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DATE News (chronologically)
03/28/08
f1

FIA tweaks qualifying format for Bahrain
(GMM)  A tweak to the 'knockout' format will be installed before cars face the qualifying session in Bahrain next weekend.

As reported earlier, teams and F1's governing body considered the change necessary after slow-moving cars that were saving fuel got in the way of runners on their final flying laps at the end of 'Q3' in Malaysia.

The imposition of a maximum time limit for in-laps, probably 120 per cent of a driver's quickest lap, is therefore being introduced mainly on the grounds of safety.

"Our clarification to the teams and drivers will be that cars returning to the pits having completed their flying lap or laps will be required to do so within a time that we will set," an FIA spokesman confirmed.

"This could be approximately 120 per cent of the normal time as we do to prevent drivers going very slowly to the grid to save fuel," he added.

Comment
03/28/08
f1

A lap of Bahrain circuit with Alex Wurz
The Formula One circus likes visiting Bahrain. Here Honda test driver Alex Wurz takes us through a lap of the track. 

"The BIC is one of the slower tracks that Hermann Tilke has designed, but it's still quite interesting. From a technical point of view, braking and traction are crucial, and you break very hard into Turn 1, from seventh gear - more than 300kph - down to first gear. This provides the best overtaking opportunity on the lap.” 

"Turn 2 is a left kink, which, without traction control, is going to be quite challenging because you're going to have a lot of slip. We might see some snap oversteer here as a result. Turn 3 is easy flat and leads to the right-hander Turn 4, which is taken in third gear. It's off-camber and could pose quite a traction problem without TC.” 

"Then you come to a very interesting part of the track, the fast right-left chicane. It's enjoyable, but it can be frustrating from a car set-up point of view because if it wasn't for this section you'd soften up the car. As it is, you have to keep some roll stiffness in the car for this quick change of direction.” 

"You then come to the hairpin, which picks up a lot of grip throughout the weekend. The exit goes uphill, into a long left-hander, which tightens up into a sharp left. Everyone locks up a bit because it's off-camber and over a crest, so the inside front is unloaded. Traction is really important on the exit because the back straight follows, where you get up to sixth gear before slowing for the third-gear left-hander. I would set up my car's aero balance - the amount of wing I carry – for this corner.” 

"After this corner there's a long uphill stretch into a flat right-hander. The front left is loaded for a long time through here and then you come into another right-hander, which is an overtaking opportunity if the car in front is using its tires too much. A very long straight leads to the last corner, where it's easy to out-brake yourself. You lose more than you can win through here because it's really important to have a clean exit onto the start-finish straight."

Comment
03/28/08
irl

Two crashes at Homestead UPDATE We have learned that Howard was apparently unhurt but may miss the race if his car cannot be repaired in time.  A decision will be made Saturday whether he will race Saturday night.  The doctors also have to reevaluate is condition because of pain in his right knee.

03/28/08
Dan Wheldon skids down the front straight after hitting the wall in Turn 4
Gail Miller/AutoRacing1.com
Qualifying is underway here in Homestead and already we have two crashes. Jay Howard lost control in turn 2 on his second warm-up lap and Dan Wheldon did likewise in Turn 4 on his 2nd warm-up lap.

Both cars sustained considerable damage. We know Wheldon is OK. No word on Howard just yet but it took them a lot of time to get him out of the car.

Comment
03/28/08
motogp

Perfect start for Lorenzo while Rossi follows in second
Fiat Yamaha Team rider Jorge Lorenzo began his first ever MotoGP race on home soil in perfect fashion today, finishing the first day of practice in Jerez in first position at the front of an all-Yamaha top three. The young rookie, who lies second in the championship after an impressive debut in Qatar, was under lap record pace in the afternoon session and looks on-course to give his passionate home fans an exciting weekend.

Lorenzo was fifth fastest in the morning session but gradual work on his set-up, starting from a good base following the February test here, led to an improved pace in the warmer afternoon session and a best time of 1.40.321. It was a good day for Yamaha as Lorenzo's team-mate Valentino Rossi was just 0.043 seconds behind him, with Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards in third.
Jorge Lorenzo - 1st - 1.40.321

Results

Pos

Rider Team Time Behind Laps
1. Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha Team 1:40.321 28
2. Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha Team 1:40.364 × 0.043 24
3. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1:40.584 × 0.263 24
4. Nicky Hayden Repsol Honda Team 1:40.673 × 0.352 28
5. Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda Team 1:40.815 × 0.494 26
6. Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro Team 1:40.877 × 0.556 21
7. Andrea Dovizioso JiR Team Scot MotoGP 1:40.909 × 0.588 25
8. James Toseland Tech 3 Yamaha 1:41.028 × 0.707 15
9. Loris Capirossi Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1:41.157 × 0.836 24
10. Alex De Angelis San Carlo Honda Gresini 1:41.189 × 0.868 22
11. Randy De Puniet LCR Honda MotoGP 1:41.268 × 0.947 26
12. Chris Vermeulen Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1:41.303 × 0.982 28
13. Shinya Nakano San Carlo Honda Gresini 1:41.393 × 1.072 24
14. John Hopkins Kawasaki Racing Team 1:41.519 × 1.198 21
15. Marco Melandri Ducati Marlboro Team 1:41.825 × 1.504 20
16. Sylvain Guintoli Alice Team 1:42.115 × 1.794 10
17. Anthony West Kawasaki Racing Team 1:42.181 × 1.860 23
18. Toni Elias Alice Team 1:42.183 × 1.862 22

Comment
03/28/08
cc

Champ Car bankruptcy update UPDATE The final hurdle in the unification of open-wheel racing was cleared late Thursday when Champ Car’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was approved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis.  The deal calls for George to pay $6 million for the key assets of Champ Car and another $2 million each to Kalkhoven and Forsythe.

03/28/08 The official committee of unsecured creditors of the Champ Car World Series have request that the Court deny the sale of CCWS assets, or at least extend the motion so that everything can be fully assessed. They summarized their motion, stating:

…it appears that the proposed transactions have a value in excess of $17.5 million over the next five years – with only $6 million allocated to the Debtor’s estate at closing and the balance of $11.5 million retained by the insider Owners. While high speed may be desirable on the race track; not so in bankruptcy court where the law requires that creditors have complete information, a reasonable time to review and investigate that information and for this Court to ensure at the end of race, that a transaction rife with insider dealing is fair and reasonable and in the best interests of all creditors. isitMayyet.com

This motion is joined by Carl A. Haas Automobile Imports, Inc. and Hewland Engineering. It is noted that Mike Lanigan is one of the co-chairs of the committee of unsecured creditors. The numbers thrown out are speculative, as it says earlier in the docket that no proper appraisal has been presented to the creditors or Court.

Comment
03/28/08
irl

Wheldon tops Friday practice at Homestead
Dan Wheldon continued his love affair with the Homestead Miami Friday by turning the overall fastest time over two incident free practice sessions leading up to this evening's qualifying for the opening Indy Car race of 2008.

Results

Rank

Car Driver Name Session Time Speed
1 10 Wheldon, Dan Practice 1 25.0037 213.808
2 9 Dixon, Scott Practice 1 25.0211 213.660
3 6 Briscoe, Ryan Practice 1 25.1100 212.903
4 3 Castroneves, Helio Practice 1 25.1202 212.817
5 26 Andretti, Marco Practice 1 25.1379 212.667
6 27 Mutoh, Hideki Practice 1 25.1729 212.371
7 11 Kanaan, Tony Practice 1 25.1947 212.187
8 7 Patrick, Danica Practice 1 25.2236 211.944
9 2 Foyt IV, AJ Practice 1 25.2298 211.892
10 20 Carpenter, Ed Practice 1 25.2504 211.719
11 4 Meira, Vitor Practice 1 25.3317 211.040
12 24 Howard, Jay Practice 2 25.3602 210.803
13 14 Manning, Darren Practice 1 25.3749 210.681
14 17 Hunter-Reay, Ryan Practice 1 25.4354 210.180
15 25 Roth, Marty Practice 1 25.4616 209.963
16 02 Wilson, Justin Practice 1 25.5098 209.567
17 34 Perera, Franck Practice 1 25.5485 209.249
18 15 Rice, Buddy Practice 1 25.5509 209.229
19 8 Power, Will Practice 1 25.5704 209.070
20 23 Duno, Milka Practice 1 25.6054 208.784
21 5 Servia, Oriol Practice 1 25.6163 208.695
22 36 Bernoldi, Enrique Practice 2 25.6459 208.454
23 33 Viso, Ernesto Practice 2 25.7447 207.654
24 19 Moraes, Mario Practice 2 25.7978 207.227
25 18 Junqueira, Bruno Practice 1 25.8475 206.829

Comment
03/28/08
f1

BMW on the right track - Rampf
Two races, two consecutive second places, a tally of 19 points, second in the constructors' championship - the BMW Sauber F1 Team has made a textbook start to the 2008 season. The plan is to continue this positive trend at the Bahrain Grand Prix but technical director Willy Rampf refuses to get carried away.

"Our two strong performances in Australia and Malaysia confirm that we are on the right track with our development of the F1.08 and have taken a leap forward," Rampf said. "But I wouldn't like to commit myself to any hierarchical order at the moment. For that we will have to wait for another race or two."

