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Long Beach starts ticket push  
Fans line up for Long Beach GP ticket sale
Sponsors of the 35th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach are making it easy for fans to enjoy the April 16-19 weekend!

"Our sponsors are providing a wide variety of discount programs for our fans to enjoy this great event," said Mike Clark, Director of Marketing for the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. 

TOYOTA is holding a special promotion featuring two free Friday/Saturday tickets with an $89.99 service at Southern California Toyota dealers. TECATE is offering a savings on Grand Prix tickets at convenience stores with a purchase of Tecate Light.

BUBBA GUMP restaurant and MAI TAI Bar in Long Beach will distribute free Friday coupons, and NOS DRINKS are offering free Friday coupons in conjunction with G&M FOOD MARTS. More ...

Japanese carmakers slice output to minimize losses  Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest automaker, said its global production fell the most in at least 23 years as the worst recession since the Great Depression hammers vehicle demand in North America and Europe.

The company’s output plunged 53 percent to 358,573 vehicles in February from the year-ago period, the company said in a statement today. That’s the biggest percentage drop since the company began releasing the tally in January 1986. Honda Motor Co., the country’s second-largest automaker, built 190,680 vehicles, down 43 percent. Output at Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s No. 3 carmaker, slid 51 percent.

Toyota and other Japanese automakers widened production cuts to reduce their dealer’s inventories. U.S. auto sales last month fell to the lowest since December 1981 after rising unemployment and tighter credit deterred car purchases.

“Tighter credit is killing demand in the U.S.,” said Hitoshi Yamamoto, chief executive officer of Tokyo-based Fortis Asset Management Japan Co., which manages $5.5 billion in Japanese equities. “A recovery in the U.S. is essential to help Japanese automakers ease production cuts.”

Castroneves trial resumes  
Soon Castroneves will either be dancing with the stars again, or dancing behind bars
At 7:40 a.m. on a damp weekday morning, Helio Castroneves and his sister Katiucia sat together on a bench outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse downtown, just the two of them. Kati quietly checked her phone for e-mails while Helio, never one to sit still, jumped to his feet and launched into stretching exercises to try to burn off some nervous energy.

Three weeks earlier this same municipal courtyard was the sight of a small media circus, a waiting mob that included television stations from Miami, Indianapolis and South America, newspaper reporters, sports writers, even "Entertainment Tonight" and TMZ. They came to watch the two-time Indy 500 winner and "Dancing with the Stars" champion make the walk of shame up the sidewalk to face charges by the IRS that he had failed to report and pay taxes on more than $5 million.

But now, little more than a week away from being handed their fate by a jury of their peers, the racer and his sister/co-defendant sat together in the misty morning rain, totally alone.

"It is like being on an airplane," the 33-year-old Brazilian said as the members of their eight-person legal defense team began to arrive. "There are moments when you climb, moments when you dive and moments of turbulence. It has not been a fun flight."

Then, as he turned to enter the building, Castroneves paused and dug deep for one of his trademark smiles.

"The good news is that this plane will be landing soon."

On Monday morning the trial resumed its fourth week following a four-day break. The prosecution expects to rest their case by midweek, and most involved anticipate the case to be in the hands of the jury as early as Friday. More ...

F1 Korean Grand Prix 2010  UPDATE Added logo for Korean GP below.

03/24/09 The outline of official Brand Identity, which will represent Formula One Korean Grand Prix starting in 2010, has been made public.

Yung Cho Chung, Chief Executive Officer of KAVO (Korea Auto Valley Operation) held a press conference opening 2009 F1 Season at ‘Samchonggak, a restaurant, located in Seoul on March 19 and announced a final basic plan of BI having the function of official emblem and logo of the event.

The basic design idea of the official BI resembles the Korean National Flag.

The flag of South Korea, or Taegeukgi has three parts: a white background; a red and blue taegeuk (taijitu or “yin-yang”) in the centre; and four black trigrams, one in each corner of the flag. The white background symbolizes “cleanliness of the people.’’ The taegeuk represents the origin of all things in the universe; holding the two principles of ‘Yin’, the negative aspect rendered in blue, and “Yang”, the positive aspect rendered in red, in perfect balance. Together, they represent a continuous movement within infinity, the two merging as one. The four trigrams are related to the Five Elements of fire, water, earth wood, and metal. An analogy could also be drawn with the four western classical elements; Fire earth, air, and water. More ...

Team Penske tops at both preseason Open Tests  After finishing second and fifth in the IndyCar Series championship last season, Team Penske went to work in the offseason to make itself better. If the results of the two preseason Open Tests are an accurate indication, Team Penske will be the team to beat in 2009.

Ryan Briscoe, who drove the No. 6 car to two victories last season and fifth place overall, topped preseason preparations on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February. The test, with 21 cars on track, was the only tune-up open to all cars to prepare for the 10 ovals on the schedule.

Briscoe turned in the third-quickest lap at the Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park that teams used to prepare for the seven road/street course races on the schedule, yielding the top spot to teammate Will Power. More ...

Three drivers pass Firestone Indy Lights rookie test  Three Firestone Indy Lights drivers successfully completed rookie oval testing March 24 at Kentucky Speedway.

Jonathan Summerton of RLR/Andersen Racing and Gustavo Yacaman of Sam Schmidt Motorsports were cleared to compete on ovals after completing their evaluation under the supervision of Firestone Indy Lights officials. French driver Richard Philippe also passed his oval testing in a car prepared by series newcomer Genoa.

“The drivers demonstrated they had the ability to drive our cars at high speed on oval tracks,” said Tony Cotman, vice president for competition for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of Firestone Indy Lights. “All three will be welcome additions to the series in 2009.”

Team PBIR signs Charlie Kimball  Team PBIR has signed Charlie Kimball to drive the team’s No. 35 car during its first season in Firestone Indy Lights.

“I’m really excited,” said Kimball, a native of Southern California who competed in junior series in Europe. “It’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m just getting ready to work with everybody here. It’s coming together really late and though this is a new team, the people working with the team and infrastructure they have built have been around for years and years. Hopefully, I can use their experience to lead through the season and get results.”

The 24-year-old has forged a high-profile open-wheeled racing career including wins in British Formula 3, Formula 3 Euro Series, U.S. Formula Ford 2000 and British Formula Ford. More ...

Lucas Oil returns as sponsor with Schmidt team  Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced that long-time sponsor and supporter Lucas Oil Products Inc. has signed on to return to the championship-winning team for the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season. The announcement continues a partnership that started in May 2003.

"I can't express how pleased I am to see Lucas Oil return to our team for 2009," team owner Sam Schmidt said. "They've been a terrific supporter of our team over the years, and I'm excited that we'll continue on our relationship heading into the 2009 season. Lucas Oil is a fixture in many different sporting series throughout the world and we're honored that Forest and Charlotte (Lucas) place their trust in our team to represent the company in major open wheel racing." More ...

formula BMW
Keep your eye on Gabby Chavez  
Gabby Chavez, a star in the making?
Well, it’s not as if his competitors didn’t see it coming... After Gabby Chaves romped to two dominant wins in the opening two rounds of the 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championship at the 2.09-mile Miguel E. Abed road course in Puebla, Mexico (supporting the World Touring Car Championship), no one could say that the 15-year-old’s victories came as a surprise. In the official pre-season test days – two at Palm Beach International Raceway and two at Carolina Motorsports Park – Chaves had been the quickest in each of the four days.

