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Kristensen looks back on his Sebring success  
Tom Kristensen
Tom Kristensen simply is the most decorated sports car driver of his generation. Along with a record eight overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Great Dane is a four-time winner at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the first coming in the first race of the American Le Mans Series in 1999. With this year’s Sebring 12 Hours serving as the Series’ 100th all-time event, Kristensen gives his thoughts on what makes Sebring and the Series special.

“The good thing about Sebring is it has stayed the same for so many years. Anyone in motor racing knows about this race and knows that that’s when the season kicks off. It’s tough on the cars, the drivers and the pit crew, so preparing for this race is something everyone looks forward to. The race has so much tradition and the weather is good, especially for us Europeans, to come here and have a race in the same climate close to what we will be at Le Mans in terms of temperatures. But basically over the years how it has evolved means it is definitely a weekend I want to be part of. It’s a great event, great race, great fans and obviously, this week with the Irish day (St Patrick's Day) and spring break, it creates a really great atmosphere. More ...

Sebring toughest corners  Throughout the 2009 American Le Mans Series season, SPEED broadcaster and former standout road racer Brian Till will share his insight on some of the most critical corners and sections of Series venues. He starts with Sebring International Raceway - all 3.7 miles and 17 turns - as a prelude to Saturday’s 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.

To compete in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is to attempt to claim your place on the honor roll of sports car drivers who have triumphed over not only the other competitors, but over the harsh conditions that this circuit dishes out. Some say that Sebring is the perfect test for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the French endurance classic. And in fact, the last 10 winners at La Sarthe have competed at Sebring prior to their French triumph. This year will mark the 57th time that drivers will race “once around the clock” to claim the honors in what will be a very special event: the 100th American Le Mans Series race. More ...

Montagny sets fast time in Thursday night practice  
Franck Montagny
Peugeot’s Franck Montagny set the fastest time in the annual Thursday night practice for the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, a 1:45.920 (125.755 mph) lap around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit in one of the two diesel-powered 908 HDis.

The Frenchman, driving with fellow countrymen Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastien Bourdais was barely ahead of Allan McNish, Audi Sport’s Scottish superstar. Driving the brand new R15 TDI, McNish was just 0.073 seconds behind Montagny.

Times were slower than normal at the start following a late afternoon shower that soaked the circuit an hour before the session. Standing water remained on parts of the circuit at the start with the track staying slightly damp in the later periods. More ...

Summerton Retains Pole  Kissimmee, Fla. resident Jonathan Summerton earned the first championship point and prize money of the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda as his quickest time from yesterday’s provisional qualifying session held up through the final qualifying session today.

Summerton earned one point toward the championship and the $1,000 Cooper Tires Pole Award thanks to his lap at 1:53.571 (117.283 mph) on Wednesday in the No. 19 Genoa Racing machine. It is the second consecutive Atlantic race that Summerton will start from the pole, as he also took the top starting spot for the 2008 season finale at Road Atlanta, and is his third straight front-row starting spot. Summerton was second quickest in today’s final qualifying round at 1:54.185 (116.653 mph).

“Starting from pole is a fun place to start from,” Summerton said. “You get to start from the front row, see the clean lights and have a clear first corner. For me, it’s going to be keeping it clean at the start, get a good start and then just drive away. I know we have a car that’s fast. I’ve just got to keep my head down, keep it planted and keep the car on track and we’ll be good for the win, I’m sure. I have some family coming tomorrow and it’ll be a ton of fun. My family all knows what I do and it’s easygoing. I’m just going to try and drive and look tonight at the problems we were having today in qualifying. I think we were about a tenth (of a second) off, but all in all, I’m happy. Yesterday was a better track, and we just had a car for that track at that time.” More ...
Final opportunity for Indy Lights teams to prepare for season  Martin Plowman understands the importance of the Firestone Indy Lights Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on March 21. The English rookie knows it’s his last chance to prepare for the season-opening doubleheader at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 4-5.

“I wish I could have another test day before St. Petersburg, but this is it for us,” the Panther Racing driver said. “We’ve got to get the most out of the test that we can.”

Panther Racing’s two-car tandem of Plowman and Pippa Mann will be joined by seven cars from six other teams for the series’ first-ever visit to Barber Motorsports Park.

Other drivers participating in the series’ only test on a road/street course will be J.R. Hildebrand and Sebastian Saavedra (AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing), Andrew Prendeville (Team Moore Racing), Mario Romancini (RLR/Andersen Racing), Rodrigo Barbosa (ELFF Racing), Daniel Herrington (Bryan Herta Autosport) and James Davison (Vision Racing). More ...

Rahal ready to lead at Newman/Haas/Lanigan  
Graham Rahal
At 20 years of age, Graham Rahal could be finishing up his sophomore year of college and debating whether spring break should take him to Cancun, Ft. Lauderdale or South Padre Island.

Instead, Rahal is entering his third season with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, now as the anchor of a team that won two races in the IndyCar Series last year.

Rahal, who has been teammates with Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson the last two seasons, will step up to the red and yellow No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team entry. Rahal earned the position with a fifth-place finish overall as a rookie in Champ Car in 2007, a strong showing in 2008 that included a record-setting victory and four top-10 finishes and maturity beyond his years.

“I think the expectations that are put in place aren’t necessarily because of my role on the team but more because of the fact that I want to go out there and win races and be successful,” said Rahal, who became the youngest winner in major open-wheel racing history when he won his IndyCar Series debut at St. Petersburg last year. “Coming from a situation in Champ Car and transitioning here last year, it’s all building blocks and leadership skills and a lot of learning that’s taken place. Basically, every step in my career has been a learning year for me. More ...

Bechtel Becomes Co-Owner of Tommy Baldwin Racing  Former NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series owner, Gary Bechtel joins forces with Tommy Baldwin to become a co-owner of Tommy Baldwin Racing. “This is an incredible opportunity that allows me to get back into racing,” Bechtel said. “I am very impressed with what Tommy (Baldwin) has been able to accomplish in just three months. I love his passion and his desire to be successful on the race track. I hope to bring the last piece of the puzzle that can make TBR one of the teams to watch each week.” Bechtel knows a thing or two about running a successful NASCAR race team. In 1990, Bechtel debuted onto the NASCAR scene when he formed Diamond Ridge Motorsports.

Bobby Hamilton was slated as the first driver for Bechtel’s race team. His first race was in the 1990 Coca-Cola 600. Bechtel’s success on the race track didn’t come until he started his NASCAR Nationwide Series program in 1995. Steve Grissom was tabbed as Bechtel’s first Nationwide Series driver. In only 15 races, he notched two wins, four top-five and seven top-10 finishes. Bechtel continued to have success in the Nationwide Series over the next five years. All told, he earned 10 wins, 30 top-five and 54 top-10 finishes in 174 Nationwide Series starts. More ...
ALMS signs official motor oil  Green Earth Technologies (Pink Sheets: GETG) announced today that they have signed a two-year contract that will name their  Ultimate Biodegradable “green” motor oil, G-OIL™, the official motor oil of The American Le Mans Series and the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA). 