"The circuit in Bahrain features several slow turns and the very long start/finish straight with a tight chicane at the end," he added. "The track design calls for a compromise in terms of aerodynamic set-up. On the one hand the many slow corners require high downforce, on the other hand top speed is very important. Good traction also has a high priority, especially along the narrow section after the start/finish line. In Bahrain we will be driving with relatively soft tyre compounds, which plays an important role in the race strategy."

Comment
03/28/08
nassprint

Rain again haunts Sprint Cup Series qualifying
Although rain isn't expected until after the scheduled afternoon qualifying session for Sprint Cup cars today, even the possibility may have some teams nervous in the Martinsville Speedway garage.  Qualifying for the Goody’s Orange Cool 500 is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. EDT, and there is a 60 percent chance of rain today, but mostly after 8 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

There are 47 entries, meaning four won’t qualify for the Sunday race.

If qualifying should be rained out, drivers outside the top 35 who would qualify would be Roush Fenway Racing’s Jamie McMurray (2007 race winner), Wood Brothers Racing’s Bill Elliott (past champion), Bill Davis Racing’s Dave Blaney (37th in owners points), Dario Franchitti (38th in owners points), Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s Aric Alimrola (39th in owners points), Petty Enterprises’ Kyle Petty (40th in owners points), Furniture Row’s Joe Nemechek (41st in owners points) and BAM Racing’s Ken Schrader (42nd in owners points).

Missing the race would Red Bull Racing’s Mike Skinner, Front Row Motorsports' John Andretti, Gillett Evernham Motorsports’ Patrick Carpentier and EM Motorsports’ Tony Raines. Scenedaily.com

Comment
03/28/08
nascar

Economy may even touch on NASCAR
As consumer confidence in the economy falls, bundles of unsold NASCAR tickets grow.

Martinsville Speedway is not immune even with a seating capacity that ranks among the smallest in the Sprint Cup series.

Tickets remain for Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500. Track president Clay Campbell, noting the economy, said Wednesday that ticket sales "have been soft this year versus years in the past."

Sold-out signs at NASCAR ticket windows are slower to pop up. Richmond International Raceway, once considered among the most difficult tickets to get, has backstretch seats available for its cup race in May. Track officials, though, expect to record their 33rd consecutive sellout. Tickets also remain for May races at Darlington, S.C., and Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C.

Campbell notes that unlike other sports, race tracks draw fans from greater distances. Nearly half the ticket buyers for Martinsville's Cup race last fall came from more than 200 miles away, track spokesman Mike Smith said, citing ticket department research.

A majority of Martinsville's typical race-day crowd comes from Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Soaring gas prices could keep some of those fans from attending. The Energy Information Association reports that gas prices nationally have climbed nearly 50 cents per gallon since September. Gas prices in the lower Atlantic region, which includes Virginia and North Carolina, have increased 28 cents per gallon since Feb. 4. More at Roanoke.com

Comment
03/28/08
f1

Honda and Brawn still focused on 2009
Honda team boss Ross Brawn says his team is still aiming for 2009 to start winning again. 

"I can see in some team areas where we can improve the car," Brawn told Autosport. "You can watch on the circuit that the ride quality of the car isn't very good. It's not riding the bumps very well, so there are things like that we need to improve."

"On the aero side it's progressing very well," he added. "Chassis we need to make stronger, but everyone is very open and positive about improving the situation. I need a few more races to really understand where we are, but we're certainly a lot better than in winter testing, and looking at what's coming along, there are some exciting steps in the future."

"But I’ll caution all that by saying we will be very conscious of what we need to do for 2009 - that's really a big opportunity for us," he added.

Comment
03/28/08
f1

BMW: A few small modifications for Bahrain
Mario Theissen
After two successful races in Australia and Malaysia, the BMW Sauber F1 Team is preparing for the third successive overseas race, the Bahrain Grand Prix, where BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen is hoping that the team's successful run will continue.

"I hope that we can continue our successful run and qualify for the first two or three rows on the grid," Theissen said, looking ahead to the race in the desert emirate. "If we manage that, then there is always a good chance of finishing in a podium position."

After a two week break, the thrilling 2008 World Championship will move to the Bahrain International Circuit on the 6th of April, and with two second place finishes to their name as they hold firm to second place in the Constructors' Championship, the Hinwil based squad is eager for more.

Compared to the winter tests, the F1.08 has improved dramatically and has significantly reduced the gap to the top two teams and even though no tests are on the program before the Bahrain Grand Prix, development continues.

"There will not be many new components in Bahrain. We will take a big step in Barcelona. However, there will be a few small modifications for Bahrain," says Theissen.

Comment
03/28/08
f1

British GP tickets selling fast
British fans will be cheering for Lewis Hamilton
The Formula 1 Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone is one of the most eagerly anticipated rounds of the season – by drivers, teams and fans alike.

Following the phenomenal success of Lewis Hamilton in 2007, the demand for tickets to this year's British Grand Prix has reached record levels over the past few months.

Not since 2005, when the future of the event was under threat, has interest been so high.

With 61,000 tickets already sold the advice from Silverstone to anyone considering going to the event is 'book now to avoid disappointment'.

While demand remains high and tickets are selling at record speeds, there are still a wide range of ticket and hospitality packages available from the circuit.

Richard Phillips, managing director of Silverstone Circuits Limited, said: "British fans found a new sporting hero in Lewis Hamilton last year and with Ross Brawn joining Jenson and Honda, and David Coulthard driving the first Adrian Newey-produced car, there are renewed levels of hope and expectation going into the new season.

Comment
03/28/08
irl

NHLR: From dynasty to nobody
Graham Rahal's first (and so far only) IndyCar arrived in a box at Newman/Haas/Lanigan's race shop three weeks ago. It left the Homestead-Miami Speedway racing surface Tuesday on a flatbed, after the 19-year-old great-American-hope-in-waiting spun in a corner during a test and hit the wall.

Last year his team would have rolled out a new car, probably another really good one. But this spring is different. A team that won four consecutive Champ Car titles with former St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais had its dynasty snapped when Bourdais went to Formula One and the Champ Car series folded, melting into the rival Indy Racing League.

Now the eight-time champion is on a crash course to relearn how to race ovals (it hadn't contested one since 2006), and a special test for new teams before the IRL season opener ended with, well, a crash.

Such is the new reality for a team that amassed 105 open-wheel wins in 25 Champ Car seasons, second only to Team Penske. With a shortage of parts and cars, Newman/Haas/Lanigan was forced to pull Rahal's entry from Saturday's season opener and focus on his teammate, Justin Wilson.

It was yet another obstacle in a process rife with them in just three weeks of unified open-wheel racing.

"You reset your goals," general manager Brian Lisles said. "We'll be happy if we finish on the lead lap at Homestead."

Read more & Comment...
03/28/08
irl

George eager for new era to begin
Tony George
Open-wheel racing begins a new era this weekend when teams from the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series come together at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the first event of the unified IndyCar Series.

Tony George, who as chief executive officer of Indianapolis Motor Speedway started the split and helped end it, is eager to get the season rolling. He welcomes the challenges his organization faces. "Bring it on," he said earlier this week.

George said he considered it essential for the sport's future that IMS provide leadership and direction in the reorganization. Champ Car's four owners relinquished control when they signed an agreement in principle with George on Feb. 22. The contract will be final when Champ Car completes its Chapter 11 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis.

George noted that leadership was "one of the things" he had been criticized for prior to the split, and "we've been criticized for it since."

Now the undisputed leader of open-wheel racing, George said the support of his family made increasing his role a logical decision. Among the family members directly involved in the operation are George's sons, driver Ed Carpenter and Tony George Jr., along with George's nephew, Jarrod Krisiloff, director of multimedia productions of IMS Productions.

Read more & Comment...
03/28/08
f1

Latest F1 news in brief
  • Another Ecclestone ally says no to supremo job
  • Confirmed - Massa spin was driver error
  • Ex-Ferrari chief names  future favorites
  • Boss puts stop to early Sutil rumors

Another Ecclestone ally says no to supremo job
(GMM)  Another potential successor to F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has counted himself out of the running for the job.

Shortly after Flavio Briatore denied the possibility of replacing 77-year-old Ecclestone when he decides to step down, another of the Briton's closest friends and business partners also played down speculation that he might run formula one in the future.

Alejandro Agag co-owns a GP2 team, is involved in Ecclestone and Briatore's Queens Park Rangers foray, and controls the television rights to formula one in Spain.

But he told Spanish radio Cadena SER: "I see no possibility of replacing Ecclestone, and nor would I fit his shoes.

"I see him as a genius.  He turned a group of friends into a true global spectacle that occurs every two weeks," Agag praised.

Some observers and experts, however, insist that Agag, 37, would make a good successor for Ecclestone, also pointing to his experience in the world of politics.

He says Briatore advised him to buy the Spanish TV rights, before 'Alonso-mania' kicked off.

"Nobody wanted them, but Flavio had a blind faith in Fernando and assured me that F1 is going to work in Spain," Agag explains.

He even plays down the media tale about the discord between Briatore and McLaren boss Ron Dennis, recalling a dinner at the recent Malaysian grand prix that was attended by both team chiefs.

Agag says the pair share a "cordial hatred".

