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DATE News (chronologically)
Melbourne Qualifying: After 2 of 3 sessions Melbourne Qualifying: After 2 of 3 sessions
P. No Driver Team - Engine Tires Times Ave/Gaps
 1. 1 ALONSO Renault M 1'25"719 222.714 Km/h
 2. 4 MONTOYA McLaren Mercedes M 1'25"907 + 0'00"188
 3. 3 RAIKKONEN McLaren Mercedes M 1'26"188 + 0'00"469
 4. 2 FISICHELLA Renault M 1'26"234 + 0'00"515
 5. 8 TRULLI Toyota B 1'26"281 + 0'00"562
 6. 16 HEIDFELD BMW Sauber M 1'26"438 + 0'00"719
 7. 5 M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1'26"656 + 0'00"937
 8. 7 R.SCHUMACHER Toyota B 1'26"938 + 0'01"219
 9. 14 COULTHARD RedBull Ferrari M 1'27"031 + 0'01"312
10. 20 LIUZZI Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'27"234 + 0'01"515 -
11. 15 KLIEN RedBull Ferrari M 1'27"609 + 0'01"890
12. 17 VILLENEUVE BMW Sauber M 1'27"671 + 0'01"952
13. 9 WEBBER Williams Cosworth B 1'29"422 + 0'03"703
14. 12 BUTTON Honda M 0'00"000
15. 10 ROSBERG Williams Cosworth B 0'00"000
16. 6 MASSA Ferrari B 0'00"000 -
17. 11 BARRICHELLO Honda M 1'29"943
18. 19 ALBERS Midland Toyota B 1'30"226
19. 21 SPEED Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'30"426
20. 18 MONTEIRO Midland Toyota B 1'30"709
21. 22 SATO S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'32"279
22. 23 IDE S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'36"164
Pizzonia/Rocketsports deal for 1 race only Pizzonia/Rocketsports deal for 1 race onlyRight now the Antonio Pizzonia deal with Rocketsports is for one race only according to the team's press release. If sponsorship materializes it could turn into a full season ride. If not........
CVC expands its F1 empire CVC expands its F1 empire(GMMf1NET)  F1's new owner 'CVC' has snapped up another element of the grand prix empire -- Paddy McNally's trackside advertising company Allsport.

The company also runs the 'Paddock Club', and McNally is to remain as Allsport's CEO; pending the deal's approval by the European Commission.

Rubens' better mood in Oz Rubens' better mood in Oz(GMMf1NET)  Things are looking up for Rubens Barrichello, who has so far struggled in 2006 to find speed in his Honda.

After lagging desperately behind teammate Jenson Button's pace at the first two grands prix since he left Ferrari, the 33-year-old Brazilian finally had a smile on his face following Friday in Melbourne.

''I'm definitely looking a lot more competitive,'' he said.

Team boss Nick Fry, however, tempered Rubens' enthusiasm by warning that his problem with the car will not be overcome overnight.

He explained: ''I expect his performance to improve race by race as he gets more used to it.

''We are making some changes to the car.''

Webber glitch should not recur Webber glitch should not recur(GMMf1NET) Alan Webber says an hydraulic problem that set hearts aflutter on Friday should not strike again on his son's Williams car in qualifying.

''It seemed to correct itself on that warm-up lap,'' he said in Melbourne, referring to Mark's very slow practice lap on Friday afternoon.

''No, it shouldn't be a problem again.''

Mark Webber himself, however, warned fans in Melbourne not to expect the Australian flag to be flying on the first row of the grid after 2pm.

''We could be third row,'' the 29-year-old speculated, ''maybe further back -- it's really close around there.

''Ultimately, strategies will be played out as well; you've also got to think about Sunday's race.''

’Like England’ in Oz ’Like England’ in OzUPDATE 'I must have been feeling a bit optimistic this morning when I put this t-shirt on,' grinned Williams' reserve driver Alex Wurz, as he pulled on a thicker sweater.

Thick cloud cover and sporadic rain characterized Saturday morning at Albert Park, with drivers grappling with a gripless pre-qualifying practice session on the damp track.

Weather forecasts aside, what the Melbourne skies will throw down in the afternoon is anyone's guess. For the record, the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting strong winds, but actually only a slight chance of more rain.

The FIA declared the track officially wet for practice.

Spins predominated the session, with Alonso warned on his in-car radio that the hazard of slippery painted traffic lines on the track is complicated because some of them are painted black.

MF1's Christijan Albers came unstuck and had to abandon his beached car, even though the circuit had almost dried with 20 minutes to go.

''F1 cars can really be horrible to drive in these conditions,'' England's Davidson quipped. ''The tires just don't operate without enough heat in them.''

Renault's Alonso, though, entered the track with fifteen minutes to go wearing dry tires, but he struggled to meet the pace.

With a few minutes to run, light drizzle was again dropping; but the pace only heated up -- BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve timed it just right and dominated the timesheets, with Vitantonio Liuzzi completing an odd top-three in his Toro Rosso.

03/31/06 (GMMf1NET) ''It's like England here!'' Renault boss Flavio Briatore marveled, while eating breakfast in the pitlane.

At a old and overcast Albert Park circuit near Melbourne, where the circuit is damp following sporadic rain showers on Saturday morning, the light to signal the start of the final one-hour practice session turned green at 11am.

''We're going to be running the extreme wet (Michelin) tire,'' informed Honda's Friday driver Anthony Davidson, who has already played his role in Oz.

Bridgestone runner Felipe Massa (Ferrari), who spun early, was running intermediate tires, while teammate Michael Schumacher trialed the deeper-treaded wet weather version.

Most of the field turned laps early on, although Williams' local hero Mark Webber - again - seemed content to stay in the garage until 15 minutes in.

''It's really dangerous out there,'' Jenson Button said on his radio, just as Fernando Alonso surfed across the gravel through turn-1.

22 teams apply for 12 F1 slots 22 teams apply for 12 F1 slotsUPDATE No fewer than twenty two potential F1 teams met the FIA's Friday deadline to enter the 2008 world championship.

With the current eleven outfits certain to be among them, the official news means that eleven others - including Paul Stoddart's Minardi and David Richards' Prodrive - will duke it out for just one available slot.  Ten, therefore, will miss out.

''All applicants have been invited to a meeting in London on April 10, 2006,'' the FIA said in a statement.

Also among the additional eleven teams is almost certainly Craig Pollock, Jacques Villeneuve's manager and a founder of the BAR (now Honda) operation.

''If something will come out, something will come out,'' the coy Scot told 'Speed TV'.

Another prospective entry is probably McLaren's 'Direxiv'-funded b-team; likely to be a front-runner in the FIA's selection process as it would be based at the refurbished Woking factory.

The FIA will publish the 2008 field on April 28.

03/31/06 The FIA today revealed that a total of 22 teams have applied for the 12 available slots in the 2008 F1 championship. Among those 22 teams are the 11 current F1 teams, the application of David Richards' Prodrive and Paul Stoddart's Minardi team. The FIA's statement read: "The FIA has received applications from 22 teams wishing to compete in the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship."

"All applicants have been invited to a meeting in London on April 10, 2006."

Williams' Nico 'not for sale' Williams' Nico 'not for sale'Williams' rookie sensation Nico Rosberg is not for sale, technical director Sam Michael said in response to rumors that the German is being chased by McLaren. ''Ron (Dennis) should not even bother phoning,'' the Australian told Auto Motor Und Sport magazine, as reports suggest that Rosberg, 20, is on a four-year deal.

Michael's boss, team co-owner Patrick Head, also downplayed any comparison of Rosberg's situation to that of Jenson Button, whose 2006 Williams contract was 'bought' by Honda for a gargantuan-like fee.

''That was a completely different situation,'' the Briton explained. ''After our title sponsor (HP) left us, we needed money to finance our Cosworth engines.

''But we no longer have that problem.''
BMW Sauber team 1-2 in wet practice 3 BMW Sauber team 1-2 in wet practice 3
P. No Driver Team - Engine Tires Times Ave/Gaps
 1. 16 HEIDFELD BMW Sauber M 1'35"328 200.264 Km/h
 2. 17 VILLENEUVE BMW Sauber M 1'36"234 + 0'00"906
 3. 20 LIUZZI Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'36"329 + 0'01"001
 4. 2 FISICHELLA Renault M 1'36"418 + 0'01"090
 5. 7 R.SCHUMACHER Toyota B 1'36"438 + 0'01"110
 6. 6 MASSA Ferrari B 1'36"505 + 0'01"177
 7. 5 M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1'37"363 + 0'02"035
 8. 8 TRULLI Toyota B 1'37"468 + 0'02"140
 9. 11 BARRICHELLO Honda M 1'37"483 + 0'02"155
10. 21 SPEED Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'37"813 + 0'02"485
11. 15 KLIEN RedBull Ferrari M 1'37"891 + 0'02"563
12. 9 WEBBER Williams Cosworth B 1'38"047 + 0'02"719
13. 12 BUTTON Honda M 1'38"485 + 0'03"157
14. 14 COULTHARD RedBull Ferrari M 1'38"672 + 0'03"344
15. 10 ROSBERG Williams Cosworth B 1'39"410 + 0'04"082
16. 18 MONTEIRO Midland Toyota B 1'39"532 + 0'04"204
17. 1 ALONSO Renault M 1'39"609 + 0'04"281
18. 23 IDE S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'40"828 + 0'05"500
19. 22 SATO S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'41"422 + 0'06"094
20. 4 MONTOYA McLaren Mercedes M 1'44"375 + 0'09"047
21. 3 RAIKKONEN McLaren Mercedes M 1'48"219 + 0'12"891
Industry News
AW - GM Health Care Settlement Agreement Receives Court Approval AW - GM Health Care Settlement Agreement Receives Court ApprovalGeneral Motors Corp. (NYSE GM) today announced that the U.S. District Court in Detroit has given its approval of the health-care settlement agreement between GM, the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) and the class representatives.
Aschenbach’s Porsche Leads SPEED GT Practice Aschenbach’s Porsche Leads SPEED GT PracticeRookie Lawson Aschenbach, of Gaithersburg, Md., was fastest today in his Porsche 911 during practice for Saturday’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship Round Two race, part of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Tommy Archer’s Viper and James Sofronas’ Porsche completed the top three.

Driving the No. 66 AXA Financial Porsche 911 GT3, Aschenbach turned a fastest lap of 1:19.134 (81.886 mph) around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile combination street and airport circuit.

“It’s a great event and a great track,” Aschenbach said after turning the time in the afternoon session. “It was surprising because you think street courses equal rough surfaces, but that’s not the case here. The layout’s really good. I’m really impressed! zzzz

“We ran sticker tires but did kind of a long-distance run today. We know what it will do in qualifying. We struggled with race setup a little bit at Sebring. That’s the biggest negative that we’re trying to overcome.

“The biggest difference between Sebring and St. Pete is power. At Sebring, trying to keep up with the power of the Corvettes and Vipers and Cadillacs—we just don’t have the power to do that on the long straightaways, and straightaways are more important there than they are here.”

Combined practice results with position, car number in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, fastest lap time, and speed in miles per hour.

1. (66) Lawson Aschenbach(R) Gaithersburg, Md., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:19.134, 81.886.
2. (5) Tommy Archer, Duluth, Minn., Dodge Viper SRT, 1:19.593, 81.414.
3. (14) James Sofronas, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:19.958, 81.042.
4. (6) Leighton Reese, Minnetonka, Minn., Chevrolet Corvette C6, 1:20.058, 80.941.
5. (28) Lou Gigliotti, Dallas, Texas, Chevrolet Corvette C6, 1:20.338, 80.659.
6. (82) Mike McCann, N. Canton, Ohio, Dodge Viper, 1:20.410, 80.587.
7. (1) Andy Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fla., Cadillac CTS-V, 1:20.534, 80.463.
8. (16) Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga., Cadillac CTS-V, 1:20.692, 80.305.
9. (64) Ricardo Imery(R) Caracas, Venezuela, Porsche 911 GT3, 1:20.789, 80.209.
10. (17) Rob Foster(R) Phoenix, Ariz., Dodge Viper, 1:20.828, 80.170.
11. (13) Bob Woodhouse, Blair, Neb., Dodge Viper, 1:20.907, 80.092.
12. (87) Doug Peterson(R) Bonita Springs, Fla., Chevrolet Corvette C6, 1:21.099, 79.902.
13. (31) Sonny Whelen, Old Saybrook, Conn., Chevrolet Corvette C6, 1:21.580, 79.431.
14. (51) Lenny Diller, Garden City, N.Y., Dodge Viper, 1:21.928, 79.093.
15. (23) Bob Miller, Sykesville, Md., Porsche 911 Cup, 1:22.349, 78.689.
16. (34) Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Corvette C6, 1:22.626, 78.425.
17. (26) Claudio Burtin, Atlanta, Ga., Chevrolet Corvette C6, 1:22.632, 78.420.
18. (44) Johnny Mowlem, Charvil Berkshire, England, Aston Martin DB9, 1:22.902, 78.164.
19. (96) Skip Sauls(R) Longmont, Colo., Dodge Viper, 1:23.020, 78.053.
20. (40) Greg Weirick(R) Malibu, Calif., Chevrolet Corvette C6, 1:23.464, 77.638.
21. (43) Tom Papadopoulos, East Hills, N.Y., Aston Martin DB9, 1:23.664, 77.452.
22. (02) Adel Elsayed, Boonton Twp, N.J., Dodge Viper, 1:23.877, 77.256.
23. (76) John Bourassa, Jupiter Island, Fla., Porsche 911 Turbo, 1:24.851, 76.369.
24. (42) Mark LoPilato, Granbury, Texas, Porsche 911 Turbo, 1:25.015, 76.221.
25. (32) Ed Braswell(R) Key West, Fla., Chevrolet Corvette C5, 1:25.572, 75.725.
26. (98) Derek Burseth(R) Bartlett, Ill., Dodge Viper, 1:27.317, 74.212.
27. (69) Igor Sushko(R) Kiev, Ukraine, Nissan Skyline GT-R, 1:28.642, 73.103.
28. (24) Paul Gerrard(R) Boulder, Colo., Volvo S60R, no time.

Friday IndyCar quotes from St. Pete Friday IndyCar quotes from St. PeteDARIO FRANCHITTI: (No. 27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest in practice): "The first lap of the day today, the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car felt right. We've been moving small setup changes and finding a little bit of time. This track is a typical street course, so it's getting faster and faster. I'm having a ball out there."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, second fastest): "We had our quickest lap this morning. We kind of messed up a bit in the second session. We had the wrong gears in the gearbox, I think we had two thirds in there, so the car didn't go anywhere. Right at the end there, there was a caution, so we didn't get to run on new tires. The car is fast. We still ended up second quick, and I definitely think we've got a real shot at pole here." zzzz

TONY KANAAN (#11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "It was a good day for us. We worked on the qualifying setup on the #11 Team 7-Eleven car and it was a good session. We're working towards qualifying and hopefully we'll have a good day tomorrow, be in the top-six and we'll see what happens from there."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, fifth fastest): "The track was really slick and dirty this morning. That's why we ran rain tires in the early part of the morning session. But the track did rubber well in the afternoon. We got the changes on the car that I wanted and that really improved the handling. The track is a little bumpier than last year but we can deal with that. I'm a little upset because what always happens on the a street course happened on the last lap. I felt I was on a 63 flat (seconds) lap and the yellow came out and we didn't the lap in. That seems to happen a lot on the street course. Right when you have everything together for a flying lap, boom, the yellow comes out. It is frustrating. But we'll be better on Saturday."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic/ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth fastest): "This was a good first day for us. We had too much understeer in the morning and then I brushed the wall towards the end of the practice session before I put my second set of new tires. That ended our session and was a big mistake for me, and I apologized to all of my mechanics. We changed a few things for the second session and made a huge improvement - almost a second from the first session. We set quite a good time, and I have a lot of confidence with this car for tomorrow's qualifying. My goal is to get into the Firestone top-six qualifying."

MARCO ANDRETTI (#26 NYSE Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 14th fastest): "We made a big change to the #26 NYSE car between practice sessions that we thought was for the better and now I'm learning the drivers that I can and can't trust. I thought that all I had to do was get a clean pass and then away we go; I have a clean track and could get a feel for the car. But he (Eddie Cheever Jr.) turned in to my left rear and that was unfortunate. But I did get a good enough feel for the car and I think we're going to be in pretty decent shape. We easily had a top-five car, which is good."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, 13th fastest): "Racing is my job, and it is always good to get back to the action be it after a long off-season or a tough week like we just endured. It felt good to be back in the Argent Mortgage Honda. Obviously missing the race last week will factor in the championship for both Buddy and I. It will make it more difficult, especially with 14 races, to overcome the loss of points. We had our moments on track today. Overall, we still have some work to do, but my team has a lot of experience when it comes to street racing. Last week we had a tough Friday but we felt pretty good after qualifying. A lot can change in a day."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest): "We had a good session this morning and the Marlboro Team Penske car is handling very well. We had some trouble with the engine electronics this afternoon, but fortunately we were able to get the problem fixed and get a few laps in before practice ended. I think we're still in good shape and hopefully we'll have enough time tomorrow to catch up."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth fastest): "This morning's practice went pretty well, but this afternoon didn't go quite the way we would have liked it to. I just couldn't get in a rhythm and was probably trying a little bit too hard. During the afternoon session, the car was loose, and I had a problem in turn seven and went into the tires. I thought I was going to hit a little bit harder than I did, but fortunately there was minimal damage to the car, so we were able to run a few more laps. I feel pretty good about the set-up of the Marlboro Team Penske car, but we still have some work to do tomorrow."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Not quite as good as we like, but Target Chip Ganassi Racing is going to work hard. We'll see what we have in the morning. It just was not quite the way I'd like the car. It's always great to race in your home city, just need to get the car better."

Dodge replaces Cunningham Dodge replaces CunninghamGeoff Dodge, the inaugural Knoxville Nationals Fast Track to Indy winner, will drive the No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing entry in this weekend's Indy Pro Series events in place of Wade Cunningham, the defending series champion. Cunningham will miss the two Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg races after having his appendix removed Thursday night at the Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Cunningham is expected to be released from the facility this afternoon.

BRIAN STEWART, team owner: "I'm extremely disappointed that Wade is not in the car. We went to Sebring earlier this week. He was really, really fast. We were looking forward to this track. Last year, we led 18 laps here, and with another year's experience I figured we would set the pace. Last night, I went to Wade because basically it's his car, and I said, 'Wade, what do you want me to do?' And he said, 'I want you to put Geoff in the car.' (Team manager) Doug Hoy visited Wade this morning. Wade is extremely upbeat, because he's that type of person, and he hopes that Geoff does well. We all know Geoff doesn't have any experience at this level in these cars, but I told him to take it easy, build your speed up gradually. If there's any attrition in the races, if he keeps his nose clean, he should come out of it OK." zzzz

 GEOFF DODGE: "We certainly didn't want to see anything bad happen to Wade. Hopefully, he has a quick recovery and gets back in the car he rightfully deserves to be driving soon. It's a good opportunity for me to get some laps on a road course. It's a really neat event here in St. Pete. I'm definitely looking forward to getting out there. They tell me it's not a bad thing if you turn right on this track. After coming up in road racing in karts, it was always something that I kind of missed when I went oval racing, so we'll see what happens here."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, sitting out race due to illness): "It's disappointing not be running. Last year, we were the quickest in every single session on the track. We had some good testing at Sebring. We were comfortably the quickest. We started the year off we were super quick at Homestead and got penalized. That's just the way racing goes I guess. We're three races into the championship by the end of this weekend, so we'll just have to start again. We talked about going for race wins this year, and that's what we're going to do now that the championship is further away."

Alex Lloyd, McLaren Autosport BRDC DOY, joins Indy Pro Alex Lloyd, McLaren Autosport BRDC DOY, joins Indy ProAlex Lloyd, the 2003 McLaren Autosport British Racing Driver's Club Young Driver of the Year, will compete in the Indy Pro Series with AFS Racing. Lloyd will drive the No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. entry April 1-2 in two 40-lap races on the 1.8-mile street circuit in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lloyd is taking the first step in establishing his career in the United States, something he has wanted to do for more than a year. Lloyd is among drivers such as IndyCar Series star Dario Franchitti and Formula One competitors David Coulthard and Jenson Button to take home the prestigious award from the BRDC.

ALEX LLOYD: "I turned up at Homestead without a drive and not really knowing anyone other than (Indy Pro Series Executive Director) Roger (Bailey). Roger put me in touch with (team owner) Gary (Peterson) and things sort of went from there." (About the test): "It went well. We didn't get to do too much running, maybe about half an hour in the car, which was enough for me to get sort of a feel for the car but not enough to sort of get on top of it. It's going to be difficult coming into the weekend to try and get myself comfortable and be as quick as possible. But early signs from the half hour we did at Homestead are that we were going pretty quickly, so with a little bit of luck and a bit more time in the car, hopefully we can have a competitive weekend." zzzz

GARY PETERSON (team owner): "We've been looking for another driver to run with Arie Luyendyk Jr. Finally, an opportunity came up to test Alex Lloyd, a driver from the U.K., on the road course at Homestead. Everyone at AFS Racing was very pleased with Alex's first time in the No. 26 Indy Pro Series Dallara Firestone car. He was very smooth and adjusted to the additional weight of the IPS car well. Alex is used to driving a lighter car, which has much more torque. All in all, Alex did a great job, and we had a very successful test."

