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Penske, Busch turn page after 'dude' outburst
"The Dude" at St. Petersburg Friday
Roger Penske's nickname is "The Captain," which befits a business icon whose diversified financial interests stretch well into billions in annual revenue.  After last Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway, the auto racing magnate with a record 14 Indianapolis 500 victories might have a new moniker more appropriate for a Coen brothers movie: "The Dude."

"We call him that a lot," Jay Penske, Roger's youngest son, said with a laugh while lounging inside his father's motor coach in the paddock Friday at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. "Dude man!"

"Yeah, is 'Dude' in," joked Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing.

Sitting in a black leather swivel chair inside the command center of his IndyCar team, Penske, 72, chuckled while watching at flat screen TV displaying Cup practice at Texas Motor Speedway, where Kurt Busch was ranked third.

Penske hadn't been so pleased with the driver of his No. 2 Dodge during Sunday's Goody's 500.  In a heated radio exchange that was posted on the Internet this week, Busch lashed out at his car owner during an 18th-place finish at Martinsville.

"That was a stupid adjustment," Busch radioed his crew. "I hope we're proud of ourselves; that was excellent. Our day is about shot now."

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J.R. Hildebrand wins Indy Lights race 1 pole
J.R. Hildebrand
J.R. Hildebrand won his first Firestone Indy Lights pole in qualifying for Race 1 of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Hildebrand recorded a best lap of 1 minute, 7.7704 seconds, 95.617 mph. Junior Strouss, one of 16 rookies in the 27-car field, was second.

Firestone Indy Lights drivers will participate in an additional qualifying session for Race 2 on Saturday morning before the 40-lap Race 1 in the afternoon. Race 2 is scheduled for Sunday.


J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 26 ARPRO, Pole winner): “You can’t start a season much better. We had a really good session. It was a little bit broken up because the cars were really slipping around, because the track hasn’t really gripped up after the rain. I think I went out too aggressive, because I remembered how the track was last year at the end of the day. I had to tone it down a little bit because I actually knocked the wall a little with my first set of tires. But I got it all together and was able to put in a good lap at the end. It was just a good session for me and a good session as a team. It’s a great way to start the season.”

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Firestone Racing Introduces Alternate Tires To IndyCar Series UPDATE "A softer tire has more grip, but they go away quicker," former IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan said. "Our races are so competitive already, this will make it even better."

"I think it adds a whole different level of competition to the sport, because it's so different," said defending St. Pete race winner Graham Rahal, who was fastest in Friday's practice and drove in Champ Car in 2007. "A lot of times the engineering is a lot different. For instance, in Champ Car the handling was completely different from the reds to the blacks. This is a completely different car, completely different series. It's going to be a new challenge."

"It's a lot like what we are used to, so it's good for us," said HVM team owner Keith Wiggins. "It's another element and opportunity to get the tire combination right. It can go either way, right or wrong, and that's exciting for the fans too. ... Once the fans understand it, it's another positive for everyone moving ahead."

"The added strategy could yield even more unexpected results in both qualifying and the race," Al Speyer, executive director for Firestone Racing said.

03/26/09 In order to increase on-track overtaking opportunities, making IndyCar Series street- and road-course races even more exciting for fans to watch (i.e. copying yet another concept from the Champ Car series), Firestone Racing is introducing the alternate tire concept to all seven of these events on the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule.

The alternate tires, which are easily identifiable by their bright red sidewalls, are identical in body construction to the primary black-sidewalled Firestone Firehawk racing slicks. The alternates feature a softer tread compound that yields faster lap times, but as a result trade some compound durability from the primary specification for these faster times.  That means two tire specifications (primary and alternate) have been developed for all seven road/street course races on the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule.

"Bridgestone Americas Motorsports pioneered the alternate tire concept and introduced it to competition at the 2004 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach," said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing.  "Since that time, the idea has evolved and has been applied in other forms of motorsports.  We are further tweaking the program for the IndyCar Series this season, and it will be entertaining to watch as it unfolds.

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Atherton says ALMS will survive poor economy
While there’s weakness in the GT1 and prototype categories, with participation basically down to one manufacturer (Acura) and some privateers, American Le Mans Series president and CEO Scott Atherton says the GT2 category has never been stronger.

"Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Panoz, the Corvette factory team about to re-emerge as a GT2 team," he said. "It’s the best of times in GT. Depending on who you are, some would say that’s even more interesting because those cars truly represent an example of the manufacturer racing what they sell. So when we talk about the relevance in the series, and the direct link from the race track to the road car and show room, it’s never been better. And people here who are fans on site, and watching television, that Porsche is the absolute DNA donor of the one you and I can go buy. Same with the BWI and so on.

"So yes, right now in the top level prototypes, it’s still incredibly interesting because of the technology that’s there. It represents the leading edge of automotive technology. While some would say that Acura looks nothing like any Acura I’ve ever seen on the road, that may be correct. But the technology under the skin of that Acura is directly linked back to what’s going on with the road car. That’s what separates the American Le Mans Series from virtually every other form of motor sports right now."

Atherton says the GT1 class is on its way out, with one more running to allow Corvette to finish up its run at Long Beach.

"I think it’s a matter of natural selection," he said. "The manufacturers have decided the future of GT1 and there isn’t content there." The overall focus will turn instead to GT2.


Martinsville TV ratings tank UPDATE Fox’s broadcast of last Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway earned a final Nielsen Media Research rating of 4.6 and a 10 market share, Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Daily reports.  The rating is 13.2 percent lower than the 5.3 Fox earned for the race in 2008.