Confirmed - Massa spin was driver error
(GMM)  A Ferrari spokesman has finally confirmed that Felipe Massa's Sepang spin was caused fundamentally by driver error.

The Italian team has been coy as it investigated the incident, which sparked intense speculation that the Brazilian's position beyond 2008 might be in doubt.

Massa's Malaysian retirement followed the earlier Australian grand prix, where the 26-year-old spun into the wall on the first lap before crashing with David Coulthard.

Read more & Comment...
03/28/08
f1

Slicks put under the microscope
Bridgestone will evaluate three different types of tire compounds during testing in Barcelona in April in an attempt to alleviate fears about warm-up issues with its slicks.

The tire manufacturer supplied the teams with slick tires during testing at Jerez last December with the aim of introducing them at the beginning of 2009.

However, many drivers expressed concerns about the difference between the temperatures of the tires when they left the pits compared to when they were at full operating temperature.

This resulted in a variation in lap times of several seconds between cars that prompted safety fears.

The Japanese manufacturer hopes the new range of tire compounds and higher track temperatures will sort out the warm-up issues.

"We are thinking about the compound range at the moment," Hirohide Hamashima, director of Bridgestone's motorsport tire development, said.

"We want to check our warm-up issue, because in the winter time we had a warm-up problem and many drivers complained about the warm-up of the tire.

"It took too long and there was an imbalance, because the rears warmed up quickly. So after two or three laps, the fronts were cold and the rears were hot. So the rears got a little bit tired before the fronts came in, which made it difficult to drive."

Comment
03/28/08
Automotive

Buy American, get Chinese engine
General Motors car engines were once the stuff of American legend. The Beach Boys sang, "nothing can touch my 409," about a powerful Chevy V-8. Oldsmobile owners in 1981 were so angered that their cars had been fitted with Chevrolet engines instead of Oldsmobile "Rockets," the subject of another hit song, that they successfully sued GM over the swap.

The company has since eliminated brand distinctions between engines, saddling them with names unlikely to inspire songwriters, like Ecotec, Vortec and Northstar. But some owners of the Chevrolet Equinox, a "compact" sport utility vehicle built in North America, might be surprised to learn the origin of the engine under their hoods -- it's made in China.

Last year, China exported more than $12 billion in auto parts, up from less than $2 billion in 2002 -- the majority to North America. The increase in exports has added to the problems plaguing North American suppliers. Most famously, Delphi, which is seeking to emerge from bankruptcy, has closed dozens of plants and moved some production overseas to become more competitive, including to China.

Soon China will be exporting whole vehicles to North America. Last year, Chrysler signed a deal with China's largest car company, Chery Automobile, to supply a Dodge subcompact.

One of the most important steps on China's long march to becoming an auto exporter was the little-noticed arrival of the humble engine inside the 2005 Chevy Equinox.

"This is the first Chinese-made engine going into this market," said Eric A. Fedewa, vice president for powertrain forecasts at CSM Worldwide, an automotive analysis firm. "It was an experiment to see if GM could use its facility in China to take costs out of a vehicle."  Detroit News

Comment
03/28/08
fil

Hildebrand revved up for debut
J.R. Hildebrand
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - It's been a dizzying offseason for Sausalito's J.R. Hildebrand and now he approaches his Indy Pro Series debut with excitement and a slight case of nerves.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge," Hildebrand said, looking at Saturday's Miami 100 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "I have to get used to a new car and new tracks, and half of them are ovals. That'll be different from what I'm used to but I'm not concerned because I have a good team."

Hildebrand, like a lot of Champ Car Atlantic drivers, was facing an uncertain future after Champ Car merged with the Indy Racing League. He found a home with Florida-based RLR/Andersen Racing, where he is reunited with Dominic and Nicholas Cape, with whom he claimed the 2006 Formula 2000 championship in dominating fashion, winning 12 of 14 races.

"St. Pete is a local race for us. I lived there for a year when I raced with the Capes. I also attended the race last year," said Hildebrand, who finished seventh in the Atlantic series last year as a rookie with Newman/Wachs Racing. "I'm really looking forward to the whole event.

Read more & Comment...
03/28/08
lmes
alms

Marco Holzer new UPS Porsche Junior
Marco Holzer is the new driver in the UPS Porsche Junior Team.

Just 19 years old, Marco, from Bobingen in Germany, will be teaming up with Austrian driver Martin Ragginger (also 19), who has been racing as a UPS Porsche Junior since 2007. The two young drivers will be entering all races for the Carrera Cup Germany at the wheel of a 420-bhp Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, as well as six races for the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup held on the occasion of various Formula 1 events, where they will be guest starters.

Marco Holzer is succeeding Lance David Arnold who has left the Junior Team as planned after three years. As in the previous years, the Manthey Racing Team will be in charge of team management and all activities on the track.

Marco Holzer has successfully made his way to the team following an elaborate scrutiny of numerous international young talents, first undergoing a medical test at the University of Potsdam as well as a theoretical examination, then successfully completing several driving tests on the track. Apart from fast and consistent lap times, the decision taken by the jury in favor of Marco was based on his technical knowledge and his ability to set up the suspension of the car with perfect results. Further essential criteria were health, fitness, resistance to stress, and the personal style of the young drivers who will be required at a later date to represent UPS and Porsche on various occasions and at a number of events.

Read more & Comment...
03/28/08
irl

Firestone to again sponsor charity event
For the third straight year, the Firestone Racing Evening of Giving Benefit Concert and Charity Auction is ready to drop the green flag on the must-attend May social and charitable event schedule surrounding the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. The third annual Firestone Racing Evening of Giving returns to The Music Mill on the city’s north side, on the evening of Tuesday, May 6.

Presented by WTTS 92.3 FM, the Firestone Racing Evening of Giving features live and silent auctions of racing items benefiting three important local children’s charities, appearances and autograph sessions involving IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and U.S. Auto Club drivers and celebrities, food, drink and fun. The entertainment highlight of the evening features a concert by popular local soul-blues singer Jennie DeVoe.

The Evening of Giving runs from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at The Music Mill, 3720 East 82nd Street, just east of Keystone at the Crossing. The autograph session at 7:30 p.m. is scheduled to include current and past racing stars. The live auction begins at 8 p.m. and the silent auction runs from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Proceeds from the Evening of Giving benefit Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, Racing for Corey and IRL Kids.

Read more & Comment...
03/28/08
tv news
irl

IndyCar Series Season Preview on ESPN2
The 2008 IndyCar Series Season Preview show will be aired on Friday, March 28, 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm ET on ESPN2.  The program will include a segment about how the IndyCar Series’ fuel is made. Ryan Hunter-Reay will be shown in full Ethanol racing regalia as he clocks in for a day of work making Ethanol at LifeLine Foods.  The program will show how thousands of pounds of corn are transformed every day into the Ethanol that is used for the IndyCar Series fuel.

Comment
03/27/08
ga

Dalziel Confirms Full Season of Grand-Am Competition
Scotland’s Ryan Dalziel is delighted to announce his full-time participation in the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 having been signed by Florida-based SAMAX Motorsport to co-pilot the #2 BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype alongside Orlando’s Henri Zogaib.

Having started the season in January’s ‘Rolex 24 at Daytona’, Dalziel will remain in the SAMAX fold for the remainder of the 14-round Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series schedule, starting with this weekend’s second round, the ‘GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami’ at the Homestead Miami Speedway, Florida, Thursday 27th – Saturday 29th March.

The 25-year-old, based in Orlando, is no stranger to Grand-Am competition or the Homestead Miami Speedway having made his series debut there with SAMAX Motorsport exactly three seasons ago. On that occasion Ryan piloted a GT-entry for Peter Baron’s outfit and it proved to be the start of a productive relationship, one which would quickly see both team and driver graduate to the Daytona Prototype class.

While Dalziel’s first full season in Grand-Am competition, in 2006, saw him compete for a different outfit, the Scottish racer reunited with SAMAX Motorsport at the start of the 2007 season to compete in the prestigious ‘Rolex 24 at Daytona’. A second-place finish proved the team’s competitiveness and Dalziel duly combined an impressive rookie season in the Champ Car World Series, scoring six top-ten finishes, with an additional three Daytona Prototype starts in Grand-Am with SAMAX, reaching the podium once again in the season closing ‘Sunchaser 1000’, again a second-place podium finish.

Read more & Comment...
03/27/08
ga

Rojas Leads Opening Day of Rolex Practice
The last five minutes of the Thursday afternoon's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 practice session shook up the leaderboard, and as the dust settled all five different engine manufacturers sat in the top-seven slots on the time sheets.

Memo Rojas turned the fastest lap during the last five minutes of the session behind the wheel of the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley, turning a lap of 1:12.824 (113.699 mph). Rojas' time was unofficially under the Daytona Prototype track record of 1:13.375, set by co-driver Scott Pruett in 2004.

"We've been working very hard and the team has been doing an awesome job at the shop," Rojas said. "Myself and Scott have been training in the car. We're really excited about this, so it's just the beginning. We're not taking it for granted now - things are working out good for everybody."

Pruett held the top spot of the session for most of the one hour, 45 minutes the Daytona Prototypes were on the racetrack before Rojas took over for him.

