Hot News
for your iPhone
for your iPad
Go to our forums to discuss this news
DATE News (chronologically)
Richard Philippe signs with Genoa  
Richard Philippe
Frenchman and Miami resident Richard Philippe signs for the 2009 Season to pilot the #36 Genoa / Funkemotions.com Firestone® Indy Lights™ car. Having successfully tested all winter with Genoa, it comes as no surprise to anyone that Richard and Genoa would be together when the green flag dropped on the 2009 season.

In 2005, at the age of 15, Richard achieved the distinction of being the youngest person to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when he won the Formula BMW USA race at Indy. Richard continued on to win the Formula BMW overall championship with 3 wins, 6 pole positions, and 5 fast laps. He ran ChampCar Atlantics with Forsythe in 2006, before racing in Europe in 2007 (Formula Renault World Series with Fortec) and in 2008 (Formula 3 Euro Series with Carlin and SG Formula). At the age of 16, Richard also had 3 exciting ChampCar tests with Conquest and Forsythe, where he lapped a mere 0.2 seconds off of Paul Tracy’s best time at Sebring. More ...

Red Bull plane a disaster about to happen?  The 55-year old seaplane used to market the Red Bull energy drink at major sporting events and air shows was decommissioned and disposed of by the Coast Guard in 1976 because they considered it no longer safe to fly given the age of its wings.

But it flies over the heads of hundreds of thousands of people a year under an "experimental airworthiness certificate" granted by the FAA in 2008.

In a written response to questions, a Red Bull spokesperson, Patrice Radden, said: "Neither Red Bull nor any of its pilots or flight crews have or would operate an aircraft that is known to be unsafe or in an unsafe manner." More ...

hotwheelsIRL signs 4 new sponsors  Down economy or not, the Indy Racing League sales staff is in overdrive. In the last week, IRL officials finalized four new sponsorship deals.

First, IRL officials Thursday night (March 26) inked a deal with Hot Wheels. A big part of the pact was reaching distribution agreements with Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us to sell the IRL replica cars and track sets nationwide. Hot Wheels will make a variety of replica cars, including traditional-sized Hot Wheels cars, larger 1/24th scale cars, a car with a computerized sound chip that makes various racing noises, and IRL slot car and track sets. There also will be a special line made for collectors.

“I just saw the display units, and they’re really, really well done,” Terry Angstadt, president of IRL’s commercial division, told IBJ Friday. “They’re phenomenal.” More ...

Jimmie Johnson testifies for Castroneves  NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was the leadoff defense witness Monday in the Helio Castroneves tax evasion trial, testifying that a lawyer who is also charged in the case has a sterling reputation in the motorsports world.

Johnson, a three-time Sprint Cup winner, said Michigan lawyer Alan Miller has many clients in NASCAR and the Indy Racing League, a circuit where the Brazilian-born Castroneves is a top driver. Both Castroneves and Johnson have received financial guidance from Miller.
"Alan's reputation is about honesty. His character is second to none," Johnson testified in a 10-minute appearance. "He's given me great advice." TampaBay.com

Auto crisis solved  This was an article from the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper on Sunday. The Business Section asked readers for ideas on "How Would You Fix the Economy?" We thought this was the BEST idea....Perhaps this guy nailed it!

Dear Mr. President,
Patriotic retirement:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force - Pay them $1 million apiece severance (=$4 Trillion - About what Obama's plan is going to increase the USA debt) with the following stipulations:

1. They retire immediately. Forty million job openings - Unemployment  fixed.

2. They buy NEW American cars. Forty million cars ordered - Auto Industry fixed.

3. They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

It can't get any easier than that!

P. S. If more money is needed, have all your cabinet members as well as members in Congress and their constituents, PAY THEIR TAXES!

Economy puts hurt on St. Pete GP weekend  The difficult economy is taking a bite out of this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Only 17 cars are entered in Saturday's Acura Sports Car Challenge, the first half of what's supposed to be a twin-feature event.

The Audi and Porsche prototype teams that staged a dramatic battle in last year's Challenge are not returning. Audi pulled out of the ALMS, except for this month's 12 Hours of Sebring, and Porsche followed suit with its Spyder cars.

With only six cars entered n the prototype categories and none in the GT1 touring class, the race will have a different feel. Last year's Challenge had 28 cars, including 12 of the exotic prototypes, competing on the tight downtown street course.

Michael Andretti, co-promoter of the grand prix, said he feels sorry for the ALMS because the series is almost solely supported by auto manufacturers and, as such, has taken a bigger hit than other series. More ...

Honda must be kicking itself for selling team now  Honda Motor, which sold its Formula One team after last season due to the global economic slowdown, congratulated new owner Ross Brawn yesterday for a sensational debut win at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Brawn team finished one-two in Melbourne with drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, becoming the first team to take the top two slots in a Grand Prix debut since 1954.

“We are incredibly delighted that our team-mates, with whom we worked until last season, have started from extremely difficult circumstances to earn this victory,” Honda said in a statement.

“Congratulations to the Brawn GP Formula One team.”

The Japanese automaker pulled out of F1 in December, and Brawn closed a buy-out deal for the team earlier this month.  Honda must be kicking itself now for they did not give Brawn time to work his magic and would have reaped the benefits of his design genius had they exercised some patience.  Face it, it was too late last year for him to make their dog of a car look good, and this year they would have reaped the benefits of his clean sheet of paper design.

Schmidt expands to four-car effort  Sam Schmidt Motorsports will campaign four cars in Firestone Indy Lights in 2009, signing 2005 champion Wade Cunningham to drive the No. 11 Lucas Oil entry as a teammate to Ana Beatriz, James Hinchcliffe and Gustavo Yacaman.

"I'm honored to be a part of the team," Cunningham said. "There are big expectations placed onto the driver when they step into this seat because of the success that the Lucas Oil car has had, but I know that I'm more than capable to handle the expectations from the team and myself and to deliver the results that are needed."

Cunningham has five victories, seven poles and 32 top-five finishes in his Firestone Indy Lights career.

"To finally get this chance (to drive for Sam Schmidt) is exciting for myself because I've spent the last few years chasing them on the track,” Cunningham said. “When I arrived into the series in 2005, those guys were the team to beat. To be in their car is exciting because I feel like I've got an opportunity to do things that their drivers have done in the past.” More ...

Strong Corporate Support in Place for St. Pete  At a time when major events all across the nation are scaling back in one form or another due to reduced sponsorship activities and investments, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is once again well positioned with a strong mix of local, national and regional sponsors.

“We feel fortunate to have such a strong and committed based of corporate and community support for this event,” said Tim Ramsberger, VP and General Manager of Andretti Green Promotions, promoters of the event.  “These partnerships allow us to improve the Honda Grand Prix year after year and continue to bring a world class event to St. Petersburg.”

American Honda is again utilizing the picturesque downtown St. Petersburg venue to showcase its Honda (Turn 2 sponsor) and Acura (Acura Advance Sponsor and Turn 10 sponsor) brands through entitlements on the weekend’s two feature races, the Honda Indy St. Pete and the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. More ...

Aging Rossi calls for less MotoGP races  Valentino Rossi believes MotoGP riders would prefer fewer races in a season and more time to prepare for each Grand Prix. The Italian's comments came in response to the Grand Prix Commission, who have been discussing possible schedule changes over recent weeks. Already this year, Friday morning practice sessions have been axed and further practices trimmed - with the result a loss in track time of one and a half hours.

There are 17 scheduled races this season, but back in 1997 the calendar included just 14 Grand Prix.

Rossi said: "From a rider's point of view it is better to do less races, but with as much practice time to prepare for the race. More ...

Obama Outlines Plans for GM, Chrysler  Warning that they can't depend on unending taxpayer dollars, President Barack Obama on Monday gave General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC a brief window to craft plans that would justify fresh government loans.

"We cannot, we must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish," President Obama said at the White House.

"What we are asking is difficult," he said. "It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more. It will require creditors to recognize that they cannot hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts."

The remarks come a day after the administration ousted GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner and rejected the restructuring plans that GM and Chrysler had hoped would lead to another infusion of government cash. Instead, the White House is giving GM 60 days to come up with a strategy for viability. Chrysler has a month to wrap up a partnership with Italy's Fiat SpA.

GM on Monday said it will address "the tough issues to improve the long-term viability of the company," including the restructuring of its financial obligations, as it responded to Washington's calls for stronger plans to stay afloat.

The administration says a "surgical" structured bankruptcy may be the only way forward for GM and Chrysler, and President Obama held out that prospect Monday. More ...

GM Statement on Auto Industry Restructuring  Today’s announcement by President Obama begins a new era for the U.S. auto industry. It also marks a defining moment in the history of General Motors.

The U.S. Treasury will provide working capital financing for GM for 60 days while GM completes a more accelerated and aggressive restructuring to put the company on sound long-term financial footing. We understand the historic opportunity this presents, and we are fully committed to successfully completing the reinvention of GM.

As President Obama said today, the success of this reinvention is vital for GM, for the U.S. and global economies, and for the millions of employees, suppliers, dealers, retirees and others who depend on the company.

During the next 60 days, GM will address the tough issues to improve the long-term viability of the company, including the restructuring of the financial obligations to the bond holders, unions and other stakeholders. Our strong preference is to complete this restructuring out of court. However, GM will take whatever steps are necessary to successfully restructure the company, which could include a court-supervised process. More ...

Virgin gets $10.4 million of coverage from $250k F1 investment  
Sir Richard Branson is smiling all the way to the bank after Sunday.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which spent an estimated US$250,000 sponsoring the Brawn GP team at the Australian Grand Prix, achieved global TV coverage worth US$10.428 million according to figures compiled by SportsPro magazine.

SportsPro, which uses the Margaux Matrix Digital Eye scanning system that minutely analyses every brand featured in the host TV feed from Formula One Management, calculates that the Brawn team was on screen for 42 minutes 38 seconds during the qualifying and race broadcasts. Of that time the Virgin logos were fully exposed for 8 minutes 56 seconds. The next best team was Ferrari which had 21 minutes 14 seconds of TV, half that of Brawn GP. In the United Kingdom alone the media value was estimated at UK£347,600. More ...

Rahal in Sporting News  
To the right is a one-page spread on McDonald's IndyCar driver Graham Rahal in today's Sporting News.
Brawn Virgin deal a measly $250K per race  UPDATE (GMM)  Despite the Melbourne fanfare and the prominent presence of Sir Richard Branson, Brawn GP's Virgin deal could theoretically end after the Malaysian grand prix this weekend.

SportsPro magazine reports that, despite Branson indicating that full naming sponsorship and team ownership is a likelihood, the current deal is only for the Australia-Malaysia double header at the rate of $250,000 a race.

That deal, however, is likely only in its current form due to the lateness of its completion, with Branson signing it before boarding a plane to Melbourne, having cut short a family skiing holiday.