03/30/09 NASCAR on Fox charted a 4.1/9 on Sunday for the race from Martinsville Speedway. That matches last weekend's Bristol rating, but it's down -16% compared to last year's 4.9/10 for the Martinsville race. Early tune-in, while down -10% (3.8/9 vs. 4.2/10), was a little better than in recent weeks. The race rating grew by +35% from start-to-finish, which is a normal in-race build. The Martinsville race faced formidable competition from both the NCAA Tournament (5.9/13 early, 7.7/15 late) and the Bay Hill Invitational (4.9/10), which was won by Tiger Woods. Season-to-date, NASCAR On FOX is averaging a 5.3/11 in the overnights, -15% off last year's pace (6.2/12). FOX PR


Seen in St. Pete - 1
Oriol Servia (L) and Bruno Junqueira
Ran into Oriol Servia and Bruno Junqueira in the IndyCar paddock Friday morning.  Both are still hoping to put a deal together for 2009.  Oriol is talking to his former team KV Racing and is hoping to put a deal together at least for the Indy 500.  "I am not giving up," Servia told AR1.com.  "I know money is tight for everyone out there and I am still knocking on doors.  I am proud of my performance in Champ Car and IndyCar, it meant a lot to me to know I am capable of winning races for a team.  I am working on a couple of sponsors from Spain, one being the TV channel that broadcasts the IndyCar races in Spain.  They have shown some interest.".......Bruno Junqueira thought he was going to be back with Dale Coyne Racing but in the end it did not happen, but he is still hopeful......Speaking of Dale Coyne Racing, Justin Wilson was 3rd in opening practice, and said, "I would love to have Bruno as a teammate.  Together we could do some good things together.  Our new engineer, Bill Pappas, knows where we are behind compared to the big teams, it just takes money to do the development.  On the street circuits it is more about mechanical grip and we are right there, but on the high speed tracks the big teams have spent a lot of money on aerodynamic development and we cannot compete with them because aero is so important on the faster ovals and road courses."  We asked Wilson how it was to be an underdog again and he responded, "It's nice being the underdog, I'm just happy to be out here.  The pressure I put on myself is the same regardless.".....Alex Tagliani told us that they brought the same car to St. Pete as they used for Surfers Paradise, but the setups are different, so they still have work to do.......Bumped into Richard Philippe who is back in the USA from the Euro F3 series.  He said it is much more cutthroat in Europe and the lap times are very tight.  On a given weekend 21 cars could win the race.  "It taught me a lot about life and the politics of racing.  I am happy to be back here in the USA and the Indy Lights Series  My goal is to win the Sidelights title and then move up to IndyCars."  His brother Nelson Philippe is still trying to get his race career restarted........With Homestead-Miami Speedway hosting several season finale races in a short 6-week timeframe, including Grand-Am, IndyCar, NASCAR Trucks, Nationwide and Sprint Cup, look for some package deals for fans.  No one has tried to do what they are doing and they hope they can turn a negative into a positive.  Kids will be free and tickets will start at $30 for the IndyCar/Grand-Am weekend.  Mark C. reporting from St. Pete


Ganassi teammates 1-2 in opening practice
Ganassi teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon were 1-2 in opening IndyCar practice in St. Petersburg Friday morning. Justin Wilson was 3rd ahead of Ryan Briscoe, Dan Wheldon and EJ Viso.

The track dried out nicely and the times were fairly good given the green track.



Driver Diff Gap Time Speed
1 Dario Franchitti (10) --.---- --.---- 1:04.5032 100.460
2 Scott Dixon (9) 0.6449 0.6449 1:05.1481 99.466
3 Justin Wilson (19) 0.6804 0.0355 1:05.1836 99.412
4 Ryan Briscoe (6) 0.7023 0.0219 1:05.2055 99.378
5 Dan Wheldon (4) 0.8358 0.1335 1:05.3390 99.175
6 EJ Viso (13) 0.8934 0.0576 1:05.3966 99.088
7 Marco Andretti (26) 1.1338 0.2404 1:05.6370 98.725
8 Will Power (3) 1.1464 0.0126 1:05.6496 98.706
9 Mario Moraes (5) 1.2380 0.0916 1:05.7412 98.568
10 Graham Rahal (02) 1.3167 0.0787 1:05.8199 98.450
11 Robert Doornbos (06) 1.5850 0.2683 1:06.0882 98.051
12 Vitor Meira (14) 1.7660 0.1810 1:06.2692 97.783
13 Raphael Matos (2) 1.8011 0.0351 1:06.3043 97.731
14 Alex Tagliani (34) 1.8836 0.0825 1:06.3868 97.610
15 Ryan Hunter-Reay (21) 1.9177 0.0341 1:06.4209 97.560
16 Mike Conway (24) 2.0307 0.1130 1:06.5339 97.394
17 Hideki Mutoh (27) 2.2697 0.2390 1:06.7729 97.045
18 Danica Patrick (7) 2.8094 0.5397 1:07.3126 96.267
19 Ed Carpenter (20) 4.0386 1.2292 1:08.5418 94.541
20 Darren Manning (23) 4.1694 0.1308 1:08.6726 94.361
21 Stanton Barrett (98) 6.1411 1.9717 1:10.6443 91.727
22 Tony Kanaan (11) 0.0000 0.0000 -0.0001 0.000


Philippe tops opening Indy Lights practice
Richard Philippe, just back from Europe where he perfected his wet-weather driving skills, comfortably led opening Firestone Indy Lights practice Friday Morning on a wet St. Petersburg track.  It is the first time Philippe is racing Indy Lights cars, which underscores his effort. 

Ana Beatriz was second.  Stefan Wilson, JR Hildebrand and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top-5.