At Puebla, the Colombian-American driver took pole for both races over his EuroInternational teammate Giancarlo Vilarinho. Chaves’ lap of 1:35.845 in round-two qualifying was the fastest of the weekend. Chaves then led every lap to beat Vilarinho by 2 seconds in race one, then in race two waltzed to a 5-second margin of victory over Gianmarco Raimondo (after second-place-at-the-time Vilarinho’s car suffered an electrical failure). In sum: Two poles, two wins, led every lap and put up the weekend’s quickest lap.

Raised and currently living in Weston (northwest of Miami), dual-citizen Chaves raced karts as a pre-teen. In 2007, at age 13, he started racing and winning in the open-wheel Skip Barber Regional Races Series. Before the year was out, Chaves entered a couple of race weekends in the ultra-competitive Skip Barber National (the same series 2008 FBMW champion Alexander Rossi had also starred) and immediately impressed: a third place at Cleveland and a second place at Road America. More ...

Álvaro Parente dominates GP2 testing Barcelona  Álvaro Parente retained his domination in this week GP2 Barcelona tests and today was the fastest man on track in both sessions, something that made him very pleased.

The Ocean Racing Technology’s young gun showed that his yesterday’s lap times weren’t a strike of luck and, this Tuesday, monopolized the top of the times sheet, keeping his head and shoulders above his opponents.

During the morning, Álvaro Parente focused his attention in getting the best qualifying set-up, registering fast lap times throughout the session. The twenty-four years old driver signed the best morning crono, beating Lucas di Grassi, from Racing Engineering.

After the lunch break, the Ocean Racing Technology’s young driver went to the track with ninety kilograms of fuel in his car but, nevertheless, was able to keep himself between the top-8 fastest, even with old tires. When they changed to fresh rubber he jumped to the first place, after being the fastest in all the sector times. Only Kamui Kobayashi was able to keep the Portuguese rhythm, after going purple in the first sector. Though, the DAMS Japanese driver was six tenths of the Ocean Racing Technology’s driver pace, which shows the strong rhythm from the Oporto’s driver. More ...

Senna joins Oreca Le Mans team  
Bruno Senna
Having missed out at a chance for a seat in the Brawn GP F1 team, Bruno Senna will be racing at selected events for the Oreca Le Mans Series outfit during the 2009 season. Nephew of three-time World Champion Ayrton, Bruno has already enjoyed a positive test in the car at Paul Ricard.  Senna will share the car with Stephane Ortelli, with team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and ex-Formula 1 driver Olivier Panis, as the team combines 'youth with experience'.

Brazilian Senna will be taking part in selected events only, which include the Barcelona 1000km and the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours, for which two additional drivers will be announced by the team.

Lloyd Ruby dead at 81  UPDATE #2 Indianapolis 500 standout Lloyd Ruby, one of the most popular drivers in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, died March 23 in Wichita Falls, Texas. He was 81.

The hugely respected and much-beloved Ruby competed in 18 consecutive Indianapolis 500 Mile Races between 1960 and 1977 but never was able to pull off what had always seemed to be the inevitable victory. He led the "500" in five out of six starts between 1966 and 1971, only to have something either break or else delay him in some fashion while in a commanding position.

"He should have won the '500' two or three times," 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones said.

Ruby led for a career total of 126 laps, the seventh-highest number by a driver who never won. He finished 12th or higher in 11 different Indianapolis starts, his best finish third with a front-engine car in 1964. He qualified in the first three rows seven times at Indianapolis, with a best of fifth in 1966 and 1968.

Ruby won seven USAC National Championship races, including three at Milwaukee, two at Phoenix, and one each at Trenton, N.J., and Langhorne, Pa. In 1970, he won the pole for the inaugural 500-mile race at Ontario, Calif. More ...

JGR to tap IMG to try and land more sponsor dollars  Joe Gibbs Racing is finalizing a broad-based relationship with IMG that will give the NASCAR team access to the agency’s full range of sponsorship sales, measurement and activation capabilities.

The agreement between JGR and IMG will not preclude the race team from working with other agencies and their clients, said JGR president J.D. Gibbs. It simply gives Gibbs Racing the ability to tap into IMG’s resources, most notably the agency’s return-on-investment tools.

“You reach a point over the years that you either need to increase what you have in-house and make yourself a lot larger or you need to tap into someone else,” Gibbs said.

JGR’s front office includes five employees under Dean Noble, the team’s vice president of business, and four under Dave Alpern, the vice president of marketing. Noble and Alpern will be JGR’s day-to-day contacts with IMG.

IMG will take a team approach that includes Tom Knox, who runs the motorsports-heavy Charlotte office; newly hired Mark Dyer, a veteran of almost 12 years at NASCAR; and Jim Tucker, who previously has sold for NASCAR, the NFL and Gillett Evernham Motorsports. More ...
Williams vows to try and keep Rosberg  (GMM)  Sir Frank Williams on Tuesday revealed that his Grove based team will attempt to retain Nico Rosberg beyond 2009.

The 23-year-old German's current contract runs out at the end of this season, and he has indicated that if he cannot be promised a winning car for 2010, he will move on.

"For me it's a crucial year," Rosberg, who has repeated several times this winter the message that he is prepared to leave Williams if the next car is not a winner, said recently.

Rosberg entered formula one under Williams' wing in 2006, but he is adamant the time is right if necessary to exchange patience for a top cockpit.

"I understand that Mercedes would like a German driver and Nico is at the end of his contract this year," team boss and co-owner Sir Frank is quoted as saying by the Daily Express.

"We will be sitting down to talk to him sooner rather than later.  We would most certainly like to keep him."

Toyota-powered independent Williams is keen to use the opportunity of sweeping rule changes this year to leap up the grid, but Rosberg warned in the Daily Telegraph: "This is the one big chance that Williams are going to get.

"If we don't get it right now we don't deserve to get it right."

Renault drivers agree to reduce salaries  (GMM) Renault drivers Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet have agreed to reduce their salaries in reaction to the global recession.

Team boss Flavio Briatore told the Milan magazine 'Chi': "I said to them that a reduction would be appropriate.

"They understood the situation and we reached an agreement," he explained.

Twice world champion Alonso, a 27-year-old Spaniard, is among the highest paid formula one drivers.

"Also in formula one we feel the (financial) crisis and are needing to reduce costs," Briatore said.
Rahal on Chicago radio today  American IndyCar driver Graham Rahal will be a guest on the Roe Conn Show on Chicago radio station WLS AM today. The show is from 2-7pm CST and can be heard on line at http://www.wlsam.com .
Teams to blame for America's F1 demise - Ecclestone  (GMM) North America's absence from the formula one calendar is the teams' fault, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone insists.

While the FOTA alliance is pushing hard for a return to the crucial American market, Ecclestone says the fact races in Canada and the US failed was because of the position of the teams.

"The teams wanted too much money to race there. That was the problem," the 78-year-old billionaire said in an interview with Germany's SID news agency.

He suggests that, because the stumbling block is money, returning to North America is theoretically only a commercial matter.

"We are talking," the Briton revealed, "but for the moment the teams do not want any more than 17 races."

Ecclestone confirmed, however, that negotiations to reinstate the US grand prix at Indianapolis are not taking place. "We would go elsewhere," he said.
Bernie says French GP revival not guaranteed  (GMM) There is no guarantee France will return to the formula one calendar in 2011, Bernie Ecclestone has admitted.

Following the demise of the Magny-Cours event, French authorities this month finally unveiled detailed plans for a new grand prix venue.

A layout at Flins-Les-Mureaux, northeast of Paris, is slated to be targeting a 2011 debut, with construction to shortly begin.

But asked whether the project is the solution to the current absence of historic France from the calendar, F1's chief executive answered: "I don't know.

"There are still the protests of the nearby residents and the mayor," Ecclestone told the German news agency SID.

