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Interview with Memo Gidley Interview with Memo GidleyJohn Hammer brings you this week's edition of Pit Pass - An interview with American Grand-Am driver Memo Gidley.  On this week's show Memo and John talk about his crash in the Grand-Am race at Long Beach that left him pretty sore, the way Playboy uses their motorsports sponsorship, the Champ Car / IRL merger and the difference between Grand-Am and the ALMS. Audio Page
Solid test for CTE Racing - HVM at Portland Solid test for CTE Racing - HVM at PortlandCTE Racing-HVM’s Nelson Philippe  and rookie ‘Speedy’ Dan Clarke showed their competitive edge by finishing ninth and tenth at the two day Champ Car test at Portland International Raceway last week.

Nelson Philippe (#4 CTE Racing – HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had a solid run on the challenging 1.969 – mile road course finishing ninth in a 17-driver field. Philippe posted a best lap time of 57.680 seconds and was optimistic after the two-day regiment, “The test was definitely positive for us. We are still lacking speed but we made several steps in the right direction. The team and I tried several adjustments to the car, some were good, some not so good, some of the information we think will help us at other tracks even though it may not help at Portland, so we really got the most out of our test day and stayed within the top-ten, so I am pleased.”  He is also pleased with the continuing development of his relationship with his new team, “this is only our third time working together and I am very happy with my team.  My engineer and I are working very well together and Dan and I are developing a great relationship. When I was out of the car I would help him and vice versa, he would give me information as well, a strong relationship with your teammate is very important and I can see Dan and I are going to have a good season together. “Speedy Dan” is really speedy, he is going to make me work hard and I couldn’t be happier about that.”  zzzz

Rookie Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing – HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is proving speedy is more than a nickname, he posted a best lap time of 58.346 at test, the second of his new Champ Car career, and was the quickest all seven rookies that took to the course on day one, he finished the test tenth overall.  Clarke commented on his progress, “The test was hard work and I am happy that we accomplished a lot as a team, and that it was also a very good opportunity for me to familiarize myself with the car on a road course where we compete. The Portland track is fast and flowing, I enjoyed it, and I like the fact that there were no crazy barriers on either side of me all the way around the circuit! Long Beach was the second time I have competed on a street circuit, so it felt good to get back to what I am used to. Our times were consistent, both Nelson and I ran in the top-ten throughout the test and I was the fastest Rookie on the first day, which is a good benchmark for me. I am really excited to return to this circuit and I am also anxiously awaiting my first go at the oval in Milwaukee, I’ve never driven on oval, lots of round a bouts but never an oval and I am looking forward to it!”

CTE-HVM returned to their Indianapolis headquarters to prepare for Clarke’s test at the Milwaukee Mile just before round 2 of the 2006 Champ Car World Series, the inaugural Grand Prix of Houston at Reliant Park, May 11-13, 2006. CTE Racing-HVM

MF1 Racing hires Del Monte MF1 Racing hires Del MonteMidland Formula 1 Racing Limited is pleased to announce that Fabrizio Del Monte has joined the team in a test and reserve role.

The 26-year-old native of Latina, Italy, tested successfully with the team at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, in December 2005.

"We are very happy to welcome Fabrizio to the team," commented MF1 Racing Managing Director Colin Kolles. "He demonstrated considerable pace and know-how during his time with us in Jerez last year, and we look forward to seeing more of his potential at a future Grand Prix weekend."

Fabrizio Del Monte said, "I am very grateful to Mr. Kolles and the entire Midland organization for providing me with this opportunity. I really enjoyed the time I spent testing with the team testing last winter and I'm confident that I can do a good job for them. They are making good progress and hopefully I can help them develop the car even further." zzzz

DATE OF BIRTH: December 5TH, 1980
BORN: Latina, Italy
RESIDES: Latina, Italy
HEIGHT: 1.70 M
WEIGHT: 64 kg
SPOKEN LANGUAGES: Italian and English

1996 - 1998 - Karting - 1st overall, Italian Championship
1999 - Formula Campus - 5th overall, with four podiums
2000 - Formula Renault Italian Championship - 6th overall, with three podiums and one pole
2000 - Formula Renault European Championship - one podium
2000 - Formula Renault Winter Series - 3rd overall, with one victory and two podiums
2001 - Formula 3 Germany
2002 - Formula 3000 Europe
2003 - Formula 3000 Europe - 2nd overall, with one victory and four podiums
2003 - Formula 1 test with Minardi Team (Vallelunga, Italy)
2004 - Formula 3000 Europe - 2nd overall, with three victories, three podiums and one pole
2005 - Champ Car World Series - three races: Long Beach (USA) Surfers Paradise (AUS) and Mexico City (MEX)
2005 - Formula 1 test with MF1 Racing (Jerez de la Frontera, Spain) MF1 Racing

Cosmo to team with McDowell Cosmo to team with McDowellWith Memo Gidley (right) on the sidelines for the next few races due to an injury sustained during the morning warm up for the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach, the team announced earlier today that Guy Cosmo will slide behind the wheel for this weekend’s race at Virginia International Raceway. Guy Cosmo, one of the most successful and versatile young racing talents, will join Michael McDowell behind the wheel of the popular No.19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype. “I’ve known Guy for about three years,” stated Rob Finlay, Owner/Driver of Finlay Motorsports. 

“When I first became involved in racing Guy was driving for BGB Motorsports and he really helped me develop my driving skills.  He spent several hours walking various tracks with me when Michael (McDowell) wasn’t available so when Memo was hurt in Long Beach I thought why not give him this opportunity.” Cosmo’s racing titles, including the 2005 American Le Mans Series Rookie of the Year, along with the fact that he tested with the Finlay Motorsports team in 2004 played a key role in the team’s decision. “I’m thrilled to be given this opportunity to compete with a team of this caliber,” said Guy Cosmo.  “It’s unfortunate to see Memo injured and we all wish him a quick and safe recovery.  I’m honored to have been selected to fill in for Memo, and hope to make him and the team proud in the process.  Finlay Motorsports is a great family of people and I’m happy to help at a time like this.  Michael and I raced against each other in the past, we’re great friends and we’re looking for a great finish this weekend.”

The Mooresville, North Carolina based team, currently sits in third position in Grand American Rolex Series Team Points and looks to make up some ground this weekend on the 3.27-mile road circuit. “It’s going to be a tough weekend without Memo,” said McDowell.  “He’s such a great asset to this team, not only as a driver but a leader too.  VIR (Virginia International Raceway) is a great track, we’ve run well there in the past and the Crawford’s always seem to have a great balance particularly at this track.   Hopefully Guy and I will be able to rack up some points so that when Memo gets back we can go after this Championship.”

Forsythe team Portland test report Forsythe team Portland test reportLast week a group of Champ Car team transporters left the downtown streets of Long Beach, heading north up I-5 for a two-day open test at Portland International Raceway.  With majestic Mt. Hood looming nearby, the teams took the geographical opportunity to work on setups and strategies for the Portland race, coming up in June for the fifth stop on the 15-racing calendar as Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Forsythe teammates Paul Tracy and Mario Dominguez both ran a substantial number of laps over the two days, although Dominguez’ second day was cut short early in the afternoon by a clutch issue just as the track was at its quickest while Tracy elected to stop running later in the day as cold and windy weather moved in.

Paul Tracy - #3
INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone/Lola

Fourth fastest time in Portland Test – 57.663s/122.616mph/197.331kph

“For some reason the track here in Portland has always been difficult for me.  I’ve never had many good finishes here in the race and always struggled to find a consistent setup, but the last two days were very successful.  On the second day we made a little discovery in the setup and that small change made a big difference.  We stopped a bit early because the weather was going downhill and we expected the track to deteriorate, but overall a really good two days and I’m pretty optimistic that when we come back in June we’re going to be very competitive.”  zzzz

Mario Dominguez - #7
INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone/Lola

Sixth fastest time in Portland Test – 57.731s/122.471mph/197.097kph

“Overall it was a good test; we kept getting faster and improving the car.  We managed to get the car very consistent over long runs so I think that we’ll be in very good shape for the race.  Unfortunately on the second day we had a mechanical issue that ended our day a little early but overall I’m satisfied.  Portland is a great place to visit and I always love to come here, so I’m looking forward to the race in June.”

Phil LePan - Team Manager

“It was a good test.  We managed to do a lot of setup work with both cars and found a few new things that should be very beneficial for the race.  Although this track changes a lot depending on the weather and the conditions, it’s always good to get to test at a track were we actually race.  A big plus from this test was the fact that Michael Cannon (new team engineer) and the rest of the team continued improving their relationship. Mike is getting a good feel for the tools he has at his disposal and that’s going to pay off as the season progresses.”

The team now returns to its base in Indianapolis and next travels to the fourth-largest market in the United States as the turbocharged roar of the Champ Car World Series returns to Houston, Texas for a challenging temporary circuit on the grounds of Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome, May 11-13.  With the race scheduled for Saturday night under the lights and with a huge turnout of road-racing fanatics expected, the three-day festival of speed will showcase the spectacle of glowing brakes, flaming exhausts and the intense competition of Champ Car.  The race can be seen live in the USA and Canada on Speed TV at 8pm local/CT (9pm ET, 01:00 UTC – please check local listings).  Fans can also follow all the action live on the Internet using Race Director, available at the Champ Car website.  For more information, please visit the official websites of the Champ Car World Series (www.champcar.ws) and the Grand Prix of Houston (www.grandprixofhouston.com)

British GT
Scuderia wins GT race 2 Scuderia wins GT race 2The Scuderia Ecosse squad made it two wins out of two in the first rounds of the 2006 Avon Tires British GT Championship, as they drove their Ferrari 430 GT to a second win at Oulton Park. Tim Mullen and Chris Niarchos had already won in Saturday's season opening race and were followed across the line in both outings by the Team LNT Panoz Esperante.

As they crossed the line for the rolling start the Ferrari got the better of the Panoz and, apart from in the pit stops, it was never to be headed for the course of the race. Ian Flux got the Rollcentre Racing Mosler into third at the start, but the car was to drop to seventh by the time Kevin Riley passed the checkered flag. The Eclipse Mosler of Lee Caroline and Phil Keen went in the other direction; it was seventh at the start of the race and an early pitstop helped it to rise to third at the finish.

In the GTC class, the David Ashburn/Ryan Hooker Porsche began ahead, but the Chris Beighton/Jon Finnemore Marcos passed it for the lead on the second lap before the Trackspeed Porsche of Jonny Land and Matt Allison got past into second.

British GT Race 2 results
1 Ferrari 430 Tim Mullen/Chris Niarchos
2 Panoz Esperante Luke Hines/Tom Kimber-Smith
3 Mosler MT900R Phil Keen/Lee Caroline
4 Porsche 996 GT3 David Jones/Godfrey Jones
5 Marcos Mantis Chris Beighton/Jon Finnemore
6 Mosler MT900R Kevin Riley/Ian Flux
7 Porsche 996 GT3 Jonny Lang/Matt Allison
8 Porsche 996 GT3 David Ashburn/Ryan Hooker
9 Vauxhall Monaro Matt Griffin/Steve Hyde
10 Porsche 996 GT3 Alex Mortimer/Bradley Ellis

Senna wins twice at Oulton Park Senna wins twice at Oulton Park
Chris Wehrheim Returns to the Driver’s Seat Chris Wehrheim Returns to the Driver’s SeatCurrent Super Kart Illustrated #2 ICA driver, Chris Wehrheim, will be returning to the driver’s seat in two upcoming car races.  This weekend Chris will make his debut in the Skip Barber National Series at Virginia International Raceway.  This is the same track where Chris scored his first victory in the Skip Barber Midwestern Championship in 2005.

Two weekends after VIR, Chris will be traveling to Laguna Seca Raceway in California to participate in the opening round of the inaugural MX-5 Miata Cup with P1-Motorsports.

“I am really looking forward to getting back in a race car and focusing on my career,” stated Wehrheim.  “For the past few months I have focused my efforts on Rising Star Motorsports and with the success of that, I am able to make more of an effort with my racing.”

Chris has also been tearing up the track in the WKA Manufacture’s Cup for Team FMS/Safway with Adkins Speed Center.  Recent results have put Chris firmly in title contention.  Look for the redesigned www.chriswracing.com in the coming weeks.

Toro Rosso credits tires Toro Rosso credits tiresScuderia Toro Rosso's team principal Franz Tost says that Michelin tires, and not the V10 engine, are the reason for the improved performance this year.

"We are really looking forward to our home race in Imola, especially after our decent performance in Australia," said Tost. "On the basis of previous results, we expect to qualify somewhere between 10th and 15th and will fight hard on the track to see where we can go from there."

"Many people like to talk about the advantage we have with our V10 engine, but we know this is not the case," he said. "And maybe they forget that one of the main reasons for Scuderia Toro Rosso's performances is the excellent tire supply!

"Michelin did an unbelievably good job during the winter and is able to provide us with tires that work well in all different weather conditions.

"Tires can really make a big difference at Imola, and Michelin's latest compounds and constructions will improve our traction and braking performance. These are both key factors at this circuit."

Lloyd signs with AFS Racing for remainder of 2006 Lloyd signs with AFS Racing for remainder of 2006A strong debut on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., has led to a full-season deal in the Indy Pro Series for Alex Lloyd with AFS Racing.

Lloyd, who earned the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award in 2003, will drive the No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. Dallara in the remaining nine races.

The 21-year-old didn't show any rust from limited racing since 2004. He qualified second on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile course in St. Petersburg. A broken end fence, which punctured a tire, cost him two laps and led to a 10th-place finish in the first of two races. He came back in the second race to finish on the podium, improving from 10th to third in the 40-lap event.

"I am thrilled to be able to announce that I will be completing the year in the Indy Pro Series with AFS Racing," Lloyd said. "We got on so well at St. Petersburg, and it's great to continue to work together. I'm looking forward to a successful season and can't wait to get back into the car." zzzz

Team owner Gary Peterson was happy to reward Lloyd, who gave the team its highest-ever finish.

"Alex is an exceptional talent, and with Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc's sponsorship, Alex will get the break he's been working for," Peterson said.

The next challenge for Lloyd will be racing on an oval. The team is planning a private test at Kentucky Speedway on April 23 before participating in an Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 27.

"As a driver myself, I know the first time Alex walks through Gasoline Alley to the car he will be awed stepping on the hallowed grounds of the most famous raceway in the world," Peterson said. "Going into Turn 1 for the first time will be a memory he will never forget."

The Freedom 100 at Indianapolis on May 26 will be Lloyd's next race.

"Indy will be a fantastic weekend," Lloyd said. "To be racing on the same bill as the Indy 500 is something quite special. It will be a tough race given that I have no prior experience on ovals, but I'm sure I can get to grips with it quickly and am looking forward to another successful weekend."

The Indy Pro Series is the premier ladder series for drivers, teams and sponsors striving to compete in the IndyCar® Series and the Indianapolis 500. The 12-race schedule in 2006 features six races on ovals and six races on road courses, including competing on both circuits at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams compete for $3 million in prize money in cars that generate 420 horsepower and speeds in excess of 190 mph. The races are telecast to more than 88 million homes in the United States on ESPN2. IRL

US Government points blame on Hendrick US Government points blame on HendrickThe federal government says Hendrick Motorsports and the actions of its pilots are responsible for any negligence in the airplane crash that killed 10 people, including four members of the Hendrick family, Oct. 24, 2004, near Martinsville, Va.

As part of lawsuits against Hendrick Motorsports filed by widows of victims Randy Dorton and Scott Lathram, Hendrick has sued the U.S. government over the actions of the air traffic controllers because it believes that the pilots were not the sole cause of the crash. Hendrick Motorsports asks the court that the United States, which runs the Federal Aviation Administration, contribute to the paying of damages if any negligence is found for the crash.

The United States filed its response Friday in U.S. District Court in North Carolina. As expected, the government says that if the U.S. is ordered to pay damages, then "the United States demands indemnity and/or contribution from ... Hendrick Motorsports."

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a report blaming pilot error for the crash and the pilots' use of the Global Positioning System.

"Hendrick Motorsports Inc. breached its duty to the passengers ... [by] failing to provide the pilots with a current Global Positioning System, by failing to train the pilots in operating the Global Positioning System and by failing to select, train, and monitor the pilots to insure their ability to operate the aircraft safely," the U.S. claim states. NASCAR Daily Scene

Good news keeps coming for ALMS Good news keeps coming for ALMSIt has been a dynamic year for the American Le Mans Series. Announcements of new teams, new manufacturers, new corporate partners and new markets have been steady and constant for more than 12 months.

What started with Mazda’s return to world-class professional sports car racing and the Porsche factory’s return to prototype racing last spring has come full circle with Acura’s announcement Wednesday about its entry into the Series starting in 2007. When the Acura-powered LMP2 race car debuts at the 55th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring next year, another elite marque will be added to the American Le Mans Series grid.

Totaling the participation of auto, tire and engine brands, more than 20 world-class manufacturers are expected to compete in the Series for the 2007 season, a number that is far and away the most diverse collection among any racing series in the world. The quality and quantity of manufacturers present in the Series is at an all-time high. That proves that the Series’ platform of showcasing leading-edge, relevant technology on the global stage works, said President and CEO Scott Atherton.

“A year ago, we said the pipeline of content in the American Le Mans Series was refilling. One by one, that claim is coming true,” Atherton said. “The recent commitments we have received from such world-class manufacturers like Audi, Porsche, BMW, Lexus, Ferrari and now Acura proves that the American Le Mans Series is the premium brand of motorsports.”  zzzz

A little more than a year ago, the American Le Mans Series was building off a thrilling season opener at Sebring that included Mazda’s revelation that it would be back in professional sports car racing with a debut at the Grand Prix of Atlanta. That April weekend Porsche, already a strong partner of the Series, also announced its intentions to compete in P2 with Penske Racing for the full 2006 season.

Since that time, the additions of elite manufacturers and world-class teams have come at a steady clip. First came the news of BMW’s return to the Series full-time with BMW Team PTG. A few days later, Lexus announced that its factory team – Team Lexus – was bound for the American Le Mans Series in 2006. In addition, Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz joined the Series for all 10 races with two Panoz Esperante GTLMs.

The good news kept coming with the news of the revolutionary diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI, a symbol of leading-edge technology that made its world race debut by winning at Sebring. It will compete in the second half of the American Le Mans Series following the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Other items of note include new AER-powered Lola B06/10s for Dyson Racing (which sold its previous cars to fellow P1 teams Autocon Motorsports and Highcroft Racing), a new Radical SR9 for van der Steur Racing that is scheduled to debut at Petit Le Mans, Risi Competizione’s latest GT2 challenger in the Ferrari F430GT, and a pair of Aston Martin DBR9s and Saleen S7Rs for the GT1 class.

Most recent of course is Acura, which like the Series prides itself on advanced technology and world-class innovation.

“There is a reason why the world’s most elite group of manufacturers want to compete here,” Atherton said. “No other racing series in the world can match the diversity of premium manufacturers that are present in the American Le Mans Series. While many motorsports series have evolved to become ‘spec,’ with identical cars, engines, tires and other elements, we continue to embrace innovation and the development of leading-edge technology. This doesn’t apply to just our automobile manufacturers. There is also a collection of premier, world-class tire manufacturers – Michelin, Kumho, Pirelli, Yokohama and others – which are relentlessly competing with each other in every category. There isn’t another series in the world that provides the level of diversity and direct competition that the American Le Mans Series delivers.

“We have unprecedented positive momentum,” Atherton added. “With our group of teams, manufacturers, corporate partners, event organizers and fans – plus the best television package we have ever had – the American Le Mans Series is going to gain even more momentum. On top of the outstanding announcements that were made Wednesday, the good news is our best days are yet to come!” ALMS

Senna takes brilliant win at Oulton Senna takes brilliant win at OultonBruno Senna scored a brilliant race win in the first round of the Lloyds TSB Insurance British Formula 3 series at Oulton Park today. The victory was made all the sweeter for the fact that Senna, 22, had not raced at the Cheshire track before and his illustrious uncle, the late Ayrton Senna, never managed to win in F3 at Oulton.

