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Doornbos makes excellent Champ Car debut
In gambling parlance, today’s result for Minardi Team USA wasn’t a Royal Flush, but it was the next best thing.  Robert Doornbos took a beautifully judged second place for Minardi Team USA on his debut in the Champ Car World Series – the first time a rookie has been on the podium in his first race since Nigel Mansell won the season-opening Australian race in 1993.


Matos outduels Wickens in Vegas
It might not have been pretty but the champagne in Victory Circle tasted just as sweet Sunday for second-year Atlantic racer Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks).

Taking advantage of a strong late-race re-start, Matos claimed his second career series victory as he captured the checkered flag in the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix Atlantic race (tape-delayed broadcast on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. ET on Friday, April 13) – the first of 12 rounds in the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

Run on the fast and wide 2.44-mile street circuit constructed on the streets of downtown Las Vegas, Sunday’s season opener was marred by four caution flags. In between some spectacular racing, there were numerous incidents across the track as 15 cars in the field of 27 Mazda-Cosworth/Swift/Cooper Atlantic machines were eliminated from the race due to contact.

After the field launched from a standing start in the afternoon sun in Las Vegas, an interesting battle for the lead developed between polewinner and series rookie Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) and his friend and fellow Toronto resident James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks), who started second.

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First Vegas GP a Home Run
A press conference was held after today's inaugural GP where Champ Car President Steve Johnson, Vegas GP owners Dale Jensen and Brad Yonover, Vegas GP President Jim Freudenberg and circuit manager Chris Kneifel assembled to discuss the outcome of the race. To a man each of them said they were thoroughly pleased.

Dale Jensen said "The race was over the top. It exceeded my expectations in every way." He added, "This is the worst Vegas GP there will ever be," meaning it will only get better from here.

Jim Freudenberg said that when he was first presented with the idea we were told by people in the city that "you will never get it done (approved). That's the wrong thing to say to the three of us."

He had many complimentary things to say about Chris Kneifel. "Chris Kneifel did a phenomenal job making this the great track it turned out to be. We took notes every minute this weekend on what we can do to make this event better next year."

Although he would not be pinned down on attendance figures, he did say they were very happy.

"We had to close the General Admission grandstand sales at 10:15 this morning because they were full. We were nervous about doing it on Easter, and it was a challenge, but it turned out OK. We plan to build more grandstands for next year. Attendance was far more than we expected."

As for the railroad being a barrier between the paddock and the downtown, they knew that early on. "We had plans to build a double bridge over the railroad but their insurance people got nervous and nixed the plan this first year. Even if we have to fly to Omaha (where the insurance company is) we will meet with the city and them to make sure those bridges are up next year." Mark C.


Final corner in Vegas one of best
Bobby Rahal commented after winning the Historic Grand Prix race in Las Vegas Sunday that the final corner (Turn 12) at Las Vegas is one of the best racing corners in the world. As the cars come out of the chicane they go from bright sunshine downhill into the dark tunnel and then the drivers go steep uphill back into the bright sunshine as the track turns into a blind sweeping lefthander at 160 MPH. As the cars go uphill at full power and they turn left the car's suspension begins to unload and the car's back end wants to come around. A number of drivers could be seen wiggling on the edge of control with opposite lock as they crested the hill. It's a real ballsy corner to say the least.


Wirth helping Sofio
Aspiring Champ Car driver Andreas Wirth is coaching Atlantic driver Justin Sofio this weekend in Las Vegas. Likewise David Martinez is coaching young Mexican David Garcia. Both Wirth and Martinez are experienced ex-Atlantic drivers.


Zolder almost ready
We spoke to the race promoter for Champ Car's Zolder, Belgium race Meindert van Buuren and he tells us that all upgrades necessary for the August Champ Car race are done except for some of the safety fencing. The Assen, Holland promoter tells us that they have a lot of interest in their race from German fans and expect a large contingent to cross the border to attend their race.

Racing News

Rahal wins historic GP race
Former Indy 500 and CART champion Bobby Rahal (Center) drove a Brabham BT44 F1 car to victory today in the Historic F1 Grand Prix race on the streets of Las Vegas Nevada over Dino Crescentini (left) in a Williams F1 car and Craig Bennett (Right) in the Lotus Essex F1 car. Mark C.


Bobby Rahal wheels his Brabham BT 44 around the streets of Las Vegas
Photos above by Adriano Manocchia


Roush predicts how Toyota will destroy them
After all the buildup from Detroit rivals about the Toyota monster crushing NASCAR competition, the season so far has seen quite the opposite, with most Toyota teams struggling just to make the fields. But [Jack] Roush isn’t backing away from his quite vocal worries.

“I’m not going to gloat over what’s happened, or take any glee in it,” Roush said, “because it’s hard to start a new program, around new people and new drivers and a new manufacturer. And this year’s hardware issues (like the car of tomorrow) make it triple tough.

I didn’t expect Toyota to be a factor early on. But the comments I’ve made were not based on what I looked for in the first half of 2007, or even all of 2007, but rather 2008, 2009 and beyond will be a very good time for Toyota, if they continue to have the money they now have available to get the people and technologies. Toyota will get it right … and they will put the rest of us in the back, unless NASCAR is vigilant in its effort to protect against unlimited amounts of money coming into this sport and buying everything of value from the existing teams.

If Toyota can do that, there will be an upset the likes of which we have never seen. Right now the good news for the established teams is that the good drivers have all been under contract, and the good crew chiefs and the best crewmen have not been willing to take a chance on an upstart team or a new program. But as time goes on, as the Toyota teams get their legs under them and start to consistently qualify, the more those people who have the talents to make a difference in the programs will be inclined to consider the generous offers they’ve made- offers that will escalate as time goes on.” Winston Salem Journal

[Editor's Note: Jack Roush is right and there is nothing he or any other team can do about it. Toyota laid low in the truck series when they first arrived and now they dominate everything. In fact their domination is so great that NASCAR has now forced Toyota to change their truck intake manifold to one that makes less HP to give the other inferior manufacturers a chance. We'll see how well that sits with the Toyota brass and after that happens enough times, Toyota tells NASCAR to go pound sand.]


UNLV basketball players to start Vegas GP
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) basketball’s star players, who led the team to a place among the Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, are announcing the official start of this Sunday’s Vegas Grand Prix race.  Starting the race are: forward Gaston Essengue, center Joel Anthony, forward Joe Darger, point guard Wink Adams and point guard Marcus Lawrence.  The season-opening race for the Champ Car World Series begins at 1 p.m on Sunday, April 8. The players will also be a part of the pre-race parade.


Champ Car TV Sunday UPDATE Champ Car fans in Canada can watch the first two races of the season on NBC because the NBC feed from the USA is shown in Canada. In about a week or two Champ Car will make an announcement on the remainder of the year for a deal that will see Champ Car on a new Canadian network. In Australia the race promoter IMG owns the TV rights and we hear they are close to announcing a Champ Car TV deal in that country as well.  Also look for all the Champ Car Atlantic races to be shown live in their entirety on Race Director - a webcast on their Champ Car website.

04/08/07 Although Champ Car failed to put out an international TV press release prior to their season starting, we can tell you that the Vegas Grand Prix race will be LIVE on NBC Sports 3:30pm - 6:00pm ET today in the USA and worldwide Live on FOX Sports International and EUROSPORT2 (throughout all of Europe). At some point in time we would hope Champ Car will publish more details about international distribution.


Overheard in Las Vegas - 5
All the Champ Car teams worked late into the night on the refueling problem caused by a design defect in the new Panoz DP01.  It seems the car will not take on a full fuel load before the fuel begins to spill back out into the overflow hose/vent.  Panoz shipped new pieces to the teams three days ago that had to be installed inside the fuel tank to redirect the fuel so that the tanks would fill completely.  If the fix does not work correctly you may see teams changing their pit stop strategy to work best with taking on around 20 gallons per stop instead of 35.

Teams are still experiencing a number of nagging little new-car glitches so it remains to be seen just how many cars finish the race today.


Monster Energy signs on with Paul Tracy
CARLSBAD, Calif., – Monster Energy and its iconic M-claw logo will adorn the side of Champ legend Paul Tracy’s helmet, effective this weekend at the streets of Las Vegas race – Round One of the 2007 Champ Car World Series.

Said Monster Energy’s President, Mark Hall: “There’s definitely a linear relationship between Monster Energy’s rapid rise to the upper echelon of the energy drink market and Paul Tracy’s brisk ascent to stardom in American open-wheel racing. We look forward to backing Paul in his quest for victory this summer on the Champ Car World Series tour.”

Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car World Series Champion, is the leader among active drivers on the Champ Car World Series tour in wins (30) and pole positions (25). A four-time winner of the Grand Prix of Long Beach (Calif.), Tracy also tops the active drivers in laps led (4,184). His foot-to-the-floor, win at all costs driving style has made this Vegas transplant from Canada one of the all-time fan favorites in American open-wheel racing.

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Muller to sit in for Enge
Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing announced today that Dirk Muller (a native of Germany, living in Monaco) will fill-in for regular team driver Tomas Enge (a native Czech who also lives in Monaco) at the next two rounds of the American Le Mans Series. Muller, the 2000 GT2 (then known as GT) class champion, will co-drive the No.31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT at the April 14th Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Houston on April 21st with Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany). Enge is recuperating from injuries sustained at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 31. Despite overwhelming obstacles, the Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev.) owned team plans on fielding a fully competitive car in the one hour and 40-minute American Le Mans debuted on the streets of Long Beach.


Malaysia: Sunday news in brief - 2
  • Ferrari chief excuses Massa mistake
  • Toro Rosso poke fun at buyout rumors
  • No Friday tester for BMW in Bahrain

Ferrari chief excuses Massa mistake
Ferrari's sporting director Stefano Domenicali has refused to point the finger at Felipe Massa after he went off the track trying to overtake Lewis Hamilton at Sepang on Sunday.

The incident was a major piece of the puzzle in Ferrari's failure to convert its dominance to victory in Malaysia, but Domenicali steered clear of publicly damning the Brazilian ace.

"Naturally we are not happy with our race," he told the German broadcaster Premiere. "We expected to be stronger, but that's formula one.

"Everyone has been saying we are already world champion but today's result proves that we must keep working hard."

Referring to the Massa slip, which relocated him to a hard race behind BMW's Nick Heidfeld, Domenicali said the 25-year-old was understandably trying to recover from a bad start.

"In those situations you can always lose control," he said.

"It was important that he try to pass Hamilton for our strategy."

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Liuzzi and Sato blame each other
Vitantonio Liuzzi and Takuma Sato pointed the finger at each other after tangling on the first lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Toro Rosso and the Super Aguri were involved in an incident at Turn 4 that led to Liuzzi requiring a new front wing, and Sato dropping to the back of the field after a trip through the gravel.

"I think it's a shame that Sato pulled a crazy move at Turn 4 and compromised my race, as everything was going well." said Liuzzi. "But I collided with him and then that meant I also touched Scott's rear tire and had to come in for a new nose. A shame, as I felt my race pace was really strong and we could have done a lot better in terms of the final result."

Sato said that the Toro Rosso drivers were at fault for the accident.