Matos nips Howard in Indy pro practice Matos nips Howard in Indy pro practiceRaphael Matos turned the fastest lap among the teams preparing for Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Matos, the driver of the No. 41 Guthrie Racing/Car Crafters entry, recorded a lap of 1:08.7521, 94.252 mph on the 1.8-mile street circuit. Rookies Jay Howard and Bobby Wilson were second and third, respectively. Qualifying sessions for the first of two Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. (EST) on April 1. The race is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.


RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 41 Guthrie Racing/Car Crafters, fastest in practice): "I first want to thank my team, because they worked hard at getting my car back together after I crashed this morning. They did a great job, and we have a fast car. We will make some changes tonight, and hopefully start up front for both races this weekend. I really like the two races. I'm still learning about the car because I've only had one day in the car. I learned a lot today, and I'll learn more tomorrow morning in qualifying."
JAY HOWARD (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Mtrspt, second fastest in practice): "We made some big changes from this morning, and it really paid off. We got faster all day. We should be strong tomorrow and Sunday. I think the doubleheader format is great. I think the more racing we can get in a weekend is really, really good. I'm really looking forward to reversing the top six in the second race. I think that will be interesting. We'll some what happens there, because there's not going to be a lot of difference between the top guys." zzzz

BOBBY WILSON (No. 9 Ocala Gran Prix, third fastest): "Hats off to the Michael Crawford Motorsports team. We've been clicking pretty good. We come off of Homestead. We've been working together more and more, and I just see better things to come this year. I'm really happy with the way things are going this weekend, and I can only expect better." (About a shot at the pole) "Definitely. I'm feeling really good about it. I got basically one good lap without traffic or a yellow, so I definitely am not showing all my cards right now. I'm looking to be real quick tomorrow."

ALEX LLOYD (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., fourth fastest): "When we tested on Tuesday, we only had 60 percent throttle, so when I started here I didn't quite realize how much power I had been lacking. When I came out of the pits, it's like getting used to a new car because of the more power that I had. It still looked good. We had a few gearbox troubles all day, which we think we just about got sorted out towards the end. It cost us a few laps early in the second session. All in all, I'm very happy. The times were pretty good. We've got a few more changes to make to the car, and obviously the more laps I can do, the better because I'm just learning, learning all the time. I haven't been in a car much the last 12 months. Every lap I do is crucial. I'm feeling more and more comfortable." (About a shot at the pole) "Yeah, I think we have a decent shot. You tend to get a bit quicker overnight, especially when you're new to something. We'll make a couple of adjustments to the car. We're still finding out how we work together. This is my first race with the team and in the car. The team needs to know how I like to drive. I need to know how they work. We're learning as we go along. It's been a good positive day so far. Hopefully, we'll have a shot at the pole and be able to be on the podium in both races."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing, fifth fastest): "Matos put up a really good lap there at the end. That was out of nowhere. We were close. We still have a lot to do to try to make the car better. We thought we'd be a little bit better when we got here. I think the track is coming in a little bit, so it's making it a little bit tough to read some of our changes. I know there's still a little bit of time that I can find out there. We still have good tires and everything for tomorrow." IRL

Marco Andretti accident Marco Andretti accidentUPDATE Marco Andretti's version of the accident - "We made a big change to the #26 NYSE car between practice sessions that we thought was for the better and now I'm learning the drivers that I can and can't trust. I thought that all I had to do was get a clean pass and then away we go; I have a clean track and could get a feel for the car.  But he (Cheever) turned in to my left rear and that was unfortunate. But I did get a good enough feel for the car and I think we're going to be in pretty decent shape. We easily had a top-five car, which is good."

03/31/06 Marco Andretti tried to sneak under Eddie Cheever today in St. Petersburg during the 2nd practice session, got alongside after following for several laps, and then Cheever closed the door on him. Marco and Eddie's tires touched sending Marco over Cheever's front nose and into the tire barrier.  No one was injured.

Eddie Cheever said, "I'm not sure why (the incident with Marco Andretti) happened.  I drove into the corner at the end of the straight, I was holding my line, and the 26 car clipped the right side of my car. It is not the type of thing I would expect during Friday practice.  We'll let the IRL officials analyze what happened and take the appropriate steps to try and keep that type of thing from not happening."

TV News
Gordon to co-host Wind Tunnel Gordon to co-host Wind TunnelNASCAR Nextel Cup driver Robby Gordon, will be Wind Tunnel’s guest co-host this Sunday, April 2nd. From Baja to Indy to Daytona, Robby has raced it all…winning many races and championships in the process. After several years driving for Richard Childress Racing, Robby began his own Cup team in 2005.

Open for Discussion:
· NASCAR stars take their tempers to the short track in Martinsville
· F1 goes down under in Australia
· IRL takes to the road course at St. Pete

Franchitti leads practice 2 in St. Pete Franchitti leads practice 2 in St. PeteDario Franchitti led the opening day of preparations for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first non-oval IRL IndyCar® Series event of the 2006 season.

Franchitti, driver of the No. 27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Honda-powered Dallara, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 2.7967 seconds, 103.190 mph on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit and earned the right to determine the qualifying order for Saturday's Marlboro Pole Qualifying.

"We’ve been moving small setup changes and finding a little bit of time," Franchitti said. "This track is a typical street course, so it’s getting faster and faster. I’m having a ball out there.

"The car has been very, very good all day.  From the first lap this morning, the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car has felt right.  There are absolutely no problems at all with the car.  The track is a typical street course and is getting faster and faster every lap.  I'm just having a ball out there, but it's tomorrow and Sunday that count, so hopefully we'll have the speed when it matters."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (1:02.9515, 102.936) and Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan (1:03.1453, 102.620) were second and third, respectively.

Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. (EST) on April 1.

Pos Driver Diff Best Time
1 Dario Franchitti (27) ... 1:2.7967
2 Scott Dixon (9) 0.3048 1:3.1015
3 Tony Kanaan (11) 0.3486 1:3.1453
4 Buddy Rice (15) 0.5123 1:3.3090
5 Kosuke Matsuura (55) 0.6732 1:3.4699
6 Bryan Herta (7) 0.7024 1:3.4991
7 Sam Hornish Jr (6) 0.7255 1:3.5222
8 Helio Castroneves (3) 0.7738 1:3.5705
9 Tomas Scheckter (2) 0.9281 1:3.7248
10 Roberto Moreno (20) 1.1479 1:3.9446
11 Dan Wheldon (10) 1.3307 1:4.1274
12 Danica Patrick (16) 1.3912 1:4.1879
13 Vitor Meira (4) 1.6940 1:4.4907
14 Scott Sharp (8) 1.7574 1:4.5541
15 Marco Andretti (26) 2.4659 1:5.2626
16 Felipe Giaffone (14) 3.1872 1:5.9839
17 Eddie Cheever Jr (51) 3.3969 1:6.1936
18 Buddy Lazier (5) 3.7695 1:6.5662
19 PJ Chesson (91) 4.8002 1:7.5969

Al Unser III joins Mi-Jack Atlantic team Al Unser III joins Mi-Jack Atlantic teamTwo of the biggest names in racing will once again be paired together on one team with today’s announcement that Al Unser III will return to the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda in 2006. Unser III, the grandson of racing icon Al Unser and the son of former Champ Car champion Al Unser Jr., will join the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Atlantic team this season.

After finishing seventh in the Atlantic championship standings last season, the 23-year-old Unser returns to the series in ‘06 with the first-year Mi-Jack Conquest squad. There, he’ll team with another driver who was born into racing royalty – Atlantic rookie Graham Rahal, the 17-year-old son of three-time Champ Car title-winner and former Atlantic stalwart Bobby Rahal.

“I’m definitely excited about the upcoming season, joining Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, and I think the Atlantic series is going to be so competitive and fun to watch,” said Unser III, a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I want to thank (team co-owner) Eric Bachelart for giving me this chance and it’s going to be great to work with Graham, especially considering that his dad and my dad were teammates in the early 90s.” zzzz

Al Unser Jr. and Bobby Rahal teamed up at Galles-Kraco Racing in both 1990 and ’91 with Unser Jr. claiming the Champ Car (formerly CART) title in ’90. This season, Unser Jr. plans to attend as many Atlantic events as possible to support his son’s blossoming career, beginning with next week’s season-opening race at Long Beach.

“I’m very happy for Al and very proud of him because he really enjoys racing in the Atlantic series,” said Unser Jr., himself a former Atlantic graduate who went on to win 31 Champ Car races in his distinguished career. “Bobby (Rahal) and I have always gotten along really well and he helped me win my first championship in 1990. Now our boys are on the same team and hopefully they can help enhance each other’s careers.”

Unser III finished among the top seven in each of his 10 Atlantic starts last season for Brooks Associates Racing. He claimed four top-five finishes as he secured seventh place in the series championship. He will test for the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team early next week before joining the rest of the talented Atlantic field at the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 7-9, on the streets of Long Beach where his father won six times in his career.

Next week Unser III will also participate in the season-opening pre-event media luncheon, Wednesday, April 5 beginning at 11:30 a.m. PT at Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation at the Long Beach Airport. Champ Car

Dixon leads opening practice in St. Pete Dixon leads opening practice in St. Pete
It appears that Bryan Herta’s pole record will last all of one year.

The Andretti Green Racing driver started from the pole in the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a quick lap of 1 minute, 2.5096 seconds during the “Firestone Fast Six” 10-minute European-style qualifying session on the streets of St. Petersburg.

In the first IndyCar Series practice session on the same 1.8-mile, 14-turn course, three drivers recorded fast laps within one second of the record. A second 30-minute session – in two groups based on morning times – will be held this afternoon.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon topped the speed chart at 1:02.9515 (102.936 mph), with Helio Castroneves (1:03.1567; 102.602) second. Andretti Green Racing teammates Dario Franchitti (1:03.3512; 102.287) and Tony Kanaan (1:03.3889; 102.226) were close behind. Sam Hornish Jr. (1:03.6716; 101.772) and Buddy Rice (1:03.7183; 101.706) completed the top six. IndyCar.com
Pos Driver Name Best Time
1 Scott Dixon (9) 1:2.9515
2 Helio Castroneves (3) 1:3.1567
3 Dario Franchitti (27) 1:3.3512
4 Tony Kanaan (11) 1:3.3889
5 Sam Hornish Jr. (6) 1:3.6716
6 Buddy Rice (15) 1:3.7133
7 Vitor Meira (4) 1:3.9780
8 Dan Wheldon (10) 1:3.9993
9 Tomas Scheckter (2) 1:4.0028
10 Bryan Herta (7) 1:4.1415
11 Kosuke Matsuura (55) 1:4.1958
12 Marco Andretti (26) 1:4.3135
13 Roberto Moreno (20) 1:4.3153
14 Danica Patrick (16) 1:4.9744
15 Eddie Cheever Jr. (51) 1:5.1159
16 Scott Sharp (8) 1:6.1074
17 Felipe Giaffone (14) 1:6.5845
18 Buddy Lazier (5) 1:7.4173
19 P.J. Chesson (91) 1:9.3075

Industry News
Delphi moves to cancel UAW contract Delphi moves to cancel UAW contractGiant auto-parts maker Delphi Corp., standing by its earlier threat, asked a bankruptcy court judge on Friday to void its labor contract with the United Auto Workers after the union rejected Delphi's latest demands to cut wages and benefits.  At the same time, Delphi said it was seeking to shed "certain unprofitable General Motors contracts" as part of its plan to emerge from bankruptcy in the first half of 2007.

Delphi, spun off by GM in 1999, is GM's biggest parts supplier. Any disruption in the flow of parts to GM's assembly lines could cripple the struggling carmaker's production.

"We need GM to cover a greater portion of the costs of manufacturing products for GM at plants that bear the burden of our legacy costs. We simply cannot continue to sell products at a loss," Delphi Chief Executive Officer Robert "Steve" Miller said in a statement.

Delphi had warned for months that if the two sides could not reach agreement by March 30, it would ask Judge Robert Drain, overseeing Delphi's bankruptcy case in New York, to toss aside the company's contract with some 24,000 UAW workers. Interactive Investor

Parrott to Ganassi Parrott to GanassiChip Ganassi Racing has hired veteran crew chief Brad Parrott as Busch Series crew chief for Casey Mears.   Parrott has served as Busch Series crew chief with Roush Racing during Carl Edwards' rookie campaign and as a Cup crew chief with PPI Motorsports and Robert Yates Racing.
Hamilton Sr. still upbeat Hamilton Sr. still upbeatBobby Hamilton has undergone two chemotherapy treatments for cancer and said he's doing well. "I walk in (at Vanderbilt University Medical Center) just like everyone else who gets the treatment, and I walk out the same way," Hamilton said. "I don't want any special kind of treatment out of this so it is very important for me to do this just like everyone else. I never even told my nurse who I was." After Hamilton's first treatment two weeks ago he returned to his racing shop in Mt. Juliet and went back to work. "It is business as usual," he said. While still active at the shop, Hamilton is concerned that the ongoing treatments will leave him too weak to race. Starting Friday at Martinsville, Va., he will turn the driving duties over to son Bobby Jr. in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Hamilton's goal is to be back behind the wheel for the season finale at Homestead, Fla., or at least by the '07 opener at Daytona. The Tennessean
Homestead TV Rating Homestead TV RatingUPDATE The final TV Rating for the IRL season opening race in Homestead last weekend dropped from an overnight of 1.1 to a final of 0.8/2 share (which equates to just 840,000 viewers and is down since the last time Homestead was on Network TV).  Last year's final on ESPN was a 0.6 and a simulcast on ESPN2 was a 0.2.  Together they equal a 0.8.  IRL growing?  No.  Is a merger with Champ Car needed?  Absolutely.  Until they merge, both series are just spinning their wheels.

03/27/06 The overnight TV Rating for the Toyota Indy 300 on ABC was a 1.1. Last year the race was on cable channel ESPN so it is hard to make direct comparisons. The final last year was a 0.6, down 33% from a 0.9 on 2004. We'll have to wait to see the final rating this year before making any comparisons, but network TV is always expected to get a much higher rating than cable. Given the Paul Dana story, we were surprised the overnight rating wasn't higher.

News tidbits from Melbourne - II News tidbits from Melbourne - II
Champion praise for Button
World champion Fernando Alonso has vowed to keep an eye on a potential winner in 2006 -- Honda's Jenson Button.

The young Spaniard praised his English track colleague as a skilled racer who 'never makes mistakes' and is 'always competitive'.

Webber carps 'waste of time' Quali
Mark Webber has slammed F1's new 'knockout' qualifying system, describing the final fuel-burn shootout for the top ten as a 'waste of time'.

The Australian driver's sentiments were backed by some F1 team chiefs on Friday at Albert Park, who say the otherwise exciting format needs a slight tweak.

The futile nature of Friday practice also came under fire in Australia, as Webber's track absence and the predominance of test drivers confused local journalists and some fans at the cool circuit.

''Do we even need a Friday session?'' wondered Renault's Pat Symonds.

''I'm in favor of having a two-day grand prix event and maybe we use Friday for testing.''

Prodrive lodges entry for F1 '08
Following news that Paul Stoddart has entered a team for the 2008 world championship, it has now emerged that David Richards' 'Prodrive' company also met the governing body's Friday deadline.

There are only twelve spots in pitlane, but the sport's existing eleven teams plus Minardi and Prodrive means that one squad now entered for the 2008 season will miss out.

''F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and a natural next step,'' said Richards, whose company already races in world rallying (with Subaru) and in Australia's V8 category.

TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Formula 1 Qualifying Australia
12:00am-1:30am (SDD) SPEED
NASCAR Past Champions -Richard Petty, Part 2  
4:30am-5:00am (R) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Happy Hour Martinsville
10:30am-11:30am (L) FX
NASCAR Craftsman Truck  Martinsville
3:00pm-5:30pm (L) SPEED
NHRA Qualifying Baytown, TX
8:00pm-10:00pm ESPN2
Speed News Saturday 
10:00pm-10:30pm SPEED
Formula 1 Australian GP 
10:30pm-1:00am (L) SPEED

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

IRL Has No Answer For Fatal Crash IRL Has No Answer For Fatal CrashBrian Barnhart said Thursday that Paul Dana met all of the league's licensing requirements, citing in particular, his experience in the developmental Infiniti Pro Series.

"Paul was an extremely competent and capable driver," Barnhart said. "Look at Paul's background and history: No one had worked harder to get to this level than Paul did. He ran our Triple-A series for a couple of years, won a race at Milwaukee, finished second in the points [2004]. He got an opportunity to go test, and he had thousands of miles in our cars."

Tony Kanaan, the IRL champion in 2004, said he didn't observe anything about Dana's driving that made him uncomfortable.

"I believe the IRL is very restrictive," he said. "They do a lot of rookie tests to see if you can pass that. They evaluate you in the [developmental series]. Paul was … not a guy who just jumped in an Indy car and said 'this is what I'm going to do because I have a sponsor.'"

But Kanaan added, "In any series, you're going to have very talented drivers and not so talented drivers. It's tough to judge how capable someone is because it all depends on the car, as well. It's not like you can judge somebody just by lap time."

Dana was warned of Carpenter's spinning car by his spotter, according to team co-owner Bobby Rahal, and he should have seen yellow caution lights on the track and on his car's dashboard. Two drivers who were ahead of Dana on the track when Carpenter spun had time to slow, and Dana passed both of them.

While there was no way to know for certain that Dana's dashboard light came on, they did come on in the other cars, Barnhart said.

The IRL's warning systems also include vibrating pagers that the spotters wear. When a caution occurs, officials in race control send a signal to the pagers, alerting the spotters in case they are watching another part of the track.

"No one has more early warning systems for an issue on the racetrack than we have," Barnhart said.

Barnhart said he was in the race-control booth at the time of the crash and happened to be watching Carpenter when he started to spin. He said he called for the caution himself, setting the warning systems in motion.

"No one knows what Paul's reaction was except Paul," Barnhart said. "No one knows, because there was only one guy in that car and driving that car, so you don't know what his thought processes were, what he understood in terms of the information available to him, where he thought he could go to avoid traffic.

"We were running in full-traffic conditions. He may have gone one direction because [Carpenter's] car was somewhere and by the time it slid across [the track], he's got somebody to his outside, and he can't move to the outside.

"Unfortunately, the only person who can probably [give] the answer is the one who's no longer with us."  More at TBO.com

V8 Supercars
Shanghai flop a future lesson Shanghai flop a future lessonV8 SUPERCAR powerbrokers have admitted they made the wrong call by dealing with a non-motorsport company in the failed Shanghai venture.

Wayne Cattach, chief executive of V8 Supercars Australia, said his organization had to be more careful in choosing people to deal with in future international racing endeavors.

"What we learnt from China was not so much whether international plans were right, because they were," Cattach said after confirming the five-year contract to race in Shanghai had been torn up after only one year.

"We learnt that we have to be a bit more particular about the kind of organizations we conduct business with."

Cattach was referring to the Chinese promoter, the Greenland Group, which had no motor-racing experience.

"In this instance we probably didn't get it right. We've learned from that and we won't be repeating it," he said. More at Courier Mail

Franchitti: I love street racing Franchitti: I love street racingThe four Andretti Green drivers will be keen to put the season opening race at Homestead-Miami firmly behind them as they head to the streets of St Petersburg.

Franchitti managed a solid fourth position last Sunday while teammates Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan crashed out of the event. Rookie driver Marco Andretti also failed to finish after a drive through penalty and then a drive-shaft failure.

Franchitti in particular is looking forward to the street circuit race and the team expect him to challenge for the win.

Dario Franchitti
"I love racing at St. Pete; the track, the atmosphere. I love street course racing. I've run a lot of races on road courses and I really enjoy the discipline it takes. The entire Klein Tools/Jim Beam team is really looking forward to the race."

John Anderson, Franchitti Team Manager
"Heading to St. Pete, I'm looking for a win for the Klein Tools/Jim Beam team. Dario is more than capable of winning because road course racing is his forte and I expect him to be running at the front all weekend." zzzz

Tony Kanaan
"Last year we had our greatest success at St. Petersburg as a race team, as promoters, everything. Everyone was talking about that success and it will be hard to match it. That success was hard enough to do once and sometimes something like that only happens once. I'm excited to be back on a street course. The atmosphere at St. Petersburg is very exciting and I'm looking forward to getting there and competing.”

Eric Cowdin, Kanaan Race Engineer
“When undertaking a street circuit you have to give the driver a car that he can take by the throat and jockey around the course. It's like going from the splitting-the-diamond mentality that you take when preparing for a speedway to the swinging-the-big-hammer approach to dealing with the bumps and curbs that you encounter at a street circuit.”