Under the agreement, G-OIL will be used in the Series’ official safety trucks, which will also feature the G-OIL logo. The logo will also appear prominently at all Series races.  Green Earth Technologies will utilize the American Le Mans Series and IMSA logos on their product packaging, promotions, publicity materials, advertising and on their Web site.   

“It is a pleasure to partner with the American Le Mans Series as it embarks on its overall green initiative and redefines racing as a socially conscious sport,” said Jeffrey Loch, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer. He added, “The Series is synonymous with high performance and aligning G-OIL with those same quality standards, will give consumers the confidence to go green with their own engines.” More ...

Appreciating an American Classic: Sebring  The Sebring 12 Hours truly is a unique race with special appeal. It enjoys a great history going back fifty-seven years to 1952 and is America's founding international sports car race and the country's fourth oldest motor race, preceded only by the Indy 500, Pike's Peak and the Southern 500.

The other thing about Sebring is that it's the antithesis of the silk gloves and white wine myth of sports car racing. The old airport track is very fast in places but it's as crude and rough as they come, making a serious challenge for car designers, builders and crewmen as well as the drivers. It's both intimidating and physically demanding and, of course, it's also a tremendous party for the fans, a legendary spring break celebration. Memorably, the race was cancelled in 1974 because of the energy crisis but a few thousand party-goers showed up anyway.

Going back to the days of Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti in the sixties and seventies the drivers tell stories of smelling a pig roast at one corner and some pot-smoking at another turn, and if you look at the littered remains of the party on Sunday morning after the race you would be excused for thinking you had just witnessed a classic, Woodstock-style rock concert rather than a motor race. But it's all part of what makes Sebring a genuinely unique event.  More at Gordon Kirby: The Way It Is 

Nakajima turns fastest lap of all  
Kazuki Nakajima
Kazuki Nakajima set the quickest time of the week at the Jerez circuit, as Formula 1 testing came to an end for the 2009 season.

Nakajima's 1:17.494 lap was nearly four tenths of a second quicker than the previous best, set by Brawn GP's Jenson Button on Tuesday.

Pos Driver Team Car Time Behind Laps
1. K. Nakajima Williams FW31 1:17.494 +0.000 102
2. H. Kovalainen McLaren MP4-24 1:17.933 +0.439 84
Goodyear's new tire "at least'' 2 years away  A Goodyear official said today that the new wider, taller tire that should be better suited for the Car of Tomorrow and help with the handling of those cars is now "at least'' 2 years away from being used in a race.

Greg Stucker made the comment Wednesday during a tire test at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Stucker told me in January that he was hopeful that the new tire could be used in a race in 2010, but the timeline has since changed.

Stucker said that Goodyear met with NASCAR officials on Tuesday to update series officials on the progress of the new tire.

"We feel like we've still got some work to do,'' Stucker said. "We're certainly seeing some performance advantages, which was one of the goals. There are a few things we're not comfortable with yet as far as the overall footprint shape, the way the tire interacts. We think we've got some thing to improve before we put it on the race track. I'd say there's an outside chance we could be on a race track by the end of this year  (for testing) but I'd say it's a little more long term than that. There are still a lot of things that have to happen before you put it in the race. We're a couple of years out before we do that. It's going to be some fairly significant changes we think.'' More ...

Salazar Announces South American Star Mazda Team  Famed Chilean racer Eliseo Salazar, a veteran of F1, Indy Cars, prototypes and international rallying, today announced the formation of Eliseo-THL Motorsports, a driver development team competing in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.  The team, headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA and co-owned by Luis Toledo, will assist young South American racers in establishing their careers in U.S. motorsports.

Eliseo-THL Motorsports will field a car for rising open-wheel racer Kevin Toledo, 18 years old, from Rancagua, Chile.  Toledo's resume includes karting, the Formula Renault and F3 series in Chile and Argentina and two Star Mazda Championship races in 2008, scoring a top-10 finish in his first event.

"My dream is to someday drive in IndyCar," says Toledo, who just graduated high school after studying engineering at the Quimahue School in Rancagua.  "And to have a legend like Eliseo Salazar, who has raced in F1 as well as the Indy 500, managing my career gives me great confidence that I will achieve my goal.  The Star Mazda Championship is a very competitive, high-profile series that provided a stepping-stone for American driver Scott Speed to move up to F1, so this is where I will race in 2009 to develop my skills." More ...

tv news
Project LMP1 special to be shown on SPEED  UPDATE A reminder that this outstanding documentary, “Project LMP1: Acura’s Next Challenge” will be replayed tonight, Thursday, March 19, at 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm ET on SPEED.  It will immediately follow the live broadcast, “American LeMans Series: A look at 2009,”  from Sebring International Raceway at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm ET which will preview the 12 Hours of Sebring.

03/13/09 Project LMP1: Acura’s Next Challenge “A Radical Design” will be shown on SPEED on Saturday, March 14 at 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET.

Project LMP1: Acura’s Next Challenge

2009 marks Acura’s third year of competition in the American Le Mans Series.  Founded in 1999, ALMS includes four classes of vehicles competing to finish the longest distance within a specified period of time. This season, Acura advances to the most powerful category of ALMS competition by entering two new ARX-02a cars in the LMP1 class, while continuing to compete in the LMP2 category.

Ecclestone again backs Massa for title  (GMM)  Just like one year ago, Bernie Ecclestone is placing his pre-season bet for the drivers' title on Felipe Massa.

Prior to the 2008 season, in which 27-year-old Massa won more races than any other driver and finished one point behind champion Lewis Hamilton, the F1 chief executive tipped the Brazilian for the title.

In an interview on Thursday with the Daily Express, the billionaire said: "Red Bull could be a big surprise with Sebastian Vettel.  Put him in a Ferrari and he'd be as quick as anyone they have got.

"Brawn are going well too, but my money is going on Felipe Massa again.  I don't see why he shouldn't get the job done.  He was quick last year but Ferrari cost him the title with their mistakes," Ecclestone added.

He also thinks diminutive Massa's teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who was off-color last year after winning the 2007 title, could reclaim his form in 2009.

"If Kimi Raikkonen wins a couple of the first three races, you will see a different Kimi. More ...

Schumacher, Webber, muse 'gold medals' system  (GMM)  Michael Schumacher on Thursday joined the majority of the formula one world by questioning the FIA's latest rules changes.

The former seven time world champion, still an advisor to the Ferrari team, said the lateness of the announcements prior to the season is "astonishing", but he also questions the wisdom of their content.

"I cannot imagine those changes to help F1, especially regarding the new (scoring) system to find the champion," said the 40-year-old German.

In the past, he has been quoted as believing the points margin between first and second was only reduced from 4 to 2 points in 2003 to make it harder for him to dominate championships.

But Schumacher does not agree with this change.  "I cannot see how it makes sense to eventually have a world champion who has less points than the driver coming in second, even if I also think it is a good move to try to strengthen the winner's position," he added. More ...

12 Hours of Sebring on Satellite Radio  The 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida will air on satellite radio Saturday with American Le Mans Radio’s John Hindhaugh providing play-by-play coverage of the opening round of the 2009 American Le Mans Series.

America’s greatest sports car race can be heard on Channel 242, The Best of XM Radio on Sirius, as well as Sirius Channel 166. The broadcast will air from 10 a.m to noon and 9 to 11 p.m. ET on Saturday.