"There was so much going on and a lot of cars were side-by-side going into Turn 1 and Turn 2 and in the concertina my front nose was damaged and my performance was compromised," he said. "Into Turn 4 I went side-by-side with the Toro Rossos and I was left with nowhere to go, so I was pushed off onto the gravel and I lost a lot of places."

Reader Feedback

Rookies run into problems in Las Vegas UPDATE #2 Another reader writes, I'm writing in response to Preston Smith's email and your comment. It seems that the primary issues with the DP01 seem to be electrical and gearbox related which I believe are not components supplied by EMT/Panoz. That said, I think the real issue (as alluded to by Bourdais in an article I read on this or another site) is that Panoz did not push the car hard enough in development testing to discover these problems. They were being discovered in pre-season testing and unfortunately it looks like in race practice and qualifying as well. However, it is a brand new car, it is bound to have teething problems. It is still a good car, looks great, and is proving to be FAST!!!
Also, regarding additional team pre-season testing, the teams had three testing sessions and, given the budget/sponsorship issues that we have now, is it really reasonable to expect the smaller teams to show up if there had been additional sessions added? I think Conquest only showed up for one of the sessions, right? The teams still have to spend money to go to these test sessions, I doubt that KK and company would be footing the entire bill. When the new car is supposed to inject some parity into the series, additional sessions would simply benefit the big dogs i.e. NHL.
Regardless of car teething issues, sponsorship issues, driver turnaround, etc., I'm happy to see Champ Car back in action. Better Champ Car than NASCAR or IRL!!! I'll take ALMS number 2. They should be running in Vegas also. Big mistake by them running races with that other series. Thanks for the excellent website! Thanyarat (Tom) Kulananan

04/07/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, How come I keep reading that teams are having numerous mechanical issues with the new Champ Car? Doesn't Panoz know how to build a quality car? Preston Smith

Dear Preston, When one introduces a new car and then doesn't allow the teams much preseason testing, they don't have enough laps on the car such that these issues would have all been addressed before the season started. Now they will pay the penalty for that decision by having problems crop up during race weekends instead. Qualifying sessions and races will be ruined due to these mechanical issues and drivers and teams will complain to the media about it. Unfortunately this paints Champ Car in a negative light, but as with everything in life you pay now or you pay later. Champ Car should have allowed more preseason testing this first year of the new car. In subsequent years, after all the gremlins were worked out, preseason testing could have been cut back. Mark C.

04/07/07 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal was hoping his first qualifying session in Champ Car would go better. Mechanical glitches, which are happening far too often on the new Champ Car, kept the Atlantic series runner-up from last year 15th on the overnight grid, trailing Atlantic rival Simon Pagenaud by more than three seconds.

It was a session of problems for the Medi|Zone team," he confirmed, "At the end, I thought I had two good laps left, then we had a shifting problem. I couldn't shift up or down, and we think we had an electrical problem that led to the shifting problem. Before that, the car was acting really good and I was really pumped. I had a good out-lap and I thought it was only going to get better, but I went into turn one and the shifting problem started. It's a good thing that there are two qualifying sessions because we should definitely be up there.”

Rahal was not the only rookie in trouble, as Matt Halliday and Alex Figge are not where they would like to be right now.

“Obviously, it was a rough day because we did not get much track time during qualifying," he said, "Unfortunately, we ran into a problem with the engine that they will fix tonight. We had a good start in practice this morning, so I am sure tomorrow will be a lot smoother and we will be able to improve our position.”

Figge, meanwhile, out-qualified his two rookie rivals, but still only managed 14th on the overnight grid.

"It's good to have the first day in the books and have some track time under my belt here," the Pacific Coast driver commented, "I could be happier, as we ran eleventh for most of the day and I would have liked to qualified there, but we had a small issue with our first set of tires and then we ran out of time on our second stint. We've saved our Bridgestone 'reds' for tomorrow though and I am looking forward to getting back out there.”


Swiss gal to start 8th Sunday
Walker Racing rookie, Swiss Simona De Silvestro, proved that she was a force to be reckoned with in today’s final qualifying session.  The 18 year-old blistered the time charts as she clocked a fast lap time of 1:31.327 (96.182 mph) putting her eighth overall on the grid out of the 27 Champ Car Atlantic field.  Each lap the rookie took she accelerated her speed, but unfortunately got caught in traffic and a number of red flags, preventing the young Swiss Miss to get a clear lap in.  This will mark De Silvestro’s first Atlantic race as she speeds through the streets of downtown Las Vegas.


Malaysia: Sunday news in brief
  • Raikkonen eyes 'strong' race on Sunday
  • High chance of rain at Sepang
  • Bernie wants shakeup at 'shabby' Sepang
  • Albers has food poisoning
  • F1 to discuss improved cockpit protection
  • Bernie wants new 'car sharing' meeting in Bahrain
  • Ralf must accept huge pay-cut - report

Raikkonen eyes 'strong' race on Sunday
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen sent out a warning to the two drivers who qualified ahead of him at Sepang on Saturday -- watch out for me in the race.

The Finn, whose practice mileage was limited in the morning due to lingering concerns about his two-race Ferrari engine, admits that he struggled to keep up with teammate Felipe Massa and McLaren's Fernando Alonso on Saturday.

"I think over one lap I am suffering more than over the race distance so I think for the race it will be ok," he said.

"I think I will have a strong race."

Brazilian pole sitter Massa in Malaysia, however, is eager to send out the message on Sunday that - like Raikkonen in Melbourne - he can dominate the race from the front and be a real championship contender in 2007.

He ruled out clashing wheels with his Finnish teammate but insisted: "He wants to be in front of me and I want to be in front of him, but I think we need to use our brains not to make any problems for the team."

Massa's fellow occupant of the front row Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, confessed that - despite a qualifying improvement for McLaren in Malaysia - he is unlikely to be able to live with Ferrari's dominant long-run pace on Sunday.

The Spaniard said: "I think we have to be realistic and see how our pace, maybe on the long runs (in particular), is not as good as the Ferrari."

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Edwards makes Nashville a bore-fest
Carl Edwards made sweet music all day at Nashville Superspeedway, winning the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Now, with the Gibson Guitar trophy given to all Nashville race winners, he can make sweet music all night, as well.

Two weeks after winning at the high-banked concrete surface of Bristol, Edwards dominated once again on the concrete surface of Nashville. It was his sixth top five of the season.

The victory was Edwards’ first career back-to-back Busch Series win, and he accomplished the feat with relative ease.

His margin of victory, 4.673 seconds, was the largest of the season and his 74 laps led were the most of any driver during the race. With the win, he remains the NASCAR Busch Series points leader.

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NASCAR clips Toyota's wings
LEBANON, Tenn. - In a technical bulletin issued this week, NASCAR has ordered Toyota Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series teams to use a different intake manifold in an effort to "level the playing field" with other manufacturers.

The change does not affect the Nextel Cup Series.

Busch Series Director Joe Balash said NASCAR informed the teams of the switch during the test at Richmond International Raceway last week. The sanctioning body has been working with Toyota officials "for a while" as NASCAR conducted chassis dynamometer tests this season.

The manifold was declared legal before the season, but tests have shown it gives Toyota teams a horsepower advantage. The new intake reduces horsepower, Balash said.

"We looked at all the manifolds on all the cars," Balash said. "We looked at that particular manifold as something we can make a change with to keep our engine box as we talk about in check.

"It does reduce the horsepower a little bit in the engine and bring it more within where we are with the other engines in the series."


Wickens wins Atlantic pole
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Canadian teen Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK) proved on Saturday that Red Bull really does give you wings – at least on the streets of Las Vegas.

The 18-year-old Red Bull Team Forsythe rookie posted a flying lap midway through final-round qualifying for Sunday’s Vegas Grand Prix Atlantic race (tape-delayed on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. ET on Friday, April 13), the opening round of the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.  After clocking the impressive time of 1:30.934 (96.598 mph) on a fresh set of Cooper tires with 14 minutes left in the session, Wickens held on to claim the pole in his first series race.

There were a few anxious moments for the Toronto racer, as several drivers in the talent-laden 27-car Atlantic field tried valiantly to knock him from the pole as the qualifying clock ticked down, but when the dust settled it was Wickens left waving the pole flag.

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Las Vegas Practice 3: Power fastest
Team Australia's Will Power recorded the top practice speed in Saturday morning practice 3 in Las Vegas for Champ Car's Vegas GP.  Sebastien Bourdais led most of the session but Power beat him by 2/10th of a second right at the end of the session.

Bourdais' rookie teammate Graham Rahal lost control of his car when his right side tires rode over the Turn 11 chicane at the wrong angle, which sent his car across the track where his left-front struck the concrete barrier.  He will be forced into his backup car which is brand new and has never turned a wheel.

Results Practice 3

Pos Driver Lap Time Mph Gap
1 W. Power 1:19.415 110.609 
2 S. Bourdais 1:19.629 110.312 0.214
3 P. Tracy 1:20.202 109.523 0.787
4 B. Junqueira 1:20.391 109.266 0.976
5 J. Wilson 1:20.828 108.675 1.413
6 N. Jani 1:20.926 108.544 1.511
7 A. Tagliani 1:20.940 108.525 1.525
8 G. Rahal 1:20.966 108.490 1.551
9 T. Gommendy 1:21.047 108.382 1.632
10 R. Dalziel 1:21.165 108.224 1.750
11 S. Pagenaud 1:21.446 107.851 2.031
12 D. Clarke 1:21.628 107.610 2.213
13 M. Dominguez 1:21.748 107.452 2.333
14 R. Doornbos 1:22.021 107.095 2.606
15 K. Legge 1:22.094 106.999 2.679
16 M. Halliday 1:22.156 106.919 2.741
17 A. Figge 1:22.804 106.082 3.389


Champ Car finalizes European race dates
INDIANAPOLIS The Champ Car World Series today finalized the European portion of its 2007 race schedule, announcing the movement of the Zolder date. (See our full 2007 Champ Car schedule

The inaugural Champ Car Grand Prix of Belgium, which is to be held on the Zolder Circuit, will move from September 9 to August 26. The event will be followed the next week by the Dutch Grand Prix, which will take place September 2 at Assen.

  “The Zolder date was moved to ease concerns that the FIA had about our race being too close to a Formula 1 event at Spa on September 16, and we want to give the open-wheel fans of the region every opportunity to attend both races if they so desire.” said John Clagett, Champ Car Executive Vice-President of Planning and Development. “

  The 16-race Champ Car World Series season will kick off April 8 with the Vegas Grand Prix, which is the first race to ever be run on the streets of Las Vegas. Champ Car will run six events at new venues in 2007 including the inaugural Champ Car Grand Prix of China. Champ Car continues to work with the promoters and the FIA to finalize its China race date for 2007 with a final announcement expected in the coming weeks. Champ Car PR


Overheard in Las Vegas - 4
Downtown Las Vegas was packed with people last night. Over 50,000 showed up for the Champ Car concert where Bon Jovi showed up unannounced. It was wall-to-wall people and locals told us there were more people here than we get even for New Year's eve. So needless to say this race is already accomplishing what it set out to do - to help revitalize the downtown area of Las Vegas much like the Long Beach race did for that town over 30 years ago.  As one wag said, "Downtown was Rock'n last night." 