The Virgin logos on the winning Mercedes-powered cars, meanwhile, had been sent by email from London and cut into vinyl stickers in the Australian city.

Billionaire Branson admitted at Albert Park that the agreement is likely to be extended shortly, unless the newly winning team gets a better offer.

"We are a virgin bride, and they may find that someone comes in and offers them something even better before we marry up with them," he said.

03/29/09 Virgin Group, the parent company of various business interests owned by Sir Richard Branson around the world, has signed what is believed to be an initial two-race deal with Ross Brawn’s new Brawn GP Formula One team at the rate of US$250,000 a race until a more permanent deal can be finalized.

The deal was signed by the team's commercial supremo David Butler on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix, won by Brawn GP's Jenson Button. Branson cut short a skiing holiday to fly to Melbourne on one of his own planes to witness the team's first race. A pdf for the Virgin logo was sent by email from London and vinyl stickers cut in Melbourne to be mounted on the car. There was no time to modify the team’s uniforms. More ...

Appeal in doubt, but Toyota's Trulli claim valid  (GMM)  Toyota faces an uphill battle to appeal its lost Melbourne podium, but the Japanese team does have a valid case to argue.

Jarno Trulli's third place and champagne celebrations became twelfth on the official classification, after stewards ruled he illegally overtook Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car.

The Italian had been running third when the safety car came out late in the race, but he dropped behind the McLaren driver in an off-track moment.

"Trulli took back the place under the safety car," said McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh at the time of the investigation.

The stewards of the meeting agreed, promoting Hamilton to third, but Trulli insisted that he only passed the Briton because he had "suddenly slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road". More ...

Italy surprised by Ferrari's Aus shocker  (GMM)  The Italian press reacted with surprise and disappointment following Ferrari's terrible start to the 2009 championship.

The double retirement in Australia was reportedly the Maranello team's worst start to a season since South Africa in 1992, when both scarlet cars expired with engine failures.

"The Ferrari was slow and fragile," Corriere dello Sport summarized of the Albert Park race, where Felipe Massa stopped with a mechanical problem and Kimi Raikkonen was asked to retire with a few laps to go, having survived a spin into the wall.

Also referring to the F60 single seater, a standout of the winter test season, Tuttosport added: "It was much slower than expected." More ...

EGR still needs sponsorship for Almirola  Aric Almirola, who has a commitment from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to field the #8 Sprint Cup car through next week's race at Texas Motor Speedway, still needs sponsorship for the April 18 race at Phoenix International Raceway. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing President Steve Lauletta said he had “nothing new to report” when asked if sponsorship had been secured for Almirola and if Almirola was going to be able to go to Phoenix. Scene Daily
Ferrari takes blame for performance in Oz  
Felipe Massa's soft tires went off early in Melbourne
Ferrari have admitted that they made mistakes in yesterday’s season opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. The Maranello team, whose drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen both retired from the race, also pointed to the tire situation to account for their failure to emerge from the weekend with any world championship points.

Felipe Massa was threatening to challenge the front at the start, but was one of the drivers who had opted to start on the super-soft tires, which faded very quickly.

”The start was great, but after five or six laps we ran into trouble with the soft tires, to such an extent that we had to pit early,” explained the Brazilian.

He then fell back as he changed strategy to cover for his early stop, but ended up retiring with mechanical gremlins. More ...

IMG adds another famous name to motorsport stable  IMG has added another illustrious name to its stable after signing an agreement with NASCAR’s Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). IMG president George Pyne confirmed that, contrary to rumors, IMG has no interest in pursuing an ownership stake in the team, with the deal focused simply on maximizing the team's sponsorship income, and allowing JGR to 'tap into' IMG's expertise and return-on-investment analysis facilities.

The arrangement, which will work on a retainer - thought to be around US$500,000 - as well as a percentage of sales basis, is likely to run for an initial year, though both parties expect it to be continued long-term, with Pyne saying he could see the partnership lasting a decade or more. JGR chief J.D. Gibbs cited a long-running working relationship with Pyne, formerly the chief operating officer of Nascar, as providing the basis for the deal. More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Melbourne happy with F1 'twilight' racing
  • F1 needs clearer rules - Haug
  • Five teams already focused on new diffusers
  • Brawns could win every race in 2009 - Alonso
  • KERS 'no help at all' in Melbourne - Alonso
  • Schumacher questions Vettel penalty

Melbourne happy with F1 'twilight' racing
(GMM)  F1's first 'twilight' race was a success for Melbourne, Victorian state premier John Brumby said on Monday.

Despite some drivers complaining of poorer visibility, he said the television images beamed around the world as the sun set low in the sky "couldn't be better".

Sunday's official crowd figure at Albert Park was 105,000, three thousand less than for the 2008 afternoon race.

But major events minister Tim Holding said: "We're in very difficult economic times, so it's not unreasonable that people are cautious as to how they spend their money."

Premier Brumby backed organizers' agreement with Bernie Ecclestone to stage the race later in the day, to better serve the European TV audience.

"Melbourne is an absolute picture, Albert Park is a picture, and the vision, the images that are going overseas now at a better viewing time just couldn't be better," he said.

F1 needs clearer rules - Haug
(GMM)  F1 needs clearer rules in order to steer away from controversial race weekends, Mercedes' Norbert Haug insists.

Melbourne last weekend staged a highly-controversial 2009 championship opener littered with protests and technical infringements, and results blemished by the specter of looming appeal hearings.

"Controversy in formula one is as old as the sport itself," Haug told the news agency SID, "and it is quite often exaggerated at the first race of the season."

But the German stressed that "clearer regulations" would go some way to minimizing the controversies, for example in the rear diffuser saga and other areas of the technical rules.

"We have been demanding it (less vague rules) for a long time.  Different interpretations are fatal for the reduction of costs: obviously designing something twice costs twice as much," added Haug.

He said it is not good for the sport if the drivers who stand on the podium are only able to celebrate provisionally.

"That is a justifiable criticism," Haug admitted.  "We are no different to the fans in wanting absolute clarity." More ...

Indy offers Bronze Badge credentials for fans  Fans can't enter the locker room of a professional sports team, but a Bronze Badge offers fans that kind of unprecedented, up-close access at the Indianapolis 500.

Bronze Badge credentials for the 2009 Indianapolis 500, which provide fans age 18 and older with rare, behind-the-scenes access, can be purchased from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Client Service office starting April 20, 2009, on a first-come, first-served basis at the discretion of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Fans may request an advance order form before April 20. When an advance order is received, a coupon will be mailed to be redeemed for a Bronze Badge beginning April 20. More ...

Goodbye Message from GM's Rick Wagoner  
Rick Wagoner
On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with Administration officials.  In the course of that meeting, they requested that I “step aside” as CEO of GM, and so I have.

Fritz Henderson is an excellent choice to be the next CEO of GM.  Having worked closely with Fritz for many years, I know that he is the ideal person to lead the company through the completion of our restructuring efforts.  His knowledge of the global industry and the company are exceptional, and he has the intellect, energy, and support among GM’ers worldwide to succeed.  I wish him well, and I stand ready to support him, and interim Non-Executive Chairman Kent Kresa, in every way possible.  More ...

Falken Tire announces GT2 program  Falken Tire Corporation has officially announced a GT2 program for the American Le Mans Series that will see the Fontana, Calif.-based team entering a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for selected events this season. Team Falken Tire will compete at Long Beach, Petit Le Mans and the Monterey Sports Car Championships in anticipation of a full-season championship effort in 2010.

Bryan Sellers, a familiar name in the Series, and Dominic Cicero will drive the Falken Porsche in 2009. Sellers has served as a factory driver for Panoz and BMW since his Series debut in 2005. A finalist in the 2002 Red Bull F1 Driver Search, Sellers also is a past World Karting Association national champion and won the 2002 Formula Ford Zetec championship. More ...

Glock 'losing confidence in F1'  “I don't want to talk about protests again,” Timo Glock insisted after the F1 race Sunday. “We've had that the whole bloody weekend and I'm losing a little bit of confidence in Formula 1, because this is not the way to go. I don't know why that happens every time. I am happy to finish fourth, but obviously it is really disappointing for Jarno.

“For us to be fighting at the front like that after we started from the pit-lane really shows the strong performance we have – this is proof that our car has real pace. It was a good race for me and I have to say thanks to the team for their hard work in achieving this. More ...

racing news
Quotes of the Week  
"If they come in here with a gun and hold it to my head, they had better be sure they can f---ing pull the trigger.  And they should make sure it's got bullets in it because, if they miss, they better look out." Bernie Ecclestone, President and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Association, commenting on the threatened boycott of the Australian Grand Prix by Flavio Briatore of Renault, and Ron Dennis of McLaren due to a dispute over unpaid income

"I think I was born under a lucky star to announce the sponsorship, and then an hour later to get a pole position and a second pole position.  It certainly was a dream come true.  We've had literally hundreds of proposals [from F1 teams].  The reason we liked this team was they were the underdog team, and Virgin likes to be the underdog in the battle.  We weren’t expecting them to be the underdog team quite so quickly."  Sir Richard Branson, commenting on naming Virgin as a major sponsor to the Brawn GP Formula 1 team just prior to Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello qualifying 1st and 2nd for the Australian Grand Prix

"What an amazing day!  This is just a fairytale ending to the first race of our career together at Brawn GP.  It may have looked like an easy victory but it really wasn't easy at all out there today but we brought the car home and that's all that matters. This win is for me, my family and my team.  It's been a traumatic few months and I want to say a massive thank you to them all for being so strong and never losing belief. This weekend we have achieved everything that we deserve for all of our hard work over the past few months.  And what's so exciting is that there is so much more to come from myself and from this team. I can't wait to get to Malaysia!" Jenson Button, Formula 1 driver, Brawn GP, winner of their maiden race at the season opener at the Australian Grand Prix More ...
Jerez: Stoner's Ducati fastest in qualifying session  The Jerez circuit today hosted the final pre-season test ahead of the 2009 MotoGP Championship, and the MotoGP teams made maximum use of the time available to make final adjustments. The day was effectively split into three parts: a dry morning, the 45-minute official ‘qualifying’ session which began at just after 2.05pm, and then a wet final afternoon session caused by a thunderstorm that hit the track in the dying moments of the televised shoot-out.

Casey Stoner was fastest in the qualifying session and won a car.

1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) – 1’38”646
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) – 1’39”365
3. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) – 1’39”757
4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) – 1’39”829
5. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) – 1’39”848
6. Mika Kallio (Ducati) – 1’40”149
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) – 1’40”168
8. Sete Gibernau (Ducati) – 1’40”228
9. Toni Elias (Honda) – 1’40”266
10. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) – 1’40”305
11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) – 1’40”401
12. Marco Melandri (Hayate) – 1’40”405
13. Randy De Puniet (Honda) – 1’40”646
14. Yuki Takahashi (Honda) – 1’40”814
15. Alex De Angelis (Honda) – 1’40”869
16. James Toseland (Yamaha) – 1’41”425
17. Vittoriano Guareschi (Ducati) – 1’41”485
18. Niccolò Canepa (Ducati) – 1’41”551
19. Kosuke Akiyoshi (Repsol Honda) – 1’42”058

Fry confirms 270 Brawn staff to lose jobs  (GMM) Brawn GP chief executive Nick Fry has confirmed reports the British team has decided to shed nearly 40 per cent of its workforce.