XM serves as the primary sponsor of de Ferran Motorsports’ new Acura ARX-02a prototype. Team owner Gil de Ferran will drive the LMP1 entry with Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon.

The Sebring 12 Hours will open the 11th season of the American Le Mans Series and serve as the 100th all-time Series race. SPEED will televise the race live from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-11 p.m. ET. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.

Schumacher shocked by late F1 rule changes  Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher has explained how he is 'astonished' at the various rule changes to Formula 1 to come into affect for the next two years, and is shocked that the governing body made several moderations less than two weeks before the start of the new season. Schumacher, who has attended pre-season tests in both Jerez and Barcelona over the last few weeks, first expressed his worries over the new KERS system which comes into affect in 2009: "You have to say that KERS is a risk for all the teams using it, with the new restricted testing regulations. There are, as always, certain question marks before the first races but this is what makes the whole thing so attractive isn't it?"

"I doubt the same goes for the new rules given out at such late notice prior to the start of the season," he continued. "It's something which is to me really, well, astonishing, as in previous years when the majority of teams wanted a rule change for a good reason, the FIA always said that it would not be possible in the short-term, or so late before the start of a season."

"I cannot imagine those changes will help F1, especially regarding the new system to find the champion," Schumacher said on his website. "I cannot see how it makes sense to eventually have a World Champion who could have less points than the driver coming in second, even if I also think it is a good move to try to strengthen the winner's position. Generally we should also make sure that F1 remains the top series of motorsport, by also displaying its competition with the highest levels of technology." More ...

Motorsports Authentics cuts 40  Motorsports Authentics, a joint merchandising venture by the country's two largest speedway owners, laid off 40 employees Wednesday, said Joe Mattes, the company's new interim president.

The cuts represent about 15 percent of the Charlotte-based company's workforce, and between 250 and 300 employees remain, Mattes said.

Named interim president last week, Mattes said he and senior managers spent recent days analyzing the company's workforce and processes before cutting the 40 positions – 33 of them full-time.

"It was from the manager level to the customer service level,” he said of the layoffs. “Every facet of the organization was reviewed.”

Volt on track to debut in Nov. 2010, despite cuts  General Motors Corp. executives said Wednesday that the Chevrolet Volt is on schedule for a November 2010 debut and that the program is expanding despite companywide cost cuts and a plea for up to $16.6 billion in additional federal aid.

GM reaffirmed its commitment to developing vehicles that rely on advanced technology and are more fuel efficient, a key requirement of the $13.4 billion federal loan package that has kept GM afloat. GM has less than two weeks to show progress toward becoming a viable company and obtaining money-saving concessions from labor and bondholders, or the U.S. Treasury Department could recall the loans and force a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

And though GM may run out of cash next month unless it receives $2.6 billion in additional federal aid, the team of engineers and others working on batteries, hybrid and electric vehicles has grown and GM is hiring a small number of people at a time when the automaker plans to eliminate 47,000 jobs globally.

"We will need to make a small number of critical hires when needed," GM spokesman Brian Corbett said. "Technology like this is critical to the long-term viability of General Motors." More ...

Tagliani signs agent in search of sponsorship  UPDATE Alex Tagliani says he is close to securing enough sponsorship which would see him return full-time to the IndyCar Series this year.

Alex Tagliani
Tagliani was in Edmonton Wednesday to help promote the start of ticket sales for this year's Rexall Edmonton Grand Prix. The 35-year-old is also hoping that his road back to the IndyCar Series will go through the province of Alberta.

"One of the reasons I'm here is we've put together a proposal to a group of companies that will benefit the whole province and the city and the race," he said. Without going into too much detail, Tagliani says the deal would provide plenty of sponsorship exposure while benefitting local racing programs and charities as well as helping secure the long-term future of the race in Edmonton. More ...
Andretti encouraged by sales for Toronto Indy  Andretti Green Promotions co-owner Michael Andretti says he's impressed with the early buzz ahead of this summer's Honda Indy Toronto.

The race, which was added to Andretti Green's event promotions business unit last year, is scheduled for July 12 as part of the 17-race IndyCar Series schedule.

"Toronto is going quite well," Andretti said on a conference call Wednesday. "The ticket sales up there and also the corporate involvements are quite high. So things are really chugging along up there, so we're excited about that."

Andretti didn't have specific numbers but said he's encouraged given the tough economic times that have gripped the continent. The Toronto race had been squeezed out of the schedule last year when Champ Car and IndyCar unified.

Andretti raced in the event's inaugural year in 1986 and won seven times on the streets of Toronto.  Canoe Sports

New jobs, rumors keep Andretti busy  
Michael Andretti
Michael Andretti's jobs keep getting more complex.

He's already the co-owner of the only four-car team in the IndyCar Series and he's promoting two races this season. He will be on Danica Patrick's radio when the Indy Racing League season opens and he will spend the next several months, perhaps longer, answering those incessant questions about the future of Patrick at Andretti Green Racing.

"I think we all know what we need to do with Danica, she knows what she needs to do, and we're hoping that she's going to be here for a long time," Andretti said Wednesday.

"She hasn't expressed anything to us that would lead us to believe she doesn't want to be here."

That's unlikely to satisfy a racing community abuzz with speculation now that the Illinois native is entering the final year of her contract.

Some believe a NASCAR team may make a lucrative offer to lure her away from IndyCars.

Drivers such as Tony Stewart, Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr. have all made the transition from open-wheel racing to stock cars, but most have not been successful.

Stewart, a two-time Cup winner, is the exception. More ...

Robby Gordon Under Investigation for Cheating  UPDATE Apparently, the protest of Gordon's alleged cheating has been withdrawn and Robby Gordon has been cleared of all charges.

03/17/09 How far are you willing to go to win? is a question frequently asked in off-road racing. In a difficult and dangerous sport, it takes heroic amounts of dedication and commitment to compete at a professional level. The SCORE racing series in Baja, Mexico is considered one of the most difficult off-road racing series in the world - its roster of competitors boast such racing heroes as Ivan Stewart, Parnelli Jones, and more recently NASCAR legend Robby Gordon.

On Saturday, March 14th at the 2009 Baja 250, several top racing teams filed a formal complaint against Robby Gordon for illegally shortcutting the course approximately 4 miles in order to pass Trophy Truck competitor Ed Herbst who has signed an appeal having witnessed the action.

It's common for off-road racers to use the shortest paths through difficult terrain, but it is another thing entirely to deliberately leave the course and re-enter at another location. The sport can be said to effectively operate on an honor system and it is often difficult to track the vehicles and enforce rules between the established checkpoints. More ...

NASCAR teams test at Lowe's Wednesday  
Jimmie Johnson
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com
Two days of Goodyear tire testing at Lowe’s Motor Speedway wrapped up on Wednesday as the tire manufacturer and the speedway begin gearing up for two weeks of racing here at the end of May.

Four Sprint Cup drivers each representing one of the four manufacturers in the Sprint Cup series participated in the event, helping Goodyear shake down tire compounds for the upcoming Sprint All-Star race to be held here on May 16th and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.

