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Tomas Scheckter signs with Team 3G  South African Tomas Scheckter will join Stanton Barrett as teammate on Greg Beck's Team 3G starting at the Long Beach IndyCar race.  More at SPEEDtv.com
Manning lands ride with Dreyer & Reinbold for St. Pete  Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced that IndyCar Series veteran Darren Manning will drive the No. 23 Honda-powered Dallara in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"We are excited to be able to put a deal together, even though it is last minute, to run Darren Manning at St. Petersburg," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "He's a really talented driver that will be a great teammate for (rookie) Mike (Conway) and can round out our two-car effort as we continue to build for the 2009 season."

Manning has 25 top-10 finishes in 58 IndyCar Series starts, most recently with A.J. Foyt Racing. In 2008, he posted seven top 10s in 17 races with a best of second at Watkins Glen.  More at IndyCar.com

ALMS returns to ABC for St. Pete  
The American Le Mans Series’ Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg will air ‘live’ at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 4th on ABC. It is the second season of Series involvement with ‘ESPN on ABC.’

Following what many consider to be the best opening round of a Series’ season at the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, teams and drivers are ready to continue on the first street circuit of 2009. With play-by-play action from veteran motorsports talent Greg Creamer, analysis from former winning road racer Bill Adam and pit reporting by veteran Dorsey Schroeder and Kelli Stavast, ABC will feature world-class sports car racing involving some of the most experience announce talent in the field. 

Creamer served in a similar role with ABC a year ago. He has worked with the American Le Mans Series along with other forms of motorsport as a reporter for SPEED. He has done play-by-play primarily after beginning his motorsports broadcasting career in 1987 with snowmobile racing and other action sports for a local cable outlet. More ...

Racing News
Shadow designer dies  
Peter Bryant
Sad news. We understand that Peter Bryant, designer of the Ti22 and Shadow Can Am cars died of an apparent heart attack yesterday at his home in Las Vegas.

It was just a year ago this Friday that Peter visited The Motorsport Collector to sign copies of his autobiography 'Can Am Challenger'.

Peter was in California to attend the Legends of Riverside Film Festival last weekend and he was said to be in great spirits.

Peter would have been 72 years old later this week.

Q&A with Vijay Mallaya  
Vijay Mallya
Force India boss Vijay Mallya is satisfied with the team's performance in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Q: What's your overall verdict on the first race of the season?
VM: "We had a top 10 finish with Adrian (Sutil) despite the fact that he had to make an unscheduled pit stop to change his front wing, which he clipped on the first lap, while later Fisi missed his pit box. It was a very, very good result. Who knows, if these two mistakes had not happened, maybe we would have been in the points. But I'm satisfied, and I've got a lot to look forward to."

Q: Were you pleased with the pace of the cars over the weekend?
VM: "As you've seen in practice, there's not that much of a gap between the McLarens and the Force India cars, so I was not surprised that Fisi was performing well. I think given the fact that this car was designed and built in 120 days, and given the fact that we've had only eight days of testing, which is almost nothing, reliability was the biggest question mark in my mind. I'm very relieved that the cars are reliable. Both finished the race. I think for the first Grand Prix the result isn't that bad, and is very respectable given what we've been through and we can only look forward from here. Now that the reliability question is out of the way, we're going to focus entirely on aerodynamic development and set-up to make the cars more competitive. Both drivers say that the car is more than a significant improvement over last year, and that the mechanical platform is good and the car has a lot of promise. Now it's just a question of the refinements that make the ultimate difference." More ...

Air Wick to sponsor Franchitti  
Target Chip Ganassi Racing
announced today that AIR WICK® will serve as the primary sponsor of it’s No.10 Honda Dallara for 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti at the IndyCar Series season opener, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (April 5, 2pm ET, VERSUS).


Dario by the Numbers: After transitioning to the team’s NASCAR program in 2008, Franchitti returns to open wheel racing in 2009. Franchitti posted four wins, four pole positions in 2007 en route to his first IndyCar Series championship. 2009 will be his first IndyCar season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. He has over 180 starts under his belt between the CART and IndyCar Series resulting in 18 wins, 17 poles, 95 top-10 finishes (1997-2007). He is the winningest driver in U.S. open-wheel history from Great Britain. More ...

Brawn expects car to be fast in Sepang  Following a sensational debut race weekend in Australia where Jenson Button led Brawn GP to its first Grand Prix victory, the team headed straight to Malaysia for Round Two of the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship.

This weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix takes place on Sunday 5 April at the Sepang International Circuit close to Kuala Lumpur. The 56-lap race is one of the toughest on the calendar due to the punishing heat and humidity coupled with the challenge of the circuit's demanding corners, long straights and bumpy asphalt.

This year's race will be the 11th to be held at the Herman Tilke designed track which was built on the site of a 260-hectare swamp. The 5.54km (3.44 mile) circuit sees the cars average 210kph (130mph) around its 15 turns.

Brawn GP will be hoping to build on its successful weekend in Melbourne which sees the team leading the Constructors' Championship with 18 points and Jenson Button leading the Drivers' Championship with 10 points. More ...

Renault aiming to improve KERS and aerodynamics  Renault technical director Bob Bell says the team needs to lift its games in “several areas” to improve its R29 car, including working out how to get more from its KERS system.

And despite being one of only four teams to be using its kinetic energy recovery system and associated power-boost function, Fernando Alonso said Renault’s system gave little help to his attempts at making his way through the field. However, Bell believes there is not a fundamental weakness with the R29 and instead thinks the team just needs to tap into more of the car’s potential in order to unlock extra pace.

“I don't think we have a specific problem,” he said.  "I think that we need to lift our game in several areas to get more aero performance from the car.