Starting from pole position, Senna led from lights to flag and was never seriously challenged by his second-placed Double R team-mate Stephen Jelley. Jelley continued the turn of speed he has shown this weekend by setting the fastest lap of the race.

Carlin Motorsport's Oliver Jarvis, who won last year's McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, impressed by taking third on his British F3 debut, while his team-mate Maro Engel was equally impressive on his debut in fourth.

Mike Conway, also in a Double R car was fifth after passing Christian Bakkerud at the end of the last of three safety car periods. Dane Bakkerud was also passed by Dutchman Yelmer Buurman, and ended up seventh.

Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez led from start to finish to claim the spoils in the National Class. zzzz

Full report

Bruno Senna won his first ever race in British F3 in the season opener at Oulton Park.  In a race interrupted by 3 safety car periods, the Brazilian held his nerve at every restart to take a dominant lights-to-flag victory.  His Double R Racing teammate Stephen Jelley took the second spot on the podium, with Carlin Motorsport's Oliver Jarvis taking 3rd.  The National Class was won by Rodolfo Gonzalez.

At the start Senna got away best with Jelley immediately coming under pressure from Oliver Jarvis.  Jarvis took the place at Old Hall but ran wide on the exit allowing Jelley to regain the place but this squabbling allowed Senna to move ahead and by the time the cars came round to Clay Hill the Brazilian was 4 lengths ahead of his teammate. Maro Engel made a flying start with the German making up 4 places to end the first lap in 4th place, just behind his Carlin Motorsport teammate Jarvis.

As the cars came through Deer Leap the Safety Car was deployed after Dennis Retera went off on the opening lap at Shell Oils Corner.  Salvador Duran rolled slowly into the pitlane with a broken clutch, ending the Mexican's race before it really began.

The Safety Car came in at the end of lap 3 and once again Senna took the advantage to move ahead at the green flag, but it didn't last long as on the next lap the Safety Car was deployed for the second time after an off for Rodolfo Avila.

On Lap 7 the race got underway again, with Senna once again romping away from the rest of the field, with Jarvis putting second placed Jelley under pressure from the off.  Mike Conway managed to make up a place when he overtook Hitech's James Walker at Island.  Walkers race ended on the next lap when he went off at Old Hall battling for position with Fortec's Yelmer Buurman, which meant the Safety Car was sent out for the third time.

The race restarted on lap 11 with Jarvis and Engel side-by-side into Old Hall battling for third place.  Jarvis hung on through Cascades and came through in 3rd place, with his German team mate having to move back as he came under pressure from 5th placed Mike Conway.  This battling allowed the two Double R Racing Dallaras to move ahead of the rest of the field.  Yelmer Buurman passed Christian Bakkerud for 6th place and then attacked Conway on the start of lap 12, but Conway defended his position.

On lap 13 Senna set the fastest lap of the race and then did it again a lap later.  However he couldn't shake off Stephen Jelley and the Leicester driver set the fastest lap of the race on the last lap with a time of 1m31.093, but he couldn't get on terms with the Brazilian to threaten for the lead.

At the flag it was Senna that punched the air with delight, taking his first win in British F3 and doing something that his uncle, Ayrton Senna, never did - take an F3 win at Oulton Park.  Stephen Jelley was second, 1.5 seconds adrift, with Oliver Jarvis taking 3rd in his first F3 race in his Mugen Honda powered Carlin Motorsport Dallara.

Rodolfo Gonzalez took the National Class win, 11th overall and 4.4 seconds ahead of Cristiano Morgado. Juho Annala was third.

Pos Car Drivers Time Laps Gap
1 21 Bruno SENNA 27:29.844 18
2 1 Christian BAKKERUD 27:37.178 18 7.334
3 26 Mike CONWAY 27:37.534 18 7.690
4 2 Oliver JARVIS 27:38.777 18 8.933
5 12 Maro ENGEL 27:45.398 18 15.554
6 4 Stuart HALL 27:45.871 18 16.027
7 16 Alberto VALERIO 27:47.906 18 18.062
8 32 Rodolfo GONZALEZ 27:59.551 18 29.707
9 3 Yelmer BUURMAN 28:01.241 18 31.397
10 14 Charlie HOLLINGS 28:10.258 18 40.414
11 22 Stephen JELLEY 28:14.007 18 44.163
12 7 Dennis RETERA 28:17.215 18 47.371
13 37 Cristiano MORGADO 28:34.147 18 1:04.303
14 35 Martin KUDZAK 28:40.696 18 1:10.852
15 38 Rodolfo AVILA 28:48.562 18 1:18.718
16 39 Juho ANNALA 28:48.837 18 1:18.993
17 34 Ricardo TEIXEIRA 28:49.651 18 1:19.807
18 5 Salvador DURAN 28:56.746 18 1:26.902
19 11 Keiko IHARA 28:44.701 17 1 LAP
-- 9 Jonathan KENNARD 18:01.581 11 D.N.F.
-- 6 James JAKES 15:44.398 10 D.N.F.
Fastest Laps
-- 21 Bruno SENNA 1:30.941 16 171.50kph
-- 32 Rodolfo GONZALEZ 1:31.891 16 169.72kph

Wheldon presents AutoRox award Wheldon presents AutoRox awardUPDATE A reminder that this show airs Tuesday (tomorrow) night.

04/07/06 Reigning IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon will join actress Pamela Anderson on stage to present the 2006 Car of the Year award during SpikeTV's AutoRox Awards Show on Friday, April 7, at the Freemont Experience in Las Vegas.  The star-studded homage to cars will feature categories including Best Luxury Car, Hottest Exotic, Convertible, Sports Car, SUV's, and others. One industry icon, chosen for their major contributions to the automotive world, will be recognized. The 2005 recipient was racer and car builder Carroll Shelby.  Ice Cube is host of the show that will be televised at 10 p.m. (EDT) April 18.

When Jimmy Clark raced at Trenton, NJ When Jimmy Clark raced at Trenton, NJUPDATE CORRECTION: We were in slight error below.  The first Indy 500 for the Lotus Ford team was 1963 where Jim Clark and Dan Gurney finished second and seventh respectively. The team first tested at Indy in March 1963.

In July 1963 the team tested at The Milwaukee Mile in preparation for the August 200 mile race. Clark won and Gurney finished third. Clark and Gurney also raced at Trenton in September 1963 but both had dropped out with mechanical problems while leading and Foyt won the race.

04/16/06 The first time that Colin Chapman brought his rear-engine Lotus Indy Cars to the Brickyard in 1964, he entered two of them for Dan Gurney and Jimmy Clark at Trenton, NJ Speedway in September of the previous year (then a 1-mile paved oval) to test his concept and work the bugs out.  It was a record attendance for Trenton Speedway to see the great Jim Clark race, a record that would never be broken even though the famous track held races for another 20 years......which of course just goes to prove that fans will turn out in large numbers when "heroes" are in the starting lineup.

1963 Trenton, NJ Photos by Mike Calla Wheels of Speed

Clark (L) and Gurney (R) Note the changes Chapman made to the car by the time it got to the Brickyard in May, 1964.  Note also all the fans in the grandstands on pole day at Indy.....when the drivers were real heroes.
Photo courtesy IMS

GB teams parts ways with Arden GB teams parts ways with ArdenDespite ranking third overall in the inaugural A1 Grand Prix series, A1 Team Great Britain has told Arden International that it will not be requiring its services for the second A1 Grand Prix series that kicks off at Zandvoort in Holland on 1 October.
"We were pleased with third overall," said Team Principal John Surtees, "but you go racing to win, not come third.  There's no doubt that we were beaten by two extremely good teams, but Seat Holder Tony Clements and I felt that A1 Grand Prix is big enough and important enough to warrant the services of a team that gives A1 Grand Prix its full attention.  Arden are an extremely professional and very well managed team, but their involvement with both GP2 and the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team made for the occasional conflicts of interest, such as personnel allocation and A1 Team GBR management believes A1 Grand Prix should not be subordinated to other series.  We had an option with Arden to sign up for Series Two, which we decided not to exercise".
For Series Two, A1 Team Great Britain will form its own team of personnel to run its car rather than paying an established team to do the job.
A1GP supporters say bright future ahead A1GP supporters say bright future aheadWhat can we say about this video? Wow!" said Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum after watching a highlight reel of the 11 races from the first season of the A1 Grand Prix of Nations.

The maiden season of A1 -- which Al Maktoum kicked off last September at Brands Hatch circuit in England -- ended in Shanghai earlier this month, filling the vacuum during the break between Formula One seasons.

The idea behind A1 is that all of the teams, which represent their countries not manufacturers, have the same chassis, same tires and same engine. What sets them apart is the skill of the drivers, giving A1 races an added interest.

One of the best races from the first season was the Feature Race at the Sentul circuit in Indonesia last February, where Canadian Sean McIntosh won after starting from the last position.

A1 fans here will remember the enthusiasm with which race fans greeted the event, bringing the Jagorawi turnpike to a standstill as they poured into the Sentul circuit. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was scheduled to officially open the race, was forced to abandon his official vehicle and hitch a ride on the back of a presidential guard's motorcycle to make it to the event on time.

Al Maktoum rated the Sentul race a perfect 10 and during the closing event in Shanghai, Sentul director Tinton Soeprapto received a trophy as the season's top race organizer. zzzz

Despite all the success, A1 GP remains far from perfect. Organizers were often quick to change the rules, such as when they changed the number of cars for every team from two to one, or when they decided to allow each car only three sets of tires from five.

Such policy changes made it difficult for some teams to practice and prepare, though the organizers said the changes were necessary in the name of cost efficiency.

These rule decisions had teams lending and borrowing parts from others. When Dutch driver Jos Verstappen won the Feature Race at Durban, South Africa, he was using India's nose cone. Malaysian Alex Yoong finished second at Sentul with a nose cone from the Indonesian team.

However, A1 seems to have a bright future ahead of it and organizers hope more sponsors will come. And while the races made enjoyable viewing, they did not draw as many fans as expected.

While the events at Durban, Sentul and Brands Hatch each drew more than 30,000 people, only about 1,000 watched the races in Lausitzring (Germany), Estoril (Portugal), Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Laguna Seca in the U.S.

A1 organizers are trying to resolve this problem by including the Netherlands on its schedule for next season, with the race scheduled there for October. It is hoped Dutch fans will pack the Zandvoort circuit, drawn by the success of Verstappen and the country's team. Ticket sales for the opening race of the second season are encouraging with at least 10,000 seats already booked.

"I hope more fans will come," said Al Maktoum. "I also want to hold night races in hot countries like Malaysia and Indonesia."

More at JarkataPost.com

Allianz looks at F1 seat belt safety Allianz looks at F1 seat belt safetyThe cockpit of a Formula One car is a safe place to work. It is not only the carbon-fiber monocoque, customized seat, helmet and overalls that help the drivers – the safety belts are key elements that give the driver a sense of security and, in an emergency, protect him directly from serious injuries.

Despite the breathtaking rate of development in Formula 1, it has taken a while for the news to spread through the sport that safety belts can save lives. Although helmets and overalls were stipulated by the FIA, as far back as the early ’60s, safety belts have only been compulsory features in a Formula One car since 1972.

Formula One drivers are strapped into the cockpit by a six point harness, similar to that found in a fighter jet. Two shoulder straps, two pelvic straps and two leg straps allow them just enough freedom of movement to be able to steer and reach the various switches and buttons in their field of vision. This is not the only situation where safety is more important than comfort.

In everyday traffic, too, the safety belt is still the number one lifesaver, in spite of the airbag. “The belt is the prerequisite for ensuring that the airbag can protect effectively. Without a belt, the airbags would be nowhere near as effective,” says Dr. Hartmuth Wolff from the Allianz Centre for Technology (AZT).

However, in contrast to Formula One drivers, the driver in a passenger car is buckled up much more comfortably. Of course, they need much more freedom of movement, for instance to be able to turn round or to operate the radio. “That makes it all the more important to choose the right sitting position using the various adjustment levels and to make sure the belt is positioned well on the body,” says Wolff. “Also, you should always pull the pelvic belt tight by pulling on the shoulder belt, because otherwise you will not have full protection.” zzzz

In a Formula One car, the drivers are pushed as tightly into their seat, so they need the help of a mechanic to fasten the belts. However, in an emergency, they are able to leave the car from the normal buckled position within the five seconds stipulated by the regulations, because all the individual belts can be released with a single twist of the hand. The task of the belts is clear: in the case of an accident, they should work with the compulsory Head And Neck Support (HANS) to protect the driver from smashing against the steering wheel, and at the same time they absorb some of the impact energy.

On the one hand, the belts must be strong enough to protect the driver from an impact,” says Frank Dernie from WilliamsF1. “On the other hand, they also have to give enough to make sure that the driver isn't injured by the belts themselves in an emergency.”

The manufacturers of the safety belts and the teams solve this dilemma with the help of extensive experiments that test the strength and the elasticity of the material. Generally, the belts are made of the textile fiber polyester, and sometimes have special monofibres woven laterally into them. They act as small laminated springs and keep the belt strap flat. In this way, the load is distributed better over the entire width of the belt strap. The fittings and tabs are generally made of titanium. After an accident, it must be possible to rescue the driver together with the seat from the car if the emergency services think it necessary.

According to the FIA standard 8853/98, every fastening point of the belts must be able to withstand a load of 14.7 kilonewtons, the equivalent of roughly 1,470 kilograms. The belt widths must be between 44 and 76 millimeters (shoulders and legs) and between 50 and 76 millimeters (pelvis), depending on the most comfortable setting for the driver. The idea of comfort is always relative, at least if you believe Martin Brundle: “If the belts don’t hurt,” the former Formula One driver once said, “then they aren’t tightened hard enough.” Press Release Allianz

Industry News
Stevens might be first woman to reach top Stevens might be first woman to reach topThis Detroit Free Press article talks about Anne Stevens, the top female executive in the automotive industry, both domestically and internationally, who appears to really like racing as we see her at the race track all the time - both at Champ Car and NASCAR events. 

The new chief operating officer of Ford Motor Co.'s troubled Americas division, Stevens is now part of Ford's inner circle -- a recently created five-person operating committee that reports to Chairman and CEO Bill Ford -- and one of the chief architects of the turnaround plan that may make or break one of Michigan's top companies.

A feminist who wears bold gold jewelry and fashionable knit suits, Stevens now oversees 153,000 employees, or about half of Ford's workers, and $85.7 billion in revenues. And she is ranked No. 22 on Fortune magazine's list of the 50 most powerful women in business. That's just one slot behind domestic superpower Martha Stewart.

Although auto executives often adopt politically correct career faces with the public -- chirping about how happy they are in their current jobs, even as they plot their next steps -- Stevens spoke bluntly about her ambition to be a chief executive officer.

Acura already activating ALMS sponsorship Acura already activating ALMS sponsorshipAcura just announced their entry into ALMS in 2007 with an LMP2 program.  Even though they are not racing in the series, they already are activating their sponsorship into the regular Acura website per this link.

A turbo powered LMP1 entry is expected to follow in 2008.

track news
New sponsor for May Richmond race New sponsor for May Richmond raceFewer than three weeks before its May 6 race, Richmond International Raceway has inked a deal with a new sponsor for naming rights to the event. The race will be called the Crown Royal 400 after Crown Royal Championship Racing reached a multi-year agreement for the spring race. An official announcement is expected to come today. RIR President Doug Fritz declined to say how long the deal will run. Pontiac had sponsored the spring race from 1988 to 2003 before leaving the sport. Chevrolet sponsored the race the past two years. Fritz said while the race is right around the corner, the timing of the deal is misleading. Because of the state's liquor laws, working out an agreement with a whiskey brand made things more complex. The Crown Royal 400 will be the 100th Nextel Cup race at RIR, which has sold out 28 consecutive Cup races. Only three tracks have hosted more races than RIR: Daytona, Martinsville and Darlington. Richmond Times Dispatch
Bigger Wind Tunnel for MF1 Racing Bigger Wind Tunnel for MF1 RacingMF1 Racing is embarking on a major project to upgrade its wind tunnel facilities in order to ensure that the team is ready for the build-up to 2008. The team believe that future rule changes will put a premium on aerodynamic development.

The current tunnel was state of the art when originally commissioned by Jordan Grand Prix, but such is the pace of progress in F1 that the time has come to take a step forward. Updating aero facilities is something that all teams have to undergo eventually, and while modifying an existing facility is not as difficult (or as expensive) as building a new tunnel from scratch, it’s still a complex process.

That means careful planning and scheduling, because work on the 2007 car has to be dovetailed with ongoing development on the M16.

"We’ve been putting a plan together for a while, and we’re now pushing ahead with it," says MF1 Technical Director James Key. "The wind tunnel we’ve got now has served us very well, certainly over the seven or eight years that I’ve been here. While the track reflects the current tunnel very well with its numbers, there’s more that we can do with a better facility.

"For example, at 40%, the current scale is a little smaller than what most other teams are running. So we’re going to 50% scale, with the capability of probably going larger than that There are many advantages of going up to 50%, and not just the size of the model, but the fact is that you can do certain other things with larger models that we can’t currently do at 40%.

"We’re also going to increase the speed of the tunnel as well, to a much faster level, which will be more representative of track running. We typically run around 40 m/sec, and in the future we’ll be able to go beyond 60 m/sec. It takes us much closer to what the opposition has.

"We’re also going to allow it to adapt better to the shape of the car. With 2008 coming up, it’s very important to have a tunnel which can cope with that shape change, so it’s an obvious thing to do. There are other implications as well, with the way the CDG rear wing [proposed by the FIA] works, and we want to better model the real life situation as best we can. There will also be better options of moving the car around – ride heights and that sort of thing – and we can extend that to allow us to get more out of it." zzzz

The problem with such major work already underway is that at some point the tunnel will be out of action. The team has had to choose a schedule that will have the least effect on ongoing development, while also securing temporary access to an outside tunnel to ensure a seamless transition.

"We’ve got a week-by-week plan of how we’re going to go about it, and we’ve got a lot of the companies involved lined up ready to go. We know this is a critical time, so we need to act now in order to reap the rewards with next year’s car and especially for the 2008 car. It goes without saying that will be a large aero project.

"So we’ll start the process now, and the way we’ve planned it is to minimize downtime, so we hope to commission it later this year. We’ll hire another facility to cover us while it’s out of action, probably around July/August. We hope to be running again in September."

Of course, like any other tool, a wind tunnel is only as good as the people who operate it. MF1 has a proven aero department, and when the upgrade is complete, the guys will be busier than ever.

"Our development rate has been very strong recently, and we run 18 hours a day for six days a week. With the tunnel upgrade, we’re hoping to go to 24 hours." Source MF1 Racing

Wimmer and Coleman Racing part ways Wimmer and Coleman Racing part waysNASCAR Busch Series driver Chris Wimmer will no longer drive for Keith Coleman Racing and would pursue other opportunities. “ I’m sorry this relationship did not work out as I had hoped it would. I’m looking forward to new and better opportunities.
Conway nips Senna for pole in race 2 Conway nips Senna for pole in race 2UPDATE Both F3 races will run on Monday due to Easter Holiday on Sunday.

04/16/06 Mike Conway (right) snatched pole position from Bruno Senna in the second Lloyds TSB Insurance British Formula 3 qualifying session at Oulton Park, after the Brazilian had looked so dominant during the first half of the session. For Double R Racing, it meant that their cars claimed the front row for the second race in succession.