Tire performance has become a major issue in the several of the Sprint Cup races held so far this season. The previous two 600-mile races held at Lowe’s have also been plagued with tire problems.

Goodyear has placed special emphasis on tire testing at several tracks this season, which has proven specially important to teams since NASCAR banned testing for teams at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks beginning this season, making the tire tests the only track time these drivers will see before the races in May. More ...

LG Motorsports Sebring Driver Line-Up  When the green flag flies on Saturday's American Le Mans Series season opener, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway, LG Motorsports will field it's No. 28 LG Long Tube Headers Corvette GT2 car featuring the young Brazilian driver Lucas Molo. Molo, a two time Brazilian champion of Endurance (2004-2005) and winner of 500 kilometers of Interlagos in 2006, is 24 years old, pilot of Tekprom team and also son of the pilot and businessman Uberto Molo. He will be joined by World Challenge racing sensation, Eric Curran and three-time World Challenge Champion and team owner, Lou Gigliotti.

Lucas Molo
This will be Molo's first start in prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring and in the American Le Mans Series.

The Brazilian motor press cites Molo as one of the finest pilots to come out of Brazil in the last few years. Starting his career at 19 years-old, Lucas surprised everyone becoming the National Champion in his first season in the highly competitive Brazilian Endurance Championship. More ...

Mosley emerges from scandal as savior  Max Mosley emerged from a messy sex scandal to help salvage Formula One from the effects of the worldwide economic downturn.

With Mosley's mandate as FIA president now drawing to a close it's clear that opting for a fifth term will be decided like nearly every other issue that has been dealt with over the past 15 years: On his own terms.

Mosley has laid the groundwork for the regulation and cost-cutting modifications that have put F1 on sound footing.

But the 68-year-old Englishman isn't sure he's ready to stomach it all any longer. More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • A ray of hope for McLaren at Jerez
  • Alonso, Trulli, slam latest FIA rules
  • Lewis Hamilton wax figure unveiled
  • McLaren still needs test drivers - Dennis
  • New system to work in Button's favor - Ecclestone
  • Diffuser designs use rule 'loophole' - Whiting
  • Abu Dhabi night race still possible - Cregan

A ray of hope for sandbagging McLaren at Jerez
(GMM)  The Spanish sun took on the role of a ray of hope for McLaren on Wednesday, as the beleaguered F1 giant conducted its penultimate day of a troubled pre-season.

At the Jerez test circuit, it was not Heikki Kovalainen's defeat of the only other test runner Kazuki Nakajima that was significant, but the fact the Finn would have been within half a second of Brawn's stunning pace of the day before.

When Brawn and Renault were still circulating on Tuesday, Lewis Hamilton had been more than a second off the pace.

McLaren's post-day press release reflected the improvement: "The test proved extremely productive, both in terms of evaluating the lap time potential of the new components and their effectiveness over the course of a simulated race stint." Third fastest for the week proves beyond a doubt they were sandbagging all winter.

McLaren and Williams' final day of running on Thursday marks the formal close of the 2009 winter period.

Alonso, Trulli, slam latest FIA rules
(GMM)  Two of the racing veterans of the formula one circus have reacted with concern to the FIA's latest wave of fundamental rule changes.

The change to the 'gold medals'-style points system for this season has been roundly panned, but it is the duel-rule budget cap idea for 2010 that Fernando Alonso publicly appealed to be "reconsidered".

"I don't understand the need to constantly change the rules of this sport," the 2005 and 2006 world champion said.

"I think that these types of decisions can only confuse the fans," the Spaniard added, insisting that the desires of "the teams, the sponsors, the drivers and above all the fans" were ignored by the sport's governing body.

Jarno Trulli, an Italian veteran of 200 races, echoed his former Renault teammate's view, telling La Stampa that the World Motor Sport Council's decisions this week comprise "many negative factors and no positive" ones.

"It seems to be that formula one wants to die and we will all have to go and race in some other championship," he is quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Trulli, 34, said the 'gold medals' system runs the risk that if one driver dominates the season as in 2002 and 2004, the championship will be officially over even earlier than usual.

"It is right to try to give the public more, to improve the show, but it shouldn't distort the spirit of formula one.  I am very, very worried," he added. More ...

tv news
Three TV specials highlight Sebring week  UPDATE A reminder that SPEED will feature two specials on Thursday night, March 19, as a preview to the 12 Hours of Sebring.  “American LeMans Series: A look at 2009” will be broadcast live from Sebring International Speedway at 7:00 pm-8:00 pm ET.  SPEED will follow the one hour live presentation with a replay of the outstanding documentary “Project LMP1: Acura’s Next Challenge” at 8:00 pm-9:00 pm ET.

03/16/09 Three television specials, including one live prime-time telecast, are featured this week on two different networks as the world’s top sports car drivers head to Sebring, FL for one of the world’s most grueling endurance classics - the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.

SPEED starts off the trifecta for sports car fans with “American Le Mans Series: A Look at 2009”, a one-hour live special from Sebring International Raceway at 7:00-8:00 pm ET on Thursday, March 19 with hosts Leigh Diffey, Brian Till, Calvin Fish and Dorsey Schroeder, and pit reporters Jamie Howe and Justin Bell who joins the SPEED team for the first time this year. The network will interview drivers, team owners and corporate partners in a glimpse at the 57th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida as well as provide an overview of the coming 2009 campaign.

SPEED will follow the one-hour live presentation with a special from 8:00-9:00 pm ET that evening called “Project LMP1: Acura’s Next Challenge”.  It features Acura’s descent to LMP1 where it will take on traditional behemoths Audi and Peugeot. In addition to on-track test footage, the feature goes behind the scenes with de Ferran Motorsports and Patr¢n Highcroft Racing to unveil the complexities of creating and managing a program at the highest level of sports car racing.

The back-to-back specials have encore presentations later that evening at 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. A third viewing is available Saturday, March 21 at 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. with Acura’s special to re-air at 9 a.m. Saturday, immediately prior to the 10:30 a.m. green flag for the 57th running of the 12 Hours. In addition “Project LMP1: Acura’s Next Challenge” will also air Sunday, March 22 at 3:00 p.m. More ...

Tyler Alexander to retire from McLaren  Tyler Alexander, a McLaren stalwart and one of the few remaining members of the team to have worked alongside its original founder Bruce McLaren, will retire from McLaren this month after a career spanning five decades at the sport’s very pinnacle.

As a young US mechanic with a passion for motorsport, Tyler joined Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd in 1963. He rose from mechanic status to become one of Bruce’s most trusted lieutenants and, later, one of the burgeoning team’s principal figures.

As the team expanded, Tyler found his talents blossoming on his native side of the pond, helming McLaren’s CanAm and USAC racing activities in North America before helping establish the foundations for Ron Dennis’s McLaren International operation in the 1980s. Professional, hard-working and irascible, yet possessing a canny ability to view Formula 1’s machinations with a raised eyebrow and quizzical smile, he remains eternally modest about his considerable achievements. More ...

New Acura LMP1 Hit Sebring Track For the First Time  The grueling battle for Saturday’s prestigious Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring title began Wednesday when the American Le Mans Series cars hit the legendary airport surface at Sebring International Raceway for practice.  The 57th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring starts at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) Saturday.

