit that you can't really experiment on."

On Friday, March 17, the first day of practice, Speed posted the 19th-quickest time.

"We did not show everything we had because we ran quite early on new tires," he said, "but we got more done on our race balance than some others. Race balance-wise, there are a few question marks, but we are looking good."

"It is an intense track. It must be amazing for a spectator to watch turns 5 and 6, because it is almost flat in sixth gear, and on the limit in both corners. It is an amazing set of corners."

The heat and the humidity meant drivers had a grueling time in the cockpits of their cars.

"It is going to be really hot in the race," Speed said March 17, "but I think practice is worse because when you come into the pits your body gets a heat soak, and the more temperature your body carries the more your physical condition goes down dramatically. So it is going to be about making your temperatures as reasonably as possible. Physically I have had no problems."

Speed set the 17th-fastest time during the first round of qualifying Saturday, March 18, which meant that he missed - by one spot - the chance to move up into the second round of qualifying. But because five drivers were penalized for having engine changes, Speed lined up 12th for the race.

"We did not do anything wrong in terms of my strategy for tackling the qualifying session," he said. "But I had traffic on both my quick laps. Basically, we have not shown good pace here since the start of the weekend, and that shows up most in qualifying. In terms of aerodynamics, we are losing out down the straight, but that is partly due to the (engine) restriction we run under to comply with the rules."

He was running in 11th place when the clutch lever behind the steering wheel failed on Lap 42 of the 56-lap race.

"I did not get off the line too well, because of the way we had the system set up," he said. "It's too bad that I did not finish the race because this was the track where we expected to struggle the most. We were over-gripped aerodynamically, but me and my engineer got the setup about right in the end.

"After a poor qualifying, we ended up doing a good job, showing decent pace and having a good track position. It's a shame, but I think we can come back stronger in Melbourne, as this place was never going to suit us."

Following the race, Speed, teammate Tonio Liuzzi and the Toro Rosso engineers met for a long technical debrief on the weekend.

The next race for Speed is the Australian Grand Prix on April 2. The season consists of 18 events including Speed's home race -- the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. USGP

track news
Talladega RV overnight spots sold-out Talladega RV overnight spots sold-outAll RV overnight parking spots have been sold, and only a limited amount of spots for automobiles/tents remain for the upcoming Aaron’s Dream Weekend at Talladega Superspeedway April 28-30, Talladega Superspeedway officials announced today. The track’s hundreds of acres of reserved overnight parks outside the track are completely filled, and the only spots remaining in the 212-acre infield are within the Yellow and Blue Zones which are specifically designated for those planning to park overnight with automobiles and tents. Talladega Superspeedway welcomes fans back for another year of the most competitive racing on the NASCAR circuit! Get your tickets now for Aaron’s Dream Weekend, set for April 28 – 30, 2006. To order tickets, call 1-877-Go2-DEGA (1-877-462-3342). For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). Tickets also are available online at www.racetickets.com, or in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. CDT, Monday - Friday. Talladega SuperSpeedway PR
A true Champ Car fan A true Champ Car fanUPDATE A reader adds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I agree that Ryan Hunter-Reay needs another shot in Champ Car.  I too fail to see where so many foreign drivers is doing Champ Car one iota of good as long as they are primarily a North American series.  Americans are quite Xenophobic and want to see Americans wins, hence why NASCAR is so popular.  Of course NASCAR actually markets their series and their drivers. Dan Dilouise

03/20/06 To the right is a photo of Nicole, a true Champ Car fan.  She recently went to NY City with her father and stood in the freezing cold weather outside the NBC Today show trying to get on camera.  And what sign does she make?  A Champ Car sign proclaiming herself a Champ Car fan and that Ryan Hunter-Reay deserves a ride. 

It's obvious she is a true 'blue' Champ Car fan, but even though she is a Champ Car fan she's 100% right RHR deserves another chance in Champ Car in a decent ride after he did what was asked of him by the series owners last year.  But who is the series and team owners putting in seats?  Ride-buying foreign drivers, some of whom can drive, but what do they contribute to the series long term, zero.  Case in point - Timo Glock.  Where is he now?  Back in Europe still trying to get into F1 via GP2.  A lot of good he did Champ Car. 

The series desperately needs 1) Continuity with popular race winning drivers the fans know 2) More American drivers (Hunter-Reay is American the last time we checked) and without Hunter-Reay in the series we will only have one full time American and no American race winners 3) Foreign drivers who view Champ Car as their ultimate goal.  There certainly is no doubt Champ Car's fans clearly want this popular race winning American back in the series, the question is are the series owners listening?

Gordon’s crewman hit, but OK Gordon’s crewman hit, but OKUPDATE Pit Crew members OK: Two pit crew members were struck on pit road during Monday's race. John Slusher, catch can man for Robby Gordon's team, was hit on pit road by Reed Sorenson's car on lap 193. Slusher was evaluated at the infield care center and returned to work. Joe Kruschek, a rear tire changer for Jamie McMurray, was struck on pit road. He broke his left thumb and ripped open his right forefinger in the incident. He received stitches at local hospital and will require surgery on the forefinger today. He will be out for an undetermined amount of time. News-Record

03/20/06 John Slusher, the fuel catch-can man and pit crew trainer for Robby Gordon's team, was hit on pit road by rookie Reed Sorenson during a pit stop on Lap 193.  Slusher was taken to a local hospital for possible back and neck injuries, but was treated and released and returned to the track before Monday’s race was over ThatsRacin.com reports.

Frances take pay cut Frances take pay cutFrance family members holding the top jobs at International Speedway Corp. took 4 percent cuts in salary and bonuses last year, but received hefty increases in their stock options. In contrast, chief operating officer John R. Saunders, the top-ranking nonfamily member in Speedway's top echelon, received a 10 percent pay raise. The pay figures were disclosed in ISC's annual proxy statement as required by federal law. While salaries for 2005 were set about 3 percent above 2004 levels, performance bonuses were reduced, leaving most senior executives with lower compensation overall. The figures were approved by a compensation committee of ISC's board of directors, headed by hotelier Thomas Staed. The committee said it endorsed the pay proposals that had been drafted by vice chairman and chief executive officer Jim France, and then set his own pay. Chairman Bill France was paid a salary of $533,496, up from $516,028, but his bonus was cut to $293,925, down from $347,281 the year before. His stock options were valued at $448,480 up from $325,350. Daytona News-Journal
Industry News
VW to remove offensive billboards VW to remove offensive billboardsVolkswagen said Friday it will remove billboards in New York, Los Angeles and Miami after receiving complaints that a word used in an advertisement was offensive to Hispanics. The ad for the new GTI 2006 had a photo of the sports car accompanied by the words "Turbo-Cojones." Cojones, which means testicles in Spanish, has become a casually used term for boldness or guts in English but has never lost its more vulgar connotations in its native language.
Webber will be very busy next two weeks Webber will be very busy next two weeksWilliamsF1 driver Mark Webber is en route to his native Australia where he will contest his home race in two weeks time. However, rather than heading directly to Melbourne or home to Queanbeyan, Mark will be spending a few days training in Tasmania in preparation for the Foster’s Australian Grand Prix. He will also travel to Sydney next weekend to undertake promotional work for WilliamsF1 team sponsor RBS.

Also, Melbourne F1 fans will have a great chance to see Mark and a number of his F1 colleagues playing in a charity Pit Stop Tennis Pro-Am tournament at the historic Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, Melbourne on Wednesday, March 29 between 6-8pm.

Drivers already confirmed for the round-robin tennis event include world champion Fernando Alonso, Malaysian GP winner, Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, all three WilliamsF1 drivers, Webber, Rosberg and Alex Wurz, BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve and Red Bull Racing’s Christian Klien. They will team up with some of Australia’s finest tennis names including John Fitzgerald, Jason Stoltenberg, Wally Masur and Wayne Arthurs. zzzz

Webber, who will be defending his pro-am tennis title from the 2005 event in Barcelona, is keen to another victory to his tally of three victories from four starts.

“To have the event in Melbourne where F1 drivers mix it with Aussie tennis pros on court, is going to be fantastic and fun to watch,” says Webber, “It’s always been causal and fun but there’s also an element of serious competition which can sometimes lead to a few tennis balls and racquets going astray! It’s fantastic we have the support of so many F1 drivers and tennis stars – all of whom I’d like to thank – and this will guarantee the spectators a great event and importantly it’s all in aid of needy Australian children who require support, and what a great way to help them out."

The event is open to the public for a gold coin donation on entry. All funds raised on the night will go to the Mark Webber Challenge Foundation to be distributed to TLC for Kids and Cancer Plus (Cancer Council Tasmania).

Homestead musings, Unser to try Indy again Homestead musings, Unser to try Indy againUPDATE To confirm what we heard at recent Homestead IRL testing (see last paragraph below) the Indy Star says - Al Unser Jr. said Monday he is returning to drive in this year's Indianapolis 500 at least in part to pester Michael Andretti, his lifelong friend and rival.  Andretti is returning to the 500 after a three-year absence.  Unser last competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2004.  "Somebody's got to keep Michael honest," Unser said, confirming his ride with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. He will partner with Buddy Lazier on the Indianapolis-based team.

03/04/06 Vision Racing officials were forced to cancel a dinner Saturday night with a group of invited media members because most of them said thanks, but no thanks when told they could not ask any questions about merger talks between IRL and Champ Car officials. Tony George owns Vision Racing.

“I don’t think there‘s much to comment on,” IRL President Brian Barnhart told reporters. “There have been a couple of social visits between Tony and Kevin Kalkhoven. They’ve been exactly that. There are no negotiations, no talks going forward. I think it’s great for them to get to know each other better and understand their philosophies and directions a little bit. But there currently are no plans for negotiations or reunification.”

AutoRacing1.com believes there are more to the talks than Barnhart is leading on to because, rightly so, this deal, if it is to get done, won't get negotiated in the media.

The Panther Racing car is still painted Pennzoil yellow but it has no sponsorship yet and is running with the word Panther on the sidepods.

Likewise Vision Racing remains unsponsored and is running with the word Vision on the sidepod of both cars.

It will cost $250K for Honda engines for any team that just wants to run the month of May. That number is reduced to $112K if you only run the 2nd weekend of qualifying and the race. Honda engines for 2005 were $1.8 million per year, and that number is down to $1.3M per car this year. In 2007 the number will be under $1 million per car per year.

Word is that Al Unser Jr. may be trying to put together an Indy 500-only deal.

Dodge puts the kibosh on Intrepids Dodge puts the kibosh on IntrepidsDon Miller, the president of Penske Racing South, said that corporate headquarters informed his organization that the Intrepid can't be used after the April 9 Nextel Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. At least one of Penske Racing's two drivers -- #12-Ryan Newman and #2-Kurt Busch -- has used the Intrepid since the Daytona 500. There were plans to use the car on most 1.5- mile and 2-mile tracks the remainder of the season. The Charger has only four wins since being introduced last season. Kahne's win was the first on a 1.5-mile track where the blunt nose of the car has created aerodynamic problems. The problems have created a split among Dodge teams that have considered going to NASCAR to ask for help. Ray Evernham, the owner of Kahne's car, said that no longer is a consideration. NASCAR.com
Q and A with MF1's Colin Kolles Q and A with MF1's Colin KollesAfter the frustrations at the start in Bahrain, MF1 made a good step forward in Malaysia, with both cars making it to the flag. There might not be too many occasions when the cars line up ahead of a Honda, a Ferrari and a Toyota on the grid, but engine penalties for those teams helped to push the Midland boys up the field.

Unfortunately, they were not able to take advantage. The earlier problems had a knock-on effect, as Christijan Albers' and Tiago Monteiro's starts at Sepang were compromised to ensure reliability, and that cost them ground.

Nevertheless, the double finish provided the team with a lot of information to digest, and improvements are in the pipeline for Melbourne.

Team principal, Colin Kolles gave us his thoughts on the weekend.

What's your overall verdict on the Malaysian weekend?
"It's better than Bahrain, but then, it couldn't have been much worse! This weekend, reliability issues were relatively minor. We will have new parts for Australia, so hopefully the performance will improve." zzzz

After the problems at the start in Bahrain, both drivers went for manual starts at Sepang to save the equipment. Were you still a bit nervous about reliability?
"Yes, I was definitely nervous, but as you say, we went for manual starts. It was the right choice, even though the starts were obviously not the best."

The cars lost a lot of time behind the Super Aguris in the early laps. Was that a bit frustrating?
"They got ahead of us at the start, and they were not easy to pass. We know that we have to improve our aerodynamic efficiency on the straights. We did lose a lot of time behind them, and we decided to bring Tiago into the pits due to this fact, and try and get him out on a clear track. In clear air, there was no issue. I think Christijan in particular ran a very good race."

Any thoughts on the next race in Australia?
"We have 10 days in which to refocus and think through some of our problems, and we will definitely have some new parts in Australia. Hopefully, reliability will be not be an issue anymore. And, as I said, we need to improve our efficiency to help with our straight line speed."

Has the team learned a lot from these two races, especially after getting both cars the finish in Malaysia?
"Definitely. The team has learned a lot, and we are learning more and more about the car every day - how to work with it, and how to get the car to work with the tires. I think there's a lot of potential."

Do you think Giorgio Mondini did a good job with the third car on Friday?
"Yes, I think so. He has to train a little bit more, because he had a problem with his neck, but he made no mistakes and did some reasonable lap times."

You're not fighting at the front yet, but do you feel there's been some real progress?
"Definitely. We are not fighting at the front, but we know we can improve. We have made a big step forward, and the gap to the front isn't 4.5 seconds any more. Obviously, Renault is also developing, but still the gap is smaller than it was at this point last year. So I think that with our resources, and with our people, we did quite a good job. We never expected to arrive and be where we want to be overnight." Midland MF1 Racing

Todt analyzes Ferrari's Sepang performance Todt analyzes Ferrari's Sepang performanceFerrari Team Principal Jean Todt was in pensive mood after drivers Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher finished fifth and sixth in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. It had been a tough weekend for Scuderia Ferrari due to engine problems which saw the team change engines three times for which they were penalized ten places on the grid. That meant they started 14th (Michael Schumacher) and 21st (Felipe Massa). Yet it was Massa who just preceded Schumacher at the checkered flag.

"I would say that if we started from the 20th lap it was quite good," said Todt after the 56 lap race. "However, we had to start the race at the first lap and needless to say that starting from where we started, we can only be pleased with the final result.

"Even if it's not pleasing, generally speaking, it's the best result we could expect to achieve today. It has been a tough weekend because we had to identify a potential risk of reliability on Michael's engine, and a clear problem that Felipe had at the first race, which meant that we decided to change his engine before this race. We changed it again this morning, always trying to take as little risk as possible.

"Otherwise the package was quite good," continued Todt, "even though I feel we need to be a bit more competitive. zzzz

Bridgestone have definitely made some progress with the tires and it's quite interesting to have some other good teams with Bridgestone, because we can see some developments which seem promising for the future."

Todt went on to confirm that the engine problems suffered have mainly been solved and shouldn't reoccur. "I think we already did one step forward with today's engine. I think we've understood quite a lot of things. That's why the factory has been working quite hard and it's been positive.