Senna was the first driver to show his hand in the session, suddenly going more than a second faster than anyone else with 10 minutes of the half-hour session completed. From then on, however, the others gradually closed the gap until Conway went even faster, by which time Senna could do nothing to respond.

"I think I overdrove the car a little this time," admitted Senna. "I was trying to do better than my first session qualifying time so I was pushing hard, but maybe too hard. You have to push at the right time in the right way. I was keeping it tidy and not hitting the curbs but I was sliding a lot." zzzz

Meanwhile, although Conway was pleased with his maiden British F3 pole, he still felt he could go quicker. "I came in half way through the second session, and we put new tires on and changed a couple of things," he explained. "There's still more to come from the car, I'm sure of it."

For the second session in a row, the Mugen Honda engines were not far behind the leading Mercedes, with Christian Bakkerud third for Carlin Motorsport. Behind Bakkerud the times were close - Yelmer Buurman was a tenth of a second slower than the Dane, with Oliver Jarvis just a hundredth behind as the top 11 drivers all qualified within a second of each other.

National Class pole again went to Rodolfo Gonzalez, with Juho Annala second and Cristiano Morgado third..

Pos Driver Make Time Laps
 1. Mike Conway Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:30.394 15
 2. Bruno Senna Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:30.482 + 0.088 11
 3. Christian Bakkerud Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:30.730 + 0.336 13
 4. Yelmer Buurman Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:30.824 + 0.430 18
 5. Oliver Jarvis Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:30.834 + 0.440 12
 6. Stephen Jelley Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:30.901 + 0.507 13
 7. Salvador Duran Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.075 + 0.681 16
 8. Maro Engel Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:31.085 + 0.691 15
 9. James Walker Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.101 + 0.707 16
10. Stuart Hall Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.222 + 0.828 17
11. James Jakes Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.283 + 0.889 17
12. Alberto Valerio Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:31.674 + 1.280 16
13. Jonathan Kennard Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:31.692 + 1.298 13
14. Rodolfo Gonzalez Dallara F304 Mugen-Ho 1:31.975 + 1.581 12
15. Dennis Retera Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:32.052 + 1.658 16
16. Charlie Hollings Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:32.183 + 1.789 14
17. Juho Annala Dallara F304 Mugen-Ho 1:33.465 + 3.071 15
18. Cristiano Morgado Lola-Dome F106/4 Muge 1:33.662 + 3.268 17
19. Rodolfo Avila Dallara F304 Mugen-Ho 1:33.705 + 3.311 10
20. Martin Kudzak Lola-Dome F106/4 Muge 1:34.509 + 4.115 16
21. Ricardo Teixeira Dallara F304 Mugen-Ho 1:34.879 + 4.485 17
22. Keiko Ihara Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:35.069 + 4.675 6

Michelin Imola Preview Michelin Imola PreviewAfter a short break, the 2006 Formula One world championship continues this weekend at Imola, Italy - home of the San Marino Grand Prix. Imola heralds the dawn of the European season and the return to the paddock of the sumptuous motorhomes that serve as teams' mobile HQs at 10 of the season's 18 races.

This will be the 27th F1 world championship event at Imola. It hosted the Italian GP on a one-off basis in 1980 but has held a permanent place on the calendar ever since, following the creation, one year later, of the San Marino GP.

Imola features significantly in Michelin's F1 history. Nelson Piquet (Brabham-Ford Cosworth/Michelin) won the inaugural San Marino GP, on May 3 1981, and Bibendum won here again during its farewell F1 campaign in 1984, with Alain Prost (McLaren-TAG turbo). When the company returned to grand prix racing 17 years later, Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW) scored its comeback victory here at Imola.

Michelin won last season's corresponding fixture, after Fernando Alonso (Renault) held off Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) in a thrilling late-race duel, and is this weekend chasing its 14th consecutive F1 world championship success and its 97th in all. zzzz

Michelin's view Nick Shorrock, Formula One director, Michelin

"Determine future development trends" "The first three grands prix of the season have been very satisfactory for both Michelin and its partner teams. Our excellent results have been the fruit of dedicated work carried out by Michelin's research and development teams and our F1 partners, factors that have enabled us to build on 2005's spectacular success and make significant progress.

"The analysis of data received from our partner teams is central to our work and allows us to monitor a wide range of elements and, subsequently, to determine future development trends. We have thus been able to evolve new casings and compounds while enhancing the way in which our partners use them."

"New evolution for Imola" "We are now looking forward to Formula One's European return at Imola, a circuit rich in both tradition and history. The tires we're bringing to this race need to be able to cope with fierce braking and hard acceleration on a track whose surface varies at almost every bend. In addition, drivers tend to take an aggressive approach here - they make extensive use of the curbs because that is the key to a quick lap time.

 "In last year's corresponding fixture we identified a number of areas that needed to be developed in order to improve our future performance. The development program in 2006 has taken this into account and our recent tests have been encouraging. We have subsequently selected a range of tires featuring new compounds in order to respond to the challenges we identified one year ago."

 "Rain holds no fears" "It is conceivable that the first European race of the campaign will be rain-affected - but that holds no fears for us because we saw the effectiveness of our latest intermediate tires during the free practice sessions in Australia. Our partners' wet-weather lap times in Melbourne gave us particular cause for satisfaction and underlined just how much progress we have made. Previously, we had only been able to evaluate these tires during our winter test program, when circumstances are less representative.

 "Intense competition represents motor sport's very essence" "Michelin might have dominated the first three races of the season, but we appreciate that the opposition remains very strong. Each grand prix represents a whole new challenge. There are no guarantees that the early-season hierarchy will remain settled and we remain focused on building up a successful world title campaign. Moreover, intense competition is exactly what Michelin thrives on - as far as we are concerned it represents motor sport's very essence. Fierce rivalry of this kind enables Michelin to fine- tune its products and demonstrate their true worth."

Team perspective: Franz Tost, sporting director, Scuderia Toro Rosso

"Michelin did an unbelievably good job"

"We are really looking forward to our home race in Imola, especially after our decent performance in Australia. On the basis of previous results, we expect to qualify somewhere between 10th and 15th and will fight hard on the track to see where we can go from there."

"Many people like to talk about the advantage we have with our V10 engine, but we know this is not the case. And maybe they forget that one of the main reasons for Scuderia Toro Rosso's performances is the excellent tire supply!"

"Michelin did an unbelievably good job during the winter and is able to provide us with tires that work well in all different weather conditions. Tires can really make a big difference at Imola and Michelin's latest compounds and constructions will improve our traction and braking performance. These are both key factors at this circuit." Michelin

Cosworth Series 2 and Series 3 engines working well Cosworth Series 2 and Series 3 engines working wellThe WilliamsF1 team have been busy at the Barcelona circuit in Spain this past week where regular drivers Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg were joined by official third driver Alex Wurz. joined Mark on Friday for the final day in Barcelona, however, in the early part of the morning, the Australian had an accident - fortunately he was fine but it left the car badly damaged.

As a result, Mark switched to the other car in order to carry out some confirmatory tire compound tests for the Spanish Grand Prix here in a few weeks’ time. The crew did an excellent job turning Mark’s car around and they were able to get it out for the final part of the day.

“Although we didn't get as much running in as we would have liked, the re-prioritized program gave us a clear direction in which to develop," said Mike Condliffe, Test Team Manager.

Meanwhile, Cosworth gathered a lot of data as the team completed a significant amount of running on both ‘race specification’ Series 2 and ‘development’ Series 3 CA2006 engines. Analysis of the results will contribute to the engine plan for the San Marino Grand Prix and onwards.

“Cosworth is confident in the performance of the CA2006 engine,” said Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering. “The challenges in Barcelona this week only make us more determined to ensure we have a successful season." WilliamsF1 Cosworth

Newey impressed with Red Bull technical staff Newey impressed with Red Bull technical staffSpeaking in an interview in the latest issue of F1 Racing magazine (on sale next week) new Red Bull designer Adrian Newey says that he has been impressed by the ingenuity of Red Bull Racing’s technical department, and that next year’s RB3 chassis will be a combination of their ideas and the designs that he developed at McLaren.

“Well perhaps because the MP4-21 represents the culmination of my thinking over the past few years, it’ll share some aspects of the MP4-21’s design philosophy,” Newey admitted.

“But one of the things that struck me forcibly when I arrived at Red Bull and took a look at the work the design team had been doing, was how differently they’d solved certain problems despite being constrained by exactly the same technical regulations as we’d faced at McLaren.

“And it would be stupid not to take note of that.

“So the RB3 will be a combination – the best of both worlds, if you like.”

“Joining Red Bull was very different from nearly joining Jaguar,” said Newey.

“This time around I really wanted to do something genuinely challenging.

“McLaren and Williams are both well-established organizations, with well-established infrastructures, and, after having had so much success with those two great teams, I really wanted to get in near the start of something new and ambitious.”

Q and A with Michael Schumacher ahead of Imola Q and A with Michael Schumacher ahead of ImolaAhead of the San Marino Grand Prix which takes place next weekend, Michael Schumacher talks of his season to date and his hopes for the fourth round of the championship.

Your optimism after the second place in Bahrain has dimmed. How can you be sure to close the gap on Renault, McLaren and Honda?
"We are certain that we are in better shape than may appear from the outside. The potential is there; now we have to improve even more and be consistent. We are working towards this with our development programme. At Imola there will be many new features that we are testing at the moment. As we all know, Formula 1 can be a crazy world but we should try not to be caught up in it all!"

What is the morale of the squad?
"We are full of hope. Last week's tests went according to plan and this is always a good sign in our sport. Things are fine on the team: everyone is pulling in the right direction and we all want to win. The beginning of the European season should coincide with the start of our drive for the world title."

The accident in Australia saw some criticisms made over the strategy and worries for your health. Are you taking more risks in challenging for the title or is the pressure not affecting your driving style?
"I note with some amusement that my so-called 'sources' know exactly how I feel on a day-to-day basis! This is ridiculous! I will continue doing what I do as I have always done, with great enthusiasm, a will to win and I will enjoy it.   
This is a sport and we have to attack and take risks if you want to win."

Do continued questions over the future of your career or uncertainty about whether you can regain the title unsettle you?
"These questions don't, as a rule, bother me. In fact, there is some basis for them. Aside from saying that I will decide over summer, I can do no more. I will certainly not change my mind just because the same question is always asked of me. I can only say that I would like to take all the time necessary to decide and to fully think about things."

Have you been affected by the way that the first three races have gone?
"For the thousandth time, I want to repeat that I would prefer not to discuss in public the reasons that will affect my decision."

Now the San Marino Grand Prix is coming up; Ferrari's home race. Can the fans' support help Ferrari or will the weight of expectation be too much?
"Supporters always help in difficult moments. There is nothing better than hearing the fans. It is obvious that we would like to give them a reason to cheer us." Source Ferrari

Earnhardt Jr. films ESPN commercial Earnhardt Jr. films ESPN commercialDale Earnhardt Jr.(right) shares a lighter moment with  ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson in Bristol, CT during the filming of a "This Is SportsCenter" spot.  ESPN will be ramping up their NASCAR coverage now that they have won back TV broadcast rights from NASCAR for 2007. Photo by Scott Clarke/ESPN.
Harvick wins Busch race at Nashville Harvick wins Busch race at NashvilleFive years ago, Kevin Harvick won the pole at Nashville Superspeedway in the inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race at the lightning-fast concrete racetrack. Saturday, the 2001 series champion and current points leader, returned to the Music City to capture his first win of the season and the 18th of his career.

Harvick battled last year’s winner Reed Sorenson for the final 35 laps, but Sorenson’s challenge for a repeat ended with five laps to go when he scraped the wall in Turn 4. Harvick then had to hold off his Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer – who won the 2005 June race at Nashville – with two laps left but had a great restart and pulled away with little effort and was rewarded with the coveted Sam Bass guitar trophy.

Bowyer remained in the runner-up slot, Busch Pole winner Denny Hamlin was third, J.J. Yeley was fourth and Carl Edwards was fifth. Jon Wood had his second-best finish of the season with a sixth-place, Raybestos Rookie Burney Lamar was seventh, Kenny Wallace was eighth, Paul Menard was ninth while Michael Waltrip completed the top 10 finishers.

Bowyer looked strong early, leading 54 of the first 70 laps. But after Hamlin took his first lead of the race on Lap 71, Bowyer would not lead again. Hamlin led a race-high 86 laps, and was involved in numerous drag races with Harvick throughout the race. zzzz

On Lap 167, Hamlin took what would be his final lead of the race when he bested Menard on a restart following a caution, but it was Harvick who had more muscle, overtaking Hamlin for the final time on Lap 171. Harvick and Sorenson, who had been as far back as 12th on Lap 130, were 1-2 until Sorenson’s fateful scrape with the wall.

Harvick padded his points lead, now holding a 156-point advantage over second-place Hamlin. Bowyer is third, followed by Yeley, Edwards, Menard, Wood, Johnny Sauter, Kyle Busch and Lamar.

The NASCAR Busch Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway for the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 on April 21.


Pos Car No. Driver Laps
1 21 Kevin Harvick 225
2 2 Clint Bowyer 225
3 20 Denny Hamlin 225
4 18 J.J. Yeley 225
5 60 Carl Edwards 225
6 47 Jon Wood 225
7 77 Burney Lamar 225
8 22 Kenny Wallace 225
9 11 Paul Menard 225
10 99 Michael Waltrip 225
11 25 Ashton Lewis Jr. 225
12 64 Steve Wallace 225
13 35 Regan Smith 225
14 50 Danny O'Quinn Jr. 225
15 43 Aaron Fike 225
16 1 Jason Keller 225
17 33 Ron Hornaday Jr. 225
18 01 Jay Sauter 225
19 41 Reed Sorenson 225
20 59 Stacy Compton 223
21 72 Stanton Barrett Jr. 222
22 05 Chad Chaffin 221
23 12 Joel Kauffman 221
24 49 Jorge Goeters 220
25 07 David Odell 214
26 34 Mike Bliss 198
27 00 Johnny Sauter 197
28 10 John Andretti 192
29 27 David Green 189
30 5 Kyle Busch 186
31 14 Steadman Marlin 184
32 06 Todd Kluever 172
33 88 Mark McFarland 168
34 66 David Reutimann 145
35 32 Jason Leffler 129
36 36 Tim Sauter 121
37 98 Erin Crocker 93
38 4 Mark Green 89
39 56 Kevin Lepage 32
40 23 Chris Wimmer 25
41 28 Shane Hall 20
42 90 Matt McCall 18
43 0 Kertus Davis 4

Formula Nippon
Wirdheim’s charge just falls short Wirdheim’s charge just falls shortIn only his second Nippon event, France's Loic Duval held off former F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim and polesitter Benoit Treluyer to win this afternoon's second round of the 2006 Formula Nippon championship at Suzuka by a margin of two seconds.

Sakon Yamamoto was the top Japanese driver, finishing fourth, ahead of Andre Lotterer and Hideki Mutoh.

Bjorn Wirdheim came from 12th place at the start and charged through the field to finish 2nd by just 2.172 sec. from winner Loic Duval. Duval and Wirdheim gave Honda a 1-2 finish at their home track after Toyotas completely dominated qualifying.

Afterward Wirdheim had this to say - "I got a fantastic start and went from my 11th starting position into 3rd before the first corner. We weren't quick enough to keep up with the leaders during the first couple of laps and I was struggling with the car early on. But throughout the stint the balance improved and when Benoit got his drive through penalty I was able to take the lead and comfortably maintain it throughout the first stint,"

"It turned into a difficult race as our radio system failed just before the start of the race so my engineer wasn't able to give me any information. Therefore it took some time before I realized that it was Loic, the driver in front of me during the last stint, that was the actual leader. But I had no idea whether he'd been in for his pit stop or not,"

"Towards the end it started raining on and off and at one point it was clearly time for rain tires. However, that was with less than 5 laps remaining so we had no choice but to stay out and try to complete the race distance. Drivers were spinning off left and right and it got a little bit too exciting. But we managed to keep it on the track and finish our first race on the podium in 2nd position,"

"DoCoMo Team Dandelion made a good job this weekend and helped me get something very good out of a weekend that due to unfortunate circumstances didn't start out that well. Our pit stop was one of the quickest during the race. Everybody in the team are now highly motivated for the next race at Motegi." zzzz

3 19 BENOIT TRELUYER mobilecast IMPUL 51 11.517
7 7 TATSUYA KATAOKA Team LeMans 51 1:01.202
8 1 SATOSHI MOTOYAMA arting IMPUL 51 1:14.475
9 20 TSUGIO MATSUDA mobilecast IMPUL 51 1:14.638
10 37 TAKESHI TSUCHIYA DHG TOM'S 51 1:22.997
12 27 SHOGO MITSUYAMA DPR Direxiv 50 1Lap
14 2 KAZUKI HOSHINO arting IMPUL 50 1Lap
15 6 RYO ORIME M&O 5ZIGEN 50 1Lap
16 8 TORANOSUKE TAKAGI Team LeMans 50 1Lap

St. Pete IRL TV rating St. Pete IRL TV ratingThe final TV rating for the IRL race in St. Petersburg, FL was a 0.3 on ESPN.  This is down 25% from last year's rating of 0.4 on ESPN.
Newey almost quit F1 in 2003 Newey almost quit F1 in 2003One of F1's best car designers, Adrian Newey, says that he came close to quitting Formula 1 in late 2003 after a bitter disagreement with his then boss Ron Dennis of McLaren.

In an interview in the latest issue of F1 Racing magazine (on sale next week), Newey said that if McLaren had followed his advice, then Michael Schumacher and Ferrari might not have run away with the 2004 championship.

“In terms of retiring, the only time I ever really considered it, to be perfectly honest, was at the end of 2003, during a bitter battle within McLaren about what direction we should take with the 2004 car,” said Newey.

“I became a bit disillusioned with the whole situation.

“It was all to do with the MP4-19A, which was effectively a rebadged 18A, and I felt there were inherent problems with the 18A.”

“We could and, I believe, should have built the 19B straight away, and, if we’d had the 19B at the start of 2004, I think we’d have had an altogether different season,” said Newey.

“I doubt that we’d have won the championship, but we’d certainly have won a few more races than we did.”

Newey remained with McLaren until the end of 2005, when he moved to Red Bull Racing who are willing to give him more freedom to design the car he wants.

Never seen before photos of Mario Andretti Never seen before photos of Mario AndrettiPhotos of America's greatest race car driver Mario Andretti in his early days before making it to the Champ Car ranks and photos of his very first Champ Car race in Trenton, NJ, April 19, 1964.



Photos by Mike Calla Wheels of Speed

F1 news in brief F1 news in briefAs ever at the pinnacle of motor sport, however, fiction is often more prevalent than fact. If you listen to many pitlane observers, some F1 teams are still engaged in grey-areas often brutally referred to as cheating.

Even with the threats of disgruntled carmakers on his mind, then, FIA president Max Mosley says he is determined to introduce standardised electronics from season '08.

In the latest edition of 'F1 Racing' magazine, he wrote that a common ECU would make it 'absolutely certain' that no funny business is going on inside tricky carmaker-built software.

Meanwhile, closer to the actual asphalt, F1's huge test at Barcelona wrapped up on Friday, a week ahead of free GP practice in Imola.

Of note, four men did not enjoy their day in the Catalan sun. Honda's Rubens Barrichello left the circuit at lunch to get a trapped nerve in his shoulder checked out. Williams' Mark Webber destroyed his FW28 racer, and (on Thursday), Michael Schumacher experienced yet another Ferrari V8 failure.

Yuji Ide, though - Super Aguri's beleaguered rookie who waited on site all week - had more reason than any to feel forlorn. The Japanese did not turn even a single lap following technical hitches in the white garage.
Formula Nippon
Toyotas dominating at Suzuka Toyotas dominating at SuzukaOfficial Qualifying Results from Round 2 at Suzuka run in wet but drying conditions.