Practice 1 Results


Car Driver Name Time Diff Gap Laps
1 36 Philippe, Richard (R) 01:17.4840 --.--- --.--- 25
2 20 Beatriz, Ana 01:17.7170 0.233 0.233 25
3 19 Wilson, Stefan (R) 01:18.2620 0.778 0.545 24
4 26 Hildebrand, JR 01:18.3230 0.839 0.061 23
5 7 Hinchcliffe, James (R) 01:18.5280 1.044 0.205 29
6 63 Tappy, Duncan (R) 01:18.5770 1.093 0.049 25
7 28 Herrington, Daniel (R) 01:18.8330 1.349 0.256 22
8 9 Summerton, Jonathan (R) 01:18.8650 1.381 0.032 16
9 27 Saavedra, Sebastian (R) 01:18.9100 1.426 0.045 26
10 21 Davison, James 01:19.0580 1.574 0.148 20
11 5 Romancini, Mario (R) 01:19.0770 1.593 0.019 19
12 24 Gomez, Logan 01:19.2090 1.725 0.132 21
13 44 Yacaman, Gustavo (R) 01:19.3490 1.865 0.140 32
14 18 Strous, Junior (R) 01:19.3500 1.866 0.001 13
15 15 Plowman, Martin (R) 01:19.3960 1.912 0.046 30
16 59 Jackson, Ali (R) 01:19.5510 2.067 0.155 23
17 35 Kimball, Charlie (R) 01:19.6360 2.152 0.085 26
18 11 Cunningham, Wade 01:19.7120 2.228 0.076 25
19 16 Mann, Pippa (R) 01:19.8400 2.356 0.128 29
20 4 Guthrie, Sean 01:20.1310 2.647 0.291 29
21 2 Prendeville, Andrew 01:20.6430 3.159 0.512 25
22 33 Donoso, Pablo 01:20.7220 3.238 0.079 21
23 37 Howard, Jay 01:21.0600 3.576 0.338 10
24 49 Mason, Jesse 01:23.1710 5.687 2.111 16
25 3 Mokshantsev, Sergey (R) 01:23.6460 6.162 0.475 21
26 55 Barbosa, Rodrigo (R) 01:25.9590 8.475 2.313 20
27 32 Wagner, Brandon (R) 01:32.2450 14.761 6.286 18


Rain hits St. Petersburg UPDATE The rain has stopped and the sun is peeking through the clouds as IndyCar practice has begun.  The track is still wet in places, but it is drying.

04/03/09 Rain has begun to fall here in St. Petersburg as the ALMS cars were on track for their very first practice session.  It was a light rain when the session started, but by the end the track was soaking wet and lap times were slow.  Temperatures are warm with moderate humidity and it is not expected to rain all weekend.  Next up is Indy Lights practice.  More reports to follow......

ALMS Practice 1 Results


Num CL Driver Lap Time Behind Gap CP Fastest Driver
1 66 P1 de Ferran/Pagenaud 1:06.125 --- --- 1 Gil de Ferran
2 9 P1 Brabham/Sharp 1:06.743 -0.618 -0.618 2 David Brabham
3 15 P2 Fernandez/Diaz 1:07.545 -1.420 -0.802 1 Adrian Fernandez
4 20 P2 Leitzinger/Franchi 1:07.819 -1.694 -0.274 2 Marino Franchitti
5 16 P2 Dyson/Smith 1:07.857 -1.732 -0.038 3 Guy Smith
6 37 P1 Field/Field/Ducote 1:11.850 -5.725 -3.993 3 Chapman Ducote
7 87 GT2 Henzler/Werner 1:14.270 -8.145 -2.420 1 Wolf Henzler
8 21 GT2 Farnbacher/James 1:15.442 -9.317 -1.172 2 Dominik Farnbacher
9 45 GT2 Bergmeister/Long 1:15.512 -9.387 -0.070 3 Patrick Long
10 90 GT2 Auberlen/Hand 1:15.792 -9.667 -0.280 4 Joey Hand
11 92 GT2 Mueller/Milner 1:16.027 -9.902 -0.235 5 Dirk Mueller
12 44 GT2 Law/Neiman 1:16.048 -9.923 -0.021 6 Seth Neiman
13 62 GT2 Melo/Kaffer 1:16.200 -10.075 -0.152 7 Pierre Kaffer
14 28 GT2 Gigliotti/Curran 1:16.280 -10.155 -0.080 8 Eric Curran
15 22 GT2 Sutherland /Phinne 1:17.879 -11.754 -1.599 9 Tom Sutherland
16 40 GT2 Robertson/Robertso 1:17.969 -11.844 -0.090 10 David Murry
17 11 GT2 Feinberg/Hall 1:18.839 -12.714 -0.870 11 Joel Feinberg


Hot Wheels announces IndyCar deal
Mattel, Inc. and the Indy Racing League®, the sanctioning body for the IndyCar® Series, announced an exclusive four-year licensing partnership that will bring racing fans authentic Hot Wheels® product featuring IndyCar® Series drivers and teams, the greatest race course in the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the world's largest single-day sporting event, the Indianapolis 500.

The exclusive licensed product line will include highly detailed 1:64- and 1:24-scale Hot Wheels IndyCar Series assortment die-cast cars – showcasing many of the drivers and teams of the IndyCar Series ($4.99 and $24.99, respectively); kid-powered 1:12-scale Hot Wheels IndyCar Series Big Sounds cars with real racing sounds ($29.99); and the IndyCar Series 1:16-scale Tyco® R/C ($29.99). Product will be available at major retailers nationwide starting this month, trackside at all IndyCar Series races and online at indycar.com.

"Speed, power and performance is at the core of the Hot Wheels heritage, which aligns perfectly with the on-track excitement the IndyCar Series brings to racing fans,” said Tim Kilpin, GM for Girls, Boys & Games, Mattel. "Our partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series, including drivers and teams, allows us to connect Hot Wheels fans of all ages with a real-world racing experience.”