“We've also got to get the balance of the car a bit more to the drivers' liking and work on the tuning of the KERS system to get more from it.

“So it's a question of maximizing what we already have in all areas rather than a specific problem to resolve.”

“The Sepang circuit is very smooth which should be more to our advantage compared with the bumpier surface that caused us problems in Melbourne,” he said. More ...

More Honda cutbacks  Honda Motor Co. is offering voluntary buyouts, cutting workers' pay and imposing 13 non-production days at its North American plants to reduce its output this summer by 62,000 vehicles.

Honda spokesman Ron Lietzke said Tuesday that the buyouts will be offered at most of the Japanese automaker's facilities in the North America, where it employs 35,600 people. Sweetened retirement packages are also being offered, he said.

Overall compensation will be reduced for its North American employees, with top executives experiencing the biggest cuts, Lietzke said. He would not say how much salaries would be reduced.

Bonuses will be greatly reduced or eliminated, but pay rates for production and hourly workers will not be affected, Lietzke said.

"There is a continuing need to reduce our inventory," Lietzke said. "Regardless of job title or level within our organization, each Honda associate will share the responsibility of doing what we must do to remain competitive."
Vodafone to be Title Sponsor in Portugal  Algarve, Portugal –A1GP World Cup of Motorsport today announced that Vodafone is to be the Title Sponsor for A1GP Algarve, Portugal. The event, which is the sixth round of the season, is taking place in Portugal from 10-12 April 2009. In accordance with this agreement, the official name for the Portuguese Round of A1GP World Cup of Motorsport shall be Vodafone A1GP Algarve.

Pete da Silva, CEO of A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, said, “We are delighted to have Vodafone on board as the title sponsor for A1GP Algarve. They have a long association with motorsport sponsorship and their support for this event shows the commercial importance of the first ever A1GP Algarve in Portugal.” João Mendes Dias, Head of Brand and CRM of Vodafone Portugal, said: “The support of Vodafone to such a remarkable event like Vodafone A1GP Algarve, is in line with our long tradition of involvement with Motorsport, namely with car racing and motorcycling. The strong connection of Vodafone with these sport categories, aims to reinforce the association to innovation, dynamism and continuous improvement, common values to both motorsport and Vodafone.”

A1GP World Cup of Motorsport is heading to Portugal for only the second time in its history and for the first time to the brand new Autódromo Internacional do Algarve circuit. With several teams, including A1 Teams Switzerland, Ireland, Netherlands and the home team A1 Team Portugal, all battling for the championship and to win the prized World Cup of Motorsport trophy, the event promises to be one of the most memorable of the season.
Money woes put many on IndyCar hot seat  Their careers began to crater around them, and they couldn't do anything about it.

U.S. banking institutions spasmed, the stock market retched, Fortune 500 companies quaked, discretionary monies vanished. Race teams lost sponsors, drivers lost jobs.

So simplistic, yet so simply life-altering for a collection of successful open-wheel drivers left unemployed as Sunday's Indy Racing League season opener, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, gets nearer.

"It's really tough, frustrating as well," said Justin Wilson, 30, one of two transitioning Champ Car drivers to win an IndyCar race last season. "What do you do? Do you jump up and down and scream about it and stamp your feet and say it's not fair or do you get on with it and try to make the most of the situation you have?"

Both are complicated processes. Three months before the 2009 season, three drivers who won IRL races last year were without work. But Wilson now has a deal in place with Dale Coyne Racing, Ryan Hunter-Reay is scheduled to sign with Vision Racing today and Will Power agreed in January to fill a seat at Team Penske as Helio Castroneves stands trial for federal income tax evasion. More ...

Albers signs with Kolles Le Mans team  Christijan Albers will be competing in the Le Mans Series this year, as Team Kolles joins the championship for the first time. The former Minardi, Midland and Spyker driver will take part in his first race for the team in Barcelona this weekend, partnered by another former F1 driver in Narain Karthikeyan. The most experienced driver in the line-up, Holland's Albers - who left F1 at the end of 2006 - has enjoyed a long working relationship with German Colin Kolles. Entering F1 with Minardi in 2005, the Dutchman joined Kolles' Midland team the following year, before leaving the team - then Spyker - the next year. He raced with impressive performances for the Kolles DTM team last year and also took a strong second place for Audi in the American Le Mans Series at Laguna Seca.

"Christijan is a long-distance professional," said Dr. Kolles. "The whole team has been working very hard during the last weeks for everything to work out perfectly for Barcelona - we hope our efforts will be rewarded."

KERS chews up tires  The Ferrari team claims that the new Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is resulting in tire worries for the team. The unit, which allows drivers to make use of a small boost of power during the race, adds an estimated 40 kilograms of weight to the car and it is this, the Italian team says, which is causing the problems when using the Super Soft Bridgestone tire compound. “The softer tires have caused many problems for Ferrari, as well as other teams," team principal Stefano Domenicali explained to Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport. "An important thing to understand is that the performance of the tires is linked to the use of KERS - there are many things that we need to understand these days."

Reigning World Champions for constructors, Ferrari has already admitted that Felipe Massa was using too aggressive a strategy in Melbourne, as they switched their driver to a 3-stop strategy during the Grand Prix; despite the shorter stints, the Ferrari still struggled with the Super Soft tires. "Kubica had a strategy like ours, but the BMW did not destroy its tires like we did, especially at the rear" Domenicali continued. "Something we must consider is the weight distribution of the car and how it affects the tires, particularly with KERS onboard - we need to discovery how to solve this problem, but still be able to use KERS".