Qualifying 1 and 2 Combined Results

Pos. Driver Best Laptime Team Engine
1. #19 B.Treluyer 1:45:697 Impul Toyota
2. #1 S.Motoyama  1:46:405 Arting Impul  Toyota
3. #20 T.Matsuda 1:46:891 Impul Toyota
4. #33 R.Quintarelli  1:47:000 Inging Toyota
5. #3 S.Yamamoto  1:47:309 Kondo Toyota
6. #37 T.Tsuchya 1:47:447 Tom's Toyota
7. #36 A.Lotterer  1:47:525 Tom's Toyota
8. #31 L.Duval  1:47:646 Nakajima Honda
9. #55 T.Kaneishi  1:47:681 Aguri Honda
10. #56 T.Kogure  1:47:690 Aguri Honda
11. #7 T.Kataoka  1:47:762 LeMans Toyota
12. #40 B.Wirdheim 1:47:882 Dandelion Honda
13. #41 K.Hiranaka  1:47:910 Dandelion Honda
14. #32 H.Muto  1:48:081 Nakajima Honda
15. #11 Y.Tachikawa  1:48:248 Cerumo Toyota
16. #8 T.Takagi  1:48:268 LeMans Toyota
17. #4 M.Yanagida 1:48:874 Kondo Toyota
18. #5 A.Michigami  1:49:107 5zigen Honda
19. #6 R.Orime  1:49:926 5zigen Honda
20. #2 K.Hoshino  1:50:220 Arting Impul Toyota
21. #34 N.Yokomizo  1:50:944 Inging Toyota
22. #27 S.Mitsuyama  2:03:825 Direxiv Honda zzzz

Qualifying 2

Pos. Driver Best Laptime Team Engine
1. #19 B.Treluyer 1:45:697 Impul Toyota
2. #1 S.Motoyama  1:46:405 Arting Impul  Toyota
3. #20 T.Matsuda 1:46:891 Impul Toyota
4. #33 R.Quintarelli  1:47:000 Inging Toyota
5. #3 S.Yamamoto  1:47:309 Kondo Toyota
6. #37 T.Tsuchya 1:47:447 Tom's Toyota
7. #36 A.Lotterer  1:47:525 Tom's Toyota
8. #31 L.Duval  1:47:646 Nakajima Honda
9. #55 T.Kaneishi  1:47:681 Aguri Honda
10. #56 T.Kogure  1:47:690 Aguri Honda
11. #7 T.Kataoka  1:47:762 LeMans Toyota
12. #40 B.Wirdheim 1:47:882 Dandelion Honda
13. #41 K.Hiranaka  1:47:910 Dandelion Honda
14. #32 H.Muto  1:48:081 Nakajima Honda
15. #11 Y.Tachikawa  1:48:248 Cerumo Toyota
16. #8 T.Takagi  1:48:268 LeMans Toyota
17. #4 M.Yanagida 1:48:874 Kondo Toyota
18. #5 A.Michigami  1:49:107 5zigen Honda
19. #6 R.Orime  1:49:926 5zigen Honda
20. #2 K.Hoshino  1:50:220 Arting Impul Toyota
21. #34 N.Yokomizo  1:50:944 Inging Toyota
22. #27 S.Mitsuyama  2:03:825 Direxiv Honda

Qualifying 1

Pos. Driver Best Laptime Team Engine
1. #56 T.Kogure  2:01:414 Aguri Honda
2. #41 K.Hiranaka  2:01:418 Dandelion Honda
3. #19 B.Treluyer 2:01:460 Impul Toyota
4. #20 T.Matsuda 2:01:470 Impul Toyota
5. #1 S.Motoyama  2:01:569 Arting Impul  Toyota
6. #33 R.Quintarelli  2:02:443 Inging Toyota
7. #32 H.Muto  2:02:467 Nakajima Honda
8. #4 M.Yanagida 2:02:664 Kondo Toyota
9. #36 A.Lotterer  2:02:710 Tom's Toyota
10. #37 T.Tsuchya 2:02:835 Tom's Toyota
11. #40 B.Wirdheim 2:02:912 Dandelion Honda
12. #55 T.Kaneishi  2:03:091 Aguri Honda
13. #8 T.Takagi  2:03:135 LeMans Toyota
14. #2 K.Hoshino  2:03:189 Arting Impul Toyota
15. #7 T.Kataoka  2:03:226 LeMans Toyota
16. #34 N.Yokomizo  2:03:300 Inging Toyota
17. #11 Y.Tachikawa  2:03:654 Cerumo Toyota
18. #31 L.Duval  2:03:726 Nakajima Honda
19. #5 A.Michigami  2:04:382 5zigen Honda
20. #27 S.Mitsuyama  2:04:485 Direxiv Honda
21. #6 R.Orime  2:06:833 5zigen Honda
22. #3 S.Yamamoto  No Time  Kondo Toyota

McLaren complete intensive test in Barcelona McLaren complete intensive test in BarcelonaAn intensive three day test for Team McLaren Mercedes finished at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya today (Friday). Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya took the total kilometers covered at the test to just under 2,000, as they continued the programme of Michelin tire selection for the Spanish Grand Prix and set-up work in two MP4-21s.

In Friday’s session, Kimi covered over 463km as he put in 100 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya. His fastest time of 1m14.751 put the Finn in sixth position on the timesheets.

Juan Pablo completed 32 laps and 148km at the Spanish circuit, and set the seventh quickest time of the day, with a 1m14.879. The close nature of the times was demonstrated again on Friday, with under eight tenths covering the top seven drivers.

The running was interrupted for both drivers with mechanical failures on the MP4-21s, which with Juan Pablo led to his car going off track into a gravel trap. There was no damage to his MP4-21 and the test team were able to resolve the issues quickly and get both cars back out on track to continue running. Towards the end of the session, Juan Pablo also suffered an engine problem, however with under an hour left of the day, the team took the decision to end his test for the week. zzzz

With 18 cars on track for each day of the test, red flag stoppages limited the action during the week on track. Despite this, Team McLaren Mercedes were able to complete an productive week of development work with the two MP4-21s.

Pedro kicked-off the week for the team on Wednesday morning, a solid day of work saw the Spaniard complete 342km over 75 laps of his home circuit.
Kimi joined Pedro on track for the afternoon session, as the test team had spent the morning preparing his MP4-21 for action. The car, which had been at the first three races as the spare car and had under gone the standard rebuild process, had arrived at the track overnight from the McLaren Technology Centre. As a result, Kimi completed just 24 laps on Wednesday, covering 111km with a focus on the set-up programme for the week.

Testing for Kimi began in earnest on Thursday as he set the fifth fastest time of the day, with 92 laps his total for the day. Juan Pablo joined Kimi on track on Thursday, and the Colombian was able to cover 104 laps as the team started the Michelin work allocated to the session.

Kimi Raikkonen
“It has been good to get back to testing this week in Barcelona, and continuing the work that the test team has been covering over the past few weeks since the start of the season. Although the track has been closed a lot, because of all the red flags, we have still been able to work through a lot of development work with the MP4-21 and we are continuing to make good progress with the car. When you see how close the times are between the top few cars in testing, when you are focused on your development programme rather than times, it shows how much of a competitive season we have ahead of us this year!”

Juan Pablo Montoya
“My two days at this week’s test at the Circuit de Catalunya were focused on Michelin selection for the Spanish Grand Prix, which takes place in a month from now. We have been evaluating the prime and options with Michelin, with some interesting results, and have been able to conclude the process today.”

Pedro de la Rosa
"Although I was only on track for one day, it was a positive day and we make some positive progress work on the set-up and general development of MP4-21. It was certainly good for the test team to have two MP4-21s on track." Press release McLaren Mercedes

Senna again on pole Senna again on poleBruno Senna, nephew of the late great Ayrton Senna, claimed pole position at Oulton Park as Raikkonen Robertson racing claimed the front row on the grid for the opening round of the Lloyds TSB Insurance British Formula 3 International Series. Stephen Jelley claimed an impressive second on the grid with Oliver Jarvis third.

Many are expecting this season to become a battle of engines between newcomers Mercedes and the well-established Mugen Honda. Early indications are that this will be a close fight as, although Mercedes took the first two places on the grid, Jarvis was the highest placed Honda in third.

After the session Senna, who has never raced at Oulton before, said: "I've had some test days, and I guess I've learned the track okay! The team is obviously competitive!"

In the national class, for cars which are at least two years old, Rodolfo Gonzalez set the best lap time and took 13th overall, while Juho Annala was second and Cristiano Morgado third.

Twenty-three years ago Senna's uncle, Ayrton, also took pole at Oulton Park when racing in British F3. He failed to finish either race at the circuit, however.

Pos Driver Make Time Laps
 1. Bruno Senna Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:30.109 10
 2. Stephen Jelley Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:30.157 + 0.048 12
 3. Oliver Jarvis Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:30.548 + 0.439 14
 4. James Walker Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:30.735 + 0.626 15
 5. Mike Conway Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:30.795 + 0.686 13
 6. Yelmer Buurman Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.037 + 0.928 15
 7. Christian Bakkerud Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:31.041 + 0.932 15
 8. Maro Engel Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:31.155 + 1.046 15
 9. Stuart Hall Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.269 + 1.160 12
10. Salvador Duran Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.376 + 1.267 16
11. James Jakes Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.590 + 1.481 16
12. Alberto Valerio Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:31.748 + 1.639 16
13. Rodolfo Gonzalez Dallara F304 Mugen-Ho 1:31.836 + 1.727 13
14. Jonathan Kennard Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:31.967 + 1.858 17
15. Charlie Hollings Dallara F306 Mercedes 1:31.977 + 1.868 16
16. Dennis Retera Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:32.147 + 2.038 17
17. Juho Annala Dallara F304 Mugen-Ho 1:32.924 + 2.815 16
18. Cristiano Morgado Lola-Dome F106/4 Muge 1:33.183 + 3.074 15
19. Keiko Ihara Dallara F306 Mugen-Ho 1:34.154 + 4.045 15
20. Ricardo Teixeira Dallara F304 Mugen-Ho 1:34.324 + 4.215 18
21. Martin Kudzak Lola-Dome F106/4 Muge 1:35.261 + 5.152 15
22. Rodolfo Avila Dallara F304 Mugen-Ho 1:36.578 + 6.469 5

BMW Team PTG adds 4th driver BMW Team PTG adds 4th driverBMW Team PTG announced today that Martin Jensen of Smoerum, Denmark will join BMW of North America's American Le Mans Series GT2 effort as the team's fourth driver. Jensen drove with the team at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring in March and will co-drive the No. 22 BMW Team PTG M3 for the remainder of the year with Justin Marks.

An accomplished driver and podium finisher in the Danish Touring Car championship, 26-year old Jensen made three ALMS GT2 starts in 2005, scoring a best finish of second at Portland.

"I'm very happy and proud to be joining PTG in the year they return to the ALMS," said Jensen. "Tom Milner and PTG know how to win, so it's up to Bill, Joey, Justin and me to deliver the results. With Yokohama working hard to develop the best tires for our cars, I think we will be a strong contender this season. I'm looking forward to getting back on track with Justin and the rest of the team."

"Selecting our fourth driver was not an easy decision," said BMW Team PTG owner Tom Milner. "We considered a number of capable drivers and Martin not only proved to me that he could do the job, but he could give 100% to all parts of our program. That became the deciding factor."

Jensen will reacquaint himself with the team at a one-day test at Summit Point Raceway, in Summit Point, W Va., on April 25 as the team readies for the next two rounds of ALMS competition, the May12 Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston and May 21 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

2006 marks the 11th season of competition for BMW M3s of BMW Team PTG. In 10 seasons BMW Team PTG has won a total of 53 races in both sprint and endurance racing series and 14 sports car racing championships. In 2005, BMW Team PTG won 7 of 13 Rolex Sports Car Series races entered. BMW

Industry News
Shelby, Hertz team up on throwback Mustang Shelby, Hertz team up on throwback Mustang
TV News
USA TV reminders for Easter Sunday USA TV reminders for Easter Sunday

Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Import Racers
1:30am-2:00am ESPN2
Inside Drag Racing
11:00am-11:30am ESPN2
NHRA 2Day  
11:30am-12:00pm ESPN2
Champ Car Atlantic Long Beach
1:00pm-2:00pm SPEED
Speed World Challenge Long Beach
2:00pm-3:00pm -GT SPEED
Speed News Sunday 
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
Whiskey Roads -History of moonshine runners and stock car racing
8:00pm-9:00pm SPEED
Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain
Matt Kenseth (NASCAR)
Melanie Troxel (NHRA)   
9:00pm-10:00pm (L) SPEED

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

Long Beach looking to grow race even bigger Long Beach looking to grow race even biggerParachutists drop out of the azure skies with daring grace. F-18 Hornets roar overhead in perfect alignment. Vendors peddle products with cajoling spiels. Cars zoom around the 11-turn, 1.97-mile course in a reverberating procession. People walk, talk, eat, drink, laugh and savor the glad sights endemic to the event.

It is the city's 32nd annual downtown street party, a three-day festivity known as the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that climaxes with a race that is preceded by all sorts of thrilling diversions.

Fresh from a Grand Prix weekend that had the highest attendance in years and went off without any major problems, organizers are now looking to boost the quality and type of Prix-related activities on Saturdays of the three-day event. The eventual goal would be to make the first two days of the annual weekend Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach rival Sundays in crowd-drawing activities.

That could be a tall order, considering Sunday is when the Grand Prix's signature race in the Champ Car World Series is held, this year drawing more than an estimated 80,000 fans on race day.

But organizers are buoyed by the 2006 overall show, which they said should have a final attendance of around 200,000 or more.

This year the Grand Prix emphasized a "Super Saturday" that showcased the always popular Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race as well as new Formula Drift performances and the Crown Royal Daytona Prototype Challenge.

The Grand Prix also scheduled the popular band Bad Religion during its annual "Rock-N-Roar" Saturday night concert, drawing more than 8,000 people.

"Super Saturday has got a tremendous amount of potential," said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. "We want to expand on that idea and the concepts so maybe in a year or two Saturday will rival Sunday in terms of attractiveness.

"Then we'll start moving to make Friday the same," Michaelian said. "We want to create a three-day festival."  zzzz

One problem has been solved, at least for the next five years: a later starting date has been arranged with the Long Beach Convention Center and other agencies that will allow the Grand Prix to hold the race on a weekend that doesn't conflict with the popular Masters golf tournament, or Easter.

The later start time, set for April 13-15 of 2007, has been done previously, but not for a long stretch, Michaelian said.

Downtown and Long Beach tourism officials said this year's event generated more pre-race buzz and race weekend excitement, and likely more economic benefit, than any other previous Grand Prix.

"The early results have told us that it was a very successful weekend," said Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of the Downtown Long Beach Associates.

Area hotels sold out sooner than in other years, and "there was a pretty strong buzz going into the weekend," Kojian said.

"The waterfront, the East Village had a lot of people, and Pine Avenue was packed," he said. "It was a great weekend."

Kojian applauded efforts by Grand Prix officials to build as big of an event on Saturday as on Sunday.

"I commend them for their efforts to develop something that strong for all three days," he said.

A sweet couple from England, John and Kathryn Elliott, experiencing a big-time race weekend for the first time, saying, "This is the most fun we've had in our life."

Long Beach, with its panoramic background, with its 64-degree temperatures, with its skyline glistening brightly from the sunshine, was in prime form for its top show.

"This was Long Beach at its best," says its most passionate advocate, Mayor Beverly O'Neill. "I love the noise of those engines. And I love it when the skies are clear, as they were this weekend. This is when Long Beach shines for everyone around the country to see."

"We're definitely up in attendance," says Michaelian. "The past couple of years our three-day attendance was in the 170,000 range. This year it reached 200,000."

"The race bottomed out for a couple of years, but it's come back strongly," says Chris Pook, its founder. "And why shouldn't it? It long has had a life of its own."

Oh yes, the Long Beach Grand Prix, which fell on lean times when CART was hemorrhaging red ink to the point it went into bankruptcy and was bought three years ago by Kevin Kalkhoven, Jerry Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi, is back strongly and does have a life of its own.

And that life figures to grow stronger in the upcoming years.

"We now have momentum on our side," says Steve Johnson.

No one is happier about that than Jim Michaelian, who has endured his share of difficult moments since succeeding Chris Pook.

"It was nice to see so many smiling, happy faces," he says. "It also was nice to see more people returning to our race. I feel good about the direction we're now headed." Long Beach Press Telegram

Legge finish boosts Race Girl apparel Legge finish boosts Race Girl apparelAnd an eighth-place finish by Katherine Legge, the highest finish by a woman in a Champ Car/CART series race, was helping sales in the Race Girl apparel booth, which was swamped following the race, company officials said.

The brand, which has been around for eight years, is seeing a resurgence, said Brian Trumbley, operations manager for the line.

"Definitely more women are becoming involved in racing," he said, adding that the brand promotes not only racing but the racing lifestyle.

Rocketsports Portland test report Rocketsports Portland test reportOn June 16-17 the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will compete in round five at Portland International Raceway and Rocketsports Racing joined all the other teams in a two-day test on the 1.969-mile permanent road course to prepare for the upcoming event in Portland, Oregon.

Nicky Pastorelli ran with Rocketsports on Wednesday joining 16 other Champ Car drivers, while Antonio Pizzonia participated with the team and the field on Thursday.  In the past couple of tests that Rocketsports had, they were the only team out on the track, so this test was a bit different for the team as they would have to work with other cars on track and several red flags.  Not that it was a situation they weren’t used to, as the two-day test was more like typical race weekend practices.

Pastorelli strapped into the #8 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone on Wednesday for his first run with the team.  Being only his third test in a Champ Car, the just-turned 23-year-old driver took some time early in the day to become acquainted with the PIR course.  He spent the rest of the afternoon working with the engineers to learn more about the car and the venue, with an overall goal to find a car setup that was suitable in a working progress to prepare the team for the upcoming race. 

He ran 99 laps (194.931 miles) on Wednesday and posted his quickest lap in 59.685 seconds.  zzzz

The Portland track is usually quicker on cold days, and the team awoke to cloudy and colder conditions on Thursday for their second day of testing.  Counting on a quicker track for testing the two Champ Car rookies, the team was surprised when track conditions were slicker than normal.  Those conditions caused several incidents on track, bringing out the red flag a number of times during the day, which cost the team valuable on-track running time.

Both former Formula One drivers demonstrated their driving skills were more than capable of meeting the challenge of the PIR road course.  Pastorelli ran 86 more laps on Thursday, totaling 185 laps (364.265 miles) in two days, and improved his fast time on the second day recording a lap in 59.368 seconds.  Pizzonia logged 91 laps (179.179 miles) and ran his quickest lap in 58.723 seconds. 

“It was a positive test,” said Pastorelli.  “It was important especially for me to get some more miles under my belt in a Champ Car and to get to know the team by working with them.  The end result was not too good because we expected better.  The drive shaft in the #8 Rocketsports car broke at the end of the day yesterday, so that cost us a little time that we could have used running on track.  It was difficult during the two-days because of the changing track, so it was hard to get a really good run because we were constantly changing things on the cars, using different tires, etc. to improve our times.  But overall, it was a good two days.  I enjoyed working with the team and thank them for this opportunity.”

“It was good to log some more miles in the #8 Rocketsports car,” said Pizzonia.  “It was a good opportunity for me to get to learn the Portland track so that I have a better idea of what to expect when I get a chance to race there in the future.  I continue to enjoy working with the Rocketsports team.  We were working on finding a good road-course setup; however our results did not show the potential that could have come from the car and myself.”

Rocketsports Racing will head back to their East Lansing, Michigan-based shop today to prepare for the next race in Houston, Texas on May 11-13.  The team will return to Portland on June 16-18 for the 23rd running of the Grand Prix of Portland. Rocketsports

Toyota previews Imola Toyota previews ImolaAfter three hard flyaway races when most of the Formula 1 circus spent a month away from home, Round 4 of the 2006 world championship signals the start of the European season.