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Malaysia GP: Friday Press Conference
Team Principals: Ross Brawn (Brawn-Mercedes), John Howett (Toyota), Adam Parr (Williams-Toyota), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren-Mercedes).

Q: A question to you all. Could you give us an update on how you feel your teams have done so far looking at Australia and today. Adam?
Adam PARR: Well, if you got points for practice we would be doing very well but obviously we need to do better than we did in Australia, that's for sure.

Q: How has it gone today?
AP: It has gone okay but it does not really count for anything, does it?

Q: Ross, your feelings so far?
Ross BRAWN: Well, obviously Australia was, as has been said many times, a fairytale. Thinking about what the team has gone through for the past few months then to have the result we had in Melbourne was unconceivable and unbelievable. I have been through many things in Formula One. I have been lucky enough to have some very special experiences and that certainly ranks as one of the best, if not the best of my career. It was achieved with a lot of things from within the company but there are a lot of people outside the company who helped us survive. Martin was one of them and Ron did his elder statesman part and did a very good job and I must say FOTA rallied around. We would not have survived without the help of those people. Whilst it was a wonderful it shows that even though we are going through a little bit of a difficult period with protests and things at the moment there is another side of our business which is very united and very together in trying to solve and improve Formula One.

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Go Daddy will also be the Presenting Sponsor at Indy
Yes, that will be a Go Daddy logo - front and center - on the black & blue blur that is Go Daddy Girl Danica Patrick’s IndyCar. The smoking hot racing sensation plans to be zipping through the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida Sunday in the Honda Grand Prix.

For the third season in a row, Go Daddy – the world’s dominant Web hosting domain registrar - sponsors Danica, IndyCar Series’ most popular driver and one of the sexiest athletes in sports today. Danica was recently featured in Sports Illustrated’s famous Swimsuit Edition for the second consecutive year. She also made history last year as the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race after taking the checkered flag in Motegi, Japan.

During the off season, Danica has certainly been busy. Earlier this year, she also starred in both Go Daddy Super Bowl ads. One of those GoDaddy-esque ads featured Danica in the shower with another woman. The second ad, in which Danica admitted to “enhancing” her Web site in a spoof of baseball’s steroid hearings, became the Most Watched Super Bowl commercial this year, according to TiVo. 

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Brawn must buy KERS from McLaren
(GMM) Brawn GP will have to pay more to McLaren if it wants to use the team's KERS system later in 2009.

The former Honda team is currently not running the new energy-reuse technology, having focused over the winter on surviving and accommodating the 2009 car for a Mercedes engine.

A side-effect of the dash to accommodate a different engine is that the car is currently running heavier than Brawn would like.

"That makes it quite difficult to install KERS," team boss Ross Brawn told reporters at Sepang on Friday.

The Briton admitted that his current commercial arrangement with McLaren and Mercedes is for engines only.

"We have had some tentative discussions about KERS but it is a little bit early for us to engage properly on that," Brawn added.


Stewards fine Hamilton, reprimand Kubica
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton's nightmare run with FIA stewards continued in Malaysia, having already been retrospectively disqualified from the Melbourne results and fined for speeding.

After his morning practice pitlane speed infraction, the McLaren driver was once again caught over the limit in the second session, costing him a further 900 euros.

BMW's Robert Kubica was also reprimanded by the stewards in Malaysia for setting a fastest sector time after ignoring yellow flags.


NASCAR banquet drops NY City for Vegas
A second annual NASCAR Sprint Cup race isn't in Las Vegas' foreseeable future, but one of the sport's big events apparently is coming to town.

NASCAR and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority have reached an agreement in principle to bring the Sprint Cup banquet, awards ceremony and postseason celebration to Las Vegas in the first week of December.

LVCVA president Rossi Ralenkotter confirmed the tentative agreement to move the annual event from downtown New York, where it has been held for the past 27 years, and make it a citywide event centered on the Strip.

"Some deal points still need to be finalized," Ralenkotter said Thursday.

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F2000’s 2009 Rookie Class
The 2009 edition of the F2000 Championship Series promises to be the most competitive season yet. The series will feature an exciting crop of rookie drivers and teams, all looking to contend for race wins and the overall championship.

The story starts with Alegra Motorsports, which will be contesting the season with two rookie stars from Brazil, Fabio Orsolon and Victor Carbone. The team is used to the top step of the podium, having won the GT class in the 2007 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Orsolon and Carbone are expected to be very fast right out of the box.

JDC Motorsports adds Mexican rookie Alejandro Munoz in the #96 alongside series veteran Chris Miller. Munoz, racing out of Mexico City, tested for JDC over the winter at the Mid-America Motorplex in Iowa. 

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New AR1.com poll
See our home page for our latest poll, should Lewis Hamilton be banned from F1 for lying.


Results of last AR1.com poll
Which American drivers should the USF1 team hire
A. J. Allmendinger 21%
Marco Andretti 7%
Kyle Busch 8%
Conor Daly 6%
Danica Patrick 2%
Ryan Hunter-Reay 11%
Graham Rahal 23%
Alexander Rossi 3%
Scott Speed 8%
Jonathan Summerton 10%


Alonso on antibiotics to tackle fever
(GMM)  Unwell Renault driver Fernando Alonso on Friday said he hopes to feel better when the Sepang event moves into the qualifying and race rounds this weekend.

The Spaniard limited his track time and was unusually outpaced by his teammate Nelson Piquet during Friday's three hours of practice, having curtailed his activities at the track the day before with an ear infection.

Alonso, 27, said he felt better on Friday that he did 24 hours ago.

Spain's Diario AS said he is taking antibiotics to tackle his high temperature.