"The problem has been around the piston area. We have a specific failure that comes from the component so it's around that. However, sometimes the final problem is a result of different combinations. The new engines were of a different specification. At the moment we are still analyzing the problems, before making a final judgment. We need to have very accurate analysis."

Todt went on to say that he wasn't unhappy that Massa had finished ahead of Michael Schumacher, even if championships positions might dictate a different preference in future. "After two races, it's too early. Felipe could not defend his chances in his first Grand Prix in Bahrain, so I think he did a pretty good job today. He was on a different strategy and considering the traffic Michael had, he could not take advantage of the two pit stops, and Felipe could take advantage of one pit stop. It's too early, at the moment. I was very happy for Felipe to be able to. He's under a lot of pressure as well, so it's important that he can score points and he can demonstrate that he's a very good driver."

Todt said that he was quite happy with the respective strategies planned for the Ferrari drivers. "We knew that Michael could be in quite a good position at the start but we knew that it was a different strategy. On paper, two pit stops was quicker but then you can't predict the traffic."

Finally, Todt admitted that he felt Williams now made it five teams who were competitive. "There are four teams which are very strong, even five teams, because Williams has been very strong, was strong in Bahrain and was strong today. There was a problem with reliability but otherwise they were very competitive.

"I see five teams who are good competitors at the moment, and some others who may have good potential. We saw some teams who were not as good as they were in performance at this Grand Prix."

But Renault's winning performance was not a surprise. "There is no major reason why they should not be competitive. They were very good last year, so it's continuity; the same people." Ferrari

Teams were prepared to protest Ferrari wings Teams were prepared to protest Ferrari wingsControversy about alleged 'illegal' wings lingered on even after the checkered flag at Sepang.

To the right is a copy of a letter that was signed by all the teams except Ferrari in Malaysia and handed to Charlie Whiting, essentially saying they were prepared en mass to formally protest Ferrari's wings if the FIA didn't do something about it.

However, the Ferrari passed all the FIA tests per the rulebook, so the FIA's hands were tied. They promised more defined rules in time for Melbourne.

Although compromise and concessions were reportedly on the table, it is not certain that Ferrari will agree to change its supposedly 'flexible' front and rear wings, with Ross Brawn even denying that there is anything wrong with the current FIA tests.

''If you want to win you've got to maximize the set of regulations you have,'' said the technical director. ''You don't play it safe.''

Team boss Jean Todt elected not to comment, but he did deny that any backroom 'deals' had been brokered, adding: ''Ask me in Melbourne.''

The fact is, post-race scrutineers affirmed the legality of the '248' car by officializing the outcome of the Malaysian grand prix. Moreover, at least two other teams are apparently also running similarly dubious designs.

Indy Pro Series adds sponsors, awards Indy Pro Series adds sponsors, awardsLucas Oil and Mo's Gold will provide $5,000 year-end awards to participants in the Indy Pro Series in 2006. The two manufacturers also join Sunoco in providing free product.

"We have a strong group of sponsors and suppliers supporting the Indy Pro Series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Pro Series. "We're honored to have Lucas Oil and Mo's Gold provide these year-end awards. The awards are a nice bonus that can be earned on top of our $3 million purse."

Lucas Oil, which recently signed a $122 million, 20-year deal for naming rights to the Indianapolis Colts' new stadium, will supply all Indy Pro Series teams with oil and will award the highest-finishing rookie with a $5,000 prize.

"This is an important relationship for us," said Forrest Lucas, president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products. "The Indy Pro Series is growing and we certainly want to touch a little bit of everything we can in racing. There's some champion talent there.
"It's also a big deal for us to have our oil in all of the cars. We've developed a total line of motor oil for race cars. When engineers can test it and compare it, that's huge for us."

Mo's Gold will award a $5,000 prize to the chief mechanic of the highest-finishing entrant. They also will supply each team with a case of its automotive cleaner and polisher.

"It's an honor for my wife and I to be a part of this," said Joe Mobley, president of Mo's Gold. "It's not just the driver that's important in winning a championship. Without the chief mechanic, the driver wouldn't be at the top."

Mobley, a long-time friend of Indy Pro Series team owner Brian Stewart and the team's chief mechanic, Mo Larsen, developed Mo's Gold just in time for the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

Sunoco returns to the Indy Pro Series as the official fuel supplier. Indy Pro Series cars run on Sunoco's 114-octane racing gasoline. IRL PR

IRL rides growth and momentum into '06 IRL rides growth and momentum into '06The Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series begins its 11th season on March 26 with the Toyota Indy 300 presented by XM Satellite Radio at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

On the track, the IndyCar Series has continued the tradition and excitement of the Indianapolis 500 through its pure speed and drama. The IRL also has enjoyed unprecedented off-track accomplishments in the last year.

Key areas such as television, sponsor exposure, Internet, radio, attendance and licensed product sales have shown significant growth from the same time last year.

"The last few years have laid the groundwork for a strong business platform for the IndyCar Series," said Brian Barnhart, president and COO for the Indy Racing League. "The IndyCar Series has long been recognized in motorsports circles for its speed, drama and incredibly close competition, and last year, we have clearly succeeded in expanding our reach to the mainstream. The foundation has been laid and we are well positioned for continued growth on and off the race track."

A look at key areas of growth for the league follows: zzzz

  • Television: In 2005, the IndyCar Series showed in increase in viewership across all three networks that telecast events according to Nielsen Media Research. ABC's ratings grew 53 percent. ESPN's ratings grew 33 percent and ESPN2's ratings were up 50 percent in 2005.
  • Sponsor Exposure: According to the Joyce Julius and Associates IndyCar Series Sponsors Report, 849 sponsors received visual and/or verbal recognition on the league's ABC Sports, ESPN and ESPN2 broadcasts. Collectively, the sponsors amassed 86 hours, 7 minutes, 23 seconds (86:07:23) of clear, in-focus exposure time. IndyCar Series sponsors saw a 57 percent increase in the comparable value of their sponsorships during the 2005 IndyCar Series season,
  • indycar.com: The league's website recorded triple-digit growth for the second consecutive year. In 2005, the Web site showed a 162 percent increase in traffic. 
  • IMS Radio Network: The home of the IndyCar Series radio broadcasts throughout the season increased its total households reached by more than 1.2 million and the number of stations carrying Indy Racing Weekly has increased by 76 percent from 2004.
  • Attendance: According to media estimates, the league has calculated a 9 percent increase in attendance compared to 2004.
  • Licensed Product Sales: The League's at-track licensed product sales saw a 75 percent increase from the same time in the 2004 season.

The IndyCar Series also enjoyed unprecedented media exposure in 2005, including a Sports Illustrated cover story in the June 6 issue, the first cover for the series in its history and first Indianapolis 500 cover since 1985. IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick also was featured on the cover of TV Guide and ESPN: The Magazine. Additionally, such non-traditional outlets such as CNN, Time, Newsweek, TV Guide, MAXIM, People, US Weekly, Esquire and FHM have covered the action around the IndyCar Series.

On the day following the Indianapolis 500, 44 of the top 50 newspapers around the country featured "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" on its cover. And for the year, the league saw a 30 percent increase in national coverage. The league also has witnessed an increase in coverage in major markets as well as an increase in credentialed media at all of its events. IRL PR

Sneak Peek 2006: Target Chip Ganassi Racing Sneak Peek 2006: Target Chip Ganassi RacingChip Ganassi said passing on Dan Wheldon prior to the 2003 season might have been one of the biggest mistakes he'd ever made.

He wasn't about to make the same mistake again. The veteran team owner pulled the biggest coup of the off-season, signing the reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion to partner with 2003 IndyCar Series champ Scott Dixon.

"Obviously, we're happy to have Dan Wheldon joining Target Chip Ganassi Racing for the foreseeable future," Ganassi said. "We couldn't be happier with what Dan brings to the team, not only in terms of his ability, but his tendency to run at the front of a very difficult and competitive series. He is a proven champion, and his teaming up with another champion in Scott Dixon is a perfect fit for our IndyCar driver lineup. We think the addition of Dan ensures Target Chip Ganassi Racing's position as a formidable competitor in the IndyCar Series moving forward."

The addition of Wheldon is one of many changes for the team, which has also added Honda engines and will use Dallara chassis for the 11 oval events this season. zzzz

Wheldon, who won a record six races in 2005 and became the first driver to win the IndyCar Series title and Indianapolis 500 in the same year, said moving from Andretti Green Racing to Ganassi's team provided the challenge he was looking at this point in his career.

"Throughout my career, I've always looked favorably on Chip's team and the things they've been able to accomplish in motor racing," Wheldon said. "I'm obviously very excited about joining Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and having the opportunity to team up with another IndyCar champion in Scott Dixon. Looking forward to 2006, a few of my goals include sustaining the momentum I have coming off last season, and returning the Target team to where they're accustomed to running - up front."
Already, the pairing seems to paying dividends. Dixon, Wheldon and NASCAR driver Casey Mears won the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, and both were among the leading drivers during preseason testing.

"The Target team and Chip Ganassi have always tried to give us the tools, effort and support to get our jobs as drivers done on the track, and with all the announcements it shows everyone how committed we are to winning," Dixon said. "Dan Wheldon is a good addition to the team and I look forward to working with him. His knowledge of both the Honda engine and Dallara chassis package will also be a good contribution. There certainly is a lot to look forward to this season."

Car numbers: 9 (Dixon), 10 (Wheldon)
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Honda/Firestone (ovals) and Panoz/Honda/Firestone (road/street courses)
Drivers: Scott Dixon, 25, of Auckland, New Zealand, and Dan Wheldon, 27, of Emberton, England.
Race engineers: Eric Bretzman (Dixon), Andy Brown (Wheldon)
Chief mechanics: Ricky Davis (Dixon), Dave Higuera (Wheldon)
Managing director: Mike Hull
Team managers: Scott Harner and Barry Wanser

Mike Hull, managing director: "We truly believe that the combination of these two talented championship drivers, along with the addition of Honda and Dallara gives us a very competitive package for 2006 and beyond. We're always looking to the future with the goal of improving the performance of the team and winning the big races. What Wheldon and the Andretti Green Team have done together is remarkable. The experience of winning the Indianapolis 500 and the Series championships is something both he and the Target team share, and we look forward to continuing that success together once again."

Scott Dixon 2005 IndyCar Series season
Starts 17
Victories 1
Top 5 1
Top 10 5
Poles 0
Laps led 25
Best start 4th (Michigan, Kentucky, Watkins Glen
Best finish 1st (Watkins Glen)
Running at finish 10
Points rank 13th
Earnings $919,805

Dan Wheldon 2005 IndyCar Series season (with Andretti Green Racing)
Starts 17
Victories 6
Top 5 12
Top 10 15
Poles 0
Laps led 752
Best start 2nd (Phoenix, Kentucky)
Best finish 1st (Homestead, St. Petersburg, Motegi,
Indianapolis, Pikes Peak, Chicagoland)
Running at finish 15
Points rank 1st
Earnings $3,721,005 IRL

Herrington an impressive 2nd at Sebring" Herrington an impressive 2nd at Sebring"Daniel Herrington (19) charged to an impressive 2nd place finish at the first race of the 2006 Star Mazda championship at Sebring International Raceway this weekend with AIM Autosport and Bluetooth support.
Quick all weekend, Herrington (Pictured right, far right) was regularly in the top 3 before getting caught out in a crash-filled first qualifying session, which resulted in him starting in 10th. However, the rookie Mazda driver quickly carved his way back to the front in the Bluetooth car, having a race long battle to challenge eventual winner Gerardo Bonilla.
Herrington states, "What a great start to the 2006 season. We were challenging for top spot all weekend, and a 2nd place proves that we have the speed to challenge for the championship, and we now have a lot of points towards that goal. I can’t wait to get to the next race of the year.” zzzz

Herrington used a Bluetooth enabled wireless headset in his car during the week. “The Bluetooth device worked flawlessly in its debut outing,” says Herrington. “The fact that our first version of a Bluetooth wireless headset worked at one of the roughest race tracks in North America says a lot about the reliability of Bluetooth technology. I am excited to see how the device develops over the year!”
The first year engineering student returns to the NC State campus, where he can focus on his studies with the long break before race 2 of the Mazda championship in Houston Texas on May 14th.
For more details, visit www.danielherrington.com or contact Daniel via e-mail at daniel@danielherrington.com

Francis wins Crew Chief of the Race Award Francis wins Crew Chief of the Race AwardThe only person that Kasey Kahne couldn’t outrun this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway was Mother Nature.  Sunday afternoon’s rain showers forced NASCAR to postpone the Golden Corral 500 until the following day, but Kahne had no problem leaving the field in his No. 9 Dodge Charger’s wake once the race went green.  Kahne’s day earned his crew chief, Kenny Francis, the WYPALL® Wipers Crew Chief of the Race.

A panel of voters; including Tony Eury Sr., a member of the local media and a WYPALL® Wipers representative; all agreed that Francis deserved Crew Chief of the Race honors for putting Kahne in position to collect the win.  “Kenny (Francis) and Kasey really click and that showed today,” said Eury Sr. following the race.  “Kenny did a good job keeping up with the track and making adjustments to the car.  At the end of the race, it was so good that no one could catch up to Kasey.”

Although Kahne ran away from the pack in the final stages of the event, his car struggled in the early goings of the race.  Francis and Kahne worked together to remedy the problem.  “Kasey actually made the call, he wanted to get a spring rubber out of the right-rear,” said Francis.  “We had to give up some track position to do that, but it turned out to be the call of the race.  He drove back up there pretty good after we pulled that out.”

For winning the Crew Chief of the Race award, Francis was presented $1,000.  At the end of the season the crew chief with the most weekly wins will receive $20,000 and be crowned the WYPALL® Wipers Crew Chief of the Year.  This was Francis’ first Crew Chief of the Race award in 2006, which ties him with Darian Grubb for second-place in the standings.  Robbie Reiser is in the lead with two wins.

track news
SMI Execs get boost in compensation SMI Execs get boost in compensationBruton Smith, chairman and chief executive of Speedway Motorports Inc., got a $350,000 bump in his bonus for 2005, driving his total compensation for the year to $1.76 million.

That's up from the $1.41 million Smith received in 2003 and 2004.

For 2005, Smith got a salary of $400,000, a bonus of $1.35 million and $6,900 in other compensation. He got the same salary, a $1 million bonus and $6,400 in other compensation for 2004.

All the company's top executives received larger bonuses in 2005 than in 2004. More at Charlotte Business Journal 

CTE Racing - HVM signs Philippe CTE Racing - HVM signs PhilippeIndianapolis, IN  – CTE Racing – HVM partners Cedric The Entertainer and Keith Wiggins are proud to announce that Frenchman Nelson Philippe (pictured right) will drive the #4 CTE Racing-HVM Lola in the 2006 Champ Car World Series.

“We have seen great potential in Nelson over the past season and we were keen to see what he could do on our team” said team owner, Keith Wiggins.  “He is young and has learned a lot over the past seasons. Some mistakes have not deterred him and he has become faster each season, which sets him up as a serious challenger now.  We expect great things together.”