The test of man and machine on the rough, 3.7-mile road circuit has made the Sebring classic one of toughest and most prestigious racing events in the world.  Second only to the Indy 500 in longevity for a major auto race in North America, the 12 Hours of Sebring will feature a sensational LMP1 shootout between established sports-car giants Audi and Peugeot and upstart Acura, which debuts its new LMP1 effort this weekend.

In Wednesday’s practice, the two Acura ARX-02a prototype cars from Patr¢n Highcroft and de Ferran Motorsports began preparations by recording the fourth and fifth-fastest times in practice runs.  David Brabham, the only ALMS driver to ever win races in all four classes of series competition, led the Acura contingent with a best time of one minute, 46.219 seconds and an average speed of 125.401 miles per hour.  Brabham, a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, will team Saturday with 2007 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and former IndyCar Series champion Scott Sharp in the bright green and blue No. 9 Patr¢n Highcroft Acura.  More ...

Q&A with Ganassi racing's Mike Hull  Target Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull will oversee the testing program of the team's two cars at the March 22-23 Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, who will have competed against each other in the 12 Hours of Sebring a day earlier, will participate in the exercises.

Hull provides a preview of what a team seeks to achieve at a road course test.

Q: What about the layout at Barber Motorsports Park does Target Chip Ganassi Racing hope to develop/test?

A: TCGR has a test list for Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon for the two days there. It will help us with direction for the natural road circuits on our schedule. Since it is the only road track test for us prior to the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, it's a good starting point for 2009. It helps us to measure where our guys stand in relationship to the other IndyCar Series teams. More ...

AutoWeek and ALMS launch annual sweepstakes  The third annual American Le Mans Series/AutoWeek “Win a Free Trip to the 24 Hours of Le Mans” Sweepstakes is under way with the chance for a pair of lucky fans to win the endurance experience of a lifetime - an expense-paid trip for two to the classic French endurance race in 2010.

From now through June 15, entrants may register at either americanlemans.com or autoweek.com for the ultimate in access to the drivers, teams and manufacturers at the world’s most famous and demanding auto race.

AutoWeek and the Series will fly the Grand Prize winners from their nearest U.S. airport to Paris, where they will board the high-speed TGV rail line directly to Le Mans. The winners also will receive insider VIP credentials, world-class hospitality at the famed Circuit de la Sarthe and accommodations in a 15th-century Chateau near the circuit. More ...

Summerton takes provisional pole  For a driver who didn’t have a ride in the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda until a few days ago, Kissimmee, Fla. resident Jonathan Summerton didn’t need much time to get back up to speed.

Summerton got his first Atlantic seat time since last October’s season finale at Road Atlanta yesterday, and today he put the No. 19 Genoa Racing machine on the provisional pole for Friday’s $50,000-to-win season-opener at Sebring International Raceway. In a qualifying session that saw the top spot change frequently, Summerton claimed the top spot, touring the 3.7-mile circuit in 1:53.571 (117.283 mph). Summerton is guaranteed a front-row starting position for his third consecutive Atlantic start dating back to last season and will be going for his second career pole in tomorrow’s final round of qualifying.

“It was fun,” Summerton said. “It’s a ride and a half out there. When you’re going through Turn 1, it’s bumpy as heck. You’ve got to keep your perfect line and basically make sure you miss the bump in Turn 1 and Turn 17. It’s a joy out there. It’s like a roller coaster. We worked hard between sessions. (Crew chief) Geoff Bushor (team manager) Tom Knapp and Genoa really worked hard. The car was great. I’m sure we still had another two or three tenths (of a second) out there, easy.” More ...
Senna tests Mercedes DTM car  "It’s a great series, high profile and good wheel-to-wheel racing”, says the Brazilian After getting to grips with a Courage-Oreca LMP1 car in Paul Ricard two weeks ago, Bruno Senna added DTM to his experience bank today as he took part in his first test for Mercedes Benz. Bruno’s initiation in the technology used in the world’s most high tech touring car championship came as he drove a 2008 AMG Mercedes Benz C Class for the German manufacturer.

The venue was Hockenheim in Germany, a circuit Bruno knows only briefly from his successful GP2 season on 2008 but a regular port of call for DTM regulars. The test was organised by Mercedes Benz aiming to give Bruno the chance to evaluate a new discipline whilst at the same time having the chance to look more closely at 2008 GP2 race winner and championship runner up.

For Bruno, testing the DTM Mercedes has proven to be another chapter in his short career and could well provide valuable additional experience on his journey to F1. "The test will continue for a second day, after which we will have the opportunity to discuss the future with Mercedes Benz motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug. It has been fun so far and I have enjoyed getting onto the pace quite quickly in this car. I don’t underestimate the level of competition in the DTM though. It is a great series, high profile and good wheel to wheel racing”, pointed out. "There is much to discuss but that close racing and focus on outright speed in this category could suit me very well and could certainly be one new experience that Can add value to my career as I aim for F1 in the future”, concluded.

Haug is keen to stress that this test does not indicate that Bruno Senna will race in this year’s DTM championship. However, it is an opportunity for the German manufacturer to assess the possibility of including Bruno in the Mercedes Benz family at some point in the future.

"Today, Bruno Senna got his first whiff of DTM air and he enjoyed it,” said Haug. "He’ll be testing again tomorrow and then we’ll all sit down and decide what happens next.”
St. Clair Foods two-race sponsorship withdrawn  A two-race sponsorship deal intended for David Green’s race team and St. Clair Foods was withdrawn today. St. Clair withdrew from the agreement because of the inability to reach an exclusive sponsorship agreement with SK Motorsports for the Nationwide Series Scotts Turf Builder 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend and a Nationwide Series race scheduled for later this year in Memphis.

“I regret that the two parties could not reach an agreement,” said David Goodman of Mountain Empire Sports Marketing Group, who was involved in brokering the agreement. “A failure to finalize exclusivity rights for St. Clair Foods by my company was central to the failed agreement.”

“Our understanding was that the deal had been finalized and I was surprised that issues remained so close to the race at Bristol,” said St. Clair Foods, Vice-President of Operations Brian Edmonds. “Our intent was to go racing, however with a significant detail involving the sponsorship unresolved, we had no choice but to withdraw from the opportunity.”

Sarrazin keeps Peugeot on top Wednesday in Sebring  Peugeot’s Stephane Sarrazin set the fastest lap of the day at Sebring International Raceway on Wednesday, the first official day of practice for the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. The Frenchman toured the 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit in 1:44.719 (127.198 mph) in the day’s second practice session.

Driving one of Peugeot’s diesel-powered 908 HDi factory coupes with Franck Montagny and Sebastien Bourdais, Sarrazin sat 0.214 seconds ahead of Audi Sport’s Tom Kristensen in the new R15 TDI, also a factory diesel entry. Kristensen is teaming with Allan McNish and Dindo Capello, and the same trio won last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The last time Peugeot and Audi went head-to-head was last season’s Petit Le Mans, an Audi victory by less than five seconds. Sarrazin was the overall pole-winner, however.