Read more & Comment...
03/27/08
f1

Bahrain tickets selling well
Ticket sales in Bahrain are going well ahead of the next round of the F1 championship at the Sakhir circuit. Bahrain International Circuit officials today announced that the 34 VIP corporate lounges above the Main Grandstand are now completely sold out to blue chip regional and international clients, with maximum capacity in sight in VIP business sections of the track.  

"The growth of popularity of Formula One and motor sport in general amongst sports fans in this region since the BIC was built is extraordinary and highly rewarding to see," said Martin Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer at the BIC. "It is no less important that corporate interest is following suit, with the step-by-step increases in corporate sales that we have seen through the first four Bahrain Grands Prix taking a huge leap for 2008. Almost every key decision maker in the Middle East business community is expected in Bahrain either as a host or a guest in one of the VIP areas, underlining what an invaluable tool for commerce motor sport can be."

Comment
03/27/08
nassprint

Martinsville not sold out for Sunday's race
Martinsville Speedway officials say plenty of tickets are still available for Sunday's Goody’s Cool Orange 500 Sprint Cup race.

The grandstands around Martinsville’s 0.526-mile short track hold 62,000 seats, but track officials said tickets are available “in many areas” for Sunday’s race. Prices range from $42 to $80.

Hospitality packages with appearances by drivers Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart or Kasey Kahne are also available.

Tickets for both the Cup race on Sunday, the Kroger 250 Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday and hospitality passes are on sale
and can be purchased by calling (877) RACE-TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

Comment
03/27/08
f1

Coulthard's Red Bull sold for 210,000 Euros
David Coulthard's Red Bull Racing car from last year's British Grand Prix was sold on eBay for 210,000 Euros for an auction in aid of the Wings for Life charity, a foundation which funds research into spine injuries.

The Red Bull car had the unique 'faces for charity' livery which the team ran during the British Grand Prix last year. Over 50,000 people donated money to charity in order to have their photos painted on the car. 

The auction winner has chosen to remain anonymous.

Comment
03/27/08
cc
irl

Long Beach field looks slim with only 9 cars so far
As "swan songs" go, the last-ever Champ Car race at the 34th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is shaping up to be a dandy!

A blend of veterans and youngsters are among the nine drivers transitioning to the IndyCar Series that are entered in the Long Beach race scheduled at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 20. The nine drivers will be running for IndyCar Series points at Long Beach.

Briton Justin Wilson and hot young American talent Graham Rahal will be driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.  Wilson was runner-up to Champ Car Series king Sebastien Bourdais the past two seasons while Rahal, ranked fifth in the 2007 points chase, became the youngest driver in history to finish on a Champ Car podium when he was second at Houston last year.

"It's quite fitting that the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which was the first Champ Car race for many of us, will be the last Champ Car event ever," Wilson said. "We're going to have fun there and look to score points and you can be sure there is going to be plenty of action."

Read more & Comment...
03/27/08
irl

Select quotes from Danica Patrick press conference
(About being fastest at last month’s Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway): “It’s always nice to have a good run, but I think this oval racing is so temperamental that one weekend you’re on, one weekend you’re off, and sometimes you don’t know exactly why. I’ll take it. I don’t think it’s the magic pill that all of the sudden unlocks the season. I think it’s a good thing, and it’s a good sign. I’m happy with it, and I think ultimately what it does is give us some confidence. Confidence can take you a lot further than anything sometimes. We all feel pretty anxious and ready for this to start.”
 
(About racing against so many new drivers): “The drivers who are more aggressive and take more chances I think it’s going to be a little bit more of a rollercoaster maybe for that style of driving with more accidents probably, and also to be able to leap forward quicker (after pit stops) and get back to the front. It’s probably all going to balance out in the end, but you’re going to have to be really careful, especially until we get to know the tendencies of these drivers and who plays fair and who doesn’t. I think it’s going to be a tiptoe game at the beginning a little bit if you want to stay in the race, if you want to make sure you keep clean and stay in the race, which is the only way that you’re going to win it at the end anyway. I think you’re just going to have to be careful. On the other hand, we’re going to show them the ropes. They’re going to see what it’s like out there. They’re going to see in practice what it’s like, how chaotic it can be and close we run and how often we run that close. It’s probably going to be an eye-opener for us.”

Comment
03/27/08
irl

Select quotes from drivers transitioning IRL
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing): “Since I came to America in 2001, all the drivers really wanted to get both series together, so I’m very happy about that. I’m delighted. That’s the way to go, that’s the way people can recognize us better as IndyCar Series drivers and the series can start to grow again. We have a full field of 26 cars. For the Champ Car teams, it was really hard. We got the cars three weeks ago. It’s a completely different car. You had to not just build the car for the ovals or the road courses, you had to build for both for the test at Sebring and for Homestead. Our guys did a good job to prepare the cars. At Sebring, we were very competitive. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much track time here. We lost Monday and just went on the track at 8:30 on Tuesday. I did just over 50 laps, so I didn’t get much experience with the car, but I certainly have some experience on ovals. I try to adapt myself and try to find a good setup tomorrow so we can be reasonable. I don’t think any Champ Car teams are going to be competitive this year, especially on the ovals. We are competing against very good (IndyCar Series) teams that have had this car for five years. So to have three weeks with the car we’re going to be behind. I think we’ll catch up and be really close the second half of the season. On the road courses, I was very surprised. Oriol’s time, even Will Power and my time, we were competitive to the (IndyCar Series) teams. So, let’s see what happens in St. Pete. We’ll still be a little bit behind, but closer.”
 
FRANCK PERERA (No. 34 Ares/Opes Prime): “For me, it’s an experience. I’ve never raced on ovals. In Europe, it’s not what we do and what we learn for. It’s not even something we see on TV. I don’t even have any experience in Champ Car. I just had a test two months ago. It was my first time with Conquest. When I heard about the merger, it’s very good for the series. I’m also going to be the only French driver this year in this series. The team did a very good job to bring the car.”
 
WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyard-Team Australia): “It’s all come together very late. It’s like Oriol says, it’s going to be a test session for the first half of the year on ovals for us. We’re going to try and be really strong on all the road courses and get as many points as we can. On the ovals, my plan is just to finish the race, get as many miles and understand the car as much as possible. It became quite evident at the end of the two days of testing here that we’re lacking quite a bit of speed in comparison to the (IndyCar Series) guys. We’re learning, and we’ve got a few more things to put on the car. By the time we get to the Indy 500, we’ll be starting to get up there a little bit.”

Read more & Comment...
03/27/08
irl

Castroneves, Nalbandian trade strokes at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Helio Castroneves is a race car driver who plays tennis for fun and exercise. David Nalbandian is a professional tennis player who owns a race car team.
 
This was the perfect friendly match – the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and the seventh-ranked men's player in the world -- on a makeshift court on the Homestead-Miami Speedway frontstretch.
 
"I'm going to play (toward Turn 1) so he might feel the power of my serve," Castroneves joked beforehand. "With that, I don't want to injure him because he's going to be playing (March 28) and I'll be racing."
 
Nalbandian, who won two ATP Masters Series tournaments in 2007, is competing in the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami this weekend. Castroneves, who much to the chagrin of the crowd didn't perform a few Foxtrot steps on his backhand, is competing in the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300.

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03/27/08
arca

Stewart to run ARCA
Rockingham Speedway officials say two-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart will wave the green flag to start the May 4 ARCA Re/Max Series Carolina 500 at the North Carolina track, and his crew chief, Grep Zipadelli, will drive the pace car.

“It is an honor to have Tony and Greg join us for our race,” track owner Andy Hillenburg said in a news release. “Tony has the same passion for the sport that our fans have, and there is not a nicer person in the garage area than Greg.”

Comment
03/27/08
f1

Mediocre interest for F1 in Australia
The Australian newspaper has just published the TV ratings for the Australian Grand Prix and revealed that Channel Ten’s GP telecast was the 11th highest rating programme of the week, with 1.2m viewers across Australia. Victoria led the way with an audience of 627,000, but there were only 199,000 viewers in New South Wales, a figure all but matched in South Australia, underlining the racing heritage of Adelaide. Queensland provided 173,000 viewers while Western Australia managed just 79,000. Based on percentages of the population, the idea of holding a race in Sydney is thus the least logical place for a Grand Prix.

It is also worth noting that the F1 was outrated by programmes such as Dance Australia, Border Security, Kitchen Nightmares, The Biggest Loser weigh-in and Bondi Rescue. Grandprix.com

Comment
03/27/08
irl

Rahal withdraws from IRL opener
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing are disappointed to announce today that they were forced to withdraw their entry for the No. 06 Dallara/Honda/Firestone race car to be driven by Graham Rahal at this Saturday’s Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  The car sustained extensive damage when Rahal crashed here on Tuesday night during the final day of a two-day test for teams transitioning over from the Champ Car World Series.

In spite of the best efforts of the IndyCar Series and series suppliers, the team was unable to overcome the shortage of some key parts and the time needed to prepare for Friday’s first practice.  The team is now focused on rebuilding the crashed car for a test at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday, April 1 and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, April 4-6.

“It’s disappointing that we’re not going to be racing in the season-opener and I feel bad about it,” said Rahal, 19.  “It will be tough not to be out there but at the same time we need to take it slowly and not rush putting the car back together.  Even if we had everything available, there aren’t enough hours before the first practice on Friday to get the car put back together.  The guys have worked awfully hard to be in the position to run here and it’s not the time to pull all-nighters.  At this point we are going to focus on the St. Pete race.  I’m just going experience this weekend from a different perspective and pay attention to what is going on with Justin.  I’ll probably watch some of the race from the Spotters Stand to get another perspective.  We’ll have to start all over for the race in Kansas which will now be my first oval race.”