We reported last week that officials of the former Honda outfit had informed its 700 Brackley based staff by letter that 275 of them will be made redundant.

"It's very unfortunate that we've got to do that but it's the change of technical regulations and obviously we are now a private team," said Fry, on the day the rebranded team secured a one-two victory on debut in Australia.

Brawn also signed a significant sponsorship deal with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group in Melbourne, the British billionaire confirming the coup is worth "tens of millions" to the newly-independent team.

But the new annual budgets will still be much smaller than in the Honda era. "We are about 700 people at the moment and we talked to the staff about going down to about 430, something like that, which is where we were in 2004 (as BAR)," Fry said.
Race of Champions dumps Wembley  Race of Champions organizers have dropped Wembley Stadium as the venue for the end-of-season all-star event. Event boss Fredrik Johnsson told AUTOSPORT that a new venue would be announced in the coming weeks, and that Wembley had been dropped after two events due to a decline in attendance.

“It has been really good to work with Wembley, but we’ve got five different proposals for next year,” said Johnsson.

“Last year, we thought we would get a bigger crowd because the first year at Wembley was 50,000. But in the end we had only 48,000 despite the fact that we had a better starting line-up and a better campaign, so we decided that it was time to move.

“Looking at the five different options, there were many good ones and we hope to finalize a deal within the next few weeks.”

Toyota appeals Trulli podium demotion  (GMM)  Toyota has filed an appeal against FIA stewards' decision to strip Jarno Trulli of his podium finish in Sunday's Australian grand prix.

The officials had ruled that, after the Italian ran off the Melbourne track during the late safety car period, he then illegally re-passed Lewis Hamilton's McLaren.

A 25-second time penalty dropped Trulli from his third place to just twelfth.

"The team has filed an appeal within the proscribed time period," the Cologne based team announced in a statement.

A disappointed Trulli explained that he only overtook the reigning world champion because Hamilton "suddenly slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road".

"I thought he had a problem," the 34-year-old said, "so I overtook him as there was nothing else I could do."

Said team boss Tadashi Yamashina: "We have filed an appeal to give us more time to study the data and the situation."

Hamilton handed 3rd as Vettel fined and Trulli demoted  UPDATE (GMM)  Contrary to earlier news, it has emerged that Sebastian Vettel was indeed penalized for his Australian grand prix crash with Robert Kubica.

We reported that the German was actually handed his ten-grid penalty for the forthcoming Malaysian round, and a $50,000 fine, for failing to promptly pull his heavily damaged Red Bull to the side of the track.

In fact, the Sepang grid penalty was for his crash with BMW's Kubica with three laps to go, when stewards ruled that Vettel caused the incident.

"Should I have let him go?  You always want to fight.  Maybe I should have said let him go and bring third back home, but that's life," said Vettel, who had been fighting with Pole Kubica for second place.

The $50,000 fine, meanwhile, was levied because Red Bull officials instructed the 21-year-old by radio to continue to race his three-wheeled car rather than pull it to the side of the Melbourne layout.

03/29/09 (GMM)  Following a stewards' inquiry, Jarno Trulli has been stripped of his podium finish in the Australian grand prix.

The FIA officials ruled that the Toyota driver overtook Lewis Hamilton under the safety car, after losing third position to the world champion by running off the track.

Italian Trulli received a 25 second time penalty, dropping him out of the points.  McLaren's Hamilton was promoted to third, with Sebastien Bourdais joining the points-paying positions.

In another stewards' decision, Sebastian Vettel will be demoted ten places down the Malaysian grand prix grid in one week, and pay a $50,000 fine to the FIA.

The German was penalized not for his late collision with Robert Kubica, but for failing to pull his damaged Red Bull to the side of the track when requested.

Williams trusts FIA to handle car concerns  (GMM)  Sam Michael on Sunday left the matter of possible technical infringements in the hands of F1's governing body.

In the dead of Saturday night, and in the midst of a stewards' investigation, Williams dropped its protest against the Red Bull and Ferrari teams.

It is believed the protest - a rare action for the British team - related to Williams' concerns about the sidepod aerodynamics of the respective cars, and follows the case three teams are pressing against the so-nicknamed 'diffuser 3' gang.

The Grove based team said in a statement that it withdrew its protests "in the interests of the sport", which is clearly what they hope Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault will now do despite sending the diffuser case to the Court of Appeal.

Technical director Michael indicated he trusts the FIA to handle its concerns about the Red Bull and Ferrari cars.

"We will leave it now for the FIA and the TWG (technical working group) to decide what to do.  The FIA will deal with it," the Australian is quoted as saying by the AP news agency.

Brawn: It's been a wonderful weekend  

New sponsor Sir Richard Branson congratulates Ross Brawn on the team's maiden win in their very first race.  "There have been a lot of hopes and tears. It was a great race," Branson said.  "We're delighted we came one and two. We must have been born under a lucky star.  I won't say how much it costs us to get involved but it was money well spent."

"We have worked incredibly hard for this victory today and to see the dedication, commitment and sheer hard work come to fruition with Jenson and Rubens bringing home a one-two finish for Brawn GP at the first race of the season is immensely rewarding. After everything that our team has been through over the past four months, this is quite simply a sensational result. It is just the beginning for us and it wasn't a perfect race by any means so we will learn from today and continue to improve. We have to keep developing the car throughout the season if we want to challenge for further wins and the championship.

"I would like to express our sincere thanks to Norbert Haug and Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines who have been so supportive over the past few months and have worked closely with the team to ensure we were in a position to go racing this year. Thanks also to Virgin, Henri Lloyd and all our team partners for having the vision to see what the team could do before today and wanting to be a part of it. It's difficult to put into words what this win means to our team but I'm sure that I speak for every single one of them, here at the track and back at the factory in Brackley, when I say it has been a wonderful weekend." Ross Brawn

Webber points finger at Barrichello  Mark Webber says that F1 cars are not designed to survive "demolition derbies" and has blamed Rubens Barrichello for the lap one mayhem.

The start of the Australian GP saw a five-car accident involving Barrichello, Heikki Kovalainen, Nick Heidfeld, Adrian Sutil and the somewhat luckless Webber.

"It's one of the most frustrating and disappointing things that's happened to me," said Red Bull's Australian driver.

"All the people come to see you at your home track, you're hoping for a good race for them, and that happens on the first lap.

"These things (cars) don't do demolition derbies too well."

"I thought it was all okay until Rubens arrived but I haven't seen it, so it's hard to tell. The damage to the car was done from that point," he said.

"I lost virtually all downforce after that."

Stewart-Hass still looking for sponsorship for Newman  HOW'S THE SPONSORSHIP SEARCH COMING? Ryan Newman: "I'd say just like many people out there. The door is always open. People at Stewart-Haas Racing are working on other sponsors let's say for primary as well as associates. The U.S. Army is committed to their amount of races, I think it's 23. They've been great to work with. We have Haas Automation on the car as well but we're currently looking and working on other things as well." Chevy PR
Vettel apologizes to team  
Sebastian Vettel
Red Bull Racing F1 Team driver Sebastian Vettel has apologized to his team and BMW Sauber F1 Team driver Robert Kubica for the accident three laps before the end of the race. Vettel, running in second position, didn't want to let Kubica get passed and the two had a collision which ended both drivers race.

Sebastian Vettel said: "We were in second and a strong position, but then, a couple of laps from the end, I had a stupid racing accident with Robert Kubica. At the time I turned in I was ahead, but I couldn't keep up speed in the corner and Robert was on a harder tire, so was much quicker. At the time we collided he was in front, but I had no where to go, I couldn't stop the car, or turn to the right and my tires were gone. It's a shame as it meant the end of the race for both of us. Should I have let him go? You always want to fight. Maybe I should have said let him go and bring third back home, but that's life. I tried to defend and, up to the mid-corner, I had reason, but then I had no grip to avoid a collision. I'm sorry to the team and also to Robert, as it didn't just mean the end of my race, but also his."

Massa: The title is Brawn's to lose  UPDATE (GMM)  Brawn's Melbourne form could see the team on a fast track to the 2009 championship, according to 2008 runner-up Felipe Massa.

Before recording a predicted one-two finish at Albert Park on Sunday, the Mercedes-powered cars also qualified first and second -- laden with more starting fuel than the Ferraris further down the grid.

Felipe Massa
"If they carry on like that they will win the championship in the middle of the year," Brazilian Massa said in Melbourne.

His countryman Rubens Barrichello, second in Melbourne behind Brawn teammate Jenson Button, had an eventful race and revealed that the component that has been the talk of the paddock this weekend was not even working.

He said in a first-corner hit from a McLaren, his famous 'double-decker' diffuser - whose legality is subject to an appeal hearing next month - was damaged.

"If people think our car is only good because of the diffuser, that big hit broke the diffuser completely, so the car was strong," said Barrichello in the press conference.

03/28/09 Felipe Massa has warned that Brawn GP will win the Championship by the halfway stage of the season unless F1 finds a way of slowing them down - or belatedly catching up.

The team's two drivers, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, blew the rest of the field away in Saturday's Australian GP qualifying, half a second ahead of their nearest rival.

"Yes," Massa told Autosport when asked if Brawn GP were in a league of their own. "If they carry on like that, they'll win the Championship in the middle of the year."

"We always expected a little bit better, but not a lot," he said. "We expected a tight qualifying. This morning I thought top five would have been possible, but very difficult. But it was not possible.

"Anyway, if you see the difference between the third and myself is quite small, so it means we need to see the fuel levels. More ...

Tire strategy was crucial says Bridgestone  Bridgestone Potenza slick tires made their grand prix return in the Australian Grand Prix where Jenson Button made the perfect debut for the Brawn GP team by using a medium-medium-super soft tire strategy to win the first race of the season run to Formula One’s exciting new regulations.

Button took his race win leading team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Panasonic Toyota Racing driver Jarno Trulli across the line, however Trulli was later penalized for passing whilst behind the safety car, and fourth across the line Lewis Hamilton (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) was awarded third. Barrichello used the same strategy as Button, whilst Hamilton started on the super soft tire and twice changed to the medium. The latest specification cars and Bridgestone’s slick tires meant an exciting and challenging 58 laps in Albert Park with the different performance of Bridgestone’s two compounds one of the talking points of the event. More ...
McLaren acclaims test driver de la Rosa  (GMM)  McLaren on Sunday reiterated its commitment to main test driver Pedro de la Rosa, as the veteran Spaniard marked ten years since his debut for Arrows in 1999.