"However the prime minister supports the project, which is very important," he added.
F1 racists threatened Glock's family  
Timo Glock and his family were threatened by German racists
(GMM) Racism and even threats were hauled at Timo Glock and his family in the wake of the dramatic championship finale of 2008.

Had Lewis Hamilton not passed the Toyota driver at the final corner of the Brazilian grand prix, the Briton would have lost the title to Felipe Massa.

Many of Hamilton's detractors sensed a conspiracy, venting their anger at 27-year-old Glock.

"The reaction of many German fans was really bad," he revealed.

"Apparently there are a great many racist people who did not want Hamilton to be world champion," he said in Melbourne in an interview with the Darmstadter Echo newspaper.

Glock revealed that the abuse hurled at him extended to personal threats, including against his family. "We know where your parents live" was one such warning, the German driver said.
Q&A with Pascal Vasselon  Just days before the action heats up and the cars roar to life at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne Australia, Panasonic Toyota Racing’s Pascal Vasselon has talked about the new car, the lack of testing and just how they will cope with no on track work throughout the coming season…

Are you satisfied with the TF109 so far?
We can only be satisfied with what has happened so far with the TF109. Our winter season programme went extremely well in terms of reliability and mileage. We have been able to complete a huge number of laps before the race season starts; in fact we are very close to what we did last year with two cars, despite the restrictions we have this season. In terms of reliability we are very happy even if we are working hard to fix some small issues, as is always the case with a new car. In terms of performance as well we are satisfied, although obviously we are looking forward to seeing the pecking order when the racing starts. We have a quiet confidence we should be able to fight close to the front at the beginning of the season.

Are the drivers happy with the TF109?
Yes, the drivers have given very positive feedback. They are pleased with the drivability of this year's car; it is very easy to drive, very forgiving. Part of this is a consequence of the regulations which make this car less sensitive to disturbance but part of it is also because our aerodynamicists have done a good job at making the aero package less sensitive to wind and ride height.

Has testing been compromised by bad weather in pre-season?
Yes and no. Despite the restricted test days and bad weather we have achieved incredible mileage in 2009 pre-season testing - around 10,000 km. However, it could have been better because we had two disturbed test sessions; the first in Portugal when we spent a complete day in the pits and the second in Bahrain where two days were disrupted by a sandstorm. But the beauty of Bahrain is that when you have one valid test day the track is workable from 8am to 5.30pm without interruption. That's why, despite these two disturbed days, we still achieved huge mileage in Bahrain. At this time of year the Bahrain circuit is suitable for testing for much longer than European tracks, where you have to wait until mid-morning for reasonable track temperatures and then in the late afternoon the temperature drops. We came back from Bahrain with no regrets; we did huge mileage and completed over 800km in one day alone. More ...
Bernie stands down Briatore and Dennis  FOM Chairman and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has reportedly defused a threat made by Ron Dennis and Flavio Briatore to boycott the opening race of the season in Australia. The McLaren Chairman and the Renault team principal are said to have been incensed by Ecclestone’s refusal to pay them some money he allegedly owes them, but Ecclestone is believed to have called the two bosses’ bluff by effectively telling them to go ahead and do it. The Times reports that the two threatened Ecclestone with the boycott and promised the remainder of the teams would back them up. They are thought to have told the F1 supremo that they would not send their cars to Melbourne unless he paid them the alleged debt.

“Flavio said, ‘we’re not going to put our cars on the plane, we’re not going to Melbourne,’ ” Ecclestone is quoted in the Times as saying. But the FOM chairman was quick to respond and dare the two to fulfil the threat.

“I picked up the phone to our people that handle all the freight to ask them to cancel the aeroplanes,” the billionaire said. “They were saying, ‘all the Fota-schmota are not going — nobody’s going to go.’ So I said what I’d better do is cancel the aircraft obviously. It costs a fortune to charter those things and almost as much to cancel them.”

Ecclestone’s daring move - which could have seen the start of the F1 season ruined - did not backfire, however, as apparently Dennis and Briatore were unwilling to be the cause of the aircraft cancellation. The story is yet more evidence of the power - and confidence - with which Ecclestone manages the sport.
Michelin becomes Official Tire Supplier  Superleague Formula has teamed up with some of the top professionals in the motorsport business to ensure another successful season and deliver some spectacular racing. Michelin joins ranks with MCT, Elan Motorsport, Hewland, Brembo, Oz Racing and other great names from the world of motorsport.

Michelin has become the exclusive tire supplier to Superleague Formula for the next two race seasons, 2009 and 2010. The French company will supply its S7A/S8B tires for F/R dry and P2A/P2B tires for F/R wet to all the SF race teams for testing and competition. All teams competing in the series run identical single-seater cars and, under the agreement with Michelin, all tires will be identical in terms of composition, specification and performance. At each race weekend, Michelin will have a compound in the paddock to service the teams, and their technicians will ensure that all teams comply with the SF rules and regulations.

Michelin is currently ranked second in the global tire market. The spirit of competition has always been essential for Michelin. In its ongoing bid to develop the best road tire possible, the French group has put the competitiveness, durability and safety performance of its products to the test round the world's most demanding circuits and on the most exacting asphalt and gravel rally stages, not to mention the grueling terrain of world class rally-raids. Indeed, Michelin tires have long been a prominent feature of the sport's most important competitions on two and four wheels alike. More ...

Bryan Herta Autosport signs primary sponsor  Bryan Herta Autosport has signed Le Bleu water as primary sponsor for the team's No. 28 Firestone Indy Lights entry and 22-year-old driver Daniel Herrington.

"We at Le Bleu are really excited to be supporting up-and-coming American driver Daniel Herrington this year in the Firestone Indy Lights championship," said Jerry Smith, CEO of Le Bleu. "I will take a great deal of personal satisfaction from seeing Daniel compete with Bryan Herta Autosport for race wins and the championship. Daniel has earned this opportunity through his hard work on and off the track, and we are proud to have him representing our brand." More ...

Melbourne tech file  Melbourne’s Albert Park is a stop-start mixture of temporary street course and a purpose-built track. This means the circuit includes an interesting variety of corners with unusual geometry and a constantly evolving track surface. Setting up the car is therefore a challenge, which is further complicated by the fact that most of the sixteen corners are really quite different with each one presenting a different sort of challenge for the cars and drivers.

Melbourne is on a par with the aerodynamic demands of Silverstone or Sepang and therefore requires a medium to high downforce set-up. With the introduction of moveable front wings, the drivers will be able to change the angle of their front wing by six degrees twice per lap (once to change to the new angle, and the second time to return to the original setting) which could be used to help balance the car between two corners or to aid following another car closely.

The circuit features a few critical high-speed corners, such as the fast fourth gear open chicane that forms Turns 11 and 12, which is perhaps the most challenging part of the lap, as Fernando Alonso explains:

“You have to be so precise through this section. We take these corners at over 200 km/h and the approach to turn 11 is tough as your view is channeled by the concrete walls and you don’t see the apex until late. If you make a mistake in turn 11, you lose position for turn 12 and that can ruin your lap time.” More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Hartley may not become Red Bull reserve
  • Mosley agrees to drop F1 license fees in 2010
  • FIA confirms lowest team status for Brawn
  • Bernie blames McLaren for Hamilton image
  • Kimi would have liked scoring change - manager
  • German carmakers rule out Hockenheim rescue
  • Schumacher to attend first two races of 2009
  • Abu Dhabi becomes another McLaren home race
  • Teams threatened to boycott season opener
  • McLaren is third team to confirm KERS debut
  • Klien thrills locals in bushfire tribute

Hartley may not become Red Bull reserve
(GMM)  Brendon Hartley is hoping he will be granted special dispensation so that he can be officially named Red Bull's F1 reserve driver for 2009.