Comment
03/27/08
atlantic

Walker Racing gears up for '08 season
Walker Racing is ready for the first race of the season after wrapping up the last round of pre-season testing yesterday at MSR Houston, the 2.38 mile road course located 13 miles south of Houston.  The Indianapolis based squad completed two productive days with drivers Canadian Kevin Lacroix, and Englishmen Greg and Leo Mansell, sons of Nigel Mansell, the 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and the 1993 IndyCar Champion.  

“The boys did a lot of laps and changed a lot of things to optimize the car.  However, the final happy hour numbers escaped us today, so we didn’t end up on the charts as high as we would have liked.  I think this is an area we know we need to address.  All in all the team did a good job,” said Derrick Walker, Walker Racing owner.

Read more & Comment...
03/27/08
f1

Kubica says strong start spurring on BMW
Robert Kubica
Two second place finishes and three out of four possible points finishes since the start of the season is spurring BMW on to aim even higher, according to Robert Kubica. BMW lies a strong second place with 19 points, just 5 behind leader McLaren. 

"We have been lurking around the top spot for the past two races now, and this gives us even more motivation to work even harder to close the gap," said Kubica. "Then it's also important to remember that a victory cannot be 'programmed' but must be built step by step."

"I'm happy, no doubt - especially because 2007 was the first-ever season without a podium of my entire career," he added after returning to the podium for the first time since September 2006 at last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix. "But now I feel that the trend has turned back in the right direction." GPUpdate.net

Comment
03/27/08
nascarsprint

Aust says team did not intentionally possess RFR part
Toyota officials on Wednesday identified the Roush Fenway Racing part that owner Jack Roush said was found in a Toyota team's possession during a Sprint Cup post-race teardown as a spring.

Jim Aust, the president and chief executive officer of Toyota Racing Development, said once the part was found to belong to RFR that it was returned. He was uncertain how the part, discovered on a table with other Toyota parts, got there or from which team it came.

"I don't understand the whole procedure when a teardown happens," said Aust, referring to a post-race process in which several cars are broken down by NASCAR inspectors. "The only thing I know is it wound up with parts we had and [which were] returned to Roush.

Read more & Comment...
03/27/08
nascarsprint

BAM Racing to switch to Toyotas
BAM Racing is switching to Toyotas beginning this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, team spokesman Rhett Vandiver says.

“After being with Dodge for seven years, we looked around and evaluated all the manufacturers, and we just found Toyota to be most committed to racing and the one that would benefit our program the best,” Vandiver said Wednesday.

The team, which fields the No. 49 entry for Ken Schrader, also announced that Microsoft, through its small-business program, will be the primary sponsor for Martinsville and an associate sponsor for the rest of the season. BAM Racing offers small businesses a sponsorship package that can start at $4,995.

Bill Davis Racing is also working with BAM Racing on the transition from Toyota to Dodge, Vandiver said.

“We are not merging with Bill Davis Racing,” Vandiver said. “More than anything, we’re kind of exploring additional marketing reaches through Bill Davis and through Toyota. We’re looking to see how what we do on the Internet side and through our diamond sponsorship and other programs we have in place, [whether] what we do could possibly benefit Toyota as a whole, ourselves and Bill Davis Racing.” Scenedaily.com

Comment
03/27/08
f1

Alonso comments on Renault's deficit
Even though former world champion Fernando Alonso finished fourth in the season opening Australian Grand Prix the Spaniard knew that this was due to the high rate of attrition and in Malaysia, Renault had an alarming wake-up call. Alonso finished this event in eighth place and after the race he admitted…

"That was the maximum. Without Massa spinning off I would not even have scored a point."

In his analysis his Renault needs to find one second per lap in order to be competitive but one of the problems is its lack of speed in a straightline. According to internal sources, the Renault V8 has fallen behind the other engines in the past two years with less horsepower and poor driveability, mainly because a lot of their experienced engineers left the engine department during that period.

The engine issue is also one of the reasons why Toro Rosso is looking quite strong against Red Bull despite having a year old car. The Ferrari engine has taken a good step forward over the winter months where the Renault has not moved. Red Bull has already had a few meetings with Renault’s chief engineer, Rob White, in order to ask for an explanation.

So, why didn’t Paris realize last year that there was a deficit? Probably because the downforce of last year’s car was so poor that the straightline speeds were not affected.

Renault’s situation shows that the engine freeze is a bad system. It means that they now have to accept this situation until the end of 2012. That is not motor racing. Saving costs is okay, but you can do it differently and still allow the engineers a small margin for progress. Automoto365.com

Comment
03/27/08
f1

What happened with Red Bull at Sepang
There was a lot of talk in Malaysian about whether or not the RB4 was safe after it shattered in Friday’s practice session when David Coulthard went off in a 250 kph lefthander because the right front steering rod failed. The reason for this was said to be a bad bonding between the carbon part and the titanium fell apart.

"This part", Christian Horner said, "normally does 7000 kilometers."

The more worrying part of this was actually the aftermath of the accident because the Red Bull took a short cut over the runoff area it jumped over a kerb and lost both front wheels, a copy of the Scot’s accident with Massa in Melbourne.

In both cases the pushrod broke at 2.5 tons load at exactly the same spot. This is the area where the pushrod goes from wide to narrow, close to the chassis. According to our spies in Malaysia, the Red Bull is the only car that has the shim to adjust the spacers at the thinner part of the pushrod, which could be one reason for the failures.

Read more & Comment...
03/27/08
irl

NHLR embarks on 26th season
Justin Wilson
Although the 26th season of competition for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) will be one filled with many new challenges, one thing will remain constant. After 105 wins, 106 poles and 244 podium finishes to date, the team remains as determined as ever to get to the front.  NHLR will make their debut in a unified IndyCar Series event on the 1.5-mile, variable banked Homestead Miami Speedway for this Saturday night’s Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300.

For a team that is used to being as prepared as possible and spends untold hours to do so, NHLR is facing one of the most challenging seasons in recent history.  The combination of talented drivers and an experienced and dedicated team have enabled NHLR to be ranked second to only Team Penske (40 seasons) in terms of success but the short time frame of one month to prepare for their debut in the IndyCar Series has forced the team to have realistic expectations this season.  In contrast, when Newman/Haas Racing was formed in November of 1982, Paul Newman and Carl Haas allowed themselves almost seven months to prepare for their first race in Atlanta on April 17, 1983 with Mario Andretti behind the wheel.

New for 2008 will be learning the nuances and inner workings of the IndyCar Series – on track and off -- as well as learning new race equipment, new tracks and the addition of a new driver.  They are hoping that their 2007 experience of learning the all-new Panoz DP01 Champ Car chassis will aid them as the season progresses.

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03/27/08
irl

Hunter-Reay in right place at right time
Hunter-Reay in firmly with the IRL while others are outside looking in
Ryan Hunter-Reay is going over some of the things his racing contract states he's not allowed to take part in, such as competitive go-kart racing.

"I can ride go-karts, but no passing, no competition," he said.

There's no snowboarding, so one of his favorite things to do when he's not racing will have to take a back seat to his ride in the Ethanol-sponsored Rahal-Letterman IndyCar for now.

Pickup basketball games are OK, but ballooning?

"Out," said the 27-year old, his hands going up in the air as he shrugs. "Go figure."

As if the Cardinal Gibbons graduate would be caught in something as mercurial as ballooning, because if you know Hunter-Reay, you know how direct he is.

The focus that he'll use Saturday night in the Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is evident in how he has progressed through his career.

Read more & Comment...
03/27/08
f1

Latest F1 news in brief
  • Ecclestone denies Briatore to succeed him
  • Pressure keeps mounting for Massa mistakes
  • Hamilton promised $4m supercar with title
  • Toro Rosso offers to settle Force India row
  • Anderson suspects Ferrari team orders
  • Manager defends Schu's two-wheel hobby

Ecclestone denies Briatore to succeed him
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has played down speculation that he has lined up Flavio Briatore as his preferred successor as F1 chief executive.

The 77-year-old is close friends with Italian Briatore, who entered formula one team management in the late 80s and is still boss of the Renault outfit.

Ecclestone and Briatore, 57, also recently went into business, with ownership of the London football club Queens Park Rangers.

But Briton Ecclestone, albeit with no intention of retiring, doubts that one man will be able to replace him.

"And I don't think he is even interested in this job; he has different priorities than me," Bernie, referring to Briatore, told FHM magazine in Spain.

Also in the interview, Ecclestone branded F1's current world champion Kimi Raikkonen as "completely the opposite" of 2008 challenger Lewis Hamilton.

"Hamilton attracts all the attention, because he likes to talk," he said.

"With Kimi it is so different.

"Nobody even knows what he is going to do from one year to the next, so it is difficult to predict how the rest of his career will be," Ecclestone added.

Pressure keeps mounting for Massa mistakes
(GMM)  The pressure is continuing to mount on the shoulders of Felipe Massa, as observers chide his driving errors so far in 2008.