Team reserve driver de la Rosa, now 38, has suggested he might quit the sport at the end of 2009 due to the ever-tightening restrictions on testing.

McLaren company CEO Ron Dennis, however, recently insisted that he is still a valued member of the team, and the Woking camp took their praise to a new level in Melbourne by issuing a statement heralding the driver's career.

"Thanks Pedro, we need you even more with the greater restrictions on testing and I feel privileged to work with you," Mercedes' Norbert Haug said in the statement, also featuring comments by Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen and team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

Whitmarsh said: "He is not only the best test driver in the business, he is also a fantastic bloke and an essential and much-loved part of our team."

Trulli's podium finish in doubt  (GMM)  Jarno Trulli may lose his podium finish in the Australian grand prix.

An incident also involving Lewis Hamilton, who finished behind the Toyota driver in fourth place, is currently being investigated by the stewards at Albert Park.

At one point during the final safety car period on Sunday, world champion Hamilton's McLaren was ahead of the Italian, reportedly because Trulli ran off the circuit.

McLaren is now hoping Trulli will be handed a 25-second time penalty, because he re-passed Hamilton following his off, which is not allowed behind the safety car.

If the stewards agree, Trulli would drop out of the points, while Hamilton is promoted to third position in the official classification.

"Lewis had to go past him (Trulli) because he went onto the grass, he was not on the circuit," McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said.

"Trulli then took back the place under the safety car, which ordinarily you wouldn't do.  The FIA are looking at it and we'll doubtless have a ruling in due course," he added.

Trulli told the world's media after the race that, after having to climb through the field from his pitlane start, Toyota proved it has built a "fantastic car" for this season.

Yamaha team 1-2 on Day 1 at Jerez  The MotoGP contenders were at the Jerez circuit today to begin the final pre-season test of 2009. In the morning, the teams were greeted by leaden skies and a wet track as heavy rain fell on the famous venue in southern Spain.

The test will continue tomorrow, punctuated at 2.05pm by the now-traditional 45-minute televised session where the riders go all out to set the fastest time - the best lap being rewarded by a BMW sports car.

1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) – 1’39”791 (99 laps)
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) – 1’39”861 (65)
3. Casey Stoner (Ducati) – 1’39”906 (49)
4. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) – 1’40”572 (70)
5. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) – 1’40”579 (57)
6. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) – 1’40”650 (64)
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) – 1’40”821 (74 laps)
8. Alex De Angelis (Honda) – 1’40”900 (75)
9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) – 1’40”987 (89) More ...

Brawn cars definitely not running light  UPDATE The FIA have revealed that the two Brawns of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello qualified for the Australian GP with the heaviest weight of any car in the final third of qualifying on Saturday.  The results from Melbourne confirm that neither Brawn was running light to take their positions at the front of the grid, while Timo Glock - since excluded along with Jarno Trulli - out-qualified his Toyota teammate despite being ten kilograms heavier. Likewise Buemi out-qualified his Toro Rosso teammate Bourdais despite being a massive 12kg heavier.

The weighting also suggests that Seb Vettel's Red Bull was more than a match for the BMW of Robert Kubica, as well as the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.

Nelson Piquet 694.1kg
Nick Heidfeld 691.5kg
Heikki Kovalainen 690.6kg
Giancarlo Fisichella 689.0kg
Adrian Sutil 684.5kg
Fernando Alonso 680.7kg
Sebastien Buemi 675.5kg
Timo Glock 670.0kg
Rubens Barrichello 666.5kg
Jenson Button 664.5kg
Sebastien Bourdais 662.5kg
Mark Webber 662.0kg
Jarno Trulli 660.0kg
Sebastian Vettel 657.0kg
Nico Rosberg 657.0kg
Kimi Raikkonen 655.5kg
Lewis Hamilton 655.0kg
Felipe Massa 654.0kg
Robert Kubica 650.0kg
Kazuki Nakajima 612.5kg
track news
Indy puts one of its icons out to pasture  Bill York, who has worked in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway press room since 1958, is no longer with the Brickyard. IMS spokesman Ron Green confirmed that York and the Speedway parted ways, but would give no further details.  “I was asked to come in Monday to talk about staffing, and they asked me to retire,” York said. “So, I guess I’m retired. I guess maybe it had something to do with the economy.”

York, who turns 76 next month, has worked in a variety of media relations capacities at the Speedway from serving food to reporters and photographers, gathering statistics on crashes and other on-track events for the local and national press corps to managing the press room on the fabled track’s infield. York also was instrumental in getting Stark & Wetzel to sponsor the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award.

York for years has been known as one of the Speedway’s best goodwill ambassadors.

York said he leaves the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with no regrets, but some sadness.

“I will miss the start of the Indianapolis 500,” York said. “I have thought and still think that moment is the most exciting in sports anywhere in the world. Naturally, I’ll miss being at the track, the cars and being in the middle of all of that. But mostly, I’ll miss the people that make this great sport what it is.”

Lauda sits out Melbourne after operation  
Niki Lauda
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has been forced to sit out the Australian grand prix.

The triple world champion, who attends every round of the world championship as a pundit for German television, reportedly damaged his hip on a recent walk with his dogs.

Austrian Lauda, 60, instead remains in Vienna, where he had a minor operation.

"No-one should be concerned," he told the German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

"In two or three days everything will be healed."

The injury, however, has not dimmed Lauda's notoriously blunt style, as he showed in his regular column for the Swiss newspaper Blick.

When discussing KERS, the expensive new technology used by some cars and not others, he wrote: "I hope we do not have to bother the fans for the whole year with this theatre."

Bild suggests Lauda will be back in action next weekend in Malaysia.

Bridgestone noticing different patterns in Melbourne  "We have seen many different tire wear characteristics, even from the same cars" explained Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima, Director of Motorsport Tire Development. "This highlights the many different setups being tried. The performance life of the super soft was improved today, although it was mainly used with low fuel so we would expect better performances in any case - the medium continues to look like a strong race tire."

Both compounds must be used at least once by all drivers during the race, which will surely result in an incredible differential in lap times as the Grand Prix progresses. Anybody seen starting the race with the super soft tires (identified with a green stripe) is likely to be on a short first stint, as these tires handle better with less fuel onboard.

Rain forces postponement of truck race  The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 was postponed until noon Monday because of rain Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway.  The forecast for Sunday for the Sprint Cup race and Monday for the Truck race is much better than today.  The Truck race Monday will be televised live on Speed.
Duncan Tappy to drive for Genoa at St. Pete  Genoa is proud to announce Duncan Tappy will drive Genoa’s #63 Firestone® Indy Lights™ car at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.  Winning nearly 25% of the races he enters, Duncan is considered by many to be one of the top young drivers in the world today.

Hailing from West Ewell, Surrey, UK, Duncan’s first full season in car racing produced a remarkable thirteen consecutive race wins in Formula Ford. Not only did he take the championship, he dominated the prestigious Formula Ford Festival where he faced stiff competition.  The following season Duncan chose Formula Renault UK to make his mark. He spent his first season with his old Formula Ford team – Jamun Racing – learning the car and the engineering aspects that make it such a competitive series.  He received the prestigious British Racing Drivers Club “Rising Star” Award for his efforts.

2007 saw a move to Fortec Motorsport where Duncan wasted no time in making an impression. Duncan contended for the Championship.  2008 saw Duncan competing in the Superleague Formula producing three podiums in five events. More ...

Rear wing situation understandable, says Howett  The Toyota team is positive that the rear wing issue which saw its two cars relegated to the back of the grid in Melbourne, is resolved.

The TF109s of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli lost their individual sixth and eighth places on the grid, which quickly became 19th and 20th.The rear wing of no car can contain individual moving parts according to regulations, although the FIA's regular inspections of the Toyotas after qualifying revealed that their rear wings contain flexible elements, which is disallowed.

John Howett
The Toyota F1 President, John Howett, understands the problem but cannot solve it without an exception of the rules taking place: "From our point of view it is very simple," Howett commented. "We do, however, need the FIA's agreement to be able to release the cars from Parc Fermé and change them."

All cars top ten-qualified cars, under normal circumstances, remain in the secure area over Saturday night as rules state that drivers must start the race with the setup with which they qualified.

Howett is annoyed but believes the punishment fits the crime: "I'm a bit disappointed, but in the end we are at the premier level of world motorsport. Competitors have the right to protest and we expect the regulator to enforce the rules." He also added that the cars could be starting from the pit lane, in order to add fuel and modify strategies at the end of the formation lap. "We are checking whether we can but I understand the stewards have other issues too, so it's a bit difficult to get exact information."
First Saturday practice postponed by rain  The first of two Sprint Cup practices scheduled for Saturday at Martinsville Speedway has been canceled because of rain. NASCAR hopes to conduct its final scheduled practice from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. EDT Saturday. A heavy mist fell on the Speedway during Camping World Truck Series qualifying. NASCAR was able to get that qualifying done, but the Cup practice scheduled to start after qualifying was delayed.

The Truck race is still scheduled to start after 2 p.m.

The National Weather Service Web site indicates a 70 percent chance of rain today and a high of 57 degrees. The forecast for Sunday is partly sunny with a high of 64 degrees.

Williams protest Ferrari and Red Bull cars  UPDATE The AT&T Williams team confirmed that following today’s qualifying session, it submitted protests against two competitor teams under the 2009 Technical Regulations.  After further detailed consideration,
Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari
Williams has withdrawn both protests in the interests of the sport.  Williams recognizes the possibility that in this area there could be more than one interpretation of the rules and therefore does not feel it appropriate to continue with the protests.  Williams PR

03/28/09 Details are emerging from Albert Park this evening that Williams have lodged a protest to the race stewards questioning the legality of winglets on the Ferrari and Red Bull cars. With the 2009 regulations banning winglets on most areas of the car, it's understood that Williams protest relates to the winglets on the front wing of the cars.
Team unity tested as F1 rows rage  (GMM)  The FOTA alliance insists unity remains, but formula one teams were locked in disputes as the paddock disbanded after midnight on Saturday.

Melbourne qualifying over, stewards - who had already sent Toyota to the back of the grid for using "extremely flexible" rear wings - were poring over the legality of a bodywork detail on the Ferrari and Red Bull cars, following a protest by Williams.

The Oxfordshire based team is one of the 'diffuser 3' gang, accused by Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault and BMW of using aerodynamic treatments that contravene the spirit of the rules.

Williams ultimately dropped its protest very late on Saturday night, but the feeling was strong that it is all part of a growing sense of competitive animosity.

"Williams recognizes the possibility that in this area there could be more than one interpretation of the rules and therefore does not feel it appropriate to continue with the protests," the Grove team said in a statement issued in the dead of the Australian night.

Another rumor on Saturday night was that McLaren is set to join those teams who are stridently pushing for the outlawing of the Williams, Toyota and Brawn diffusers.