While the energy drink company wants to nominate the 19-year-old New Zealander for the role, it emerged earlier this month that Hartley is waiting to receive his mandatory FIA superlicense.

He completed the necessary formula one mileage at a winter test, but the New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB reveals that Hartley is still waiting for the document.

The news source said Hartley's license application did not meet the criteria for automatic approval by the FIA, despite his third place finish in last year's British F3 series.

While an exemption is possible, New Zealand FIA official Morrie Chandler admitted that Hartley may not be able to participate as an official driver at this weekend's Australian grand prix.

Mosley agrees to drop F1 license fees in 2010
(GMM)  Max Mosley on Monday agreed to lower the cost of formula one Superlicenses.

The FIA president has been locked in a dispute with the drivers' body the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, who were unhappy about recent price hikes for their mandatory credential.

A statement released by the FIA revealed a "very positive meeting" took place on Monday between Mosley and the GPDA.

"A proposal will be made to the World Motor Sport Council to revise super license fees for drivers in the 2010 championship," it said.

"A reduced fee would reflect the major cost reductions that will be brought into the sport for next season."

The FIA said it will meet with the GPDA "on a regular basis" from now on "to maintain what promises to be a constructive dialogue". More ...

Akiyoshi to test for Repsol Honda at Jerez  
Former Suzuki test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi will ride for Repsol Honda at the Official MotoGP Test in Jerez this weekend.

In the absence of regular rider Dani Pedrosa at this weekend’s forthcoming Official MotoGP Test at Jerez de la Frontera, the Repsol Honda ranks will be boosted by Kousuke Akiyoshi, who steps in to help with testing.

The 34 year-old rider, who has performed test duties for Suzuki in the past and made wildcard appearances for them in MotoGP, joined Honda over the winter and will ride for the (Honda) F.C.C. TSR team in several Japanese National Championship races this year. He will also represent Honda later this year in the Suzuka 8 Hours event alongside Shinichi Itoh.

Pedrosa faces a race to be fit for the start of the season at Qatar on 12th April due to knee and hand injuries picked up in testing at the Losail International Circuit at the beginning of March, so in the mean time Akiyoshi will stand in for him at Jerez.

Meanwhile, Ducati’s regular test rider Vittoriano Guareschi will also be in attendance at the Jerez test.

tv news
Clint Bowyer will be guest on The Biggest Loser show  NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer will make a special guest appearance on the NBC reality show "The Biggest Loser" which will air Tuesday night, March 24, 9:00 pm - 11:00 pm ET on NBC.
What is the IRL hiding?  Even if I wanted to keep up with the IRL, I wouldn't be able to do so. What in the world does it mean when all the lap TIMES are listed in speed and not by time? It just goes to show how ignorant or out of touch the IRL is, especially when it comes to road/street courses. When have you ever been to a road or street course and asked another driver or fan what type of laps are they running and they give it to you in speed? NEVER! Why? Because you can't compare speeds on different tracks or even in different sectors of the track! A 1 mph difference means vastly different things depending on the track length and type of circuit. Sheesh, why should I care anyway? It probably all just boils down to another way for the IRL to mask Danica Patrick's severely lacking driving ability on any circuit other than one where all she has to do is keep her foot to the floor all the way around the track and use her weight advantage over everyone else to get any speed out of the car.  D. Hughes, Atlanta, GA
Barber Motorsports Park rolls out red carpet for George  Indy Racing League CEO Tony George got the royal treatment Monday at Barber Motorsports Park.  He was the guest of honor at a luncheon in the park's motorcycle museum attended by Gov. Bob Riley, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford and numerous local politicians. Even Talladega Superspeedway President Rick Humphrey was there.

Riley proclaimed March 23 to be Indy Racing League day in Alabama. Langford gave George the key to the city and joked he'd need it to get out of jail if the city doesn't get a race date.

The object, of course, was to impress upon George how badly everybody wants a spot on the 2010 Indy race calendar.

Here's George talking about his impressions of Barber, the possibility of having a race here and even a few words on whether Formula One will end up back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Indy CEO Tony George

track news
Firestone back to sponsor Long Beach race  Firestone Tires -- the Official Tire of the 35th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach -- are making a comeback on the city's streets April 16-19, the site of the legendary brand's official return to the American open wheel racing scene 18 years ago.

In 1991, the Firestone brand began its journey back to prominence in Indy car racing after an extended hiatus through its title sponsorship of the Firestone Indy Lights series.  The first 1991 race was at Long Beach and - ironically enough -- it was won by current IndyCar Series team owner Eric Bachelart (Conquest Racing), who went on to capture the 1991 series title.

"This year will mark the 14th consecutive year that a Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) brand will serve as the official tire of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach," said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing.  "It will be great to once again see the red Firestone name on the bridge between turns 9 and 10, and alongside the track." More ...

Q&A with Nelson Piquet Jr.  
Will Nelson Piquet Jr. be smoked by teammate Alonso again in 2009?
After a difficult debut year with Renault, Nelson Piquet says he is feeling more relaxed and confident about 2009.

Nelson, you’re entering your second season of Formula 1 – are you excited about the year ahead?
Absolutely – I’m feeling much more confident this year and looking forward to returning to Melbourne. I learned so much with the team in 2008 and I now have a year of experience under my belt which will make things easier. It’s also a new era for Formula 1 with lots of changes, but we’ve made good progress with the car during testing and we are heading to Melbourne with high hopes.

How difficult has it been adapting to the new rules introduced this season?
The cars are totally different to last year and so all the drivers have had to adapt to this. Learning about KERS has been a challenge for the engineers and drivers, just as the moveable front wing flaps have been because these are totally new systems that are being introduced this year. We’ve also had to adapt to the return of slick tires, but I’m really happy to see them back as they are always more fun. More ...

Q&A with Renault's Pat Symonds  Renault’s director of engineering Pat Symonds says he is expecting a strong to the season and is adamant that the new R29 is capable of challenging for race wins.

Pat, it has been a busy winter at the test track - do you feel the team is fully prepared for Melbourne?
I think we’re as prepared as we can be, but with the new testing regime we will arrive in Melbourne with fewer kilometers on the car than we would normally have achieved in previous seasons. The weather has also been quite poor during pre-season testing, which has held us back a little, but when the car has been running it has been working well and I’m not too worried.

What about the drivability of the car? Are the drivers happy with it?
At our first test in Portugal we only had one dry day and initially the car was quite difficult to drive, especially as we were getting used to the new aerodynamic characteristics. But as we’ve introduced the updates in preparation for Melbourne, we’ve moved towards a pretty drivable car that both Fernando and Nelson are comfortable with and it’s now behaving much more as we want it to. More ...

Abu Dhabi GP tickets to go on sale soon  The first Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix "will provide an unprecedented business opportunity for UAE companies", says Richard Cregan, General Team Manager, of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management (ADMM).

He believes that in the current financial climate, "the three-day Grand Prix event offers UAE businesses a unique platform to build deeper relationships with existing and potential customers, employees and suppliers".

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be held from October 30 to November 1 this year at the new Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island. Tickets for the Grand Prix go on sale at the end of March and a strong demand is expected.

"The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix offers a unique opportunity for businesses in the UAE to show their support and be associated with this historic milestone for the country," Cregan added.

"People will always remember the company that took them to the first ever Grand Prix in the UAE," Cregan said.  More ...