Giant Ferrari showroom opens  
Visitors taking a closer look at the exotic cars on display at the RM20 million Malaysian-Italian joint-venture showroom.
Visitors taking a closer look at the exotic cars on display at the RM20 million Malaysian-Italian joint-venture showroom
The largest showroom for Ferrari and Maserati outside of Italy, opened its doors at the Naza Italia centre, yesterday.
The RM20 million and 45,000 sq ft Malaysian-Italian joint-venture showroom displays several iconic marques, apart from Ferrari and Maserati memorabilia.

The rich history and heritage of the cars are also available for visitors to read besides an atelier for patrons to customize their cars.

Among cars on display are the Ferrari 430, 430 Scuderia, 599 GTB Fiorano and 612 Scaglietti, and Maserati Quattroporte and Gran Turismo.

Two modern-day supercar icons -- the Ferrari Enzo, with a limited worldwide production of only 399 units, and the even more exclusive Maserati MC12, one of only 55 units manufactured -- will be displayed for a limited period. One of the surprises at the launch was the presence of the limited-edition Scuderia Spider 16M, recently unveiled at the Mugello circuit in Italy to commemorate Ferrari's F1 Constructors title win in 2008. More ...
Firestone St. Pete Preview  
Race Distance: 180 mi./289.68 km (100 laps on the 1.80-mi./2.897-km temporary street circuit).
Television/Radio Broadcast: Live - Sunday, April 5, at 2 p.m. EDT on VERSUS, IMS Radio Network and XM Radio 145.
Firestone Firehawk Race Tires Supplied:
* Primary (black-sidewall) dry-condition slicks: 702, each entry gets six sets (24 total tires);
* Alternate (red-sidewall) dry-condition slicks: 347, each entry gets three sets (12 total tires);
* Wet-condition (rain) tires with grooved tread pattern: 436, each entry gets four sets as needed.

Per IndyCar Series rules, each entry must declare to the league within one hour after qualifying on which dry-condition tire spec it intends to start the race. All cars must use at least one primary set and one new alternate set during the race, each for a minimum of two green-flag laps. Firestone Racing's street-course tires in general feature the softest constructions and tread compounds available to assist cornering in the slow, tight turns and to enhance acceleration upon exiting the turns. More ...

Drivers will lose 6+ lbs in Malaysia  "Sepang is a very interesting track, for me one of the best circuits of the year. It’s modern but it has a bit of character and I won here in 2006 so I have good memories. It’s a nice circuit actually, with many different types of corners. There are a couple of slow corners, for example turns one and two and again in nine. Turns five and six are high speed, fifth gear corners and turn 11 is one of the most difficult braking points of the season – when you brake, your front wheels are on the right hand side of the track so the front is locking but just at the end of the braking you’ve got oversteer. It’s difficult to get right. Everyone says this is the toughest race of the season so it seems like a cliché, but it really is hard, both physically and mentally. It’s hot and humid and the circuit is quite twisty, so physically it takes a lot out of you – we sweat so much that at the end of the race I normally lose around 6 or 7 pounds of weight." Giancarlo Fisichella
Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Wet, dark Malaysian GP likely - forecast
  • Sepang slams Malaysia's waning F1 interest
  • Williams aims to keep up with Brawn in Malaysia
  • Big teams confirm new diffusers in works
  • Honda executives applaud Brawn success
  • Toyota drops Trulli podium appeal

Wet, dark Malaysian GP likely - forecast
(GMM)  Nico Rosberg's fears about fading light combined with heavy rain look set to be realized at the Malaysian grand prix this weekend.

"If the monsoon comes down, the race is going to have to be stopped," the German driver said this week.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department is predicting thunderstorms at Sepang all week, worsening between Friday and Sunday.

Combined with the 5pm start, to better suit the bulk European TV audience, there is a risk the skies above the Sepang circuit could be very dark.

"I hope for a safe race but on Monday it rained heavily during the predicted race duration," track boss Razlan Razali told the local Star newspaper.

Sepang slams Malaysia's waning F1 interest
(GMM)  Government support for Malaysia's formula one race has waned, according to Sepang circuit boss Razlan Razali.

It has been a quiet promotional build-up to the 2009 edition, and Razali blames the Malaysian government's indifferent tourism ministry.

Recent reports indicate that ticket sales are also down.

"There's only so much that we can do," he told the New Straits Times.

"We simply don't have the budget to transform KL (Kuala Lumpur) into an F1 city.  We don't see the tourism ministry doing their part, although this is an event that has direct impact on their area and it helps them the most," Razali added.

He said the government has not been involved at all in the promotion of the race overseas.

"The F1 race has been put aside," said Razali. More ...

A lap of Sepang with Alex Wurz  The circuit is a great challenge so it's a pretty full-on weekend for the teams.

You arrive at the first corner in seventh gear, at about 310kph (192mph). There is a lot of grip from the asphalt, so you can brake really late before turning in third gear. The rear gets a bit light at this point.

You then have the left hander at turn two, which is the slowest corner on the circuit. It's first or second gear and it has a camber change in the middle, so it's quite difficult to find the right differential set-up for it.

Next comes a long right-hander, which is easy-flat even in the wet, and then you're braking for the right-hander at turn four. The braking area is really bumpy, which makes it a bit tricky, and then comes a really nice part of the circuit.

You enter turns five and six in fifth gear, at 230kph (143mph), and the entry to turn five is almost flat so you really have to squeeze the throttle and make sure you have a very late apex. There's an immediate change of direction and at this point we pull about 4.5g. You might touch the brakes to stabilize the car into turn six, which is incredibly bumpy and the rear gets very light. Don't forget that we are still at 220-230kph (137-143mph), with not much run-off, and I really enjoy it!

Then comes a double right-hander, which is easy to get wrong if you overdrive and it leads to a hairpin. It's first or second gear and it's very important to have a good exit because that gives you pure lap time.