According to the whisper, the Mercedes-powered team has told the FIA it intends to give backing to the plaintiffs at the Court of Appeal's April 14 hearing.

It seems the dissenting teams intend to argue that while the diffuser concept slips through a rule loophole, it strikes at the heart of the intention of the aerodynamic regulations.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore on Saturday likened FIA delegate Charlie Whiting's pre-season approval of the diffusers, paving the way for the Melbourne stewards' agreement, to "one policeman surrounded by lots of bandits".

It is believed part of their Court of Appeal argument will be based on safety, given the faster lap times in Melbourne this year compared with one year ago, and also that the 'double-decker diffusers' create more air wake, contrary to the intention to make overtaking easier.

Jury out on F1 overtaking boost  (GMM)  The jury is out as to whether overtaking will be in more abundant supply in 2009.

Sweeping new regulations, affecting the bodywork, tires and the introduction of power-boost KERS systems, are designed to make it easier for following cars to pass their rivals.

"I was behind some cars yesterday and I flew by them, something I have never experienced before in my F1 career," Nico Rosberg told the Age newspaper on Saturday.

"If it happens at Albert Park, it'll certainly happen at other tracks," the German said in Melbourne.

Front row sitter Rubens Barrichello believes Australia could be a fascinating race of overtaking, given that some cars are fitted with KERS systems, but most are not.

"Plus, the wings help.  They don't fix the problem but (also) the moveable wings help, so that could help overtaking too," the Brawn driver said.

Sebastian Vettel points out that, even with the new measures, formula one is not going to resemble MotoGP or NASCAR in terms of those series' abundance of overtaking moves.

"I think it still remains difficult," the German said.  "It's already difficult to pass another car in formula 3 because of the downforce.  Well, in formula one I think the cars have a bit more downforce than that.

"In testing, it wasn't the case that you follow another car and if you're faster you just pass.  You still feel that you lose grip all around.

"How tough (will overtaking be)?  That needs to be answered in the next races," Vettel added.

Virgin money gives Brawn future - Barrichello  (GMM) Prior to the signing of Virgin as a major sponsor, Brawn might have been facing "a problem" later in 2009, Rubens Barrichello revealed in Australia on Saturday.

The former Honda team continued to stun the formula one world with its pace by locking out the front row of the Melbourne grid, with Barrichello's teammate Jenson Button on pole position.

But speed aside, the most significant news of the day was the presence of Sir Richard Branson in the paddock, having signed off a deal to plaster his brand's logos on the BGP001.

"It means we have the attitude in the team to carry on, because that could have been a problem during the year," the 36-year-old told reporters in Melbourne.

Barrichello insists that with even more money, the Brackley based camp will be able to compete with its bigger rivals later this season.

"I think this car will be very, very good for the first four races but we definitely need to have things coming through to keep on going," he added.
KERS clan find no advantage so far  (GMM) According to some cynics in the Melbourne paddock, Saturday's qualifying result proved that KERS is set to fade even before it becomes fashionable in formula one.

Only seven of the twenty cars are tackling the 2009 season opener with the newly allowed braking energy re-use technology, following concerns the weight implications could prevail over the power boost.

Indeed, the highest KERS runner is Ferrari's Felipe Massa in seventh.

Nick Heidfeld, meanwhile - using KERS (and a heavy fuel load) - qualified seven places behind his non-KERS BMW teammate Robert Kubica, while the McLarens and Renaults languished in the bottom half of the grid.

The KERS clan might be looking forward to making up places on the race start, but it is suspected that any real benefit will have to wait for circuits with longer straights.

"Maybe when we get to a circuit like Malaysia we will see that they have a little bit more of an advantage than the cars not running KERS," said pole sitter Jenson Button, "but we obviously have to wait and see."
Toyota team caught cheating  UPDATE (GMM)  Stewards have sent both Toyotas to the back of the Australian grand prix grid.

The cars driven by Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli, who qualified sixth and eighth respectively on Saturday, were subsequently found to be running rear wings at Albert Park that were too flexible.

It is also believed that Williams is protesting against allegedly flexible wings on the Red Bull and Ferrari cars.

The Toyota demotion means world champion Lewis Hamilton will start the race from eighteenth on the grid, rather than last.

The McLaren-driving world champion qualified fifteenth, but was to move down five further places due to an unscheduled gearbox change.

03/28/09 The FIA stewards in Australia have excluded the Toyota team from the qualifying session of the event after the cars were found to have an upper rear wing element which showed "extreme flexibility" in contravention of Article 3.15 of the Technical Regulations.

This will mean that the two Toyotas will drop to the back of the grid.

There is still a protest going on in Albert Park between Williams F1 and the Ferrari and Red Bull teams. We believe this relates to the aerodynamics of the sidepods.

Johnson, Busch worry about Castroneves trial  Jimmie Johnson says it's business as usual with his agent, Alan Miller, even as Miller stands trial as a co-defendant with Helio Castroneves on federal tax evasion charges.

"I've been in touch with Alan and asked him how things are going," Johnson said here Friday while the Castroneves trial continued in Miami. "He's given me some overviews that he feels very good about how things are going, and [he's] just waiting for everything to come together. His general impression has been positive about how things are going."

Meanwhile, Johnson and Miller have "still been working as we typically do, working on projects," Johnson said. For instance, "there's a motor home I'm getting ready to buy, and all the purchase agreements and all that stuff.

"So our relationship is still maintained and stays the same," Johnson said. "He's been gone a couple of days a week and working, really, around the clock continuing to give his clients the level of service they need."

Kyle Busch dropped Miller as his agent in 2007, saying Miller's shopping him to other teams contributed to his being squeezed out at Hendrick Motorsports to make room for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

But, "I like Alan Miller as a person," Busch said Friday. "He was a great guy to meet. His kid was always fun. His wife was great. So it's unfortunate he's in a little bit of a bind now.

"But I wish him the best and hope he pulls out of it," Busch said.

Busch added, though, that "I am fortunate that I changed representation [he's now with agent Jeff Dickerson of Motorsports Management Inc.]. It had nothing to do with Alan as a person. It was just his business ethic that I wasn't quite up on." ESPN

Montoya tries to apologize to McMurray  Juan Pablo Montoya attempted to apologize Friday morning to Roush Fenway Racing’s Jamie McMurray about an incident last week, but McMurray apparently wasn’t interested in what he had to say. Montoya, who got into the back of McMurray last Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, approached McMurry on Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway, and things apparently got a little heated, according to witnesses in the garage.

“I wanted to clarify what happened last weekend because I didn’t want to have any trouble with anybody, but he didn’t want to listen, and at this point it doesn’t really matter,” Montoya said. “He didn’t act the way I thought he should have, and I’m above that.” “I’m not really sure what he was trying to say,” McMurray said. “It’s not that I’m not interested in talking to him, it’s just that I don’t know what there is to talk about.”

Hacking's Suspension Lifted  Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki's Jamie Hacking will be allowed to race at Road Atlanta next weekend after his suspension was lifted, a fine was paid, and an apology made at a meeting with AMA Pro Racing officials in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Hacking was suspended indefinitely and fined $4000 for "conduct detrimental to the sport of professional motorcycle racing" for his behavior at and following Sunday's post-race Daytona SportBike press conference at Auto Club Speedway. Runner-up Hacking and third place finisher Jason DiSalvo engaged in minor spat during the press conference. But it was Hacking's profanity as he was leaving the press room that the AMA most objected to. In a press release issued Sunday evening, just after they suspended him, the AMA said "Hacking displayed additional acts of inappropriate behavior in both public and media interviews." More ...

Pagenaud has joined Team Peugeot will drive at Spa  
Simon Pagenaud
Having contested the ALMS with Acura since 2008, Poitiers-born Simon Pagenaud has joined Peugeot Sport's official line-up. His test program will begin in the coming weeks with a view to him replacing Sébastien Bourdais alongside Montagny and Sarrazin for the 1,000km of Spa-Francorchamps (May 8-10). The same weekend, Bourdais will be taking part in the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship at Barcelona in Spain.

The Belgian round of the Le Mans Series will permit Peugeot Sport to perform a final, full-scale dress rehearsal prior to the Le Mans 24 Hours. The team's three-car entry will feature a line-up of nine drivers which Simon Pagenaud will join in readiness for his role as Peugeot Sport's reserve driver for the French endurance classic in June. More ...

Ferrari not happy with results  The two Ferrari F60 will start the Australian Grand Prix from seventh and ninth places, for Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen respectively. The two Ferrari men did a total of 21 laps divided as follows: 8 in Q1, 6 in Q2 and 7 in Q3.

"We cannot be happy with this result," commented Stefano Domenicali. "We knew that, apart from one team that today seems to be out of reach of the rest, in terms of pure performance, there were various teams that could aspire to being near the front of the grid. Today, we had confirmation of what was said in the winter, that the performance difference between a large group of cars is minimal and the slightest drop off and you will finish down the order. That's what happened today, particularly in Q3, where we did not live up to our potential. We have to work out why that happened and at the same time, prepare as well as possible for a race that is bound to be very difficult and uncertain."

Hamilton learning F1 'not easy' - Mansell  (GMM)  Nigel Mansell on Saturday welcomed Lewis Hamilton, F1's youngest ever world champion, to the world of struggling at the pinnacle of motor sport.

Following his opening two seasons at the sharp end, 24-year-old Briton Hamilton is facing 2009 in the pack as McLaren works to improve its currently uncompetitive MP4-24.

In Australia, for Hamilton's first taste of being off the pace, he has struggled to match the pace of his teammate Heikki Kovalainen, and on Friday night sat out the Melbourne grand prix ball, despite his new status as world champion.

"I think what Lewis didn't realize when he joined formula one is that he had walked into the best team with the best car," Mansell, the 1992 world champion and a regular critic of Hamilton, told Talksport radio.

"It shouldn't be as easy as what he made it look.  Now he's finding that if you haven't got the car quite right, then you can be off the pace.

"However, McLaren won't just lie down without a fight and with Mercedes behind them they will keep on going," Mansell added. More ...

Head cautious after Williams clean-sweep  (GMM)  Nico Rosberg on Saturday completed a clean-sweep of heading the practice timesheets at Albert Park, but Williams' Patrick Head remains cautious as Melbourne braces for the decisive qualifying session.

German Rosberg, 23, was three thousandths quicker than Toyota's Jarno Trulli in third and final practice in Australia, having also headed Friday's two 90 minute sessions.

"No complaints," engineering boss Head said, "it's better to be at the sharp end than the blunt end, but it's going to be very tight in qualifying.

"Very tight," he emphasized, with the other FW31 driven by Kazuki Nakajima fifth.