Tire management will be key in 2009  This season is significant for the many changes it brings with it, with a notable return of slick racing tires for the first time in twelve years. Grooves were introduced in tires for the 1998 season as a method of slowing cars down on safety grounds, but the return of slicks is accompanied by the many aerodynamic changes in 2009 which will keep safety the priority. The move to slicks is significant, although we have a lot of experience with these tires from many different race series so we are confident that we can produce good racing slicks," explained Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima; the Japanese manufacturer has been the sole tire supplied in Formula 1 since the withdrawal of Michelin at the end of the 2006 season. "We are making these tires to the same sizes as we had with grooved tires, but this means there is a new front/rear grip balance," the company's Director of Motorsport Tire Development continued. "The teams will therefore have to work hard to get a good setup, particularly with the varying surface of Albert Park, and we will be working closely with everyone to achieve this."  More ...
More races for Allmendinger  Richard Petty Motorsports announced that the team has extended their commitment and will enter AJ Allmendinger for five additional NASCAR Sprint Cup races. The team had originally planned to race the #44 Dodge Charger through to the Phoenix round, but has now grown the schedule to include five more races.

With Harrah’s stepping up to sponsor the #44 for the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas, coupled with the decision to apply the prize money from AJ’s remarkable debut performance in the Daytona 500, the decision was made to field the #44 in every NASCAR Sprint Cup race through the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend.

With no points position to fall back on, Allmendinger has qualified for every race of the 2009 season on speed and has raced the #44 up to 16th in the owners championship standings after his run to 16th in Sunday’s Food City 500, which was the final event to lock in the points. More ...

The FIA has agreed to reduce the Superlicense fees  The FIA has agreed to reduce the Superlicense fees for F1 drivers after, what the federation called, 'a very positive meeting' between FIA President Max Mosley and the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), ending the long-running drivers' dispute. Most drivers held back from paying for the mandatory superlicense until recently in protest at the huge rise they incurred for 2008, insisting that they would only be willing to pay inflation-adjusted 2007 fees.

For 2008, the base cost of the Superlicense, payable by all race and reserve drivers in order to be allowed to race, rose from the 2007 price of €1690 to €10,000 in 2008. The cost-per-point also rose, going up from €447 to €2000.

Now though, the FIA has announced that it will make a proposal to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) for a reduction in fees starting in 2010.

“Following a very positive meeting between FIA President Max Mosley and representatives of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), a proposal will be made to the World Motor Sport Council to revise super licence fees for drivers in the 2010 championship,” read the FIA's statement. “A reduced fee would reflect the major cost reductions that will be brought into the sport for next season.”

The FIA also revealed that regular meeting will take place between Mosley and the GPDA to discuss driver's concerns on other aspects of the sport. “A number of other issues were discussed and the FIA has agreed to meet representatives of the GPDA on a regular basis to maintain what promises to be a constructive dialogue,” the statement concluded.
track news
Chitwood honored  Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and Chief Operating Officer Joie Chitwood was named a recipient of the SportsBusiness Journal Forty Under 40 Award, a prestigious, national program that identifies and honors the most promising young executives in sports business younger than age 40.

Chitwood and the 39 other winners will be honored at a black-tie banquet Friday, April 3 at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami.

A committee of SportsBusiness Journal editors and writers selects the 40 executives from among hundreds of nominations received each year. Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, the leading print and online national sports business publications, initiated the program in 1999.

"It's a great honor to be included in the company of the talented business leaders who receive this award," Chitwood said. "It's also a testimony to the hard work of every employee of IMS as we continue to fulfill our mission of worldwide leadership in motorsports entertainment." More ...

'Enough time' for scoring system debate - Haug  (GMM) As the F1 scoring system saga continues, Norbert Haug insists it should not be a formality that the FIA's rejected proposal is simply deferred until 2010.

Mercedes-Benz's competition chief said he is sure that "constructive conversations" will be staged before next year's championship begins.

The FIA tried to rush its 'winner takes all' system into place for this season, but the teams' FOTA alliance blocked it.

Bernie Ecclestone insists that the introduction has therefore only been delayed, but FOTA is championing its own proposal that simply would give an extra point to grand prix winners. More ...
Red Bull declares controversial diffusers 'illegal'  (GMM) The spectre of official protests against the rear diffusers of three 2009-spec cars on Monday grew ever larger.

Mere days ahead of scrutineering for the Australian grand prix, Red Bull's motor racing advisor Helmut Marko declared that the solutions on the Toyota, Williams and Brawn cars are "illegal".

"They have a double-diffuser which gives them five tenths per lap (extra)," the Austrian told sportnet.at on Monday.

"Seven teams - including Red Bull - are united: they are illegal," said Marko, raising the probability of a formal protest at the scene of the season opener this weekend.

He claims both Renault and Red Bull discussed the legality of a similar aerodynamic concept with the FIA early last year and "at that time there was a negative answer".
Latest F1 news in brief - 2  
  • Symonds backs divisive diffuser designs
  • Domenicali 'embarrassed' by scoring saga
  • Raikkonen knows 2009 'important' - boss
  • Domenicali backs Todt for FIA top job
  • Force India, new teams, back budget caps

Symonds backs divisive diffuser designs
(GMM)  Pat Symonds has contradicted his Renault boss Flavio Briatore over the rear diffuser saga.

While Briatore recently accused three teams of fielding illegal solutions at the rear of their 2009 cars, technical boss Symonds patted his rivals on the back for clever engineering.

"Toyota and Williams have found a very good, very interesting solution with the diffuser which we hadn't done and I'm sure that everyone is looking at that at the moment," the Briton is quoted as saying recently by Australasian Motorsport News.

A giant row about the issue is brewing ahead of the Australian grand prix, with formal protests against the aforementioned teams, and also Brawn GP, possible.

On Monday, Ferrari made clearer its position against the disputed diffuser designs.

"We are convinced that certain interpretations that have been applied do not correspond to the nature of the regulations," team boss Stefano Domenicali told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We expect the federation (FIA) to clarify its position as soon as possible.  If it is illegal it should not be used, and if it is legal then other teams, including us, will try to adapt."

Domenicali 'embarrassed' by scoring saga
(GMM)  Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali on Monday said he felt "embarrassed" by the saga surrounding alternative scoring systems.

First, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone proposed an Olympic Games-style system of medals, followed by the FOTA team alliance arguing that 2009 should instead see the margin between first and second places simply widened by a point.

The governing FIA ignored both suggestions and this week announced the immediate introduction of the 'winner takes all' scheme, but then had to back down following FOTA's objection.

"I feel embarrassed about what has happened in recent days," Domenicali is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We wanted a greater gap between first place and the others, but instead everything is staying as it was." More ...

Indy Car Minister Hunter Floyd Recovering  Veteran Indy Car minister Hunter Floyd is recuperating from hip replacement surgery here at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana.  "I'm taking physical therapy here," said Floyd March 19. "How soon I will be released depends on how the doctors determine my therapy progress."  Floyd, of Brownsburg, has been one of three chaplains of IRL Ministry since March 2008. He, ministry director Bob Hills and Fr. Phil DeRea have shared public services and personal consultation duties throughout last season's IRL Indy Car and Firestone Indy Lights series plus the last Champ Car World Series race at Long Beach, Calif., April 19. 

Floyd had spent most of his 26 years of ministering on the CART/Champ Car circuit. He first served under the road racing-oriented Motorsports Ministries, of Santa Rosa, Calif., until CART decided to start its own ministry after 1996. The Canadian-born Floyd brings his background in road and drag racing and rallying to his administration. He was a driver, for example, for actor James Garner's AMC Rambler Baja 500 off road team in 1969. More ...