Philippe; just 19 years old, is entering his third season of Champ Car competition and has set several records along the way.  He became the youngest driver ever to start a Champ Car race, when he made his rookie debut at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 2004 at just 17 years of age, scoring back-to-back top ten finishes. 

2005 proved to be a break-out year for Philippe. At the second race of the season in Monterrey, Mexico, he was poised to take his first Champ Car victory, leading 23 laps, before a mechanical failure stole his victory toward the end of the race.  This performance was a preview of the season to come where he bettered his qualifying and finishing record at more than half of the 2005 race schedule. Highlights included starting from sixth place on the challenging street circuit in San Jose and his seventh place finish at the historic Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez at the series finale in Mexico City. zzzz

Philippe’s successful season resulted in him being voted the Series’ “Most Improved Driver” by his peers and he won the Nation’s Cup along with fellow Frenchmen, Sebastien Bourdais.  Nelson commented, “We have been talking for a few months now and it is a great relief to finally get started. This past week working with the team in Indy has really showed me that this team wants to win. The engineers and crew have worked very hard over the winter period and it boosts my confidence for this upcoming season. The team and I are getting along very well and we are all eager to test in Sebring after such a long off-season.”

Nelson has spent this week with the crew and engineers in preparation for his debut as a CTE-HVM team driver when the team tests at Sebring next week. His engineer, Will Phillips, is pleased to start working with Nelson and commented “Nelson’s enthusiasm is both refreshing and infectious. We have all been delighted to have such a positive start to our working relationship. It promises to be a good season!”

With more than 2.2 million people attending Champ Car races annually and a massive worldwide audience, CTE Racing-HVM offers a range of proven marketing and advertising platforms to enhance the business of its corporate partners. 

Alex Barron to race in Atlantics Alex Barron to race in AtlanticsUPDATE One of the most personable and distinguished champions in the recent history of the Atlantic Championship is returning to his racing roots this season. American racer Alex Barron, the 1997 Atlantic series champion, is coming home to the series where he first established a name for himself, signing on to drive for Polestar Racing Group in the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

Barron, 35, has raced in both the Champ Car World Series and the IRL since capturing the ’97 Atlantic crown. The homecoming for the Menifee, California native represents a reunion with Jim Griffith, the engineer who helped guide Barron to his Atlantic title with Lynx Racing. Griffith now owns the Polestar team along with his wife Pam and engineer Bruce Potter. Barron not only becomes an instant contender for the ’06 Atlantic championship with the experienced Polestar squad, he will also help serve as a guiding force for rookie and new 17-year-old teammate Alan Sciuto, one of America’s brightest rising racing stars.

“I’m excited to be returning to Atlantic competition,” said Barron. “With a new crop of very talented teams and drivers, the Atlantic Championship should be one of the most competitive series in all of racing this season. It’s going to be a lot fun working with the Griffiths again and everyone at Polestar. I’ve gotten to know Alan a little bit and I think he’s a tremendous talent. With the team we’ve got assembled here, I think we’re going to have an awesome 2006 season.”

Barron will pilot the #21 Mazda-Cosworth/Swift 016.a/Yokohama for the fourth-year Polestar team. He’ll compete with sponsorship from The Room Store, Arizona’s largest volume furniture store, which also sponsors veteran Dan Selznick in the Atlantic Championship. Additional sponsorship may be added to Barron’s entry in the coming weeks.  zzzz

“We’re happy to be sponsoring Alex in this year’s championship,” said Selznick, who’s worked closely with Barron over the last few years to refine his own driving style. “He’s going to be great for the series because of his immense talent and his efforts over the last few years have really helped me become a much better racer."

“Alex is going to be a great addition to the team,” said Jim Griffith, whose squad earned a series-high five victories in 2005 with Atlantic rookies Katherine Legge and Antoine Bessette. “I have a lot of respect for him both as a driver and a person and he’ll certainly raise our game as we go after the Atlantic championship this season.”

In ’97, Barron took the Atlantic series by storm. He earned five wins and four pole positions with the Lynx team to capture both the series title and Rookie-of-the-Year honors. The following season he graduated to Champ Cars joining Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers squad. After being named RACER magazine’s Most Promising Road Racer of the Year in ’98, Barron competed for a number of Champ Car teams over the next several seasons. He made 34 Champ Car starts from 1998-2001 for teams including All-American Racers, Marlboro Team Penske, Dale Coyne Racing and Arciero-Blair Racing. He joined the IRL in 2001 and earned two series victories in 59 starts through last season.

Barron will join Sciuto and the Polestar team at this week’s first test session with the new-generation Champ Car Atlantic car, March 21-22 at the California Speedway road course. He’ll officially make his Atlantic re-introduction at the opening race of the season, April 7-9 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Champ Car

03/19/06 SPEEDTV.com reports that IRL and Champ Car veteran Alex Barron will step down to the revitalized Champ Car Atlantics series in 2006 to drive for the Polestar team.  Barron hopes to win the $2 million prize that goes to the champion and vault himself back up into Champ Car.

Barron was out of a ride when Eddie Cheever lost his Red Bull backing and Toyota pulled out of the IRL forcing him to shut his IRL team down.

Finlay team merges with Essex Racing Finlay team merges with Essex RacingFinlay Motorsports announced earlier today plans to combine forces with Essex Racing for the remainder of the 2006 Grand American Rolex Series schedule. Finlay Motorsports driver’s Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante first teamed with Essex Racing during last year’s Mexico City Grand American event.

Essex Racing was searching for two drivers to pilot their No. 5 entry and to help the team secure the points needed for them to qualify as a pacesetter team for the 2006 season.

Finlay Motorsports having announced that it will change to a 2-car team of Ford-powered Crawford’s for 2006, took advantage of the opportunity to allow their drivers to familiarize themselves with the new combination. “This move just seemed like a perfect fit for the team,” said Finlay. zzzz

“We were able to help Essex score the points they needed by finishing 12th in last year’s Mexico City race and when Michael (Gue) mentioned partnering up with Finlay Motorsports for the remainder of the season we jumped at the opportunity.” The Finlay Motorsports team will continue to operate from the team’s headquarters in Mooresville, N.C., the only visible difference being the Make-A- Wish/Z-line Designs sponsored machine will now carry the No. 5. “We’ve been looking for a way to continue our relationship with Essex Racing,” explained Steve Cameron, Team Manager and Driver Coach for Finlay Motorsports.

“When this opportunity presented itself, we sat down and made sure that it would be mutually beneficial to Finlay Motorsports and Essex Racing and we think we were able to accomplish that.” The team will next compete in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Rolex Series practice is slated to begin at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, March 23 with qualifying taking place Friday evening at 6:30 p.m.

The green flag will drop for round three of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 25. The 250-mile/109-laps/2 ¾ hour time limit contest will be broadcast on the Speed Channel at 8:00 p.m. ET, be sure to check your local listings. Finlay Motorsports

Wallace to test COT Wallace to test COTUPDATE HAMPTON, Ga. - NASCAR will conduct its first test of its "Car of Tomorrow" on a short track this week when at least four teams are expected to test cars March 27 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.  NASCAR officials expect at least one car from Roush Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing. NASCAR will also test its own car. ThatsRacin.com

03/20/06 Rusty Wallace has been asked by NASCAR officials to help with the development of the new car. Wallace is scheduled to drive one at an upcoming Bristol test session scheduled for March 27, the day after the Nextel Cup race. Yahoo! Sports

Pi Research sponsors new F2000 Series Pi Research sponsors new F2000 SeriesIndianapolis, IN: Pi Research is proud to announce a contingency sponsorship package for racers in the new F2000 Championship Series. For registered competitors using Pi Research Data Acquisition Systems, Pi Research will award race winners and the top three in year-end championship points product award certificates totaling up to $3,000.

During the twelve race season, each winning driver (who is registered for the contingency award and using Pi Research Data Acquisition products) will receive a $200 product gift certificate. Pi Research users finishing in the top three of year-end points will receive potential awards totaling $600.

“Pi Research is very excited to be involved with the F2000 Championship Series,” said Tom Remedios, Pi Research’s Club Sales & Support Manager. “In the F2000 Championship Series, GTP Motorsports will be the trackside dealer/support to assure our customers have the support necessary to maximize their Pi data systems and compete for wins and the championship.”

For over fifteen years, Pi Research has been the leader in data acquisition production and innovation. Pi Research systems are used at every level of motorsports from Formula 1 to karting, and are the only data acquisition systems used in Champ Car and the Indy Racing League.

The F2000 Championship Series seeks to fill a void in the entry-level, single-seat racing community. Created for Formula Continental drivers currently competing in both amateur and professional events, the F2000 Championship Series will feature both Pinto and Zetec powered F2000 cars. Utilizing the SCCA Club Racing GCR (General Competition Rules). Sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing, drivers in the F2000 Championship Series only require a National license or above to compete, and receive the dual benefits of outstanding Participant Accident and Liability Insurance.

Commencing at Virginia International Raceway April 14-16, the F2000 Championship Series will race at Summit Point Point Raceway May 19-21, Watkins Glen International June 9-22, Lime Rock Park June 30-July 1, Midi-Ohio Sports Car Course August 11-13, Mid Ohio Sports Car Course and Lime Rock Park September 30-Oct 1.

Toyota Red Bull team hiring crew members Toyota Red Bull team hiring crew membersToyota's other team, Red Bull Racing, is hiring crew members and working to build a team for next season, Toyota officials told reporters in Atlanta.
Malaysian GP post-race press conference Malaysian GP post-race press conference
Alonso was fastest man at Sepang Alonso was fastest man at Sepang
1. F. Alonso - Renault - 1:34.803 (+ 0.000 ) - 45 lap
2. G. Fisichella - Renault - 1:35.294 (+ 0.491 ) - 16 lap
3. J. P. Montoya - McLaren Mercedes - 1:35.566 (+ 0.763 ) - 39 lap
4. J. Button - Honda - 1:35.604 (+ 0.801 ) - 35 lap
5. M. Schumacher - Ferrari - 1:35.647 (+ 0.844 ) - 44 lap
6. R. Schumacher - Toyota - 1:35.686 (+ 0.883 ) - 34 lap
7. N. Heidfeld - BMW Sauber - 1:35.751 (+ 0.948 ) - 41 lap
8. F. Massa - Ferrari - 1:35.954 (+ 1.151 ) - 44 lap
9. J. Villeneuve - BMW Sauber - 1:36.002 (+ 1.199 ) - 43 lap
10. R. Barrichello - Honda - 1:36.186 (+ 1.383 ) - 54 lap
11. J. Trulli - Toyota - 1:36.380 (+ 1.577 ) - 52 lap
12. M. Webber - Williams Cosworth - 1:36.771 (+ 1.968 ) - 12 lap
13. C. Klien - Red Bull Ferrari - 1:36.867 (+ 2.064 ) - 14 lap
14. S. Speed - Toro Rosso Cosworth - 1:37.313 (+ 2.510 ) - 25 lap
15. N. Rosberg - Williams Cosworth - 1:37.366 (+ 2.563 ) - 6 lap
16. V. Liuzzi - Toro Rosso Cosworth - 1:37.387 (+ 2.584 ) - 40 lap
17. D. Coulthard - Red Bull Ferrari - 1:38.078 (+ 3.275 ) - 4 lap
18. C. Albers - MF1 Toyota - 1:38.198 (+ 3.395 ) - 34 lap
19. T. Monteiro - MF1 Toyota - 1:39.510 (+ 4.707 ) - 39 lap
20. T. Sato Super Aguri Honda - 1:40.199 (+ 5.396 ) - 14 lap
21. Y. Ide - Super Aguri Honda - 1:42.833 (+ 8.030 ) - 18 lap
22. K. Raikkonen - McLaren Mercedes - No Time ( ) - NA lap.
Alonso labels his move suicidal Alonso labels his move suicidalWorld Champion Fernando Alonso has admitted that his first turn move to jump from 8th to 3rd at the start of the Malaysian GP was very risky.

Alonso told Spanish TV, "The start was very good.  When I was arriving at the first corner I saw the two Williams were fighting each other almost in the pitlane, so I took a risk and went around the outside. It was an almost suicidal move, but it worked out fine.

"I thought that at the start, with such a heavy fuel load, I wouldn't be able to overtake anyone, but everything went better than expected." Photos courtesy Ferrari and Renault

Podlesni Leads The Way at California Speedway Podlesni Leads The Way at California Speedway
Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Renault is F1's 'best' - Briatore
Klien denies blame for Kimi crash
Heidfeld's 100th
F1 'flex' storm rages on
'Best' turnout at Sepang
Toyota stir after nightmare slumber
No 'team orders' for Massa
Schu says Oz should be better
Theissen proposes FIA tweak
Renault 'clearly' in front, says BMW boss
Only Merc's V8 is intact
Loss 'like a win' - Alonso
Brawn hits back at Rossi jibe
Bothered Button confronts Speed
Nico 'slapped' for Webber squeeze
Paparazzi intrudes on Alonso's private life Paparazzi intrudes on Alonso's private lifeIn Spain World Champion Fernando Alonso is, understandably, a phenomenon. Three years ago the country did not tune in to motor racing, but that changed when Alonso became a championship contender. Television viewing figures increased by 45% in 2005 compared with the year before, and Spain became the fourth-largest viewing population worldwide, with an average 4.5m viewers per race accounting for 52% of market share.

Renault has also capitalized on the Alonso effect, launching the Renault Megane Sport F1, and its Spanish sales have risen by 10% to nearly a quarter of a million a year. While Alonso could join holidaymakers on the south Wales coast, cowering behind windbreaks and licking their ice creams, and remain unmolested, this is impossible at home.

“I can no longer walk around my home town of Oviedo in Spain, as it causes too much fuss,” he says. “Even when I go to watch Real Madrid, I have to put on a disguise to prevent too much attention. This is sad, as I miss my family and friends a lot.”

Not only is he bothered constantly at home — “a coach full of 50 people pulled up at the traffic lights when I was back in Spain and they all wanted my autograph” — but his family is also feeling the pressure, with an ever-present paparazzi pack camped outside their home. “The media attention outside of F1 really bothers me,” he says. “It is more stressful for me to be hounded in my private life than to drive my F1 car. Once I’m in the car I feel completely in control, it is my office. I enjoy the pressure put on me to retain the title, but pressure out of the car is a bit distressing.” More at London Times

Quote of the week Quote of the weekWhat if a race was held and no one showed up?  It almost happened at the A1GP race at Laguna Seca.....Any attendance figures north of a few thousand are a fabrication.  Crewman outnumbered campers.  Fortunately a TV crew and a handful of journalists were there, otherwise no record of this event would have been made. Curt Cavin, AutoWeek
Rain plays havoc with team logistics Rain plays havoc with team logisticsEven after sitting in the rain for eight hours at Atlanta Motor Speedway, many teams still elected to fly the hour back to Charlotte for the night.  Smaller teams that do not own their own planes had to call and book hotels.

The Golden Corral 500 was delayed by rain Sunday at AMS, and NASCAR will try to run the race at 11 a.m. ET Monday. The garage opens at 8 a.m. ET.