Then we go to another flowing section, which leads to the penultimate corner. It's very difficult here because you enter it very fast and the rear gets very light. You have to brake down to second gear while turning and the car is oversteering the whole time. It's very easy to overdo it.

The last corner is another hairpin and we again brake very late, from 300kph (186mph), down to second gear. More ...

Honda GP of St. Pete Fast Facts  
racing news
McManis Family Vineyards to sponsor LB race  The McManis Family Vineyards has been named the Official Wine of the 35th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 16-19.

McManis Family Vineyards is a grower and vintner of premium varietal wine grapes grown in the Northern Interior of California.  The company was founded in 1990 by Ron & Jamie McManis - fourth generation family farmers

In 1995, McManis Family Vineyards sold its first grapes to several prominent coastal wineries and their success soon led them to explore the establishment of a winery in 1998, allowing them to offer not only their quality wine grapes as finished wine, but also their own bottled wine. More ...

Tobey Maguire to star in F1 biopic  
Phil Hill (L)
Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire has signed up for F1 biopic The Limit, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The movie is based on Michael Cannell's new book Limit, which tells the story of real-life friends and racing rivals Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips.

The pair were pitted against each other in 1961, when they both drove for the Ferrari team. Maguire will play the role of Hill.

Maguire is also producing the project for Columbia alongside Jenno Topping and Cathy Schulman.

Tony Peckham, who wrote Clint Eastwood's upcoming feature The Human Factor and Guy Ritchie's new Sherlock Holmes, has been tapped to pen the script.

F1 drivers to sign autographs  It’s a rare treat for fans to meet up with a F1 driver up close and the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) have managed to pull it off by getting the teams to agree to participate in autograph-signing sessions during the Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix this weekend.

F1 Management have made available the list of drivers scheduled to take part in the sessions at the Grand Stand Area of the Sepang circuit. Each autograph session for the respective teams will take 20 minutes.

The free practice session on Friday is open free of charge to the fans and they will get the chance to meet Williams’ Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima; Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil; and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen. More ...

KERS – a weighty issue  
Force India has yet to commit to KERS due to weight
Over the course of the off-season there’s been a lot of talk about the new rules package for 2009, and much of it has focused on Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems. Introduced to encourage teams to invest in technology which may have some benefit for production cars, KERS should also spice up the racing by giving drivers an 80bhp power boost which they can use for up to 6.7s each lap.

However, it comes at a cost. A typical KERS package weighs around 35kgs, and that weight has to be placed somewhere in the car. And it means that teams can no longer use lead ballast to bring their cars up to the weight limit, and optimize the car balance by putting that it in the ideal location.

So while KERS brings extra performance in terms of power, it also costs some in terms of overall handling and that’s why not all teams will be using KERS from the first race – and that includes Force India. More ...

Montezemolo gives Ferrari team vote of confidence  Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo expressed his confidence in the Team, trusting the Scuderia to have the capacity to react after the troubled weekend in Australia. Montezemolo spoke to journalists at the presentation of Arrigo Levi’s book “Un paese non basta” this morning at the Modena city hall.

Montezemolo couldn’t avoid talking again about the Melbourne GP’s outcome and the outlook for the race in Sepang, on the race calendar on the upcoming weekend.

“On a more normal circuit I expect to see the real balance of power on the track,” the President said. “The first race went worse than expected: there’s no doubt that we, just like McLaren, are paying for the fact that we had to work on the 2008 car right until the end of the season, while the others could completely concentrate on the project of the new car, which has nothing to do with the old one. We made too many mistakes at Melbourne, but I’m convinced, I’m sure, that there will be a tough reaction from our side. I trust the Team and I know that they are working very hard: we’ll see the fruits already on next Sunday.” More ...

formula BMW
Boudon joins Jensen MotorSport Team  
Jensen MotorSport is pleased to announce a close collaboration with renowned driver coach Christian Boudon (right) and his company (www.ccb-group.com). Christian will join our organization to assist in the development of drivers on our Formula BMW Americas and Atlantic Championship teams.

Christian Boudon has an exceptional resume with respect to developing the careers of successful young race car drivers. Jensen MotorSport team owner Eric Jensen states, “The list of drivers who have benefited from Christian’s tutelage includes world and series champions as Franck Perera, Franck Montagny, and Nelson Philippe.”

Jensen continues, “We share a common view with Christian about how to train drivers. For our BMW program in particular, Christian has an impressive resume including winning the 2005 championship with Richard Philippe. We anticipate that by integrating Christian into our BMW and Atlantic programs that we will achieve considerable success with strong results, and with developing some terrific young race car drivers.” More ...

Verizon Wireless to Sponsor Penske GA team  Building on its partnership with Penske Racing while extending its Verizon Championship Racing program, Verizon Wireless today announced that it will serve as primary sponsor of the Penske Racing Daytona Prototype in the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

Beginning with the Bosch Engineering 250 race at Virginia International Raceway, April 24-25, and for the remaining events on the 2009 Grand-Am Series schedule, the Penske Racing entry will carry the Verizon Wireless black and red color scheme and iconic “V” design. The car will be co-driven by championship racers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, who earned back-to-back American Le Mans Series sports car titles for Penske Racing in 2007 and 2008. More ...

Q&A with Carl Edwards and Paul Menard  This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway, a place where Ford driver Carl Edwards swept both events last season.  Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, is still looking for his first win of 2009, while Paul Menard gained three crucial spots after last weekend’s 25th-place finish at Martinsville to grab the 35th and final guaranteed spot for Sunday’s race.  Both drivers spoke about the weekend ahead. More ...
Knaus named Wypall crew chief of Martinsville race  Chad Knaus, crew chief for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, has been named the Wypall Wipers Crew Chief of the Race in Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

After starting ninth because qualifying was rained out, Johnson began fighting a tight race car early in the race. With three cautions in the first 70 laps, Johnson was the only driver on the lead lap to pit twice, losing vital track position and falling as low as 25th place by lap 100.