As cars were flying through the air over the chicane bump yesterday, the engines would hit the rev-limiter while in the air and go pop-pop-pop until the driver lifted off the throttle.  Not Paul Tracy, you could hear his car go pop-pop-pop all the way until landed.  In other words Tracy stayed full throttle the entire time.  It must have worked as he took the provisional pole position. Mark C.

TV News

USA TV reminders for Sunday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com

Formula 1  Malaysia
2:30am-5:00am (L) SPEED
Champ Car Las Vegas
3:30pm-6:00pm (L) NBC
Champ Car Vegas Grand Prix on Race Director
4:00pm-6:00pm (L) (Webcast)
Formula 1 Replay Malaysia
3:30pm-6:00pm (R) SPEED
Champ Car Atlantic on Race Director
Las Vegas
7:00pm-8:00pm (L) (Webcast)
The SPEED Report
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
Victory By Design - Ford Muscle
8:00pm-9:00pm SPEED
Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain
Nicky Hayden (MotoGP)
Clint Bowyer (Nextel Cup)
9:00pm-10:00pm (L) SPEED

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


Coulthard will not lose ten grid places
(GMM) Despite widespread reports to the contrary, we understand that David Coulthard will not move to the back of the grid for Sunday's Malaysian GP.

It is believed that reports of an engine change for the Red Bull driver were misinterpreted, after the Scot had a new customer Renault engine fitted prior to the start of the free practice session on Saturday.

Coulthard, who qualified 13th at Sepang, did not finish the Australian grand prix after clashing with Alex Wurz, thus allowing him to have a new engine for round two without fear of penalty.

Indeed, Renault's head of Track Support for the Red Bull engine supply Fabrice Lom confirmed that the 2.4 litre units worked "without any problem" on Saturday.

Reports that Rubens Barrichello will go to the back of the grid, however, are true, after he changed to the spare Honda RA107 for qualifying - including its separate engine - at the last moment.

The frustrated Brazilian qualified just nineteenth.


Coulthard and Barrichello to back of grid
Red Bull’s David Coulthard and Honda’s Rubens Barrichello will start Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix from the back of the grid following unscheduled engine changes ahead of qualifying.


Singapore, Malaysia, won't be back to back
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone on Friday gave a further hint about the likelihood of a Singapore grand prix in the near future.

Speaking to the local newspaper Straits Times, the F1 supremo indicated that because the Malaysian GP occupies a date early in the annual calendar, Singapore's fledgling race would probably be near the end of the year.

"The races will be at different ends of the racing calendar," he said.

"It will be a street race and at night, so it will be colorful and interesting."

Ecclestone played down suggestions that the prospect of a second race in the region had angered organizers in Malaysia.

He said: "I can foresee a lot of people from Malaysia going down there (to Singapore) and vice versa.

"The (two) races give more exposure and open people's eyes. With the Singapore race, there will be even more interest in the region," Bernie said.

Confirmation of the Singapore event is expected soon.


Bernie tells Button to 'stick with Honda'
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone on Saturday advised Jenson Button to grit his teeth and work through Honda's crisis.

F1's 76-year-old supremo said he would not advise the Briton, who in Malaysia qualified fifteenth, to simply quit the struggling team.

"He really ought to stick with Honda to make it work, in my view," Ecclestone said.

Button appeared frustrated with Honda's dismal form in Malaysia and on Saturday told reporters that only his "crap" car is preventing him from being a major force in F1.

"If I was in a McLaren or a car at the front I'd be doing a very good job," he promised.

Bernie, however, said: "He needs to get his head down.  Ok, so his current problems may not be his fault, and it's a shame they've happened, but he's just got to get things back on track."

Bernie agrees that, at the age of 27, time is running out for Button to remain high on teams' lists of sought after potential world champions.

Ecclestone said: "Jenson really must get his act together this year, otherwise he's going to find the future very difficult, that's what it amounts to."


Hamilton is a future champion - Hakkinen
(GMM)  Mika Hakkinen in Malaysia tipped Lewis Hamilton to one day emulate his career by winning the world championship for McLaren.

The 1998 and 1999 drivers' title winner, at Sepang as a guest of the Woking based team, said he is impressed with rookie Briton Hamilton's progress so far.

In Australia the 22-year-old landed on the podium, and on Saturday in Malaysia he qualified fourth, albeit seven tenths slower than teammate Fernando Alonso.

Asked, however, if he thought Hamilton was a potential world champion, Finn Hakkinen told the news agency 'sid': "Definitely.  Without a doubt.

"But we shouldn't talk too much about it yet.  He finished third in his first race but there is a long way to go."


De la Rosa denies Alonso rift
(GMM)  Test driver Pedro de la Rosa in Malaysia denied that he suffers a thorny relationship with his McLaren teammate, Spanish countryman and reigning world champion Fernando Alonso.

"I want to make this clear; I have never spoken a bad word with Fernando," de la Rosa is quoted as saying by the newspaper Diario As.

Spanish reports have long suggested that de la Rosa and Alonso, 25, do not get along.  Last year, for instance, de la Rosa apparently refused to have his photograph taken with Alonso.

But de la Rosa retorted: "You have to be realistic; until this year we have worked for different teams.  Different teams, different sponsors ..."

Alonso switched to McLaren from Renault at the end of last year, where in 2005 and 2006 he became the first Spaniard to win the title.

"Yes, all of Spain was behind him," de la Rosa explained, "but I worked for another team and so I hoped that a McLaren driver beat him.

"It was a difficult situation, but now our relationship is superb.  And of course I want him to win!"


Hamilton fastest in practice 3 - Malaysia
Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in Saturday morning practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of previous pacesetter Felipe Massa with a 1:34.811 lap around the Sepang circuit.

Pos  Driver        Team                    Time              Laps
 1.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes   (B)  1:34.811           14
 2.  Massa         Ferrari            (B)  1:34.953 + 0.142   15
 3.  Alonso        McLaren-Mercedes   (B)  1:35.311 + 0.500   11
 4.  Kubica        BMW Sauber         (B)  1:35.385 + 0.574   16
 5.  Raikkonen     Ferrari            (B)  1:35.498 + 0.687    7
 6.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota    (B)  1:35.770 + 0.959   16
 7.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber         (B)  1:36.160 + 1.349   20
 8.  Davidson      Super Aguri-Honda  (B)  1:36.195 + 1.384   19
 9.  R.Schumacher  Toyota             (B)  1:36.245 + 1.434   20
10.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault   (B)  1:36.257 + 1.446   17
11.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault   (B)  1:36.273 + 1.462   13
12.  Liuzzi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B)  1:36.297 + 1.486   18
13.  Fisichella    Renault            (B)  1:36.434 + 1.623   15
14.  Wurz          Williams-Toyota    (B)  1:36.473 + 1.662   16
15.  Speed         Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B)  1:36.501 + 1.690   14
16.  Sato          Super Aguri-Honda  (B)  1:36.545 + 1.734   18
17.  Button        Honda              (B)  1:36.658 + 1.847   20
18.  Kovalainen    Renault            (B)  1:36.876 + 2.065    6
19.  Barrichello   Honda              (B)  1:36.972 + 2.161   19
20.  Trulli        Toyota             (B)  1:37.473 + 2.662   16
21.  Sutil         Spyker-Ferrari     (B)  1:38.018 + 3.207   20
22.  Albers        Spyker-Ferrari     (B)  1:38.225 + 3.414   20


No engine change for Kovalainen
(GMM) Contrary to some suggestions from the Sepang paddock on Saturday, Heikki Kovalainen will not be penalized ten places on the Malaysian GP grid.

Although the Finn did switch to the T-car during free practice on Saturday, Renault mechanics had fitted the entire rear end of his broken race car - - including the engine he raced in Australia - to the spare, thus avoiding the penalty for using a different power plant.

Pat Symonds confirmed that Kovalainen's original R27 had struck a fuel pump problem; an identical glitch to that seen at Albert Park.

Kovalainen's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella struggled to just thirteenth quickest in the last practice session prior to qualifying later today.

"We have improved slightly since Australia," engineering veteran Symonds insisted to the TV broadcaster Premiere.

He added: "It doesn't look like it today, but it is the case."


Button shows off new model
(GMM)  Honda racer Jenson Button strolled into the Sepang paddock on Saturday morning with a new model.

It was not, however, a 'B' version of his disappointing RA107, but 21-year-old blonde beauty and new girlfriend Florence Brudenell-Bruce.

The pair held hands at the scene of Sunday's Malaysian grand prix, amid whispers that Brudenell-Bruce is a university student who descended from Britain's earls of Cardigan.

They recently holidayed together in St. Tropez.

TV News

USA TV reminders for Saturday 

Courtesy of TVRacer.com

Formula 1 Practice Malaysia
12:30am-2:00am SPEED
1:00am-1:30am ESPN2
Formula 1 Qualifying Malaysia
2:00am-3:30am (L) SPEED
Vegas Grand Prix sessions on Race Director (Web Cast)
Practice 3, 12:45 pm
Practice 4,   5:00 pm
Qualifying 2, 5:20 pm
NASCAR Busch Qualifying Nashville
11:00am-12:30pm (L)  ESPN2
NASCAR Angels  
2:00pm-2:30pm * Check local listings for your time zone ABC
NASCAR Busch Series Pepsi 300 Nashville
3:00pm-6:30pm (L) Incl Preshow ESPN2

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


Seen in Las Vegas - 3 UPDATE We added a photo below of how far off the ground the cars were launching today.  That crown in the cross road was being milled down today as we were leaving the track so we don't expect to see this issue tomorrow.

04/06/07 There is a large bump just after the Turn 11 chicane and all the cars are launching 12" into the air. It's quite spectacular but it remains to be seen whether they mill it down tonight or not. Photo by Anthony Kent/LAT/Champ Car

We ran into Oriol Servia who is still trying to get back into Champ Car. Likewise we ran into Nelson Philippe and his beautiful Australian girlfriend, reigning Bartercard Miss Indy, Sarah Buller (pictured left). He has no plans to race in Champ Car this year, but will be doing some other racing (see rumors page).

Will Power likes the track but says it is dusty off line which could make passing difficult.....Paul Tracy also likes the track but says there is a slight graining of the Bridgestone tires.


Sepang: Latest F1 news in brief
  • Alonso warns Hamilton to be ready for F1's dark side
  • Alonso fined twice for speeding
  • Team chiefs slip up at Sepang
  • Bernie wants another Friday shakeup
  • Spyker sell F1 car space on eBay
  • Renault rule out new car in 2007
  • BMW talks have priority - Heidfeld's manager
  • F1's Finnish duo keep Sepang interest high

Alonso warns Hamilton to be ready for F1's dark side
(GMM) World champion Fernando Alonso has warned his rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton to be "prepared" to experience the unfriendly side of the formula one press.

Briton Hamilton, 22, admitted in Malaysia that after his debut podium at the Australian grand prix, he was still adjusting to the "out of body experience" of being the sport's new golden boy.

But McLaren's Alonso said Hamilton only needs to look at fellow rookie Heikki Kovalainen to find out what life is like in the paddock when things go wrong.