A second Audi prototype sat third with the entry of Mike Rockenfeller, Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner posting a best time of 1:45.894 (125.786 mph), a little more than a half second better than Scott Dixon in de Ferran Motorsports’ Acura ARX-02a. More ...

Star Mazda Sebring First Practice  Conor Daly, son of racing legend and two-time 12 Hours of Sebring winner Derek Daly took one small step toward tradition today, posting the fastest time in the first official practice session for Round One of the 2009 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.

Under partly cloudy skies and with temperatures in the low 80s, the rookie from Noblesville, Indiana posted a time of 1:59.743 (111.238 mph) in the #22 Andersen Racing / College Network / Indeck / Cytomax Mazda.  In second, after holding the fastest lap for most of the session, was 2008 Sebring winner Joel Miller with a lap of 1:59.891 (111.101 mph) in the #22 JDC Motorsports Mazda.  Rounding out the top-3 was Miller's JDC teammate, Brazilian Ciao Lara, with a time of 2.00.039 (110.964 mph) in the #19 JDC Motorsports Mazda.

"At the beginning of the session, we went out on older tires and the car had a good balance, then we put on new tires and made a bit of an adjustment and it was what I needed," said Daly.  "We still have a few areas to improve, there's a bit of understeer in 17, but we've made huge improvements every session.  For me as a driver, I still have room to improve because the car is still new to me.  It would be great to win here like my dad did, but we still have to keep making improvements and come race time we'll see how well I put together everything I've learned.  Hopefully it's a good result." More ...
Only 2 drivers test at Jerez Wednesday  
Pos Driver Team Car Time Behind Laps
1. H. Kovalainen McLaren MP4-24 1:18.202 +0.000 85
2. K. Nakajima Williams FW31 1:20.014 +1.812 103
Marcos Ambrose OK with NASCAR suspension of Watts  Marcos Ambrose believes NASCAR was fair in levying a four-race suspension against a team member who chased a tire across pit road at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Jimmy Watts, the gas man for Ambrose's crew, begins his suspension with Sunday's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Watts was also placed on probation through the end of the year, as was crew chief Frank Kerr, who NASCAR deemed responsible for the actions of the team.

"It was a disaster and I think the penalty is a good one,'' Ambrose said Wednesday during a break in Goodyear tire testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

"You can't have guys running on pit lane. You can't have guys running up to the race track surface. It's just not the thing to do. He needs to be an example for others not to do the same, and I think it's a good decision all around.'' More ...

HVM to skip Barber IndyCar test  HVM Racing has changed its upcoming testing schedule to better accommodate the team’s preparation of a second car to test driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.  The team will no longer attend this weekend’s open test at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., but instead will test at another site before the April 5 IndyCar Series season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla.  The new test site will be announced in the coming days.

“We look forward to having Ryan test for us, but we want to make sure the timing of that test makes sense for everyone,” said Keith Wiggins, team owner.

Hunter-Reay was fitted for a seat this week at the HVM shop, where the team will be preparing another car for him.  The team has not finalized an agreement with Hunter-Reay but continues to explore opportunities with him for the 2009 race season. More ...

Renault green-lights KERS for Aussie GP  UPDATE (GMM)  Renault is the first team to commit to using a KERS system at next weekend's Australian grand prix.

"We will run it in Australia, I'm sure of that already," engineering boss Pat Symonds told GP Week.

It is believed that Ferrari, McLaren and BMW are similarly advanced with the new energy re-use technology, but have not yet decided whether to deploy their respective systems at Albert Park.

European publications report that BMW will make its decision this week.  "I can not anticipate the outcome," technical director Willy Rampf told the Swiss newspaper Blick.

The other teams, including Toyota, Williams, the Red Bull teams and Force India, have already decided to commence the season without KERS.

Brawn, meanwhile, has not even tested the technology.  "With the time we have had available, quite frankly, we have not considered KERS," team head Ross Brawn said.

Symonds, however, is comfortable with Renault's so-far unique decision to fit the device at Albert Park despite the concerns about compromising weight distribution, tire wear and safety.

"We believe obviously that it's a positive performance advantage otherwise we wouldn't be running it," he insisted.

He revealed that, despite earlier concerns, Renault's KERS system is also reliable.

"Prior to Christmas I would have said there was very little chance of us running it in Australia, and I really couldn't have put a date on when we were going to run it, but over Christmas the major problems were solved very quickly one after the other in succession.

"And since we've had it on the car we've really had very little problem with it," added Symonds.

03/17/09 The ING Renault F1 Team has given its Kinetic Energy Recovery System the green light to run at the upcoming Australian Grand Prix. By using KERS at Melbourne, the French outfit remains a minority as six teams already confirmed that they would not use the system 'Down Under'.

Williams, Toyota, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull Racing, Force India F1 and Brawn GP will all head to Melbourne without the technology.

Renault, however, admitted early in winter testing that it was surprised about how well their KERS system was running and this after a skeptical attitude in the beginning. Due to the positive test sessions with the technology, the French outfit decided to use it at the first race of the season.

For an overview of the KERS devices in use and how far along the teams are in their development cycle, please read "tackling KERS in Formula One".

Bernie dismisses cry baby F1 owners and drivers  (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has brushed aside the criticism of F1's new voluntary budget cap for 2010.

The FOTA team alliance has denounced the scheme, unveiled by the governing FIA this week, as potentially risking "the very essence" of the sport.

But F1's chief executive insists the negativity is nothing new.

"Any time we make any changes, there are a whole bunch of people who say forget it, it won't happen," the Briton is quoted as saying by PA Sport.

"When we had two-race engines, everyone said you can't do it because the teams won't finish races.

"Everything that is proposed, the teams always say forget it -- it is just par for the course," Ecclestone added.

The 78-year-old even suggests that the FIA reforms have not gone far enough, but said more discussions would first need to take place. More ...

F1 team owners continue to cry like babies  
Flavio Briatore crying that the FIA cost caps may force him to cut his huge salary.  Our heart bleeds.
(GMM)  Flavio Briatore has backed FOTA chief Luca di Montezemolo's strong criticism of the rules changes unilaterally introduced this week by the FIA.

The Renault boss, a leading light of the F1 teams' alliance, critiqued the voluntary 33m euro budget cap for 2010 by arguing that all teams should have "the same rules".

"We need stability, the changes are a bit of a shock," the Italian told the BBC.

Briatore suggested that the changes, intending that privateers can have low budgets but remain competitive with the big-spending teams due to more technical freedoms, are overly simplistic.

"Formula one is very complicated, (sometimes) you try reducing the cost and instead of reducing it the cost goes up.

"This will need us to really sit together with the Federation to understand because the teams already did a big job to try and reduce the costs.

"The financial crisis makes everyone worried and we need formula one to be more efficient but sometimes we are not happy with the sentences that are imposed," said Briatore.

F1 drivers cry like babies  
Adrian Sutil and other drivers are crying like the babies that they are because the budget caps imposed by the FIA may require them to take a huge salary cut.  Our heart bleeds.
(GMM)  Force India driver Adrian Sutil on Wednesday admitted he is unsure formula one should introduce a voluntary budget cap for small teams next year.