"We went ahead and took the opportunity to pit and try to make the car a little bit better because we knew if we didn't take the opportunity then, we wouldn't have enough time to get back up through the field," Knaus said.

Knaus' patience and his crew's pit stops paid off as Johnson moved up the leader board and moved past leader Denny Hamlin with 70 laps to go. Hamlin slipped by Johnson 26 laps later, but with 15 laps to go, Johnson made the final pass of the day for the lead. More ...

track news
Indy Centennial Era Balloon Festival  Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have released the complete schedule for the Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T Real Yellow Pages, and two hot air balloon "glows" and two balloon races over three days will provide fans with plenty of family-friendly entertainment.

A balloon "glow" will start the Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T Real Yellow Pages at 8 p.m. Friday, May 1. The Speedway's Gate 2 - the main gate/tunnel on 16th Street - will open to the public at 7 p.m.

The hare-and-hound format "Founders Race" starts at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 2 -- just as the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon gets underway in downtown Indianapolis and 35,000 runners make their way toward the Speedway.

The IMS infield, 16th and 10th Streets, and Main Street will be closed to the public Saturday morning due to the Mini-Marathon, but viewing of the launch will be possible from numerous points outside the facility.

Saturday evening at IMS will be full of entertainment for all ages, with Gate 2 opening at 6 p.m. Activities include collectible AT&T Real Yellow Pages balloon pin giveaways, balloon creations from "Matt the Balloon Guy" for kids and wine tasting courtesy of Oliver Winery. More ...

Aston Martin team withdraws from LeMans  The ACO has been notified of the first withdrawal among the 55 entrants invited to take part in the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours. The Gigawave Motorsport Ltd Aston Martin DBR9 will not be present at free compulsory practice on 10th June. The British team has decided to concentrate all its energies on the homologation of the new Nissan GTR as well as its race program.
In compliance with the ACO regulations the place left vacant by the Aston Martin’s withdrawal goes to the first reserve car on the list of invitations, no matter what its category: namely, the Ferrari 430 GT (LM GT2) entered by the Seattle Advanced Engineering team. More ...
2008 title fight put 'big two' behind  (GMM)  It is no coincidence that the two title protagonists of 2008 are now struggling to set the pace in formula one, according to McLaren and Ferrari.

They argue that, in fighting for the crown until the final corner of last season, they fell behind others in preparation for the sweeping rules changes of 2009.

McLaren has been open about its lack of race winning pace with the MP4-24, which is underdeveloped because the bulk of the team's resources was allocated to securing the drivers' title for Lewis Hamilton at the wheel of its predecessor.

"I can have some regrets about resource allocation but we are proud to have number one on the car," the reigning world champion said last weekend.

Meanwhile, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said on Tuesday that the Maranello marque is also "paying" for its efforts to win last year.

In contrast, non-2008 contenders like Toyota, Red Bull and Williams were able to turn their attention early to getting the most out of the 2009 regulations.

The furthest ahead is Brawn, who abandoned developing the 2008 (Honda) car almost as soon as it was born. More ...

Ferrari team licking wounds, regrouping  
The Ferrari team was beaten badly in Oz
Whenever a team has a bad race weekend, the general feeling is always one of impatience to try again as soon as possible and after failing to score points in the opening round and only one car classified at the finish, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro gets a chance to redeem itself immediately this weekend, with Round 2, the Malaysian Grand Prix, at the Sepang Circuit, outside Kuala Lumpur.

In Malaysia one of the key areas the Scuderia will be looking into from the start of free practice, will be optimizing the usage of the tires, as this is one area where the F60 appeared to struggle in Albert Park. One of the major changes in the rules is the fact that Bridgestone has been instructed to bring two types of tire that are significantly different one from the other, whereas last year, the two types of tire that had to be used during a race were often very similar in terms of wear and performance characteristics. More ...

Ford To Offer 0% Financing  Ford Motor Co. (F) is offering a new incentive plan to try to jump-start slumping vehicle sales and boost consumer confidence.

The auto maker will offer 0% financing through its finance arm and will cover payments for up to 12 months on any new Ford, Lincoln or Mercury vehicle if customers lose their jobs. The offer will run through June 1.

Ford's shares were recently up 3.3% at $2.85 in premarket trading. The stock is up 21% so far this year but has still lost 52% of its value in the last year.

Rival Chrysler LLC began offering 0% financing, along with rebates, employee pricing and discounts up to $6,000 in January as it looked to clear out dealers' inventories and boost sales. So far, the moves haven't seemed to help Chrysler as it struggles to stay afloat.

The Big Three - Ford, Chrysler and General Motors Co. (GM) have been slammed by the recession. Chrysler and GM in particular are faltering, and President Barack Obama's administration said Monday the two auto makers' plans don't show a "credible path to viability."

Ford Vice President of Sales and Marketing Ken Czubay said the company wanted to help rebuild faith in the marketplace as consumers remain anxious about the economy.

Ford to cover car payments if buyer loses job  Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it is offering a payment protection plan to help reassure consumers who may be putting off buying a new car because of worries about losing their job.
The offer comes as auto sales have been battered by the recession and tight credit.

Ford said Tuesday it will cover payments of up to $700 each month for up to a year on any new Ford, Lincoln or Mercury vehicle if consumers lose their jobs. The program runs until June 1.

Hyundai Motor Co. has been offering a deal that allows buyers to return a vehicle within a year if they can't make the payments because of a job loss or disability. That offer helped curb the decline in the South Korean carmaker's U.S. sales in February.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford is also offering zero percent financing on certain Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles. More ...