Like Toyota, the other 'clever diffuser' team Brawn has also been consistently quick this weekend, and early on Saturday Jenson Button was also close to the pace.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was also up there, although teammate Kimi Raikkonen brought up the rear following an hydraulic failure. More ...

tv news
Schrader, Kurt Busch and Varsha guests on Wind Tunnel  Ken Schrader, SPEED NASCAR Analyst, will join Dave Despain as the guest co-host on Wind Tunnel on Sunday night, March 29, to talk about this year’s NASCAR season.  Kurt Busch, 2004 Sprint CUP Champion, will be one of the featured guests on Wind Tunnel.  In his fourth season at Penske Racing, Kurt has begun the year with 4 top 11 finishes including a win in Atlanta.  SPEED’s Formula 1 host, Bob Varsha, will also be a featured guest on Wind Tunnel.  Bob will break down the Formula 1 season opener in Australia where the teams will debut their new radically designed cars.  Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain airs at 9:00 pm-10:00 pm ET on SPEED.
tv news
VERSUS pre-season IndyCar programming  UPDATE #5 A reminder that the IndyCar Series pre-season specials on VERSUS will continue on Saturday, March 28 at 2:00 pm-3:00 pm ET.  The feature "IndyCar Series World Tour 200" will not only feature highlights from each racetrack on the IndyCar Series schedule, but also showcase highlights from the first street course race in the series history in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2005, and top photo finishes from the site of the 2009 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

03/21/09 A reminder that the IndyCar Series pre-season specials on VERSUS will continue on Saturday, March 21.  The feature "IndyCar Series: Crashes and Conflicts" will be shown at 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm ET on VERSUS.

03/13/09 VERSUS' IndyCar Series pre-season broadcasts continue on Saturday, March 14 (2:00 pm - 3:00 pm ET) with "IndyCar Series: Top 10 Closest Finishes."

Every Saturday in March, the network will air original IndyCar Series programming as it gears up for its inaugural season of IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights coverage. At 2 p.m. March 21, the focus is "IndyCar Series: Crashes and Conflicts." On March 28, "IndyCar Series: World Tour 2009" will feature a look at the quickly approaching season. More ...

FIA sets diffuser appeal date  (GMM)  F1's governing body has referred the diffuser saga to the FIA Court of Appeal.

The news follows the stewards' decision in Australia to clear the controversial rear designs of the Brawn, Toyota and Williams cars.

Red Bull, Renault and Ferrari had protested the call, and now requested their national sporting authorities officially lodge FIA appeals on their behalf.

"A hearing will be held in Paris on 14 April 2009 at 10am," a statement issued by the FIA read.

The date falls after the Australian and Malaysian grands prix double-header, and on the Tuesday before the following round in China.

Branson confirms Brawn deal in Aus  
Sir Richard Branson
(GMM)  Shortly before Saturday morning practice, Sir Richard Branson announced the Virgin brand's "substantial sponsorship" of the Brawn team.

The flamboyant British billionaire had cut short a skiing holiday to fly to Melbourne for the announcement.

He admitted that the BGP001 car's blank livery is to be mainly unchanged at Albert Park, but said the single seater is "unlikely to stay white" once the cars can be branded to reflect his investment.

There will be some Virgin branding on the car for qualifying and the race, however.

"We did this deal four hours before I got on a flight to come here, so unfortunately I was unable to get enough paint on-board," he joked to reporters at the circuit after the announcement.

Branson said the deal had cost Virgin less than it would have prior to the global recession.

He also told reporters he hopes formula one will begin using fully clean fuels within 12 months. More ...

Crane Cams shuts down, workers laid off  UPDATE #3 LiquiTec Industries, Inc. has been engaged to liquidate the assets of Crane Cams, Inc., one of the world's largest independent manufacturers of camshafts, valve train components and electrical ignition systems for the performance industry. Established in 1953, Crane Cams® is a brand name recognized for high quality, precision products that are race-proven to withstand the rigors of competition. Product applications include automotive, motorcycle, marine, aircraft and other specialty markets.

The sale includes all machinery; all raw materials, work-in-process and finished goods including over $2 million of high performance and racing application engine components including camshafts, rocker arms, lifters and other parts for most GM, Ford and Mopar engines; 16 patents and three patents.

LiquiTec is accepting bids now for inventory, trademarks and patents. An auction sale of all remaining inventory and machinery will take place on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at the company's former headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida. The sale will also be broadcast over the internet via BidSpotter.com. For more information or to register to attend the sale, contact LiquiTec at (800) 852-9252.

03/12/09 Well-known cam shafts company Crane Cams shut down Feb. 24 for restructuring but says it plans to reopen, likely sometime in March. All of the company’s 280 workers were laid off, though about 25 remain to work on military contracts. The closure was in response to the global economic problems, said vice president Steve Leva. He said the Daytona Beach, Fla., company planned to reopen in as soon as a week, or it may take up to 30 days.

02/28/09 We found out from a source inside one of the big builders here in Indy, "Speedway Engines", that ALL cam manufacturers are going to be in a pinch because Crane builds 90% of all of the cores that they use. He said that there is about a 1/2 million cores in lock up until they get the bankruptcy settled.

02/25/09 Crane Cams, a 56-year-old auto parts manufacturer, closed its doors this week and laid off its employees, a worker said today.

The news took Volusia County’s top economic development officer by surprise. City, county and state officials were working with Crane Cams and officials from its New Jersey parent, Mikronite Technologies, to keep the company open and in the community.

“We were trying to help them through this transition,” said Rick Michael, Volusia County economic development director. “They were considering a transfer of ownership. We were not expecting any closure.”

An automated voice mail system at Crane’s plant on Fentress Boulevard announced at midday today the company was closed and suggested calling back during business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A call to Mikronite’s New Jersey offices produced similar results. Six cars sat in the parking lot early this afternoon at the local plant, which employed 220 just three years ago.

Q&A with Lewis Hamilton  Lewis Hamilton fields questions from journalists about McLaren’s poor form as he gears up for what will be a difficult weekend in Melbourne.

Q. Lewis, how was your first day?

Lewis HAMILTON: My day has not been too bad. It is great to be back. Obviously we are not as quick as we would love to be but we are working very hard and we got though quite a good program and made some decent steps for us at least. Don’t really know what everyone else is doing on the track but I am happy with what we have done today.

Q. Lewis, we heard you say that the car was bottoming all the time and was really very difficult to drive.

LH: Yeah, it is a very bumpy track, so I think at the time we were just a bit too low. That’s what happens when you are on heavier fuel, so we will make some changes to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.

Q. You were very quick on the straight as well, fastest by about two or three kpm. Does that suggest you are not running a lot of downforce?

LH: No, it just means we have got a good Mercedes Benz engine. More ...

Bristol TV ratings plummet  UPDATE Fox’s broadcast of last Sunday’s Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway earned a final Nielsen Media Research rating of 4.5 and a 10 market share.  The rating is 18.2 percent lower than the 5.5 Fox earned for the race last year.  ABC’s broadcast of last Saturday’s Scotts Turf Builder 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Bristol earned a 1.7 final rating, down 15 percent from the 2.0 the race earned last year.

03/23/09 Fox’s broadcast of Sunday’s Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race earned a 4.1 overnight rating and a 10 market share from Nielsen Media Research.  The rating is 18 percent lower than the 5.0 Fox earned for the race in 2008.
Australian GP: Record small crowd  F1's season-opening Melbourne Grand Prix will begin at 5:00pm local time, a move "aimed at generating bigger ticket sales and a larger international television audience" as the event faces the possibility of its lowest-ever four-day attendance. Thursday's preliminary action drew a crowd of 42,300 fans, the "smallest so far," and officials "took the unprecedented step" of withholding Friday's attendance numbers until 8:00am Saturday. Melbourne Herald Sun
Rain washes out Cup qualifying, Gordon on pole  Rain has washed out Cup qualifying at Martinsville and Jeff Gordon is smiling. The points leader will start on the pole, but more importantly gets his pick of pit stall.

The rain out marks the second straight Sprint Cup qualifying session lost to rain at Martinsville. Mother Nature wiped out last October's time trials which gave then point leader Jimmie Johnson the number one starting spot. He went on to win the race.

The seven-time Martinsville winner will lead the field to the green flag Sunday flanked by Kurt Busch.

Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards round out the top five in Sunday's grid.

Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, defending race winner Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth complete the top ten starters.

Lineup Based on Points More ...

ALMS opens up races to GT3 cars  In an effort to promote the brightest and best of a new generation of sports car drivers, the American Le Mans Series announced today that it will open its grid for five races in 2009 to the crème de la crème of GT3 and Challenge level drivers. 

The first race of the “Challenge Class” for which GT3 Challenge Cup drivers will be eligible to compete will be the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City.  Those eligible will include professional drivers and those from the ranks that don’t earn their living racing but who qualify because of their race-level experience. There will be no “Challenge Class” at Petit Le Mans or the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

“When the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) launched the GT3 Cup Series a few years ago, one of the primary goals was to develop future American Le Mans Series talent, and with this announcement today we take a big step forward in fulfillment of that goal,” said Series’ President and CEO Scott Atherton.  “We believe this is a bold and innovative way to encourage the next generation of entrants for the classes that are eligible for Le Mans as well as for the teams involved in our development series. The addition of these teams and drivers will add new intrigue for the fans as well as the television audience as great new storylines emerge.  It’s a win-win for all involved.” More ...

Mansell: Teams got caught with pants down  Nigel Mansell told Talksport the top3 F1 teams only have themselves to blame.

"The biggest problem they [Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault] have is that they didn't think about it," he said.

"Williams have done a stunning job, obviously as have Brawn GP and a few other teams. The others have been caught with their pants down and they don't like it.

"It's all credit to the officials for saying that those cars are within the regulations and they cannot see anything wrong with them.

"But if one of those cars wins and the appeals are upheld then they will lose the race and that will be a terrible start for what should be a fantastic year ahead."

IRS: Helio owes $2.3M  The IRS says Brazilian race car driver and "Dancing With The Stars" winner Helio Castroneves owes $2.3 million in taxes.

That testimony came Friday from IRS agent Joann Levitt in Miami federal court. Levitt says the total comes from unreported income and improper deductions from 1999 to 2004.

Castroneves, his business manager-sister and a Michigan lawyer are charged with tax evasion and conspiracy. Levitt is the final prosecution witness after nearly four weeks of testimony. Next it will be up to the defense to put on a case for the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and his co-defendants.

The defendants deny wrongdoing. Castroneves has said he relied on professionals to handle his finances.