The postponement doesn't pose a huge problem for most teams. Teams fly back using Tara Field, located behind Turn 1, and those that didn't go home simply rebook their hotel rooms for another night.

Virtually all of the multi-car teams fly their over-the-wall crews in on Sunday mornings unless the race is held on the West Coast. In those instances, over-the-wall crews arrive at the tracks on Saturdays.

Because over-the-wall crews on multi-car teams rarely require hotel rooms for races on the East Coast, teams will shuttle them back to Charlotte and then back to Atlanta on Monday morning.  More at NASCAR.com

Massive cyclone misses Surfers Paradise Massive cyclone misses Surfers ParadiseSurfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia, home of the popular Champ Car race each October, appears to have been spared a Category 5 (highest) Cyclone packing winds of 180 mph (and you thought Hurricane Katrina was bad at 150 mph).  This CNN article shows where the Cyclone hit in northern Queensland, Australia.
formula bmw
Hectic week ahead for Hollywood star/Driver Muniz Hectic week ahead for Hollywood star/Driver MunizFormula BMW USA race driver Frankie Muniz has a busy couple of weeks with both his racing and acting commitments. Muniz will start the week with movie promotions and appearances in Los Angeles and New York for the Disney / SpyGlass release on March 24th of his newest feature film, thriller “Stay Alive”.

The studio has Muniz scheduled to appear on many nationally televised shows including:

Monday, March 20th — “Best Damn Sports Show” in Los Angeles on the FOX Lot.
Wednesday, March 22nd — New York press interviews about “Stay Alive”

Thursday, March 23rd — New York press interviews. Appearances on “Live with Regis and Kelly” and ESPN Zone.

Thursday, March 30th — Last Call with Carson Daly.

While on the shows, Frankie intends to also speak about his plans for racing in 2006 & 2007.

Frankie will then spend the weekend with his Jensen MotorSport team preparing for his first official test in the 2006 Formula BMW USA championship at the Road Atlanta circuit in Braselton, Georgia on March 27th and 28th, Frankie will drive the #2 Jensen MotorSport blue race car in the 2006 championship.

Button dismayed by Renault speed Button dismayed by Renault speedHonda's Jenson Button was deflated by the superiority of the Renaults that beat him into third place in the Malaysian Grand Prix.  "I'm pleased to see us on the podium but it's the top step we had in mind. We want to be winning races," he said.

"That's the maximum I could get out of the car, we were on the limit in every lap. We have a bit of work to do.

"There was no point in the race where we could have gone any quicker... They [Renault] pulled away so quickly at the start." More at BBC Sport

Qatar race gets title sponsor Qatar race gets title sponsorThe Grand Prix of Qatar enters its third year on the MotoGP World Championship calendar in 2006, and as the race becomes an established world class event within the Gulf state, one of the country’s leading banking institutions Commercialbank today confirmed a deal to become the title sponsor of the race for the next three years during a special presentation event in Doha.

Formed in 1975 as Qatar’s first private sector bank, Commercialbank has grown its corporate and personal banking businesses successfully each year since its launch to become one of the most important banks in the state. As a committed supporter of the Qatari community, Commercialbank agreed a deal with MotoGP World Championship rights-holders Dorna Sports to become title sponsor of the Qatari round of the series, taking full naming rights and all the other benefits enjoyed by the position, whilst projecting a positive image of Qatar to MotoGP’s massive global audience. zzzz

Commercialbank’s Deputy CEO, Mohammed Mandani, said, “Becoming the title sponsor of the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar is a great honor for us and will help to project Qatar’s global reputation as an economic and sporting powerhouse of the Gulf region.”

Meanwhile Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation President, Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiya, said, “Each year since the launch of MotoGP in Qatar in 2004, the event has grown in status. Commercialbank, a leading Qatari bank, will enable us to lift the event to a new level on the global stage.”

As such, the second round of the MotoGP World Championship in 2006 will be known as the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar. The event will take place at the Losail International Circuit, just a few miles to the north of the capital city of Doha, and as has become traditional the races are scheduled to be run on a Saturday, April 8th.

Bourdais key to GT2 win at Sebring Bourdais key to GT2 win at SebringSEBRING, Fla. – Preparing to climb back into the Multimatic Motorsports Panoz Esperante GTLM at the midpoint of Saturday’s Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring, two-time defending Champ Car titlist Sebastien Bourdais wasn’t exactly optimistic about his chances over the next six hours.

His Multimatic Panoz squad where he was partnered with David Brabham and Scott Maxwell had just given up the GT2 class lead, the third-place car was closing fast, his cool suit had failed during his stint during the worst heat of the day, and worse – the other guys had a good race car.

“Our car is good, but it’s a little difficult under braking and I’m more tired than I thought I would be after my last stint,” Bourdais said. “And man, that Ferrari is fast.”

Notice he didn’t say that he couldn’t catch it.

Bourdais used a timely caution to pull within a few car lengths of the class-leading Risi Ferrari, then took just four laps to make the pass for the lead, where he began building on a lead that would eventually give them a GT2 class win at Sebring.

The team steadily widened its lead throughout the evening, losing it only briefly during pit stop cycles, but things got interesting when Bourdais climbed aboard to run the stint to the checkers. A well-built lead evaporated in a flash when the DHL Porsche Prototype stopped on course with 40 minutes to run. Under caution, Mike Lieb was moved to within six seconds of Bourdais for the restart but the Champ Car title winner added two seconds on the lead soon after the green flag flew and cruised home to the win, giving Panoz a win in his first outing with the Esperante GTLM. The day had a last little bit of drama as the famed start/finish clock at Sebring ticked off the final minutes, as the team saw early-warning signs of trouble from a balky gearbox, but Bourdais eased the car without incident around the 3.7-mile Sebring layout over the final laps, winning the class and finishing ninth overall. zzzz

"It was a very intense race. The whole team did a great job," said Bourdais. "What a way to start the season. I really enjoyed driving with David and Scott. We were worried at the last stop that the gearbox would go because it was vibrating. But it held together."

“Sebastien and Scotty did a great job and the guys deserved everything they got tonight.” said Brabham, who celebrated his 11th Sebring class win with the effort.

The day wasn’t a complete success for the Multimatic team or the Champ Car contingent as the sister car to the race-winning machine fell out of the race with a driveline problem, falling out while in the hands of Newman/Haas driver Bruno Junqueira.

"I was confident we had the speed, but the reliability the car showed today is a real credit to our guys on the crew. David, Scott and Sebastien did a brilliant job all day,” Multimatic Vice President and Motorsports Technical Director, Larry Holt said. “It would have been nice to had two cars running strong at the finish, but Sebring can be a real car breaker. Gunnar and Tom showed they have the pace to challenge strongly this year and it’s a real pity for Bruno he didn't get more laps in his first sportscar race.”

Newman/Haas Racing teammates Bourdais and Junqueira will be back in Sebring for testing on Wednesday and Thursday, as the Champ Car stars prepare for the April 7-9 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the season-opening race of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford campaign. Champ Car

Cup race postponed until Monday Cup race postponed until MondayPersistent rain pelted Atlanta Motor Speedway for most of the day Sunday, forcing NASCAR to postpone the Golden Corral 500 until 11 a.m. ET Monday.  (Photo right by CIA Stock Photo)

The race will be broadcast on FX.
NASCAR impounded the cars until Monday, preventing teams from making any adjustments.

Driver introductions were made on time Sunday during a short period of dryness, but the command to start engines was not given.

The weather forecast for Monday is not promising, either. Thunderstorms are expected throughout the day with highs in the 50s. If the race gets rained out again Monday, NASCAR likely would attempt to run the race Tuesday, when the weather is expected to be much better, although there is still a small chance of showers.

Post-Sepang Q and A with Fisichella Post-Sepang Q and A with FisichellaThe Italian was determined to bounce back from the result in Bahrain and he did so magnificently with a dominant win today in Malaysia. The ten points move the Italian up to fourth in the championship.

Giancarlo: pole and the win. It seems you had an ideal race…
"It was the perfect afternoon for me, but it was very tough mentally and physically. I found it hard! It was really, really hot. I began feeling tired from mid-race onwards, but I knew it would be tough and that I had to fight all the way to the end. There was no other option, because I had to attack. I didn’t want to lose concentration, and I am really pleased with the result."

How was the car?
"We had a good balance all through the race, even though there was some graining after the first stop. Apart from that, the R26 handled beautifully and I was very comfortable."

Were you worried about Fernando’s pace towards the end?
"No. My engineer kept me informed of what was going on, and I was controlling my pace to stay ahead.   But there was no point pushing so hard that I went off..."

This was an emotional weekend for you…
"Yes, and that’s why I am so pleased to win. I dedicate the win to my friend Pietro who died last week. I was also delighted to see my race engineer, Alan Permane, on the podium alongside me. Thank you to all the team, this is a fantastic result."

In one sense, is this the real start to your season? 
Yes. It’s the opposite to last year. In 2006, I had a bad first race and I have won the second. I am feeling very confident for the future now. I have a good feeling." Source Renault

Post-Sepang Q and A with Alonso Post-Sepang Q and A with AlonsoWith the runner-up position behind team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, Fernando Alonso scored eight points today, in spite of a poor starting slot on the grid. He now leads the championship by a healthy seven-point margin.

Fernando, how was the race for you?
"Pretty good. My only chance was to make up a lot of positions in the first corner, and I took some big risks on the first lap. That paid off and I was running third straight away. After that , we fine-tuned our strategy so we could get past Button and finish second."

Mark Webber was very close to you early on. Were you worried?
"Not really. He was quick but we knew he was lighter than me. If he had tried to pass, I wouldn’t have blocked him because I had too much to lose. Plus, our strategy meant we would have got back ahead later."

Looking back at the race, do you think you could have done any better?
"No.  Today was about damage limitation, and it is a better result than I expected. I have scored 18 points in two races, which is a fantastic start to the season. Without the problem yesterday in qualifying, I could have fought for pole and had a very different race. I am aiming to win in Melbourne to have the best possible ending to the flyaway races. The car was perfect in these first two races, and I think we will be very quick everywhere. I can’t wait for the next races!" Source Renault

Burton Battles Tough for Busch Series Win Burton Battles Tough for Busch Series WinJeff Burton took his first NASCAR Busch Series victory since October 2002 in the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway after a stirring duel in the late stages of the race with Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth. It was Burton’s 21st career series victory - a number which matches the 21 on the side of his Coast Guard-sponsored Chevrolet. The race was Burton’s first NASCAR Busch Series event at Atlanta since the track was reconfigured in 1997.

Burton started in eighth spot as pole-sitter Kyle Busch led the field to the green flag. Busch led the first 25 laps of the race but was taken out after a flat right rear tire blew the right side body panels off his Chevrolet. He later returned to the event many laps down.

The race saw several fender-bumping incidents between drivers in the early laps. J.J.Yeley bounced off the retaining wall on two occasions. The race was slowed to an average speed of 128 mph due to six caution flags with Scott Lynch bringing out the first on lap 12 due to a spin into the outside wall on turn 2. Tracy Hines and Ryan Newman both found the Safer barriers, however, no injuries were reported. Early contender Denny Hamlin lost several laps when his radiator was knocked out after he ran over debris from the Newman incident. zzzz

Eight different drivers led the event with 20 cars finishing on lead lap. Burton’s win marks the eighth different winner in the last eight NASCAR Busch Series races at Atlanta.

The top five finishers were: Burton, Kahne, Greg Biffle, Kenseth and Yeley. Busch Series regular Jason Leffler came home sixth.

Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Busch Series points race by 17 markers over second place J.J. Yeley. Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.

The NASCAR Busch Series heads to the lightning-fast Bristol Motor Speedway for next Saturday’s Sharpie Mini 300.

NASCAR has 9 new cars to approve NASCAR has 9 new cars to approveNASCAR officials will have a hectic summer, as no less than nine new cars will be submitted by the July 1 deadline for approval for competition in 2007.  All four Craftsman Truck Series manufacturers (Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota) will be submitting new models, and the same four will be submitting new Car of Tomorrow models. Also, Toyota will be submitting its version of the current Nextel Cup and Busch car. Yahoo! Sports 
Sebring GT2 win for Multimatic/Panoz team Sebring GT2 win for Multimatic/Panoz teamSebring - Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz has dominated the opening round of 2006 American Le Mans Series, the #50 Panoz Esperante GTLM of David Brabham, Scott Maxwell and Sebastien Bourdais winning the GT2 class in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Despite tough challenges from the Ferrari, Porsche and BMW opposition, the #50 Panoz Esperante led 178 of the 320 laps completed – spending seven hours and 22 minutes in the race lead.

Two-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais battled a late-race gearbox issue as he completed the final stint, finishing 5.365 seconds ahead of the Porsche of Mark Lieb, Jon Fogarty and Johannes van Overbeek.

The Ferrari 430 GT Berlinetta of Anthony Lazzaro, Ralf Kelleners and Jamie Melo finished third. zzzz

Brabham led the race for the opening 69 minutes before the first round of pit stops. The new Ferrari loomed as the toughest opposition for the Panoz squad as the lead changed repeatedly during the pit stop cycle for the opening seven and half hours of the race.

The Panoz began to assert its authority in the late afternoon when Bourdais passed the Ferrari after seven hours and 36 minutes.

From that point on, the Toronto-based Multimatic Panoz squad dominated the event – spending stints of 52, 56, 57 and 52 minutes in the lead – only losing top spot during each round of pit stops.

Panoz veteran David Brabham spent a total of 78 laps in the race lead, followed by Bourdais with 55 and Maxwell with 45. The victory was Brabham's eleventh class victory in the history of the American Le Mans Series, the second for Maxwell and Bourdais's first.

Brabham's GT2 victory today was his third Sebring Twelve Hour success – backing up his GT1 win with Aston Martin from last year and the 1998 Panoz GT prototype victory.

"This is an outstanding start for this program, I am just so proud of everybody involved," Multimatic Vice President and Motorsports Technical Director, Larry Holt said.

"Don and Danny Panoz have entrusted us with this program and to start the season with a victory – especially at such a tough race like Sebring is outstanding.

"I was confident we had the speed, but the reliability the car showed today is a real credit to our guys on the crew. David, Scott and Sebastien did a brilliant job all day and it feels great to be leading the championship after the opening round.

"It would have been nice to had two cars running strong at the finish, but Sebring can be a real car breaker. Gunnar and Tom showed they have the pace to challenge strongly this year and it’s a real pity for Bruno he didn't get more laps in his first sportscar race.

"We had a great battle today against Porsche, Ferrari and BMW but the Panoz Esperante again showed it is an outstanding car both on the road and on the track."

While the #50 Panoz trio got to spray champagne on the podium, the Sebring event was a bitter-sweet day for teammates Gunnar Jeannette, Tom Milner and Bruno Junqueira.

After showing impressive pace early in the race, the car lost rear drive after two hours, 36 minutes – leaving Junqueira stranded on course and putting the car out of the event.

For Multimatic, the win joins the 2000 P2 24 Hours of Le Mans victory and the 2003 Daytona Prototype, Rolex 24 at Daytona successes as major highlights for the Canadian squad.