GM announces customer protection package  General Motors today announced the most comprehensive customer protection in the industry with "GM Total Confidence," a plan that protects a customer's paycheck, investment, vehicle and family.

"Our Total Confidence plan is an unprecedented offer that reinvents the ownership experience in an extremely positive way," said Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing. "Unlike other programs out there, 'GM Total Confidence' provides comprehensive coverage for new vehicle owners - from protecting their new vehicle investment to protecting their family's income. GM Total Confidence provides customers peace of mind in uncertain times."

The 'GM Total Confidence' plan: More ...

IndyCar launches new website  On April 5, the IndyCar Series will be back on the racetrack, racing on the scenic streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. at the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The official Web site of the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, www.indycar.com, is kicking off the season with a fresh look and expanded features, allowing fans to keep pace with the series all season long.

“The IndyCar Series’ commitment to technology and innovation is on clear display at the newly-designed indycar.com,” said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. “The redesigned Web site keeps pace with the very latest in online technology, allowing fans the opportunity to connect with IndyCar Series racing like never before. It will be a wonderful asset for our fans throughout the 2009 season.”

The new site is now live at www.indycar.com and features several exciting upgrades for fans, including: More ...

White tire markings better than green - Haug  
New Bridgestone green tire markings for soft tires are hard to see
(GMM)  Norbert Haug believes Bridgestone should consider altering its method for visibly distinguishing the two compounds of tires on offer at grands prix in 2009.

With grooves being replaced by slicks for this season, it was no longer possible to paint the inside of a middle groove of the softest tires white.

A month before the 2009 season, following extensive winter testing, F1's official tire supplier said it would instead paint green circles around the inside and outside edges of the sidewalls.

The color green was selected to show Bridgestone's support for the FIA's Make Cars Green environmental campaign.

However, in Melbourne last weekend, television viewers - including teams figures in the garages and on the pitwall - at times expressed difficulty in identifying the green markings.

The problem may have been worsened by the evening sun.

To heighten the importance of the matter, the significance of the tires being used this season has increased, given Bridgestone's new policy of skipping a specification.

For example, in Melbourne the 'medium' tire was the specification of choice in the race, because the much softer 'super soft' significantly lost performance even after a lap or two.

"Perhaps the contrast of white on black is better than green on black," Mercedes' Haug admitted to motorsport-total.com.  "It is something to think about," he added.

Twilight racing too dangerous for F1 - Rosberg  (GMM)  'Twilight' races are too dangerous for formula one, according to Williams driver Nico Rosberg.

The late afternoon format, designed to make a better television viewing time for the bulk European audience, made its debut in Australia last weekend.

With the action completing as the sun fell low in the sky, the drivers gave the format mixed reviews, including complaints of glare and flickering shadows from trees.

This weekend it is Malaysia's turn, but the concerns about the 5pm start have grown louder, given the additional likelihood of late afternoon monsoonal rain in the tropical climate.

23-year-old Rosberg, arguing that evening is not appropriate for high speed motor racing, said: "In Melbourne it was obvious that it just increases the danger so much. More ...

Drivers warned to nurse tires in Malaysia  Bridgestone is expecting tire wear to play a major role in this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix and has warned drivers to nurse the softer of the two tire compounds.

Bridgestone has selected slightly harder tires from its range of four compounds for Malaysia: hard and soft rather than the medium and super-soft that were used in Australia.

But the Sepang track – with its long fast corners and direction changes under lateral load – is much more demanding than Albert Park, and Bridgestone expects the soft tires to need careful management.

“Sepang is quite severe on tires as it has many different corner types and two heavy braking zones after long straights,” said Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone’s director of motorsport tire development.

“This means the energy going through the tires over a lap is considerable. More ...

A1GP Mexico City Confirmed as Season Finale  
Bastardized Mexico City track to accommodate fragile A1GP cars
A1GP World Cup of Motorsport has been given FIA approval to hold A1GP Mexico City, Mexico on the weekend of the 22-24 May 2009, thus making this the eighth and final round of Season Four.

This popular event, which has been included on the A1GP calendar since Season Two, has never before been the series decider. After receiving the news A1GP CEO, Pete da Silva, said:  “It is very important for the series to go back to Mexico City, especially as it won the award for being the best run event of Season Three. The fans have always given us a warm welcome, and it will be great to let them witness the finale of what has been a very exciting first season for the A1GP Powered by Ferrari cars.”

The approval is subject to the completion of FIA stipulated track changes that will allow the granting of the necessary license. This work is due to start soon.

A1GP has visited Mexico every season with Fundidora Park in Monterrey being the track used in Season One and Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City in Seasons Two and Three.

tv news
Motorsports This Week on ESPN and ABC  
NASCAR Nationwide Series Live from Texas on ESPN2

The NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to superspeedway action this weekend at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. ESPN2 will have a live, high definition telecast of the 300-mile race on Saturday, April 4, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR Countdown. ESPN2 is the home of the NASCAR Nationwide Series all season, with selected races on ESPN and ABC. The race re-airs Sunday, April 5, at 11 a.m. on ESPN Classic.

Dr. Jerry Punch will be the lap-by-lap announcer, joined in the booth for analysis by 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Dale Jarrett, one of the founding drivers of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and two-time Cup Series champion crew chief Andy Petree. Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Shannon Spake and Vince Welch will report from the pits, while two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief Tim Brewer will be in the ESPN Craftsman Tech Garage.

Allen Bestwick will host NASCAR Countdown with analysis by Jarrett and Brad Daugherty, a winning team owner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, in the ESPN pit studio.