Force India Team quotes ahead of Melbourne  
James Key, technical director:
On winter testing:
We've had a normal program of winter testing and we've been happy with what we've seen. The drivers are very happy with the car; it balances and does what it should do. There aren't any mysteries behind it so far and it's really just a case of us continuing to develop its performance and try to solve any problems at this stage. We will effectively continue our testing regime right into the year as we know there is still more to learn about how to use the tires and how best to use the car. We haven't tested on a hot track so far and that will effect how the car feels and how you set it up, so we've got more to learn from the first few races.

On performance in Australia and beyond:
We hope we're competitive and we have got some updates scheduled, possibly for the first few races but certainly for the start of the European season, as I'm sure other teams have as well, but we'll continue to pile as much performance-related development on the car from this point forward.

We aren't using KERS for Australia. For us, given the timeframe we had, it was important to get the car as a known quantity and to get a bit of running. KERS would have been an additional installation for us to try and get running for Melbourne and would have been a challenge. The car is designed around KERS and it's KERS compliant so it should just be a case of bolting it on and running it when we are ready, but it has been more of a case of getting the car ready for the first few races in the best shape we could do and we felt, at that point, that getting the KERS running as well would have been added workload and complication with a very tight time period. We're obviously looking to run it in future, hopefully in time for the start of the European season. More ...

Abu Dhabi buys 9.1% of Mercedes  The Arab emirate of Abu Dhabi has agreed to invest $2.7 billion in Daimler AG, becoming the German automaker's largest shareholder, Daimler said Sunday.

The deal enables Daimler to raise capital in an extremely difficult economic environment and bring in a friendly shareholder.

The Stuttgart-based company said it would sell Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJSC 96.4 million newly issued Daimler shares priced at 20.27 euros, or $27.87, each.

After the transaction, which was approved Sunday by Daimler's supervisory board, Aabar will hold 9.1 percent of Daimler, followed by the second-largest shareholder, Kuwait, which owns 6.9 percent. More ...

track news
Martinsville Speedway drops some concession stand prices  Martinsville Speedway has long featured racing’s most popular concession item, The Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog, at a famously low price: $2. And in these cost conscious times, The Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog has some bargain-priced company. Martinsville Speedway will be rolling out a BBQ Combo Value meal at nine of its concession stands for the March 29 Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500. The meal includes a BBQ sandwich with slaw, chips and a Pepsi product for just $6. The Speedway will also be offering a kids’ meal for $4. The meal includes a Smucker’s Uncrustables Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, a two-pack of Oreo’s, a fruit cup and a Capris Sun juice pouch. And as always Pepsi products can be found in all concession areas for just $2. Tickets for the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 start at $25 and may be purchased by calling 877.722.3849 or at www.martinsvillespeedway.com. Martinsville Speedway PR
A1GP News Round Up  London, Great Britain - With A1GP World Cup of Motorsport now back in Europe teams are looking forward to the next event, A1GP Algarve, Portugal, 10 - 12 April 2009.A1GP is heading to Portugal for only the second time in its history and for the first time to the brand new Aut¢dromo Internacional do Algarve circuit. With several teams, including A1 Teams Switzerland, Ireland, Netherlands and the home team A1 Team Portugal, all battling for the championship and to win the prized World Cup of Motorsport trophy, the event promises to be one of the most memorable of the season.

Ahead of A1GP Brands Hatch, Great Britain, 1 - 3 May, fans can now keep up to date with the latest information through a dedicated A1GP Brands Hatch mini-site, http://www.a1gpbrandshatch.com/, which was launched last week. The new website features the latest news, images and videos on the 2008/09 A1GP season, as well as information on the upcoming Brands Hatch event. More ...

Jamie Hacking Fined, Suspended  Monster Kawasaki's Jamie Hacking has been suspended indefinitely following his second-place finish in the Daytona SportBike race at Auto Club Speedway for what the AMA calls "conduct detrimental to the sport of professional motorcycle racing" - though paying a $4000 fine and issuing a public apology to AMA Pro Racing could bring the suspension down to just one race, according to the AMA press release.

The incident occurred in the media center following post-race interviews today. The AMA stated that Hacking "used a string of profane language while exiting the press interview area. Prior to this incident, Hacking displayed additional acts of inappropriate behavior in both public and media interviews." More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Teams not asked about scoring change - Briatore
  • Mallya only objects to scoring rule timing
  • Mosley rules show F1 politics at play - Lauda
  • Ferrari, not Force India, ready to race KERS
  • Chance of race wins 'not madness' - Barrichello
  • Diffuser saga shows F1 sour grapes - Michael

Teams not asked about scoring change - Briatore
(GMM)  In a continuing 'he said, she said' exchange between the two sides in F1's off-track war, Flavio Briatore has denied that the teams told Bernie Ecclestone they approved of the winner-takes-all scoring system for 2009.

Explaining the embarrassing about-face over the system's late introduction, FIA president Max Mosley explained that Ecclestone "told me that he talked to all the teams and everybody was happy".

Briatore, a leading light of the F1 teams' association FOTA, reacted: "It's not true that the teams had been informed, and with Ecclestone we talked about medals, but we never talked about the criteria approved by the World Council."

The Italian said the episode, with the FIA forced to back down and revert to the existing points system this year, proves the strength of the teams if they stay united.

"What has happened demonstrates that if the teams are together, their voice can count," Briatore is quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.

Mallya only objects to scoring rule timing
(GMM)  Force India head Vijay Mallya has revealed that although he thinks the move was too late for 2009, he supports the 'winner takes all' scoring system for formula one.

Baulking at the apparently flouted rules for late regulation changes by the FIA, the F1 teams' alliance FOTA objected to the introduction for 2009.

The FIA had to yield to the teams' position, but Bernie Ecclestone is adamant his concept will finally get a green-light for 2010.

Flavio Briatore insists the episode demonstrates the strength of the teams' voice when they are united, but only days earlier heralded the rejected system as "excellent motivation for drivers to win".

"I don't have any problem with the gold medals," he added.

Dr Mallya, owner and team principal of the Silverstone based privateers Force India, has a similar view, clarifying that his objection was only to the attempted introduction so close to the start of the season.

"The move to give the championship to the driver who wins the most races is great, as it will motivate the drivers to win more, but there has to be a procedure to make a rule," he told the Asian Age newspaper.

"I agree that the FIA is trying to make it (more) exciting but the timing of the rule change hampers the preparation for the season," Mallya added. More ...

racing news
Quotes of the Week  
“It’s pretty awesome. We should’ve won here last fall and we should’ve won here yesterday. It was a good day for us. The Snickers Toyota was really fast. We knew it was fast. We knew it was going to be a good racecar coming here from our performance last fall. We fine-tuned on it a little bit here and there. We need to work on the qualifying package a little bit. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter where you start here. You have to bide your time, take it easy when you have a car that’s good.  It was a very satisfying day today. The second to last stop when we went from second to Denny, we went from second to third, I told the ladies to man up, get the job done on the last stop, which they did. I'm proud of 'em for doing that.  When the time mattered most, they got the job done." Kyle Busch, NASCAR driver, Joe Gibbs Racing, winner of the Bristol Motor Speedway race. The win was Busch's 14th in his career and second at Bristol.