Today's Sebring success was the second ever American Le Mans Series round victory for the Panoz Esperante and the second Twelve Hours of Sebring class win for the brand.

The #50 Panoz Esperante today finished 9th outright in the 54th running of the annual Sebring event which was won overall by the new diesel-powered Audi R10 of Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello and Alan McNish.

The next race on the schedule for the new championship-leading Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz squad will be the Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston from May 11-13.

Tom Kristensen greatest sports car driver ever Tom Kristensen greatest sports car driver everAt one time Jackie Ickx was known as the greatest sports car driver of all-time, having won the 24 Hours of LeMans a record six times.  However, Dane Tom Kristensen has taken over that mantle as the greatest.  He has now won the 24 Hours of LeMans a record seven times, including the last six French classic races in a row (with Bentley and Audi).  With Saturday's win at Sebring he has added a record 4th overall win in the famous Florida 12 hour enduro. Pictured right in Victory Lane at Sebring Saturday night.  Photo by Bob Heathcote/AutoRacing1.com
Button blasts Speed Button blasts SpeedJenson Button blasted Scuderia Toro Rosso's Scott Speed for holding him up in a crucial part of the Malaysian Grand Prix after he brought the Honda home in third, behind Fernando Alonso.

"There was no point in the race when we could have gone any quicker," Button said. "We had a problem with Scott Speed who held me up for a while which meant Alonso could get out of his final pit stop ahead of me."

A disappointing day for Toro Rosso squad A disappointing day for Toro Rosso squadA disappointing day for Scuderia Toro Rosso. Scott Speed had to abandon the race after what seems like a failure with the clutch lever on the steering wheel. Tonio Liuzzi finished 11th, but wasn't pleased. In the first lap he had contact with another car and had to come in for a new nose, so he lost a lot of time.

Tonio Liuzzi "It was a real pity that I had a tangle with another car on the first lap and had to lose time pitting for a new nose. Apart from that, the car was difficult to drive all through the race, as I was not happy with my brake or the balance of the car, which meant I kept locking the inside front wheel, which was too light. I could not keep up a good pace and I also seemed to luck out with a load of blue flags. It's been a race to forget so I'm already thinking about Melbourne."

Scott Speed "I did not get off the line too well, because of the way we had the system set up. It's too bad that I did not finish the race because this was the track where we expected to struggle the most. We were overgripped aerodynamically, but me and my engineer got the set-up about right in the end. After a poor qualifying, we ended up doing a good job, showing decent pace and having a good track position. It's a shame, but I think we can come back stronger in Melbourne, as this place was never going to suit us."

Tire issues loom at Atlanta today Tire issues loom at Atlanta todayThe Golden Corral 500 has a chance to be like other Nextel Cup races in Atlanta, where tires aren't a problem the day following a Busch Series event where tires weren't totally dependable.

But the race Sunday afternoon also could turn into a debacle as it did in Charlotte last October. Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch suffered tire blowouts in the Busch Series race Saturday at Atlanta, sparking memories of the tire-plagued races in Charlotte last year.

"The Cup cars will be worse," said veteran Matt Kenseth. "They've got a lot more power and a lot less spoiler. That will wear the tires off quicker."

NASCAR Vice President Robin Pemberton said the spring Atlanta weekends traditionally have tire issues early in the weekend but they fade as more rubber gets on the track. But there are two differences this year: Teams were not allowed to test at the track in the months leading up to the race and the chance of rain Sunday could rid the track of any old rubber. More at NASCAR Daily Scene

Kyle replacing brother as NASCAR’s bad-boy Kyle replacing brother as NASCAR’s bad-boyIf Kurt Busch wants to rid himself as NASCAR's most disliked driver, he can turn over the title to his younger brother.   Kyle Busch (right) is rapidly surpassing Kurt as one of the sport's most troublesome drivers entering Sunday's Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he will start 17th. Kyle Busch, 20, is known for his smart-aleck comments with the media, obstinate behavior with security guards and run-ins with drivers who have accomplished more in one season than he has in his career.   More at Yahoo! Sports
Low-downforce setup grains Montoya’s tires Low-downforce setup grains Montoya’s tiresMcLaren Mercedes driver Juan Pablo Montoya finished today's 56 lap Malaysian Grand Prix in fourth place. Montoya was on a two-stop strategy coming in on laps 23 and 42.

Kimi Raikkonen was hit by Christian Klien's Red Bull on the opening lap of the race which damaged his rear suspension and caused him to retire.

Montoya remains fifth in the Drivers' standings with nine points and Raikkonen is sixth with six. Team McLaren Mercedes is joint second with Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship with a total of 15 points.

Juan Pablo Montoya
“The car was good today and I think we had a solid race. We lost a lot of time in the first stint as my front tires were graining, but as soon as we changed the tires the car came back to life and if you look at my pace against Jenson Button later on it was pretty much the same. With the hot temperatures here we did have to look after the engine, which means that we had to sacrifice downforce, so finishing fourth is encouraging. We have scored some more points for the team and I think we look strong going into the next race.” zzzz

Kimi Raikkonen
“I am very disappointed because I had a great car set-up and very good race strategy. I think it was fairly obvious that Christian Klien made a pretty fundamental mistake and ran into the back of me at turn five, breaking my rear suspension in the process.
A positive side, the team has had good race reliability in the first two races and I am already looking forward to Melbourne in two weeks."

Ron Dennis
“Kimi being taken out in the first lap and Juan Pablo's first stint tire graining problems masked our true competitiveness. We also had to sacrifice some downforce to improve the cooling efficiency of the car. The whole team is looking forward to the scheduled improvements to both the car and engine, which should make us even more competitive in two weeks time. Unlike many teams, we have enjoyed good engine reliability which also supports our positive expectations for Melbourne.”

Norbert Haug
“Kimi was pushed out in the opening lap and we missed him a lot in this race. Our reliability was there and Juan Pablo drove a solid race. I would like to thank everybody in the team in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart for all their efforts over the last busy month to create this level. Our engines ran fine in both races within a week's time. We have a solid basis, however we definitely want to do better and we will continue to work hard." Source McLaren Mercedes

Double DNFs sting Williams Cosworth Double DNFs sting Williams CosworthLining up third and fourth on the grid at Sepang, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber were hoping for great things from today’s race. Sadly for Rosberg, his challenge ended with an engine failure just seven laps into the 56-lap race while Webber later retired having run as high as fourth, with a hydraulic problem.

Mark Webber
“My start wasn’t too bad, but Fernando’s was phenomenal. He closed up really quickly from behind me and passed me. This was a shame because it prevented us from running at our own pace. The hydraulic problem came on as I was on the start-finish line. My engineers confirmed it was terminal, so we had to stop. I am off to Australia tonight and I am really looking forward to seeing my family that I haven’t seen for a long time, so naturally I’m looking forward to my home race in a fortnight.” zzzz

Nico Rosberg
“What happened today was a shame because I was going quite well, even if I had lost a couple of places at the start due to wheelspin and also at the first corner where I could have been maybe a bit more aggressive, but after my experience in Bahrain, I just wanted to be careful. Nevertheless, I still thought I could have a good race. But just a few seconds before my engine gave up, I felt there was something wrong with it. It’s really unfortunate because I would have loved to finish the race, but that’s the way it is and I can’t change that. I’ll now have a couple of days of holiday and look forward to the race in Australia.”

Sam Michael, Technical Director
“It was a shame that we had two DNFs with the cars after a promising start. Both cars got off the line well until the first corner when Alonso went round the outside of both of them. Nico’s engine failed early in the race, then we had a problem on Mark’s car with the hydraulics - he developed a leak that we couldn’t fix in the pitstop and the car stopped about a lap and a half later. It’s a disappointing end to the weekend, but car performance-wise we could have been solidly into the points looking at everyone else’s pace and we’ll go to Melbourne with fixes to these problems with increased determination.”

Bernard Ferguson, Cosworth
“With it being the second race for the Cosworth CA2006 V8 engines in both cars, we knew it would be tough, especially in the hot conditions. Unfortunately Nico’s engine expired on lap seven due to an as yet undiagnosed problem. We need to get the failed engine back to our Northampton headquarters as quickly as possible so we can analyze the failure.” Source Williams Cosworth

Massa comes from back to beat teammate Massa comes from back to beat teammateStarting at the back of the field, Felipe Massa made good use of a one stop strategy to bring his Ferrari home in fifth position, holding off a challenge in the final laps from team-mate Michael Schumacher.

Given the reliability problems that plagued the team all weekend, both Massa and Schumacher were happy to go the distance and pick up points.

Felipe Massa
“I’m very pleased with this result and I would like to thank the team for an excellent job. To start from the last row and end up fifth is a good result. Our strategy worked well and I was able to make a good start. During the race I was able to push a bit more at the right moment knowing that during the other phases I would have needed to play more of a waiting game. I lost quite a bit of time behind some of the slower cars but when I had a free track I was able to improve my rhythm keep a good pace. It was a difficult race but finishing fifth gives me that extra bit of motivation for the next races where I hope to be able and compete with the front runners.” zzzz

Michael Schumacher
“We can accept this result, considering everything that has happened over the weekend. I don’t think that we could have achieved much more. On my second stint I wasn’t as quick as I was on my first and third one, so now we need to understand the reasons why."

"All things said and done, the race went basically as I had expected even if one always hopes for something more. During my first pit stop I had to wait a fraction of a second before going out because another car was coming down the pit lane. This was a wise decision from the safety point of view. During the closing stages of the race I was not able to get past Felipe because I just wasn’t fast enough and he didn’t make any mistakes.

This track has always been one of the most difficult for us. Melbourne is a completely different circuit and I hope that it will be better suited to our 248 F1. Now I’m going to take a few days off with my wife Corinna before traveling on to Australia.”

Jean Todt
“Considering all the problems that we’ve had over the weekend, today our objective was to bring home some points and that’s what we achieved. The team and the drivers worked well as did the Bridgestone tires. Today it was very difficult for us because Michael, on a two-stop strategy was starting from 14th place on the grid and Felipe 21st, was on a one-stop strategy. The seven points that we’ve picked up – four with Felipe and three with Michael - are very important in as far as future prospects are concerned in that we’re only at the start of the season. I’m very pleased for Felipe because he deservedly got his first championship points as a Ferrari driver. Now we have to work very hard in all areas so as to improve our competitiveness and reliability.”

Ross Brawn
“Obviously this result isn’t too bad considering how we qualified. The tire performance was consistent and this proves that we chose the right compound, especially in the first stint. Michael didn’t quite have the pace in the second stint so we need to understand exactly why. That’s why he lost the ground to Felipe and Heidfeld.” Source Ferrari

A decent result for Super Aguri A decent result for Super AguriTakuma Sato and Yuji Ide drove a solid race for the Super Aguri team in Sepang today. During what was only the team’s second Grand Prix, they were able to challenge for position and battle with the MF1 squad for some time.

Takuma Sato eventually finished three laps down in 14th position while Ide retired with a mechanical problem.

Takuma Sato
“Great team work has meant that we have been able to improve on our pitstops since Bahrain and as a result I lost no time and was able to get back into the race and actually challenge a few cars. Of course we struggle on the high downforce corners with our pace, but I had another exciting race and at least we managed to finish the race once again. We still have a lot of hard work to do if we are to catch up to our nearest rivals, but we showed good teamwork today and I am very happy and proud of the team.”

Loeb will race at Le Mans again Loeb will race at Le Mans againFrench World rally champion Sebastien Loeb will return to the Le Mans 24 Hours race this year.  He made his debut in the historic 24-hour classic last year, driving a Pescarolo-Judd with Soheil Ayari and Eric Helary. "What motivates me is the pleasure I felt like year by competing in this race for the first time. This time I will arrive with a little more experience," Loeb stated in his column in French daily L'Equipe.
Sad and surly at Sepang Sad and surly at Sepang(GMMf1NET) Ron Dennis' frustration spilled over in searing Sepang on Sunday, the McLaren principal using the word 'stupid' to describe Christian Klien's (Red Bull) late stab on the brakes on lap-1.

''I think it's obvious that he made a pretty fundamental mistake,'' said Kimi Raikkonen, tipped as a Malaysian favorite but instead sent into the barrier with smashed suspension.

Dennis grumbled about Austria's Klien: ''I don't think there's any doubt, it was a stupid error.''

Anyway, it might not have mattered. Kimi's teammate Juan Pablo Montoya struggled for pace, later blaming his fragile Mercedes-Benz V8.

''We had to run so light on downforce,'' the Colombian told ITV, clearly referring to the abundance of cooling holes in his bodywork.

Honda is also failing to live up to its pre-season promise; Rubens Barrichello is nowhere in 2006, while Jenson Button again struggled to challenge the dominant red-and-blue cars despite qualifying well.

''We have a lot of work to do before we can really think about winning races,'' he confessed.

Ferrari had a nightmare weekend; on the one hand targeted for alleged illegal wings, and on the other left flailing in the midfield after a disturbing spate of sinister engine problems.

Michael Schumacher, who finished behind even teammate Felipe Massa, played down his lack of pace, saying: ''We've never been entirely comfortable here, but Melbourne is a completely different track.

''I think I had a bad set (of Bridgestone tires) at one point. I was faster than Felipe but not enough to pass him.

''Honestly, I think Renault are a bit in front of everyone at the moment -- they were about half a second a lap quicker than us here.''

German compatriot Nick Heidfeld, in his hundredth grand prix, was having an excellent run before his works BMW said goodbye and goodnight.

''I could keep up with Montoya and was quicker than both Ferraris,'' he lamented, ''so it's a pity.''

Kimi fumes over Klien hit Kimi fumes over Klien hitMcLaren's Kimi Raikkonen crashed out of the Malaysian Grand Prix on the first lap on Sunday. He was hit by Austrian Christian Klien's Red Bull car and spun off the track.

The impact caused the car to suffer a rear suspension failure that pitched it into the safety wall and ended Raikkonen's race. Klien damaged the front left wheel of his car and returned to the pits soon afterwards.

"I cannot change anything," said Raikkonen glumly. "It was not really my fault. These things happen.

"Klien hit me on the rear tire and I broke my rear suspension."

Grey clouds over Ferrari wing saga Grey clouds over Ferrari wing saga(GMMf1NET)  Malaysia's 2006 grand prix started under clouds -- the big grey ones in the sky and one in the form of a letter signed by eight F1 teams.

Every team - except Ferrari, Ferrari-powered Red Bull and Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso - put their name to a document asking the FIA to clarify the legality of the Ferrari's allegedly 'flexible' front and rear wings.

The letter, coming after a spate of meetings in the Sepang paddock on Saturday and Sunday, reportedly hinted that formal protests may be lodged if the matter is not sorted prior to the upcoming Melbourne race.

Faced with being dragged through the mud, Ferrari's Jean Todt is understood to have agreed to modify the wings' designs by the time his cars set down on Australian soil.

On the actual track, there was similar levels of action.  Kimi Raikkonen's troubled start to his championship campaign continued as he was punted off on the first lap by Christian Klien (Red Bull).