"Hopefully I will recover more this evening and feel better tomorrow so I can give my maximum for qualifying which I think will be one of the most important parts of the weekend," he said.

Worsening matters, the oppressive heat and humidity makes Malaysia one of the toughest races physically on the entire F1 calendar, but Alonso insists he could not have simply sat out Friday's action altogether.

"It's a very demanding weekend in terms of the heat because we sweat so much but it was important we still got enough information," he said.


Alonso, Bernie, rub salt into McLaren's wounds
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso and Bernie Ecclestone have added salt to McLaren and Lewis Hamilton's open wounds.

Amid the Watergate-like scandal surrounding an initially innocuous stewards inquiry in Australia, Spaniard Alonso at Sepang said he encountered the British team's lying when he raced for McLaren alongside Hamilton in 2007.

Asked if the affair reminds him of Hungary 2007, when he and Hamilton were locked in a controversy over a qualifying pitlane incident, he answered: "Of course it reminds me of 2007.

"This is not the first time they have been to the stewards, it is not the first time they have lied to the stewards, so sooner or later they had to be caught and punished," Alonso, 27, is quoted as saying by Diario AS.

Germany's Bild newspaper made light of the saga by publishing a photo of Hamilton with a photo-shopped Pinocchio-style nose, above the headline 'The lying champion'.

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Hamilton makes excuses in 'Lie-Gate'
(GMM)  World champion Lewis Hamilton on Friday apologized for lying to FIA stewards in Australia, but said he was instructed to by suspended team veteran Dave Ryan.

Ryan, who joined McLaren as a mechanic in the 1970s and was sent back to the hotel by team boss Martin Whitmarsh on Friday, "misled" Hamilton, the 24-year-old British driver said.

"I was instructed and misled by my team manager to withhold information, and that is what I did," said Hamilton, referring to sporting director Ryan.

Hamilton said he wanted to tell the truth but has always followed the instructions of his bosses.

"I would like to say a big sorry to all my fans, who I showed who I am for the past three years, and it is who I am.  I am not a liar.  I am not a dishonest person.

"Every time I have been informed to do something I have done it.  This time I realize it was a huge mistake.  I am here to apologize to everyone and I assure you it won't happen again," he told masses of international media in a specially-convened media centre press conference.

Hamilton said he felt "awkward" and "uncomfortable" about lying, and now the repercussions are the "worst thing" he has experienced in his racing career.

"I've never felt so bad.  Try and put yourself in my position and understand that, like I said, I am not a liar.  And so for people to say I am dishonest and for the world to think that, what can I say?" he added.

He said he apologized "for the situation" to Jarno Trulli before Thursday's stewards hearing, denying the saga was a cheap trick to gain a position through seeing the Italian unfairly penalized.

"That was not my aim.  That is not something I do.  I earn my points and my positions through hard work, and that is not the way I think," Hamilton insisted.


First pole position for d’Ambrosio
Jérôme d’Ambrosio
Dam’s Jérôme d’Ambrosio is slowly, but surely, imposing his pace and skills on the GP2 Asia Series’ field. In a tight fight for pole position today that saw twenty-two drivers finishing within a second of each other, the Belgian came out victorious and signed his first GP2 pole position, adding two points to his total and hence entering the Top Five of the drivers’ standings.

Raindrops fell onto the Sepang International Circuit ten minutes before the start of this afternoon’s qualifying session. As the lights went green, only half of the cars chose to test the grip of the track, mainly equipped in wet tires. While Championship leader Kamui Kobayashi stayed put in the pitlane, his teammate d’Ambrosio went into a reconnaissance lap in slick tires. Those who chose the wet tires option rapidly came back to the pits in order to change to slick compounds.

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UPS Reveals New NASCAR Ad Campaign
NASCAR rising star David Ragan won’t be racing the “big brown truck” this year, but he will be learning what it takes to be a UPS driver in a humorous new television advertising campaign UPS launches this weekend as part of its revamped racing program.

The four-spot series, which was produced by The Martin Agency, will feature Ragan competing with UPS drivers in various extreme physical challenges to determine who will earn the title of “Maximum Driver.” The first spot will be broadcast on FOX on Sunday, April 5, during the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but a special preview will be available on Friday afternoon, April 3, at www.racing.ups.com.

Ragan made his UPS Racing debut at the Daytona 500 in February, at which time a new television ad introducing him to the UPS team began running that featured Ragan driving his No. 6 Ford Fusion through UPS corporate headquarters. The “Maximum Driver” series will go beyond the introduction, with Ragan facing several unique and potentially harrowing challenges as he goes toe-to-toe with some of UPS’s elite delivery professionals.

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Bridgestone debut hard tire at Sepang
Bridgestone’s soft tire proved to be the fastest rubber on track at Sepang for the first day of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari set the day’s fastest lap time in the afternoon practice session held in hot but cloudy weather conditions. Williams Toyota driver Nico Rosberg used the hard compound to go fastest in the morning session.

The hot and humid 5.54km Sepang circuit provided a challenge for competitors still mastering the 2009 specification cars and Bridgestone’s latest slick tires and new tire allocations. Today was the first time that Bridgestone’s hard compound tire has been used by teams, and the first time a Bridgestone soft compound has been used at Malaysia.

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Sponsors eager to join Branson and Brawn GP
Nick Fry, chief executive of Formula One team Brawn GP, revealed a number of sponsors have approached the team following its debut win on Sunday.

According to the Times, Fry said that many of the approaches have been from British household brands eager to sustain the national link with the Brackley-based team.

“People sense that this is a British team and they want to have that link,” Fry said. “There is no doubt that Jenson's victory has performed wonders for us. Apart from Virgin, we hope to have other companies on board as soon as we can.”