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and Ferrari's is Felipe Massa," Sir Jackie Stewart, after watching the Brazilian driver terminally spin his Ferrari in Malaysia, told the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell.

There is some lingering doubt about the cause of the 26-year-old's Sepang retirement, but a Ferrari spokesman on Wednesday ignored a request to clarify whether or not Massa made a simple driving error.

"The impression I had was that it was a mistake," former triple world champion Stewart added.

"I think he accelerated too hard out of the corner, and there is no longer traction control," the Scot noted.

From Brazil, Massa on Wednesday insisted that his spin was caused by "different problems" that were "not linked to traction control", and denied that he is having trouble adjusting to life without electronic aids.

But another former triple world champion, Niki Lauda, told Sport Bild: "If it wasn't a technical defect, he will be under terrible pressure in Italy.

"From Bahrain onwards, he can not afford to make any more mistakes," he added.

Read more & Comment...
03/26/08
ga

Krohn Racing Debuts New Lola DP Chassis
Lola DP
Krohn Racing will arrive at Homestead-Miami Speedway with its two new Proto-Auto Lola DP cars for the inaugural sprint race of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season, March 27-29. After an extensive testing schedule with the new cars, the Krohn team and drivers are ready to debut them against the challenging Grand-Am Prototype field of 19 cars and 26 GT cars at the Gainsco Grand Prix of Miami.

Team owner/driver Tracy W. Krohn created Proto-Auto LLC with Lola Cars one year ago to build a Daytona Prototype chassis for Grand-Am competition. The car has been testing since December of 2007, inaugurating its first race this weekend.

Tracy may have to sit out the Homestead race due a family medical emergency. “Super-sub” Roberto Moreno is on standby as a back-up driver and will assist with practice this week. He will pair with Eric van de Poele in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. Krohn regular Nic Jönsson and former Formula One hotshoe Ricardo Zonta will pair in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola, as they resume their chase for the championship.

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03/26/08
atlantic

Bomarito again tops time charts at MSR Houston
Jonathan Bomarito
The return of Jonathan Bomarito to the cockpit of a Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda car could not have been more triumphant, as the Californian closed out his first test in the No. 26 machine for Mathiasen Motorsports atop the time charts at the end of two days of activity at MSR Houston.

Bomarito posted a best lap at 1:19.007 (109.357 mph) in Wednesday’s morning session and the time held up through a windy afternoon session. Bomarito also posted the fastest time among 19 cars in testing on Tuesday. It was the first test session for the Atlantic veteran since an open test at Sebring International Raceway in early February, when Bomarito drove for Sierra Sierra Enterprises, which has since decided not to compete in Atlantic. Ironically, Bomarito’s would-be Sierra Sierra teammate, rookie Dane Cameron, was also quickest in his first test with Genoa Racing in Spring Training at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this month.

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03/26/08
irl

Conquest Racing happy with test results
Conquest Racing wrapped up their pre-season testing yesterday at Homestead-Miami Speedway ahead of this weekend’s first race of the 2008 IndyCar Series season. The test was deemed successful by team owner Eric Bachelart as well as drivers Enrique Bernoldi (#36 Opes Prime Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Franck Perera (#34 ARES/Opes Prime Dallara/Honda/Firestone), who were making their first appearance on an oval track.

While the first day was dedicated to getting the drivers acclimated to driving on an oval, day two was focused on finding speed, preparing for the first race of the season and getting used to the wind, who decided to be a factor in the second day of testing. Bernoldi completed a total of 186 laps aboard his Opes Prime machine and set his fastest lap on day two. His lap of 25.4470 seconds (210.084 mph) was a little over three tenths of a second off the best time registered during the test.

Enrique Bernoldi
“I’m happy with how the test went,” expressed Bernoldi who ended up fourth quickest overall and second amongst the transition teams. “The times from the transition teams were very close but we do know that we still have to catch up to the established IndyCar Series teams which will take some time but it’s a good start for us. I look forward to the race this weekend. My goal will be to simply finish it in the best position possible and to keep the car intact. It’s the best way to gain experience and keep getting better. Racing at night will also be new to me. I thought it would affect our vision but it wasn’t too different because the lighting is very good.”

Read more & Comment...
03/26/08
irl

The new world of IndyCar Series racing digitally distilled
2008 Fan Guide

It’s a whole new game in the world of IndyCar Series racing, with the unification of open-wheel racing in the U.S. poised to makes this one of the most exciting seasons yet. There’s no better place to find out what to expect than the IndyCar Series magazine 2008 Fan Guide Digital Edition.

The digital edition brings all the exciting content of the print issue, but adds interactive features such as exclusive streaming video, photo galleries, quizzes and live links.

Readers can learn how new drivers to the series are going to mix it up with the veterans and how Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal, Will Power, Justin Wilson and Marco Andretti are all fighting for the same championship. They can read about what makes an IndyCar Series car one of the fastest machines on the planet, or how to do a perfect qualifying lap and make a pass at more than 220mph. Everything a fan needs to know about what’s happening in the IndyCar Series for 2008 is right here.

The best part is all this is free. Readers can subscribe to the digital edition of IndyCar Series magazine at absolutely no cost.

See the 2008 Fan Guide at www.indycarmag.com/digitalissue. There’s nothing better than free, except when you get extras such as being able to watch video of pre-season preparations, see Dan Wheldon discuss his teammate’s marriage, or catch Danica Patrick at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue launch party!

Comment
03/26/08
alms

Corvette Racing media conference highlights
Earlier today, Johnny O’Connell and Doug Fehan of Corvette Racing were part of a conference call discussing the team’s 2008 American Le Mans Series program and its move to cellulosic E85 starting at next week’s Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. The team becomes the first factory program in the Series to compete on the alternative fuel. What follows are selected quotes from both.

Johnny O’Connell, Driver
“The approach to both (long-distance and sprint races) is really the same. There used to be a time in sports car racing where if you went to a long race like the 12 Hours of Sebring, you would back up your pace a little bit from what you might be able to do laptime-wise just to conserve the equipment. It’s a very difficult and challenging race track. These days, in order to be successful, you literally need to be able to run every lap like it’s qualifying. Our Corvettes certainly are capable of handling that type of abuse you give them. The mental approach between Sebring and St. Petersburg is the same; you’re going out there and not wasting any track time. You’re pushing as hard as you can give feedback to the engineers to make the car better. With the physical aspect, the street circuits really place more on your technique in slower corners. The biggest thing racing at St. Pete is that you have to be mistake-free. If you do make a mistake, it’s going to hurt. The concrete walls are right there. The worst thing you can do is hurt a car and make your guys stay up all night fixing it.”

Read more & Comment...
03/26/08
irl
fil

Highlights of Wheldon and Gomez media conference
IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon and Firestone Indy Lights driver Logan Gomez were guests on today’s Indy Racing League teleconference.
 
Background on Dan Wheldon: Dan Wheldon is competing in his sixth full season in the IndyCar Series, and his third driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
        Age: 29 (Birthday is June 22, 1978)
        Career Starts / 2007: 80 / 17
        Career Victories/2007: 13 / 2
        Career Top-Five Finishes/2007: 44 / 6
        Career Top-10 Finishes/2007: 61 / 11
        Career Poles/2007: 5 / 1
        Career Highlights: Won the IndyCar Series championship in 2005, recording six victories, including the Indianapolis 500. Has won three consecutive races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Finished second in points in 2004 and 2006.
        2007 Highlights: Recorded victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kansas Speedway en route to fourth in the championship. Led 605 laps over 10 races.
        Off the track: Married Susie Behm in St. Petersburg on March 16. Owns more than 300 pairs of shoes.
 
Background on Logan Gomez: Logan Gomez is competing in his second season in Firestone Indy Lights, driving for Guthrie Racing.
        Age: 19 (Birthday is Dec. 16, 1988)
        Career Starts / 2007: 17 / 16
        Career Victories/2007: 1 / 1
        Career Top-Five Finishes/2007: 3 / 3
        Career Top-10 Finishes/2007: 9 / 8
        Career Poles/2007: 0
        Career Highlights: Finished 10th in his Firestone Indy Lights debut on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the age of 17 years, 6 months.
        2007 Highlights: Earned recognition by the Guinness Book of World Records for the closest finish in car racing history when he closed the season with a victory at Chicagoland Speedway by 0.0005 of a second. Finished seventh overall, the second-highest rookie in the championship.
        Off the track: Attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., a school that includes Roger Penske among its graduates.
 
Background on Homestead-Miami Speedway: Homestead-Miami Speedway will play host to the IndyCar Series for the eighth time in 2008. For the seventh consecutive season, the race at Homestead-Miami will be the season opener, and for the second consecutive season the race will take place at night.
 
They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from today’s teleconference, with the approximate time code from the audio MP3 in parentheses.
 
Q. You will have a bigger car count this year on a very fast track, and some of those guys maybe not being experienced on ovals. What are your feelings going into Saturday night about the increased car count and maybe having those less than experienced guys on the track?
DAN WHELDON (20:30): Hopefully it won't make any difference to myself because we'll be out front again and not worry about them. It will change the complexity of the race a little bit. I think certainly you're going to be in traffic more whether you're lapping cars or just having to come through the field because of strategy; and with the fact that there are more cars, the risks you're going to have to play with strategy might mean where last year or the year before you dropped back to fourth or fifth in the back, now you might drop back to 10th or 11th and have to come through. And there's more cars that will employ that strategy where they stay out and perhaps others come in. So you will have to work with your car from that standpoint, making sure that it certainly handles better in traffic.