The Italian circuit of Imola has been home to the San Marino Grand Prix for over 20 years. The track's relative proximity to the team factories will come as a welcome relief to logistical departments drained by the challenge of sending parts and personnel halfway round the world.

It's been a hard start to 2006 for Panasonic Toyota Racing's drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli but the team's performance has improved with every race, culminating in Ralf's Melbourne podium. They will look to continue that progress back on European soil.

Ralf Schumacher "The Imola circuit is technically very demanding - with lots of long straights and slow corners which are especially tough on brakes. The venue has been kind to me in the past and I've always enjoyed good results - particularly when I took my first ever grand prix win there in 2001. By contrast the circuit has not been that good for Toyota down the years although both Jarno and I scored points last year. We could face cold conditions in Imola but you never know what the weather will bring there. We struggled at the start of the year in cool conditions but we made the podium in Australia so that shows how far we've come. Of course the season has started off harder than we expected but Australia was much better and the team is strong enough to keep bouncing back." zzzz

Jarno Trulli "It always makes for a slightly different weekend when you are racing at home. I will have more support than usual and my fan club usually pays me a visit but I will also be busier out of the cockpit. Despite being in Italy, I don't particularly like the circuit at Imola. It's often cold there in April but the most important factors for performance are braking stability and traction, as well as a car that can ride the curbs. Last year I was able to celebrate the birth of my son with a points finish and we have to hope for another top eight finish this time. I didn't have a good weekend in Australia but our pace was much better so we can only be confident. We have had two hard weeks of testing and we hope to find suitable tires for the conditions and to reap the benefits this weekend."

Dieter Gass, Chief Engineer Race and Test Now we are back in Europe we will probably face cooler temperatures at Imola than we have so far this year. That would have been a concern for us after the difficulties we had in Bahrain. But given the work we have done with the car set-up combined with the development work from Bridgestone on their new generation of compounds designed to work at lower temperatures, we can now be confident that those problems are under control. We showed a much stronger performance in Melbourne and we have to look to continue that development. We have had two tests since Australia which have given us a chance to look at some of the main issues, including the damper set-up we will need to ride the Imola curbs. Our car has shown it is capable of qualifying in the top ten so we have to look to do that and score points." Press release Toyota

Webber uninjured in testing accident Webber uninjured in testing accidentWilliams Cosworth completed a four-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya today, with Mark Webber and Alex Wurz sharing the driving duties.

Despite an accident in the morning, Webber was able to complete 85 laps in total, his best in 1’15”335. Wurz covered a total of 21 laps, his quickest in 1’17”736.

Mike Condliffe, Test Team Manager, WilliamsF1 “Today Alex joined Mark on our final day in Barcelona. In the early part of the morning, Mark had an accident - fortunately he was fine but it left the car badly damaged. As a result, Mark switched to the other car in order to carry out some confirmatory tire compound tests for the race here in a few weeks’ time. The crew did an excellent job turning Mark’s car around and were able to get it out for the last part of the session. Although we didn't get as much running in as we would have liked today, the re-prioritized programme gave us a clear direction in which to develop.”

Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth “Cosworth has gathered a lot of data in Barcelona as we completed a significant amount of running on both ‘race specification’ Series 2 and ‘development’ Series 3 CA2006 engines. Analysis of the results will contribute to the engine plan for the San Marino Grand Prix and onwards. Cosworth is confident in the performance of the CA2006 engine. The challenges in Barcelona this week only make us more determined to ensure we have a successful season.” Source Williams F1

Traffic plan for USGP at Mazda Raceway Traffic plan for USGP at Mazda RacewayThe Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) announced today a traffic plan for improving the flow of vehicles and spectators in and out of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 21-23. Highlights of the plan include all general admission parking off-site, with spectators transported via shuttle bus; a motorcycle-only entrance; and increased staffing and directional signage.

The plan will immediately limit the number of automobiles permitted on-site at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca by providing free off-site parking at Cal State University – Monterey Bay (CSUMB) located near Monterey just off of Highway 1. From there, all spectators will be shuttled by bus onto Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca through the South Boundary Road entrance. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will continue to allow spectators to enter with personal belongings (cameras, backpacks, personal coolers, etc.), but these must be able to sit on the riders lap.

“Our first goal was to reach a solution that limited the number of automobiles on-site, and the shuttle bus system should allow us to do that efficiently. The parking is conveniently located just off of Highway 1, and will remain free of charge,” said Gill Campbell, CEO/General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “This is a system that works well for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament, and should help us eliminate some of the traffic strain both into the facility and throughout the community during the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.”  zzzz

All motorcyclists will be provided free parking at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Wolf Hill, traditionally the automobile parking area at spectator events. Motorcycles will enter and exit on Barloy Canyon Road, located off of Reservation Road in Marina. No automobiles will be allowed to enter or exit on this road.

“Part of the charm of a MotoGP World Championship event is that, by its nature, it becomes the largest motorcycle gathering many people will ever witness. We wanted to ensure that continued,” Campbell said of continuing motorcycle parking on-site at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “We hope this will encourage even more of our avid motorcycling base to ride to the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.”

“We’ve pledged to improve our efficiency at the admission gates; if spectators, particularly those traveling by motorcycle, can assist us by having their tickets easily available we’ll make the entry process as painless and enjoyable as possible for everyone at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.”

The only automobiles on-site will be those with parking passes, such as those purchased through Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in hospitality packages or teams, media and officials. These automobiles will be able to enter through one lane of South Boundary Road (shuttles will be entering in the same direction in the opposite lane) until 2:00 p.m. each day, at which point the traffic flow will be reversed and the same automobiles will exit on the same road. Teams, media and officials will enter and exit the main gate through Highway 68.

A limited number of general public on-site parking passes for Wolf Hill parking are available through Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, at a weekend price of $50. These passes are available for advance purchase only.

Additionally, as with all events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, spectators will be able to ride for free on Monterey–Salinas Transit (MST). A shuttle schedule for MST on event weekends, including bus stops on the Monterey Peninsula and in Salinas, will be available at www.mst.org.

“One of our main goals for the 2006 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix was to dramatically improve the traffic situation during the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix,” said Campbell. “We strongly believe we’ve accomplished that. Now we can continue to grow and improve the MotoGP experience for all involved.”

Tickets for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s 50th Season of Racing, including the U.S. Sports Car Invitational featuring the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series May 5-7, the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 21-23, the 33rd Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races August 18-20 and the Monterey Sports Car Championships featuring the American Le Mans Series October 20-22, are on-sale now.

More information on the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix is available at www.redbullusgrandprix.com.

Stewart encouraged by Bernie's interest Stewart encouraged by Bernie's interestOutgoing British Racing Drivers' Club president, Sir Jackie Stewart has revealed he is 'encouraged' by reports that Bernie Ecclestone is rumored to be behind an alternative plan for the redevelopment of Silverstone, in an effort to keep the British Grand Prix on the F1 calendar and under the control of the BRDC.

Speaking to British newspaper, The Sun, Stewart said, "Previously Bernie has not shown any interest. This may be a change of position, which I am encouraged by," he told the tabloid 'paper. "We speak quite often and this has not come up, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good idea. I'd be happy to hear any proposal."

United hires NASCAR drivers to train United hires NASCAR drivers to trainUAL Corp., which emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, plans to schedule more flights with fewer aircraft in a move to lift United Airlines "out of the ditch," according to a top executive. Chief Operating Officer Peter McDonald said in a speech Tuesday evening at Northwestern University that the company has hired NASCAR pit crews to train ramp workers in order to reduce turnaround time at airports. McDonald said improving aircraft turns, refueling, cleaning and loading and unloading planes on layover will add 125 flights to United's schedule without putting more planes in the air. Increasing efficiency is part of the company's plan to return to profitability after being forced into bankruptcy by a surge of low-cost carriers, high labor costs, and ever-rising fuel prices. The key to its strategy, McDonald said, is United's "most important asset"--its people. cbs2chicago.com
ECU Issue: Mosley’s says manufacturers want to cheat ECU Issue: Mosley’s says manufacturers want to cheatWriting in his column in the May edition of F1 Racing, FIA President Max Mosley slams the F1 manufacturers saying the only reason why manufacturers are against a standard ECU is because it takes away their ability to cheat.

"So why do we insist on a standard ECU?" he said. "Well, there are several reasons. At the most obvious level, the only brain we want in an F1 car is the driver's brain.

"For the past 12 years, therefore, we've been trying to prevent the use of on-board computers that help the driver drive.

"With a road car, however, the more help you give the driver the better. Computers can help him or her avoid accidents and compensate for their deficiencies.

"But F1 is a drivers' championship, a sporting contest; we want the best man to win, driving the car alone and unaided.

"This debate goes back to the early 1990s, and I still have a Christmas card from Ayrton Senna containing a handwritten message saying that we must get rid of electronic aids in F1."

"If a major car company win the F1 world championship, the value of their victory will not be diminished because they used a standard ECU.

"Indeed, it might be enhanced - because no one will be able to claim they won it because of some ultra-sophisticated electronic cheating device."

Kovalainen smokes the field again Kovalainen smokes the field againRenault dominated the final day of testing at Barcelona in Spain this week, and once again it was Heikki Kovalainen leading the way over teammate Giancarlo Fisichella.

The pair were comfortably at the top of the time sheet with Kovalainen's best lap of 1:13.926 seconds was almost four tenths faster than Fisichella's. Is there any question that Kovalainen is fast enough for F1? Look for him to replace Alonso or Fisichella next year.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Kovalainen Renault (M) 1:13.926 132
 2. Fisichella Renault (M) 1:14.302 90
 3. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:14.686 86
 4. Button Honda (M) 1:14.708 131
 5. M. Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:14.734 78
 6. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:14.752 100
 7. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:14.878 30
 8. Barrichello Honda (M) 1:15.018 54
 9. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:15.217 76
10. Villeneuve BMW-Sauber (M) 1:15.321 98
11. Webber Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:15.338 83
12. Davidson Honda (M) 1:15.583 69
13. Kubica BMW-Sauber (M) 1:15.791 97
14. R. Schumacher Toyota (B) 1:16.041 67
15. Wurz Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:17.752 21
16. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:19.512 13
17. Ide Super Aguri-Honda (B) No time

Wirth gunning for Atlantic $2M pot of gold Wirth gunning for Atlantic $2M pot of goldMore determined than ever to reach the goal of winning the Champ Car Atlantic Championship in 2006 due to a disappointing end to his 2005 season where he sustained a back injury and missed the final two events, Andreas took to the streets of Long Beach and dominated the season opener.

It was an exciting weekend for Wirth, one that he'd looked forward to with eager anticipation. After the emotional highs and lows of doing well in practice on Friday morning and then crashing halfway through provisional qualifying in the afternoon, Andreas pulled it together and not only took Pole Position on Saturday, but set a new track record in so doing. Wirth clocked a 1: 16.082 in his Mazda/Cosworth race car, averaging 93.121 mph which bested the 1:16.267 turned in by A.J. Allmendinger in 2003.

As if the new track record and pole position weren't enough for the young German, Wirth continued on with a commanding performance. And, despite three yellow flags that broke his rhythm, Wirth confidently led the field from flag to flag with no one seriously threatening his position.

Needless to say, Andreas was all smiles as he related his victory, "I was very mad at myself on Friday when I threw it in the wall, but I knew I had a car to win. It was a great race today! I can't tell you how happy I am and how good I feel! There couldn't be a better start for the 2006 Championship and I want to thank all the guys at Forsythe Racing and my Engineer Nick for the tool they gave me to win."

You can catch Andreas' win on Speed Channel this coming Sunday the 16th at 1pm Eastern time and repeated on April 19th at 3pm.

Round 2 of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship will be held in Houston on May 13th, 2006. Andreas Wirth PR

Renault look to renew Briatore's contract Renault look to renew Briatore's contract(GMMf1NET )  Renault would like to extend team principal Flavio Briatore's contract, which at present will expire at the end of the 2006 season.

New president Alain Dassas, who this month started work at retiring predecessor Patrick Faure's old office, told AFP that he was not a possible replacement for Briatore because he is not a grand prix 'expert'.

''Flavio is concerned with this team,'' Dassas said, ''and he does an outstanding job.

''I hope that we can extend his contract.''

Toyota confident despite chilly Imola Toyota confident despite chilly Imola(GMMf1NET) Toyota is confident that the problems of early 2006 have been solved.

The Cologne based team has struggled to get heat into its Bridgestone tires this year, culminating in a distinct lack of pace, particularly on a cold track.

At an autumnal Albert Park circuit, however, Ralf Schumacher ended up on the podium, indicating that progress is being made.

Imola could be even colder, but chief engineer Dieter Gass said Toyota 'can now be confident that those problems are under control.'

BMW concerned about Imola reliability BMW concerned about Imola reliability(GMMf1NET) BMW is worried about the reliability of its V8 engine for next weekend's San Marino GP.

The team's Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve made it through the Melbourne race, but Hinwil-based BMW Sauber has endured some technical difficulties with its 2.4 liter power plant in 2006.

A quick fix was installed for Australia, but the two-race rule means that the racing pair cannot install a new specification at Imola.

''And, with its high downforce requirement and uphill sections,'' said team boss Mario Theissen, ''Imola is a track which generally puts a lot of strain on the engines.''

Villeneuve agreed that BMW-Sauber will have to 'be a little bit careful' on the Italian track.

Opening round of Atlantic series to air Opening round of Atlantic series to airAn impressive field of 28 drivers from 12 different countries ushered in a new era of Atlantic competition last weekend as the Yokohama Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda took the first green flag of the 2006 season on the streets of Long Beach.

Television viewers across the U.S. and Canada will get a chance to see all of the racing action from the Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach through comprehensive coverage this weekend on SPEED, the premier motorsports network.

Round 1 of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship from Long Beach will air on Sunday, April 16 at 1 p.m. ET on SPEED. In addition to providing flag-to-flag coverage of the 32-lap race on the challenging Long Beach street circuit, Sunday’s broadcast also marks the debut of the new Atlantic announcing team. Rick Benjamin, longtime motorsports announcer and the voice of the Champ Car World Series, will carry play-by-play duties for all Atlantic telecasts this season. He’ll be joined in the booth by former racer Jon Beekhuis, who’s been calling Atlantic events for over 10 seasons. Cameron Steele joins the broadcast team this season working the developing stories from the Atlantic pit lane. zzzz

The new crew witnessed a spectacular season debut for the new 2006 Mazda-Cosworth/Swift 016.a/Yokohama Atlantic racing package last weekend. Germany’s Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) fought back a pack of young hard-chargers all race long to seize his second career Atlantic win as he got off to an early lead in the pursuit of the coveted series title and the $2 million champion’s Champ Car incentive bonus. The race also featured several incidents and caution flags on the tight 1.968-mile street circuit as a number of the top expected contenders in ’06 saw their days end early as a result of the fierce on-track battles. Sunday’s hour-long broadcast, produced by the Mullin Production Group, will also bring viewers closer to some of the new personalities that will highlight the Champ Car Atlantic series this season.

Check local listings for this weekend’s SPEED broadcast details, The network will also re-air the Long Beach Atlantic race on Wednesday, April 19 beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Atlantic racing fans will also have an opportunity to relive the excitement of each race and the SPEED broadcasts whenever they’d like this season through a new unique option on the official web site of North America’s top open-wheel development series. All 12 Atlantic race broadcasts will be available to view on demand in 2006 simply by visiting www.champcaratlantic.com. The sure-to-be-popular feature makes its debut this week and is just one example of how the new-look Atlantic series will be bringing its racing and its stars closer to the fans this season.

Industry News
Honda to cut Hybrid production Honda to cut Hybrid productionSlower sales of several gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles have forced Honda Motor Co. to consider cutting production. With only Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. committed to a wide deployment of hybrid technology, a number of automakers at the New York International Auto Show sounded lukewarm about the prospects for future models.

After torrid sales of the Toyota Prius and Honda's Civic hybrid over the past couple of years, many automakers believed U.S. consumers would demand enough vehicles with improved fuel economy to justify the extra costs of the hybrid systems. Some even considered the loss they might take at selling hybrids below cost as an investment in environmental public relations.

But so far, no hybrid model has drawn demand similar to the Prius, which is among the most popular vehicles on the market.

"Everybody seems to think the market has softened," said Jed Connelly, senior vice president of Nissan North America, which plans to launch a hybrid version of the Altima sedan this year. "But nobody really knows. Aside from the Prius, nothing is seemingly selling at expectations."

Hybrid sales are up 37% so far this year, to 48,686 vehicles, as new models hit the market. But concerns about hybrid sales have grown as some models began to linger in dealer lots for months. According to data from J.D. Power & Associates, the average Ford Escape hybrid sold in March had sat on dealer lots for 61 days, about twice the average for a regular Escape. Hybrid Honda Accords had sat for 90 days, three times longer than typical Accord models.  More at Detroit Free Press

Champ Car star Bourdais under appreciated Champ Car star Bourdais under appreciatedThis AP article on Sebastien Bourdais talks about just how good a driver he is, yet does not get the recognition he deserves.  A lot of this is as a result of the Champ Car series not getting the media blitz that NASCAR and F1 enjoy.  Too bad his sponsor McDonald's doesn't activate their sponsorship around him.  Maybe they are afraid to because he is still making noises about going to F1 and any advertising campaign would be wasted after year 1 if he were to leave.  In NASCAR their drivers are not going anywhere for a long time so a sponsor knows that an investment in a driver can bear fruit for many years to come.
AGR gets to bottom of Marco's broken half-shafts AGR gets to bottom of Marco's broken half-shaftsMarco Andretti's half-shaft blues may be over after breaking several the past two IRL races.

"I think we solved the problem. After the second one broke it was obviously me," Andretti said. "We examined the data. We saw that all the other guys on the (AGR) team were on the edge of doing it, but I crossed over that edge.

"I was dropping the clutch a little bit quicker than they (teammates Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta) were," Andretti said. "I need to slip the clutch a little bit more.

"We practiced so many pit stops you wouldn't believe," Andretti said, "and I never broke anything.

"In testing they made the pit box real tight, using piles of tires," Marco said. "I had to slip the clutch to get out of the pit box. In the races when I had an opening coming out you sort of go as fast as you can, and that's when we had problems."

Another Busch in trouble with The Law Another Busch in trouble with The LawUPDATE The misdemeanor charge carries up to a year in jail, a $2,500 fine and a driver's license suspension, said Sgt. Don Lambert, with Henrico County police. The charge also calls for a mandatory court appearance; Busch will appear in Henrico County General District Court on May 23. Lambert said the incident happened at 10 p.m. near Richmond International Airport, a few minutes outside the city. Neither speed nor alcohol was a factor, though Lambert would not provide further details. Henrico County authorities said Busch, who lives in Mooresville, N.C., was cooperative. ESPN.com/AP

04/13/06 CBS 6 in Richmond VA has learned NASCAR driver Kyle Busch was pulled over Wednesday night in Henrico County [Richmond VA] for reckless driving. The incident happened around 10 o'clock at Laburnum and Route 60 in the East End. Ironically, Busch just talked to the media Tuesday at RIR about NASCAR's new "Focus on Driving Campaign," which is aimed at limiting distractions for teens behind the wheel. Busch was in Richmond taking part in a Nextel cup testing session this week. Busch is just 20 years old himself [turns 21 on May 2nd] and the defending Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year. Police won't go into specifics about the incident but say that alcohol was not involved and there was no property damage. Busch is scheduled to appear in court on May 23rd. wtvr.com

Formula Nippon
Toyota teams again on top at Suzuka Toyota teams again on top at SuzukaAfter dominating the last race at Toyota's Fuji track, the Toyota Formula Nippon teams are again on top at Honda's Suzuka track this weekend.