The FIA's new regime is designed to aid and safeguard independent outfits like his Silverstone based employer, but German Sutil, 26, admitted he is uncomfortable with constant rules changes.

"I have the feeling that a lot of things constantly change.  In the past years there were always new things," he said in an interview with the German broadcaster RTL.

F1's governing body has also imposed an immediate change to the points system for 2009, guaranteeing the winner of the most races the drivers' title.

Sutil said: "It seems to me as if they're desperately trying to make formula one always more interesting and more spectacular.

"Perhaps they should simply leave everything how it is so that the spectators can get used to everything."

The German driver's latter point is also former grand prix driver Christian Danner's criticism of the voluntary budget cap for 2010.

"Having two different sets of regulations in place at the same time will be problematic not only for the authorities, but also for the spectators," he told Germany's SID news agency.

Briatore backs new 'gold medals' system  (GMM)  Renault boss Flavio Briatore on Wednesday welcomed the change to the F1 points system for 2009.

Although the Italian admitted 'shock' with the budget cap scheme for 2010, and while the new points system is at odds with the FOTA alliance's own proposal, he told the BBC he is happy with the regime.

In 2009, the winner of the drivers' world championship will be the driver with the most number of wins, irrespective of his separate points tally.

"I don't have any problem with the gold medals," Briatore said.

"I think it's excellent motivation for drivers to win.  Formula one is always about winning and overtaking, and if this is extra motivation, I think we are going the right way."

Some drivers not keen on new F1 points system  (GMM)  Nick Heidfeld on Wednesday was among a number of drivers to comment on the late change to the points system ahead of the 2009 season.

Despite some quarters welcoming the move to guarantee the winner of the most races the drivers' title, the more widespread reaction to the 'gold medals'-style regime has been negative.

"It's a matter of taste, but my taste is not for that," BMW-Sauber's Heidfeld told Germany's SID news agency.

"I like the old way better.  With points it is comprehensible.  There is not only one or a few races (in a season), but 17 or 18."

He said the new system is not straightforward, given that while the 2009 champion could have fewer points than the runner-up, the rest of the standings will be ranked by regular points order.

"I find that silly.  The basis should be the same for all," Heidfeld added.

His German countryman Nico Rosberg slammed the new system as "nonsense", while Brawn's Jenson Button - tipped by Bernie Ecclestone as an outsider for the title because of the change - warned the rulemakers that their scheme could backfire.

"I understand the logic behind it and it's interesting," the Briton said.  "It's an incentive to try to win but it also looks risky to me.

"After 9 races you could get a driver who's already won the title and can take the rest of the season off, while the driver in second is only 18 points behind," he remarked.

When Ecclestone first proposed his radical 'medals' idea, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton made clear he did not back it because "the team who is most consistent" should house the title winner.

At the Jerez test on Wednesday, he insisted: "I have no opinion on this."

Even NASCAR fans aren't this bad  NASCAR fans throw beer cans at the cars on the track.  A driver could be hurt or killed should a full beer can someday go through the windshield of one of the race cars. However, things could be worse.

An Iraqi football (soccer) player was shot dead as he was about to score the tying goal.

The striker from the Buhairat amateur team had only the goalkeeper to beat in the match yesterday near Baghdad when a supporter of the rival Sinjar club shot him in the head in the final minute of play.

Sinjar were leading 1-0 when the shooting occurred. Police said a spectator was arrested.

formula BMW
Formula BMW Americas Set to Launch '09 Season  The preseason will find itself fading in the rear view mirror when the Formula BMW Americas Championship heads south of the border for the 2009 season opener this week, as the next generation of open-wheel drivers begin their quest for stardom.

The Formula BMW Americas Championship will contest the first two rounds of its 14-race series this weekend at the 2.09-mile (3.363km) Autodromo Miguel E. Abed in Puebla, Mexico, as drivers from eight different countries attack the challenging 16-turn road course.

With an expanded race field over 2008, the Formula BMW Americas Championship features four returning drivers from ’08, with ten rookies joining the battle in replacing 2008 Formula BMW World Final winner Alexander Rossi as series champion. More ...

Mixed emotions abound following Budweiser announcement  The recent announcement of Anheuser-Busch’s decision to end its relationships with Kenny Bernstein Racing and NHRA after a 30-year partnership was met with mixed emotions from the team and NHRA.

The decision was not unexpected, given the recent acquisition of Anheuser-Busch by InBev, a Belgian beer company, which brought speculation about how the sale would affect Budweiser’s sponsorship programs in all of sports. The team is now able to move full speed ahead on procuring sponsorship for the 2010 season.

“We are proud of our long-term sponsorships, not only with Budweiser, but we’re also celebrating our 31st season with LaPaz party mixes, 22nd anniversary with Mac Tools, and our seventh season with Lucas Oil,” said Kenny Bernstein. “We believe that taking a proactive role in initiating programs and promotions that help sell product and build brand awareness has been an integral part of retaining our sponsorship associations through the years. More ...

Porsche announces Panamerica innovations  
Porsche Panamera
As the moment draws near when the Porsche Panamera makes its public debut at the Shanghai Motor Show on April 19, 2009, the Stuttgart, Germany based auto manufacturer reveals a few more technical details to whet the appetites of those in search of the emotional and driving character of a sports car coupled with the high luxury and interior comfort of a performance sedan in one unique vehicle that is still instantly recognized as a Porsche.

When it goes on sale in the United States on Oct. 17, 2009, the Panamera will showcase some innovative technologies. These include the first automatic engine start/stop feature used with an automatically shifting double-clutch transmission, air suspension with additional air volume on demand, and on the Panamera Turbo active aerodynamics with a multi-stage, adjustable rear spoiler that deploys when needed.  More ...

Suzuki rolls up a new MotoGP title deal with Rizla  Suzuki Motor Corporation and Imperial Tobacco Group have renewed their ongoing partnership in one of the few tobacco sponsorship deals left in sport.  Rizla, the rolling paper manufacturer, will continue to be the title sponsor of the Japanese company's MotoGP team in a deal said to be worth US$7 million.

Rizla has been the title sponsor of the Suzuki Grand Prix motorcycle race team for the past three years and the one-year extension deal will see the Suzuki drivers Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen continue to race the distinctive 'Rizla blue' motorbikes this season.

"In difficult economic times, it is even more important to continue to support major brands and excellence in sport,” said Graham Blashill, Imperial Tobacco sales and marketing director. “ Rizla and Suzuki are global brands committed to providing top quality and innovative products, and we are pleased to be continuing our partnership." More ...

If NASCAR adopted F1 points system....  Formula One's championship will be decided by the number of race wins and not accumulated points. If NASCAR would have had this system since 2000, how would the champs look for those season?