Bryan Herta
"I think the entire team wants to put the Homestead weekend behind us. St. Petersburg was a very good event last year and the XM Satellite Radio car was great all weekend. I'm looking forward to the race and trying to recapture the pole and take home a race win this year."

George Klotz, Herta Team Manager
"All we can do is put last weekend behind us and carry on to St. Pete. We were fast there last year, on the pole, led a bunch of laps and we're going to try and duplicate it again this year. We've just got to forget about our on-track results at Homestead and move forward."

Marco Andretti
“I'm very excited to get back on the St. Petersburg circuit. To be honest, even if I finish last I'd still enjoy it because I like that race track, and not just because I won there last year. You have to drive 99 percent; you can't overextend yourself, which is the case at any road course. But I really enjoy racing at St. Petersburg.”

Eddie Jones, Andretti Race Engineer
“Setting up the #26 NYSE car for a street course presents a different set of challenges. The driver has no margin for error, so you have to have a car that is very responsive to driver input. You have slow, 90-degree turns where traction coming off the corner for acceleration is important and you have to have a compliant suspension for dealing with the curbs and normal bumps that are usually found on a street circuit.” Source Andretti Green

Formula Nippon
Matsuda fastest Friday at Fuji Matsuda fastest Friday at FujiOfficial Practice Results from Round 1 at Fuji.  Qualifying will run on Saturday followed by the race on Sunday that is scheduled to start 14:35 Tokyo time (GMT+09:00).

Practice 1 and 2 Combined Results
Pos. Driver Best Laptime Team Engine
1. No.20 T.Matsuda 1:26:989 Impul Toyota
2. No.19 B.Treluyer 1:27:037 Impul Toyota
3. No.1 S.Motoyama  1:27:054 Arting Impul  Toyota
4. No.56 T.Kogure  1:27:432 Aguri Honda
5. No.40 B.Wirdheim 1:27:521 Dandelion Honda
6. No.7 T.Kataoka  1:27:545 LeMans Toyota
7. No.55 T.Kaneishi  1:27:684 Aguri Honda
8. No.37 T.Tsuchya 1:27:751 Tom's Toyota
9. No.11 Y.Tachikawa  1:27:779 Cerumo Toyota
10. No.31 L.Duval  1:27:787 Nakajima Honda
11. No.8 T.Takagi  1:27:842 LeMans Toyota
12. No.2 K.Hoshino  1:27:857 Arting Impul Toyota
13. No.32 H.Muto  1:27:943 Nakajima Honda
14. No.33 R.Quintarelli  1:27:952 Inging Toyota
15. No.34 N.Yokomizo  1:28:010 Inging Toyota
16. No.3 S.Yamamoto  1:28:184 Kondo Toyota
17. No.41 K.Hiranaka  1:28:207 Dandelion Honda
18. No.4 M.Yanagida 1:28:251 Kondo Toyota
19. No.27 S.Mitsuyama  1:28:434 Direxiv Honda
20. No.36 A.Lotterer  1:28:587 Tom's Toyota
21. No.5 A.Michigami  1:28:868 5zigen Honda
22. No.6 R.Orime  1:28:984 5zigen Honda

Senna steamrolls opposition Senna steamrolls oppositionAfter light contact and finishing 4th on Thursday in race 1, Bruno Senna, the Brazilian nephew of the great F1 driver Ayrton Senna, steamrolled the opposition in Friday's rain-affected seven-lap DODO Formula 3 race #2, indicating he may have inherited some of his uncle's wet weather skills.

Thirteen years after his late and great uncle won his last grand prix, Bruno Senna found the checkered flag first in Australia.

Triple champion Ayrton Senna, who crashed fatally not long after at Imola, last won a GP in a McLaren in 1993 in Adelaide, Australia's former formula one host.

Now, further north in the city of Melbourne, Bruno Senna - the 22-year-old Brazilian son of Ayrton's sister Viviane - won the F3 support event in front of current F1 drivers and team bosses on Friday.

''I've always wondered what it would be like to win a race,'' said Senna, ''and now I know -- it is indescribable.''

New South Welshman James Winslow triumphed in the opening DODO Formula 3 race at the 2006 F1 Foster’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – but only after an astonishing set of circumstances.

Winslow’s Renault-powered Dallara 304 only sat in fourth position after the penultimate lap, before pacesetters Bruno Senna, Chris Alajajian and Michael Trimble all found trouble on the final circuit.

Villeneuve cops 10-position slap Villeneuve cops 10-position slap(GMMf1NET)  BMW Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve will drop ten places down the qualifying grid in Melbourne after an unscheduled V8 engine change.

On Friday at Albert Park, the Hinwil based team suffered two more problems to add to the blow-ups in Malaysia and Bahrain -- Villeneuve's and the failure of 'Friday' driver Robert Kubica on the start-finish straight.

''It's a pity,'' Canadian Villeneuve, 34, said, ''because I'm happy with the car's speed.''

BMW is undoubtedly tackling an engine reliability problem in early 2006, with team boss Mario Theissen previously wagging a finger at the FIA's short notice for the new 2.4ltr V8 regulations.

Nick Heidfeld's car, whose V8 survived opening practice in Australia, is fitted with an engine featuring 'hand-selected' parts as a short-term patch for the reliability problem, Theissen explained.

He said: ''We have two of these engines here.  Jacques will get the second in time for qualifying (on Saturday).''

Rosberg backed over Webber quarrel Rosberg backed over Webber quarrel(GMMf1NET)  1980 world champion Alan Jones has sided with F1 rookie Nico Rosberg over his recent wheel-to-wheel quarrel with Jones' Australian countryman, Mark Webber.

59-year-old 'AJ' - who won Frank Williams' first drivers' F1 title - said he was 'surprised' to hear about the team and Webber's rebuke of the 20-year-old's start-line tactics in Malaysia.

''Mark is more than capable of looking after himself,'' Jones told the Age newspaper, ''and I encourage Nico to show the others that he won't be an easy touch.''

Jones also warned his old paymasters, Williams and team co-owner Patrick Head, to go easy on their new rookie.

He explained: ''I think they should be careful not to discourage Rosberg from having a go -- as long as he doesn't punt Webber off.''

Nico's father and manager, Keke Rosberg, is an old F1 rival of Jones', and 'AJ' said the Finn was 'one of the hardest I raced against'.

Australian GP: Friday press Conference Australian GP: Friday press ConferenceParticipating: Nick Fry (Honda), Norbert Haug (McLaren Mercedes), Sam Michael (Williams), Pat Symonds (Renault). Transcript
Shanghai: Lapierre quickest in practice 2 Shanghai: Lapierre quickest in practice 2Shanghai - The closing round of A1 Grand Prix's inaugural season got underway today with 22 A1 race cars taking to the impressive Shanghai International Circuit for two Official Practice sessions. 

Fastest of the day was A1 Team France's Nicolas Lapierre (pictured right) who will split the weekend's driving with team mate Alex Premat. Commenting on the track and the team's performance, Lapierre said: 'It's a very difficult track for the driver and for the car so we had to work a lot today but at the end of the day we had a good time. We put in a good distance and we have to wait and see tomorrow what Alex can do. The track was not easy at the beginning as there are a lot of corners and it's a very technical track but now I really like it because I think we will see a good race on Sunday.' 

A1 Team Great Britain, who will be defending their current third place position in the championship standings, has opted for new driver Darren Manning this weekend. Speaking of his first time in an A1 race car, Manning said: 'Obviously the day's gone very well, it's my first time in the car and first time on the track. It helped me being on a totally brand new circuit so the other drivers were learning the circuit as I was also learning how to drive the car. It's nice to be in the press conference after my first time out so I hope I can keep it up for the rest of the weekend.' zzzz

Commenting on the Shanghai circuit, Manning continued: 'It's my first experience of this amazing circuit. It's got everything you could want as a driver - it's got some slow technical corners and some very high speed corners. It's going to be very good for the racing and it's going to be very physical. Because the track doesn't get used very much, conditions just keep getting better and better, it's going to be interesting stuff.' 

Winner of the last race at Laguna Seca, A1 Team Mexico's Salvador Duran recorded the fastest lap in the first session but initially struggled in the second: 'It was a difficult day', he said. 'In the morning we were very fast in the beginning. In the afternoon we made a big change to the car which was difficult but we worked on the set up and luckily had enough time to put in a decent time at the end of the session. I'm very happy now as we now have a competitive car for tomorrow.'

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Nicolas Lapierre France 1:51.972 19
 2. Darren Manning Great Britain 1:52.079 + 0.107 19
 3. Salvador Duran Mexico 1:52.321 + 0.349 21
 4. Ryan Briscoe Australia 1:52.355 + 0.383 19
 5. Alex Yoong Malaysia 1:52.371 + 0.399 21
 6. Michael Devaney Ireland 1:52.376 + 0.404 19
 7. Patrick Carpentier Canada 1:52.388 + 0.416 22
 8. Tengyi Jiang China 1:52.436 + 0.464 23
 9. Stephen Simpson South Africa 1:52.477 + 0.505 16
10. Ananda Mikola Indonesia 1:52.701 + 0.729 20
11. Matt Halliday New Zealand 1:52.703 + 0.731 19
12. Jos Verstappen Netherlands 1:52.858 + 0.886 19
13. Tomas Enge Czech Republic 1:52.960 + 0.988 23
14. Enrico Toccacelo Italy 1:53.052 + 1.080 22
15. Giorgio Mondini Switzerland 1:53.066 + 1.094 19
16. Adam Khan Pakistan 1:53.200 + 1.228 16
17. Cesar Campanico Portugal 1:53.423 + 1.451 23
18. Philip Giebler USA 1:53.564 + 1.592 20
19. Mathias Lauda Austria 1:53.918 + 1.946 24
20. Graham Rahal Lebanon 1:53.951 + 1.979 22
21. Christian Fittipaldi Brazil 1:54.073 + 2.101 15
22. Sebastian Stahl Germany 1:56.172 + 4.200 20

Shanghai: Duran fastest in practice 1 Shanghai: Duran fastest in practice 1Double Laguna Seca winner Salvador Duran continued where he left off by topping the time sheets in China for the first free practice session for this weekend's A1 Grand Prix finale. Duran lapped the 5.45km track in one minute 52.513 seconds. Second was Alex Yoong just 0.208 of a second behind.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Salvador Duran Mexico 1:52.513 20
 2. Alex Yoong Malaysia 1:52.721 + 0.208 16
 3. Nicolas Lapierre France 1:52.733 + 0.220 17
 4. Michael Devaney Ireland 1:52.919 + 0.406 9
 5. Patrick Carpentier Canada 1:52.989 + 0.476 18
 6. Ryan Briscoe Australia 1:53.229 + 0.716 21
 7. Darren Manning Great Britain 1:53.314 + 0.801 20
 8. Stephen Simpson South Africa 1:53.452 + 0.939 13
 9. Matt Halliday New Zealand 1:53.508 + 0.995 21
10. Philip Giebler USA 1:53.546 + 1.033 18
11. Jos Verstappen Netherlands 1:53.560 + 1.047 16
12. Ananda Mikola Indonesia 1:53.626 + 1.113 17
13. Adam Khan Pakistan 1:53.662 + 1.149 19
14. Giorgio Mondini Switzerland 1:53.966 + 1.453 21
15. Graham Rahal Lebanon 1:54.001 + 1.488 22
16. Tomas Enge Czech Republic 1:54.125 + 1.612 19
17. Cesar Campanico Portugal 1:54.264 + 1.751 18
18. Christian Fittipaldi Brazil 1:54.841 + 2.328 20
19. Enrico Toccacelo Italy 1:54.868 + 2.355 20
20. Qinghua Ma China 1:55.087 + 2.574 12
21. Mathias Lauda Austria 1:55.095 + 2.582 10
22. Sebastian Stahl Germany 1:56.833 + 4.320 21

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Ferrari solve V8 engine flaw
F1 has 100% owner
DC slams Montoya in race for F1 seat
Brit GP shelves development plan
Honda's Imola fix
Fisi keeps eye on silver chaser
Malaysia opposes Singapore GP
BMW confirm 'flexi' wing change
Rossi won't be F1 champ, says DC
Ralf escapes V8 change penalty
JV not ready to retire
Melbourne - the lighter side Melbourne - the lighter sideWhile his drivers indulged in all sorts of sporting pursuits, team boss Christian Horner went all high-brow on us. Most people who visit the sights in Sydney settle for a tour of the harbor and looking at the famous Opera House from the outside. Not so our dear leader. He actually went inside to see a performance of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly. Everyone in the team was suitably impressed until Christian let slip the fact that,

 “I didn’t realize it would all be in Italian!”

One of the hot stories in Melbourne this week was the disappearance of a good dozen members of the Sierra Leone athletic team who had been in the city for the Commonwealth Games, which ended last weekend. They were eventually found on a beach in Sydney. Melbourne really is sports mad and to add to the excitement of having the Grand Prix in town, the Aussie Rules Football season starts this weekend. There’s a match taking place at the famous MCG and even the nearest team to the race track, St. Kilda, have got a game on.

As for the drivers, they had to change their plans, apart from DC who flew back to Europe for testing, as they had been due to head up to Cairns, on the Barrier Reef. But the area was hit by a cyclone, with winds blowing so strong that Klien, our little Austrian lad had to have someone hanging onto his ankles to stop him blowing way. Instead, they headed for the more up-tempo delights of Surfers Paradise.

Robert Doornbos heard there had been a shark attack in the area a week or so earlier and was therefore not keen to go out too far on his surfboard. However, spotting a possible opportunity for a race drive, he was particularly keen for Christian to paddle out into the deep water. Red Bull

Q and A with Marcus Winkelhock Q and A with Marcus WinkelhockNico Rosberg’s arrival on the F1 scene has inevitably attracted a lot of attention, but Williams is not the only team to welcome the return of a famous name this year. In Bahrain, MF1 Racing’s third driver, Markus Winkelhock, quietly got on with the job of testing tires and set-ups for his teammates. As a Friday driver, he might not have stolen many headlines at the opening race, but for fans of a certain generation, the return of the Winkelhock name to the Grand Prix scene is just as significant as that of Rosberg.

Markus, who will also drive the third car in Melbourne this weekend, is the son of Manfred Winkelhock, one of the top German drivers of the early Eighties. Manfred started 47 Grands Prix for the ATS, Brabham and RAM teams from 1982-’85, before a tragic accident in a World Sportscar Championship event at Canada’s Mosport circuit claimed his life in 1985.

A protégé of BMW’s motorsports division, Manfred was a hard-charging racer who had great flair at the wheel, but never really got the breaks during his short F1 career. He occasionally qualified the ATS well up the field, but only once made the points. His brother Jo, Markus’s uncle, drove for half a season with the AGS team in 1989.

Manfred is remembered as much for his colorful personality as his results on the track. He won many friends along the way, and some still work in the F1 paddock today. They include current Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug, and TV commentator Marc Surer, who was a regular teammate. Both men have kept an eye on young Markus over the years, and were delighted to see him take to the track in Bahrain.

Markus showed his potential in the Renault World Series last year, and now he’s part of MF1 Racing’s squad of young test drivers…. zzzz

You don’t have a race seat yet, but you’ve made the first step. What does it mean to be driving on Grand Prix weekends?
“It’s really like a dream is coming true. Since I started my career in 1998 in Formula Koenig in Germany, my target was to make it to F1, like my father and my uncle. Today, I’m part of an F1 team, and I’m really grateful to Colin Kolles for giving me a chance to be a part of it. I hope to get as many Friday sessions as I can, and I’ll try to do as good a job as possible. You never know, maybe I can get a racing seat next year or in two years. I’ll work very hard for it.”

I’m guessing that your mother wasn’t too happy when you first decided to be a racing driver…
“No, especially in the beginning, when I told her I wanted to start motor racing! She was really sad about it, obviously, because of what happened to my father. Now, on the one hand she’s happy for me, because I got the chance in F1, but on the other hand she’s afraid, and I think that’s normal. But overall, I think she’s proud of me.”

Your name helped you get attention when you started, but after a certain level, you have to have the ability. Have there been advantages and disadvantages?
 “Yes, both. Sometimes you have quite a lot of pressure with the name, and if you have no results, people decide quite quickly that you’re not fast enough and stuff like that. On the other side, I’ve got quite a lot of contacts, and it makes life a little bit easier sometimes.”

Norbert Haug of Mercedes is a big supporter. Can he help your career?
“I hope so. I still have quite a lot of contact with him, and he’s a really nice person. I have to say a really big thank you to him, because he was the person who supported me from the beginning. He took me into the Mercedes junior team. He was the man who brought me to F3, and then into DTM with Mercedes. It’s important to have people like him and Marc Surer around me.”

Was the DTM a good experience for you?
“It was a really nice experience. The only problem was that I had a year-old car, so it was almost impossible to get into the top five or even top 10. Anyway, it was good experience. But I think my step back to single-seaters last year was the right step for me.”

How was your Renault season in 2005?
“The season had a lot of ups and downs! I had three victories and two or three poles, and I was always among the top four drivers. I think I had a chance to win the championship, but I lost a lot of points with stupid things like gearbox problems. But anyway, it was quite a good year. I think it’s a perfect series for preparing a driver, and there are a lot of strong drivers. We didn’t have as much press as GP2, but the championship was really strong.”

What was your first test with Midland like at the end of last year?
“The first test was quite good. It was my first time in an F1 car, and it was a really nice experience. I felt confident very quickly with the car, because as I said, the Renault I drove last year was quite a good car for preparing a driver for F1. Those first laps were unbelievable. It was like a video game – everything was so fast, everything was more than in the Renault!”

How was your first Friday in Bahrain?
“For me it was quite OK. In the first session, I had to learn the track first of all, and the car was absolutely brand new. Usually, you can have some little problems with a new car, but it ran very well. The test was very good for me. I was bit unlucky when we went out with less fuel and new tires. I had a spin, and for three laps after I had yellow flags, so I couldn’t do a time with low fuel. Anyway, it was a good experience and the team was happy. It’s really something special to be here and be part of this team. They have so much passion and dedication for the sport, and I really think they can achieve something special in the future.” MF1

Davidson tops Practice 2 in Melbourne Davidson tops Practice 2 in MelbourneHonda’s Anthony Davidson (pictured right, courtesy of Honda) made it two session-topping efforts in a row in the second Formula 1 hour at the 2006 FORMULA 1™ Foster’s Australian Grand Prix on Friday afternoon.

In a session full of interest and action, the English driver again left his best till last, posting a 1:26.822 six minutes from the end of the session to take first position by just one one-hundredth of a second from fellow tester Alex Wurz at Williams-Cosworth.

Jenson Button, who did not run in the opening hour but was instantly on the pace, was the quickest regular race driver in fourth, but impressive Pole Robert Kubica finished the session in third place 13-1000ths ahead of the Englishman.

Fernando Alonso’s Renault recorded the first sub-1:28 lap of the weekend on his first flying lap of the session, but the World Champion ended the session fifth-fastest ahead of the man he most wants to beat this year, seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher. zzzz

Schumi’s Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa had a moment at Turn 12 but gathered things up, while Japanese newcomer Yuji Ide performed a 360-degree pirouette through the quick section at Turns 11 and 12 in the Aguri Honda midway through the session but avoided contact.

Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Vitantonio Liuzzi was not as fortunate, clouting the wall at Turn 12 where Ide spun and coming to a halt.

Aussie fans had to wait until 20 minutes before the end of the day’s F1 running for the chance to cheer Mark Webber, whose Williams-Cosworth hiccupped through its first lap with Webber reporting gear-shift problems.

Webber ended the session in 15th with a best lap of 1:28.860 and just 10 laps on the board.