The good people at IZOD are spending over 6 million dollars this year to promote Ryan Hunter-Reay and the Indy Racing League.  One small problem.  We’re two weeks away from the season opener, and Hunter-Reay still doesn’t have a ride.  He’s going to be in Keith Wiggins car at Sebring in a couple weeks.  If the IRL has any sense, they’ll spend whatever money it takes to make sure this kid is in a car or they are going to lose one of the few good sponsors that have come along in the last ten years.  Robin Miller, Veteran Open Wheel Racing Journalist

"It’s an absolutely fantastic feeling. Wow, what a race – the fastest ever race at Sebring covering a record distance. Winning with such a young car which had completed low testing miles in dry weather before we got here is amazing. I won here on the debut of the R8, then the R10 TDI and now the R15 TDI – thanks to the know-how and experience of the crew. Everyone at Audi Sport, and all six drivers here at Sebring, have worked very hard to be in a position to beat Peugeot here at this very difficult track and after an extremely hard fight. I’m proud to be a part of this team – it’s a cool feeling."  Tom Kristensen, Audi driver, Audi Sport Team Joest, winning team of 12 Hours of Sebring. Kristensen won his record fifth overall race at Sebring and also owns a record eight Le Mans victories. More ...

Pickett Wins Trans-Am Return  Greg Pickett, of Benicia, Calif., captured his 17th-career Trans-Am win today at Road Atlanta, the season-opener for the Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series and the first Trans-Am race since 2006. Michael Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., and Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, completed the top three.

Driving the No. 6 Muscle Milk Jaguar XKR, Pickett started third behind polesitter Tony Ave’s No. 10 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford Mustang and Tomy Drissi’s No. 5 X-Men Origins – Wolverine Jaguar XKR and fell back another position at the start to fourth-starting R.J. Lopez, of Bal Harbour, Fla.

Ave built a six-second lead in the opening seven laps over Lopez, Drissi and Pickett. On lap eight, Lopez began to separate his No. 06 WabashPower.com/Mobil 1/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette from the pair of Jaguars and started to reel in Ave’s Mustang. Ten laps later, Lopez was all over Ave and took the lead on lap 20.

From there, Ave fell back into the clutches of the pair of Jaguars, eventually dropping from second to fourth on lap 24, with Pickett moving to second and Drissi remaining third. More ...

formula bmw
Gabby Chaves Sweeps Opening Weekend  Gabby Chaves (EuroInternational) had about as good a weekend as a race car driver can hope for as the 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championships opened this weekend in Puebla, Mexico. Chaves won poles for both events and never trailed in either race, again going wire-to-wire to win Sunday’s Round 2 at the 2.09-mile Miguel E. Abed road course.

Starting from pole, Chaves made a strong launch from the standing start to hold off his EuroInternational teammate Giancarlo Vilarinho heading into the first turn, then inherited a large cushion when Vilarinho suffered a mechanical problem at the halfway point. Gianmarco Raimondo (Autotecnica) earned a solid second place, but could not challenge the Colombian-American Chaves, who won by 4.898 seconds.

“This was a great way to start the season for me and my team,” Chaves said. “I was able to get a good start and when Giancarlo had his problem I ended up with some more room to breathe. Now I get to celebrate, then get back to my physical training and get ready for Virginia and our next race.” More ...
Brawn: Our work has only just begun  
Ross Brawn
Ross Brawn’s new team is widely tipped to land at the sharp end of the grid in Melbourne and the former Ferrari man is relishing the challenge ahead.

Speaking ahead of next week’s Australian Grand Prix he said: “From our short but crucial testing program over the past two weeks, we have reinforced our view that the BGP 001 is a good car and an excellent platform from which to develop performance over the course of the season,” said Brawn.

“Our focus during the seven days of pre-season testing was on reliability and developing our understanding of the car in race conditions. We are very satisfied with the work achieved and the initial pace seen from the car however we are fully aware that our work has only just begun. More ...

Audi and Corvette teams win Green X Challenge  Proving their race cars to be both faster and greener than the competition, Audi and Corvette scored the prototype and GT race wins respectively while winning the first MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge awards at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening event of the 2009 American Le Mans Series season.

Making its first race appearance, the clean, low sulfur diesel powered Audi R15 TDI, prevailed in an epic 12-hour battle against their arch-rivals from Peugeot to claim the race victory while also using less energy than their diesel powered rivals. The pairs of cars from the two teams exchanged the lead 23 times in the 12-hour race that produced new records for race distance and average speed.

On the GT front, the E85 fueled Corvette C6.R entries from Corvette Racing team delivered a convincing 1-2 finish both in the GT1 class of the Twelve Hours of Sebring and in the GT Category of the MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge.  Building on their success in the inaugural Green Challenge last October at Petit Le Mans, Corvette earned sixth and seventh place finishes overall. More ...

Michelin sweep at Sebring  Meeting the needs of a wide variety of technical partners, including innovative prototypes, Michelin celebrated a record 11th consecutive victory at the 57th running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring, America’s premier sports car endurance race. Michelin and its technical partners from Audi, Peugeot, Acura, Mazda, Corvette, Porsche and Ferrari dominated the entire 12-hour race at the 3.7 mile Florida circuit. Michelin teams swept the top nine positions overall, taking the victories in all four ALMS classes

Introducing a sleek and sophisticated new Audi R15 TDI clean diesel, the latest in a series of championship prototypes that have dominated endurance racing for the past decade, Audi engineers worked closely with Michelin to select the optimum tire compounds and pressures to score their ninth victory at Sebring in the past decade, all with Michelin. The winning car was driven by the defending 24 Hours of Le Mans champions: Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello.  Proving that fast cars and clean cars are not incompatible concepts, the winning Audi scored an unprecedented double by also winning the inaugural MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge. More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Max and Bernie hint cap figure to rise
  • Ecclestone hints McLaren sandbagging
  • Hamilton vows to correct arrogance label
  • Albert Park modified after Glock crash
  • Scoring change to occur in 2010 - Ecclestone

Max and Bernie hint cap figure to rise
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone on Sunday agreed with Max Mosley that the FIA's 30 million (British pounds) budget cap is not a closed book.

Although the governing body last week introduced the measure as a concrete 2010 regulation rather than a proposal, FIA president Mosley later confessed the actual figure quoted is "provisional".

"I actually think it could be done for 25 million (pounds) but that's just my opinion.  All my advisers think it should be more (than 30 million)."

F1 chief executive Ecclestone on Sunday told the Telegraph in Britain that he thinks 30 million is "too low".

"It should be 40 million.  It's been passed already.  But I suppose in the world everything is (open for negotiation)," the 78-year-old said.

Disgruntled, he dismisses the collapse of his 'winner takes all' scoring system as "the problem with democracy", but the events of the past week have made clear his long relationship with Mosley is fully back on track following the sex scandal.

"It always was," Ecclestone smiled.

Hamilton vows to correct arrogance label
(GMM)  Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has vowed to correct the perception by some that he is arrogant.

By the end of his second formula one season last year, the 24-year-old had become the sport's youngest ever title winner amid waves of acclaim and comparisons with the greatest drivers.

In between testing McLaren's 2009 car this winter, the Briton visited Buckingham Palace to pick up an MBE and was measured for a Madame Tussauds wax statue, but still some observers equate his self-confidence with big-headedness.

"I never want to hear that kind of thing," Hamilton is quoted as saying by British Sunday newspapers.

"I think you (reporters) know I am not.  I know where I am and what I am capable of.  But what I do is, I take it (the criticism) and try to understand why it is being said.

"Everyone makes mistakes and for sure there is maybe a point where I have been arrogant and come across as being arrogant.

"So I have to accept that.  You have to -- you can't say everyone else is stupid.  So you just have to deal with it and correct it," he added.

His critics have almost as loud a voice as those who admire him, but Hamilton assured the British journalists that he heads to Australia a very happy man.

"I have not got stresses from anywhere," said Hamilton, whose MP4-24 will bear the coveted number one at Albert Park and beyond.  "Things are good.

"Sponsors are happy.  My boss is so freaking happy.  And now I've got all that stress off my shoulders.  I love this sport.  I love this job.  It is damn cool."