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03/26/08
FIL

Panther adds Battistini
Dillon Battistini
Panther Racing signed British driver Dillon Battistini to pilot its second Firestone Indy Lights entry. Battistini, the defending Asian Pacific Formula 3 champion, will join Brent Sherman in the team's 2008 lineup beginning with the Miami 100 on March 29.
 
"I've really liked Dillon from the first time I met him, and he possesses a lot of qualities you look for in a good driver," Panther team owner John Barnes said. "Obviously, he's fast and knows how to get around a racetrack, but he's also a humble guy, very well-spoken and respectful. We feel like he's going to fit right in with Panther's Firestone Indy Lights program and with his teammate Brent Sherman. We had plenty of options with drivers that could have run a second car for us, but I didn't want to do it unless we found the right guy, and Dillon is the perfect fit for Panther Racing."
 
Battistini , who will drive Panther's No. 15 car, passed his Firestone Indy Lights rookie test with Panther during a one-day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval on March 21.
 
"I'm extremely happy to join Panther, the guys here have treated me like family and I feel like I'm at home already," Battistini said. "Right now I'm at the start of a big learning curve because I've joined the team so late and there is a lot to catch up on, but there couldn't be a better team to work with right now."

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03/26/08
FIL

Donoso joins SWE Racing
Chile’s Pablo Donoso will compete for SWE Racing in Firestone Indy Lights for the 2008 season.
 
"I'm very excited about having Pablo run for SWE as I have had numerous drivers come up through the ranks from South America including (Gil) de Ferran, (Christian) Fittipaldi and both (Felipe and Affonso) Giaffone," said SWE Racing owner Steve Eppard. “I have been extremely impressed with the caliber of racers and the talent that continues to come from those countries and I'm looking forward to having the next young stand-out on my team."
 
Donoso, who passed his Firestone Indy Lights rookie test on March 21 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, has spent the last two seasons competing in the USAC Silver Crown Series, where he became the first South American to compete in the series. He finished a career-best second at Iowa Speedway in 2006 driving for Hemelgarn Racing before moving to the two-car effort of A.J. Foyt Racing in 2007, scoring a pole at Richmond International Raceway.
 
Donoso made his U.S. racing debut in 2005 racing in the Star Mazda Series for Andersen Walko Racing, where he competed against current IndyCar Series stars Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal. Donoso posted his only series victory from the pole at Infineon Raceway and he also earned several other podium finishes.
 
The 23-year-old began his career in karting, competing in the Chilean and Argentine championships, before moving to Formula Renault in Argentina in 2002 and Europe the following two seasons in World Series Light by Nissan and the World Series by Nissan.

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03/26/08
irl

IndyCar Series races to be seen in 212 countries
ESPN will broadcast IndyCar Series races in 212 countries around the world in 2008, providing a truly global audience for IndyCar Series racing. Additional countries are expected to be included for the broadcast of the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25. The international broadcast reach also ensures that U.S. troops serving overseas will be able to watch IndyCar Series racing in 2008 via a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network.
 
“2008 is an exciting year for IndyCar Series racing,” said Charlie Morgan, President and Chief Operating Officer of IMS Productions, the broadcast and productions arm of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Speed and competition appeal to people everywhere. Broadcasting our races to people in more than 200 countries is a big part of growing the IndyCar Series and exposing our brand of racing to an ever-growing international audience. 2008 is the first year of unification under the IndyCar Series banner and the first year for High Definition race broadcasts. Clearly, we have a great product to deliver to our fans overseas.”
 
ESPN previously announced that all IndyCar Series races in 2008 will be telecast in High Definition in the United States, a first for the series. The IndyCar Series will also feature onboard HD cameras with 360-degree panning capability – a first in motorsports. The new cameras will provide spectacular onboard views of IndyCar Series wheel-to-wheel competition at speeds exceeding 200 mph.

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03/26/08
track news
irl
alms

Robotic car competition planned for Long Beach
One of the robotic vehicles
No, we're not talking famous race car drivers here.  As a matter of fact we're talking cars with NO drivers!

"Junior," The "Boss" and "Ben" are entirely robotic vehicles, scheduled to be part of the April 18-20 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach's ground-breaking "Green Power Prix-View," highlighting futuristic alternative-energy vehicles.

The three cars will be competing in the "Robotic Grand Prix" at 12 noon Sunday.  Each car will take one lap of the 1.97-mile, 11-turn circuit, with the quickest time deciding the winner.

"Boss" is a 2007 Chevy Tahoe engineered by students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh PA, home of the famed Robotics Institute, and winner of the $2 million first place prize in the recent Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA)  "Urban Challenge" at  Victorville, Calif. 

"Junior," a 2006 VW Passat Wagon, modified by the students and faculty at Stanford University, captured the $1 million second-place prize.  "Ben," a Toyota Prius built by students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University, finished sixth at the DARPA Challenge.

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03/26/08
ips

Firestone to sponsor Indy Pro Series
Pairing open-wheel racing’s past and present to help mold the sport’s future, the Indy Racing League and Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT), proudly announce an agreement which sees the Firestone brand assume title sponsorship of the Indy Racing League’s official development series and re-establish the series name as Firestone Indy Lights.

The change harkens back to the 11 seasons that BFNT served as title sponsor and exclusive tire supplier to one of the most successful driver development series in American history. Firestone and Dayton brands headlined the Indy Lights Championships from 1991-2001. Many of today’s top open-wheel competitors cut their racing teeth on its diverse array of tracks.

Current IndyCar Series drivers Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servia, Scott Dixon and Townsend Bell are all past Indy Lights champions, not to mention current team owners Eric Bachelart and Robbie Buhl. In addition, Helio Castroneves and Dan Wheldon used Indy Lights as a seasoning steppingstone on their way to capturing Indianapolis 500 victory glory.

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03/26/08
f1

Schu to help distribute McLaren 'spy fine'
(GMM) Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher has been appointed to the body that will distribute the $60 million cash 'spy fine' paid by McLaren-Mercedes to the FIA.

The German 39-year-old, who is also an advisor to the Ferrari team, will join FIA president Max Mosley on the management committee of the fund, and representing the manufacturers involved in the espionage saga are Jean Todt (Ferrari) and Mercedes' Norbert Haug.

A statement issued by F1's governing body said the $60m would be called the Motor Sport Safety Development Fund, and be used "for the benefit of motor sport worldwide".

"The intention is to disperse the fund over the next five years", the FIA added.

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03/26/08
dakar

Dakar sponsor sues Robby Gordon's team
Vanguard Integrity Professionals, Inc. announced today that on Jan. 30, 2008 it terminated its sponsorship of Team Gordon, Inc. for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Dakar Rallies.   

On Jan. 4, 2008, the Dakar Rally 2008 was cancelled by the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) due to threats of terrorist attacks by al Qaeda against the Rally and its participants.

Vanguard is in the business of security, providing security software and services to many government agencies and Fortune 500 companies around the world. The company's software protects its customers from internal and external threats including cyber-terrorism attacks.

At the time of the cancellation of the 2008 Rally, Vanguard had independently confirmed the terrorist threats and agreed with the ASO's decision to cancel the Rally; the risk of attacks by al Qaeda was real, and the risk was simply too great. Factory-sponsored teams registered for the Dakar 2008 and others also supported the ASO's decision to cancel the Rally due to the terrorist threat.

Vanguard continues to believe Robby Gordon is one of the most talented off-road race drivers in the world, and has the highest respect for his driving abilities. However, with the cancellation of the 2008 Dakar Rally due to terrorist threats, along with Team Gordon's public statements in response to that cancellation, continued sponsorship of Team Gordon no longer provides Vanguard with the appropriate promotional opportunities.

On February 19, 2008, Vanguard took legal action against Team Gordon Inc. seeking an injunction prohibiting Team Gordon from associating itself with Vanguard's trademarks. Vanguard is also seeking a declaration from the Court confirming Vanguard's proper termination of the Sponsorship agreement.

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03/26/08
f1

Qatar’s Losail track to be upgraded with eye on Formula One UPDATE (GMM)  Qatar is reportedly the latest country that could soon be scrambling to join F1's ever-dynamic race calendar.

We reported one year ago that the Middle Eastern state was planning to follow in the footsteps of neighbors Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in bidding to become a grand prix host.

On Wednesday, the president of Qatar's motor sports federation said the country intends to upgrade the Losail circuit, currently used for MotoGP night races, to be ready for formula one.

"We will be shortly inviting tenders for the job and once we decide on whom to award the contract, work will start soon," Khalifa al-Attiyah told the local Gulf Times newspaper.

He would not be drawn on when the first Qatar grand prix might be held.

"Formula one teams can use the track for testing which will put Qatar on the map and also help us earn good revenue," al-Attiyah added.

03/25/08 Qatar could host a Formula One race some time in the future after the Losail International Circuit is upgraded to accommodate the requirements of the sport, the Gulf Times has learnt.