"What has happened to Lewis is the normal thing -- when everything goes right, everything is exaggerated, but it is also the same when things go badly," the Spaniard told Diario As.

"It's the opposite situation to Kovalainen," said Alonso.

"(Hamilton) drove a great race in Australia and he deserves what everyone said about it.

"But the other side is that when he is sixth or seventh it is going to be hard for him, so he should be prepared for that as well."

Alonso fined twice for speeding
(GMM) Reigning world champion Fernando Alonso was twice fined for speeding in the Sepang pitlane on Friday.

Both infringements of the 60kph limit took place in the afternoon session for Malaysian grand prix practice -- the first after stewards caught his McLaren at 63.3kph and the second at 61.4.

It cost him 1000 Euro in total.

Alonso, hinting that it was probably his error rather than a technical problem, was quoted as saying by the Spanish news agency EFE: "It will be necessary to find out where I was speeding -- on the entrance to the pit lane or on the exit.

"I obviously don't want it to happen also during the race because it could ruin our day."

Read more & Comment...

Bernie delays 'car sharing' meeting
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has put off organising a meeting of team principals in Malaysia.

It was suggested on Friday that the F1 supremo wanted to sit down with the sport's powerbrokers to find a solution to the lingering 'car sharing' row.

But it was discovered that several key bosses were not available after free practice on Friday. In the evening, even more figures were otherwise disposed.

Read more & Comment...

Heidfeld blames BMW for bad balance
(GMM) Nick Heidfeld has partially blamed his failure to find a good balance at Sepang on BMW's driver policy.

The German hit out once again at team boss Mario Theissen's decision to sit out a race driver on Friday morning so that Sebastian Vettel can turn laps.

After Robert Kubica was sidelined in Australia, in Malaysia it was outspoken Heidfeld's turn.

But after complaining about the handling of his car in the afternoon, the 29-year-old told Bild newspaper: "I haven't had enough time to get the car to my liking.

"In my opinion, what happens on Friday does not help us at all. But I can't do anything about it because it is not my decision."

Teenager Vettel commented: "I can understand Nick's frustration."


Gommendy shows some speed in Vegas
Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay By Touch/Megaspiera Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) made amends for his poor showing at Spring Training in Laguna Seca by beating his teammate Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull/Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) in provisional qualifying for Sunday's Vegas GP. Jani was very fast at Laguna Seca but struggled a bit on Friday on the Vegas streets.

"My engineer Yves (Touron) and the entire team did a good job preparing car," said Gommendy. "I learned a lot today. The biggest thing for me is the circuit is really bumpy. Here in America it isn’t really bumpy, but in Europe it is never bumpy like this. So, again, a lot of things are new, but I think we have a good setup now and I think we can do a very job tomorrow.”


Bell Micro signs on to Wilson's car
Bell Micro, one of the largest value distributors of storage and computer products, is proud to announce their return to the Champ Car World Series Paddock with RSPORTS and Justin Wilson for the 2007 season. The Bell Micro brand will be exhibited on Justin Wilson’s No. 9 CDW/RSPORTS car as he races for the Vanderbilt Cup in the 2007 Champ Car World Series. Bell Microproducts is an international, value-added provider of a wide range of high-technology products, solutions and services to the industrial and commercial markets. Our offering includes RAID, NAS and SAN storage systems, servers, fiber channel, software, computer components, peripherals and a wide range of maintenance and professional services. Bell Microproducts is an industry-recognized specialist in storage products and is one of the world’s largest storage-centric value-added distributors.


Hinchcliffe leads the way in Atlantic qualifying
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – It’s Vegas and Lady Luck was smiling on James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) on Friday afternoon.

The 20-year-old Toronto racer didn’t clean up at the craps table and he didn’t hit the jackpot on the slot machines. Instead, Hinchcliffe avoided an early and potentially dangerous spin on the fast and fabulous downtown Vegas street circuit and then he turned on the speed. With a dramatic final-lap push, “Hinch” scorched the top time of the day to lead the first round of qualifying in the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

After finishing third in the morning practice session as the first cars to turn laps on the 2.44-mile temporary street circuit, Hinchcliffe came out strong in qualifying, but almost watched it slip away. He spun on track just a few minutes into the 35-minute session and narrowly avoided hitting the wall and bringing out a red flag, which would’ve cost him his fastest qualifying lap. He also managed to avoid making contact with any cars in a treacherous corner while he tried to get back underway. After rejoining the qualifying fray, Hinchcliffe began his pursuit of the provisional pole.

While Hinchcliffe was thanking his lucky stars, some of the other top young rising stars of the Atlantic Championship were busy beating up the timing clock. Several drivers harnessed their speed on the smooth circuit, taking their place at the top of the qualifying leaderboard.

Read more & Comment...

Bourdais says Vegas sets a new standard
Although he was frustrated by the electrical gremlins that struck his McDonald's car in qualifying Friday, Sebastien Bourdais expressed delight in the new Las Vegas Street Circuit.

"Just wait until this track rubbers in more, it's going to be really fast for a street circuit," said Bourdais. Friday's provisional pole winning time was over 110 mph, which is fast for a street circuit.

"It just goes to show you how good these tracks can be when they spend the money to do it right. This track sets a new standard for street circuits. It's smooth, wide, has good grip and good runoff in the corners."

“As the track rubbers in I would expect us to go another two seconds quicker tomorrow morning and maybe another second faster still in qualifying tomorrow.”


Vegas: Bourdais nips Tracy in first practice session
On a track still quite dusty, defending Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais turned the fastest lap on the new 2.44-mile downtown street circuit in Las Vegas where practice began for the season opener.  Close behind was his old nemesis Paul Tracy.  Justin Wilson was third.

Pos Driver # Lap Time Mph Gap
1 S. Bourdais 1 1:24.384 104.096
2 P. Tracy 3 1:24.460 104.002 0.076
3 J. Wilson 9 1:24.768 103.624 0.384
4 S. Pagenaud 15 1:24.999 103.342 0.615
5 N. Jani 21 1:25.463 102.781 1.079
6 A. Tagliani 8 1:25.559 102.666 1.175
7 G. Rahal 2 1:25.682 102.519 1.298
8 W. Power 5 1:26.064 102.064 1.680
9 M. Halliday 42 1:26.161 101.949 1.777
10 B. Junqueira 19 1:26.230 101.867 1.846
11 A. Figge 29 1:26.402 101.664 2.018
12 T. Gommendy 22 1:26.494 101.556 2.110
13 M. Dominguez 7 1:27.099 100.851 2.715
14 R. Doornbos 14 1:27.542 100.340 3.158
15 R. Dalziel 28 1:28.629 99.110 4.245
16 K. Legge 11 1:29.121 98.563 4.737
17 D. Clarke 4 1:29.180 98.497 4.796


Seen in Las Vegas - 2
We spoke to both Katherine Legge and Bruno Junqueira this morning in Las Vegas before morning practice. Bruno confirmed that he will drive for Dale Coyne Racing all year in the Sonny's BBQ car. Katherine Legge will drive the other Dale Coyne entry sponsored by iRise. We expect a team announcement in a matter of days........Chinese TV has announcers here and they are doing qualifying, the Atlantic race and the Champ Car race live throughout most of China......Word is that Bernie Ecclestone is quite worried about Champ Car's success in China despite his race being over 700 miles away in Shanghai.


Don't sack Honda staff - Button
(GMM)  Honda should resist the urge to react to its current crisis by firing staff, Jenson Button said in Malaysia.

As in Australia, the Briton and his teammate Rubens Barrichello are at Sepang again the slowest works runners in the entire field, leading 27-year-old Button to call for "big changes" to the RA107 single seater.

But he denied that Honda needs sweeping changes on the personnel side.

"There is no use firing people just to show the outside world that you are doing something about it," he was quoted as saying in the Times.

"That is not going to help at all."

Button suggested, however, that slowly chipping away with the disappointing Earth-liveried car is not going to be enough.

He explained: "There is no point in making small steps forward and finding a couple of hundredths.  We need big changes.

"That is what we are working on."


Seen in Las Vegas - 1
It's a beautiful day here in Las Vegas, although the afternoon temperatures are slated to hit 90 degrees F. Having walked the 'completed' track for the first time this morning we can safely say that from a racing standpoint this is the best street circuit in the world. It is extremely wide in most places and for a street circuit it will be fast. Chris Kneifel must be commended for the excellent job he has done.

The paddock for both Atlantic and Champ Cars are indoors and air-conditioned as can be seen to the right.

The media center is on the 16th floor of the World Market Center overlooking the track. We were stunned when we walked in this morning to see the large number of media who have registered for this event. It appears to be the largest media turnout in Champ Car history so new PR chief Sid Priddle must be doing something right.

Coming down under this bridge out of Turn 2 is going to take the drivers breath away. It's blind and the vertical grade is fairly steep. We wonder if the cars might tend to bottom out through this section, which is one of the narrowest areas. More later.......


Autocon Moves to Creation
San Diego, CA --- Autocon Motorsports today announced a mid-season change of chassis/engine combination to the Creation CA06H/Judd, which it plans to debut at the Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park, May 17-19.

"Our program has made great strides in the last year and a half, and this is one more step in that process," said team owner and co-driver Mike Lewis. "The Creation/Judd package is a proven, excellent platform capable of competing more evenly among the much enhanced group of prototypes assembled in the American Le Mans Series for 2007.”

Those watching the Series in 2007 have seen the theoretically slower cars in the P2 class regularly on pace or even outpacing the P1 class entries, including the Audi R10 that despite not capturing the pole in the most recent race, remains unbeaten in competition.

Read more & Comment...

News from Sepang - 2
  • Theissen adds fuel to Heidfeld gossip
  • Raikkonen avoids engine change penalty
  • Toro Rosso slams Spyker protest
  • Renault admit pace flattered by low fuel
  • Todt not concerned about Raikkonen tattoo

Theissen adds fuel to Heidfeld gossip
BMW team principal Mario Theissen on Friday added fuel to speculation that Nick Heidfeld could be considering leaving the German squad at the end of 2007.

Heidfeld's manager Werner Heinz was this week quoted as revealing the offers of two unnamed "top teams" for next year, amid gossip that Ralf Schumacher might lose his seat at the Toyota team.

"Regarding the driver question, we will express ourselves at the end of the season," BMW motor sport director Theissen told the news agency 'sid' at Sepang.

"I want to first speak with Nick before I speak with you (journalists)," he added.

Toyota team manager Richard Cregan, however, gave the Heidfeld link short thrift by insisting that the Cologne based squad has had "no contact" with the 29-year-old, whose BMW contract runs out at the end of the year.

Cregan added: "We are happy with our current drivers and (we) are not thinking about an association with Heidfeld."

Raikkonen avoids engine change penalty
Championship leader Kimi Raikkonen has avoided a ten-position grid penalty for Sunday's Malaysian grand prix.

Despite the fact that the Finn's two-event power plant ran hot in the closing stages of the Australian grand prix, Ferrari has decided to also use it at Sepang throughout qualifying and the race.

We have learned that Ferrari fitted a separate V8 engine in Raikkonen's car in Friday practice, which had deliberately been run in an earlier test for several laps without a full compliment of cooling water.