Dutchman Christijan Albers stops out on circuit on the entry to Turn 15, ending up on the infield after clipping the curb and slewing across the circuit.
P. No Driver Team - Engine Tires Times Ave/Gaps
 1. 36 DAVIDSON Honda M 1'26"822 219.884 Km/h
 2. 35 WURZ Williams Cosworth B 1'26"832 + 0'00"010
 3. 38 KUBICA BMW Sauber M 1'27"200 + 0'00"378
 4. 12 BUTTON Honda M 1'27"213 + 0'00"391
 5. 1 ALONSO Renault M 1'27"443 + 0'00"621
 6. 5 M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1'27"658 + 0'00"836
 7. 3 RAIKKONEN McLaren Mercedes M 1'27"773 + 0'00"951
 8. 11 BARRICHELLO Honda M 1'28"075 + 0'01"253
 9. 4 MONTOYA McLaren Mercedes M 1'28"200 + 0'01"378
10. 6 MASSA Ferrari B 1'28"227 + 0'01"405
11. 2 FISICHELLA Renault M 1'28"280 + 0'01"458
12. 17 VILLENEUVE BMW Sauber M 1'28"440 + 0'01"618
13. 14 COULTHARD RedBull Ferrari M 1'28"531 + 0'01"709
14. 9 WEBBER Williams Cosworth B 1'28"860 + 0'02"038
15. 16 HEIDFELD BMW Sauber M 1'29"053 + 0'02"231
16. 8 TRULLI Toyota B 1'29"138 + 0'02"316
17. 21 SPEED Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'29"196 + 0'02"374
18. 7 R.SCHUMACHER Toyota B 1'29"379 + 0'02"557
19. 18 MONTEIRO Midland Toyota B 1'29"713 + 0'02"891
20. 37 DOORNBOS RedBull Cosworth M 1'29"876 + 0'03"054
21. 15 KLIEN RedBull Ferrari M 1'29"879 + 0'03"057
22. 10 ROSBERG Williams Cosworth B 1'29"933 + 0'03"111
23. 40 JANI Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'30"686 + 0'03"864
24. 20 LIUZZI Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1'30"734 + 0'03"912
25. 19 ALBERS Midland Toyota B 1'30"830 + 0'04"008
26. 39 WINKELHOCK Midland Toyota B 1'31"260 + 0'04"438
27. 22 SATO S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'32"556 + 0'05"734
28. 23 IDE S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1'34"224 + 0'07"402

Overheard/Seen at Fontana - V Overheard/Seen at Fontana - VOur Steve Levinson filed these 'lighter-side' photos from Fontana testing Thursday including Kevin Kalkhoven and Tommy Kendall's Chicken Car. More.....
Zandvoort awarded A1GP race Zandvoort awarded A1GP raceThe Dutch fans have proved the most loyal to their team in the A1 Grand Prix series and this has been rewarded with a race on home turf as the opener for the 2006/07 season will be at the Zandvoort seaside circuit.

After a 21 year absence, Grand Prix racing will return to Zandvoort on 30 September – 1 October 2006, kicking off A1 Grand Prix’s second season. The event, organized by A1 Grand Prix, in close co-operation with Circuit Park Zandvoort and A1 Team Netherlands, will be the first time A1 Grand Prix has raced in the Netherlands.

A1 Team Netherlands’ seat holder, Jan Lammers, who was born in Zandvoort and began his racing career at the circuit under the guidance of the late Rob Slotemaker, is excited to secure a home race for himself and his team. For Lammers A1 Grand Prix is the best thing that has ever happened to motorsport. ‘Unlike all other motor sports, A1 Grand Prix is not solely about the individual driver but all about team effort and the honor of representing your country. It’s also a real family event and gives all the fans, young and old, the best in entertainment and value for money.’ zzzz

Hans Ernst, director of Circuit Park Zandvoort, welcomed the opportunity to host an A1 Grand Prix event. ‘It is very special that A1 Grand Prix will come to Zandvoort. We expect it to attract huge crowds and it’s also a big boost for the Zandvoort economy in a period where the regular tourist season has ended. The race will attract millions of television viewers from all over the world and it is excellent promotion for the track, Zandvoort and the Netherlands.’

A1 Grand Prix Chairman, Sheikh Maktoum is delighted that A1 Grand Prix will race in the Netherlands: ‘The enthusiasm of the Dutch fans is the main reason to come to Zandvoort. We have had the pleasure of seeing them at almost every race this year and they encapsulate the patriotic spirit of A1 Grand Prix. They are not easily overlooked in their bright orange outfits. At one race, I even saw two of them with huge inflatable Orange clogs for hats.’

The atmosphere will be electric next October as tens of thousands of fans, most dressed in orange, find their way to Zandvoort. The event is being eagerly anticipated by both fans and motorsport experts with tickets going on sale at 11.00 GMT on Monday 3 April. Furthermore, there will be free gifts for all those who buy their weekend grandstand ticket before 1 June 2006.

Further details of A1 Grand Prix’s 2006/07 season will be made over the coming weeks.

Circuit Park Zandvoort Motorsport experts and drivers consider Circuit Park Zandvoort a real ‘drivers’ circuit’. With its sweeping corners through the dunes, the seaside track is considered one of the most technical and challenging circuits in the world. Drivers rate corners like the ‘Tarzanbocht’ and ‘het Scheivlak’ as some of the most interesting and exciting in motor racing.

Designed by a team led by 1928 Le Mans winner, Sammy Davis, the track is 4307 meters (2.6 miles) in length. Circuit Park Zandvoort has hosted 29 Grand Prix’s in its history, the last taking place in 1985 and is also home of the Masters of Formula 3 – the unofficial F3 World Championship, and DTM in the Netherlands.

track news
Area schools use GP to help students learn Area schools use GP to help students learnIt's safe to say that the vast majority of people attending the 32nd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach are there simply to enjoy the sun and fun of Southern California's Ultimate Speed Festival.

However, a certain segment of the expected 170,000 people will be there April 7-9 for a more important reason: to learn.

More than 200 Southern California students and teachers will spend a day exploring the activities around the 1.97-mile street circuit as guests of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach (GPALB) to fulfill a variety of classroom assignments. zzzz

Schools and classes scheduled to attend race weekend include:

· A Facility Planning and Personnel Management Class from Cal State Long Beach, part of the school's Masters in Sports Management program,

· Students in Cal State Long Beach's Kinesiology Department,
· A social studies class from Lowell Elementary School in Long Beach, 
· Students from 15 area colleges who are members of  the Society of Automotive Engineers,
· Auto Shop classes from Bellflower High School and Tri-City Christian School in Vista, and
· A photography class that is part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Youth-At-Risk Program.

"The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has always been an integral part of the Southern  California Community and, as such, it's our responsibility to give something back to that community," said Jim Michaelian,  CEO of the GPALB.

"It is a 'win-win' situation for all concerned.  Hopefully, we can contribute to their continuing education and, eventually, we'll see these students back here many times in the future simply enjoying themselves as race fans."

A limited number of school class race visitations, primarily focusing on Long Beach schools, are available each year from the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.  Requests must be made in writing at least 30 days prior to race weekend.

Tickets for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, featuring six racing events including the opening round of the 2006 Champ Car World Series, can be purchased from the Grand Prix ticket office by calling the toll-free ticket hotline at (888) 82-SPEED.  A handy ticket brochure - which includes circuit map, grandstand and parking locations, ticket prices and order form - can be obtained by calling the ticket hotline. Tickets are also available online at longbeachgp.com or ticketmaster.com.

Bourdais will have to beat Wilson to win 3rd straight Bourdais will have to beat Wilson to win 3rd straightAfter getting beaten by Justin Wilson at Fontana today, Sebastien Bourdais predicts who his chief rivals will be in 2006: “We were able to run more laps today in the McDonald’s car and do pit stop practice and are ready to get the season started. Our main competitors will be RuSPORT and Forsythe again and Oriol could be strong. Not a lot more to say until we get to Long Beach and see how we stack up against the rest of the field.”

Wilson smoked the field in the season finale at Mexico City last year and appears poised in 2006 to knock two-time Champ Car champion Bourdais off his perch. It should make for an interesting story all year.

Wilson smokes Bourdais on Day 2 at Fontana Wilson smokes Bourdais on Day 2 at FontanaFONTANA, Calif. (March 30, 2006) – The teams and drivers of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford have done all the testing they are going to do before the 2006 season opener, wrapping up a busy preseason with a second day of testing at California Speedway on Thursday.

Teams took to the 1.459-mile infield road course under sunny skies to make their final preparations leading into next weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and ended up chasing the same guy that led the pack the last time the checkered flag flew over a Champ Car event.

2005 season finale winner Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) hung up the best time of the two days of testing today, stopping the clocks at 52.090 seconds, besting the field by nearly a quarter of a second. Two-time defending champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald’s Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing, who led Wednesday’s testing, ended up second on the time sheets while his 2005 teammate Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) carded the day’s third-best time in his new PKV Racing machine. zzzz

“We are very happy with our progress over the two days and we put some good laps up, but we know that we still have some ground to cover,” Servia admitted. “Today showed that we are catching up, but we know that we need to build some consistency before we start talking about wins. When we become a consistent threat for podiums, then we can start thinking about wins.”

Bruno Junqueira (#2 Newman/Haas Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is already thinking about wins, having completed a rigorous testing schedule in preparation for next weekend’s event – his first since the incident in last year’s Indianapolis 500 that knocked him out of the balance of the Champ Car season. He was sixth-fastest today but was encouraged by the fact that he was less than a half-second off the pace set by RuSPORT’s Wilson.

“I am where I expected to be physically and I think I am ready to give 100 percent next week without worry,” Junqueira said. “I’m up to speed at every test. It’s really very close at the top between six or seven guys so I’m excited. My goal is to give my best and to enjoy it. If I do that, I know I can win races.”

As they were yesterday, A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) were fourth and fifth when the clocks stopped, although Tracy felt better about things today than he did after a frustrating Wednesday.

“This morning we ran some decent times but weren’t able to improve in the afternoon,” Tracy reported. “But I think we’re where we need to be for Long Beach. We weren’t as fast as we wanted to be here, but we weren’t trying to win anything here either.”

Dale Coyne Racing ran its final evaluation day as the long-time squad looks to finalize its driver lineup for the 2006 opener. Today, Jan Heylen (#11 Sonny’s BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took over the 11 car that Nicky Pastorelli ran yesterday, while 2002 series champion Cristiano da Matta (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ran his second day with the team after officially signing his deal on Wednesday.

“I’ve been able to run quite well, especially on the first day and I don’t think we’re too far off for Long Beach,” da Matta said. “We know what we have performance-wise and I think if we continue working on the organization, we have a chance to do well. I think we have a very good starting point and we are looking forward to the start of the season.”

The teams and drivers will take the rest of the week to catch their collective breath before firing the engines for real next week, with the first practice and qualifying sessions of the 2006season taking place on the streets of Long Beach on Friday. The year’s first race will take the green flag Sunday, April 9 at 4 p.m. Eastern, and can be seen live on NBC. Champ Car

Today’s official times from California Speedway follow:

1) Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.090 seconds
2) Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald’s Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.325
3) Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.396
4) A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.417
5) Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.425
6) Bruno Junqueira (#2 Newman/Haas Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.485
7) Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.798
8) Cristiano da Matta (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.818
9) Jan Heylen  (#11 Sonny’s BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.448
10) Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.469
11) Charles Zwolsman (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.525
12) Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.555
13) Katherine Legge (#20 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.686

Fairgrounds drops historic dirt-track race Fairgrounds drops historic dirt-track raceThe condition of fencing and guardrails at the Indiana State Fairgrounds one-mile track has led to the postponement of the annual Hoosier Hundred auto race, which had been scheduled for May 26.  The United States Auto Club-sanctioned dirt car race was a fixture of Midwest racing for more than five decades, part of a national championship that included the Indianapolis 500.  According to a release from the Indiana State Fair, the fairgrounds' insurance company decided not to cover auto racing at the fairgrounds unless improvements are made to the walls and catch fencing that surround the track. A new concrete back stretch wall was was installed at the track a few years ago, but most of the safety barriers have remained unchanged for years.  More at Indy Star [Editor's Note: The continued demise of open wheel racing]
Australian Grand Prix free practice session 1 results Australian Grand Prix free practice session 1 resultsThe session was dominated by those that are able to run third drivers and it was Honda test driver Anthony Davidson that set the pace in his RA106 with a best lap of 1:28.259s, three hundredths of a second faster than Giancarlo Fisichella’s Pole Position time from last year.
1. DAVIDSON Honda 1m28.259s
2. DOORNBOS Red Bull 1m28.559s
3. VILLENEUVE BMW 1m28.595s
4. RAIKKONEN McLaren 1m28.713s
5. MASSA Ferrari 1m29.025s
6. M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari 1m29.041s
7. R.SCHUMACHER Toyota 1m29.411s
8. WURZ Williams 1m29.461s
9. KUBICA BMW 1m29.576s
10. KLIEN Red Bull 1m29.601s
11. COULTHARD Red Bull 1m29.676s
12. SPEED Toro Rosso 1m31.017s
13. ALBERS Midland 1m31.039s
14. MONTEIRO Midland 1m31.812s
15. SATO Super Aguri 1m34.036s
16. IDE Super Aguri 1m36.684s
17. WINKELHOCK Midland 1m36.859s
18. JANI Toro Rosso 1m40.818s
19. ALONSO Renault no time
20. FISICHELLA Renault no time
21. TRULLI Toyota no time
22. MONTOYA McLaren no time
23. HEIDFELD BMW no time
24. BARRICHELLO Honda no time
25. LIUZZI Toro Rosso no time
26. WEBBER Williams no time
27. ROSBERG Williams no time
28. BUTTON Honda no time
NASCAR TV ratings for Bristol NASCAR TV ratings for BristolUPDATE Fox's broadcast of Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway drew a final Nielsen Media Research rating of drew a 6.2, the second-highest figure in the race's history, track officials say. The rating was 1.6% lower than last year's 6.3, but officials say last year's race was a week later, while this year's event aired directly against the regional finals of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The track says Sunday's race was seen by more than 9.9 million viewers -- up 2% from last year. Officials also say Fox's coverage of Saturday's Sharpie Mini 300 drew a 2.5 broadcast rating, making it the highest-rated, most-watched Busch Series event in the history of Bristol Motor Speedway. Officials say the figure marked a 25% increase over the previously highest-rated Busch race at BMS, the 2004 Sharpie 250. NASCAR Daily Scene 03/27/06 Fox' Saturday coverage of the NASCAR Busch Series Sharpie Mini 300 was up 9.5% from a 2.1/5 last year. Sunday coverage of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Food City 500 prerace was up 12.1% from a 3.3/8, while race coverage was down 5.4% from a 5.6/13 in '05.

Ratings for the IRL race on ABC will be available later. 

Grand Prix of Houston to Host Boxing Event Grand Prix of Houston to Host Boxing EventHOUSTON - The Grand Prix of Houston's exciting three days and nights of speed and entertainment just got even better, as officials announced today that a professional boxing event will be held in Reliant Arena as part of the Grand Prix of Houston festivities. The boxing event will take place on May 11 at 7 p.m. and will be produced by Oscar de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. Boxing tickets will go on sale tomorrow - Friday, March 31 at 10 a.m.

The boxing event will feature some of the best up-and-coming fighters in the ring today. The main event will be for the welterweight NABF title feature and will feature Larry Mosley against three-time NABF champion Golden "14 Carat" Johnson. Mosley (15-1) is a fixture of the Southern California scene who would break into the top 10 and be in position to contend for a world title with a victory in Houston. San Antonio's Johnson (24-7), a local favorite, would also be in world title contention with a win. Four other exciting fights (to be announced) will serve as the under card.

"We are thrilled to add this exciting lineup of boxing matches to the festivities at the Grand Prix of Houston," said Robert Dale Morgan, Executive Director of the Grand Prix of Houston. "From the beginning, we have pledged to offer our fans 'more than just a race', and we believe that this is a great example of that. With a festival of fan activities, races from Champ Car and American Le Mans, and a world-class boxing event, we're in for a great weekend."  zzzz

Grand Prix of Houston official sponsors Budweiser and FiestaMarts will also be featured sponsors of the boxing event.

The boxing event will be staged during the Grand Prix of Houston within the event grounds, but fans must purchase a separate ticket in order to attend the boxing. Tickets will be available as low as $10, with premium ringside seating costing $75 per ticket.

Tickets will be available online at grandprixofhouston.com or ticketmaster.com, by phone at 713.629.3700, in person at the Reliant Stadium South Box Office, and at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers including Houston-area locations of Foley's, Fiesta, and Wherehouse Music. GP of Houston

Magnussen to Join SunTrust Team for LB Magnussen to Join SunTrust Team for LBPhoenix, Arizona – SunTrust Race Team car owner/driver Wayne Taylor has invited Pontiac driver Jan Magnussen to join the championship-winning No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team for the inaugural Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race at the Long Beach Grand Prix on Saturday, April 7-8.

“I am really glad to be able to add Jan Magnussen to the SunTrust Pontiac team line-up,” said SunTrust team principal Wayne Taylor. “His talent speaks for itself. Jan is a driver who can get into any car and drive it well and fast. He will be a real asset to this team and give me an opportunity to transition more into the team management role for a race. I’ve been juggling multiple duties between management and driver for years and this will be a great chance to step out of the driving role for a single race and feel I am leaving it in two very capable hands with Max (Angelelli) and Jan.”

Bill Riley, owner of Riley Technologies, will spearhead the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, as usual, only he will share the perch seat overlooking the pits with Taylor. As always, SunTrust team engineer Travis Jacobsen, will make the engineering calls for the race. zzzz

“This is a great opportunity to add a talented driver from the Pontiac stable to our team,” said Riley, who recently announced Riley Technologies move to Mooresville, North Carolina this fall. “Jan has mostly driven the Pontiac GTO-R in the GT class in recent years, but was also part of the start of the Daytona Prototype class in Grand-Am, driving for Kevin Doran. He and Max are going to make a great pair on the Long Beach Street Circuit.”

“Wayne is such an integral part of the SunTrust team and Grand American, in general,” said Jim France, CEO of International Speedway Corp., who oversees the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. “I imagine that this is a step towards looking at a bigger picture for the years ahead. Having discussed it with Wayne, I know he has no plans of retiring as a driver anytime soon.”

“We support the decisions that Wayne makes regarding this team,” said Craig Kelly, Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of SunTrust Banks, Inc. “If he chooses to put another capable driver such as Jan into the cockpit and step out for a race, that’s great. It mixes everything up for a bit and keeps the competition guessing. Not a thing wrong with that.”

“This is exciting for me to be invited to join the SunTrust team for Long Beach,” said Jan Magnussen, a former Formula One driver from Denmark. “Everyone respects the SunTrust Pontiac Riley team for their accomplishments, including winning the Daytona Prototype championship last year, the Rolex 24 and all the other victories they have collected in just two years. I hope to be able to add something to an already great team.”

“In the future I may concentrate just on the long distance races, but for now I plan to continue driving this year,” added Taylor, the defending Grand American Daytona Prototype Team and Co-Driver Champion, along with Angelelli. “The Grand American Series has grown so much in a few short years and it is great to be a part of that growth, in the past, present and into the future.”

Grand-Am rules changes announced Grand-Am rules changes announcedThe hallmark of Rolex Series competition has long been close competition in the Daytona Prototype category. Over the past few years, Daytona Prototype races have featured many close finishes among a wide variety of engine and chassis combinations. In fact, each of the last two races has seen eight of the top 10 cars use combinations of different chassis and engines.

In an effort to bolster the competition even further, Grand American has prescribed new minimum weight limits, which will be effective when the Rolex Series makes its first visit to Long Beach next weekend for Round 4 of the 14-race series. Race cars using engines with a displacement smaller than 3.99 liters—such as the Porsche GT3 R Flat 6—must now weigh a minimum of 2,225 pounds, an increase of 75 pounds over the previous minimum.

Likewise, Daytona Prototypes using two-valve engines with a displacement of 4.51 to 5.0 liters—like the Pontiac 5.0-liter V8—have seen a minimum weight reduction of 25 pounds to 2,250. Additionally, the Porsche GT3R Flat 6 will now be subject to a 9,000 RPM limit.  zzzz

In the GT class, a revision has been made to weight rules for Chevrolet Corvettes. Whereas all Corvettes were originally subject to a minimum weight of 2,700 pounds, Corvettes with little or no modification (Prep 1) will now have a minimum weight of 2,600 pounds. Corvettes with modified production or tube-frame chassis will still have a 2,700-pound minimum weight. The Corvette weight limits will be in place for the Rolex Series GT class Round 4 at Virginia International Raceway on the weekend of April 21-23. Grand-Am

First DP laps at Long Beach First DP laps at Long BeachAs part of Tuesday’s Toyota Pro/Celebrity Press Day at the historic Long Beach street circuit, Bill Margraf earned the distinction of being the first person to drive a Daytona Prototype on a street course. Despite rainy conditions and in front of a massive media turnout, Margraf did two demonstration runs in the Pickett Racing Pontiac Riley.

The car carried the livery of the No. 12 Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley—which is co-driven by Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld—in deference to the fact that the car was previously used for Lowe’s Fernandez Racing promotional activities. Last year, the car carried No. 31 and participated in several promotional activities in addition to selected races. Margraf, an accomplished driver in his own right, is assisting the Pickett team as it prepares to go Rolex Series racing later this year.

Owing to the wet course conditions, Margraf did not approach top speeds. The Grand American Challenge of Long Beach—the first-ever Daytona Prototype street race—is slated for Saturday, April 8.

Two more Indy 500 entries Two more Indy 500 entriesDreyer & Reinbold Racing filed two entries March 30 for the 90th Indianapolis 500, with past winners Buddy Lazier and Al Unser Jr. named as drivers.

The 90th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Entries must be postmarked by midnight Wednesday, April 5.

1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Lazier, from Vail, Colo., will drive the No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, with an identical backup entered. Gary Neal is the chief mechanic.

2000 IndyCar Series champion Lazier will attempt to make his 14th career Indianapolis 500 start. He has six top-10 finishes at Indianapolis during his career and recorded five consecutive finishes in the top seven from 1996-2000. He finished fifth last year at Indy in a Panther Racing entry.  zzzz

Unser, from Henderson, Nev., will drive the No. 31 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, with an identical backup entered. Pat Jordan is the chief mechanic.