Virgin sponsored Brawn car just hours before the grand prix; it is estimated that Button's victory was worth about £8million in television advertising time to Sir Richard Branson's brand.


Bernhard and Dumas reinforce Audi at Le Mans
Ingolstadt/Stuttgart – The Audi driver lineup for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is complete: by signing Timo Bernhard (28/Germany) and Romain Dumas (31/France) Audi managed to engage two absolute endurance specialists for the most important sports car race of the year.

Driving a Porsche RS Spyder Bernhard and Dumas were the most successful driver pairing in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series in the past three years. They clinched a total of nine overall victories for Porsche and, ultimately, won the LMP2 title twice in a row.

"Without a doubt, Timo and Romain rank among the world's best sports car drivers," says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "We've come to know them in the American Le Mans Series as tough but fair rivals and are pleased that within the Group the opportunity now presents itself to have them race for us at Le Mans. We're convinced that Timo and Romain will definitely strengthen our driver squad. With victories at the 12-hour race at Sebring, the 24-hour race at Daytona and at the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring under their belts they've already proven their skills as real endurance specialists."

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Vettel grid penalty 'wrong' - Ecclestone
Sebastian Vettel, F1's best driver by a wide margin.  In a top team he probably would win every race.
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone on Friday said it was "wrong" for FIA stewards to penalize Sebastian Vettel for his crash in Melbourne a week ago.

The F1 chief executive did not travel to Australia last week, but he has arrived at Sepang for round two, where his favorite driver Vettel will drop ten places down the grid.

Ecclestone, 78, said the Red Bull driver's penalty for colliding with BMW's Robert Kubica was not deserved.

"It was wrong," the Briton told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.  "The poor guy is punished for an accident.  He lost third place.

"If the rule is that you get punished for a collision with another driver, then soon we will have no more fights," said Ecclestone.

"We want to see more wheel-to-wheel (duels), not less," he added.


A1GP Hits New Venue in Portugal
Algarve Circuit
A1GP World Cup of Motorsport heads to Portugal for the second time in its history this weekend, but with a brand new circuit in the Algarve providing the backdrop for what is set to be one of the most memorable events of the season on 10 – 12 April.

The last A1GP meeting held in Portugal took place at the Circuito do Estoril, near Lisbon in 2005 but with a new purpose-built facility completed earlier this year, the 4.69-kilometre Aut¢dromo Internacional do Algarve is a truly unique undulating circuit.

Home nation A1 Team Portugal will have the familiar face of Filipe Albuquerque in the cockpit hoping to close in on two other series regulars, Switzerland’s Neel Jani and Ireland’s Adam Carroll, who sit ahead of him in the championship standings. With only nine points separating the top three the battle is heating up as the series nears its conclusion. The 23-year-old is keen to reach the top step of the podium in front of his home crowd after getting a taste for victory back in Chengdu, China at the end of 2008 and finishing on the podium in the last four events.

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McLaren, Hamilton lied, Whitmarsh comes clean
Martin Whitmarsh - we lied
(GMM)  Despite the denials of Thursday, McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh on Friday admitted suspended sporting director Dave Ryan and Lewis Hamilton did lie to FIA stewards.

During a packed and dramatic FIA press conference at the Sepang circuit, he was asked if F1's reigning world champion told the truth relating to the Jarno Trulli safety car incident of a week ago.

"No.  I think that Lewis was not entirely truthful, but we have spoken to Davey (Ryan).  He was the senior member of the team and they went into the situation together.

"I had to take an incredibly difficult decision.  I have personally known Davey for 20 years," Whitmarsh added.

He explained that Ryan, who has been sent home despite his 35 years of service to the Woking based squad, decided to lie "in the heat of the moment" and possibly due to his "high" level of sensitivity after being involved in last year's controversial Spa-Francorchamps penalty.

"Lewis was led by that," Whitmarsh said, referring to Hamilton's decision to also lie.  "The team and myself are not only deeply embarrassed but deeply regretful."

Whitmarsh said a decision about Ryan's future, and indeed his own, will be taken after this weekend.

"I don't rule anything in or out," he insisted.

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Barrichello to drop five places down grid
Rubens Barrichello
(GMM)  According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, Rubens Barrichello will drop five places down the Malaysian grand prix grid because his gearbox has had to be changed.

The Brazilian's team boss Ross Brawn admitted prior to the weekend that he is concerned about the reliability of the BGP001's transmission.

Referring to the gearbox, which after the switch from Honda to Mercedes power for 2009 had to be tweaked, he said: "For the moment that is our Achilles heel.

"We are not yet over that mountain," he added.


Malaysia GP: Friday Driver Quotes
Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari (1:35.707, 1st):
“This morning we had a problem with the KERS, which cost us a bit of time, but we managed to make up for most of it in the afternoon. We had felt that the situation here could be different to Melbourne, but it is still too early to say where we are up against the opposition. What we can be sure of is that when the car runs trouble-free, we are competitive. We hope we can do a good job in tomorrow's qualifying.”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari (1:35.832, 2nd):
“The situation seems different compared to Australia, at least in terms of how the tires operate. There is more grip and the softer tires work well, even over a long distance. At the start of the long runs, I had a bit of understeer in the high speed corners and oversteer in the slow ones, but towards the end, the handling of the car improved continuously and I could set some great times. Clearly, looking at the time sheet today, there's a slight feeling of relief, even if it has to be treated with caution: we are very motivated and the whole team will be trying its best.”