He hinted strongly that retirement is not in the 5 or perhaps even 10-year plan, but said he acknowledges there is life beyond the paddock.

"I don't want to be here when I am old and grey.  There are so many amazing things you can experience in your life," said Hamilton. More ...

Corvette Racing makes history at Sebring  The 57th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring was a history-making event for Corvette Racing. For Johnny O'Connell, it was a record-setting eighth Sebring class victory. For Jan Magnussen, it was his milestone 100th career victory in the American Le Mans Series' landmark 100th race. For Antonio Garcia, it was his first win with Corvette Racing. And for Corvette Racing, it was a perfect performance that included an ALMS record for laps completed in the GT class at Sebring to jump start the 10th anniversary of America's premier production sports car racing team.

O'Connell, Magnussen and Garcia completed 349 laps in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R to take a one-lap victory in the GT1 class over Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, and Marcel Fassler in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. The Corvettes finished sixth and seventh overall, and the winning car set a record for the most laps completed by a GT car in ALMS competition in America's most demanding endurance race. The No. 3 Corvette C6.R also won the inaugural Michelin Green X Challenge race-within-a-race with the best score in the GT classes based on performance, efficiency, and environmental impact.

"In our final race in the GT1 class at Sebring, I think we raised the bar high by setting an all-time laps completed record and running a flawless race," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "Today was an example of what we've done since the inception of this program - continuous improvement. This gives us a solid foundation for going to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and completing our mission over there." More ...

Button should have been sacked  Former Formula One and motorcycle world champion John Surtees has said he would not have confirmed Jenson Button at Brawn GP for 2009, claiming his fellow countryman didn't give 100% in 2008 at the wheel of the il-loved RA108. Having signed a multi-year deal with Honda before the Japanese company pulled out of the sport, the management-led buyout decided to honor his deal, albeit with Button taking a significant pay cut.

Speaking in an interview with Italian website 422race.com, Britain's Surtees said he'd have sacked Button. “The most brilliant driver we have today is Vettel, he's a good example of a real driver! Look at Button instead, frankly, I wouldn't have confirmed him.

“I would have replaced him because if you don't give 100% even when the car is not so good, you have to be sacked!” continued Surtees. “You can't be good just when you have a good car, but even when you don't. I think that rather than constantly changing the rules for the team, they should support the young drivers more.” More ...

2009 F1 technical changes at a glance  The 2009 season sees the introduction of the most radical new rules to hit F1 in a generation.

Here’s a quick guide to the major changes in the sporting and technical rules, including some potentially significant tweaks which haven’t had much attention.


Drivers can only use eight engines during the (17-race) season. If they have to use a ninth engine they will have a ten-pace grid penalty at the first race where they use it, and further similar penalties will follow if additional engines are used.

The pit lane speed limit in qualifying and the race has been raised from 80kph (49.7mph) to 100kph (62.1mph).

All teams must declare the starting weights of their cars within two hours of qualifying finishing. More ...

Sebring field decimated by economy  UPDATE Car count has been a big topic of conversation at Sebring International Raceway this week, with the very real prospect of seeing much smaller fields than the 26 cars (were 28 but two withdrew) that started Saturday's 12-hour American Le Mans Series opener.

The starting lineup had six fewer cars than last year's race and the most exciting battle on the 3.7-mile, 17-turn Sebring circuit was waged in the elite LMP1 class, with two Acuras, two Audis and two Peugeots competing for the overall title. But only the Acuras will be on hand in two weeks when the ALMS moves on to the streets of St. Petersburg, with the other two manufacturers leaving the series to concentrate on European sports car racing's biggest event, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Audi and Peugeot may or may not return later this year for the ALMS Petit Le Mans and the season finale in Monterey, Calif. In the meantime, ALMS president Scott Atherton acknowledged things could get a little sparse on the race grids.

"Our expectation right now for the next three races (at St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah) would be high teens with the potential for maybe low 20s,'' Atherton said. "If everything that's available in all of these hoped-for expectations come into place, it could easily be low 20s. I think that St. Pete will definitely be the most challenging event we have just because of the timing of it. The other cars that are planning to compete are simply not going to be available for that race.

"And there is also some reluctance by some teams to place themselves into a street racing environment simply because they can't afford the potential for the crash damage that goes with it. You can make a big mistake in the Utah desert and live to fight another day, whereas that same mistake can ruin the rest of your season on a street course.''

"We have some entries that will become viable for St. Pete and Long Beach and Salt Lake that actually aren't here today,'' he said. "We know of at least a handful, three, four or five cars that are certainly capable of racing in the series ... that could easily be activated to race. And I know of at least two right now that will be on the grid there that are not here today.

"As we go through the season, we're actually going to be adding to our car count. There will be teams that will start competing with us after Le Mans. We know that because they've made their intentions known to us. (24 Hours of Le Mans) is their focus and until they get that behind them, we're not going to see them.''

03/17/09 The total entry of 28 cars for this year's 12 hours of Sebring is the smallest in Sebring's history, a true sign the economy is having its effect on racing, and the fact the independent teams cannot compete with the factory efforts, so don't bother. The previous smallest field was 32 for the 1952 inaugural. The second smallest was last year with 33 starters. The largest Sebring field assembled in 1983 during IMSA's heydays when no fewer than 84 cars took the green flag.
Sebring Risi Competizione Race Report  The #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Pierre Kaffer, Jaime Melo and Mika Salo won the GT2 class of the 100th American Le Mans Series race in a dominant fashion today – leading the 2009 season-opening Twelve Hours of Sebring from the second hour until the finish.  Finishing eighth overall, they led home a Ferrari 1-2, and the team’s Krohn Racing drivers Tracy W Krohn, Nic Jönsson and Eric van de Poele rounded off an excellent day for both the team and Ferrari with a sixth place finish.

The #62 Ferrari’s achievement was all the more remarkable as it had started from the back of the grid, and because one of its drivers didn’t arrive at the track until the early hours of Friday morning so had missed most of the valuable build-up time.

It took Mika Salo less than 50 of the 332 laps that the #62 Ferrari completed today to get from it starting position of 10th to the head of the class, a place it never relinquished.  The win, Salo’s 14th and Melo’s 13th,was the second in three years for the pairing (following the record-breaking 2007 GT2 finish), and Kaffer’s first on his debut with the team. More ...

Sebring de Ferran Race Report  16.30: after a grueling eight and a half hours of racing consistently in the top four at the tortuous Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the de Ferran Motorsports team called time after a suspension failure and a fuel leak was deemed too severe to be fixed in the paddock.  The disappointment was more pronounced after the exhilaration of Thursday afternoon (19th March) when the brand new no.66 XM Radio Acura ARX-02a made its track debut with a superb pole position. 

“Of course we are sorry to be leaving Sebring without a result,” said driver and team owner, Gil de Ferran, “but we are taking a number of positives from this experience and for our car to be on pole position and having given the Audis and Peugeots such a run for their money this weekend has been a huge achievement.” More ...

Sebring Audi Race Report  The Audi R15 TDI has defeated its competition in its debut race: Dindo Capello (Italy), Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Allan McNish (Scotland) achieved a historic victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring (US state of Florida) with the new diesel-powered sports car of AUDI AG. The Audi drivers completed 383 laps – beating the previous distance record by an impressive 13 laps.

In the fastest ever Sebring race, Audi Sport Team Joest’s pair of Audi R15 TDI prototypes ran the entire distance without technical problems despite the innovative Le Mans prototype having only completed its maiden run in December. Bad weather had hampered Audi Sport’s test program and temperatures never exceeded 15 degrees during the tests in Europe. More ...
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