Unser will attempt to make his 18th Indianapolis 500 start and first since 2004. He won "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in 1992 and 1994, with his margin of victory of .043 of a second over Scott Goodyear in 1992 the closest in the race's history. Unser won his only Indianapolis 500 pole in 1994.

One of only 16 drivers with at least two "500" wins, Unser ranks in the top 10 all-time in numerous Indianapolis 500 statistical categories.

He is second in career earnings ($5,582,612), sixth in miles completed (7,167.5) and tied for seventh in races led (eight).

Indianapolis-based Dreyer & Reinbold is the first team to file entries for two Indy 500 winners this year. Longtime IndyCar Series team chief mechanic and manager John O'Gara is the general manager. IRL

Showers could hit Melbourne Friday (tonight) Showers could hit Melbourne Friday (tonight)Rain could hit the first day of practice here at the Australian Grand Prix today, Friday, with the latest update from the weather bureau forecasting a fine start to the day with showers developing later in the morning.  A high of just twenty one degrees is on the cards.  Added to the cool and possibly wet conditions, a strong wind has been forecasted which could hamper things to some degree on the race track.
Track News
BRDC shelves plans for Silverstone BRDC shelves plans for SilverstoneThe long-term future of the British Grand Prix has been thrown into renewed doubt after the British Racing Drivers Club failed to win support for ambitious redevelopment plans of Silverstone.

According to the Reuters news agency, the BRDC Board has been forced to shelve its proposal to lease the Northamptonshire circuit to St Modwen Properties for 150 years in the face of a revolt from grassroots members.

The plan was to convert the former RAF training base into a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility with a luxury hotel and residential housing on the 800-acre site.

But BRDC members were unwilling to sign away their rights to the land for such a long period and hand over the operation of the circuit to Northern Racing for 25 years.

Popular Honda Commercial Popular Honda CommercialThere are no computer graphics or digital tricks in this advertisement. Everything you see really happened in real time exactly as you see it. The film took 606 takes. On the first 605 takes, something, usually very minor, didn't work.

They would then have to set the whole thing up again. The crew spent weeks shooting night and day. By the time it was over, they were ready to change professions. The film cost six million dollars and took three months to complete including full engineering of the sequence.

It is fast becoming the most downloaded advertisement in Internet history. Honda executives figure the ad will soon pay for itself simply in "free viewings" (Honda isn't paying a dime to have you watch this commercial!). When the ad was pitched to senior executives, they signed off on it immediately without any hesitation - including the costs.

Everything you see in the film (aside from the walls, floor, ramp, and complete Honda Accord) is parts from those two cars. The voiceover is Garrison Keillor.

Oh. and about those funky windshield wipers. On the new Accords, the windshield wipers have water sensors and are designed to start doing their thing automatically as soon as they become wet. It looks a bit weird in the commercial.

Bourdais again fastest at Fontana Bourdais again fastest at Fontana
Pos Driver # Team Lap Time
1 S. Bourdais 1 Newman/Haas Racing 52.325
2 J. Wilson 9 RuSPORT 52.422
3 P. Tracy 3 Forsythe Championship Racing 52.425
4 A. Allmendinger 10 RuSPORT 52.468
5 B. Junqueira 2 Newman/Haas Racing 52.612
6 O. Servia 6 PKV Racing 52.831
7 M. Dominguez 7 Forsythe Championship Racing 53.291
8 C. da Matta 19 Dale Coyne Racing 53.361
9 J. Vasser 12 PKV Racing 53.469
10 C. Zwolsman 34 Mi-Jack Conquest Racing 53.525
11 A. Ranger 27 Mi-Jack Conquest Racing 53.555
12 J. Heylen 11X Mi-Jack Conquest Racing 53.707
13 K. Legge 20 PKV Racing 53.955
Overheard/Seen in Fontana - IV Overheard/Seen in Fontana - IV.........Continued:
  1. Ronnie Bremer (right) informs AutoRacing1.com that he had lined up live TV broadcasts for all Champ Car races in Denmark this year with the thought that he would be driving in the series. However, the CTR Racing-HVM team was not able to find sponsorship money for him and so the ride never materialized. Now the TV broadcast company is mad at him because there will be no "locals" in the race. "I still hope to land a ride in the future," said Bremer. "I have not given up."
  2. Jan Heylen is in the Dale Coyne car today, Pastorelli is out.
  3. Bridgestone will again supply the red "option" tires in 2006
  4. Ford Racing boss Dan Davis is here, as is Kevin Kalkhoven.
  5. The Champ Car 2-seater is here putting in laps
  6. We received further confirmation that there is no TV deal for Brazil this year. Now that da Matta and Pizzonia have rides perhaps that will change.

Steven Levinson

Full LeMans entry list Full LeMans entry list
Nr Class Team Car Nat Cyl

25 LMP2 RML LOLA B05/40 AER GBR 1995T



Nations Represented:

Great Britain  15
France 14
United States 9
Germany 5
Japan 3
The Netherlands 3
Russia 3
Belgium 2
Switzerland 1
Canada 1
Spain 1
Italy 1

Manufacturer Breakdown:

Porsche 11
Courage 9
Ferrari 5
Lola 5
Aston Martin 4
Chevrolet 3
Panoz 3
Audi 2
Creation Sport 2
Pescarolo Sport 2
Radical 2
Spyker 2
WR 2
Dome 1
Lamborghini 1
Lister 1
Pilbeam 1
Saleen 1
Zytek 1

Better conditions for Melbourne Better conditions for MelbourneBoth of the last two Grand Prix took place in very sunny and extremely hot conditions. In Melbourne, however, autumn has already arrived. As a consequence, the BMW Sauber F1 Team is expecting lower temperatures and generally more pleasant race conditions.

Prior to the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, all participating teams can look forward to comparatively low temperatures. The weather forecast is predicting up to 20 degrees Celsius and cloudy skies on Friday. The rain probability is, however, close to zero, so that the BMW Sauber F1 Team will be able to prepare for the rest of the race weekend without any problems.

The third free practice session and the qualifying sessions on Saturday are also likely to be held in pleasant weather conditions. The meteorologists expected high temperatures around 17 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, the outlook predicts more cloudy skies for all of the remaining weekend.

The weather obviously influences the team's strategy during a race more than anywhere else. Despite the fact that Australia has recently been experiencing autumnal weather, rain is not expected to influence the race. The forecast predicts 19 degrees Celsius and few clouds for the start of the race, at 14:00hrs local time on Sunday. Source BMW Sauber f1

The best of ALMS represented at LeMans The best of ALMS represented at LeMansThe American Le Mans Series once again will be well represented at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 17-18. Twelve world-class entries from the Series have been invited to the 74th running of the French endurance classic, the most prestigious auto race in the world.

Last year's race saw another dominating performance from American Le Mans Series teams, including Champion Racing becoming the first American team to win overall since 1967. For the fourth year in a row, Series teams captured three of the four classes of competition at the Circuit de la Sarthe, and the possibility exists again this year that Series regulars could take victory in all four classes.

Heading the list are two diesel-powered Audi R10 TDIs from Audi Sport Team Joest, one of which posted a historic overall win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Audi is attempting to become the first manufacturer to win at Le Mans with diesel power, a worthy goal for a marque that has won five of the last six runnings of the 24 Hours. The two cars will return to the American Le Mans Series in July and contest the second half of the 2006 schedule. The driver pairings at Le Mans will be the same as at Sebring: Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner in one car; Rinaldo Capello, Allan McNish and seven-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen in the other.  zzzz

In LMP2, two of the Series' most successful teams over the past three years have secured return trips to the Sarthe region of France. Defending class champion and Sebring class winner Intersport Racing is sending its Lola B05/40-AER back after being the quickest car in class last year. Clint Field, last season's class drivers champion, will join Liz Halliday and another driver to be named. In addition, Miracle Motorsports will make its second straight trip to Le Mans with its AER-powered Courage C65.

Three of the most prestigious marques in GT1 will represent the American Le Mans Series in what is expected to be one of the most competitive fields in the history of the 24 Hours. Corvette Racing is sending its two Corvette C6.Rs back to Le Mans in search of the team's fourth class triumph in the last five years and the third straight for the No. 4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen, who won earlier this month at Sebring.

Standing in the way will be two Aston Martin DBR9s from Aston Martin Racing and ACEMCO Motorsports' Saleen S7R, which has been extensively tested in preparations for the most extreme environment in motorsports. The three teams were on the track together three times in the Series last season, including spectacular battles at Petit Le Mans and the Monterey Sports Car Championships.

GT2 will see three world-class entries from the American Le Mans Series, including the second- and third-place teams in class from 2005. Heading the list is Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz, which will field one of its Panoz Esperante GTLMs that won in class at Sebring.

Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing, last year's class champion in the American Le Mans Series and winner at Le Mans in 2003 and 2004, will campaign its Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Flying Lizard Motorsports, which was third in its Le Mans debut last year, also will field at least one Porsche for this year's 24 Hours. A second team car is on the reserve list.

The 74th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for June 17-18, with testing set for June 4.

The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Lone Star Grand Prix at Houston's Reliant Park, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT May 12. The race will be broadcast on CBS Sports at 1 p.m. on May 13, the first of five consecutive Series races to be broadcast on the network. American Le Mans Radio, and IMSA Live Timing and Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com. ALMS

Formula BMW
Gelles Racing sets the pace in Official BMW testing Gelles Racing sets the pace in Official BMW testingFront Royal –   Gelles Racing rolled into Road Atlanta for the first official test days of the 2006 Formula BMW USA season and clearly demonstrated it would be the team to lead the championship. With six cars accumulating 2,075 miles over the sessions and its drivers topping the charts, the best word that can summarize the team performances was READY! The cars were in their full season livery, the engineers on top of their setups and the drivers on top of their craft.  Finally, in a series where 10 or 15 cars are inside the same second, it was again Canadian Ryan Campbell who earned the best time, a new track record, with almost 2/10th of a second clear from all followers.

“Some were wondering if a six-car team could be as competitive, smiled team owner Bob Gelles. And we obviously proved our point. We had four of our drivers in the Top Ten and for that I have to give credit to our crew and engineers headed by senior engineer Jürgen Schmitt. I have every reason to believe our team will be the strongest in 2006. Four of our drivers are part of the BMW USA educational & coaching program and will develop their skills even more. Being part of such a fine series gives our drivers and staff the desire to push our limits.”  zzzz

Ryan Campbell
Ryan was again the talk of the paddock. Not only did he shatter the track record, but he ran consistently quick laps. ‘’I’m happy for setting the record, said the young man from Alberta, but, more than that, working with the other drivers on my team and our engineers makes me as happy. I ran so many quick laps and felt in perfect control with my Western Union machine. What a car!’’  

Sebastian Saavedra
‘’Look out for the young Colombian, added Gelles. He paced himself easily in the mid1:26’s and ran clockwork lap after lap on worn or fresh tires. For a 16-year old that has never driven a single seater before, one can wonder how far he will go.’’ What is amazing from Saavedra is the poise he demonstrates and the relationship he nurses with his crew. 

Maxime Pelletier
Maintaining Top Ten performances steadily, Pelletier was the strongest Junior rookie and ran as high as 3rd and 5th in two of the six sessions. The French Canadian is a hard worker: ‘’My goal is to understand the intricacies of setting up my race car. I listen to my team, I work the data, and then I just put my head down and try to get the best out of the track. I’m always pleased with my session because I learn more each time.’’

Adrien Herberts
The returning Canadian is admittedly fighting himself when he takes his FB02 BMW of Sterling car to the track: ““I know I can push harder and be quicker. I still have reservations to overcome from last year but my engineers are giving me a fast car. Predictability is the important feature that will allow me to be a front runner. I will be on the podium this year for sure”!  Adrien ran as high as 5th position Tuesday afternoon, with three other Gelles drivers just ahead of him!

John Zartarian
Rusty is more appropriate for Zartarian performances. ‘’I’ve been away from a race car for a while, he admits, and I have to get comfortable again. I had to run-in my new equipment but I kept improving. Our team is so strong that I benefit from my teammates and it won’t be long before I match their times. “

Joel Jackson
The Jamaican champion experienced some electrical problems on Monday and the Formula BMW USA tech team had to fix the problem. Afterwards, he accumulated 325 miles around the winding Braselton circuit and improved his skills. ‘’I know I have a lot to learn, said Jackson, but I lower my times in every session. Everybody is helping, I’m gaining confidence and learning my car.’’ Gelles Racing

Mayer named COO of ALMS Mayer named COO of ALMSUPDATE The recent promotion of Tim Mayer as Chief Operating Officer to the American Le Mans Series executive staff has not resulted in any other changes within the Panoz Motor Sports Group. Scott Atherton remains President and Chief Executive Officer of both the American Le Mans Series and the Panoz Motor Sports Group (PMSG), a position Atherton has held since 2003.

David Bowes remains Chief Executive Officer of Elan Motorsports Technologies. Atherton will continue to oversee all of the motorsports holdings of Don Panoz while Bowes will continue to be directly responsible for Elan Motorsports Technologies. Mayer continues with his duties as COO for IMSA in addition to his new role with the American Le Mans Series.

The Panoz Motor Sports Group is comprised of the American Le Mans Series, IMSA, Elan Motorsports Technologies, Sebring International Raceway, Road Atlanta, Mosport International Raceway, Panoz Racing School and Panoz Racing Series.

03/29/06 Braselton, Ga. - The American Le Mans Series announced today that Tim Mayer has been named Chief Operating Officer, effective immediately. In his new role Mayer will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Series, including managing Series staff, working with race tracks and event promoters, and other administrative functions. Mayer also will remain as COO of IMSA.

"I am both honored and proud to be charged with the day-to-day operations of this world-class organization," Mayer said. "The American Le Mans Series and IMSA both stand for excellence in professional sports car racing, and both organizations are adding to that history for 2006. Seeing such a fantastic season opener at Sebring, I know that this is an exciting time to be part of the American Le Mans Series and IMSA."

Scott Atherton will continue in his position as President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series, overseeing all its operations while working to strengthen relationships with manufacturers, teams and the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), among others. His focus, however, will shift to directly managing the other holdings within the Panoz Motor Sports Group. Most notable is Elan Motorsports Technologies (EMT), which will be the exclusive provider of the 2007 Champ Car World Series chassis and two classes of chassis for the new IMSA Lites series. zzzz

"EMT's production of the next-generation Champ Car World Series chassis, a landmark venture for a North American auto company, is just one of many examples of major projects that are requiring unprecedented resources and management," Atherton said. "All of our companies are growing at rapid rates and as a result require a lot of time and attention. We have no complaints though as this is exactly the vision Dr. Don Panoz had when he set out to establish such a prestigious collection of motorsports holdings.

"This is a move that makes sense for everyone involved with the American Le Mans Series and IMSA," Atherton added. "Tim has done an excellent job in his current role, and IMSA has grown and evolved greatly since he joined us in 2003. This promotion will allow us to achieve a greater level of synergy than we have ever had between the two organizations. This will enable us to manage the administration and operations of the American Le Mans Series and IMSA under a single point of direction, which will be good for our staffs, our race teams, manufacturers and corporate partners."

Mayer, who held the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army, joined IMSA in December 2003. He has worked in many facets of the racing business and was associated with CART from 1997 until August of 2003, serving as Vice President of Race Operations and later as Vice President of Promoter Operations. His father, Teddy Mayer, established Team McLaren with Bruce McLaren and later worked with Penske Racing. Tim Mayer started his career managing business interests of former world champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

"This is an important year for the American Le Mans Series," Mayer said. "We are seeing a huge surge in interest from manufacturers, corporate partners and world-class entrants. Much of that is a credit to Scott's leadership and attention to detail. I look forward to continuing to work with him and the rest of the American Le Mans Series staff on keeping the Series going upward where it belongs." ALMS

Webber would welcome Stoddart back Webber would welcome Stoddart backMark Webber has welcomed the news that former Minardi boss Paul Stoddart plans to return to Formula 1 in 2008.  “I am ready to drive for him, there is no question about it,” Webber joked in Thursday’s media conference.

“Well, actually, I didn’t know about that and – brilliant.  He is a competitive and passionate guy. Why not?  I am happy for Paul if he wants to come back and get into it. He is a popular person in the paddock.”

Coulthard thinks he can handle Montoya Coulthard thinks he can handle MontoyaDavid Coulthard is confident that he could handle Juan Pablo Montoya as a teammate, should the Colombian end up at Red Bull in 2007.  “I’ve got no reason to be concerned one way or the other whoever my team-mate may be,” Coulthard told ITV Sport’s Ted Kravitz.  “When you have had Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen as your team-mates… you know that they are two quick guys, so you know exactly where the challenge lies.”
Mercedes has last laugh Mercedes has last laughDuring pre-season formula one testing two months ago, it seemed obvious that McLaren had dire reliability problems with its new V8 Mercedes engines. Now, after the first two rounds of the world championship, the situation is this: the ONLY engine maker not to experience a failure is Mercedes. When the heat was turned up in Bahrain and Malaysia, all the others - Renault, Ferrari, Toyota, Cosworth (Williams), BMW and Honda - blew at least one engine, some more than one.  Remarkably, after their worrying reliability record over the northern winter, the V8s in the McLarens have been the endurance kings.
Formula BMW
Epson Renews with Jensen MotorSport Epson Renews with Jensen MotorSportA global leader in imaging products including printers, projectors, and LCD’s; Epson has renewed it’s partnership with Jensen MotorSport as a feature team partner for the 2006 racing season.

The #2 race car entry of Jensen MotorSport in the 2006 ChampCar Atlantic championship will be known as “Epson Team Jensen” to reflect the partnership. Epson “Exceed Your Vision” logos will be prominent on the side pods of the Jensen #2 racecar entry.

Epson Team Jensen is pleased to have Tim Bridgman from London England as the driver of the #2 car for the 2006 season. Bridgman enters ChampCar Atlantic with impressive credentials including winning the 2004 Formula BMW UK championship.

Based in Japan, Epson has a global network of more than 98,000 employees in 107 countries. With an innovative and creative culture, Epson is dedicated to exceeding the vision and expectations of customers worldwide with products known for their superior quality, functionality, compactness, and energy efficiency.

The ChampCar Atlantic season kicks off on April 7th-9th in Long Beach California. With Epson’s American corporate office situated in Long Beach, this is ideal location to launch our plans for the 2006 racing season. Jensen MotorSport

Melbourne Thursday press conference Melbourne Thursday press conference
Ferrari deny FIA intervention over wing Ferrari deny FIA intervention over wing(GMMf1NET)  A Ferrari spokesman has denied that Ferrari only changed its front wing design for the Melbourne race because the FIA caught the Maranello based team cheating.

After the notorious 'flexi-wing' saga, the red squad presented a new wing to FIA scrutineers on Thursday; one whose upper element can presumably no longer move, twist or flex because it is now secured to the front nose.

But the head of Ferrari's motor sport press office, Luca Colajanni, insisted that the change was simply a normal aerodynamic development, not the result of an FIA request.

''We will use a different front wing here,'' he said at Albert Park, ''to increase our efficiency, not because we have to.''

Webber eases Renault cheat gossip Webber eases Renault cheat gossip(GMMf1NET)  Mark Webber has eased speculation that team rival Renault may be running a form of illegal traction control.

After Fernando Alonso sprung from the fourth row to be third at the first corner in Malaysia, gossip fired in the paddock that - with other teams in the 'flexi' spotlight - the R26 was veiling a different kind of secret.

All Alonso's teammate, a grinning Giancarlo Fisichella, would say in Melbourne was: 'Secret.'

Williams' Webber, however, believes that the blue and yellows' rocket-like take-offs are simply a clever combination of superior engine torque, electronics, clutch and tricky weight distribution.

''In all that stuff, they have had the best situation and have had so for a few years,'' the Australian driver said.

''Fernando and Giancarlo also eat a lot of carrots to improve their eyesight for seeing the (start) lights, but that's the lot.''

Foster tests new Lola F3 car Foster tests new Lola F3 carOne of the UK’s most promising young drivers - Joey Foster concluded a successful first test for the new Lola B06/30 F3 car at Silverstone last Friday.

The Cornish racer, tipped by many as a future International single seater star, impressed the HS Technik F3 team as they prepared for the 2006 Recaro German F3 Series. Despite freezing temperatures and a strong wind, Foster pleased HS Technik and Lola engineers with his feedback on the heavily revised chassis. He completed 36 trouble free laps in the Opel-Spiees engined car.

Foster, who is looking to race for the German team this season was happy to be back in a Formula Three car and remarked: “It was a great opportunity to drive the HS Technik Lola and I must thank (team owner) Mr Hasisc for the chance to work with him and his very professional team. It would be absolutely fantastic to do the Recaro German F3 series this season but at the moment I am still short of funds to do so.”