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Malaysia GP: Friday Team Principal Quotes
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari (Team Principal):
“These three hours of free practice would seem to offer a different view of the situation to the one we saw in Australia, which indeed was predictable given the characteristics of the two circuits," commented Scuderia Team Principal, Stefano Domenicali. "Obviously, it's much too early to say what is our level of performance when compared to all the other teams, but it is clear that it very finely balanced, given that the first fifteen in the second session are all covered by less than a second. Reliability remains the main priority: again today we had a technical problem which, if it had happened in the race, would have led to a retirement. Having said that, we must remain focused and calm, while allowing ourselves to look forward to the rest of the weekend being aware that we will have to fight hard to bring home a good result.”

Luca Baldisserri, Ferrari (Team Manager):
“This morning we experienced a short circuit in the kinetic energy recovery system fitted to Kimi's car, which cost us a bit of time, but it didn't compromise our completion of today's program. The main aim was to understand how the two types of Bridgestone tire we have here perform, both over a single first lap and over a distance. From what we have seen today, the situation seems very different to what we experienced in Melbourne, especially when it comes to the consistency of performance from the softer compound. From this point of view, it's been a good day, but we have to work very carefully on every detail when it comes to the reliability of the car.”

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Alonso leaves Sepang track with ear infection UPDATE Fernando Alonso opted to conserve energy today after being diagnosed with an ear infection and subsequently only completed 20 laps in the afternoon session in Sepang, recording the 15th fastest time.

"We tried not to do too many laps today as I wasn’t feeling one hundred percent. It’s a very demanding weekend in terms of the heat because we sweat so much, but it was important that we still got enough information. I hope what we have learnt today will be useful for tomorrow and allow us to work on improving the set-up. Hopefully I will recover more this evening and feel better tomorrow so that I can give my maximum in qualifying, which I think will be one of the most important parts of this weekend, so we need to be ready for that.”

04/02/09 (GMM)  Fernando Alonso left the Sepang circuit early on Thursday, after being diagnosed with an ear infection.

The Renault driver met in the early afternoon with Dr Riccardo Ceccarelli, who advised him to abandon his duties at the Malaysian circuit and return to his hotel to rest.

Alonso's team, however, insists that the 27-year-old will be fit to contest Friday's practice sessions, according to the sources Diario AS, Reuters and the Associated Press.


Body strips Donington of racing license UPDATE The Leicestershire venue has been dogged by rumors and controversy since being awarded a ten-year contract to welcome the top flight and host the blue riband event on the British racing calendar, with whispers over the past few weeks that one of the banks involved in the project has since withdrawn its support due to the global credit crunch and many surmising that there is no feasible way that the track will have been brought up to Formula 1-standard by next summer. The latest revelation will only add fuel to their fire.

The construction work to improve the circuit has had the knock-on effect of reducing the run-off area by the new tunnel, which leads to where the new pit-lane is to be built. That has prompted 'significant issues' on the safety front, with claims that much work will be required to resolve the problem.

A temporary racing license has been approved to allow Donington to go ahead with its MG Car Club Championships and the Historic Sports Car Club Trophy Races this weekend – and Simon Gillett's Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) company is adamant that preparations to welcome F1 next year remain well on-course.

“The Motor Sports Association has been working closely with Donington Park in recent days to address the issue of the track license,” explained MSA chief executive Colin Hilton. “A temporary arrangement has now been agreed to enable this weekend's events to take place, after which we will continue to work with the circuit to address any outstanding issues. It should be understood that this matter is not in any way connected to Donington Park's contract to host the British Grand Prix from 2010.”

“It's in danger of getting out of proportion,” added an MSA spokesman, when questioned on the matter by Crash.net. “The local press got hold of something and linked it to the grand prix, when in fact it's got nothing to do with the grand prix. It's simply to do with the domestic racing license.

“They have made some changes, and we need to make sure those changes fit in with safety for the track license. We will sit back down after this weekend and work out what's going to happen.”

04/02/09 (GMM)  Donington Park, the new venue for the British grand prix beginning next year, has failed to be granted a racing license by the Motor Sports Association (MSA).

According to the Evening Telegraph, the MSA rejected the application mainly because improvement works at the circuit had diminished the amount of run-off between the Coppice and Macleans corners.

An MSA spokesman confirmed that there is "no quick resolution" to the "substantial" problem.

Donington spokesman Dave Fern said the track will be ready to host formula one next year.


More diffuser protests likely at Sepang - Horner UPDATE BMW Sauber is to officially join the FIA's International Court of Appeal hearing into the diffuser row as an affected party, as teams continue to ponder about lodging a fresh protest at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

"We have announced that we want to be heard in the Appeal [hearing], and that has been confirmed by the ICA," BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen told AUTOSPORT. "We are joining as an affected, or concerned, party."

BMW Sauber is currently evaluating whether or not to protest the diffusers in Malaysia, perhaps after the race, with Theissen being seen in discussions with Ferrari in the Sepang paddock.  Theissen said: "It is open what we do here."

04/02/09 (GMM)  More protests against the controversial diffusers of three formula one teams are likely to be lodged in Malaysia this weekend, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said on Thursday.

A week ago in Australia, after stewards ruled the diffusers of the Brawn, Toyota and Williams teams legal, protests were lodged by Ferrari, Renault, BMW and Red Bull.

BMW's protest was thrown out on a technicality, but the other teams' case was referred to the FIA's Court of Appeal, with a hearing scheduled for April 14.

Horner suggested that other teams without the so-called 'double diffusers' at Sepang may now lodge similar protests, although he said Red Bull will not be one of them.

"I wouldn't be surprised if there were protests this weekend," he said in Malaysia, where late on Thursday the cloudy skies turned dark and a heavy storm struck.

"I think we've been through our process in Australia, we have our appeal date, and that's what we're working towards."


Malaysia Practice 2: Ferrari duo on top
Kimi Raikkonen
(GMM)  After his apparent KERS incident in the initial session, Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari topped the timesheets as the three hours of Friday action concluded at Sepang.