It completed 53 practice laps on Friday - three short of a full grand prix distance - without problem.

Read more & Comment...

Tagliani in awe over Vegas track
Alex Tagliani, 34, is familiar with downtown, but Sunday was his first chance to see it nearly completed as a major league 2.44-mile street-racing circuit with 12 challenging curves and turns.

He liked what he saw, except the few times his voice hit high octaves when he approached the grade change heading into the underpass on Ogden Avenue just past Main Street.

Tagliani was shocked by the idea of entering it in his race car at high speed. Exiting also got his attention.

"Oh my God," he said. "We come out of this on a curve heading uphill like this? And we go from bright sky to dark, back into the sun?"

Once his blood pressure settled, Tagliani took a third lap making slow turns while trying lines that might work today in his Champ Car.

"It is a very, very interesting track," he said. "I'm excited. It's very technical, going up and down, left and right."

He said he was impressed with the smoothness of the repaved surface, especially for a street course.

Tagliani, who has one Champ Car victory, often complimented the product created by Grand Prix circuit manager Chris Kneifel.

"I've never seen anything like it. It is one unique racetrack. It will be tough physically," he said. "This track will be fun. No one's been on it, so it should be equal for everyone." Las Vegas Review Journal


Albers blows, Webber sizzles in practice 2
(GMM) The second and final 90 minutes of free practice at Sepang on Friday was disrupted late in the session when a rear tire on Christijan Albers' orange Spyker car blew.

Although the timing clock continued to tick down, the session was red flagged to clear debris caused by Albers' flailing right rear, after the Dutchman again proved the slowest car in the field.

When the circuit was re-opened a few minutes later in the incredible Malaysian heat, the Renault V8 aboard Mark Webber's Red Bull seemed to let go, and the Australian ground to a halt on the inside of turn 9.

It was an otherwise fairly uneventful session, with Ferrari's Felipe Massa maintaining his dominance, closely followed by the Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen.

World champion Fernando Alonso languished in twelfth place..

 Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:35.780 34
 2. Fisichella Renault (B) 1:35.910 + 0.130 36
 3. Kovalainen Renault (B) 1:36.106 + 0.326 37
 4. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:36.160 + 0.380 33
 5. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:36.523 + 0.743 31
 6. Wurz Williams-Toyota (B) 1:36.621 + 0.841 21
 7. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:36.717 + 0.937 18
 8. R.Schumacher Toyota (B) 1:36.760 + 0.980 28
 9. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:36.797 + 1.017 30
10. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:36.862 + 1.082 25
11. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:36.906 + 1.126 18
12. Alonso McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:37.041 + 1.261 26
13. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:37.203 + 1.423 25
14. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:37.282 + 1.502 30
15. Button Honda (B) 1:37.578 + 1.798 29
16. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:37.712 + 1.932 34
17. Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:37.855 + 2.075 26
18. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:38.334 + 2.554 27
19. Sutil Spyker-Ferrari (B) 1:38.419 + 2.639 28
20. Speed Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:38.650 + 2.870 20
21. Barrichello Honda (B) 1:38.713 + 2.933 20
22. Albers Spyker-Ferrari (B) 1:39.807 + 4.027 23


Stewards throw out Spyker protest
(GMM)  Stewards at the Malaysian grand prix have thrown out Spyker's protest about the legality of the Toro Rosso car.

A statement issued by the governing body on Friday explained that FIA representatives cannot rule on the matter because the issue is currently headed for independent arbitration in Switzerland.

The stewards said the protest is therefore "inadmissible".

At a cost of $2000, the Dutch squad Spyker on Thursday protested Toro Rosso's STR2 car after scrutineering at Sepang, arguing that it is an illegal copy of the car produced for 2007 by sister team Red Bull.

Spyker's $2000 was returned.


Massa tops opening practice in Malaysia
Ferrari driver Felipe Massa topped the timesheet in opening practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, lapping the Sepang circuit in 1:34.972, beating nearest rival Fernando Alonso by a quarter of a second.

Pos  Driver        Team                    Time              Laps
 1.  Massa         Ferrari            (B)  1:34.972           17
 2.  Alonso        McLaren-Mercedes   (B)  1:35.220 + 0.248   24
 3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes   (B)  1:35.712 + 0.740   22
 4.  Raikkonen     Ferrari            (B)  1:35.779 + 0.807   20
 5.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota    (B)  1:36.308 + 1.336   21
 6.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault   (B)  1:36.522 + 1.550   20
 7.  Trulli        Toyota             (B)  1:36.597 + 1.625   25
 8.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota    (B)  1:36.885 + 1.913   15
 9.  R.Schumacher  Toyota             (B)  1:37.052 + 2.080   22
10.  Kubica        BMW Sauber         (B)  1:37.121 + 2.149   12
11.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault   (B)  1:37.484 + 2.512    7
12.  Vettel        BMW Sauber         (B)  1:37.837 + 2.865   39
13.  Liuzzi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B)  1:37.882 + 2.910   20
14.  Kovalainen    Renault            (B)  1:38.143 + 3.171   24
15.  Fisichella    Renault            (B)  1:38.300 + 3.328   26
16.  Sutil         Spyker-Ferrari     (B)  1:38.720 + 3.748   29
17.  Sato          Super Aguri-Honda  (B)  1:38.966 + 3.994   10
18.  Speed         Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B)  1:39.130 + 4.158    9
19.  Barrichello   Honda              (B)  1:39.234 + 4.262   21
20.  Button        Honda              (B)  1:39.331 + 4.359   17
21.  Davidson      Super Aguri-Honda  (B)  1:39.357 + 4.385    9
22.  Albers        Spyker-Ferrari     (B)  1:40.074 + 5.102   25

track news

Carnegie on the mend
Retired legendary IMS Public Address announcer Tom Carnegie, who suffered a shoulder injury Dec. 6, was released by doctors April 2 to start using a walker again. He's working toward the goal of returning to the Speedway on Opening Day to interview A.J. Foyt on his 50th year at Indy.


News from Sepang - 1
  • Todt counts Ferrari out of 'silly season'
  • Van der Garde's father-in-law buys Spyker stake
  • Nakajima spins, Massa fined

Todt counts Ferrari out of 'silly season'
(GMM) Team boss Jean Todt has spoken up early to ensure that Ferrari drivers do not feature in the looming and inevitable 'silly season'.

Even though the 2007 season has barely begun, rumblings within BMW and Toyota are already being heard, presumably leading Todt to state clearly that stability is the buzzword for Ferrari's new driver lineup.

"I have no reason to think about other drivers," Todt told the newspaper Suddeutschen Zeitung.

He admitted that Felipe Massa does not get along with Kimi Raikkonen as well as he did with the departed Michael Schumacher, but added: "They do however have a very good relationship and a lot of respect for each other.

"I have a great relationship with Felipe. With Kimi I do not know him so well, but I only need to look into his eyes to see that he is happy.

"And we are (happy) too."

Todt, 61, said that by having top drivers who are only in their mid-twenties, Ferrari can afford to not think seriously about the driver question for "perhaps ten years".

He is, however, impressed with McLaren's even younger lineup in 2007, agreeing that world champion Fernando Alonso is an "elite" driver.

And he said of the rookie Briton Lewis Hamilton, who is 22: "I am impressed. He seems to be a very strong guy."

Van der Garde's father-in-law buys Spyker stake
(GMM) The contractual tussle between Super Aguri and Spyker threw a spanner in the works of Giedo van der Garde's plans this year to be a Friday test driver.

Read more & Comment...

Davidson says injury not fully healed
(GMM)  Anthony Davidson says he has not fully recovered from the back injury that left him in hospital after the Australian GP last month.

The Super Aguri rookie jarred his back in a clash with Adrian Sutil in Melbourne but soldiered on despite severe pain to finish a grand prix for the first time.

Davidson, 27, told reporters at Sepang on Thursday that he had injured a muscle connecting a rib with his spine, and spent the next ten hours in hospital.

"It's still not 100 per cent," Davidson, who nonetheless tested at the Malaysian circuit last week, said at Sepang.

"I can still feel it, but I could still drive with it so it's not going to be a problem here."


Villeneuve not planning F1 comeback
(GMM)  Jacques Villeneuve says he has no plans to attempt a return to formula one.

"I don't want them and they don't want me," the 1997 world champion told the Canadian Press after relocating with his new wife and baby son from Switzerland to Montreal.

Villeneuve, 36 next week, split with the BMW-Sauber team mid way through last year after failing to win a grand prix since his championship season.

But although his F1 retirement was not voluntary, Jacques insists that he is "100 per cent happy" with his new life, which involves launching music albums and racing later this year in the famous Le Mans 24-hour event.

Referring to his defunct grand prix career, Villeneuve said: "It gave me time to do stuff I didn't think I would have time to do.

"It just panned out right."

He is still waiting for news about a ride in the NASCAR series but said he is "confident it will happen".


Lewis to miss Vegas race
Walker Racing enters the Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season this weekend in Las Vegas one man short of their 2007 lineup. Ryan Lewis will not make the season opener.

Lewis embarks on his second year in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, but his first with Walker Racing.  The Brit plans to compete with the team for the entire 2007 season, but will miss the first event due to a misunderstanding with his visa, delaying his start for the championship. 

“Because of a misunderstanding and subsequent delay of granting of his visa, Ryan will not be in Las Vegas.  Further complicating matters with the Easter weekend holiday in the UK, meant that he was unable to complete his application in time to compete in the Las Vegas race. Ryan will be back with us in Long Beach and we look forward to having him join us,” stated Walker Racing owner, Derrick Walker.

The 22 year-old brings with him a strong racing pedigree as he was crowned the British F3 Scholarship champion and earned three podiums in his rookie Atlantic season after jumping on board in the fourth round in 2006.  Walker Racing will only run one car, Swiss rookie Simona De Silvestro, for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.


Minardi Team USA feeling lucky in Las Vegas
Minardi Team USA is geared up to begin the 2007 Champ Car World Series season this weekend in the streets of downtown Las Vegas. England’s Dan Clarke and The Netherlands’ Robert Doornbos will be navigating the 2.44-mile street course for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Robert Doornbos enters the American open-wheel racing scene from a successful career overseas. He is pulling double-duty this year, also serving as test driver for the Red Bull Racing Team in Formula One. Robert’s thoughts going into Las Vegas:

"It's always exciting to be looking forward to the start of a new season, but even more so in this case, as we are in such an amazing place as Las Vegas.  However much testing you do ahead of time, it's never really the same as being at the first event, with all the other teams and drivers, and finally getting the racing under way.  It's what all drivers want.  Champ Car is obviously a new challenge for me, but I think it's going to be great.  The pre-season testing we've done has allowed me to get a good feel for the DP01 Champ Car, and to settle in at Minardi Team USA, and now I can focus on working with the engineers, to improve the car still further, and learning the Las Vegas track layout.  I feel really positive about the situation, and will be aiming to do the best job possible for my team."

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F1 tickets are selling at a roaring pace
Sales this year recorded a sizzling 40% increase compared to last season – an all-time high since the motor sport race was first held here in 1999.  

Sepang International Circuit (SIC) general manager Azmi Murad said such encouraging ticket sales showed that Formula One racing had made its mark in Malaysia.  