Benson Joins Evernham, Daugherty on NASCAR Now Monday Roundtable

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Benson will be a guest panelist on the NASCAR Now’s weekly roundtable discussion program on ESPN2. Host Allen Bestwick and Benson will be joined by ESPN analysts Ray Evernham and Brad Daugherty as they discuss the latest NASCAR news. The program airs at 1 a.m. Tuesday, April 7 (late Monday night). NASCAR Now is ESPN2’s daily NASCAR news and information program. More ...

30 years ago Americas greatest IndyCar series was born  The best memory Gordon Johncock has from that historic day was that "we beat Penske with his own car."

But, 30 years ago this month at Phoenix International Raceway, Johncock's victory almost ran second to the event itself. You see, that was the beginning of Championship Auto Racing Teams and the beginning of the end for the United States Auto Club as the main sanctioning body for Indy cars.

Tom Sneva (McLaren Cosworth) leads Johnny Rutherford (McLaren Cosworth) and Wally Dallenbach (Wildcat Cosworth) at CART's first-ever event, held at Phoenix in 1979. (LAT) » More Photos
It also started 30 years of civil war among North America's open wheel racing fraternity.

Born out of frustration over rules, purses and lack of growth, CART came to life after Dan Gurney laid out all of USAC's shortcomings and his fellow owners' concerns in a six-page manifesto that came to be known as the "White Paper."

Gurney's observations and suggestions were spot on (and still ring true today in most cases) and following a half-assed attempt by the USAC board to avoid war, CART launched its offensive.

With Roger Penske and Pat Patrick taking the reins, CART secured deals to run longtime USAC bastions like Trenton, Michigan, Ontario and Phoenix while adding Watkins Glen and Atlanta.  More at SPEEDTV.com

Formula BMW
Formula BMW Americas drivers meet Zanardi  
In Puebla, Formula BMW Americas was on the same bill as the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). Alessandro Zanardi (IT) from BMW Team Italy-Spain welcomed the nine participants of the BMW Motorsport Education and Coaching Program to a Meet & Greet session in his garage, and explained to them in detail how he drives his BMW 320si WTCC. “The oldest of you lot is just half my age,” the former Formula One driver joked while posing for a group photo. Zanardi had cause to celebrate after the two WTCC races in Puebla: He finished sixth in race two to pick up his first three World Championship points of the year.
formula bmw
Macau venue for finale of Formula BMW Pacific  The race calendar for Formula BMW Pacific is also complete. The racing series starts at the Malaysian Grand Prix and ends at the spectacular 56th Macau Grand Prix in November. During the season, the race series forms part of the Asian Festival of Speed (AFOS) in Malaysia and Indonesia, before motorsport's elite class once again provides a spectacular stage for Formula BMW Pacific in Singapore. At the end of October, the "Okayama International Circuit" will host the junior series when the FIA World Touring Car Championship comes to Japan. The grand finale will take place at the legendary “Guia Circuit”, when the drivers from the three BMW national teams in the WTCC and the greatest Formula 3 prospects will be battling for victory.
Patrick nominated for TIME 100  The greatest IndyCar driver of all time (based on the length of her autograph line) Danica Patrick, who last April became the first female to win a major closed-course auto race, is among the nominees for the annual TIME 100, honoring the most influential people in the world.

This year, TIME.com is giving readers the opportunity to vote for who they think should be on the list. A vote for the Andretti Green Racing driver, who will compete in the IndyCar Series season opener April 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., can be placed by clicking HERE.

Voters also can rank the level of influence for each person on a scale of 1 (least influential) to 100 (most influential). Last year, Japanese video game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, was voted No. 1. The final day of voting is April 28.

To see the latest results, who's up - and who's down - click HERE

track news
Milwaukee Mile announces Famous Dave's deal  Famous Dave’s BBQ will add some mouth-watering barbeque to the hot on-track action in 2009 at The Milwaukee Mile in a unique all-inclusive, trackside area branded “Famous Dave’s Corner” on each of the historic speedway’s major race days.

This is far from soda in a dixie cup with a warmed-over hot dog!  Race fans will have a hard time deciding among Famous Dave’s BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches or Georgia chopped pork sandwiches to go with their seasoned French fries.  Unlimited Coca-Cola products and Bud Light and Budweiser, which will be served responsibly, to help wash it all down.

One set price includes a race ticket in “Famous Dave’s Corner,” which is North Terrace seating section ZZ. Famous Dave’s chefs will prepare and serve conveniently at the seating section overlooking Turn Four of The Mile.  On each race day, “Famous Dave’s Corner” will open one hour before race time. More ...

Ticket sales boost for Malaysia GP  A spectacle with a difference at the dramatic Australian Grand Prix on Sunday seemed to have an effect on the Petronas Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend, as the impact was felt in a swift rise in ticket sales.

"We've now matched the numbers in ticket sales compared with the same period last year as of last Friday and it is improving," said Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer Razlan Razali yesterday.

After an initial scare brought about by the global credit crunch, which had the SIC doubting their 130,000 capacity crowd target two weeks ago, Razlan said the organizers are now confident of at least equaling the number of spectators they had last year.

"The Australian Grand Prix showcased something that the fans wanted -- close racing. And it was sort of a surprise which was expected with Brawn GP taking the top two spots," said Razlan.

"The race at Sepang is also something the teams will be looking forward to. It is the first race on a real circuit compared to Melbourne, where the full potential of the technological changes will be utilized."

Razlan said the introduction of the KERS (kinetic energy recovery systems) which provide a push-to-pass option, was not used by all teams in Australia, but its true potential will be seen in Sepang.

Wagoner Drives Away with $20M Retirement  Rick Wagoner will leave his post as CEO of bailed-out General Motors with a $20 million retirement package, the company's financial filings show.  Although the Treasury Department has barred GM from paying severance to Wagoner or any other senior executive, Wagoner is eligible to collect millions in retirement benefits from his former employer, according to the documents reviewed by ABC News.