“I got a really nice feel for how the team works and although it was difficult to generate the necessary heat in to the tires because the weather, the Lola felt very stable and grippy from the start of the test,” said the 2003 Formula Ford Festival winner. “I think that it is certainly a winning chassis this season and I would love to be a part of HS Techniks plans. Some engineering members of the team worked with Nico Rosberg in 2003 and 2004, nurturing him in to what he is today. So it is great to know there is an opportunity for me to show what I can do on the International stage.” zzzz

The McLaren/Autosport Young Driver finalist has previously enjoyed backing from the BRDC Young Drivers scheme and he is hoping that he can complete a deal to race with the HS Technik team and be on the grid for the first round of the series on 23rd April at Oscersleben.

HS Technik’s owner Michael Hascic immediately invited Foster to again test for the team at Hockenheim this Thursday where the team will also run its second Lola B06/30-Opel Spiess with the already confirmed Martin Hippe driving.

“Joey did a very professional job at Silverstone,” said Hascic. “He would be very good this year but first he needs the backing to clinch the deal. We very much hope that he can join us this season but for the moment he will get some more running at Hockenheim this week.”

Lola Managing Director, Rupert Manwaring, said: “We really believe in Joey. He did an excellent job in difficult conditions and the engineers were really impressed with his application. He is exactly the kind of driver that we should have in the car and he would really fly.”

HS Technik Team History

1985 Michael Hascic founds HS Technik, a company specializing in surface treatment of metals. Today this company is one of the most modern surface treatment company in Europe with branches in Austria and Slowakia.
2003 Start of HS Technik Motorsport. 1 Dallara F301 entered in the Austrian Championship.
 Driver: Roman Hoffmann
 Result: 4th in Championship with 4 wins and 5 x 2nd place
2004 Dallara F302 entered in the German Recaro Cup
 Driver: Bastian Kolmsee
 Result: Champions with 4 wins, 4 x 2nd and 2 x 3rd
2005 2 Dallara F302 entered in the German Recaro Cup
 Driver: Michael Devaney and Martin Hippe
 Result: 2nd in Championship, 6 wins, 4 x 2nd and 4 x 3rd

Program 2006

Team HS Technik in cooperation with Team Rosberg Formula 3 will run 2 works supported Lolas in the Recaro Formula 3 Cup. The target for this campaign is to establish the team and develop the car to such a level, that it will be possible to compete in the F3 Euroseries in 2007.

Bill Pratt dies Bill Pratt diesWord reached us this morning that former sprint car team owner Bill Pratt had "Crossed the Finish Line" Tuesday.  No other details as yet except that there are no services planned at this time. Bill and Evelyn have been mainstays in SoCal Racing for many years. Evelyn continues to serve a the Pit Steward for the CRA/USAC Sprint Car Series.
Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Bernie's radical 'GP rotation' idea
Ferrari to race new wings in Oz
Schu camp quells quit talk
Alonso not 'nervous' about 2007
Tough V8 limits for Williams duo
Williams eye big-four conquest
F1 rivals swap winning tips
Oz GP expecting smaller crowd
Toyota duo brace for long tire crisis
Sparing praise for Schu's successor
TV News
USA TV reminders for Friday USA TV reminders for Friday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
USAC -Sprint Cars Perris, CA
8:00am-9:00am OLN
IRL Indy Pro Series Homestead-Miami
1:00pm-1:30pm ESPN2
NASCAR Live! Martinsville
2:30pm-3:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Qualifying Martinsville
3:30pm-5:00pm (L) SPEED
Trackside Martinsville
7:00pm-8:00pm (L) SPEED

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

Newman/Haas drivers 1st-3rd on Wednesday Newman/Haas drivers 1st-3rd on WednesdayThe California Speedway – 1.495-mile road course in Fontana, California
1st: Sebastien Bourdais 52.537 / 102.442 mph (71 laps)
3rd: Bruno Junqueira 1.28.804 / 163.427 mph (86 laps)

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 1 McDonald’s Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:  “We broke quite a few things on the car today and aren’t really sure when or where we broke some of them.  We tried a few of the things we learned at the Sebring test and were able to confirm they worked here as well.  Other than that we are just going through the motions and getting ready for the start of the season.”

Bruno Junqueira, No. 2 Newman/Haas Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:  “We made some changes to the car and did a long run and were able to do consistent lap times which was good.  Each lap we do makes us more prepared for the season and able to fight for the championship so it was a productive day.” Newman/Haas Racing

track news
ISC extends lease agreement for Daytona ISC extends lease agreement for DaytonaDAYTONA BEACH, Fla., International Speedway Corporation (Nasdaq: ISCA) (OTC Bulletin Board: ISCB) ("ISC") today announced that, through its wholly owned subsidiary Daytona International Speedway, LLC ("Daytona"), it has amended its lease agreement with the Daytona Beach Racing and Recreational Facilities District (the "District"). The amended lease (the "DIS lease") extends the relationship between Daytona and the District through November 7, 2054.

The annual cash lease payment, excluding applicable sales taxes, of $500,000 for 2007 will increase every five years, resulting in an average annual cash payment over the 48-year (2007-2054) period of approximately $750,000. The original lease provided for annual cash payments of $10,000 per year through 2007, increasing to $20,000 per year from 2008 through 2032.  zzzz

Accounting principles generally accepted in the United States require annual lease expense to be recognized on a straight-line basis over the revised term of the lease. As a result, ISC expects to record approximately $500,000 in additional DIS lease-related expenses for fiscal 2006, including sales taxes. For fiscal years 2007 through 2054, the Company anticipates DIS lease-related expenses, including sales taxes, to approximate $800,000 per year.

"The successful lease extension further demonstrates the significant, long-term commitment of ISC and my family to the Daytona Beach community," said ISC President Lesa France Kennedy. "My grandparents signed the initial lease in 1957, which helped create the World Center of Racing and NASCAR's preeminent event -- the Daytona 500. The extension is a win-win for all involved, as it enables our continued investment in the area and provides an increased source of funds for the District to utilize for worthy community projects."

Bourdais tops testing at Fontana Wednesday Bourdais tops testing at Fontana WednesdayThe day in Fontana, California was cold and breezy but the action on the track was hot and heavy as the teams and drivers of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford continued last-minute preparations for the April 9 season opener.

Thirteen of the 18 cars slated to see the green flag in next week’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach took advantage of the final preseason session of the year, running the first of two days of testing on the 1.459-mile California Speedway infield road course.

Two-time defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald’s Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed that he was more than ready to defend his title, posting the fastest lap of the day after stopping the clocks at 52.537 seconds. His best lap was just .003 seconds faster than the best effort of Mexico City winner Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), but was good enough to give the 2004 and ’05 champion reason to be excited about next week’s season lidlifter.

“Compared to last year, I feel much better,” Bourdais said. “We have had good tests in Sebring and we ran well today. We have had good weather for our tests and that has allowed us to get a lot of work done. I feel very good with the progress we’ve made.”  zzzz

Wilson was neck-and-neck with the defending series champ after a day of running that got started two hours late due to overnight and early-morning rains.

“We had a good test plan that allowed us to evaluate a lot of changes that we hope will help us at Long Beach,” said Wilson. “We’ve been working very hard on the overall quality of the team and I’ve been really impressed with the preparation as we head toward Long Beach.”

The competition level in the 2006 version of the Champ Car World Series is expected to be higher than it has been in a number of seasons, and that was borne out in the faces of a number of drivers who had solid times – just not as solid as they might have hoped.

RuSPORT’s A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was fourth on the charts while four-time Long Beach winner Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was fifth, but being in the top five was of little comfort to two of the drivers that are expected to contend for the 2006 championship.

“We’ve generally been pretty quick here but today for some reason we’ve been lost,” said Tracy. “It’s a little frustrating. It doesn’t feel like the same car I’ve been driving for the last three years. We’re going to have to go over the data and see what changes we can make.”

Allmendinger was equally concerned even though he was less than a half-second off of Bourdais’ pace.

“It’s good to get out here with everybody else and see where we are and Justin is giving us a lot of good information with his car, and it should help,” he said. “We have got to start the season strong. We can not start like we did last year and have any chance to win the championship because you know one or both of the Newman/Haas guys are going to be on the podium, You can do that if you want to finish fourth or fifth, but you can not play catch-up in this series and expect to win a title. You have to be there every race and we are working very hard toward that goal.”

The day also featured a number of drivers making their first test runs of the season, including new Dale Coyne signee Cristiano da Matta (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Nicky Pastorelli (#11 Sonny’s BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Last year’s runner-up in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year chase Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made his first preseason appearance as well after being named to the second Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing seat for Long Beach, and was pleased after showing up eighth on the speed sheets.

“It has been a long five months waiting to get back in the car but it felt really good today,” Ranger said. “But I feel a lot better about things this year. Last year, it was tough to learn the car and the tracks, but I learned so much over the year and feel more confident. Now I feel I know what I need to fix the car and I think I can really help the team.”

The cars will be back on track tomorrow for the last day of preseason testing, beginning at 9 a.m. and wrapping up at 5 p.m. Fans that can not make the jaunt to California Speedway can follow all of the action via a live timing and scoring link available on the official website of the series, www.champcar.ws

Today’s official times from California Speedway follow:

1) Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald’s Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.537 seconds
2) Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.540
3) Bruno Junqueira (#2 Newman/Haas Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 52.560
4) A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.036
5) Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.092
6) Cristiano da Matta (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.236
7) Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.714
8) Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.844
9) Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.916
10) Katherine Legge (#20 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.965
11) Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 53.972
12) Nicky Pastorelli (#11 Sonny’s BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 54.128
13) Charles Zwolsman (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) – 54.263

Rocketsports announces Pizzonia Rocketsports announces PizzoniaAfter a long off-season with all efforts predominately on securing a solid sponsorship package and competitive driver line-up, Rocketsports Racing is proud to announce that Antonio Pizzonia has been signed to drive the #8 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone Champ Car in Long Beach with sponsorship announcements to be forthcoming.

The overall performance of Rocketsports Racing throughout the 2005 season led to Timo Glock’s consistency and running for Rookie-of-the-Year honors. Rocketsports has chosen to run another rookie, but rookie is no way to describe this young, vibrant Brazilian. Pizzonia is a well-experienced open-wheel racer. He has a solid racing pedigree that has brought him to the ranks of Formula 1. The 25-year-old joins Rocketsports with great anticipation to extend his racing resume by entering the Champ Car World Series in search for a new challenge in his extensive career.

Pizzonia will rendezvous with the team in Houston on Saturday, April 1 for some more time in his Lola in preparation to make his first Champ Car start in Long Beach, California for the Champ Car season opener, April 7-9.

“I am very happy about the opportunity that Rocketsports has given to me,” said Pizzonia on his upcoming test and making his debut in Champ Car. “The test this weekend will be very important for me and the team as we prepare for the first race. I obviously need to get more familiar with the car, as it was my first time in the cockpit of a Champ Car when I tested with the team in Houston a couple of weeks ago. So the extra time will be good for me to learn more and really prepare for Long Beach. I am really looking forward to Long Beach; it will be a new experience for me, a new ride, and a new challenge. That is what I was looking for and I am thrilled to be with the Rocketsports team. I really enjoyed working with them in Houston when I tested with them, so I am looking forward to working with them again.” Zzzz

Pizzonia started racing karts when he was 10 and after winning the local championships he began to commute to Sao Paulo on the weekends to race in more competitive Sao Paulo championships. By the time he was 15, he had won the Brazilian national title. This led to the decision to go to the United States to compete in the Barber Dodge series and then in 1997 he moved to Britain to race in Formula Vauxhall Junior. He was the champion in 1998 and moved up to Formula Renault and won the title in 1999. This led to a test with the Williams F1 team. He raced in Formula 3 the following year, winning the title during his rookie season and earning another F1 test with the Benetton team. In 2001 he signed a long-term deal with Williams becoming a member of the Petrobras Junior Team in Formula 3000 and in 2002 his responsibility with the team expanded making him also a test driver in the Williams F1 machines. In 2003 he ran part of the F1 season, under a new squad, Jaguar, before returning to Williams in 2004 as a test driver and replacement in some of the races for Ralf Schumacher. He retained his duties for the team in 2005.

“Formula 1 was a great experience,” said Pizzonia when asked about his switch from F1 to Champ Car. “Every day you learned something new in that car because there was so much money invested in the teams. But I am a racing driver, and I want to go racing not just testing. Champ Car is really a great series. The races are great, there is passing and battles on the track, it is exciting and that is exactly what I need and desire. I can’t wait to get to climb into the #8 Rocketsports car and go racing!”

Pizzonia recently ran a two-day test with the Rocketsports team down in Houston, Texas at the MSR Houston road course. With only a few hours of seat time, he was running laps close to the best times that were posted by other Champ Car teams at that venue, which resulted in a very positive test and left a strong impression with the Rocketsports team owner, Paul Gentilozzi.

“Pizzonia demonstrated a great understanding of open-wheel cars through his quick learning skills and performance during the Houston test a few weeks ago,” said Gentilozzi on his overall impression on Pizzonia’s driving talent. “He showed us that he could run at the same level with former series championship drivers, which goes to show he will be able to run up front with these guys in competition. I am happy to have him on board; he will bring a lot to the team with his previous knowledge, his wonderful personality and winning spirit.”

In 2003, Rocketsports Racing team owner Paul Gentilozzi expanded his racing program to compete in the Champ Car World Series. With popular veteran driver Alex Tagliani at the wheel, the team was set to make a statement. In their first year, the freshman Champ Car team had many successes, including two pole positions and three podium finishes. In 2004, the Champ Car operation was further enhanced with the addition of a second car. Round 8 at Road America on August 8th was the pinnacle of the season for Rocketsports Racing with the sophomore team’s first victory. In 2005 Rocketsports continued to demonstrate its ability to produce reliable race cars for their drivers, as Champ Car rookie Timo Glock finished second in most laps completed to two-time Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais. Crowned Rookie-of-the-Year, Glock finished eighth overall, one of only two rookies to finish in the top ten of the championship standings. Rocketsports
Roth files Indy 500 entry Roth files Indy 500 entryRoth Racing filed an entry March 27 for the 90th Indianapolis 500, with team owner Marty Roth as the driver.

The 90th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Entries must be postmarked by midnight Wednesday, April 5.

Roth, from Toronto, will drive the No. 25 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, with an identical backup car entered. Dave Milby is the chief mechanic, and Margaret Disher is the team manager.

Indy Pro Series veteran Roth will attempt to make his third Indianapolis 500 start. His best finish was 24th as a rookie in 2004 in a Roth Racing entry, while his best start was 29th last year in a Roth Racing/PDM Racing entry.

Mi-Jack Conquest Racing makes it to Fontana test Mi-Jack Conquest Racing makes it to Fontana testMi-Jack Conquest Racing will be in Fontana, California today and tomorrow for a much anticipated two-day Open Test in preparation for the 2006 Champ Car World Series season. Drivers, Charles Zwolsman and Andrew Ranger, will be on track for the team getting their cars ready for the season-opener in Long Beach, California, April 9.

Zwolsman, who will be piloting the #34 Lola-Ford car, is looking forward to being back behind the wheel.  “It has been a long off season and I can’t wait to be in the car again,” said the Dutchman. “I want to take advantage of this test to get accustomed to the team and the car and collect as much data possible to help us for the upcoming races.”

Still trying to secure additional sponsorship money in order to compete in a full Champ Car season, Canadian race-car driver Andrew Ranger is concentrating on the job at hand, getting his #27 Lola-Ford car up to speed for Long Beach.   zzzz

“It’s terrific to be back with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, I know the team very well and I’m proud to be a part of it. We put in some excellent performances together last year and I hope we can do even better in 2006,” said Ranger. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to take what I learned in my first year here and build on it.”

Eric Bachelart, MJCR co-owner, is pleased to have the young Canadian back on board for the Open Test as well as for the season-opener. “I am very excited to have Andrew back with us, we know him well and he proved to us in his rookie-season that he could put in some great performances,” said Bachelart. “With Andrew and Charles, we have two extremely talented drivers to work with and I think they will both work well together during this Open Test in Fontana as well as in Long Beach next week. I am really anxious for the start of the season.” Champ Car

Overheard/Seen at Fontana - III Overheard/Seen at Fontana - III.....Continued:
  1. Morning rains left the track wet but the sun broke through around mid-morning and the track dried in time for a 11:00 AM start
  2. The HVM and Team Australia teams chose to test in Sebring this week instead of here in Fontana
  3. There is some concern in the paddock that Katherine Legge may fade as the races wear on because a Champ Car w/o power steering is a real beast.  She has been working hard with a trainer to strengthen up.
  4. Cristiano da Matta had electronic problems in the morning and the team is working to fix it in time for Practice 2.

Steven Levinson

TV News
IndyCar Series seen across the globe IndyCar Series seen across the globeSunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be seen in 147 countries and territories on ESPN International's affiliated networks in Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, Latin America, New Zealand and the Middle East.  The remaining 13 IndyCar Series telecasts through ESPN International will reach 194 million households worldwide.

"We are thrilled to bring the IndyCar Series to ESPN viewers around the world," said Tim Bunnell, senior vice president of programming and marketing, ESPN International. "This top-quality open-wheel racing series is truly sports programming with worldwide appeal; plus international drivers comprise almost fifty percent of the field."

Larry Rice and Gary Lee will be ESPN International's English-language announcing team; Andres Agulla and Alex Pombo will serve as Spanish-language commentators. IRL

Moreno tabbed to replace Carpenter Moreno tabbed to replace CarpenterVeteran open-wheel driver Roberto Moreno will fill the seat of the No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Regular driver Ed Carpenter, who was involved in the practice accident that claimed the life of driver Paul Dana on March 26, was released from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on March 27 but was not cleared to compete. According to Dr. Henry Bock, senior director of medical services for the Indy Racing League, Carpenter remains in good condition with a bruised lung.

Moreno, 47, was a consultant and set up the car for Carpenter during Open Tests last year at the Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International road courses. The "Super Sub" co-drove the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, replacing the suspended JC France, in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 25. He was in the No. 20 Vision car in the Open Test on March 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway's 2.21-mile road course.  zzzz

"Yesterday's test was good," Moreno said. "I impressed myself and how quickly I got into the pace. IndyCars are quite tough, but I suddenly realized how quickly I was able to rely on my experience to get the car up to the pace."

Moreno, from Brazil, competed in seven Grand Am races in 2005, and had been consulting with Fabcar over the winter. Moreno said he was buoyed by the support of team co-owners Tony and Laura George, team manager Larry Curry and Carpenter.

"It is very tough to replace a driver and it is very difficult to just jump in a car and drive," he said. "I was glad to be able to get in the car a little bit already this week. Plus, road racing is what I know so I hope that get the car up to speed quickly this weekend and get good results. While I know road course racing, I'm not as confident about the car, but the team will give me the info that I need to be competitive and comfortable in the car. The guys I will be racing against are very competitive so it will be a tough weekend."

Moreno is seeking sponsorship to compete in at least the 90th Indianapolis 500.  "My ideal situation for the rest of the season is to find a ride for Indy and the other two road courses," he said. "I've been seeking sponsorships and meeting with teams to try and be able to do that. IRL

Overheard/Seen at Fontana - II Overheard/Seen at Fontana - IIPractice 1 test times:
1. Junqueira 53.495
2. Bourdais 53.647
3. Wilson 53.662
4. Tracy 53.740
5. Allmendinger 54.178
6. Allmendinger x 54.769
7. Ranger 55.192
8. Servia 55.312
9. Dominguez 55.327
10. Pastorelli 55.694
11. Zwolsman 56.008
12. Legge 56.192
13. da Matta 65.433 (2 laps)
Vasser no time
track news
New Lowe's surface is fast New Lowe's surface is fastScott Riggs says the newly repaved surface at Lowe's Motor Speedway is fast, but he doesn't think restrictor plates will be needed to slow the cars down, as some had predicted.

Official lap times were not reported during a tire test at the track Tuesday and Wednesday, but Bobby Labonte said he came within .3 second of the last October's pole-winning lap, Elliott Sadler's 27.948-second lap at 193.216 mph.

"It's going to be faster [than 2005]," Riggs said. "Is it going to be fast enough that we're going to need restrictor plates? Absolutely not ... even if we are going to break the track record.