Bjorn Wirdheim is one of the Honda drivers who is working hard to maintain pace with the Toyotas.

"We've made some good progress today and we know what we need to do in order to improve for qualifying. The weather forecast doesn't look very good though and qualifying tomorrow will probably take place in wet conditions. There is a good chance of rain on Sunday as well."

Qualifying will run on Saturday followed by the race on Sunday that is scheduled to start 14:35 Tokyo time (GMT+09:00).

Practice 1 and 2 Combined Results

Pos. Driver Best Laptime Team Engine
1. #19 B.Treluyer 1:43:920 Impul Toyota
2. #20 T.Matsuda 1:43:972 Impul Toyota
3. #33 R.Quintarelli 1:44:178 Inging Toyota
4. #55 T.Kaneishi 1:44:406 Aguri Honda
5. #56 T.Kogure 1:44:470 Aguri Honda
6. #1 S.Motoyama 1:44:513 Arting Impul Toyota
7. #7 T.Kataoka 1:44:906 LeMans Toyota
8. #40 B.Wirdheim 1:44:939 Dandelion Honda
9. #36 A.Lotterer 1:45:022 Tom's Toyota
10. #4 M.Yanagida 1:45:194 Kondo Toyota
11. #3 S.Yamamoto 1:45:292 Kondo Toyota
12. #31 L.Duval 1:45:364 Nakajima Honda
13. #41 K.Hiranaka 1:45:470 Dandelion Honda
14. #37 T.Tsuchya 1:45:571 Tom's Toyota
15. #8 T.Takagi 1:45:925 LeMans Toyota
16. #11 Y.Tachikawa 1:45:940 Cerumo Toyota
17. #32 H.Muto 1:46:008 Nakajima Honda
18. #5 A.Michigami 1:46:095 5zigen Honda
19. #2 K.Hoshino 1:46:190 Arting Impul Toyota
20. #27 S.Mitsuyama 1:46:829 Direxiv Honda
21. #6 R.Orime 1:46:965 5zigen Honda
22. #34 N.Yokomizo 1:47:387 Inging Toyota zzzz

Practice 2

Pos. Driver Best Laptime Team Engine
1. #19 B.Treluyer 1:43:920 Impul Toyota
2. #20 T.Matsuda 1:43:972 Impul Toyota
3. #33 R.Quintarelli 1:44:178 Inging Toyota
4. #55 T.Kaneishi 1:44:406 Aguri Honda
5. #56 T.Kogure 1:44:470 Aguri Honda
6. #1 S.Motoyama 1:44:513 Arting Impul Toyota
7. #7 T.Kataoka 1:44:906 LeMans Toyota
8. #40 B.Wirdheim 1:44:939 Dandelion Honda
9. #36 A.Lotterer 1:45:022 Tom's Toyota
10. #4 M.Yanagida 1:45:194 Kondo Toyota
11. #3 S.Yamamoto 1:45:292 Kondo Toyota
12. #31 L.Duval 1:45:364 Nakajima Honda
13. #41 K.Hiranaka 1:45:470 Dandelion Honda
14. #37 T.Tsuchya 1:45:571 Tom's Toyota
15. #8 T.Takagi 1:45:925 LeMans Toyota
16. #11 Y.Tachikawa 1:45:940 Cerumo Toyota
17. #32 H.Muto 1:46:008 Nakajima Honda
18. #5 A.Michigami 1:46:095 5zigen Honda
19. #2 K.Hoshino 1:46:190 Arting Impul Toyota
20. #27 S.Mitsuyama 1:46:829 Direxiv Honda
21. #6 R.Orime 1:46:965 5zigen Honda
22. #34 N.Yokomizo 1:47:604 Inging Toyota

Practice 1

Pos. Driver Best Laptime Team Engine
1. #55 T.Kaneishi 1:45:212 Aguri Honda
2. #19 B.Treluyer 1:45:219 Impul Toyota
3. #1 S.Motoyama 1:45:490 Arting Impul Toyota
4. #20 T.Matsuda 1:45:520 Impul Toyota
5. #56 T.Kogure 1:45:729 Aguri Honda
6. #33 R.Quintarelli 1:45:736 Inging Toyota
7. #31 L.Duval 1:45:856 Nakajima Honda
8. #40 B.Wirdheim 1:45:919 Dandelion Honda
9. #36 A.Lotterer 1:46:259 Tom's Toyota
10. #7 T.Kataoka 1:46:722 LeMans Toyota
11. #41 K.Hiranaka 1:46:784 Dandelion Honda
12. #4 M.Yanagida 1:46:993 Kondo Toyota
13. #32 H.Muto 1:47:045 Nakajima Honda
14. #8 T.Takagi 1:47:216 LeMans Toyota
15. #37 T.Tsuchya 1:47:368 Tom's Toyota
16. #34 N.Yokomizo 1:47:387 Inging Toyota
17. #11 Y.Tachikawa 1:47:467 Cerumo Toyota
18. #27 S.Mitsuyama 1:47:600 Direxiv Honda
19. #5 A.Michigami 1:47:678 5zigen Honda
20. #2 K.Hoshino 1:47:753 Arting Impul Toyota
21. #3 S.Yamamoto 1:48:336 Kondo Toyota
22. #6 R.Orime 1:48:609 5zigen Honda

BMW Sauber plans aero changes BMW Sauber plans aero changesThe globetrotters are coming home for the first race of the European season in Formula One: the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. Shorter journeys help to relieve some of the workload on the teams, as does having their trucks and motorhomes around, with their workshops, offices and canteens.

The BMW Sauber F1 Team has completed another round of testing at Paul Ricard and Barcelona and will line up at Imola with a series of aerodynamic modifications to the BMW Sauber F1.06. Drivers Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve are aiming to follow up their satisfying results in Australia - where they finished in fourth and sixth positions respectively - with another good showing at the challenging circuit in northern Italy.

Nick Heidfeld: "The San Marino Grand Prix is the first race of the season in Europe and, from experience, this is when the teams come out with their first major round of modifications. We're no different and have tweaked one or two elements of the car's aerodynamics since the last race. I'm not expecting these changes to shake up the field completely, but they might just result in a readjustment in the balance of power. As far as the track itself is concerned, two things in particular stand out. Firstly, that we drive very hard over the curbs at Imola and need a car that can deal with that kind of treatment. Second, Imola is very tough on the brakes, almost as tough as Canada. That makes efficient brake cooling very important, although the lower top speeds with the V8 engines will make this slightly less of an issue. As far as the traveling is concerned, the start of the European season means things are a little calmer again - despite the testing we've been doing. I really hope we can build on the progress we've made so far this season at Imola." zzzz

Jacques Villeneuve: "Imola has always been a good track for us as it was there where we got our best result last year. It is a fun track but it is the second race on the engine so we will have to be a little bit careful. It is a very different track to the first three of this year, with a lot of chicanes and kerbing, but it is fun to drive and very difficult to overtake."

Robert Kubica: "Imola is one of my favorite tracks in Europe and I am happy to return there after a victory in 2002, which was the first time I drove in Formula Renault. Unfortunately I am not racing but I hope I will help the team to get as much data as possible from the Friday pre-testing and I hope to do a good job. It is the first time this season we will race on what I would say are the "old" kind of tracks, because Imola is an old-style circuit with all the curbs. Bahrain and Malaysia are very flat with no curbs, but here you have to jump over the chicane. It is something different but I like all types of tracks, as the new ones have larger run off areas and those kinds of features. I like Imola, I am happy I am back in Italy where I have lived for five years so I am really looking forward to it. It is also the first time I shall be with the team on a circuit I know."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Everybody looks forward to the start of the European season - with both people and materials having less distance to travel - and the working conditions in the paddock are better. When we get to Europe, the teams suddenly become home-owners, with the motorhomes set up for the first time in the year. We will have a new motorhome this year and are looking forward to settling in. However, the F1 village will have to squeeze into one of the smallest paddock areas for the first European race of the season."

Both Nick and Jacques will be using the same BMW P86 engines they finished with in Australia. With the short development time we had for the new engines, that continues to present a challenge for the team. Both engines are still at the stage of development we had reached prior to the race in Melbourne. And, with its high downforce requirement and uphill sections, Imola is a track which generally puts a lot of strain on the engines."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis: "Our goal is to carry over the momentum generated by the positive result in Melbourne into the European season - and the team's been working very hard to make sure that happens. Indeed, the BMW Sauber F1.06 will line up for the San Marino Grand Prix with both a modified rear section and a new front wing, which promises increased downforce. Added to which, we're working intensively with our partner Michelin to get a better handle on the problems we've experienced in bringing the tires back up to temperature.

Imola not only demands a lot of downforce, it also places huge pressures on the brakes. For this reason we use maximum brake cooling and the optimum brake specification for this race. The curb stones in Imola are fairly high and the drivers have to be able to drive straight over them to set a good lap time. This places considerable mechanical loads on the chassis and suspension. Overtaking is difficult as a rule, as the straights between the chicanes are not long enough to pass. That makes a good grid position and the right race strategy all the more important. I'm confident that we are in the position to go out there and put in a good performance once again." BMW Sauber

Dan Clarke adapting well to Champ Cars Dan Clarke adapting well to Champ CarsDan Clarke, the young British racing driver who is contesting his first season of the Champ Car World Series with CTE Racing-HVM, completed his first official test session at Portland yesterday. He posted the quickest lap of all the rookie drivers on day one and was eighth fastest of the field. Continuing with testing on the second day, Clarke followed up by running consistently within the top ten throughout the day and leading the rookie times in the morning session. Completing 153 laps, he finished tenth fastest overall for the two days.

Clarke debuted in this year’s Champ Car series last week at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and he quickly impressed after setting the third fastest lap of the race. With only two days before he was back out on track for testing, Clarke had little time to rest before returning to the cockpit of his Champ Car. The test marked Clarke’s first visit to Portland International Raceway, the venue for the fifth race of this year’s Champ Car season, and after experiencing the 1.96 mile road course, he was eager to return for the race in mid-June.

“This is a good track to drive in the Champ Car. With its mix of fast and slow corners, you’re able to really make use of the power and the brakes to get the best out of the track and the car. The track lost a lot of grip on the second day, particularly in the afternoon, which made it more challenging to drive, but was another good experience. I’ve really enjoyed my two days here and I’m definitely looking forward to the race now. There are some similarities to the British style of circuits, not only with the setting and track layout, but also the cloudy and sometimes overcast weather we’ve had!

“I’m pleased that we’ve managed to run quite strongly here and to lead the rookies for much of the test. I’m still relatively new to the car, but each time I get in I feel a little more comfortable and have the confidence to push a bit harder and that’s what testing is all about. I’ve been working with the engineers to develop the car setup for this type of track, but we’ve also done plenty of work which will be utilized at the next race which will be in Houston next month.

“I’m off back home for a few days now for a little R & R. I haven’t been home for over a month, so it’ll be good to see all my family and friends. I’ll also take in a visit to Oulton Park to see the British F3 racing and catch up with my mates in that series, before heading back to the States for my first taste of oval driving.”

Clarke will return to his Champ Car from 24-25 April for oval track testing at the Milwaukee Mile, a one-mile oval circuit, the only one to feature on the 2006 Champ Car calendar. The next Champ Car race takes place under the lights at a temporary street circuit in Houston, Texas from 11-13 May 2006. Dan Clarke PR

Rally mourns death of president Rally mourns death of presidentWorld Rally chief Shekhar Mehta has died at the age of 60 in London. The Kenyan legend, who won the Safari Rally five times between 1973 and 1982, died on Wednesday after falling ill on last weekend's Rally of Corsica.

Mehta had only been re-appointed as president of the FIA's World Rally Championship commission last month after Jacques Regis stepped down. An FIA statement said: "Shekhar's experience, commitment, sense of honor and humor will be greatly missed."

Lauda's son not close to F1 switch Lauda's son not close to F1 switch(GMMf1NET)  Niki Lauda's son is still some way from making the last step to F1.

Like grand prix rookie Nico Rosberg, talented Mathias Lauda's father is a former world champion.  And, also like his German rival, he spent the '05 season in F1's support series, GP2.

But Austrian Lauda, 25 and presently driving for Mercedes' works DTM team, admitted that he never figured in negotiations with formula one teams over the winter, even in view to becoming a tester.

Asked by f1total.com if he came close to joining the pinnacle of motor sport in 2006, Lauda said: ''Not at all.

''My season in GP2 last year was very disappointing -- I had a hard time with many internal problems in the team.''

Lauda, whose father won the drivers' championship three times in the 70s and 80s, raced last year for the 'Coloni' GP2 team.

More roadblocks for Richards' F1 plan More roadblocks for Richards' F1 plan(GMMf1NET)  A group opposed to the construction of Prodrive's formula one factory in rural England has won the support of a local council.

The 'Birmingham Post' is reporting that planning permission for the Warwickshire facility is now in more doubt, with the nearby Solihull Council objecting to a huge HQ on so-called 'green belt' land.

A spokeswoman also said: ''We believe it will encourage car travel (which) conflicts with policies for less reliance on cars.''

Opposed local residents, meanwhile - calling themselves 'Fulcrum Prodrive Action Group' - are also lobbying the Warwick Council to reject planning permission for David Richards' new F1 project.

But Prodrive countered the arguments by explaining that hundreds of jobs will be created at the new HQ.

Spokesman Ben Sayer said: ''It is one of those clouds with a silver lining.''

Michelin laud Pat Symonds Michelin laud Pat Symonds(GMMf1NET) Michelin's F1 chief has singled out Pat Symonds as a crucial element to the tire supplier's successful collaboration with Renault.

Nick Shorrock, the retired Pierre Dupasquier's replacement in charge of Michelin at grands prix, lauded Renault's Symonds for being 'tough' on its French partner.

''We positively pressure one another,'' Shorrock said in a Q&A provided by the Renault team.

''Pat can be tough with us. He asks us the right questions (and) makes us call into question our certitudes.''

Michelin-shod Renault won the opening three grands prix of 2006, despite the fact that close rivals McLaren and Honda wear similar tires.

Speculation, meanwhile, has linked Renault veteran Symonds with the interest of the aforementioned Michelin rivals.

Racers galore at Spanish test Racers galore at Spanish test(GMMf1NET) The skies above Barcelona continued to whine with the plentiful sounds of F1 action as a busy test carried on throughout Thursday.

Ten teams and eighteen runners featured again at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya, with Toyota racer Jarno Trulli emerging ahead of the talented Fernando Alonso (Renault), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) trio.

''Finally (the car and Bridgestone tires are) fitting my driving style. This is a huge improvement for me,'' Italy-born Trulli remarked.

BMW, Williams, Honda and Red Bull were also in action, and amazingly only Toro Rosso and Super Aguri did not have their full grand prix driver line-up doing laps in the sun.

Following the upcoming Imola race, the next big test is at Silverstone in Great Britain. This week, the only team absent from Barcelona - MF1 - is running at the circuit.

On a dreary English day, Giorgio Mondini and Christijan Albers ran nearly 60 times up and down the Tower Straight.

TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
NASCAR Busch Qualifying Nashville
11:00am-1:00pm (L) SPEED
ARCA RE/MAX Nashville
1:30pm-3:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Busch Series  Nashville
3:30pm-7:00pm (L) FX
Speed News Saturday  
7:30pm-8:00pm SPEED
Corvette Test Drive -Z06  
10:30pm-11:00pm (R) SPEED

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

Hendrick cases moved to federal court Hendrick cases moved to federal courtTwo of the three wrongful death cases stemming from the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash Oct. 24, 2004, near Martinsville, Va., have been moved out of North Carolina state court to U.S. District Court.

Lawsuits filed by the widows of Randy Dorton and Scott Lathram have been moved to U.S. District Court, North Carolina Western District. The move of the lawsuits out of state court was expected because as part of the lawsuits, Hendrick Motorsports has filed a complaint against the air traffic controllers, saying they contributed to any negligence (if any negligence is found) for the accident.

The United States has been substituted as the defendant for the air traffic controllers, who work for the Federal Aviation Administration, and moved the cases to federal court.  More at NASCAR Daily Scene

formula bmw
Formula BMW USA - Season 2006 - Official Tests Formula BMW USA - Season 2006 - Official TestsWoodcliff Lake, NJ - 25 enthusiastic Formula BMW USA drivers took part in the first four days of official 2006 season testing recently at Road Atlanta, on March 27-28,  and at Virginia International Raceway on April 8-9.

Ryan Campbell (Gelles Racing) posted the quickest overall time in both tests, but the rest of the field was close behind. At the conclusion of the VIR test weekend, the entire field was separated by less than two seconds indicating that 2006 may be the most competitive season yet of Formula BMW USA.

With the 2006 private test ban in place since March 15, the ten official test days are critical to a successful year for the nine returning and 16 new drivers.

All 25 drivers currently registered for the season, participated at Road Atlanta, host to last season's final Rounds 13 and 14.

Catching the eye of Formula BMW USA coaches by posting the top-three unofficial times overall were, Ryan Campbell (19), Simona De Silvestro (17) and Matt Lee (16). Campbell, who raced in Formula BMW USA last year, set the best time on the first day as the Atlanta weather provided perfect racing conditions. De Silvestro, the only female on the grid, has consistently been close to the top of the unofficial timing charts in all sessions, setting the second best time overall. Lee, also returning from the 2005 championship, posted top-five times in all sessions and the third fasted overall.  zzzz

Under cold, windy and rainy weather conditions on the second day, BMW Junior Robert Wickens (17), as well as Rookies Daniel Morad (16) and Sebastian Saavedra (15) proved their skills on Road Atlanta's challenging mixture of high and low speed corners. Also consistently close to the top of the timing charts were returning drivers Matt Lee (16), Race Johnson (17) and Reed Stevens (20), as well as Junior drivers Jordan Dick (18) and Maxime Pelletier (15).

Ten days later, 24 drivers met at Virginia International Raceway for two more days of official testing. Held on the 1.65-mile South Course, the changeable Virginia weather did its best to show a little bit of everything, from wet and cloudy on the first day, to sunny and chilly on the second.

Again Ryan Champbell set the fastest lap overall, followed by Robert Wickens and Sebastian Saavedra. The top 18 were all within one second of Campbell.

Consistently near the top of the charts, as they had been at Road Atlanta, drivers Daniel Morad, Maxime Pelletier, Reed Stevens, Race Johnson and Matt Lee gave Campbell notice that they were not going to make it easy for him.

Two more test days are scheduled to be held at Carolina Motorsports Park on April 29-30 before the curtain rises on the third Formula BMW USA racing season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on May 19-21.

Background: Formula BMW is the world's leading entry-level class in Formula racing. In 2006 the series will be held in Germany, the UK, Asia and the USA. Up-and-coming drivers as young as 15-years old are given the opportunity of entering motor racing with the high-tech, standard FB02 race car.

The FB02 race car has been seen on the grid since 2002 and has set standards particularly on the safety technology front. The single-seater is powered by a 140 bhp BMW engine, reaching speeds up to 140 mph and exceeds the FIA safety requirements for its class. BMW Motorsport has developed the FORS (Formula Rescue Race Seat) especially for Formula BMW. The HANS (Head and Neck Support) safety system is also mandatory.

In 2006, Formula BMW will occur five times as a support series to Formula One races. All of the international series offer a multifaceted Education and Coaching Program as well as sponsorship for promising racing talents. The best-known alumni are Formula One drivers Ralf Schumacher, Christian Klien and Nico Rosberg.