The Obama administration asked for Wagoner to resign Sunday, as part of its restructuring of the auto industry. President Obama said this morning that forcing Wagoner out indicated it was a time for new leadership.

Under Wagoner's leadership, GM lost tens of billions of dollars, took billions in taxpayer-financed aid, and cut tens of thousands of jobs, including announced plans to cut 47,000 employees by the end of 2009.

Wagoner was one of the three auto industry CEOs who inflamed Congressional ire by flying to Washington in private jets to ask for taxpayers to bail out their beleaguered businesses. They returned a month later in hybrid cars. More ...

U.S. will guarantee GM, Chrysler warranties  In a bid to boost flagging auto sales, the federal government will pay for any warranty repairs on a General Motors or Chrysler vehicle if either company can't because of financial problems or a bankruptcy filing, President Barack Obama said on Monday.

"Let me say this as plainly as I can. If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired just like always," Obama said in a speech. "Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it has ever been. Because starting today, the United States will stand behind your warranty."

GM and Chrysler are at a high risk of bankruptcy as they face some of the lowest U.S. sales rates in 27 years, analysts have said. The government on Monday took several actions to help shore up the two automakers after forcing the resignation of GM CEO Rick Wagoner.

"Given where the industry is, these highly unprecedented actions are consistent with the unprecedented times we're in," Standard & Poor's analyst Robert Schulz told Reuters today.

Both companies have said that bankruptcy would snuff out sales because consumers wouldn't buy a car from a company that might not be around to honor the warranty and provide service and spare parts.

A1 Team Australia ties up five-year partnership  In a deal worth $500,000, A1 Team Australia has confirmed a five-year partnership with IT and communications firm MGL Global Communications. The company, based on the Australian Gold Coast, will be the team's IT Partner until 2014, and will provide some US$100,000 of equipment per year.

A1 Team Australia is currently eighth in the standings for the 2008/09 season. The team chairman is former Formula One world champion Alan Jones, backed by general manager and former Nascar driver Peter Nolan.

"We partnered with A1 Team Australia because we see value in the A1GP brand and identified a number of communication and technology requirements we thought we could assist with," said Darren Maggs, chief executive of MGL Global. "A1GP provides us a substantial potential to reach foreign markets with international races and a business penetration that would otherwise take considerably longer to establish. As a rapidly growing global business, we see this providing us an opportunity to showcase ourselves to the world while having the team utilize our products and services."

Playboy bunny will adorn LCR Honda bikes  In a deal worth an estimated $600K, MotoGP team LCR Honda, the Honda satellite team managed by former rider Lucio Cecchinello, will be sponsored by Playboy for the first half of the season. The deal comes as the magazine relaunches in Italy, and will see Playboy's famous bunny logo on LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet's bike and leathers.

LCR Honda have introduced a number of sponsorship packages tailored to individual events or to groups of races, in an effort to attract sponsors unlikely to take up a sponsorship for a full season.

Cecchinello said: "We have been in touch with Playboy US for a long time and we have defined the guidelines of a project allowing us to start negotiations with some of this evergreen brand’s global licensees. Playboy Italy has positively assessed the project and confirmed the sponsorship for the early stage of the season linking it to their activities in the view of relaunching the magazine in Italy.

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Brawn's financial future still unclear - Button
  • Ferrari to use KERS in Malaysia despite concerns
  • FOTA rift plays into Ecclestone's hands
  • New rules make overtaking harder - Glock
  • New full-time driver for F1 medical car
  • Malaysia to show if Renault car is 'good' - Alonso
  • Nakajima fit to race despite sore hand

Brawn's financial future still unclear - Button
(GMM)  Jenson Button was all smiles as he lapped up the sun and spoils of victory before jetting to Malaysia, but he admits winning the Australian grand prix is no guarantee of a sound future for Brawn GP.

As he took in a light lunch near the beach with his new girlfriend Jessica at the Stokehouse restaurant near Albert Park, he told reporters he is so excited about the 2009 season that he is having trouble sleeping at nights.

But although reaping the benefits of departed Honda's huge investment last year, the long development path of the BGP001 car, and a power boost in the form of customer Mercedes-Benz engines, 29-year-old Button admits the car's mostly blank livery tells another story.

"We haven't got the budget but, hopefully, we will and hopefully people will take an interest in what we have done with a pretty plain (liveried) car," the Briton is quoted as saying by the UK's Express tabloid.

The much-feted Virgin linkup, estimated by analysts as worth millions of dollars in terms of TV exposure alone in Melbourne, is still just a $500,000 two-race deal, with most of the 2009 budget coming from money pledged by Honda in order to keep the team alive and avoid staff redundancy payouts.

Button, who led a one-two victory for the Brackley camp last Sunday, added: "Our factory and facilities are very good, it is just whether we've enough money to run the machines.

"I am hoping and guessing it is going to be ok.  It would be a waste otherwise," said Button.

Ferrari to use KERS in Malaysia despite concerns
(GMM)  Ferrari will again use active KERS systems throughout the Malaysian grand prix weekend, despite suspecting the technology played a role in the team's lack of pace in Australia.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali said problems managing the tires at Albert Park was a leading factor in the F60's struggle for speed.

"Tire use is also linked to KERS, so there are many things that we need to understand now very quickly," the Italian is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Many teams, having spent a lot of time and money developing the newly allowable energy re-use technology in the winter, decided that the compromise in weight distribution is not offset by the 82 horse power bursts.

Domenicali said BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica - not running KERS - had a similar strategy in Melbourne last Sunday "but they did not destroy the rear tires like we did".

"It is something that we must consider: the KERS and the weight distribution," he added.  "But in Malaysia we will use KERS again." More ...

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