Sprint remains committed series sponsor  Despite huge losses since sponsoring the Cup series in NASCAR, Sprint remains committed to sponsoring NASCAR's premier series through the duration of its contract that runs through 2013 despite tough economic conditions, director of Sprint entertainment and marketing Steve Gaffney said Wednesday. "Committed more than ever," Gaffney said. "This sport and what we get from this sport in terms of real business, subscribers and existing subscribers is demonstratively good for our business. "You mention the economic downturn, we need to focus more on areas where we think we're winning business. And this sponsorship is winning business (It is?  They lost millions of customers since day of being involved with NASCAR)," Gaffney said. Sprint, at the time Nextel when the deal was signed, reportedly committed $700 million over 10 years to the series. ESPN.com
USGPE factory revealed!  The USGPE F1 team is to open a design office in Charlotte, NC shortly. This will be located on WT Harris Boulevard, in Mecklenberg County, to the north-east of the city. The plan is for the facility to serve the team for the next three years, in preparation for a purpose-built factory in the same region. Grandprix.com
The quickest, cleanest Sebring on record  The race to tomorrow is faster than ever. Both Audi Sport Team Joest and Corvette Racing raced the farthest, the fastest and the most efficient at the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday. Not only did the two cars win their class championships in America’s greatest sports car race, they also claimed the first MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge trophies of 2009.

The awards - based on overall performance, greenhouse gasses emitted and amount of petroleum displaced - go to the most efficient prototype team and GT team at each American Le Mans Series race.

The brand new Audi R15 TDI of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish completed a race-record 383 laps, the most completed at Sebring International Raceway under the current 3.7-mile, 17-turn track configuration. Using diesel power, the Audi also achieved the all-time distance record (1,417.1 miles) and posted the highest average speed in the history of the 12 Hours at 117.986 mph). More ...

China Set To Become Top Automaker  China, which last year surpassed the United States to become the second largest auto-making country, is poised this year to topple Japan as the world's top car producer, a market research firm said Thursday.

Chine is expected to build 8.7 million autos this year, compared to 7.6 million for Japan, iSuppli said. Last year, China automakers produced 9.3 million cars. That's 600,000 more autos than U.S. manufacturers. Most of Chinese cars are built for its domestic market.

"China's rise to the No. 2 position in global car manufacturing in 2008 marks a major milestone in China's economic ascendancy and the United States' industrial decline," iSuppli analyst Egil Juliussen said in a statement.

During the last five years, China has doubled automobile production, while U.S. manufacturing had fallen nearly 50%. Chinese automakers have benefited from the country's booming economy and the dramatic rise in disposable income of its consumers.

On the other hand, U.S. carmakers have suffered from increasing imports from Canada and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as from imports from Europe and Asia, iSuppli said. Also, U.S. automakers have outsourced a major portion of their car manufacturing for the domestic market to Canada and Mexico. In 2003, U.S. carmakers built nearly three autos for every one produced in China.

F1 signs 'rocking' music deal  Universal  Music  Group  International  and  its  JV company  All  The  Worlds  is  pleased  to  announce  the  signing  of  an  agreement  with Formula  One  Administration  Limited  creating  F1  ROCKS™,  a  pioneering  and electrifying new global entertainment platform.

F1  ROCKS™  fuses  the  world’s  most  popular  annual  sporting  series  with  the  most iconic music stars to create an unrivalled experience for F1™ and music fans alike. At the core of F1 ROCKS™ is a series of spectacular multi-artist live music events from glamorous  Formula  1™  race  locations  around  the  world.  The  combination  of  live performances  from  the  world’s  biggest  acts  together  with  stars  from  the  world  of movies,  sport  and  fashion  will  create  TV  shows  &  Digital  content  that  will  be broadcast and streamed to a global audience. More ...

Wurz surprised to miss Brawn reserve role  (GMM)  Alex Wurz was surprised to touch down in Melbourne this week to discover he had not been designated reserve driver by the Brawn team.

The 35-year-old Austrian remains under contract to the Brackley based team following the Honda withdrawal, but it was Anthony Davidson that was named the driver to race should either Jenson Button or Rubens Barrichello be unable this weekend.

Wurz looked bemused as he explained to reporters on Friday that he is actually no longer in a driving role, but simply "an extra brain" in engineering briefings.

But to the news agency APA he revealed he should still be the test and reserve driver.

"I assume the team is sticking to the contract," Wurz said in Australia.  "For me, nothing has changed."

For now, it appears that Brawn's decision to change Wurz's role is simply a financial one: while the team would have to pay for him to travel around the F1 calendar in 2009, Briton Davidson's expenses will all be picked up by the BBC.

Davidson, 29, has been signed by the broadcaster to commentate at all grands prix this year.

How Wurz still fits in, therefore, is unclear.  "I assume that I am at least staying (with Brawn) this year, and perhaps also next year," he said.

Why the push for electric cars?  A reader writes, Why is AutoRacing1.com so in favor of eclectic cars, what will that mean to racing should the industry move that way?  Joan Barkley

Dear Joan,

  • It costs about $5 to recharge the batteries on the new Tesla Model S sedan to drive 250 miles. Compare that to what you pay at the pump today for your polluting internal combustion engine car.....and the price of gasoline is on the way back up again!
  • How much longer are we going to pollute our environment with pollutants from internal combustion engines, be they burning gasoline, diesel or biofuel?
  • Why should the world continue to buy oil from terrorist countries?
  • There is not an unlimited supply of fuel for internal combustion engines
  • The French have proven that almost all the waste from Nuclear Power plants is reusable (see related article), so there is no longer an issue of where to store it.  The time has come for America and the rest of the world to build more nuclear power plants and get 100% of our electricity from this clean technology.  Do you realize how much pollution our existing coal and oil burning power plants pump into our environment each and every day?
  • In a few short years electric cars will be developed to the point that they will be superior to today's cars in every way imaginable.  They are quiet, will accelerate faster, have much fewer movable parts to break, need but a 1 speed transmission, and best of all, they put out zero, read that ZERO, pollution.
  • As for the future of racing, we're not sure, but any racing body that is not already thinking about this will be left out in the cold.

We have seen the future, and it is electric!  Mark C.

Aus GP once again rules out night racing  (GMM)  Organizers of the Australian grand prix have once again ruled out switching to become a night race in future.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone on Friday said he had not given up hope that Melbourne will install floodlighting at Albert Park to even better serve the vast European TV audience.

This year, as a compromise, promoter Ron Walker agreed to delay the start of qualifying and the race to 5pm, in a concept dubbed by the media as 'twilight' racing.

"Maybe Ron will have a look at it and think 'my God' and it (a night race) may suit him from a marketing point," Ecclestone said.

But a spokesman for the Victorian state government said night racing is out of the question.

"I'm not sure how many different times and ways we can rule out a night GP," the spokesman is quoted as saying by the Herald Sun.

Australia's current 'twilight' contract runs until 2015.

Aus GP heads for worst spectator numbers  (GMM)  Less spectators flocked to Albert Park on Thursday compared with any other year in the F1 event's 14-year history.

The poor result - just over 42,000 spectators - is believed to have led to organisers' decision to delay the release of Friday's numbers until Saturday morning.

"I think it's the economic times and some discretionary spending by families," promoter Ron Walker told the local Herald Sun newspaper.

The fact the four-day 2009 event was recording poor ticket sales almost certainty explains the reduction in size this year of the main start-finish grandstand.

Walker added: "But we were only down by a couple of thousand, so it's hardly worth talking about."

Q&A: Frank Williams (AT&T Williams)  As his team heading into its 31st year in Formula One, Sir Frank Williams takes time out to reflect on the current state of the sport and the team's chances of success in a season that sees the biggest rule changes for more than a decade.

Q: How are you feeling about the season ahead?

Frank Williams: The car is looking good. You might see a few surprises, but it won’t be anything too dramatic once we get it down to the grid at Melbourne.

Q: Are you optimistic?

FW: Cautiously so because we haven’t really seen what anyone else has done yet.

Q: And what about your drivers for this year?

FW: We have Nico Rosberg for the fourth season, which is good, and Kazuki Nakajima for the second year. Kazuki is very quiet and the best mannered young man I have ever met but, in a racing car, he’s very aggressive and I think he could have a terrific future. We have two very ambitious drivers. If the car’s good enough, they’ll be good enough.

Q: Nico has been saying that he needs to be in a top car by next year and the team have to show him that the Williams is a top car. How concerned are you that you are going to lose him?  More ...

Twilight visibility 'worse' than usual - Alonso  (GMM)  The first 'twilight' session in formula one was held on Friday, where the shadows were long and the sun low in the sky.

The later timetable, culminating in qualifying and the race to be held at 5pm local, was installed to create a more civilized time for the vast European television audiences to rise from their beds.

Drivers got a taste of things to come in Australia with a 90 minute practice session in the late afternoon.

"It is a little bit worse (than usual) but it is not a big problem and hopefully it will be fine for everyone, but there is no doubt that it is better at 2 o'clock for us in terms of visibility," said double world champion Fernando Alonso at Albert Park.

The visibility was not so bad that anyone complained about a safety issue, but there were moments when drivers radioed the pits to explain that shadows from trees, or sun glare, distracted them. More ...

GPDA hopes gloves don't hinder crash response  (GMM)  The drivers' representative body GPDA is concerned about trackside marshals having to wear heavy insulated gloves this year, to tackle the risk of electrocution from F1's new KERS systems.

It was whispered at Albert Park on Friday that some of the trackside personnel in Australia, including medical aides, are not happy about being told to only touch cars and drivers while wearing the gloves.

Mark Webber, a leading light of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, admitted the body is concerned the situation may delay the implementation of emergency help, for example in the event of a crash that requires marshal intervention or medical assistance.

"Obviously if there is a large accident, and we need pretty good medical attention and very fast, it has been mentioned a while ago that we would like it to be addressed," the Australian driver told reporters in Melbourne.

The 32-year-old said the GPDA has been told that the type of gloves used will not hinder emergency response, but it is also true that less than half the field in Australia is not KERS-equipped.

Webber said: "Hopefully they will have some common sense that they know that the cars with KERS, the cars without KERS, can be treated a bit differently in the case of a panic or an emergency."

Option tire worth a second in Melbourne  For the first time in twelve seasons, Bridgestone Potenza slick racing tires graced a Formula One car at a grand prix as the 2009 season got underway in Melbourne. Williams driver Nico Rosberg was the fastest man in both of the two Friday practice sessions at Albert Park, for round one of the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Rosberg set a 1:26.687s using the medium compound in the first session with team-mate Kazuki Nakajima the second fastest, also using the medium, and Kimi Raikkonen the third quickest in his Ferrari, using the super soft.

In the later session Rosberg set a 1:26.053s, with Rubens Barrichello second quickest and Jarno Trulli third quickest, all top three drivers using the super soft. Outlining the close competition in prospect for the season ahead, just over two seconds covered the entire field in this second practice session. More ...

£500 fine for Ferrari driver in death crash  A mechanic who killed a woman while test-driving a 188mph Ferrari has escaped with a £500 fine.

William Lings, 26, who has a previous conviction for drink-driving and three for speeding, mounted a curb and hit Jennifer England after losing control of the £150,000 Ferrari 456GT.

Ms England, 52, who was a full-time career for her disabled sister, died after being thrown into the air by the collision in Acton in January last year.

Lings was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving after a trial in which the jury was not told of his previous offences. More ...