BMW Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen, "Formula BMW offers talented young drivers more than just a car. In the Education and Coaching Program we have designed specially for them, they learn everything they need to know to hold their own in the world of motor racing. Formula BMW has become one of the top entry- level classes for Formula racing worldwide." On December 13 to 16, 2005 the Bahrain International Circuit hosted the first Formula BMW World Final. Young racing drivers from the four regional Formula BMW series competed against each other. The winner Marco Holzer will get a test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team. Formula BMW USA

Wheldon's Try for Indy Double Begins in Japan Wheldon's Try for Indy Double Begins in JapanDan Wheldon enters his fourth Indianapolis 500 wearing a bull's eye, and it's not just the one that serves as the logo of the company that sponsors his Honda-powered Dallara.

As reigning IRL IndyCar® Series and Indianapolis 500 champion, Wheldon knows he's considered among the favorites to win on nearly every circuit the IndyCar Series visits, a point he proved with his win at Homestead to open his tenure with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

"I think it's good to have a target on your back because that means you've done well," Wheldon said. "We may have a target on us, but right now, Helio (Castroneves) is leading the championship, and we've got to catch him, so he's my target."

Wheldon's pursuit of Castroneves begins with the Indy Japan 300 on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi. But beyond his standing in the early season championship race, the 27-year-old Englishman knows the Indy Japan 300 is important in setting the stage for successful Month of May. zzzz

"It's nice to talk about Indianapolis, but to tell the truth, we've got to worry about Motegi," Wheldon said. "To go into Indy with momentum is extremely important, and the only place to get that is Motegi."

Wheldon, who currently sits third in IndyCar Series points, has won the last two IndyCar Series races at Motegi. Those victories, he said, set the stage for his runner-up finish to Buddy Rice in 2004's 500 and his Indy 500 win last year.

"Motegi is a good race to win, and it's a track that's been kind to me," Wheldon said. "It is a good stage for Indy and will be again if I can win there three years in a row.

"It's always difficult when you keep winning a race to continue that streak without something going wrong. I hope this is not the year for that, and I hope that year never comes."

Wheldon, though, knows the task to repeat at any track is difficult, especially at Indianapolis, where only five of the previous 63 winners have successfully defended their race wins.

Still, he has confidence that he can join Wilbur Shaw (1939-40), Mauri Rose (1947-48), Bill Vukovich (1953-54), Al Unser (1970-71) and Castroneves (2001-02) as a repeat winner.

"Winning once at Indy is incredibly difficult," he said. "Do I think (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) have the capability to help me do it again? Absolutely.

"Indy is Indy. It doesn't matter how good you are, everything has got to go right to win there. You have to maximize every opportunity that you have. You have to work hard. You have to work as a team. If you do that, and things fall your way, we can. There's no doubt about it. But like I said, everything has got to go your way." IRL

Bourdais smashes Portland track record Bourdais smashes Portland track recordPORTLAND, Ore. – Two-time defending Champ Car champion and current series points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald’s Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spent most of Wednesday sitting around watching his Newman/Haas squad work on his car, while the rest of the field turned test laps around Portland International Raceway.

Bourdais made up for that down time in a big way on a cloudy Thursday, getting around the 1.964-mile road course in 57.335 seconds (123.317 mph) to lead the final day of open testing for the teams and drivers of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. His best lap was more than a quarter of a second quicker than the existing track record, although it will not stand as an official track mark as records can be set only in qualifying or in a race.

“We didn’t really chase lap times but the car was consistent and I’m very confident that we will have a good starting point when we come back in June,” Bourdais said. “We got a lot done and I think we accomplished most of what we wanted to do.”

Yesterday’s testing leader Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had the fastest lap of the afternoon session and was second overall with a best time of 57.532 seconds (122.895 mph), while PKV Racing’s Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) checked in with the third-best time, stopping the clocks at 57.631 seconds (122.684 mph).  zzzz

“I did my job and now the engineers have their work cut out for them as we have a lot of data to go through,” Servia grinned. “It went pretty well today, we did a lot of work and worked through most of what we needed to get through. It was nice to turn some fast laps and I think we’ll be in good shape when we come back here.”

Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five on the day, turning laps that were less than a tenth of a second off of Servia’s best pass.

“We weren’t on the top of the charts but we were consistent throughout the whole test and I am happy about that,” Tracy said. “A lot of guys were up and down and all over the charts, but we were always in the top three or four. We just need to work on finding a little more speed,”

The afternoon was a tough one for most of the 18 drivers as a cold and cloudy day ended up with more red flags than a bullfight. The Portland track, usually quicker during cold days, turned diabolical in the afternoon as conditions got slicker, catching a number of the Champ Car rookies off guard. Four of the first-year pilots ended up getting unscheduled seat time with the Champ Car Safety Team as their cars came back on the business end of a tow truck. None of the incidents were serious and no drivers were injured.

“I’m not sure what happened to the track, whether someone was dropping oil or what, but the track was very slick in the afternoon,” said Servia. “I was losing three-tenths per lap on a couple of the turns. It was very tough to drive.”

Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the top rookie on the day, logging the eighth-best lap with a time of 58.251 seconds (121.378 mph). He missed the last hour of the session after being one of the rookie quartet to have an incident, but made good gains in his two days in Portland.

“We came here to get a good road-course setup and I think we made a lot of good progress,” Power said. “If I hadn’t have gone off, we probably would have put up a good time at the end of the day. That was a bit unfortunate, but I think we ended up headed in the right direction.”

The Champ Car World Series will be off until May 11-13, when everyone heads to Texas for the new-look Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston, to be held Saturday night May 13. The series heads back to Portland June 16-18 for the 23rd running of the Grand Prix of Portland.

Official combined results from the two days of testing follow:

1) Sebastien Bourdais - #1 McDonald’s– 57.335 (138 laps completed)
2) Justin Wilson - #9 CDW– 57.532 (141 laps)
3) Oriol Servia - #6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro– 57.631 (137 laps)
4) Paul Tracy - #3 Indeck– 57.663 (112 laps)
5) A.J. Allmendinger - #10 RuSPORT– 57.689 (135 laps)
6) Bruno Junqueira - #2 Hole In The Wall Camps– 57.842 (124 laps)
7) Mario Dominguez - #7 Indeck– 58.220 (90 laps)
8) Will Power - #5 Aussie Vineyards– 58.251 (114 laps)
9) Nelson Philippe - #4 CTE Racing – HVM– 58.273 (132 laps)
10) Dan Clarke - #14 CTE Racing – HVM– 58.346 (153 laps) 
11) Alex Tagliani - #15 Aussie Vineyards– 58.471 (126 laps)
12) Katherine Legge - #20 Optium/Gulfstream– 58.583 (111 laps)
13) Cristiano da Matta - #19 Sonny’s BBQ– 58.650 (137 laps)
14) Antonio Pizzonia - #8 Rotax/Rocketsports– 58.723 (91 laps)
15) Ryan Briscoe - #34 Mi-Jack– 59.080 (76 laps)
16) Jan Heylen - #11 Sonny’s BBQ– 59.200 (135 laps)
17) Nicky Pastorelli - #8 Rotax/Rocketsports– 59.368 (185 laps)
18) Charles Zwolsman - #34 Mi-Jack– 59.817 (51 laps)

Champ Car

Industry News
GM, Ford to lose market share GM, Ford to lose market shareGeneral Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. will lose significant U.S. market share in the coming years, the publisher of automotive research firm IntelliChoice said on Thursday. “I see General Motors at 18 percent, and Ford at 13 percent in about ten years from now,” James Bell told Reuters in an interview at the International Auto Show in New York. “We are headed into a brutally competitive marketplace now.”

GM’s market share is 24 percent while Ford’s is just under 19 percent, as of the end of March. They still have several points to lose, and it will be a painful process,” he said. “But you look at it as correcting their market share, not lowering it. They have had overproduction for way too long.”

He said GM and Ford would sell fewer cars in the United States even as the market expands and Japanese manufacturers’ share increases. MSNBC.com

CTE Racing –HVM’s New Look Wins Award CTE Racing –HVM’s New Look Wins AwardIndianapolis, IN  – CTE Racing – HVM’s appearance is all new in 2006 and the team debuted their new style along with their talented new driver line-up in front of more than 180,000 roaring fans at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach last weekend.

Having announced their partnership with actor/comedian Cedric “The Entertainer” prior to the final round of the 2005 Champ Car World Series in Mexico City last November,  the team promised a new look for 2006 and appeared at Long Beach last weekend in their new charcoal grey, red, orange and yellow livery.

A panel of judges from Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, the new official Automotive Finishes Sponsor of the Champ Car World Series, reviewed each team at Long Beach to determine the best color, design, gloss and overall appearance.  CTE-HVM’s bright new design caught the attention of the judges, who awarded the inaugural “It’s All in the Finish” award to the team.

Team Principal, Keith Wiggins, was delighted with the award and commented, “Everyone in the team has put a lot of effort into our new focus and identity since the announcement of our far-reaching association with Cedric.  It is important for us to be seen as a re-launched entity with new branding and style.  This award shows that the work has been well worthwhile and we are all looking forward to the other elements coming together with equal impact.” zzzz

Along with the new livery, CTE-HVM had a successful on track debut with their new drivers, Nelson Philippe and Rookie “Speedy Dan” Clarke.  Both drivers ran strong all weekend.  Philippe passed several cars during the race and looked set for a top-five finish until breaking first gear while exiting the pits ended his day prematurely.  Clarke’s first Champ Car race was entertaining, both for the fans to watch and for the Englishman.  He was quick on the racetrack, setting the third fastest lap of the race, but his afternoon also included a cut tire, a wing replacement and several battles for position on the racetrack.

CTE Racing is currently testing at Portland International Raceway in preparation for round five of the 2006 Champ Car World Series.  Results and quotes from the test will be available upon completion of the test.

Atlantic Series to hold open test Atlantic Series to hold open testINDIANAPOLIS – Following a stirring debut of the 2006 Yokohama Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda last weekend at the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, fans and competitors alike are looking forward to the next time the new-look Atlantic cars attack the race track.

While the schedule calls for a one-month break between the opening round of competition in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship and Round 2 – the Fast Trac 100 at the new Grand Prix of Houston street circuit, May 11-13 – the new Atlantic machines will return to action with a series-sanctioned test session one week prior to the Houston event.

All Atlantic competitors are invited to participate in a two-day open test, scheduled for Sunday and Monday, May 7 and 8, at the MSR Houston Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land road course, located just south of Houston, Texas. With only two March testing dates for the new Mazda-Cosworth/Swift 016.a/Yokohama Atlantic car prior to last week’s season-opening race weekend on the streets of Long Beach, series competitors are anxious to test the limits of their new machines at the pristine 17-turn, 2.4-mile MSR Houston circuit. The test, which will not be open to the public, will give Atlantic teams and drivers an opportunity to learn more about their cars and various set ups heading into the second event on the ’06 schedule, a much-anticipated new street venue for the series constructed around Houston’s Reliant Park. zzzz

“This test will allow us to explore the ends of the spectrum with the new car,” said Jim Griffith, co-owner of the Polestar Racing Group Atlantic team, which will have two entries among the expected 30-car field at the test. “We were off the pace a little bit at Long Beach so this will hopefully help us find the car and we’ll spend some time trying learn more about the shocks and the aero package on the new car.”

Competing in front of a packed house of California race fans last weekend, second-year Atlantic driver Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) and the Forsythe Championship Racing team set the early pace in the series title chase. Wirth claimed his second career Atlantic win, beating Raphael Matos (#6 Pro Works) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises to the finish line by .840 of a second in a very competitive race throughout the 28-car field at Long Beach. Wirth’s Forsythe Racing teammate James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) was third. Champ Car

Toyota raiding NASCAR Toyota raiding NASCARJapanese auto giant Toyota is still nearly a year away from entering its Camry in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, but the action behind the scenes has been as fast and vicious as race day at Bristol Speedway's half-mile bull ring.

Toyota has plundered Ford Racing's top engineer -- John Propst -- and if rumors are to be believed are now in talks with Joe Gibbs Racing's Chevrolet outfit to move its team next season.

Respected NASCAR writer Mike Mulhern reported in the Winston-Salem Journal that Toyota wants reigning Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart and the No. 20 team as well as teammates Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 team and J.J. Yeley in the No. 18 team to be part of the new effort.

The only driver of note that has signed with Toyota's Cup team so far has been Michael Waltrip who will drive the No. 55 Camry next season. More at Toronto Sun

38 entries, 66 cars set for 90th Indy 500 38 entries, 66 cars set for 90th Indy 500
Roush Racing announces personnel changes Roush Racing announces personnel changesIn an effort to help strengthen overall racing operations and position the organization for continued success, Roush Racing announced several personnel changes today.  The crew chief and engineering changes will take effect immediately.

Veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig will oversee Roush Racing's Busch program in its entirety taking on the job of senior crew chief.  Fennig will also assume crew chief duties for the No. 17 Ameriquest/Pennzoil Ford Fusion driven by Matt Kenseth.  Fennig brings 36 years of racing experience to Roush's Busch programs.  He has led teams and drivers to victory lane numerous times, and in 2004 that experience culminated in a NEXTEL Cup Championship with the No. 97 team.

"Jimmy Fennig will provide unparalleled knowledge, expertise and leadership for all six of our Busch teams both on and off the track," said owner Jack Roush.  "He will also help to mentor our young drivers." 

Bob Osborne will assume the crew chief position for the No. 26 Crown Royal/Irwin Industrial Tools team with Jamie McMurray behind the wheel.  Osborne has been with Roush Racing since 1998 working as the engineer for the No. 6 Ford piloted by Mark Martin.  Osborne then moved to head of engineering before taking over as crew chief of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford in 2004.  zzzz

Wally Brown will take over as crew chief of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion driven by Carl Edwards.  Brown began his career at Roush Racing as the engineer on the No. 6 team then moved into the role of head engineer when Osborne moved to the No. 99 crew chief position. 

"Bob Osborne and Wally Brown are both very talented engineers and crew chiefs."  Roush continued, "Bob has certainly proven his ability to win and I have no doubt that Wally will do the same."

Jim Ryder will replace Brown as head engineer.  Mark Catania moves to head engineer for the Busch and Truck teams replacing Ryder.  Alex Lenxmeier will assume the engineering role for the No. 26 team under Osborne.

Chad Norris is currently serving his four week NASCAR suspension and will assume set-up duties overseeing all the Busch cars. Roush Racing

Trulli tops Thursday times in Barcelona Trulli tops Thursday times in BarcelonaWhile the Michelin cars topped the charts in the morning session, Jarno Trulli and Michael Schumacher posted fast times in the afternoon and moved up to 1st and 3rd quick on the day with their Bridgestone shod machines.
1 . J. Trulli - Toyota TF106 - 1:14.522 (+ 0.000 ) - 81 laps
2 . F. Alonso - Renault R26 - 1:14.532 (+ 0.010 ) - 106 laps
3 . M. Schumacher - Ferrari 248 F1 - 1:14.711 (+ 0.189 ) - 94 laps
4 . K. Raikkonen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-21 - 1:14.899 (+ 0.377 ) - 93 laps
5 . N. Heidfeld - BMW Sauber F1.06 - 1:14.940 (+ 0.418 ) - 66 laps
6 . G. Fisichella - Renault R26 - 1:15.105 (+ 0.583 ) - 112 laps
7 . N. Rosberg - Williams Cosworth FW28 - 1:15.209 (+ 0.687 ) - 82 laps
8 . J.
Button - Honda RA106 - 1:15.292 (+ 0.770 ) - 150 laps
9 . C. Klien - Red Bull Ferrari RB2 - 1:15.299 (+ 0.777 ) - 101 laps
10 . D. Coulthard - Red Bull Ferrari RB2 - 1:15.347 (+ 0.825 ) - 101 laps
11 . R. Barrichello - Honda RA106 - 1:15.388 (+ 0.866 ) - 133 laps
12 . R. Schumacher - Toyota TF106 - 1:15.410 (+ 0.888 ) - 73 laps
13 . J. Villeneuve - BMW Sauber F1.06 - 1:15.547 (+ 1.025 ) - 97 laps
14 . J. P. Montoya - McLaren Mercedes MP4-21 - 1:15.686 (+ 1.164 ) - 103 laps
15 . F. Massa - Ferrari 248 F1 - 1:15.727 (+ 1.205 ) - 86 laps
16 . M. Webber - Williams Cosworth FW28 - 1:16.019 (+ 1.497 ) - 108 laps
17 . S. Speed - Toro Rosso Cosworth STR1 - 1:16.599 (+ 2.077 ) - 102 laps
18 . T. Sato - Super Aguri Honda SA05 - 1:19.826 (+ 5.304 ) - 22 laps.

* Times courtesy of Circuit de Catalunya

Interview: Renault's Steve Nielsen Interview: Renault's Steve NielsenAfter winning the first three races of the season, Renault and co got a well deserved three week break, albeit to test. The team's Sporting Manager, Steve Nielsen, now talks to us about the passed week at Renault.

Question: Steve, when did the cars get back from Australia?
Steve Nielsen (Renault, Sporting Manager): Last Wednesday afternoon, 5 April. The trucks were waiting for the freight to land at Stansted airport north of London, and brought it straight back to Enstone. While part of the team was unpacking, another group of mechanics prepared one of the three race chassis and sent it to Viry-Châtillon. It arrived on Thursday afternoon, because we wanted our colleagues who work on the engine and don’t go to the races, to be able to get a proper look at the R26 and how their engine is installed in the car. It’s something we have been doing for three seasons now in conjunction with Denis Chevrier, and it’s a real morale boost for the team.

Q: What was happening at Enstone during this time?
SN: The cars were completely disassembled and the chassis were sent off to be repainted. They returned on Monday. We then began assembling them for Imola, to be completed this evening (Thursday)... quite late on! At the same time, the motorhome, which hasn’t been used since Spa 2005, was assembled at the factory to make sure everything is working properly: the power supplies, air conditioning etc... It was then carefully packed up, and left for Imola on Tuesday, to arrive this evening.

Q: Did the mechanics get a few days off...?
SN: Yes. We split their leave into two parts: some are off on Thursday and Friday, others Monday and Tuesday. That means we can continue working hard at the factory throughout the Easter period.

Q: And what have the personnel been working on during the week?
SN: On Tuesday, myself and seven colleagues were in France. Our fuel partner Elf had offered us the opportunity to conduct a special fire training course near Rouen, in case this should occur during our pit-stops. We rehearsed a number of refueling scenarios, and trained ourselves in how to resolve them. Sometimes in Formula 1, force of habit means we forget how dangerous the activity can be, and this kind of training reminds you that we are working in a unique environment, where the risk of fire is something we need to continuously be aware of, and protecting ourselves against. Source: Renault F1 Team

Memo Gidley medical update Memo Gidley medical updateUPDATE MOORESVILLE, NC – Memo Gidley, driver of the No.19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype will not compete at Virginia International Raceway on April 23 due to an injury sustained in the morning warm-up for last weekend’s running of the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach.

Gidley was injured April 8 in a single-car accident when a mechanical failure on the No.19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Daytona Prototype occurred entering Turn 1 on the famed Long Beach street circuit as he prepared for the 90-minute event.   Gidley hit the barriers at over 140 mph and sustained injuries to his lower back as a result [Compression Vertebrae Fracture].  Memo was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital where he was released before the start of the race, and then flown to Indianapolis, IN on Monday to be further evaluated by Doctor Terry Trammell at Ortho Indy.  “It was a big hit and unfortunate because I figured we had a great chance to get the Playboy/Uniden/ Palms Ford powered Daytona Prototype into victory lane at Long Beach,” said Gidley.  “An injury is no fun but considering the speed of impact, I am thankful that my injuries were limited to what I have.  I’m sure this is not only because the cars are structurally very strong, but also because my physical fitness helped in protecting me. “  

Memo is a known fitness extremist and credits this for helping him.  “I spend long hours each day in the gym punishing my muscles and pushing myself to be in top physical shape to not only drive at this level, but also to protect myself in the unfortunate incident of a crash.  I love to race and I understand the dangers.  I am always willing to take the good with the bad and know that crashing is a part of racing and I am not afraid of that.”  said Gidley. Doctor Trammell checked over Gidley and had him fitted to wear a back brace for the next two weeks.  Gidley is expected to make a full recovery in approximately two months.  Gidley was then flown from Indiana to Charlotte on Wednesday and was back in the team’s shop supporting them as they get ready for the upcoming race in Virginia in just over one week.  “I love driving this Ford prototype and my immediate plans are to get myself back in the race car as quickly as possible and keep pushing towards the team and manufacturer championship,” said Gidley.  “I have the guidance of Dr. Terry Trammell, the team at Pit Fit rehabilitation and my own desire to make this happen quickly and I’ll get it done.”  