At the end of 56 laps, Giancarlo Fisichella led home teammate Fernando Alonso in just the second time since 1982 - with Arnoux and Prost at the wheel - that two Renaults filled the top steps of the podium.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Ralf not worried about engine
Kimi's quickest - Wurz
Head-scratching at Sepang
McLaren promise Oz upgrade
Flav, Ron, disagree about new Q format
Williams' Rosberg could win
Schu, Massa, with lots of fuel - Brawn
Montoya finds full power with faulty V8
Monteiro still in pain
Ferrari FRONT wing now under microscope
Sauber - 'I'm not nostalgic'
Alonso 'not favorite'
Close but no cigar for Porsche at Sebring Close but no cigar for Porsche at SebringSEBRING, Fla.  The #6 Sascha Maassen/Lucas Luhr/Emmanuel Collard Penske Porsche RS Spyder, which overcame a eight-lap pit stop for an alternator replacement early in the race to take the class lead late in the race, finished second in the LMP2 class at the 54th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

The car, which started the race from the LMP2 pole position as Lucas Luhr set a new class qualifying record, came into the pits only 35-minutes into the race with its alternator problem.  The Penske crew replaced both the alternator and the battery, but the car fell down to 32nd place, and the drivers and team worked tirelessly to put their car into the class lead, and second overall.

The dream of a win at the team's first Sebring appearance came to an end, however, with 45 minutes left in the event when the car came to a stop on the course with a drivetrain problem. zzzz

"Although the result wasn't what we hoped for, the drivers and team persevered to come back and take the class lead and second position overall.  Second place championship points will certainly help us to pursue the LMP2 title, and to improve in the season ahead," said Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, Inc.

The Porsche RS Spyder took the lead from the Field/Field/Halliday Lola/AER with one hour, twenty minutes left in the event, as Emmanuel Collard passed the Lola on lap 310.  Sascha Maassen had taken the wheel down four laps and made up most of the distance by hard driving and dramatic passing of other competitors.

"After a very hard fight, we could not capture the last piece of luck to win  - but that's racing," said Hartmut Kristen, director of motorsport for Porsche AG.

The #7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder team car of Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Patrick Long, which started second in class, and jumped into the class lead at the green flag, experienced an early radiator failure which cost them 20 minutes in the garage area.  From 29th place, the team climbed back into the top three in class and seventh overall before their journey ended with a broken input shaft at the seven hour mark.

 In the GT2 class, the Ferrari 430, the Panoz Esperante, the BMW M3, and the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, battled through the day and into the night, with each manufacturer leading the class during different periods of the event.  Porsche leaders included the defending ALMS champions - the Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (lost 20 minutes in the garage to replace a lower control arm), and the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, with Johannes van Overbeek/Jon Fogarty/Marc Lieb.

The Alex Job Racing Porsche, with Mike Rockenfeller/Klaus Graf/Graham Rahal at the controls, was also in the GT2 top three during the event, but a control arm problem and two flat tires pushed them back in the pack.

Right, Two-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais led the Panoz team to a win over the Porsche.

After the last yellow flag, #45 Flying Lizard Porsche with Marc Lieb at the helm closed to within five second of the winning GT2 Panoz, but had to settle for the runner-up spot.  The other Flying Lizard Porsche, with Darren Law/Seth Neiman/Lonnie Pechnik was the next best Porsche finisher, capturing a fourth place finish. Porsche Motorsports

Sebring 12 Hours: Hour 7 Standings Sebring 12 Hours: Hour 7 Standings
Pos Car Cls Drivers                              Team              Car                Laps
1. 2 P1 R.Capello, A.McNish, T.Kristensen Audi Sport North Ameri Audi R10 TDI 203
2. 37 P2 J.Field, D.Dayton, L.Halliday Intersport Racing Lola B05/40 AER 200
3. 6 P2 S.Maassen, L.Luhr, E.Collard Penske Motorsports Porsche RS Spyder 198
4. 4 GT1 O.Gavin, O.Beretta, J.Magnussen Corvette Racing Corvette C6-R 196
5. 16 P1 J.Weaver, B.Leitzinger, A.Wallace Dyson Racing Lola B06/10 AER 195
6. 009 GT1 P.Lamy, S.Sarrazin, J.Bright Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DB9 194
7. 7 P2 T.Bernhard, R.Dumas, P.Long Penske Motorsports Porsche RS Spyder 190
8. 8 P2 J.Bach, G.Cosmo, R.Matos B-K Motorsports Courage C65 Mazda 189
9. 62 GT2 R.Kellenrs, J.Melo, A.Lazzaro Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT Berline 187
10. 50 GT2 S.Maxwell, D.Brabham, S.Bourdais Multimatic/Team Panoz Panoz Esperante GTLM 186
11. 41 P2 B.Binnie, A.Timpany, R.Sutherland Binnie Motorsports Lola B05/40 Zytek 186
12. 23 GT2 M.Rockenfeller, K.Graf, G.Rahal Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 186
13. 45 GT2 J.Van Overbeek, J.Fogarty, D.Law Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 185
14. 25 GT1 T.Weickardt, T.Borcheller Konrad Motorsports Saleen S7R 184
15. 007 GT1 T.Enge, N.Kiesa, D.Turner Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DB9 182 zzzz
16. 44 GT2 L.Pechnik, S.Neiman Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 182
17. 3 GT1 R.Fellows, J.O'Connell, M.Papis Corvette Racing Corvette C6-R 181
18. 79 GT2 T.Sugden, J.Matthews J3 Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 181
19. 85 GT2 P.Kox, D.Crevels Spyker Squadron Spyker Spyker C8 Spyker Audi 180
20. 80 GT2 L.Tomlinson, R.Dean, T.Kimber-Smith Team LNT Panoz Esperante GTLM 180
21. 33 P2 J.Barazi, M.Vergers, E.Julian Barazi Epsilon Courage C65 AER 178
22. 31 GT2 J.Bergmeister, N. Jonsson, T.Bergmei Petersen/White Lightin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 176
23. 78 GT2 S.Plumpelly, J.Thorton, M.Patterson J3 Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 175
24. 55 GT2 P.Ehret, L.Nielsen, D.Farnbacher Farnbacher Loles Racin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 172
25. 86 GT2 J.Bleekemolen, M.Hezemans Spyker Squadron Spyker Spyker C8 Spyker Audi 169
26. 20 P1 C.Dyson, G.Smith Dyson Racing Lola B06/10 AER 145
27. 21 GT2 B.Auberlen, J.Hand, I.James BMW Team PTG BMW E46 M3 132
28. 56 GT2 J.Vonka, M.Casadei, B.McCormick Vonka Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 130
29. 9 P1 D.Dayton, R.Knoop, G.Fisken Highcroft Racing Lola EX257 AER 128
30. 22 GT2 J.Marks, B.Sellers, M.Jensen BMW Team PTG BMW E46 M3 124
31. 12 P1 M.Lewis, C.McMurry, B.Willman Autocon Motorsports Lola EX257 AER 121
32. 1 P1 F.Biela, E.Pirro, M.Werner Audi Sport North Ameri Audi R10 TDI 117
33. 51 GT2 G.Jeannette, T.Milner, B.Junqueira Multimatic/Team Panoz Panoz Esperante GTLM 71
34. 26 GT1 P.Ruberti, Babini, J.Davies Konrad Motorsports Saleen S7R 66
35. 10 P2 A.Lally, J.Gue Miracle Motorsports Courage C65 AER 62
Sebring Hour 3: Audis lead Sebring Hour 3: Audis leadThe Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will go down in history as Frank Biela became the first driver to lead the classic endurance race with a diesel-powered sports car in the No. 1 Audi R10 TDI.

Now at the three hour mark car No. 1 is beginning to have engine problems and the No. 2 Audi has taken the lead. Summary and Standings

Paul Newman visits Sebring Paul Newman visits SebringThe Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is turning into a star-studded affair. Paul Newman is the latest Hollywood star to visit Sebring International Raceway for the 54th running of the historic endurance classic.

Newman, a nine-time Oscar nominee and winner for Best Actor in 1986's Color of Money, is a former competitor at Sebring. He drove a Porsche 911S in 1977 with Bill Freeman. Newman also finished second at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 935 for Dick Barbour Racing with Barbour and Rolf Stommelen.

Newman watched a portion of the race with American Le Mans Series founder Dr. Don Panoz, Panoz Auto Development President Dan Panoz, and race grand marshal, fellow actor and racer Patrick Dempsey.

New Cup team to debut New Cup team to debutH&K Motorsports, a husband and wife owned team based in Denton,, TX has announced plans to make its Nextel Cup Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway. Denton native Eddie Kucharski and wife Bonnie Heimlich plan to enter veteran Trevor Boys in 15 Cup races, beginning with a qualifying attempt April 7 for the Samsung/RadioShack 500 at TMS. The team also plans to compete in the ARCA ReMax Series beginning at Nashville Superspeedway on April 15. Fort Worth Star Telegram
Audi to start from pits Audi to start from pitsIt was just announced here in Sebring that the pole winning Audi diesel will start from pit lane due to a problem with the car.
Cosmo Set For LMP2 Championship Run Cosmo Set For LMP2 Championship RunRoad racing standout, Guy Cosmo, announced he is competing for the 2006 LMP2 Championship in the American Le Mans Series, returning with the BK Motorsport Team and Mazda North America.

Shown right in a Toyota Atlantic car in 2001 at Long Beach.

"I'm excited about returning to the American Le Mans Series," said Guy. "We had a great season in 2005 and as we formulate our effort for 2006, I expect we'll find our way to front of the LMP2 grid. It's an extremely competitive class with an impressive line-up of talented drivers. I'm motivated by the quality of the field and looking forward to rejoining my teammates at BK Motorsport and Mazda North America."

Currently preparing for the 54th running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, the former Star Mazda Series Champion reflected on the job at hand.

"I think people are going to see some terrific racing in the LMP2 class this year," Guy continued. "There's obviously a lot of anticipation regarding the arrival of top tier teams to the LMP2 class, but I think you'll see everyone step up their effort. I think it’s great seeing the bar raised. Endurance racing is never a slam-dunk and when you look at running flat-out for 12 hours at a track like Sebring, anything can and will happen. That's what makes this form of racing so challenging and rewarding."

Favorites hit road block in Malaysia Favorites hit road block in Malaysia(GMMf1NET) Pre-weekend favourite Fernando Alonso will start Sunday's Malaysian grand prix from just seventh position after a double-whammy in qualifying.

Although Renault's Bahrain winner gained a place with Michael Schumacher's demotion, he could manage only the eighth best lap time after an electrical problem on his car and a fuel-rig glitch back in pit lane.

Because of the fuel problem, the 24-year-old Spaniard is carrying a debilitating fuel load for the big race.

But it could be worse. In the red garage, Ferrari is dealing with a potential crisis of engine reliability, with Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa demoted a combined 30 places on the grid due to problems with their V8s.

Schumacher's change drops him to the midfield, while Massa had TWO engine changes on Saturday, costing him an outlandish 20-position grid downgrade.

Ferrari's problem is cracking pistons. ''I will be surprised if we can end up on the podium from where we are,'' Schumacher remarked after qualifying, ''but we go for it.''
Fisi is F1's unluckiest pole winner Fisi is F1's unluckiest pole winner(GMMf1NET) Is Giancarlo Fisichella F1's unluckiest driver? Even when things are going right for the 33-year-old Roman, like when he put his Renault on pole for the Malaysian grand prix, things are still going wrong.

He kicked off the weekend with an apology for screaming obscenities into his radio a week ago. However, now with excellent news to deliver to Italy, his home country's TV, radio and print media are not at Sepang -- they're on a one-day strike.

''It's not the best time to get a pole,'' Fisichella agreed in Malaysia. Even worse, he is reeling from the death of a childhood karting mate - Pietro - who died last Sunday in an accident. ''I knew him since we were 8,'' the Italian explained, ''so I'm pretty upset about it. I dedicate this pole to him.''
Fire won't put brakes on 12 Hours of Sebring Fire won't put brakes on 12 Hours of SebringSEBRING - Race fans heading to today's 54th running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring should worry about the usual things: the traffic, the sunscreen, the earplugs, the wildness on the infield and, of course, the race itself.

They needn't worry about the blistering wildfires in Polk and Highlands counties that are burning out of control, a spokesman said.

"The fire hasn't had any impact on us at all," Ken Breslauer, raceway communications director, said Friday night. "Actually, we are a good distance from the fire area."

The track, nestled among orange groves and cattle pastures, is about six miles southeast of Sebring in the town of Spring Lake. It is the oldest permanent racetrack in the United States and was built on a World War II-era air base.

The 500-acre brush fire will serve as a backdrop for the race, but the wildfires weren't mentioned Friday on the Sebring International Raceway's Web site.

More than 160,000 people are expected to make the yearly run to this Central Florida town of just less than 10,000, whose name is synonymous with big-time auto racing. As of Friday night, there were no roads closed, and all routes to the raceway were open.  More at TBO.com

Rosberg, Cosworth continue to impress Rosberg, Cosworth continue to impressWhile many F1 teams have had to change engines in Malaysia and endure the 10 grid penalty because their engines did not last two full race weekends, Cosworth personnel are quick to point out that they qualified 3rd and 4th on the grid in Malaysia with engines that are the same as used in Bahrain where Rosberg set fastest lap of the race.

Bernard Ferguson, of Cosworth said,  “We’re delighted that the promise seen in Bahrain is continuing and pleased of course to be third and fourth on the grid, even more pleased to have achieved this with the same engines as there have been a lot of changes elsewhere this weekend.”

The Williams Cosworth teams thinks they can win in Malaysia.

"Absolutely. We can do it," said Williams technical director Sam Michael after Nico Rosberg posted the third quickest time in today's qualifying. His teammate Mark Webber will start from fourth after Ferrari's Michael Schumacher is relegated for changing his engine and will lose 10 grid positions.

"The second row of the grid with both cars is genuine. And we were worried about qualifying. Tomorrow is the area where we will be strong," added Michael.

"He's fantastic really. He is faster than we expected at this stage," he said. "We wanted to give him a shot and see after seven or eight races. I mean, for his second grand prix to go P3 on the grid is really, really good especially for such a hard circuit as Malaysia.

"It's a real technical circuit and he'd never done a lap here before he came here. There's not much he's doing wrong and he showed in Bahrain that he can overtake. He's very impressive," said Michael.

This goes to prove that Max Mosley is 100% correct.  You do not need deep manufacturer pockets to do well in F1 - Williams and Cosworth are proving they can beat the mighty factory teams on a shoestring budget.