Year: Most Wins, Actual Champ
2008: Edwards [9 wins], Johnson [7]
2007: Johnson [10], Johnson
2006: Kahne [6], Johnson [5]
2005: Biffle [6], Stewart [5]
2004: Johnson [8], Kurt Busch [3]
(2004-2008 have used the Chase format)
2003: Newman [8], Kenseth [1]
2002: Kenseth [5], Stewart [3]
2001: Gordon [6], Gordon
2000: Stewart [6], Bobby Labonte [2]  stats from ESPN.com/Ed Hinton

tv news
ESPN2 to Have Live Coverage of NASCAR Legends  ESPN2 will have live coverage as some of the greatest names in the history of NASCAR return to action for a special charity race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 21, at 6:00pm/et. And just as many great drivers will be racing again, Ned Jarrett, a mainstay of ESPN’s coverage of NASCAR from 1986-2000, returns to the air to join his son, ESPN lead NASCAR analyst Dale Jarrett, and lap-by-lap announcer Dr. Jerry Punch in calling the action in the Scotts Saturday Night Special. Cale Yarborough, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Harry Gant and ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace are among the 12 legends of NASCAR who will compete for 35 laps in late model stock cars. The winning driver will earn a $25,000 donation for the charity of his choice. The race airs following ESPN on ABC’s live coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Scotts Turf Builder 300 event at Bristol that day at 2:00pm/et. Others in the race, all former winners in NASCAR competition at Bristol, include Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Jimmy Spencer, Phil Parsons, L.D. Ottinger and former NASCAR Nationwide Series champions Jack “Iron Man” Ingram and David Green. Wallace will be ESPN’s “In-Race Reporter” and will talk via radio with Dale Jarrett during the telecast. Allen Bestwick will host the telecast and pit reporters will be Dave Burns, Shannon Spake and Vince Welch. ESPN PR
Legends test at Bristol  One look at Junior Johnson strapped into his #11 race car with old-fashioned goggles wrapped around his helmet, and it was like taking a step back in time. Johnson was one of several former Bristol Motor Speedway winners testing Tuesday at the 0.533-mile oval in preparation for this weekend's Scotts Saturday Night Special.

Also taking to the track was Harry Gant, Jimmy Spencer, Jack Ingram, Rusty Wallace, L.D. Ottinger, and Phil Parsons. The last time Johnson, who won the 1965 Southeastern 500 at BMS, raced at BMS the track was asphalt – and it was much different.

“When it was first built, you run off in the first and second turn like you went down a hill,” said the 77-year-old Johnson. “Now, it is so much smoother. I haven’t been on it since the last time they redid it, but I can tell it is a lot smoother. The pavement was kind of humpy and bumpy, so it’s got to be better (than it was). Jack Ingram, who earned 31 victories and two championships in what was then the Busch Series, now the Nationwide Series, won the second race in that series ever held at BMS, in 1982. Now 72, Ingram didn’t seem intimidated by anyone on the track. Harry Gant, 69, winner of 18 Sprint Cup victories and 21 in the Nationwide Series, was the 1992 Budweiser 250 winner at BMS. Other drivers expected to compete in the Saturday Night Special are David Green, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Phil Parsons and Larry Pearson. More ...
Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Two more teams conclude 2009 winter
  • 'Rift' opens between F1 teams, authorities
  • New points system sparks more questions than praise
  • Todt severs last ties to Ferrari
  • Brawn car 'not illegal' - Barrichello

Two more teams conclude 2009 winter
(GMM)  Brawn GP, whose new name was being rubber-stamped by the FIA in Paris, returned to the top of the test timesheets on Tuesday as the Brackley based team's short winter program concluded at Jerez.

Jenson Button outpaced Williams' Nico Rosberg - who ended his pre-season with a crash - by two tenths.

Williams will conclude its winter program with Kazuki Nakajima on Wednesday and Thursday, as Brackley based Brawn and Renault now return to their respective headquarters in readiness for the trek to Australia.

McLaren is also staying at Jerez until Thursday.  World champion Lewis Hamilton continued the British team's poor form on Tuesday by being the slowest of the four runners.

It is clear the Mercedes-powered team is working hard to overcome its problems with the rear of the MP4-24.  On Tuesday 24-year-old Hamilton's diffuser bore a green tinge, with the team again reverting to using liquid dye to trace airflow.

'Rift' opens between F1 teams, authorities
(GMM)  The F1 teams' alliance FOTA reacted with "disappointment and concern" to the new FIA rules for 2010.

Headlining the World Motor Sport Council's decisions taken in Paris on Tuesday were the voluntary 33m euro budget cap for next year, and the immediate overhaul of the points system to crown the winningest driver 2009 champion.

"FOTA would like to express its disappointment and concern at the fact that these (decisions) have been taken in a unilateral manner," Ferrari and FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo said in a statement.

The Italian added that the budget cap risks "turning on its head the very essence of formula one and the principles that make it one of the most popular and appealing sports".

Montezemolo said FOTA will "study closely the new situation" and "do everything" to provide stability in F1 "without continuous upheaval, that can be perplexing and confusing for car manufacturers, teams, the public and sponsors".

FIA president Max Mosley on Tuesday acknowledged that the rules had been drawn up without first seeing FOTA's finalized proposals.

"We cannot wait," he insisted, "because new teams wishing to enter the 2010 championship will need to start work immediately."

The masterstroke of Mosley's scheme is that teams have been offered the option of retaining unlimited budgets with the current rules remaining stable until at least 2012, making it appear as if FOTA's objection is to the smaller budget-capped teams being offered more technical freedoms.

Indeed, as some of the FOTA teams are those who would benefit most from the 33m euro budget cap, The Times newspaper claims that the rules have been "cautiously welcomed" by some teams "outside of Ferrari and McLaren".

The Times speculates that Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone are using the initiative to "help to split FOTA", while the Financial Times referred to the new situation as a "dangerous rift".

F1 chief executive Ecclestone said: "What team can afford not to accept the new proposal?" More ...

SuperGP to be sponsored by Nitro Energy Drinks  
Nitro SuperGP Chairman Terry Mackenroth (left) and Nitro Energy Drink Joint Managing Director Matt Nielsen celebrate today's announcement
The strength of Queensland’s largest event, the SuperGP, has again been proven with the announcement of a new three-year naming rights partnership with Nitro Energy Drink today.

Nitro Energy Drink is an Australian-owned product with its national headquarters based on the Gold Coast. The aim of Nitro Energy Drink is to build the name into a major national and international brand and view their naming rights partnership with one of the world’s iconic motorsport events – the Nitro SuperGP as an important vehicle in this strategy.

This year’s 19th annual event, to be held from October 22-25 on the streets of the Gold Coast, will bring together the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport Powered by Ferrari and the home-grown V8 Supercars Championship Series for the first time, for four days and nights of action at what is one of the world’s great sporting festivals.

Nitro Energy Drink Joint Managing Director Matt Nielsen and Nitro SuperGP Chairman Terry Mackenroth officially confirmed the new partnership today. More ...

tv news
Jeff Burton to appear on General Hospital  A reminder that Jeff Burton will appear in the daytime drama, General Hospital, on Wednesday, March 18, 3:00 pm-4:00 pm ET on ABC.

NASCAR driver Jeff Burton drives into Port Charles and the ABC daytime drama General Hospital in an episode that airs Wednesday, March 18, at 3:00 pm ET.

In the storyline, Burton visits neighborhood tavern Jake's where he has a conversation with bartender Coleman (Blake Gibbons) when Dr. Patrick Drake (Jason Thompson) arrives and despite being a race car enthusiast, the neurosurgeon does not recognize the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star and a comedic beat ensues. More ...

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