“Yes, we are planning a massive upgrade of the Losail circuit to make it possible to host Formula One races when the time comes,” Qatar Motor and Motorcycling Federation president Nasser Khalifa al-Attiyah told the Gulf Times in an exclusive interview yesterday.

Although al-Attiyah refused to say how many years it will take before Qatar hosts a Formula One race, the QMMF are moving ahead quickly with their plan to make the Losail track compatible with the needs of the sport.

“We will be shortly inviting tenders for the job and once we decide on whom to award the contract, work will start soon,” al-Attiyah said.
The 5.38km Losail track was built primarily to host top class motorcycle races and earlier this month made history when it became the first venue in the world to hold a nighttime MotoGP event in the 60-year history of the sport.

Qatar is the only country in the region figuring on both the MotoGP and Superbikes circuits whereas Bahrain features on the Formula One calendar with Abu Dhabi set to join the bandwagon next year.

With two Formula One events in the region, it could be several years before Qatar gets to host its own race, but the QMMF are taking no chances.
“You cannot say what’s going to happen in the future,” smiled al-Attiyah. “Qatar is developing by leaps and bounds and the future is very exciting.”

The QMMF chief said that even if it takes many years for Qatar to become a part of the Formula One calendar, the Losail track can be still put to good use.
“Formula One teams can use the track for testing which will put Qatar on the map and also help us earn good revenue,” he said.  Gulf News

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03/26/08
track news

Camping spaces sold out at Watkins Glen
All good things must come to an end! Camping sites during the Centurion Boats at The Glen and Zippo 200 race weekend continues to be a hot ticket at Watkins Glen International. The Soul of American Road Racing is proud to announce that reserved camping sites during the August 7 -10, NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series weekend are already SOLD OUT! The final reserved spot was sold in mid-February topping last year’s pace of March 2007, once again setting the mark for the earliest date these popular locations have been sold out at The Glen in ten years. General (non-reserved) camping passes during the race weekend are still available, but going fast!  There are plenty of camping spots for the IRL race however.

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03/26/08
Automotive

Top Ford Recruiter to depart
Joe Laymon, Ford Motor Co.'s top talent recruiter and labor negotiator during the tumultuous past few years for the Dearborn automaker, is leaving Ford for a similar human resources post with Chevron Corp., the nation's second-largest energy company.

Laymon, 55, who was Ford's group vice president of human resources and labor affairs, is being replaced by Felicia Fields, 42, formerly vice president of human resources, who now will be group vice president for human resources and corporate services.

Laymon joined Ford in March 2000 during the reign of former CEO Jacques Nasser and was promoted to vice president of corporate human resources by Chairman Bill Ford about a week after Ford fired Nasser and took over as CEO himself.

Five years later, in what Laymon said Tuesday was "one of the most gracious decisions ever by a CEO," Bill Ford decided to step aside as chief executive while remaining executive chairman. He asked Laymon to help recruit a new world-class CEO to help reverse the iconic company's sagging fortunes. Detroit Free Press

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03/26/08
automotive

Dispute cited in top Chrysler engineer's departure
One of Chrysler LLC's top engineers left the company Tuesday because of a dispute with senior managers, a person with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday.  Mike Donoughe was leading the company's effort to develop a new generation of global midsize cars. The person said Donoughe clashed with Peter Arnell, a marketing consultant hired by Chrysler Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Nardelli. The person asked not to be named because Chrysler wasn't publicizing the reason for Donoughe's departure.

Chrysler spokesman David Barnas confirmed Donoughe left the company but wouldn't say whether he resigned or was fired.

"Chrysler denies that the departure had anything to do with a clash with management or with Peter Arnell," the company said in a statement. Detroit News

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03/26/08
nassprint

McDonald's debut on the #19 car
Dodge driver Elliott Sadler carries the familiar McDonald's paint scheme this weekend in the Sprint Cup series race at Martinsville Speedway. Sadler will race the McDonald's car six times in 2007 joining a small group of Sprint Cup drivers who have carried the Golden Arches paint scheme through the years. The list includes Hut Stricklin, Jimmy Spencer, plus Gillett Evernham Motorsports drivers Bill Elliott and Kasey Kahne. The #19 McDonald's Dodge will run GEM Chassis No. 221 this weekend; a brand new car never raced and tested last fall in Atlanta. GEM PR

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03/26/08
f1

Cost #1 issue facing F1
According to former Ferrari team principal, Jean Todt, the biggest challenge that faces Formula One in the future is not to make the sport more green, but to reduce costs in the pinnacle of motor sports.

Jean Todt said: "Definitely the cost of Formula One is very high. We cannot ignore there's an economic crisis in the world at the moment and you can see the prices of shares and all that.

"If a company wants to be in F1 it's because the costs are acceptable and it's worth being here. So even if the increase of the costs has dramatically slowed over the last three or four years it's still very expensive and Max Mosley has worked very hard with the support of the teams. That's the number one challenge.

"And then we need to make sure the regulations are suitable to the business because sometimes some regulations did not give the results people expected. But it's going in the right direction."

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03/26/08
f1

Bahrain GP claims half a billion boom
A report by the Godo Research & Marketing Consultancy in Dubai, commissioned by the Bahrain Grand Prix, suggests that the economic impact of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on the local economy was $548m. This figure is believed to include air fares, hotels, and expenditure while the visitors were in the country. The report said that there were 22,500 overseas visitors, mainly from the Middle East and they were spending an average of $1,356 per day. Accommodation accounted for 52% of all personal expenditure.

A survey of 66 hotels and resorts showed occupancy over the Grand Prix period at 75-100%, with 5-star hotels at capacity and a dramatic 30% increase in trade for three-star hotels and resort accommodation, in comparison to the rest of the year. Premium prices were demanded across the board by hotel owners, price hikes averaging 15% increases on normal rates. In the four-star hotels, however, the price hike was a significant 30% and there was a drop in occupancy rates.

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03/26/08
nassprint

Kennametal to sponsor Franchitti
Chip Ganassi Racing officials announced today that Kennametal will be the primary sponsor for the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races for the No. 40 Dodge driven by Dario Franchitti.  The company will sponsor the team for the races at Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. Franchitti, the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year points leader, is outside the top 35 in owners points and must qualify for Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville based on speed.

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03/26/08
nassprint

NASCAR officials not concerned with fluctuating TV rating
NASCAR officials are happy that television ratings are on the rise through the first five races of the 2008 Sprint Cup season after two years of declines, but they're not out touting the increase.

NASCAR Media Group Vice President of Broadcasting Robbie Weiss said Monday that he is pleased with ratings this year but not overly concerned with the two-year slide.

“[Ratings] rise and also will dip from time to time, so you try to take a snapshot as to how the sport is tracking overall and get a feel from your partners how they feel about it,” Weiss said. “People are feeling very positive and pleased with how overall numbers are tracking, but they were pleased last year.

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03/26/08
f1

Latest F1 news in brief
  • Trulli says Toyota is F1's fourth force
  • Massa spin not caused by Ferrari defect
  • Opinions split over Renault prospects
  • Hamilton, Sutil, holiday on Thai island
  • Top teams see BMW as serious rival
  • Bahrain test makes Ferrari favorites

Toyota TF108
Trulli says Toyota is F1's fourth force
(GMM)  Jarno Trulli is confident that Toyota can remain F1's fourth strongest team as the circus moves on to Bahrain.

The Italian finished fourth in Malaysia; behind Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, the BMW of Robert Kubica, and final podium-getter Heikki Kovalainen, who drives for McLaren.

Although ahead of Lewis Hamilton at Sepang, 33-year-old Trulli thinks his TF108 single seater is still not quite on the pace of the leading teams.

"The McLarens and Ferraris are obviously ahead of us, and we are maybe two or three tenths behind BMW, but we can fight the rest," he said.

Trulli hopes that, because only Toyota and Ferrari tested at the Sakhir track in the winter pre-season, he will also be in a strong position in Bahrain next weekend.

"We know what to expect there with our car.  I think we can fight for the top six again," he added.

Trulli also commiserated with his new teammate, Timo Glock, who because of a cancelled flight endured a 40 hour journey from Australia to Kuala-Lumpur recently -- on his twenty sixth birthday.

"I felt sorry for Timo," Trulli, who reached Malaysia via Brisbane, said.

Felipe Massa before he lost control and spun hopelessly into the pea gravel
Massa spin not caused by Ferrari defect
(GMM)  A spokesman for Ferrari has ruled out any lingering doubt that Felipe Massa's terminal Sepang spin was caused by a technical problem.

Amid rumors that his seat for 2009 may not be safe, Ferrari officials said they would check whether any aspect of the car could be blamed for what appeared to be the Brazilian's second major driving error in a one week period, leaving his points tally so far at zero.

Asked by the German magazine Sport Bild if a defect had caused Massa to spin into the gravel at Sepang, the spokesman is quoted as saying: "No.  The car was okay."

Team boss Stefano Domenicali, however, is confident that the 26-year-old can put his flagging reputation back on track in Bahrain next weekend.

"We must not over-dramatize.  I'm convinced that from Felipe's and our point of view, a response won't go amiss in Bahrain," he said.

"Felipe has all the qualities and the capabilities to do well."

Massa's former boss Peter Sauber, though, was not surprised when he observed the driver's error from the BMW-Sauber garage in Malaysia.

"If things are not running well for him, Felipe loses concentration quickly," the Swiss said.

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