“Indeed, ticket sales this time around are definitely the best we’ve had in eight years,” he said.  "I’m very pleased with the increasing demand from locals and foreigners alike to experience the thrill of an F1 race,” he said.

industry news

Fiat to buy back up to $1.87B in stock
Fiat will launch a $1.87 billion share buyback plan next week, the Italian carmaker said Thursday, after the company turned a profit last year.  Speaking at a news conference after the company's annual shareholder meeting in its home city of Turin, Fiat Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said the company is on track to meet its financial targets for the year.

"The recent growth reflects a structural change at the company; it's not just a rebound" from a slide at the company brought on by an aging model lineup and billowing debt, Montezemolo said.

The buyback program to be initiated April 10, worth 1.4 billion euros, is aimed at picking up shares for stock option plans and providing an investment opportunity, Fiat said in a statement. Fiat stock closed up .14 percent at 19.14 euros ($25.57) on Thursday.


Vegas GP- set to deliver new ‘experience’
You might want to make alternative dinner plans if you're thinking about going to the California for the coffee shop's prime rib special this weekend.

If you haven't heard, downtown streets in close proximity to the Fremont Street Experience, including parts of Main Street and Grand Central Parkway, will not be very public during daylight hours Friday through Sunday.

The California is outside of the circuit, but your trip there won't be leisurely.

Speed limits have been raised considerably, over 175 mph on some stretches, because 2.44 miles of city streets have been converted to a race course inaugural Vegas Grand Prix, featuring the Champ Car World Series circuit, takes over Friday morning.

There will be a few times throughout the three-day event, and throughout each evening, when the course will be open for use by vehicles and pedestrians.

For the most part, however, it will be a race track.

Street races are as much spectacle as speed exhibitions, and downtown has never been so racy.

The following are attempts to answer what likely will be common questions until the high-speed circus packs up and leaves town. More at Las Vegas Review Journal


Vegas GP a boon to downtown Vegas hotels
Lucky guests at the Plaza and Main Street Station will wander up to their rooms this weekend and realize they've got some of the best seats in town for the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix.

They may have paid as little as $50 for a room that's nearly the equivalent of a trackside VIP suite.

Hotel marketing executives are catching on. Some room rates have been adjusted slightly higher for this weekend -- up to $179 a night at the Golden Gate, which has only 106 rooms.

The Plaza Web site is promoting "the perfect opportunity to view the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix from a prime viewing location." The west side of the 1,064-room hotel looks out over the start-finish line and straightaway on Grand Central Parkway, where cars will reach 185 mph.

Room rates start at $69 at the Plaza, down from $149 about a month ago.

"I think that's how the hotel business works," said Plaza spokesman Mark Fierro. "You wait until the big weekend, and then you make adjustments. If you have strong occupancy, you take rates up. If not, you drop your rates."

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Arrest Made in Murder of Team Red Bull member
A Taylorsville man was charged with the Saturday slaying of James Sprinkle, a NASCAR mechanic for Team Red Bull, according to the Alexander County Sheriff's Office. Earl Wayne Flowers, 51, of Gravel Hill Court, was arrested at about 3 p.m. Thursday. He received no bond and was in the Alexander County Detention Center Thursday, charged with one count of murder. Charlotte Observer


Raikkonen sports new tattoo at Sepang
(GMM) Photographers snapped frantically at a new addition to Kimi Raikkonen's lower right arm at the Sepang circuit.

In plain view due to the sweltering Malaysian humidity and the Finn's short sleeved t-shirt, the 27-year-old had clearly taken a visit to the tattoo parlor in the three weeks since winning his first race for Ferrari last month.

Raikkonen already had a smiley-face tattoo on his wrist.

It is understood that Raikkonen mostly holidayed on an island off the coast of Malaysia after the Australian grand prix.

Asked what the significance of his new tattoo was, Kimi told reporters on Thursday: "Nothing, nothing."

Another reporter asked if it was permanent.

"I don't know," Raikkonen answered uncomfortably. "You will find out later on."


Kolles quiet as Sepang protest rolls on
(GMM)  Colin Kolles gave little away at Sepang when a gaggle of determined reporters pressed the team principal for a comment about Spyker's protest against the Toro Rosso squad.

"The situation is very clear and soon it will be very clear to the whole world," he said.

Kolles added: "It is about rules which must be obeyed.  We will see what happens."

Thursday, however, passed without a decision from the stewards about the official protest, and morning practice for the Malaysian grand prix kicked off on Friday with both Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed in action.

But it has emerged that Spyker's new evidence about the alleged illegality of the STR2 single seater could be damning.

The Dutch squad has reportedly given the stewards detailed drawings of the 2007 Toro Rosso single seater -- with 'Red Bull Racing' logos clearly visible.

STR had clearly anticipated trouble by sending a lawyer with the race team to Malaysia this weekend.

Stewards, meanwhile, visited the STR garage on Thursday night and departed with car parts.  Toro Rosso staff, too - including new technical director Giorgio Ascanelli - were observed approaching the stewards' quarters with additional car parts.

A spokesman for the manufacturers' group GPMA indicated that other teams are concerned about the whole 'car sharing' issue.

Xander Heijnen told AP: "You're changing the DNA of the sport completely.

"If it is no longer the pinnacle, if it's no longer extremely difficult to get in and even more difficult to survive, then what is it?"


Ferrari changed floor design
(GMM) BMW figures denied that any modifications had to be made to their floor design ahead of the Malaysian grand prix.

It is certain, however, that Ferrari is running a slightly altered underbody for the beginning of Friday practice at Sepang, after separate confirmations from Felipe Massa and designer Aldo Costa.

Renault and Honda were also using designs with the offending flexible springs in Melbourne last month that had to be changed, we have learned.

"The only effect (the modification will have) is that our floor could now break over the curbs," Costa told the German specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

Brazilian driver Massa, meanwhile, told reporters in Malaysia that he tested the new underbody last week and noticed "no difference" compared with the former specification.


Rahal’s new livery
To the right is a photo of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal's Champ Car in its new Medi | Zone livery as unveiled in Las Vegas.


PKV Racing enters its fifth season
PKV Racing enters its fifth season of Champ Car competition, this weekend at the historic season opening Vegas Grand Prix, April 6-8, on the streets of downtown Las Vegas, looking to establish itself as a perennial championship contender during the 2007 Champ Car World Series season.

PKV Racing is co-owned by successful venture capitalists Kevin Kalkhoven, who also co-owns the Champ Car World Series, and 1996 Series Champion Jimmy Vasser.  Kalkhoven established PKV Racing in 2003 as PK Racing.  In 2004, Vasser joined the team in the dual roles of owner and driver.  Over the last three seasons they have built PKV Racing into a contender for podium finishes as well as a resident of the top-10 in the championship standings. 

For 2007, the team will feature several new additions and changes.  Veteran motorsports manager Mark Johnson, who officially took the helm of the team last year in Toronto (the sixth race of the season), begins his first full season as General Manager of PKV Racing.   Joining Johnson are two new drivers, Neel Jani and Tristan Gommendy, a new Technical Manager, David Brzozowski and a new Crew Chief, Greg Senerius.  In addition, new sponsors Red Bull, Pay By Touch, MegaSpirea and iRise join existing sponsors Bell Micro, now in its third season with the team and Gulfstream, which enters it fourth year of sponsorship, to give PKV Racing a new look and place the team on a solid footing as it pursues its goal of moving to the next level and challenging for a championship.

PKV Racing will field a two-car effort in 2007 with Jani piloting the #21 Red Bull-Gulfstream PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone machine and Gommendy taking the wheel of the #22 Pay By Touch-MegaSpirea PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone entry. More at PKVracing.com.


Can anyone catch Bourdais?
About the only thing that isn't a mystery at the start of the Champ Car World Series season is who will emerge at the end as its champion.

In a series where change has become the norm, the lone constant has been Sebastien Bourdais winning races and championship trophies. There is little reason to suspect the Frenchman won't make it four titles in a row in a season that begins Sunday on the streets of Las Vegas.

Bourdais, 28, won half of last year's 14 races and in his four-year career at Newman/Haas Racing has won 23 of his 59 starts (39 percent).

In a way, though, that dominance has served to devalue his achievement in the eyes of many because it brings into question the depth of competition in a series seemingly in constant turmoil.

"It's very clear that Champ Car gets no major recognition," Bourdais said. "It's also pretty clear the series is struggling when the week before the first race we didn't even have a driver lineup ready yet. All these last-minute deals, it's scary when you think about it. 

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Sheets named SCCA Pro Racing Director
SCCA Pro Racing announced today that it has hired Tish Sheets as Director of Business Affairs and Operations.

With the continued growth of SCCA Pro Racing arose the need for an expanded operations role to manage the organization’s business enterprises. SCCA Pro Racing President Bob Wildberger sought out Sheets for her experience in cultivating business relationships within the motorsports industry.

“SCCA Pro Racing holds such tremendous potential for growth, it became obvious we needed someone to develop our corporate partnerships,” Wildberger said. “Tish has been a key player in several important business initiatives at NASCAR. Her experience and enthusiasm will be an asset to SCCA Pro Racing as we move forward.”

Sheets comes to SCCA Pro Racing after nearly a decade of experience with NASCAR, where she served as Senior Manager of Business Planning and Special Projects before being named Director of Diversity & Special Projects in 2004. In addition to being NASCAR’s primary contact to the media, industry and corporate America regarding its award-winning diversity program, Sheets was also responsible for the development of NASCAR’s Executive Steering Committee, which includes top level executives from Fortune 500 companies.

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Racing News

Panther Racing launches Panther Education Center
Three new words are affixed outside the front of the Panther Racing shop: Panther Education Center.

Those words represent the start of a new educational program for science, math, physics and engineering that is being launched by the IndyCar Series team. The program is the brainchild of Panther co-owner John Barnes and his wife, Jane.

"We had this idea, and we're building this program," John Barnes said.

Said Jane Barnes: "The curriculum has been written for middle grade students. It's a very important part of what we're doing. Students will learn about science and logistics in a very interesting way. The architectural drawing has been completed. It will operate something like a field trip, with pre-trip information. They'll spend three hours here, and they'll have post-trip information and use our Web site from the classroom and do some of the things they do at the center.

"We've had calls from all over, and we're really excited about it. The program will be starting in the fall, and the facility will be ready for booking in 2008."

Panther already has a relationship with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), with three interns working with the team.

"We have a great relationship with IUPUI," John Barnes said. "They want to take this road show to each race and show gifted students what interns are doing in an effort to get them to come to IUPUI."

On the racing side, drivers Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura think they have their best chance to win at Indy for the 91st Indianapolis 500. Meira finished second two years ago, and he's in his second season with Panther.

"I've been thinking about that for two years," Meira said. "The win is going to come when it's going to come. It didn't, but it will. Thanks to Delphi, we're going to be able to focus more on development than just getting to the track. I've finished second (here). I only have one more place to get."

2004 Chase Rookie of the Year Matsuura figures the Panther opportunity is the best he's had at Indy.

"In 2004, I had a great month of May," he said. "I had really good speed. But I think this will be a good car for Indianapolis. I have a good owner in John Barnes, a good teammate in Vitor and a good team. We're going for the top five."  More at Indanapolis Motor Speedway.


NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth earns his wings
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth is familiar with maneuvering around a race track and through the air, but today the Cambridge, Wis. native experienced a new kind of sensation.

As part of his NASCAR Winner’s Circle appearance with Texas Motor Speedway Kenseth spent the day at the American Airlines Training Academy in Fort Worth learning the ropes of piloting a Boeing 737 aircraft. Kenseth, who is a pilot himself and owns a Learjet, was in awe with the simulated experience.

“I doubt that I’ve ever hit the concrete that lightly,” Kenseth said. “It’s a tough comparison between flying an airplane and driving a race car. You have to be much more precise in an airplane then you do in a race car, and some of my driving gets pretty sloppy on Sundays. You can’t get away with that in an airplane.”

After receiving some initial training, Kenseth was handed over the controls of the 737 simulator as he took off from Chicago O’Hare International Airport and ascended through the clouds. Once airborne, Kenseth was faced with the challenges of simulated weather conditions such as thunderstorms and cloudy skies as he took the helm of the aircraft simulator.

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GMI 8 Car Superteam Ready
After a five month off-season, Greisiger Motorsports is set to take to the track for the 2007 F2000 Championship Series, which kicks off at Virginia International Raceway on April 13th. The opening round of the 2007 season will see Greisiger Motorsports, now in its 11th season, fielding eight cars. Lining up alongside long-time team drivers Douglas Kniffin and Brendan Puderbach will be Charles Finelli, Thom Reilly, Christopher Gumprecht, Len Amato, Ric Baribeault, and Chris Burke.

The team’s seasoned drivers with over a decade of race experience will mentor a rookie program to develop a feeder system to meet the challenge of the team’s future endeavors. Shared setup and technique opinions have proven to be a formula for success in multi-car teams at all levels of racing. The Greisiger Motorsports program has been organized into “flights” overseen by a team leader and supported with data analysis of a DAG. Special data programs have been prepared to support the mutli-car race element examination. Cross examination between team leaders will provide final coordination to optimize the results.

The #13 entry, driven by New York native Kniffin, will return with sponsorship from Triad Magnetics. Joining Triad on Kniffin’s Zetec will be Pioneer Magnetics and A+ Graphics. Kniffin is coming off a strong run at Summit Point in November and is hoping to carry the momentum into 2007, he is vocal about the 2007 campaign "We anticipate a challenging season in the F-2000 series with regard to the new equalization program. The Triad Magnetics entry will be competitive and we will focus on a championship bid from the first race weekend at VIR. It is a short season finishing in August so we have to finish well every race. Preparation and consistency should be rewarded with great results!"

Rookie driver Christopher Gumprecht will be contesting the #97 Zetec. Gumprecht recently got back from a week-long testing program in Florida where he was able to familiarize and adapt himself to the #97 chassis. Gumprecht has a long history of driving sports cars, but this year will mark the 27 year olds first attempt at fenderless racing.  More at Greisiger Motorsports.


McIntosh back for A1 Team Canada
A1 Team Canada will welcome back race-winner Sean McIntosh from Coquitlam, B.C., for the final two rounds of the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport starting with next weekend's penultimate meeting at the Shanghai International Circuit in China, 13th-15th April, followed by the season finale at Brands Hatch Circuit in the United Kingdom, 27th-29th April.

The 21-year-old will return to race for Canada at both events while Québec's Kevin Lacroix will continue to undertake his rookie duties for the team, the 18-year-old participating in the Friday morning 'Rookie-Only' sessions in China and the United Kingdom, as previously fulfilled by the Star Mazda stand-out in South Africa and Mexico.

McIntosh will make his third start of the current A1GP season in Shanghai having participated earlier in Rounds 4 and 5 respectively in Malaysia and Indonesia, a top-five Feature race finish at Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit the highlight.

Round 5's return to Sentul in Indonesia last December saw McIntosh race as the defending champion having scored Canada's first and currently only A1GP victory to-date at the corresponding round in the inaugural 2005-06 A1GP season.  Unfortunately for Sean, a repeat performance wasn't on the cards this time round, the Canadian team just outside the points in the Sprint race with a retirement thwarting hopes of a points paying finish in the later Feature event.

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Grand Prix of Houston kicks off construction
HOUSTON - The Grand Prix of Houston is now just 15 days away, and officials kicked off the final phase of the construction effort today with a groundbreaking ceremony at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park, which will host the Grand Prix on April 20-22. Grand Prix officials were joined by representatives of the American Le Mans Series and the Houston-based Risi Competizione Race Team, including driver Nic Johnssen.

During the ceremony, Johnssen piloted a Ferrari 360GT racecar through a giant ribbon in front of the Budweiser Bridge for a "turbo charged ribbon cutting" to officially open JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park for the upcoming Grand Prix. Over the next two weeks, four of the temporary bridges will be erected, more than 1,600 concrete blocks weighing 9,000 lbs each will be put in place, diamond grinding will be performed on certain areas to smooth the racing surface, and three miles of fencing will be installed to create the temporary street circuit where some of the best drivers in the world will compete during the Grand Prix.

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George Lucas named Grand Marshal of Toyota GP of Long Beach
Legendary filmmaker George Lucas will serve as Grand Marshal for the Sunday, April 15 festivities at the April 13-15 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Lucas, whose “Star Wars” films have achieved classic status with lifetime revenues approaching $20 billion, will preside over pre-race ceremonies beginning at 12:15 p.m., prior to the 1 p.m. start of the Champ Car World Series race.
His second Grand Marshal stint of 2007 – he also was Grand Marshal for the recent Rose Parade - happens one day after he participates in the 31st Annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, slated to get the green flag at 11:45 a.m. Saturday.  And, it comes during the 30th Anniversary of the release of the original “Star Wars” in 1977!

The prolific Lucas also wrote and produced the Indiana Jones adventure series, and is currently at work writing and producing the fourth and final installment of the Indiana Jones series, scheduled to be released in May of 2008.

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Hugh Hefner named Grand Marshal of Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Legendary Playboy founder Hugh Hefner will be surrounded by a bevy of female stars of film, television and sports when he assumes the role of Grand Marshal of this year’s Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race on Saturday, April 14, as part of the 33rd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

It couldn’t be a better time for the venerable ladies’ man to lead the parade, since, for the first time ever, women make up almost half the field of 18 in this historic, 10-lap race for charity through a 1.97-mile street circuit through the downtown streets of Long Beach in Southern California.  The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, one of six featured events during race weekend, gives fans a chance to see their favorite stars duke it out on the track during exciting action-packed competition.

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Track News

Repaving, new tunnel top list at Darlington
Track officials announced that the Board of Directors of International Speedway Corporation (ISC) has approved more than $10 million in funding for capital projects at Darlington Raceway. Total estimated spending for the projects represents the largest one-time capital investment in the 58-year history of the storied facility. Scheduled projects include repaving of the racing surface and aprons, and the addition of concrete pit stalls. A new infield access tunnel, large enough to accommodate race car haulers as well as motorcoaches, will be constructed at the west end of the track. Projects also include suite renovations and the creation of additional fan parking areas. The track solicited input on the upcoming repaving project from several current drivers, along with team owners and engineers and representatives from NASCAR and the Goodyear Tire Company. Work will begin in the summer of 2007, following the Dodge Avenger 500 weekend May 10-12. On Saturday, May 12, Darlington will host Cup Series racing for the 58th consecutive season. The Dodge Avenger 500 will be run under the lights in its entirety. Tickets for all events are on sale now. For more information, call the Raceway ticket hotline toll-free at 866.459.RACE. Darlington Raceway PR

track news

Dale Jr. happy TMS fixed dip
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that he's excited that Texas Motor Speedway has repaired the dip that Earnhardt complained about in the week leading up to the Dickies 500 in November. Earnhardt won't know how that area between Turns 1 and 2 feels until he practices next Friday in preparation for the Samsung 500. "I told them if they could fix that they'd have a better racetrack," said Earnhardt, on a conference call after testing the Car of Tomorrow in Richmond. "[TMS president Eddie Gossage] was upset I used the media to tell him that, but sometimes you guys got the loudest microphone." Dallas Morning News


Reliving St. Petersburg
Audi dominated, Porsche and Corvette returned to Victory Circle, and Risi Competizione and Ferrari kept their winning ways going at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. A recap of the second round of the 2007 American Le Mans Series season is now available as a podcast from americanlemans.com.

Among the highlights include Allan McNish’s furious charge to the front, the troubles of the three Acura-powered teams and the battle of attrition in GT2. All 2007 recaps are presented by Audi.

The url is http://www.americanlemans.com/Emedia/Podcasts/AudiPresentstheSt.PeteRecap.MP4


Champ Car takes to the streets in glamorous Las Vegas
INDIANAPOLIS – With seventeen brand-new Champ Cars set to take the grid on one of six new venues to grace the 2007 schedule, the Champ Car World Series finds itself on the brink of a future that may be even brighter than the glitz and glamour that surrounds the season-opening Vegas Grand Prix.

The series is set to embark on a groundbreaking season that features a deep and talented driver roster, new races in major world markets that includes Las Vegas and Phoenix as well as four coveted international destinations, a lineup of event and team sponsors that will continue to grow throughout the season and attendance numbers that rank among the best in all of sports. The Vegas event will serve as a glittering launchpad for the season, complete with big-name concerts, charity galas featuring Jay Leno and Jon Bon Jovi as well as poker tournaments and street parties for the fans.

“This has been a very important off-season for the future of the Champ Car World Series, and we feel that the series is positioned to have a breakout year,” said Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. “We are introducing a new car that represents the cutting edge of American technology, have added tremendous new events to a schedule that already features many of the world’s top markets and we have a sponsor base that continues to expand. We couldn’t be more excited about the prospects for the 2007 season.”

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Bourdais begins quest for 4th straight title
LAS VEGAS --- The 2007 Champ Car World Series season-opening Vegas Grand Prix will unveil many new story lines and newly-renamed Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) plans to contribute to the list.  McDonald’s® driver Sebastien Bourdais will attempt to earn an unprecedented fourth consecutive title but that quest could be even more difficult with the arrival of the first new racing chassis in five years as well as five new venues on the 16-race schedule.

“We obviously hope it is going to be possible for the McDonald’s team to capture our fourth straight championship but we definitely know it will be hard this year,” said Bourdais, who has amassed a 39 percent win average over his four seasons in the series.  “Everyone has the same equipment and you really can’t change much on the car so for a team that likes to develop the car and experiment, this is a disadvantage.  There are a lot of new venues where we don’t have the advantage of experience and there hasn’t been much testing so we start the season with a fairly unknown car and we won’t be allowed a ton of tests during the season.  We can only run 600 miles, that’s it.  In the end, we hope that consistency will once again be our strength, and after four years in the series, I hope to be able to lean on my experience.