"Anytime you come out with a new tire or new paving, we always break track records. I don't think just because we are going to run faster than the track record previously, it's not by two seconds or 10 miles an hour."   More at NASCAR Daily Scene

Johnson crashes at Lowe's Johnson crashes at Lowe'sJimmie Johnson crashed in Turn 4 when his right rear tire went flat at Lowe's Motor Speedway during the Goodyear tire test Wednesday morning. Johnson was not injured in the accident, but his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy could not be repaired enough for him to continue to test on the newly repaved track. "The tire went down, lost air pressure," said Rick Heinrich, Goodyear's Nextel Cup product manager. "He had felt the tire start to go down in Turn 1, and in Turn 3, the deflation of the tire completed. ... We're still looking at the tire and trying to come up with a concrete determination of what caused the tire to go down. We don't know if it was a puncture or wear-related at this point." Johnson's was the only incident during the Tuesday all-day session and the Monday morning session. #43-Bobby Labonte, #10-Scott Riggs, #29-Kevin Harvick and Bobby Hamilton Jr. in a truck also participated in the session. NASCAR Daily Scene
Overheard/Seen at Fontana - I Overheard/Seen at Fontana - IAutoRacing1.com is on-site today at Fontana where most Champ Car teams are undergoing final pre-season testing prior to next weekend's season opener in Long Beach. Overheard/Seen so far:
  1. Dutchman Nicky Pastorelli testing the 2nd Dale Coyne Car. His deal with Dale Coyne Racing is still not done.
  2. Oriol Servia and Jimmy Vasser in the Bell Micro and Gulfstream cars.
  3. Katherine Legge's car has blank sidepods so far
  4. Bruno Junqueira has Hole In The Wall Gang on his otherwise blank sidepods
  5. Cristiano da Matta told us that there still is no Champ Car TV deal in Brazil and the rumored track in Belo Horizonte probably won't be built where it was rumored, if at all. The government supposedly has other plans for that land.

Steven Levinson

Formula BMW
International reach for Walker Racing/Team Australia International reach for Walker Racing/Team AustraliaWalker Racing/Team Australia and Haberfeld Walker Racing has put together quite an international 6-car lineup for 2006, perhaps one of the most active teams in the business today.

Champ Car will be a two car program, car #5 Will Power (Australia) and #15 Alex Tagliani (Canada)
Atlantic will be car #5 James Davison (Australia) and car #15 Simon Pagenaud (France)
Formula BMW car #15 Marco Santos (Brazil) car #25 David Rangel (Mexico).

In a merged Champ Car/IRL series scenario, we would like to see more teams field entries in this sort of 3-tier scenario to bolster open wheel racing as a sport.  With Mazda involved in the Atlantic Series one has to wonder if the Star Mazda Series should be the first rung instead for Formula BMW.

Ende lands Atlantic ride Ende lands Atlantic rideRising American motorsports talent Duncan Ende of Los Angeles, California is pleased to announce his entry into the April 7-9 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Champ Car Atlantic Championship event.

Ende will be racing for the Bite Racing Team, owned by Dr. Chris Souliotis of Victoria, British Columbia, in the Yokohama Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

A veteran of the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Series and regular podium resident, Ende has seized a fortuitous opportunity to step into one of the exciting new Champ Car Atlantic cars and experience the 300 horsepower Mazda-Cosworth engines at one of the world's biggest motor racing events.

"I'm just thrilled that the opportunity to step up to Atlantics has presented itself, and I look forward to working with Chris and his great team at Bite Racing" enthused Ende. "I understand they have been working very hard over the past year, as have I, and I hope to make us all proud in my debut event here at Long Beach." zzzz

Ende will be piloting the beautiful black #55 car around the twisty 1.968 mile Long Beach street circuit. The event will be broadcast on Sunday April 16, at 1:00 PM EDT on SPEED. Please consult local listings for specific times.

About Duncan Ende:

Born: Feb 19, 1985 - Age 21
Nationality: American
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Height: 5'11" Weight: 180lbs
Car Number: 55
Karting experience:
2003-2004 Jim Hall Kart Race Series, Oxnard, California
2005-present Moran Raceway, Beaumont, California (uses personal shifter kart for training)

Racing/Driving experience:
2004- present Skip Barber Race Series (Formula Dodge)
Regional series: Western Regional Oct. 2004-April 2005
Midwest Regional April 2005-Oct. 2005
Southern Regional Nov. 2005-April 2006
Western Regional Oct. 2005-April 2006
National series March 2006-Oct. 2006
2006 IMSA Lites, West Race Car WR1000
Tests at Buttonwillow, California and Portland International Raceway
Will race at Road Atlanta and Road America in support of ALMS

2005 Skip Barber Western Regional Series Championship 2nd Place
Podiums: Winner Sebring 12 Hour Course 2005
Winner Laguna Seca 2005
Winner Virginia International Raceway 2005, Memorial Race
Winner Homestead Triple Crown Race 2006
2nd Place Le Circuit Mont Tremblant 2004
2nd Place Laguna Seca 2005
2nd Place Laguna Seca 2005
2nd Place Laguna Seca 2005
2nd Place Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course 2005
2nd Place Homestead 2006
2nd Place Sebring 12 Hour Course 2006
2nd Place Sebring 12 Hour Course 2006
2nd Place Las Vegas Motor Speedway 2006
2nd Place Las Vegas Motor Speedway 2006
3rd Place Daytona 24 Hour Course Triple Crown Race 2005
Additional racing experience: Barber Motorsports Park, Moroso Motorsports Park, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Road America Full Course, Lime Rock Park, Watkins Glen International Raceway. For more information please visit: www.sportmanagement.com

About Bite Racing / Dr. Chris Souliotis
Souliotis is a familiar face in the Atlantic ranks, having made his series debut with a ninth-place run at Vancouver in 2004. The three-time Canadian GT champion finished ninth in last year's Atlantic standings, ending the year with top-10 runs at Road America and Montreal. For more information please visit: www.biteracing.com

Perera tops GP2 testing Wednesday Perera tops GP2 testing WednesdayFranck Perera has finished the third pre-season test of the 2006 GP2 series with the fastest overall lap time.

The French Dams driver posted his time early on the morning of the second day of running to push iSport International’s Ernesto Viso into second position, with Lewis Hamilton third for ART Grand Prix.

Lewis’ team-mate Alex Premat finished the test with the fourth fastest time, with Nicolas Lapierre fifth for Arden International. Viso’s team-mate Tristan Gommendy finished the session just behind Lapierre in sixth position.

Seventh and eighth fastest were the Piquet Sports entries of Nelson Piquet Jr and Alexandre Negrao, while Adrian Valles drove a promising two days for Campos Racing to land the ninth fastest time, just ahead of Super Nova International’s Jose Maria Lopez.

The GP2 series now moves straight on to Valencia for the final pre-season test of 2006. The teams will arrive at Circuit Ricardo Tormo later this week, ready for the two-day test which begins on March 5th.

With the GP2 series 2006 season launch taking place on the evening of April 7th, the action begins in earnest the very next day as the first race weekend of the 2006 season kicks off on April 8-9 in Valencia. Source GP2 series

Dale Coyne announces da Matta Dale Coyne announces da MattaUPDATE Transcript of this morning's press conference on the announcement.

03/29/06 Fontana, California - Dale Coyne Racing proudly announces the addition of Champion driver Cristiano da Matta for the 2006 Champ Car World Series. 

Da Matta brings an outstanding record to the efforts of Dale Coyne Racing.  “Dale has consistently produced competitive cars as shown by the results good drivers have experienced in the past,” commented the popular Brazilian.  “I am excited about this opportunity and we are both committed to putting out a competitive effort for 2006.”

Cristiano da Matta represents the strongest driver yet to drive for Dale Coyne Racing.  Da Matta ran two years with Newman/Haas Racing, which included 10 race wins and a Championship winning season in 2002.  His solid efforts for the Toyota powered team vaulted him to the newly formed Toyota Formula 1 effort, where he showed his expertise during a development program in 2003 and 2004.  In 2005, the 31 year-old returned to Champ Cars driving for PKV Racing winning one round in Portland and finishing 11th in the season points battle. zzzz

“Our team has smelled victory in the past, it is now time to taste it,” commented team owner Dale Coyne.  “I am very proud to have Cristiano join our efforts for 2006 and look forward to an exciting season.”  Dale Coyne Racing has campaigned cars in the Champ Car World Series and CART since 1984.  Scoring multiple top tens with an array of drivers, podiums with Roberto Moreno and Oriol Servia and near wins with Alex Barron, the team is now poised to have its best season ever.

Da Matta will drive the entire 2006 season in the teams #19 entry.  Sponsorships continue from several loyal sponsors including Northern Illinois Steel, Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q, Vernon & Maz, Aurora Bearings and a few new surprises to be announced prior to Houston.   David Watson returns to the team to engineer the effort headed by Chief Mechanic Andy Greene and crew. 

The team is currently in Fontana for a two-day test.  Cristiano will take the wheel of the Coyne Lola for the first time in preparation for the first race next week at Long Beach. Champ Car

A1 Grand Prix
Michael Devaney to race for A1 Team Ireland Michael Devaney to race for A1 Team IrelandA1 Team Ireland heads for the season finale of the A1 GP series in Shanghai with Dubliner Michael Devaney in the hot seat for the Chinese round of the series this weekend.

The 21-year-old Irishman has been A1 Team Ireland’s reserve driver all season, and has already proved himself while deputizing for the team’s Principal Driver Ralph Firman at the inaugural Brands Hatch event and coming a superb 4th in the Eastern Creek Sprint Race in Australia in November.

Devaney, who is currently in Shanghai with the team preparing for the race, is delighted to be in the driving seat once again and said: “I am thrilled and proud to have the opportunity to race for A1 Team Ireland again. I would like to thank the team for giving me a third run this season and obviously will do my best to get points scoring finishes in both races and a podium if the opportunity arises. I’m also grateful to Ralph for being a great inspiration and mentor during the season. I have learned an enormous amount from being present at with the team at events.” zzzz

The Rathfarnham-born driver will get to test his mettle on one of only two Formula One tracks in the A1 GP series – the other being Malaysia where Firman qualified 3rd for Ireland – and will be put through his paces at the new and highly regarded circuit, built in 2002 and able to accommodate up to 200,000 spectators. The €350 million, 3.38 mile/5.451 kms clockwise track incorporates seven left turns and seven rights, and a 200mph back straight leading into a hairpin that's good for overtaking as it's unusually wide.

A1 Team Ireland Team Principal Mark Gallagher said: “Ralph has driven his heart out all season, bringing the team its first podium finish in Portugal, setting fastest laps at two races and achieving the team’s strongest performance in a weekend at the last race at Laguna Seca. It has been a tough season for the team, full of extreme highs and lows, times when we have excelled ourselves and times when the team could have done better. Ralph, however, has provided us with a foundation of speed and experience on which to build the team during this first season.

“Ralph’s Team Honda Racing commitments with Aguri Suzuki’s ARTA Honda NSX in the Japanese Super GT series means he has testing this week in Fuji and racing next week in Okayama. We are extremely lucky to have someone as capable as Michael to step in and I know Irish fans everywhere will be keeping everything crossed for him on Sunday.”

”We are nine points adrift of 4th place in the championship, and if the team can deliver a reliable car and good performance in Sunday’s pit stop we are confident Michael can deliver the goods. This is the ideal opportunity for him to finish the season on a high and help bring A1 Team Ireland a win.

Ralph Firman said: “It’s very frustrating to miss the race in Shanghai this weekend, but I am sure Michael will do a solid job for the team as the car is capable of being very competitive. I wish the team the best of luck this weekend and whilst it has been a tough season, I hope China brings a change in A1 Team Ireland’s fortunes. As with any series, you need reliability, good pit stops and the right strategy to get a result.”

Ireland currently lies 8th in the series with 61 championship points, six in front of the race winning Canadian team, and nine adrift of the 4th-placed Brazilian team which won the opening race of the season in Brands Hatch last September. With Portugal, New Zealand and Jos Verstappen’s A1 Team Netherlands car just in front of Ireland, the battles promise to be hard-found this weekend even though the World Cup of Motorsport title has already been clinched by France.

Injured crew member update Injured crew member updateJoe Kruschek, rear tire changer for the No. 26 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, was injured in last Monday’s race in Atlanta during a routine pit stop.  Kruschek sustained injuries to both hands when the jack was released while he was still in the process of tightening lugnuts.  Kruschek suffered a broken left thumb, a broken right middle finger and a cut right index finger.  He successfully underwent surgery on Tuesday, March 21st, in a local hospital in Griffin, Georgia, and was transported back to the Charlotte, North Carolina area by Roush Racing.

Kruschek will be in a cast and will undergo physical therapy for at least a couple of months, but the prognosis is good for a satisfactory recovery.  Upon welcoming Kruschek back to the Charlotte area, team owner Jack Roush contacted Dr. Jerry Petty, a Charlotte neurosurgeon, to further evaluate Joe and refer him to a hand specialist.  “We’re going to see that Joe Kruschek has the best possible care and that the most appropriate specialists are consulted and brought on board.  Joe is a racer and I know that more than anything he wants to get back to work at the race track, but first and foremost we want him to be healthy,” commented Jack Roush. 

Industry News
Does your car speak Spanish? Does your car speak Spanish?With the Hispanic population approaching 45 million in the United States, GM and OnStar are strengthening their commitment to provide subscribers the best in-vehicle communications and assistance service available by launching an industry-first service enhancement - OnStar en Espaňol.
A two-stop strategy? A two-stop strategy?For the first time since this event moved from Adelaide to Melbourne in 1996, the Australian Grand Prix is not the opening round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The reason for this is to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games as there would not have been enough hotel rooms to cope with both events at once.

It is also a fair assumption to make that some Melbournians would have been annoyed at having to chose between attending a day at the Grand Prix or the athletics competition, because like all Australians, sport is a key part of their life. "Melbourne is a special place when it comes to sport," reckons Michael Schumacher's race engineer, Chris Dyer. And why would Dyer's opinion be relevant on this subject? Because the thirty-eight year old is an Australian national, whose family lives just over a hundred kilometers away from the city that hosts the third round of the Formula One World Championship. "I think one thing about Melbourne is that it has a very strong sporting heritage and it doesn't matter if it's the grand prix or Australian Rules Football, or a one day cricket match, the whole city is always behind it."

Dyer has had to wait a few weeks longer than usual for his annual home visit. "It's still my home grand prix, so I don't mind what time of year it takes place," he says. "From a work point of view, I guess in some ways it might make it a little easier than normal, because the slot as first race of the year can be a bit busier than usual, as it is the first time back after winter, with a new car. Maybe everyone is a little rusty and needs to learn the new rules. Hopefully, we got all that out of the way in Bahrain and Malaysia and by the time we get to Melbourne, we should be a bit more on top of things and more relaxed." zzzz

The European idea of Australian weather is that the continent is always extremely hot and while this is true of much of the country, Melbourne is known for having an almost European climate, with distinct seasons, so what effect will have the shift to this later date on the calendar? "I think the weather will be a little bit cooler, but just as variable as ever," predicts Dyer. But it is difficult to be sure about what we can expect. A couple of days before the Malaysian GP, it was 39 degrees in Melbourne and a day later it was pouring with rain!"

The circuit, located in Albert Park, just a few kilometers south of the city centre is a temporary facility and each year, the organizers have to be build up and pull down all the circuit furniture - barriers, fencing and grandstands. But the track still feels like a real racing circuit. "It is not a street circuit by nature, like Monaco for example, it is more of a normal track, so it is not so bumpy, there's a bit more run-off and a few more fast corners," is how Dyer evaluates it. "But it's still a compromise between being fast down the straights and having good grip through the corners, just like most circuits. Especially this year with the V8, it will be quite high downforce. It can be quite hard on brakes as well and usually there is a question mark over brake performance as it has been the first race. But this year the brake situation is clearer as we have already had Bahrain which is traditionally tough on brakes, so we should be a bit more prepared. In terms of strategy, I expect it will most likely be a two stop strategy. The new qualifying format means that a one stop race is not so likely. You used to have the penalty of carrying the fuel in qualifying, which still makes it difficult, even if things are the same between a one and a two stop in the race. However, carrying more fuel increases your chances of being further back on the grid, which carries a higher chance of getting involved in accidents. The new qualifying format pushes you more to a two stop."

Dyer has been Michael Schumacher's race engineer since the end of 2002, so the years spent working closely together means the Australian is ideally placed to assess how the seven times champion has changed over the years. "Perhaps he is a little bit more relaxed now, but at the same time this winter I think he has worked harder than at any time since I have been at Ferrari, in terms of the number of days we tested and how early he started testing," reckons Chris. "He tested before Christmas which he has never done before. He may be a bit more chilled and relaxed at the track but he is working harder than ever before." Which leads to the obvious question being asked at the moment: is Schumacher likely to retire soon? "I see no sign of him retiring," states Dyer. "But I have no idea really, as it is not something we talk about. We have a job to do this year and we will get on with that. I have no opinion myself. The critical thing is how he feels about it, how much he still enjoys racing and how much he wants to do it. I see no sign that he is enjoying it less, so I cannot see any reason to indicate that he is going to stop. I think he will make that decision himself and when he has we will know about it."

Dyer himself has also grown older in the job and admits his attitude has also changed. "With the years comes a bit more experience, perhaps you can be more relaxed and take the bad days and put them behind you a bit more easily," he says philosophically. "When I first started I tended to worry more - did I do a good job this weekend? did I make all the right decisions? I used to think that way, but now I accept that sometimes it does not matter what you do, you can still have a bad weekend. I'm 38, but that's 38 people-years but I'm sure there's a multiplication factor for Formula 1 years!" Source Ferrari

Agreeing to agree on Indy Car Racing Agreeing to agree on Indy Car RacingTony George and Kevin Kalkhoven are, by their own accounts, making unprecedented progress toward ending the longest-running feud in the history of American motor sports.

At stake: the future of Indy-style racing, the type of cars that race in the Indianapolis 500 and this week's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Fans of St. Petersburg's race should hope for two things: that after many false starts, George of the Indy Racing League and Kalkhoven of Champ Car can reach an agreement on a unification, and if they do, St. Petersburg is part of the new combined schedule.

A unified series would be healthier financially, thus making its individual events such as the St. Pete race more viable. But it would intensify competition for races. A combined series would take only the strongest events, some on foreign soil, weeding out the weak ones.

The importance of the latest negotiation is lost on no one in open-wheel racing. It's the talk of the garage among team owners, drivers, engineers, even public relations reps. Without unification, one prominent team owner suggests, the future of Indy-style racing could be bleak.

"If it doesn't happen, I seriously don't know if open-wheel racing has a place for us," said Bobby Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 winner and co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing. "Because it's never going to go beyond where it is. And for us to grow as a company, we have to have a place where we can sell something and where there's value perceived by the corporate world."  More at tbo.com

Seen in Melbourne Seen in MelbourneOutside the city of Melbourne on Wednesday, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa limbered up for Sunday's race by playing a friendly game of rugby with similarly Vodafone-sponsored Australian 'Wallaby' pros.

Later, for 'Shell', Ferrari's seven time world champion played slot cars with some youngsters, before staging a press conference for Australian journalists.

''I think Michael will be very competitive this weekend,'' world champion Fernando Alonso - at a different press call and photo shoot - agreed after touching down in Oz today.

Elsewhere, Michael's Toyota-driving brother Ralf - with, naturally, a red and white racer - dropped in on Ramsay Street; scene of the popular Australian soap-opera 'Neighbors'.

At Albert Park, Williams' Nico Rosberg did a lap or two of the F1 circuit on a scooter.

''Everything looks great,'' the rookie smiled, ''good fun; I'm looking forward to it.''

The Bureau of Meteorology, however, is predicting heavy rain showers for qualifying.

NASCAR Busch Series fines NASCAR Busch Series finesNASCAR announced Tuesday that fines have  been issued to two NASCAR Busch Series teams, as a result of rule violations this past weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart Cooper, crew chief for the No. 27 Ford driven by David Green, has been fined $2,000 for violating Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-Q (car, car parts, components and/or equipment that do not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20A-12.1A(8) (unapproved jacking bolts, hollow bolts) of the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series rule book. The violation was discovered during pre-qualifying inspection.

Ronnie Griffin, crew chief for the No. 23 Chevrolet driven by Chris Wimmer, has been fined $1,000 for violating Sections 12-4-A; 12-4-Q and 20A-12.1A(8). The violation was discovered during pre-qualifying inspection.

Q and A with Andretti and Savoree Q and A with Andretti and SavoreeUPDATE Key Statement by Kevin Savoree from the Q&A: We're actually in a great position this year in that the pit road suite club is sold out. We have the hospitality village on the rooftop of the parking garage from the (Mahaffey) Theater. That's sold out. The vendor area is just chock-blocked again full. That's great.

Ticket sales are substantially ahead of last year's. Those are all great indicators. There's a deal going on between the mayor and the council. Somehow it's got to do with the weather and who gets credit for that. You'd really need to ask them. But the big factor right now is we are just going to have a beautiful weekend. I think everybody likes to come out for that. Knock on wood, Mother Nature is going to really cooperate with us.

[Editor's Note: As we stated, this event must be included on the schedule of a merged IRL/Champ Car series. It has all the right ingredients to be successful and is a good street/airport circuit.]

03/28/06 An Interview With Michael Andretti And Kevin Savoree regarding this weekend's IRL race in St. Petersburg, FL. Transcript
Formula Ford to Champ Car in 2 years Formula Ford to Champ Car in 2 yearsCTE Racing-HVM has announced that British F3 racer Dan Clarke has joined the Champ Car squad for 2006. Clarke took part in an evaluation test with the team at Sebring and following this, his place alongside team mate Nelson Philippe, has been confirmed.