However, towards the end of the session, amid the backdrop of ominously grey Kuala Lumpur clouds, the Finn was told by radio to turn off his energy re-use system due to another problem.

His teammate Felipe Massa was second fastest, ahead of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who nearly collected BMW's Nick Heidfeld at one point and apologetically waved to his countryman.

“These three hours of free practice would seem to offer a different view of the situation to the one we saw in Australia, which indeed was predictable given the characteristics of the two circuits,” commented Scuderia Team Principal, Stefano Domenicali. “Obviously, it’s much too early to say what is our level of performance when compared to all the other teams, but it is clear that it very finely balanced, given that the first fifteen in the second session are all covered by less than a second. Reliability remains the main priority: again today we had a technical problem which, if it had happened in the race, would have led to a retirement. Having said that, we must remain focused and calm, while allowing ourselves to look forward to the rest of the weekend being aware that we will have to fight hard to bring home a good result.”

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McLaren sacks Dave Ryan over lying saga UPDATE (GMM)  During second practice at Sepang on Friday, McLaren issued a statement confirming that sporting director Dave Ryan has been suspended due to his role in the Lewis Hamilton/Jarno Trulli saga.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh lauded the contribution to the Woking based team of the long-serving New Zealander, but said: "I suspended him this morning and he has accepted this."

Whitmarsh had told the press on Thursday that McLaren did not lie about the Melbourne safety car incident, but evidence provided by the FIA proved this was not the case.

Ryan left the Sepang circuit during the initial free practice on Friday.

Whitmarsh said: "His role in the events of last Sunday, particularly his dealings with the FIA stewards, has caused serious repercussions for the team, for which we apologize.

"Therefore, I suspended him this morning and he has accepted this."

04/03/09 (GMM)  McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan departed the Sepang circuit with packed bags on Friday, amid speculation he has been dismissed by the Mercedes-powered team.

New Zealander Ryan, a long-serving member of the Woking based squad since the 1970s, was named in the stewards' decision by the FIA on Thursday, with both him and world champion Lewis Hamilton charged with lying about an incident a week ago in Australia.

McLaren's communications director Matt Bishop told BBC Sport he could not confirm "anything at the moment", but said team boss Martin Whitmarsh is due to address the media in the FIA press conference at 4pm Malaysian time.


Another FIA penalty for Lewis Hamilton
(GMM)  On top of Lewis Hamilton's stewards woes, the FIA officials imposed on the reigning world champion yet another penalty on Friday.  At ten minutes to 11am, the McLaren driver went over the pitlane speed limit by 5.3kmh in initial practice, costing him 1,200 euros.

Interestingly, stewards decisions are usually signed off by McLaren's sporting director Dave Ryan, but the New Zealander veteran was seen departing the Sepang circuit on Friday.

The speed infraction was instead signed by Peter Vale.


BMW-Sauber has informed the FIA it intends to support the appeal of Red Bull, Renault and Ferrari at the forthcoming Court of Appeal hearing.  BMW's protest in Australia was rejected on a technicality.


Having won the Australian grand prix, Brawn driver Jenson Button is now sporting a button-shaped tattoo on the inside of his right arm.


Malaysia Practice 1: Williams boys on top
Nico Rosberg
(GMM)  As the clock ticked down at the close of the first 90-minute practice session at a hot Sepang circuit, Ferrari mechanics were fitting face masks and rubber gloves to set to work on Kimi Raikkonen's car.

The Finn arrived into the pits with his seat-belt straps undone, so as to raise his nose and eyes above plumes of smoke billowing from the cockpit of the F60.

Expert observers immediately concluded that either the cockpit fire extinguisher had been triggered, or a more sinister problem had arisen -- possibly a failed KERS battery.

Observers in the pitlane reported a "nasty smell".  Raikkonen and his teammate Felipe Massa were sixth and fifth fastest respectively.

As in Australia, the top of the timesheets were dominated by the Williams cars, with Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima outpacing the two Brawns.

It emerged that Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have been told to take a cautious approach to this weekend's practice sessions, given that they each have only one spare front wing for the entire event.

World champion Lewis Hamilton - branded a "liar" by the British mainstream sports press overnight following the events of Thursday - was seventh, and his teammate Heikki Kovalainen dead last as both the McLarens spent more time than desired in the pits.

Also not doing much on Friday was Fernando Alonso, having left Sepang early on Thursday with a reported ear infection.

His Renault teammate Nelson Piquet was slightly quicker than the Spaniard but just fourteenth, after sliding into the gravel with a problem on the front-corner of his car.

The BMW-Sauber drivers were complaining bitterly on their radios about the handling of the F1.09, particularly Nick Heidfeld, who was just eighteenth quickest and querying not only his chassis setup but the performance of the engine.

Practice 1 Results


Driver Team Time Behind Laps
1. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:36.260 +0.000 27
2. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:36.305 +0.045 25
3. Button Brawn GP-Mercedes 1:36.430 +0.170 20
4. Barrichello Brawn GP-Mercedes 1:36.487 +0.227 22
5. Massa Ferrari 1:36.561 +0.301 21
6. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:36.646 +0.386 18
7. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.699 +0.439 16
8. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:36.703 +0.443 23
9. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:36.747 +0.487 25
10. Glock Toyota 1:36.980 +0.720 27
11. Trulli Toyota 1:36.982 +0.722 26
12. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:37.025 +0.765 20
13. Kubica BMW Sauber 1:37.039 +0.779 18
14. Piquet Renault 1:37.199 +0.939 20
15. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:37.241 +0.981 18
16. Alonso Renault 1:37.395 +1.135 12
17. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:37.634 +1.374 22
18. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:37.640 +1.380 17
19. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.022 +1.762 19
20. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.483 +2.223 7

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