Since his accident, the ultra popular prototype driver has been bombarded with support.  “My friends, family, fans and my team have shown me so much support and that’s been really cool,” said Gidley.  “Also I guess the other benefit is that I’ve been told because of the impact I will be ¼” shorter…not a bad thing for a race car driver because it will lower my center of gravity!”

04/08/06 No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford driver Memo Gidley sustained a compression to the L1 vertebra and a minimal compression to the T12 vertebra according to Dr. Lawrence of St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach. Gidley’s injuries were sustained in a crash in Turn 1 during the morning warm-up for today’s Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach. Gidley will be replaced in the No. 19 machine for today’s race by Alex Barron.
Kurt Busch trying to mend fences Kurt Busch trying to mend fencesKurt Busch says he has tried to talk with Greg Biffle about their accident Sunday during the Samsung/RadioShack 500 NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. Biffle was angry that Busch ran into the back of him after Biffle slowed slightly on the straightaway. "I tried to reach out to him and left a message on his phone, and I'm sure I'll see him this afternoon," Busch said Tuesday while teams were testing at Richmond International Raceway. "Biffle and I are both very competitive racers, and we both looked for the same real estate at the same time, yet I was trying to yield as a lapped car on the track. Things like that happen, and we'll definitely try to smooth everything out and move on to the next race." Busch and Biffle were teammates at Roush Racing until this year, when Busch moved to Penske Racing South. "With the old teammates, we definitely had some great times together," Busch said. "Biffle and I grew up running trucks together, and when I moved to Cup he shortly followed. We have some great relationships, and it's not just one race that will tear it apart." NASCAR Daily Scene
Martin's Museum Grand Opening Apr 14-15 Martin's Museum Grand Opening Apr 14-15Mark Martin will hold the grand opening for his all new Ford dealership, Mark Martin Ford-Mercury, and museum this weekend (Friday and Saturday) in Batesville, Arkansas. The dealership and museum officially opened on Feb. 27th. The grand opening is being officially presented by Coke. In addition to the normal artifacts on display in the museum, other items of interest that will be on display at this weekend’s grand opening are the Nextel Experience that travels to each NASCAR Nextel Cup race, The winning Scotts Ford F-150 from the Daytona Truck race direct from Victory Lane, the #6 AAA Nextel Cup Ford Fusion, AAA simulators where fans can race each other, the AAA booth and tent display and Coca-Cola booths as well. Martin’s #6 Ameriquest Busch car and hauler will also be on display and there will be live remotes with radio stations as well. The state-of-the art museum features several of Martin’s past cars, including the #6 Viagra Coca-Cola 600 win car, the ’90 Folgers Thunderbird, the #60 Win Dixie Busch car, Martin’s 2005 IROC car that he used to win his record fifth championship, and the ’89 Strohs Thunderbird. Each car is a part of a display that includes hi-tech mantrons that tell the story of each piece of history. Roush Racing
NEXTEL All-Star Challenge enhancements NEXTEL All-Star Challenge enhancementsCONCORD, N.C.  Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) announced today several initiatives around its NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge in May, including a live performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the return of the NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge, the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Fan Vote and an all-star dedicated multimedia platform available on select Sprint phones.

"The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge is a signature event for Sprint Nextel and one that we look forward to all year," said Michael Robichaud, vice president of sports marketing for Sprint Nextel. "Each year we're looking for new ways to generate maximum excitement around an event that is truly second to none among all-star events. What better way to add excitement than with a performance from the Red Hot Chili Peppers?"  Red Hot Pit Stop A live performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers will highlight new activities in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge in 2006. The Warner Bros. Records artists will play a set between segments of the all-star event. Their performance comes on the heels of the legendary band's long-awaited double-album release Stadium Arcadium which hits stores May 9. The album features the new hit single "Dani California."

The "Red Hot Pit Stop" will take place during the intermission between the first and second segments of the 90-lap event. Additionally, the event will be broadcast for fans in the stands on NEXTEL Vision screens and on the new NASCAR NEXTEL FanView. The device, available trackside during the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, is a next-generation race scanner that integrates the audio of today's race-day scanners with live video, race statistics and audio replay, providing at-track race fans with unprecedented access to race and entertainment action. Tickets for the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge  are available at Lowe's Motor Speedway ticket office at www.LowesMotorSpeedway.com or by calling (800) 455-FANS.  zzzz

The NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge Presented by Craftsman The second NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman will take place in a new venue in 2006, moving to the new Charlotte Bobcats Arena in uptown Charlotte. The event, taking place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 17, is the only event of its kind officially sanctioned by NASCAR and pits the sport's favorite over-the-wall athletes against each other in several skills competitions to showcase their considerable talents.

General admission tickets for the event are available April 17 for $10. Fans can purchase at the Bobcats Arena Box Office at www.CharlotteBobcatsArena.com or by calling (800) 495-2295.

Participating teams will partake in open practice at Cabarrus Arena and Events Center throughout the month of May. The practices, which are open to the public, are May 8 from 2-6 p.m., and May 9 and 10 from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Content Available on Sprint Power Vision handsets Exclusive NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star content will be available for the first time on multimedia Sprint Power VisionSM handsets beginning April 28. This channel will provide exclusive expert insight about the all-star event from racing legends such as Benny Parsons and Larry McReynolds. Additionally, pertinent information on several events around the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge and NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge during all-star week will be available.

NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge Fan Vote
Fans will once again have a say in who should race in the event with the  NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge Nextel Fan Vote. The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge field currently consists of drivers who have won a points race in 2005 or 2006, and former NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge Champions who remain active. Fans will have the opportunity to vote in one driver among the top 50 in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver points standings who is not already in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge field. Voting will be available on all platforms by April 28 and can be completed via the following channels:

Sprint or Nextel phones
Text "NASCAR" to 7777 on your Sprint or Nextel web-enabled phone and
follow the received directions
Trackside at The Nextel Experience
Participating Sprint and Nextel retail locations
Online at www.nascar.com
Bass Pro Shops retail locations

Voting through a Sprint or Nextel handset allows fans to receive a free Mark  Martin screensaver commemorating his 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge victory.

America's Most Wanted All Star presented by Nextel
For the second year, Sprint, Together with Nextel has partnered with "America's Most Wanted" to recognize first responders who go beyond the call of duty. AMW All-Star presented by Nextel recognizes eight all-stars in eight weeks with one national winner, selected from the eight finalists, who will be announced by John Walsh on the May 20, 2006, FOX broadcast of "America's Most Wanted." The eight weekly all-stars will qualify as finalists in the vote for the national prize, which is $10,000 and an all-star weekend at the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. NASCAR

Richmond Test Day Two: Jeff, Dale Back in Form Richmond Test Day Two: Jeff, Dale Back in FormDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After one of the more trying seasons of their NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series careers, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) find themselves back on track this week at Richmond International Raceway.


Not only are they logging test laps, they’re back in the mix for the ultimate payoff – a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup when the series returns to Richmond in September. Gordon is eighth in the series standings after seven events; Earnhardt is sixth – much better than where they finished in 2005.

“I'm pleased,” said Gordon, who finished 11th last season, his worst result since his rookie season of 1993. “I guess this is what I was expecting of us at this point in the season where we were a better team. We had better race cars. Not necessarily the cars being better, but the setups relating to how I like to drive, the comfort and feel. I think it's given me more confidence. It's building confidence in the team.”

Wednesday marked the second day of a three-day session at Richmond, which hosts two events – the Richmond 400 on May 6, and the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 on Sept. 9. Teams may test on two of the three days.  zzzz

The latter event is race No. 26, the cutoff event that sets the field for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Following the season’s first 26 events, the top 10 drivers and any within 400 points of the leader will battle for the series title over the final 10 races.

“Target is to run as good as you can every week,” said Earnhardt, who finished a career-worst 19th last year. “Everything else kind of takes cares of itself. We just go out there and race as hard as we can, take the car we got, do the best we can with it every week.”

Gordon and Earnhardt were among the drivers who visited the Richmond media center Wednesday. This week’s Richmond test marks the third of six designated 2006 tests for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams. This year, NASCAR has scheduled those tests as a cost-containment measure at tracks that host series events, and those dates are the only test opportunities at those tracks.

“It's a very important test for us,” Gordon said. “I think we're learning a lot of things. We've made so many changes with our race team this year, our race cars, we're just really out there trying a lot of new things.

“We're fortunate that we're running decent enough to be in the top 10 in points right now where we can experiment. But we also know we got to get better than what we are, so we have to experiment. This is a perfect opportunity for us to do this.”

Which means no time to dally. Earnhardt noted an accelerated pace during the past two days, with cars zipping in and out of Richmond’s garage.

“There's just a larger sense of urgency because you know you only got five tests,” he said. “Where you might take a little more time in between runs, you're in and out of the garage a lot quicker now, where you're trying to get as many runs as you can, trying to try as many things as you can. You're doing a lot of things that you may be testing for, for other tracks, like Phoenix and other places that are similar to a Richmond.”

While Gordon fine-tuned with new crew chief Steve Letarte, Earnhardt had a shadow during his two-day test: Mark McFarland, who drives Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports-owned No. 88 U.S. Navy Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series. McFarland, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate, was at his boss’s heels for most sessions, taking notes atop the transporter and in the garage.

“I brought him here to see if he could understand some of the things and see a little bit how they're kind of off base on a couple areas,” Earnhardt said of McFarland and the new team’s growing pains. “He's got a notepad, he's been filling it up. Hopefully he takes it back and learns something.” Interview NASCAR

TV News
USA TV reminders for Friday USA TV reminders for Friday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
NASCAR Beyond the Wheel Fort Worth
8:00am-8:30am (R) SPEED
NASCAR 7 Days  
8:30am-9:00am (R) -Eddie Gossage SPEED
Champ Car World Series Long Beach
2:00pm-4:30pm (Originally broadcast on NBC) SPEED

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

Good news for German fans Good news for German fans(GMMf1NET)  For the next couple of years at least, Germany will continue to be home to some of formula one's luckiest TV viewers.

Munich-based pay-television station 'Premiere' has signed a new deal with Bernie Ecclestone, ensuring that it can cover the pinnacle of motor sport until the end of next year.

On average, 1.7 million viewers tune in to Premiere's coverage, which is broadcast in several channels giving fans the option of switching between race, cockpit or statistical feeds.

Free-to-air channel 'RTL', meanwhile, also transmits every grand prix live throughout Germany.

Klien told to up his game Klien told to up his game(GMMf1NET)  Red Bull's billionaire magnate has told Christian Klien (right) to up his game.

In contemplation of the current Klien-David Coulthard lineup at the senior F1 team, Dietrich Mateschitz was quoted by the 'sport1.de' publication as saying Red Bull 'need two strong drivers'.

The Austrian, 61, noted that in 2005, young countryman Klien amassed just nine points to F1 veteran Coulthard's twenty four.

''If we spend, say, $50m on a wind tunnel, get Ferrari engines and Adrian Newey and we make the car faster by one second,'' Mateschitz said, ''then it cannot be that we lose that second (per lap) because of a driver.''

Klien, 23, debuted in F1 in 2004 as a fully Red Bull-backed star of the future for Jaguar.  Now into his third season, the jury is out as to whether he would be capable of delivering the goods in a winning car.

McLaren's available Juan Pablo Montoya, for instance, is now strongly linked to his seat alongside incumbent David Coulthard for the 2007 season.

Mateschitz insisted: ''For the first car built under the guidance of Newey, we need the fastest driver we can get.

''By 2007, I also presume that the Ferrari engine will be reliable.  The driver cannot be the weakest element.''

34-year-old Coulthard's seat, meanwhile, appears increasingly secure, with Mateschitz admitting that the Scot is 'terribly keen' to reunite with a 'Newey car'.

Schu's soccer team to play next week Schu's soccer team to play next week(GMMf1NET)  Michael Schumacher's soccer squad of F1 rivals will play their first match of 2006 prior to the Imola race.

Next Wednesday in Italy, the so-called 'Nazionale Piloti' - captained by Ferrari's number one - will kick off at the 'Benelli' stadium in Ravenna; a coastal city about twenty minutes from the 'Enzo e Dino Ferrari' track.

Among Schumacher's soccer deputies are teammate Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli and Toro Rosso's Vitantonio Liuzzi.

’I’m not taking more risks’ - Schu ’I’m not taking more risks’ - Schu(GMMf1NET)  Michael Schumacher has scoffed at sensational headlines that say the seven time world champion 'could kill himself' on the risky road back to F1 success.

Citing his Albert Park shunt as an example, the tabloid reports claimed that Schumacher - the 37-year-old Ferrari star - was now having to drive dangerously in order to keep up with young leaders like Fernando Alonso.

''That's sport,'' the German retorted in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur.  ''You have to attack and take risks if you want to win.''

He insisted: ''Nothing at all about my approach to driving has changed.''

Schumacher was also stoical in the face of new speculation that he has signed on at Ferrari for the 2007 season.

He insisted: ''I don't have anything new to say just because you (reporters) repeat the question over and over again.

''I have said before that I will decide in the summer and I am not going to change my mind.''

Big action at bumper F1 test Big action at bumper F1 test(GMMf1NET)  A less informed observer would be forgiven for thinking Spain is hosting its annual grand prix early in 2006.

Nearly exactly one month ahead of the actual race, the paddock and pitlane at Circuit de Catalunya was buzzing on Wednesday, with every F1 team except one turning laps outside Barcelona.

If the five lights on the pit gantry had expired, it would have been a great race; the top thirteen runners - including Renault, Honda, Toyota, Red Bull, Williams, Toro Rosso, McLaren, Ferrari and BMW Sauber - were separated by less than one second.

It was not all plain sailing under the sun, however -- nine separate red flag stoppages halted the flow.

Among team testers, race pilots Rubens Barrichello, Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard, Mark Webber, Christian Klien, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Felipe Massa, Nick Heidfeld, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg and Takuma Sato joined the fun.

The only missing team in sunny Spain, Midland's MF1, turned laps with a new aero package on the short Silverstone layout across the road from HQ.

Pedro detonates another Mercedes engine Pedro detonates another Mercedes engineThe Team McLaren Mercedes testing programme has relocated to Barcelona this week for a three day session with two MP4-21 race cars. The test is the first major multi-team outing since the start of the season, with 18 cars on track today. Pedro de la Rosa, who was continuing his programme from last week at Paul Ricard, was joined at the Circuit de Catalunya by Kimi Raikkonen. The test team's work Wednesday focused on set-up work.

Lap times at the circuit Wednesday were very close with the top 13 drivers all setting times within one second of the fastest time. With so many teams on track there was the usual disruption of red flags with the total number today reaching nine stoppages. zzzz

Kimi covered 24 laps of the Spanish track, which equates to 111km, as he set the 12th fastest time of the day with a 1m15.957. The Finn's running began shortly before 14:00, as a result of his MP4-21 arriving in Barcelona from the McLaren Technology Centre early this morning. Kimi's car had returned from the Australian Grand Prix, following spare car duties at the opening three races, and was rebuilt in Woking prior to traveling to the test.

Teammate Pedro completed 342km and 75 laps of his home track. The Spaniard put in a time of 1m15.779, which saw him take 10th position on the timesheets. Pedro's day ended about two hours before the end of session with an engine failure. As there was only a short period of time until the end of running, the test team will be replacing his V8 prior to the start of tomorrow's session.

The Team McLaren Mercedes test team will continue running at the Circuit de Catalunya tomorrow with Juan Pablo Montoya joining Kimi on track. McLaren Mercedes

Industry News
Strike wary GM stockpiling Delphi parts Strike wary GM stockpiling Delphi partsGeneral Motors Corp. is stockpiling parts made by Delphi Corp. in the event of a strike against the supplier, but given how much Delphi sells to GM, the automaker is focusing efforts on avoiding a walkout, a top GM executive said Tuesday.

Bo Andersson, GM group vice president of global purchasing and supply chain, acknowledged that GM is building up a surplus inventory of some parts made by Delphi, its former parts unit and its largest supplier.

But after a speech to more than 560 officials from the automotive parts industry, Andersson told reporters that "that is not a strategy that is very workable," given the number of parts that Delphi supplies.

"We are putting all our energy into negotiating with our partners to find a solution," he said.  More at Detroit Free Press

Long Beach winner has praise for Swift Long Beach winner has praise for SwiftSAN CLEMENTE, CA – As the first race of the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda enters the record books, the team at Swift Engineering can add to its own book of racing achievements, as 28 of its 40 newly delivered race chassis took to the challenging streets of Long Beach.

The consensus emerging from the Long Beach Grand Prix and the first race of the 2006 Atlantic Championship is that the new Swift chassis, 016.a, exceeded Atlantic team expectations.  For Long Beach Race Winner Andreas Wirth, driving the INDECK/Wirth Solar Mazda-Cosworth for Forsythe Championship Racing, the new Swift made a believer out of him even before his victory.

“It only took me about three laps at the first test day at Fontana to realize what a fantastic new car Swift has produced,” Wirth noted.  “Once the Yokohama ADVAN tires and new Mazda-Cosworth engine were warmed up, the first thing I noticed is how well the car stops right from the first time I tried to find the limit.  There’s lots of grip and the balance is very good with the longer wheelbase.” zzzz

Testing enabled Wirth to better prepare for the Long Beach course.  “It took me a bit longer to find out just how much grip there was while cornering – everyone will get stronger necks this year for sure!  There is just much more downforce, and most of it comes from the underbody, so we are able to follow closely in the corners.  The street courses are great fun and we’re going to put on another great show for the fans in Houston next month.”

“I am extremely gratified that our new race chassis, 016.a, has performed well, given the tight window all race teams have operated under since this new chassis program began,” declared Swift President Chuck Sprague. 

“And when I say ‘gratified,’ it’s based on a great sense of pride in this entire program,” Sprague continued, “and of the people who have put in the tremendous time and effort that have gone into the production of these race cars, offering them at a much lower price point than most people would have expected possible.”

The always demanding street course that makes up the Long Beach Grand Prix served as the venue to prove the strength of these new Swift 016.a race cars as they did battle on their inaugural run this past Sunday.

“The previous Swift Atlantic car was a great racing machine, but with the new chassis, Swift has raised the level,” Wirth added.  “I don’t think there were many problems for anybody this weekend at Long Beach, which is amazing when you consider how few miles had been driven before the race.  Congratulations to Swift on a fantastic car!  I’m very proud to have the honor of being the first winner in the Swift 016.a, and I look forward to many more.”  

Onward for Swift
Swift Engineering also can look forward in its own ongoing quest to deliver quality products, at competitive pricing within exacting delivery dates.  Both were met as promised when the first 40 016.a cars were delivered to teams this past March 8th. 

Citing this production run as its latest example of Swift Thinking, the company intends to keep expanding into other engineering and manufacturing endeavors.  Swift also works with Northrop Grumman on special unmanned aircraft, or UAVs.                                                                                    

“The timing is great for us right now,” added Sprague.  “Swift Engineering is well positioned for tremendous future growth, and we intend to capitalize on what we have done for the Atlantic series and Champ Car.”

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