TV News
USA TV reminders for Sunday USA TV reminders for Sunday

Courtesy of TVRacer.com

12:00am-12:30am SPEED
NHRA Qualifying Gainesville, FL
12:30am-2:30am ESPN2
Formula 1 Malaysia
1:30am-4:00am (L) SPEED
NASCAR RaceDay Atlanta
11:00am-12:30pm (L) SPEED
NHRA 2Day Gainesville, FL
11:30am-12:00pm ESPN2
Formula 1 Replay Malaysia
12:30pm-3:00pm (R) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup  Atlanta
1:00pm-5:30pm (L) FOX
Speed World Challenge Sebring
3:00pm-4:00pm -Touring
4:00pm-5:00pm -GT SPEED
Arenacross Memphis
5:00pm-6:00pm SPEED
NHRA Gainesville, FL
5:00pm-7:00pm (SDD) ESPN2
AMA Supercross Orlando, FL
6:00pm-7:00pm -250cc SPEED
Speed News  
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
NASCAR Victory Lane Atlanta
8:00pm-9:00pm (SDD) SPEED
Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain
Gene Simmons (KISS, IRL Marketing) 
9:00pm-10:00pm (L) SPEED

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

FIA fines three drivers FIA fines three driversThe FIA slapped three F1 drivers at  Sepang on Friday.  MF1 racer Christijan Albers was the first to fall foul of the 60kph pitlane limit - the Dutchman nabbed at 61.5 and it cost him $250 blow.

Honda's Anthony Davidson did 61.7, incurring a similar fine, but 'Friday' debutant Giorgio Mondini - driving, like Albers, an MF1 car - must have felt ill after accidentally racing up to nearly 80kph in the 60kph zone.  The Swiss-Italian will have to pay a hefty $4,750.

Malaysia GP Saturday Press Conference Malaysia GP Saturday Press Conference
Lopez sets new record at Paul Ricard Lopez sets new record at Paul RicardSuper Nova International's Jose Maria Lopez finished Friday morning's GP2 test session at Paul Ricard as the quickest driver in the GP2 series. His lap of 1:12.547 has set the new standard for 2006-spec GP2 series cars at the track, beating the former record of 1:12.838 held by Lewis Hamilton on the 3.853km "3D" track solution.

The Argentine set his lap mid-way through the session at a colder than expected Circuit Paul Ricard. With temperatures hitting a high of 13 degrees, Lopez's lap was one of four to dip into the 1:12s this morning. He was joined in the bracket by ART Grand Prix's Alex Premat, Dams driver Franck Perera and Nelson Piquet Jr in his Piquet Sports entry.

Franck Perera was the busiest man on track this morning, running a total of 48 laps. Jason Tahinci (FMS International) and Felix Porteiro (Campos Racing) both completed 47 laps each. zzzz

Testing continues this afternoon at 14:00 for the drivers to run the final three hours in which to set their mark on the GP2 series records before we leave Circuit Paul Ricard until our mid-season test.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1 LOPEZ Super Nova International 1:12.547 27
2 PREMAT ART Grand Prix 1:12.834 39
3 PERERA DAMS 1:12.838 48
4 PIQUET Piquet Sports 1:12.986 46
5 LAPIERRE Arden International 1:13.108 36
6 VISO iSport International 1:13.146 31
7 AMMERMULLER Arden International 1:13.148 36
8 HAMILTON ART Grand Prix 1:13.241 35
9 DI GRASSI Durango 1:13.409 27
10 PLA DPR Direxiv 1:13.418 43
11 VALLES Campos Racing 1:13.428 31
12 FAUZY Super Nova International 1:13.437 29
13 NEGRAO Piquet Sports 1:13.462 21
14 ZUBER Trident Racing 1:13.587 29
15 GLOCK BCN Competicion 1:13.605 32
16 GOMMENDY iSport International 1:13.615 26
17 CARROLL Racing Engineering 1:13.615 33
18 FILIPPI FMS International 1:13.634 26
19 PORTEIRO Campos Racing 1:13.678 47
20 PICCIONE DPR Direxiv 1:13.712 45
21 BRUNI Trident Racing 1:13.724 24
22 HERNANDEZ Durango 1:13.752 35
23 YOSHIMOTO BCN Competicion 1:13.797 17
24 TAHINCI FMS International 1:14.089 47
25 VILLA Racing Engineering 1:14.329 24
26 MONFARDINI DAMS 1:17.278 7

Todd Bodine Finally Bests Rival Mark Martin Todd Bodine Finally Bests Rival Mark MartinThe third time proved to be the charm Friday night as Todd Bodine finally edged nemesis Mark Martin to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series John Deere 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bodine, the Bud Pole winner in his Lumber Liquidators Toyota, took the lead for the final time on the 126th lap as he and Martin split the lapped Dodge of Boston Reid entering the 1.54-mile track’s tri-oval.

Bodine, who had been more than a second behind until Martin’s Scotts Ford got boxed by four-wide racing, caromed off Timothy Peters’ Dodge but somehow kept his Tundra motoring into the lead.

Peters, whose truck suffered a cut tire in the exchange, spun and crashed one lap later to bring out the event’s fourth caution and send the race into overtime for the third time in 2006.

When racing resumed at lap 134, Martin dove low and alongside Martin as the pair headed off into Turn 1. Bodine, however, was able to hold the lead on the high side. Martin nearly duplicated the move on the final lap but – harassed by third-running Johnny Benson – fell a length behind his rival to finish .354 second behind. zzzz

Benson took third as a final turn spin turned on the caution light to freeze the remainder of the field. A lengthy scoring recheck placed Bodine teammate Ted Musgrave fourth with David Reutimann fifth. Jon Wood, Mike Bliss, Raybestos Rookie Erik Darnell, Matt Crafton and Rick Crawford completed the top 10 finishers.

Nineteen of 32 trucks running at the finish were credited with 135 laps.

Bodine and Martin were the only race leaders exchanging the No. 1 spot 12 times. Martin headed the most laps – 97 of 135.

Martin had won the season’s first two races with Bodine second. The victory was the latter driver’s fourth in the past six races and eighth overall in the series.

“It was a little tight to say the least,” Bodine said of the winning move. “They all jacked up and I didn’t.”

Martin, who retained the series point lead by 25 over Bodine, wasn’t disappointed in finishing second.

“We were doing some racing,” he said. “The chips were on the table.”

Bodine’s averaged 133.388 mph as the caution light flashed four times to consume 23 laps.

Bodine won $59,425 for his night’s efforts. The series takes next weekend off before heading to Martinsville Speedway for the April 1 Kroger 250. NASCAR

Commercialbank signs three-year deal for MotoGP Commercialbank signs three-year deal for MotoGPQatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) have struck a three season sponsorship deal with Commercialbank (CBQ). CBQ will be the title sponsor of the MotoGP races to be held in Doha. This was announced by Nasser bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, President of the QMMF, in the presence of Mohammed Mandani, Deputy CEO of CBQ, and Alex Blake Milton, Executive General Manager of CBQ on Thursday.

The third edition of the MotoGP race to be held at Losail from April 8, the second of the international calendar, will be called CBQ MotoGP Grand Prix of Qatar.
“It is a landmark sponsorship signing for the QMMF. We are absolutely delighted to form a partnership with CBQ. We believe that this partnership will be beneficial to both parties,” said Attiyah.

 He further added that, “CBQ has shown a keen interest in supporting sports events in Qatar and with their new deal with us it is further proof of that. We will cherish this deal as it gives us to the chance to promote our event to a wider audience in the Middle East and the rest of the world. CBQ also have an opportunity to market their name in the Arab world.” Gulf Times

Engine changes galore at Sepang Engine changes galore at SepangUPDATE (GMMf1NET) Ralf Schumacher has joined a growing list of drivers whose V8 engine did not make it through two races in 2006.

The Toyota-driving German will join Michael Schumacher, Felipe Massa (both Ferrari), David Coulthard (Red Bull-Ferrari) and Rubens Barrichello (Honda) in dropping ten places down the Sepang grid, after his 2.4 liter power plant failed in qualifying.

Jacques Villeneuve (BMW-Sauber), Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) and Yuji Ide (Super Aguri-Honda) also have fresh units fitted in Malaysia, but they will not be penalized because their changes were completed in between the first two grands prix this season.

Ironically, after a poor winter, one of the most reliable cars in Malaysia is the McLaren-Mercedes, while no Cosworth - either Williams' V8 or Toro Rosso's V10 - have failed.

03/18/06 The Honda team confirmed Rubens Barrichello will get a new engine and lose 10 grid positions. He joins Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard and Felipe Massa who will lose 10 spots on the grid.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Jacques Villeneuve, Christijan Albers and Yuji Ide are also running a new engine, but they will not be penalized since they were not classified in the previous race - the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bonilla wins Star Mazda Season Opener at Sebring Bonilla wins Star Mazda Season Opener at SebringMaking his series debut at his home track, Gerardo Bonilla, from Orlando, Florida, pulled away to victory in his Skip Barber Racing/Carmela Sausage Mazda in Round One of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear this afternoon at Sebring International Raceway in Round One of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. Joining Bonilla on the podium at the famed 3.7-mile road course were Daniel Herrington and Adrian Carrio.

“I’ve been teaching other drivers at the Skip Barber Racing School for so long and wondering when it was going to be my turn, and I’m finally getting my chance,” an excited Bonilla exclaimed. “It’s my first race in the series, and to win it feels amazing. It’s the result of a lot of hard work from the Andersen Racing Team, as they did an engine change right before qualifying and we qualified fifth, and then they went right back to work.”

The race, originally scheduled for 20-laps, became a timed 45-minute race due to several caution periods in the first half of the event. “The start of the race was rough as the second row didn’t quite get the jump they needed and had a side-by-side battle into turn one,” Bonilla said. “Ryan Justice and another car got close and spun. I felt bad for them for about a quarter of a second and then I got back to work. I was able to pass Brad Jaeger on the restart to take the lead by using the draft down the front-straight.” zzzz

Daniel Herrington, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also making his series debut at Sebring, drove a smart race to finish second after lining up tenth on the grid driving the Bluetooth SIG AIM Autosport Mazda. “We were strong from the get-go this weekend but with the chaos of qualifying and starting tenth I was focused on just finishing because points are so important,” Herrington explained. “From the start I just started taking what I could get and after a few laps I had moved up into second, but Gerardo did a fantastic job on the restarts.”

World Speed Motorsports driver Adrian Carrio, in his second year of competition, would capture his first podium finish in the series with a third place finish in his Rockford Fosgate Mazda. “The start at turn one was little bit crazy when a couple of cars went off and my race started off slowly, but I just took my time and started working my way through the field,” the seventeen-year old driver from Monument, Colorado, said. “I just focused on hitting my marks and driving a smart race and have to thank my engineer Mike Doyle, driver coach John Olsen and my mechanics for giving me a great car today.”

While the top three drivers had solid races moving up to the podium, the busiest driver on the track was another series rookie, Matt Varsha, who sliced his way through the field to finish fourth after starting last due to an incident in qualifying. “I’ve been through the worst 24 hours in racing after yesterday afternoon,” Varsha said. “I was down and the team was down but we just went back to work and the car today was awesome. We’d been through so many ups and downs this weekend so when I crossed the finish line I was pumping my fist like I’d won the race, excited not just for myself but for the whole Racers Edge Motorsports team that had worked so hard to give me an awesome car.”

With one round complete, Bonilla holds both the overall and Expert Series points lead for drivers aged 30-44. In the Masters Series for drivers aged 45 and older, defending champion John Pew finished at the top of the class, running as high as fifth before finishing twelfth overall.

The 2006 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be featured on SPEED Channel with one-hour broadcasts for all twelve rounds, starting with Round One from Sebring International Raceway, which is scheduled to debut on Sunday, April 9th at 4:00 PM Eastern Time.

Round Two of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be held in conjunction with the American LeMans Series and ChampCar race weekend in Houston, Texas, on May 13th and 14th. For more information please visit www.starmazda.com.

Race Results 
Pos No. Name Laps Total Tm Diff Gap Best Spd
1 9 Gerardo Bonilla 17 46:30.744 - - 108.517
2 3 Daniel Herrington 17 46:35.618 +4.874 +4.874 108.782
3 14 Adrian Carrio 17 46:35.905 +5.161 +0.287 109.060
4 45 Matt Varsha 17 46:37.323 +6.579 +1.418 109.059
5 53 Mike Potekhen 17 46:37.440 +6.696 +0.117 108.598
6 23 Logan Gomez 17 46:40.344 +9.600 +2.904 108.400
7 8 Ross Smith 17 46:41.340 +10.596 +0.996 107.893
8 69 Ron White 17 46:41.416 +10.672 +0.076 107.933
9 18 Rob Bunker 17 46:41.700 +10.956 +0.284 108.091
10 92 Carl Skerlong 17 46:42.944 +12.200 +1.244 107.790
11 22 Ramiro Scuncio 17 46:44.111 +13.367 +1.167 107.770
12 15 John Pew 17 46:45.533 +14.789 +1.422 108.144
13 71 Steven Hickham Jr. 17 46:48.891 +18.147 +3.358 107.395
14 4 Charlie Hollings 17 46:49.431 +18.686 +0.539 108.360
15 60 Mark Patterson 17 46:51.151 +20.407 +1.720 108.246
16 33 Andrew Bentley 17 46:52.851 +22.107 +1.700 107.803
17 93 John Faulkner 17 46:55.580 +24.836 +2.729 106.565
18 24 Jon Brownson 17 46:55.905 +25.161 +0.325 106.670
19 87 Doug Peterson 17 46:58.671 +27.927 +2.766 107.024
20 77 Brian Thienes 17 46:58.815 +28.071 +0.144 106.957
21 28 Russell Walker 17 47:00.630 +29.886 +1.815 107.602
22 52 Ken Losch 17 47:06.200 +35.456 +5.570 105.908
23 56 Dan Tomlin III 17 47:07.661 +36.917 +1.461 105.663
24 85 Jay Poscente 17 47:12.566 +41.822 +4.905 104.989
25 67 Richard Haskell 17 47:12.895 +42.151 +0.329 105.105
26 46 Jonathan Ziegelman 17 47:13.823 +43.079 +0.928 108.176
27 25 Thomas Wieringa 17 47:33.796 +1:03.052 +19.973 102.179
28 91 Michael Guasch 17 47:40.802 +1:10.058 +7.006 103.688
29 38 Ryan Justice 16 46:50.318 1 Lap 1 Lap 106.316
30 29 Phil Fogg Jr. 13 38:34.359 4 Laps 3 Laps 105.328
31 17 Steve Hickham 13 38:51.235 +16.876 +16.876 102.594
32 40 Mark Pavan 13 39:03.960 +29.601 +12.725 104.548
33 86 Charles Anti 12 36:21.351 5 Laps 1 Lap 104.429
34 58 Dan Tomlin Jr. 7 20:12.765 10 Laps 5 Laps 103.082
35 2 Brad Jaeger 5 15:29.315 12 Laps 2 Laps 104.837
36 31 Casey Neal 0 2.619 17 Laps 5 Laps -
37 12 Jon Branam 0 2.795 +0.176 +0.176 -

Hamilton diagnosed with cancer Hamilton diagnosed with cancer2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Bobby Hamilton regretfully is stepping out of his No. 18 Fastenal Dodge for the 2006 season effective after the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway due to health reasons. Hamilton has been diagnosed with cancer in the right side of his neck and will be replaced for the season by his son Bobby Hamilton Jr.