Australian GP - New Order  
A new season begins in Albert Park
After months of speculation and build up, the 2009 Formula 1 season got underway today in Albert Park, Melbourne: a season that promises to produce many surprises with all the changes to the regulations. With the ban on in-season testing, pundits had expected a lot of running on Fridays at the races, but in today's first session, this did not seem to be the case. As usual on this very "green" track, apart from an installation lap, most drivers were reluctant to start lapping during the first half hour.

However, over the remaining time in the two 90 minute sessions, it was action all the way and the usual front running Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro duo completed a total of 115 laps with not so great results. Felipe Massa was seventh fastest in the morning and tenth in the afternoon, while Kimi Raikkonen's positions were third and eleventh.

The cars certainly look very different to the past, with taller narrower wings at the rear and a wide front wing, but the biggest difference is possibly an unseen one, in that Bridgestone is obliged to provide two types of tire with significantly different compounds. This, along with so many new 2009 rules is meant to increase the possibility of overtaking scenarios as drivers must use both types of tire again during the race. More ...

SIRIUS XM Radio to broadcast every F1 race  SIRIUS XM Radio announced today that it has expanded its coverage of Formula 1 auto racing and will broadcast every race from the 2009 F1 season live on both SIRIUS and XM. The races, which aired on SIRIUS last season, will now be available to SIRIUS and XM listeners nationwide.

The 2009 F1 schedule kicks off this weekend with the ING Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday, March 29 (1:00 am ET). SIRIUS XM will carry the race live in its entirety on SIRIUS channel 126 and XM channel 242. Last season's Australian race was won by McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, the British phenom who went on to become, at 23, the youngest world champion in Formula 1 history with an impressive 2008 season that included five victories and five more podium finishes. More ...

Hendrick wants Martin's decision by July  
Mark Martin
Rick Hendrick hopes to know by July whether 50-year-old Mark Martin will drive full-time again in 2010. He also reiterated that he's convinced there's no better person than Martin, whose original deal called for him to drive a partial schedule next season, for the #5. "He's delivered everything I thought and more," Hendrick said during a Wednesday afternoon conference call. "He's a huge asset to this company." Martin told ESPN.com last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway that he would consider driving another full year if Hendrick, sponsors and his team wanted him to. Hendrick said on Sunday and again on Wednesday that it's "Mark's call." Before a decision can be made Hendrick must first settle the sponsorship on Martin's car. Kellogg's is up for a renewal, and with the current economic climate there is no guarantee the company will come back. ESPN
In Martinsville? Check out Wood Bros Museum  If you have some extra time this weekend, consider visiting the Wood Brothers Museum at 21 Performance Drive, Stuart Virginia, 24171 - located just 30 miles west of Martinsville off of route 58. Admission is free. The #21, 1971 Wood Brothers Purolator Mercury Cyclone will be on display, along with a host of other Wood Brothers memories. The museum will be open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Friday, March 27, 2009 and Saturday, March 28, 2009. More info at www.woodbrothersracing.com. WBR PR
Martinsville Tire Notes  Teams in both the NASCAR series will run the same tire codes at Martinsville this weekend, however the Sprint Cup tires will be branded "Goodyear Eagle," while the Camping World Truck tires will be branded "Goodyear Wrangler" . . . this left-side code (D-4108) is the same one run by these teams at Martinsville last season . . . this right-side code (D-4230) is brand new to the Goodyear tire lineup . . . this right-side features a slight compound change compared to last year to offer cars more grip . . . while this left-side is unique to Martinsville, this right-side will also be run on all four tire positions on Sprint Cup road courses this season . . . as on most NASCAR ovals one mile or less n length, teams will not run inner liners in their tires at Martinsville. The estimated pit window is every 125-135 laps, based on fuel mileage. Goodyear PR
Brawn laughs at Ferrari pace  
Ross Brawn outsmarts old Ferrari team
Ross Brawn has spoken out about his former employers protest against his own team's diffuser design. Stating that the Italian team has finally woken up but only after other teams were faster than them.

"Ferrari have only woken up because someone has driven faster than them. The accusations are coming from teams who did not come up with the idea and now they are getting angry," says Brawn.

Adding, "For anyone who has read the rules it was quite obvious."

It's all talk, Danica isn't leaving IRL  [Editor's Note:  We all know Danica Patrick won't ruin her career by moving to another series and then failing miserably, an almost certainty, yet we will see these sort of articles every week up to the time she re-signs - call it free publicity for the IRL.]

Talk of Patrick leaving will be free publicity for IRL all year
Danica Patrick. Contract year. They're intertwined for the immediate future.

Patrick expects that question to pop up at every stop on the IndyCar Series' April-October caravan just as that question of when will she win her first race did. Patrick, who answered the latter last April at Twin Ring Motegi in her 50th start, will use the unfolding season as a reply regarding her auto racing future.

Patrick, the first female to win a major closed-course auto race, enters her third season with Andretti Green Racing and fourth overall in the series next week at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"For me, in my career, I have to be in a situation where I can do well, because that's what drives the rest of it," says Patrick, who as of early this year is being represented by IMG. "I think all (I) care about is winning races and running up front. It's always good to do well when you're in a contract year, but people who are in the business are aware of what I'm capable of and they pay attention for more than just a couple of races or a half a season to see what I'm doing. I would hope more of my career would speak that just this year. More ...

Barrichello confirms Brawn GP pace  Exactly three weeks after the Brawn GP team ran the BGP 001 for the first time, the car made its competitive debut today at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne on the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

Drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello took to the track with their helmets liveried in the team's distinctive yellow, black and white color scheme to mark the occasion.

Grip levels on the public roads which make up the Albert Park circuit were very low for the first practice session as the team began working through their Friday program.

The drivers concentrated on refining the balance of the BGP 001 to their liking and putting further valuable mileage on the new car. As the track conditions improved in the second session, the team completed a thorough evaluation of the Bridgestone tire compounds available for this race. More ...

Legal diffuser cars struggle in Melbourne  On Melbourne's Albert Park circuit where his world title-winning season began with a victory last year, Lewis Hamilton was today down among the also-rans.

After finishing 16th in the first 90-minute session, Hamilton then ended the second 1.5 seconds faster - but down in 18th.

He at least had his McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen for company as the Finn was 17th, perhaps underlining the fact their car really is as bad as feared.

The only two drivers behind Hamilton were Renault's Nelson Piquet and this year's lone rookie Sebastien Buemi in his Toro Rosso.

McLaren had hoped progress had been made in the closing two days of the final test in Jerez last week, but clearly not enough.  More ...

Domenicali not drawing hasty conclusions  The first two sessions of free practice for the Australian Grand Prix confirmed that the rule changes introduced this year have jumbled up the pack.

Ferrari were not alone in finding themselves lower than would have been expected, with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen tenth and 11th fastest respectively.

Stefano Domenicali
“One cannot really draw hasty conclusions after just three hours of free practice, but the first signs seem to support what we saw during winter testing.

The most important data that catches the eye today concerns tire management, which this year as never before, seems rather delicate: the softer tires seem to degrade considerably over a distance, while the harder ones suffer from a lack of grip. We knew this to be the case and we have to concentrate on this problem and on how to improve the overall performance of the F60."

Felipe Massa
“We are more or less okay with the set up, although there is still room to improve the performance. I was not able to do a time on the soft tires in the second session as I made a mistake because of oversteer: in this phase we had a different balance on the car compared to when we had used the hard tires, which proved not to be the ideal choice. On top of that, towards the end of the session, the wind got up a bit, which definitely did not help. Tomorrow, with everyone on the same fuel load, we will see what the situation is.”

Kimi Raikkonen
“This morning, the car went well, while in the afternoon, we didn’t manage to find a satisfactory set up, even though we tried various solutions. I think there is every chance we can improve our performance, but I can’t say by how much compared to the others. Today, it’s difficult to say where we are compared to them and we will see after tomorrow’s qualifying.”

Luca Baldisserri
"The first Friday of the season always throws up some surprises and that is even more than usual the case this year, given the numerous rule changes. Today, we did a lot of running and had no technical problems: reliability will be one of the dominant themes of the championship and it will be vital to try and pick up points every time. In these three hours of free practice, we saw that our performance over a long run seems to be very consistent but we have to see how to improve outright performance for tomorrow’s qualifying.”
Latest F1 news in brief  
  • F1 'boycott' row fires up on season eve
  • Branson due in Aus to confirm Brawn deal
  • Bernie still hoping for Aus night race
  • Diffuser plaintiffs send case to FIA court
  • FOTA open to budget cap concept
  • Fisi admits he needs good season in 2009
  • Rosberg says fuel tanks 'not empty' on Friday

F1 'boycott' row fires up on season eve
(GMM)  A row between Bernie Ecclestone and the F1 teams' alliance FOTA stepped up a gear on the eve of Australian grand prix action.

After F1 chief executive Ecclestone leaked to the press that Renault and McLaren chiefs recently threatened to boycott the Melbourne race, FOTA hit back by insisting that Flavio Briatore and Ron Dennis had "presented the unified views of all FOTA members".

In a statement, the teams' body said the dispute with Ecclestone is about money "owed" for the past three seasons, with the matter needing to be settled before a new Concorde agreement can be signed.

Ecclestone's Formula One Administration (FOA) replied with its own statement to correct FOTA's "inaccurate and misleading statements".

FOA denied that "any amount" of money is owed to "any team", because the existing Concorde "expired at the end of 2007".

Some teams, however, have penned individual contracts with FOA, while others have been paid "substantial payments ... on account of future prize fund entitlements they will have when they sign a contract".

78-year-old Ecclestone has not travelled to Australia for the 2009 season opener.

Branson due in Aus to confirm Brawn deal
(GMM)  Sir Richard Branson has begun to appear on guest lists at the Albert Park circuit, intensifying speculation his Virgin brand is set to sponsor the Brawn team.

An announcement is expected on Saturday.  "I've heard the rumor, we'll find out tomorrow," team chief executive Nick Fry told the BBC in Melbourne.

"Virgin and Brawn have come to commercial terms which he (Branson) thinks are viable," F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone confirmed to the Times.  "Both he and the team are happy."

The 78-year-old billionaire said he was so keen on bringing Branson into formula one that he would even have proceeded without Brawn's support.

"I've been pushing, pushing, pushing and pushing.  If they hadn't done it, Richard and I would have done it anyway.

"But I am delighted they have just got going on it and have a deal in place.  It's good for the team, it's good for formula one, I'm very happy with it," Ecclestone added. More ...

Severe hailstorm pummeled Penske dealership  Hailstones larger than golf balls pummeled northwest Austin, Texas on Wednesday.  The brief but intense severe storm system left millions of dollars in damage in its wake.  BMW of Austin, part of Penske Automotive Group, has over 300 cars with broken or cracked windshields. One car even sports a five inch hole in its fender.  More at KXAN.com
Hot News Archives
2000 2001 2002 2003

Search Hot News
Search Help