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Coulthard talks about cockpit safety upgrade
David Coulthard said at the Thursday press conference in Malaysia that a new cockpit protection device could be put in place as early as next season. Safety Concerns were raised after the Grand Prix in Melbourne where David Coulthard's air born Red Bull Racing car was close to hitting Alexander Wurz's head as the car went over the top of the Austrian's Williams.
"My recommendation would be that any discussion with the Technical Working Group is brought forward," said Coulthard. Inevitably in these situations it is when it is brought home how easy it would be to have a serious incident, then it moves it up the importance list."

"When I spoke to Patrick Head after the event, he suggested it was a couple of years away before they might look at doing something, but maybe now it could be possible to have an improved cockpit protection for next season already, so that is something to be discussed and agreed and we, as the GPDA, can only encourage them to do that and see what the result is," he added.


Malaysia GP: Thursday Press Conference

Q: A question for you all: first of all, you’ve obviously tested here for the first time. What difference has it made to you and what difference has it made to your teams?

Takuma SATO: As a new team, we’ve hardly ever tested over the last year and over the winter we were able to do some testing, but it was still very little compared to other teams. So coming here, especially after we’d just been able to shakedown the SL7 in Melbourne, and we didn’t have a proper test before that, so it was very useful to come here and do the test, and obviously the tyres testing and the two specifications which was a real surprise during the race in Melbourne, so it was good to learn more, and also from a purely driving point of view, it’s great training. I drove one and a half days in this extreme temperature. I was happy with the result so I think we are a lot happier than they were before.

Nelson PIQUET Jnr: It was a good experience. Unfortunately I didn’t get to drive a lot because we had a number of issues with the car so I did about 30 laps. I would have liked to have done a little bit more. But I think the team learned a lot throughout the week and the car got better. I did some good laps at the end on the Friday, and the team just improved. It was the hottest test that we’ve had during the year, including Bahrain and I think we had good information, and it was a good test. We learned quite a lot for the race.

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Conquest team confirms Halliday
The Conquest Racing Team will be kicking-off their fifth season of Champ Car World Series competition when they take to the 2.44-mile street course at the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. To make this season debut a memorable one, the Champ Car team is relying on freshly signed driver Matt Halliday who will be making his first appearance in a Champ Car race when he gets behind the wheel of the 42 BELOW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone Conquest entry.

“I can’t believe we’re already starting our fifth year of Champ Car competition and our 11th as a team,” said team owner Eric Bachelart. “Every year seems like a new beginning but this season with a new car and a new look it really feels like the start of a new era. Then again, there is plenty of continuity when you look at the team members, from our engineering staff to our mechanics, most of them have been here since the beginning through the good times and the more difficult ones. I think our performance in pre-season testing is a testament to their hard work.”

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Spyker launch protest against Toro Rosso UPDATE (GMM) Long after darkness fell at the Sepang circuit near Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, stewards were yet to rule on the legality of Toro Rosso's controversial STR2 single seater.

The long wait centered around Spyker's official protest at the scene of the Malaysian grand prix, which was lodged with a letter in the moments after the normal scrutineering process.

As the trip back to hotels beckoned for the personnel and journalists in Malaysia for round two of the world championship, the stewards' decision is now expected prior to the start of free practice on Friday.

The morning session kicks off at 10am local time.

04/05/07 (GMM) F1's car sharing quarrel is back in the spotlight, after Spyker on Thursday lodged an official protest about the legality of the Toro Rosso.

Although a similar protest against Super Aguri to Australian stewards last month was thrown out on a technicality, it is understood that Spyker's complaint about Toro Rosso after scrutineering at Sepang centers on supposed new evidence showing that the car is no more than a copy of the 2007 Red Bull.

Led by Colin Kolles, who in Malaysia was spotted in animated conversation with Super Aguri counterpart Daniele Audetto, Spyker launched arbitration proceedings against both teams in the days after the Australian GP.

Thursday's protest against Faenza based Toro Rosso cost Spyker $2000.


Williams team adds AirAsia sponsorship
The AT&T Williams team today confirmed a new partnership with AirAsia, the most successful low cost carrier in South East Asia, in the run up to this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Formed in 2001, AirAsia is one of the region’s corporate tigers and a leading ASEAN brand, operating 2,500 flights per week to 80 routes across its 52 Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 fleet to and from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, China, Macau, Singapore, Cambodia and the Philippines. AirAsia is one of the biggest operators in the region with global ambitions and is currently the largest purchaser of 150 brand new Airbus 320 across the Asia Pacific region.

The phenomenal success of AirAsia and its low cost, no frills customer philosophy has seen the airline expand its horizons both throughout the Asia Pacific region and with a view to opening more international routes. The airline has formed a partnership with the AT&T Williams team to augment its sponsorship of Manchester United in order to communicate the brand to a global audience.

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Locatelli undergoes successful facial surgery UPDATE Roberto Locatelli has been moved out of intensive care at the Bellaria hospital in Bologna according to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.  Daniele Bandiera, general director of the Piaggo group which owns Gilera, said: "The news coming from Bologna is encouraging, Roberto is already talking about going back to racing.  We are with Roberto and we are happy he will spend Easter at home. Things are going in the right direction."

04/03/07 In excellent news from the Bellaria Hospital in Bologna, an operation on the facial fractures suffered by former 125cc World Champion Roberto Locatelli at Jerez was successfully performed yesterday. The Metis Gilera 250cc rider’s surgery was conducted by Doctor Cocchi, an expert in such procedures.

Although MotoGP riders may seem to be ruthless competitors, away from the track there is a strong bond between those who fight for victory on Sunday afternoons. Aside from public displays of well-wishing at the Gran Premio bwin.com de España immediately after the race from riders such as Jorge Lorenzo, Marco Melandri, Alex Debon and Marco Simoncelli, this week World Champion Nicky Hayden also passed on his regards to the popular Italian and former MotoGP star Max Biaggi displayed a “Get well soon” message on the grid before race one of the World Superbike round at Donington.

Locatelli’s countryman Andrea Dovizioso was able to support his friend in person yesterday, visiting ‘Loca’ before his operation. The veteran rider is now able to breathe without assistance and is able to speak, although he does not remember anything  about the accident at Jerez.


No change to BMW floor in Malaysia - Heidfeld
(GMM)  BMW's Nick Heidfeld has denied that the German squad had to modify its car following a change in the floor flexibility tests for the Malaysian GP.

"For us, there is no new system," 29-year-old Heidfeld told reporters on Thursday at Sepang.

It was thought that BMW-Sauber and Ferrari were most affected by the FIA's clarification, after McLaren unofficially protested the design to the FIA following the season opening Melbourne race.

World champion Fernando Alonso suggested that even if McLaren's rivals have modified their cars, it is unlikely to drastically alter the hierarchy in Malaysia.

"Maybe they had some advantage there," said the McLaren driver on Thursday, referring to Australia, "but I don't think it will now be a change like day and night."

Alonso insisted that he is not surprised that Ferrari is currently dominating the pecking order in formula one.

He said: "For us it has been a big change after a bad season in 2006.  So I think it is quite normal we are not 100 percent like Ferrari."

TV News

USA TV reminders for Friday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com

Formula 1 Practice Malaysia
2:00am-3:30am (L) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup -High Def Goody's Cool Orange 500 Martinsville
3:00am-5:30am (R) HDNet
IRL Indy Pro Series St. Petersburg, FL
4:30pm-5:30pm (3/31 & 4/1/07) ESPN2
NASCAR Busch Final Practice Nashville
5:30pm-6:30pm ESPN2
6:30pm-7:00pm ESPN2
Formula 1 Plus Australian Grand Prix
11:30pm-12:30am SPEED

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


Champ Car competitors face adjustments
Change abounds in the Champ Car World Series, which begins its season Sunday in Las Vegas instead of Long Beach, now the second stop on the schedule. Two European circuits have been added to the mix, marking the series' first trip there in four years. Also, the series boasts a revamped points system and a new chassis package.

The question is: Will the latter two modifications affect change atop the standings? Sebastien Bourdais must adapt to the Cosworth-powered Panoz DP01 chassis like his peers but is coming off his record-tying third consecutive driver's championship with all signs pointing to four of a kind.

Just a few drivers need to raise their games a notch to prevent the series from becoming racing's version of Tiger Woods vs. the field. Five-time winner A.J. Allmendinger left for NASCAR, leaving series runner-up Justin Wilson and 2003 champion Paul Tracy to challenge Bourdais. That won't be easy, considering Bourdais remains hungry.  More at USA Today

British F3

Carlin ready to race in British F3
Championship winning British F3 team Carlin Motorsport will be back on track this weekend, for the first race of the 2007 season at Oulton Park. It will be the team’s first race with Mercedes engines, after several successful seasons with Honda power. With a five drivers in the championship class, Carlin has one of its strongest ever driver line-ups.

Maro Engel and Mario Moraes rejoin Carlin for a second season, while Formula Renault graduate Sam Bird, and Formula BMW UK Champion Niall Breen make their British F3 debuts this weekend. 2005 South American F3 Champion Alberto Valerio also enters his first race with the Carlin team. 

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Highlights from Las Vegas Minardi unveiling
On Wednesday in Las Vegas the Minardi Team USA Champ Car team unveiled their 2007 livery to the media. Below we provide you with the highlights of what was said as well as some photos from the event:

Robert Doornbos

  • Is still under contract with F1 and will travel back to Europe for testing duties when the Champ Car schedule allows.
  • Says the Panoz is a big improvement over the Lola. He says one of the biggest improvements is the paddle shifter which he says shaves time of the lap times.
  • Biggest difference between his F-1 car and the Champ Car is the weight. He says due to the weight the car does not turn as fast and brake as quickly. He says the power in the Champ Car is just as good.
  • He says he feels very comfortable in the car, but still has to learn all the new tracks. He said when he was in Europe he would use Playstation to learn new tracks but cannot find the Champ Car track so he will have to learn on the go.
  • He is looking forward to going to Zolder and has many friends, family and fans there. He says it will be a big event.

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Two city races in one week for Audi
  • American Le Mans Series in Long Beach and Houston
  • Audi R10 TDI goes to California undefeated
  • 2,700 miles across the United States

The American Le Mans Series is moving along at a rapid pace: With Long Beach (California) and Houston (Texas) coming up, as many as two city races are on the agenda within just one week – putting the Audi R10 TDI, which has remained unbeaten so far, to the test yet again.
By claiming a one-two victory in St. Petersburg (Florida) Audi proved that the revolutionary diesel-powered sportscar is also capable of winning on a street course. The circuits in Long Beach and Houston, however, have different characteristics than the track in St. Petersburg. This means that the Audi Sport North America team is facing two other big challenges.
The drivers and technical crews have to master a particularly tough task in Long Beach: Before the qualifying, the teams have merely 45 minutes of practice to familiarize themselves with the circuit that is new to all Audi drivers. The race lasts only 1:40 hours, making it the shortest in the history of the American Le Mans Series until today.

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Latest F1 news in brief
Michelin to appeal court decision over FIA tender
Valencia moves closer to GP deal
Hamilton - I won't defer to champion Alonso
Wurz 3cm from disaster - investigation
Renault chief denies Sepang 'breakthrough'
Rosberg, Stewart, cautious about F1 night racing
Gascoyne rules out quick shift gearbox for Spyker
Bodywork saga won't slow Ferrari - Heidfeld
Red Bull engine supply will improve - Renault's Lom

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