"Nobody wants to go through this and the word cancer is a stout word to hear," Hamilton said. "But I will be starting my treatment right after the race in Atlanta so I have to take care of me for awhile. The hardest thing I've done is stepping out of this truck, but I will be back by Homestead or by Daytona next year. When I told Dodge and Fastenal that I had to do this, they were right on board with me. It says a lot for companies of this magnitude to stay with our program during such a difficult time. We have a huge family at BHR and their support will enable our program to continue to be a success."

"You never want to think about a fill-in driver for yourself, especially when you are so passionate about your racing career," Hamilton continued. "But to have my son in a position to race for me means the world to me. He'll win races for Fastenal and Dodge this year and I'm still the owner, so I plan on being there to see it all happen." zzzz

Hamilton Jr., who has won five NASCAR Busch Series races, returned to the Craftsman Truck Series this season to run part time for BHR. Starting in Martinsville on April 1st and for the remainder of the 2006 season Hamilton Jr. will pilot the No. 18 Fastenal Dodge until his father returns.

"These are not the circumstances I wanted to race in my dad's truck, but I will do it without hesitation," Hamilton Jr. said. "I'm glad that I'm available to do this for him, Fastenal and Dodge. It means a lot to me to be there right now. On top of racing he is my dad, so first and foremost I want him healed. We enjoy racing together, so if I can help him take time to heal then we'll race against each other sooner."

Hamilton Sr. continued, "I realize there are millions of Americans affected everyday by cancer and I want to help by being simply another voice in the push for a cure for this disease. If we help society, then we all win. That is the best victory lane."

Will Oberton, President and CEO of Fastenal, said, "We at Fastenal are truly saddened by the announcement of Bobby Hamilton's diagnosis. We recognize there is a difficult struggle ahead for Bobby but we know he is a true competitor and will fight to overcome this. He is a member of the Fastenal Team and we are there to support him. With Bobby Hamilton Jr. committed to drive the No. 18 Fastenal Dodge, we are confident our partnership with the BHR team will remain strong and is in capable hands. Bobby and his team have proven they are champions and I believe they will meet this challenge also."

Panoz inducted into Sebring Hall of Fame Panoz inducted into Sebring Hall of FameSEBRING, Fla. – When he purchased Sebring International Raceway in 1998, Dr. Don Panoz said he just wanted to make a difference. Friday, he was honored for that … and much, much more.

Dr. Panoz was one of six 2006 inductees into Sebring International Raceway Hall of Fame. The founder of the American Le Mans Series joined a prestigious list of names, all of which are firmly entrenched in sports car lore.

“Sebring is the grand old lady of sports car racing, but she needed some attention,” Dr. Panoz said during his acceptance speech on the eve of the 54th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. “My goal was to make a difference, and I think I have accomplished that.”

Three-time Sebring winner Phil Hill, two-time winners Brian Redman and Bob Akin, three-time winning car owner Briggs Cunningham and veteran race official Charlie Earwood also joined the prestigious Sebring Hall of Fame this year. zzzz

Dr. Panoz is widely regarded as the savior of sports car racing in North America. In 1999, he took Sebring International Raceway to a new level, initiating an improvement program that resulted among other things in the new pit complex, complete with VIP suites and an expanded media center; and the Chateau Elan hotel, which overlooks the Sebring’s famed Hairpin turn.

That same year he founded the American Le Mans Series, reviving international sports car racing in the United States, and at the same time campaigning his namesake cars that proved they could compete and win against the world’s best.

He has the second longest tenure of any Sebring promoter; only founder Alec Ulmann was at the helm longer.

A pharmaceutical entrepreneur who has found success in a variety of industries, his contributions to sports car racing in general, and Sebring in particular, place him among the sports most positive influences.

“Sebring is the place where all the legends have raced – Andretti, Moss, Gurney, Rahal, Phil Hill – the list goes on and on,” Dr. Panoz said. “I’m honored to be among those great names inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame.”

Schumacher and Massa both need new engines Schumacher and Massa both need new engines(GMMf1NET)  As feared by the team on Friday, Michael Schumacher will be demoted ten places on the Malaysian GP grid following an unscheduled Ferrari engine change before qualifying.

The German will have a fresh V8 fitted for the remainder of Saturday and Sunday's race, with his existing unit - like teammate Felipe Massa and Ferrari customer Red Bull's David Coulthard - suffering from an unspecified technical problem.

All three runners are subject to the FIA's controversial ten-position qualifying penalty, meaning that the highest they can line up on Sunday is 11th.

Ferrari 'sandbagged' in winter - Button Ferrari 'sandbagged' in winter - Button(GMMf1NET)  Ferrari appeared to 'sandbag' in winter testing, according to Honda driver Jenson Button.

The 26-year-old, probably referring to the recent Bahrain test in which Honda and Ferrari went head-to-head, reckons the red team did not want to show their true form by running up-to-date parts.

''I don't know whether it's mind games or what,'' Button told the Sun.

'''But it can't be the best way to go racing.  You need to test every component 100 per cent.  They don't seem to do that.

''It's quite strange.''

Jack-man Montoya happier at Sepang Jack-man Montoya happier at Sepang(GMMf1NET)  Juan Pablo Montoya did a touch of unforeseen exercise in Malaysia, after his McLaren racer stalled just beyond the pitlane exit line on Friday.

Because the silver-clad crew are only allowed to touch a car within pitlane, they furnished the multi million dollar-salaried Colombian driver with a rear jack and told him to lift the car up and wheel it back within reach.

''I'd never lifted a car with a jack,'' 30-year-old Montoya later mused.

''I thought I was going to end up on my a*se so I was glad when I didn't!''

McLaren's feisty ace also confirmed that he is still using his Bahrain-spec Mercedes-Benz V8, despite moaning that it was underpowered a week ago.

''It's running a  little bit better here,'' Montoya admitted.

Win might have to wait, Honda admits Win might have to wait, Honda admits(GMMf1NET)  Although touted as a pre-season standout, Honda probably have some way to go before race wins are within reach.

Rubens Barrichello admitted in Malaysia that his car's setup is 'not great'; a sentiment backed by 2006 teammate Jenson Button.

''Maybe it's related with the (hotter) conditions here,'' said sporting director Gil de Ferran in Malaysia, ''we're just not really comfortable with that.  We do have some way to go.''

Alonso wary of 'Bridgestone tracks' Alonso wary of 'Bridgestone tracks'(GMMf1NET) F1's tire war is likely to play a big role in the outcome of the 2006 title, according to the reigning world champion.

Although very confident about Michelin's form in steamy Malaysia, Bahrain winner Fernando Alonso told reporters at Sepang that Renault and co. are likely to face stiffer Bridgestone rivalry elsewhere.

''Like Australia, Indianapolis, Hungary -- they are probably more Bridgestone circuits,'' said the Spaniard, chased hard by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher (Bridgestone) at Sakhir a week ago.

Also worryingly for Michelin runners, Bridgestone-shod Nico Rosberg set the fastest lap of all in Bahrain with his Williams-Cosworth.

Rookie cops $5g fine Rookie cops $5g fine(GMMf1NET)  Three drivers left Sepang with empty wallets on Friday, after the FIA slapped them with speeding fines.

MF1 racer Christijan Albers was the first to fall foul of the 60kph pitlane limit -- the Dutchman nabbed at 61.5 and copping a $250 blow.

Honda's Anthony Davidson did 61.7, incurring a similar fine, but 'Friday' debutant Giorgio Mondini - driving, like Albers, an MF1 car - must have felt ill after accidentally racing up to nearly 80kph in the 60kph zone.

The Swiss-Italian will have to pay a huge $4750.

Alonso slammed for bullfight swagger Alonso slammed for bullfight swagger(GMMf1NET) World champion Fernando Alonso has been criticized for imitating a bull-fighter when celebrating his Bahrain win.

In an open letter, Indian politician and activist Maneka Gandhi slammed the Renault-driving Spaniard, accusing him of 'glorifying' the act of tormenting, torturing and killing a harmless animal.

Asked about the swagger performed in parc ferme last Sunday, 24-year-old Alonso replied: ''It's a secret -- I'll tell you later in the year.''

Carmakers object to Max's 'ECU' plan Carmakers object to Max's 'ECU' plan(GMMf1NET)  A sticking point of a cease-fire in F1's carmaker war is their apparent refusal to accept standard ECUs in 2008.

FIA president Max Mosley insists that uniform electrical boxes be a part of his low-cost future, but the defiant 'GPMA' alliance is equally resolute.

The argument is perhaps the last hurdle to Renault, Mercedes, Toyota, Honda and BMW signing the new Concorde.

''We would prefer to keep freedom (of electronics),'' Toyota's John Howett admitted at Sepang.

All the independent teams have already signed up for 2008.  a co-owner of one such privateer, Williams' Patrick Head, added in Malaysia that the issue about 2008 and beyond it 'still Max and Bernie (Ecclestone's) game'.

''So that's what we've got to play,'' he suggested.

Gascoyne not in Malaysia Gascoyne not in Malaysia(GMMf1NET)  Attempts to locate Mike Gascoyne on the Toyota pitwall failed on Friday because the technical director was still at team HQ in Cologne.

With the Japanese owned team in crisis after the nightmarish Bahrain opener, Briton Gascoyne opted to fly back to Europe and planned to arrive in Malaysia on Saturday.

''He stayed (in Germany) an extra two days just to keep the pressure on,'' Toyota president John Howett explained, ''and look for further improvements.''

Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher look a little quicker at Sepang, but that is probably more to do with the warmer weather than a real improvement in the way the car deals with its Bridgestones.

Willis rejects Friday ’test day’ idea Willis rejects Friday ’test day’ idea(GMMf1NET)  With only a handful of Malaysian die-hards speckling the grandstands on Friday, it has been suggested that the opening day at a grand prix should be devoted to free testing.

Red Bull's Christian Horner told the Telegraph newspaper that combining testing and a grand prix could save money and give paying spectators something to watch on Friday.

''(The current situation is) ridiculous,'' he slammed.

But Honda's technical director, Geoff Willis, played down the case for doing away with an increasingly meaningless practice day.

''Part of the reason why a lot of the drivers don't go out,'' he said at Sepang, ''is because the conditions are not really useful (on the dusty opening day).''

MF1 facing driver shortage MF1 facing driver shortage(GMMf1NET)  Midland's F1 team could be facing a shortage of fit drivers in Malaysia, with racer Tiago Monteiro and rookie 'Friday' man Giorgio Mondini both retiring hurt after opening practice at Sepang.

MF1 regular Monteiro, who nonetheless returned to the track on Saturday morning, could not complete his programme on Friday after pinching a nerve in his back.  He was treated by a physio but left the circuit in pain.

''It hurts terribly,'' said the Portuguese.

Meanwhile, team reserve Giorgio Mondini - sharing the 2006 'Friday' role with several other hopefuls - is also in doubt as Saturday prepares to kick off.

The debuting Swiss' neck 'let go' towards the end of the Friday session.

Mondini explained: ''I couldn't do my final run because my neck couldn't handle it any more.  No amount of training can prepare you for this kind of load.''

Sepang Practice 3: Schumacher tops Alonso Sepang Practice 3: Schumacher tops AlonsoMichael Schumacher topped the times in final practice for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.  The seven-times world champion clocked a fast time of 1m34.126s. His lap just beat Renault's Fernando Alonso who clocked a rapid 1m34.180s in the final seconds.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. M. Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:34.126 16
 2. Alonso Renault (M) 1:34.180 + 0.054 13
 3. Fisichella Renault (M) 1:34.585 + 0.459 13
 4. Button Honda (M) 1:34.616 + 0.490 20
 5. Klien Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:34.815 + 0.689 12
 6. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:34.854 + 0.728 10
 7. R. Schumacher Toyota (B) 1:35.040 + 0.914 7
 8. Rosberg Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:35.242 + 1.116 14
 9. Coulthard Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:35.639 + 1.513 14
10. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:35.690 + 1.564 19
11. Webber Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:35.700 + 1.574 11
12. Villeneuve BMW-Sauber (M) 1:36.144 + 2.018 9
13. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (M) 1:36.505 + 2.379 13
14. Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:36.549 + 2.423 15
15. Barrichello Honda (M) 1:36.655 + 2.529 13
16. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:37.053 + 2.927 8
17. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:37.148 + 3.022 21
18. Albers MF1-Toyota (B) 1:37.232 + 3.106 18
19. Speed Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:37.437 + 3.311 19
20. Monteiro MF1-Toyota (B) 1:37.900 + 3.774 17
21. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:38.821 + 4.695 15
22. Ide Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:40.542 + 6.416 18
Champ Car’s Six Day International Turbo Tour Jaunt Concludes in Mexico Champ Car’s Six Day International Turbo Tour Jaunt Concludes in MexicoMexico has long been one of the world’s hotbeds of Champ Car racing, and they proved it again Friday as Mexico City and Monterrey each held nothing back in welcoming the 2006 Champ Car Turbo Tour to their cities.

The final day of the tour began with a flight from Houston to Mexico City, where the Mario Dominguez and the rest of the drivers began with a press conference and then challenged the media to a football (soccer) match upon landing at  Toluca airport. The Mexico City media flocked to the event to meet with A.J. Allmendinger, Katherine Legge, Mario Dominguez, David Martinez and Alan Sciuto, grilling the drivers on a number of topics before settling in for a media lunch and claiming victory in the soccer match.

“It was incredible to see the reception we received in my hometown of Mexico City,”  said Forsythe Championship Racing driver Mario Dominguez.  “The media in Mexico do a great job covering Champ Car and now we know they are also very good football players.” zzzz

The Turbo Tour then jetted off to Monterrey for a festive Mexican celebration as long-time racing sponsor Tecate, who along with Roshfrans announced today their continued support of the Monterrey event, hosted the drivers at a press conference at the Tecate Brewery where drivers took the chance to tour the facility to see how the brew is created.

The tour was followed by a sponsor and media function with more interviews and media opportunities awaiting the drivers.

“The inaugural Champ Car Turbo Tour has been a huge success,” said Champ Car President and CEO Steve Johnson.  “Over the course of the week our drivers did more than 300 interviews and represented Champ Car in an exceptional manner.  But this was more than just a media circus, as we interacted with our fans, sponsors and city officials to build a large amount of excitement and anticipation for the 2006 Champ Car season and I glad I was a part of it.”

The Turbo Tour crew then boarded the Gulfstream G550 for the final time to head back to San Diego, California to catch connecting flights home.  In all the Turbo Tour logged 16 hours and 54 minutes in the air while traveling 7,984.45 miles.  The flight crew made a perfect 11 on-time centerline landings while traveling to three countries, six states, two Canadian provinces and two Mexican states.  For the trip the Turbo Tour burned approximately 60,000 pounds of fuel or roughly enough for a Champ Car to fill up during 257 pitstops.  At its highest altitude the Gulfstream G550 cruised at 49,000 feet with a cruising speed of 600 miles per hour.

While on the ground the group traveled in a wide variety of Limousines, taxis, rental cars and even track safety trucks.  Of the 149 hours the Turbo Tour lasted the participants worked on just 31 hours of sleep in five hotels.  The camera crew from Race Car Driver along with a camera from Champ Car’s website documented the entire trip shooting more that 24 hours worth of footage.

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