The young British driver from North Yorkshire has been poised to announce his 2006 plans for a few weeks, and with offers of drives on both sides of the Atlantic it’s been a tough decision.

The British F3 Series looked the likely home for Clarke this year, but the deal to join the American series was finally sealed yesterday. zzzz

“It’s been a nail-biting few weeks” admitted Clarke. “There’s quite a few drivers vying for Champ Car drives and I thought I might be out of contention as I’m much younger than them, and don’t have as much experience, but these two factors probably helped me in the end. I have the hunger, the commitment and the determination to succeed, which has been recognized by CTE-Racing-HVM."

Clarke, 22, has risen through the motorsport ranks quickly and impressed many top team bosses and drivers along the way. He began his racing career as a child and at the age of 10 he won the first of many karting championships.

At the age of 18, in his first season in cars, he was crowned BRDC Formula Ford Champion. A fourth place in the UK Junior Formula Ford Championship in 2002, second place and Formula Festival winner in 2004, and a winning British F3 season with Raikkonen Robertson Racing in 2005, has given Clarke the foundation for his move into the Champ Car World Series. Source Clarke PR  Press Conference transcript

Minardi F1X2 in action in Melbourne Minardi F1X2 in action in MelbourneThe Minardi F1X2 Team today completed its first event of 2006, with a successful program at Mangalore Airport, north of Melbourne.

The F1X2 crew was more than busy, though, as driver, Zsolt Baumgartner, took a single-car, one-day record of 65 lucky passengers for high-speed rides around the 2.65-km course, laid out within the confines of the airfield, located in central Victoria.

The majority of the passengers in this instance were winners of an OzJet promotional competition, although Melbourne chef, Stephen Hewatt, who generously bid AUS $28,000 in a charity auction conducted by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, which assists orphaned and abused children, was also strapped into the F1X2 car for the ride of a lifetime. zzzz

“It was just an unbelievable experience,” Hewatt commented after climbing from the passenger seat at the end of his run, “almost like you’re starting to fly. The forces were incredible at times, particularly through the chicane and under braking.
How F1 drivers can do this for 60 or 70 laps at a time, I can’t begin to comprehend, but there is no doubt they have to be super-fit to deal with it.”

Team boss, Paul Stoddart, said, “It has been another hugely successful event for the two-seater program, and I particularly want to thank Zsolt, the medical and rescue team from Racesafe, and the F1X2 crew, all of whom worked tirelessly, in 30 degree-plus heat, to ensure the passengers received their rides and had a great day. There is no doubt this has been a wonderful experience for 65 very happy passengers, and continues the two-seater program's worthy tradition of bringing Formula One closer to the general public.” Source Minardi F1X2

Webber pledges proceeds to charity Webber pledges proceeds to charityNot only will fans get a piece of current Formula One memorabilia to wear at the Australian Grand Prix when they purchase from the 2006 Mark Webber range of merchandise, they will also be supporting two worthy Australian causes – TLC for Kids and the Tasmanian Cancer Council’s Cancer Plus program through the Mark Webber Challenge Foundation.

The recently created ‘Mark Webber Challenge Foundation’ is the Australian Formula One star’s way of contributing to the community and with the launch of the 2006 Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge (MWPTC) today, Mark has nominated the two aforementioned charities to benefit from the event and all related activities this year – as well as the sale of the MW range. zzzz

Mark is hoping his 2006 range will be as popular among the Australian Grand Prix and Webber fans as it has been in previous years….

“We’ve always had a good response from fans when it comes to buying my gear during Grand Prix week in Melbourne and so we thought donating the proceeds to charity would be a great way to raise funds and awareness about the Mark Webber Foundation, and the Mark Webber Pure Tasmanian Challenge” he said. “The Foundation is geared around supporting sick Aussie kids and so is the Challenge – I think by purchasing from the range the F1 fans in Australia will feel good that they are supporting a cause which is close to home for them, and maybe they will want to find out a little bit more about the Challenge too.”

The 2006 range of Mark Webber merchandise will be available to purchase from stalls and shops in and around Albert Park during Grand Prix week. The range will comprise of; a long sleeve polo, a short sleeve polo, a cap featuring Mark’s helmet design and a ‘number 9’ t-shirt.

Schu dodges retirement question Schu dodges retirement questionIn Australia for this weekend's F1 race, Formula One legend Michael Schumacher has dodged talk of his retirement, saying he is tiring of speculation about when he will quit the sport.

"We will just have to wait some time. I will make up my mind at some point and get into the details of what is my preference," Schumacher said. "I don't really want to get into that (talk about retirement) because it just leads to further speculation.

"A lot of people speculated before my previous extension of contract, when we extend and so on.

"I extended for three years, then the next speculation was 'okay, what's going to happen after that'.

"There's always speculation happening. I've made decisions in the past and then people keep on speculating."

Patrick glad next race is on safer road course Patrick glad next race is on safer road courseDanica Patrick said it will help that her return to the car is on a road course, which is slower and typically safer than an oval track. But she said she must continue with her job regardless.  "There is a chance for tragedy every second, and the part that I'm scared about is that I put my family through this, too," she said. "(But) this hasn't changed my mind at all. I'm still going to do it.  "My husband said it best: 'Just because you're a race car driver doesn't mean you're supposed to die.' " [Editor's Note: He's right, but if you are driving an IndyCar on a high speed oval your chances of getting killed are far greater.] Indy Star
NASCAR told to keep profanity off air NASCAR told to keep profanity off airUPDATE FOX Sports used the same excuse for profanity creeping into Sunday's broadcast of the Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway as CBS did for Janet Jackson's breast being exposed during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII. Equipment malfunction. "We've talked to FOX Sports and they told us there was a malfunction, that it wasn't deliberate,'' NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Tuesday. "They told us there's some sort of system in play where there's a delay. For whatever reason, it didn't work. They assured us they're looking at ways to make sure that doesn't reoccur.'' The incident occurred when the in-car radio conversation between crew chief Kevin Manion and his driver, Martin Truex., Jr., was broadcast. Manion was caught using the same word that earned driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. a $10,000 fine and the loss of 25 points two years ago at Talladega Superspeedway. Hunter said Manion was not fined because "this was a glitch that occurred.'' NASCAR.com

03/28/06 Family Policy Network President Joe Glover has filed an official complaint with the Federal Communications Commission Sunday evening, charging that "NASCAR and FoxSports have a responsibility to keep profanity off of broadcast television, especially during daytime hours on Sunday afternoon when so many families are watching."

A recent ruling by the FCC found:

"The ‘S-Word’ (which was broadcast on Fox Sunday afternoon) is a vulgar excretory term so grossly offensive to members of the public that it amounts to a nuisance and is presumptively profane. Like the ‘F-Word,’ it is one of the most offensive words in the English language, the broadcast of which is likely to shock the viewer and disturb the peace and quiet of the home."

Family Policy Network emailed an "action alert" to approximately 35,000 supporters throughout the nation. Each message contained a full description of the issue, links to supporting audio and documents, and instructions with a link to complain to the FCC. ThatsRacin.com

Piquet Jr tops GP2 testing Piquet Jr tops GP2 testingUPDATE Combined morning and afternoon testing times from Tuesday in Valencia (Nelson Piquet Jr. pictured right):

Pos Driver Team Time
 1. Nelson Piquet Jr. Piquet Sports 1:23.315
 2. Ernesto Viso iSport International 1:23.432
 3. Alexandre Negrao Piquet Sports 1:23.695
 4. Franck Perera DAMS 1:23.892
 5. Lewis Hamilton Art Grand Prix 1:23.995
 6. Jose Maria Lopez Super Nova International 1:24.147
 7. Michael Ammermuller Arden International 1:24.228
 8. Nicolas Lapierre Arden International 1:24.237
 9. Clivio Piccione DPR Direxiv 1:24.255
10. Adrian Valles Campos Racing 1:24.570
11. Ferdinando Monfardini DAMS 1:24.665
12. Olivier Pla DPR Direxiv 1:24.696
13. Andreas Zuber Trident Racing 1:24.721
14. Hiroki Yoshimoto BCN Competicion 1:24.798
15. Gianmaria Bruni Trident Racing 1:24.875
16. Lucas Di Grassi Durango 1:25.012
17. Tristan Gommendy iSport International 1:25.022
18. Alexandre Premat Art Grand Prix 1:25.100
19. Adam Carroll Racing Engineering 1:25.324
20. Sergio Hernandez Durango 1:25.366
21. Timo Glock BCN Competicion 1:25.399
22. Fairuz Fauzy Super Nova International 1:25.679
23. Felix Porteiro Campos Racing 1:25.867
24. Javier Villa Racing Engineering 1:25.973
25. Luca Filippi FMS International 1:26.041
26. Jason Tahinci FMS International 1:28.558

03/28/06 Nelson Piquet Jr has laid down the gauntlet to his GP2 series rivals by setting the quickest lap this morning in Barcelona.  More later....
Lapierre and Premat to share seat in China Lapierre and Premat to share seat in ChinaInaugural A1 Grand Prix champions A1 Team France will split the driving duties at this weekend’s finale, the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Shanghai International Circuit between its two drivers, Nicolas Lapierre and Alex Premat.
The pair have enjoyed five A1GP meetings at the wheel apiece, taking 13 race wins from the 20 races to date. But at this, the 11th round, they will split the duties, with Lapierre – who raced for the team last time out at Laguna Seca, California – driving the red, white and blue car in the Friday practice sessions, then Premat taking over for the third practice session and qualifying. Premat will stay on board for the Sprint race on Sunday before, if all goes to plan, handing the car back to Lapierre for the final Feature race of the first ever A1 Grand Prix campaign.
Both drivers are excited by the prospect, eager as ever to add to their victory tally that sits at seven for Prémat and six for Lapierre. zzzz 
“It will be my first time at Shanghai and I’m really excited,” enthuses Lapierre. “I am looking forward to discovering the circuit which is unique, most especially the first sector. The circuit has a great layout. I’ve also invited one of my sponsors, Regis Dumange the president of a sportswear company based near Nevers in France to share my experience as he has helped me a lot as since 2002 in Formula Renault, in the F3 Euroseries and in the GP2 series.”
Premat, like all other drivers competing this weekend, has yet to set eyes on the world-class Shanghai International Circuit. “It’s another new track for me,” he explains. “I have some idea of what the track looks like with a good mixture of challenging corner and long straights. It’s quite twisty in some areas and the back straight leads into a corner where you can overtake under the right circumstances. I’m really looking forward to this and hopefully we can close the season with another good result for the team.”
Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Ferrari could struggle in Oz - Brawn
'No pressure' to repeat title - Alonso
Webber cools fury at rookie comrade
Schu's relief at Ferrari revival
F1's 'embarrassing' Fridays
New qualifying here to stay - Bernie
Pre-LeMans testing: Yoong fast Pre-LeMans testing: Yoong fastRfH, the team owned by Jan Lammers and based in Katwijk started the 2006 Le Mans Series season in promising fashion. The team which will also compete the Le Mans 24 Hours in June with a Dome S101 Hybrid Mugen with Lammers and A1 Team Malaysia's Alex Yoong sharing driving duties, was in the top-three on both days of the first official test of the season at Paul Ricard.

“From the first time we met, Alex fascinated me as a driver and a person. He’s got a pleasant character and above all he’s very competitive. At the beginning of the year we were looking for the ideal combination for a private team such as Racing for Holland: a paying but also highly competitive driver. When that turned out to be impossible and it became clear that I had to come up with the money myself I aimed at drivers that would be able to add some value to Racing for Holland and also to our new “football campaign”. Even though I wasn’t able to offer to pay Alex any money, and he couldn’t bring sponsorship immediately, he turned out to fit our bill. Alex has proven earlier and also during the test that he’s an asset to Racing for Holland and our Sportscar program. It’s good to see that A1GP’s national philosophy brings people together,” Jan Lammers said to RaceXpress from France. zzzz

Lammers is pleasantly surprised by the results at Paul Ricard where Racing for Holland tests the new Dome for the first time.

“Because of our difficult financial situation our Sportscar program was off to a slow start. At the moment we are accelerating though. We didn’t have high expectations coming to Paul Ricard but Alex, I and the whole team are pleasantly surprised by the way in which things seem to unfold. Everyone at Racing for Holland, Dome, Dunlop and Mugen works very hard and our cooperation turns out to be an enjoyable experience. Dome has entrusted Racing for Holland with the running of their factory car this year. During the winter months they did a lot of wind tunnel tests in Japan and using their knowledge and experience and combining that with our know-how we were able to come up with some modifications that had immediate result.”

“It’s all looking quite good, we are satisfied with our first results. We have the highest top speed of the pack with 315 kph and we still have a bit of a margin to improve that by some small aerodynamic changes without compromising too much on downforce. That’s a very pleasant thought when looking forward to Le Mans where top speed is paramount on the long straights. We’re faster than Pescarolo who were best in terms of top speed last year, and that’s great. Of course Audi will be our biggest rivals,” said Jan Lammers who was also in high spirits about the performance of his new RfH driver Alex Yoong: “Alex looked very good indeed.”

Alex said, "I'm very happy with the test and am pleased that I'm up there with the pace. The Dome Mugen is very quick and reliable - I think we should go well in the season."

Le Mans Series - Paul Ricard Test 27 Mar 06
Pos/Car No/Cat/Team/Car/Laps/Time
1 9 LMP1 Creation Autosportif/Creation-Judd 85 01:44.240
2 14 LMP1 Racing for Holland/Dome Mugen (Jan Lammers/Alex Yoong) 126 01:45.594
3 19 LMP1 Chamberlain/Lola AER 89 01:45.781
4 13 LMP1 Courage/Courage LC70 - Mugen 69 01:46.060
5 17 LMP1 Pescarolo/Pescarolo C60 - Judd 170 01:46.760
6 39 LMP2 Chamberlain/Lola AER 106 01:47.139
7 5 LMP1 Swiss Spirit/Courage LC70 - Judd 60 01:48.199
8 25 LMP2 RML/MG Lola EX 264 153 01:48.335
9 22 LMP2 Rollcentre/Radical SR9 - Judd 68 01:49.341
10 36 LMP2 Paul Belmondo Racing/Courage C65 - Ford 65 01:50.282
11 50 LMGT1 Larbre Competition/Aston Martin DBR9 107 01:52.293
12 72 LMGT1 Luc Alphand Aventure/Corvette C5-R 48 01:53.769
13 55 LMGT1 Oreca/Saleen S7R 128 01:53.838
14 70 LMGT1 PSI Experience/Corvette C6-R 129 01:54.012
15 67 LMGT1 Convers/Ferrari 550 103 01:54.093
16 61 LMGT1 Russian Age Racing/Aston Martin DBR9 117 01:54.278
17 6 LMP1 Lister/Lister Storm "LM" P1 Hybrid 23 01:54.300
18 71 LMGT1 PSI Experience/Corvette C5-R 104 01:56.361
19 76 LMGT2 Autorlando Sport/Porsche 996 GT3 RSR 100 01:58.668
20 84 LMGT2 Team ICER Brakes/Ferrari 430 GT 54 02:00.400
21 92 LMGT2 IMSA/Porsche 996 GT3 RSR 43 02:00.726
22 35 LMP2 Gforce/Courage C65 - Judd 5 02:00.772
23 44 LMP2 Kruse/Courage C65 - Judd 17 02:01.574
24 82 LMGT2 Team LNT/Panoz Esperante 39 02:02.093
25 81 LMGT2 Team LNT/Panoz Esperante 44 02:02.289
26 95 LMGT2 Raceport Peninsula TVR/TVR Tuscan 400R 25 02:07.756

What is it with these Ferrari owners? What is it with these Ferrari owners?A businessman who crashed his £92,000 Ferrari at a race track in Belgium shipped it back to Britain and tried to claim for a £35,000 repair bill after inventing a hit-and-run accident, a court was told yesterday.

Richard Challen, 57, a garage owner, admitted making up the crash after his wife forgot to send a fax to his insurers to arrange cover for the event.

He walked into a police station and said his Ferrari Berlinetta 355 F1, which has a top speed of 183mph, had been wrecked in a collision with a lorry near his home in Esher, Surrey.

In an elaborate invention, he said that the lorry driver failed to stop and claimed that he had suffered whiplash injuries.

He then filled out an accident report form for his insurers, Royal & Sun Alliance. The company was suspicious of the claim and contacted police, Giles Curtis-Raleigh, prosecuting, told Guildford Crown Court. When interviewed by a police officer Challen broke down and confessed that he had made up the story.  More at Daily Telegraph

A German taking a Ferrari for a test drive wrapped it round a lamppost when he tried to impress a pretty woman.

Alphons Edberg, 33, from Hamburg, was driving a borrowed Ferrari 360 Modena which he was considering buying.

But, according to police, the inexperienced driver lost control after putting his foot down to impress a pretty woman he had spotted.

He crashed the powerful car into a tree, a road sign and a fence before finally wrapping it around a lamppost.

The car was a write off and Edberg is in hospital being treated for head injuries.

All indications are it was a rookie mistake All indications are it was a rookie mistakeUPDATE #2 This video clearly shows in slow motion that Paul Dana hit some debris from Carpenter's car just before he hit Carpenter.  That debris appears to have collapsed his right-front suspension and tire.  Although it appears he was on-target to hit Carpenter anyway, it is possible that the loss of steering prevented him from avoiding Carpenter's car. 03/28/06 Neurosurgeon Steve Olvey called Sunday's wreck that claimed the life of IRL IndyCar Series rookie Paul Dana the "worst-case scenario," one that reminded the race safety expert of a crash that cost Champ Car driver Alex Zanardi his lower legs — and almost his life — in September 2001.

"You always worry that something like this can happen on the racetrack," said Olvey, whose work alongside orthopedic spine specialist Terry Trammell and the Champ Car safety team on an oval in Germany kept Zanardi alive. "One car is sitting still, and another car — for whatever reason — hits it at racing speed.

"That's the hardest type of accident to protect against."

The focus shifted Monday to why Dana didn't heed the caution.

The yellow lights came out at least five seconds before Dana hit Carpenter, a warning that was broadcast by his spotter and was relayed to yellow lights both in his car and on the track.

Five or six other drivers slowed to avoid Carpenter, but Dana continued on his same pace.

"Athletes often focus on the job at hand, and some athletes can over-focus," Olvey said. "It may be that he had all his attention on what he was doing, where he was going, and didn't see the yellows or any of the warning signals. It could have been something else.

"We are never going to know exactly what happened."

Olvey said experience — or lack thereof — can also be a factor in such accidents. Dana had finished just one of his first three IndyCar starts last year when his season was cut short after a crash at an Indy 500 practice left him with a broken back and a concussion.

"When a racing driver gains more and more experience, he becomes more keenly aware of everything that's going on around him," Olvey said.  Excerpts from USA Today

03/27/06 Racing is a dangerous business, and one mistake can cost you dearly. From all indications, Paul Dana made a rookie mistake Sunday morning in Homestead and it cost him his life.

"He carried way too much speed in and wasn't aware of what was going on around him," said Buddy Lazier, who Dana shot past before the crash.

Dana's onboard telemetry showed he braked only tenths of a second before the impact.

Neither IRL nor team officials had any explanation for Dana's failure to slow down for several seconds after the yellow lights came on around the track.

"That's just the first time of the weekend that we got all 20 cars on the track at the same time," said IRL president Brian Barnhart. "Ed [Carpenter] had his problem in turn two initially. The yellow lights were called immediately and all systems functioned properly. It's just a busy time out there, with a lot of cars and a lot of traffic."

Rahal said he knew of no problem with communications.

"The spotter made clear the incident," Rahal said. "From what I could see, there was a car on the outside. Paul was just passing or had just passed, but I think it would be conjecture and probably very irresponsible for me to try to dissect as to why what happened, happened. But there was no problem with communication."

In all likelihood Dana was distracted with making a clean pass on the car on the outside of him and he never saw the caution lights and was probably concentrating so hard on keeping his car under him on cold tires through turns 1 and 2 that he tuned out the verbal warning from his spotter.

Sebring Test Times - Clarke makes a statement Sebring Test Times - Clarke makes a statementAdd new CTE Racing-HVM driver Dan Clarke's name to one of the fastest off-season test times for the Champ Cars at Sebring based on his 50.3 sec. lap last week:

Fastest Sebring Lap Times since November, 2005
1. Sebastien Bourdais 49.93 seconds (N/H car)
2. Bruno Junqueira 50.1 seconds (N/H car)
3. Nelson Philippe 50.0
4. Dan Clarke 50.5
5. Oriol Servia 50.65 (Thursday on 50-mile day)
6. Franck Montagny 50.8 (PKV car)
7. Giorgio Pantano 50.9
8. Ryan Briscoe 51.0
9. Ryan Dalziel 51.5
9. Katherine Legge 51.5 (PKV car)
11. Jan Heylen 51.73 (Mi-Jack Conquest)
12. Charles Zwolsman 51.8
13. Alx Danielsson 52.1
14. Richard Lyons 52.2
15. Katherine Legge 53.2  (Rocketsports Car)
16. Tonis Kasemets 54.4

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