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Spa: Senna takes wet GP2 pole UPDATE Added to his penalty from Valencia, Chandhok has also been penalized for a further 5 grid position penalty after today’s session in Spa when it was shown that he ignored the yellow flags on his final lap. This means that he will lose 15 positions on tomorrow’s grid. Sébastien Buemi was also handed a 5 grid position penalty for the same reason on the same lap.

09/05/08 Karun Chandhok showed his race winning pace from last year's second race in Spa to take the top spot on his last lap in qualifying this afternoon, but a 10 place penalty from Valencia hands tomorrow's pole position to iSport teammate Bruno Senna, who had led the field during the wet session until the Indian's amazing final lap.

Chandhok best time of 2:15.459 was just 0.061 ahead of Senna, with Alvaro Parente the best of the rest, albeit six tenths off the iSport pair. On that last lap Senna and Giorgio Pantano looked to be in locked in battle for pole, with Chandhok the only man on their pace: the sector times on the screens read Pantano 37.1 Senna 36.9 Chandhok 36.8, sector two Pantano 64.4 Senna 65.6 Chandhok 63.3, with the title rivals returning to the pits behind Parente rather than finishing the lap. But Chandhok got the call to stay out and took the top spot with a third sector of 35.2 to the delight of his team.

With heavy rain starting five minutes before the session it was clear that a dramatic session was around the corner, and so it proved: Senna set the pace immediately with Pastor Maldonado also pushing hard, while Lucas di Grassi slipped over the edge and into the wall on his second flying lap. Maldonado soon joined him in retirement after sneaking into the top spot when he slipped off a curb and flew backwards into the wall at turn seven, bringing out the red flags. 

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Mowlem tests Corsa's new Zytek Hybrid LMP1
A week after Corsa Motorsports announced that it will enter a hybrid LMP1 entry from Zytek for the 2009 American Le Mans Series, a video of Johnny Mowlem testing the Zytek at Donnington Park is available from ALMS and SPEEDTV.com.  Mowlem and Gunnar Jeannette will drive the car at Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New Mazda6 and the Monterey Sports Car Championships to close the 2008 season.

For Mowlem, it was his first time in a Zytek since the season-ending race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2006 when he drove with Stefan Johansson. He drove a Creation LMP1 at Le Mans this year.

"The majority of my racing and certainly my successes so far have been in the GT field and, although I certainly don't see myself as completely turning away from GT racing, the deal I now have moving forward for 2009 is an exciting new challenge for me," said Mowlem. "I don't mean that just because of it being in the Le Mans prototype class (the highest level of sports car racing) and going for overall rather than class victories, but also because of all the new cutting-edge technology that I will be a part of helping to develop with the new KERS system." ALMS


Hard and soft Potenzas in action at Spa
(GMM) Felipe Massa set the marker on the opening day of running for the Belgian Grand Prix by using Bridgestone’s medium compound Potenza tyre to set Friday’s fastest lap time at the 7km Spa Francorchamps circuit.

The Ferrari set his time – a 1:47.284s – in the morning 90 minute practice session. He was over three-tenths faster than teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Lewis Hamilton was third fastest.

The morning session was dry, apart from a few spots of rain, whilst the afternoon session saw more rain, although insufficient for teams to make use of Bridgestone’s wet or extreme wet tyres.

The more trying conditions in the afternoon meant that fewer laps were completed and the lap times were slower. Fernando Alonso set the fastest time for Renault, a 1:48.454s, using the hard compound in the final minutes of a session. Massa was second fastest in this session, whilst Heikki Kovalainen was third quickest.

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Jeff Gordon was fastest in Cup practice
Jeff Gordon topped Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup practice in preparation for Saturday night’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Gordon, who ran a lap of 121.534 mph, was followed closely in speed by David Ragan at 121.529. Ragan is 13th in the standings and looking to earn a spot in the Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Juan Pablo Montoya was third at 121.419, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin rounding out the top five.

Sixth through 10th in speed were Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray, Jeff Burton, Joey Logano and Reed Sorenson.

Logano, who is attempting to make his first Cup start in a fourth JRG entry, had to qualify based on speed since his team doesn’t have owner points.  With the qualifying rain out he will not start the race.


Storms cancel all Richmond activity until Sunday
Fearing for the safety of more than 100,000 fans expected to attend Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, NASCAR officials elected Friday evening to postpone the start of the race until 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPN after rain from Tropical Storm Hanna threatened to swamp the track.

Spinoff rain from Hanna struck RIR Friday afternoon at about 4:15 p.m. ET, wiping out all hope NASCAR officials had of not only the remainder of scheduled activities for not only that evening, but all day Saturday as well.

Qualifying for the Nationwide Series' Emerson Radio 250 was cancelled at about 4:46, with the 43-car lineup being set per the rulebook, with the top-30 starters lining up in order of owner points. Qualifying for the Cup race also eventually was washed out, and the same scenario was used to set the starting field.

The Nationwide event will now be run at 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2, after conclusion of the Cup race and after the grandstands have been cleared.


Darian Grubb crew chief for Stewart team
Former Hendrick Motorsports employee Darian Grubb has been named crew chief for Tony Stewart's new entry at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009.

Stewart officially confirmed Grubbs' hiring at a news conference on Friday at Richmond International Raceway.

"This is something that is another key step in the equation of us getting on our feet next year. We've got a team leader now," Stewart said.

Grubb is a team engineer at Hendrick but has served as a crew chief there as well. He filled in for Chad Knaus during a 2006 suspension and called the shots for Casey Mears back in 2007.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for me to not only work with a driver of Tony's caliber but to help build an organization into one that can win races and eventually contend for championships," Grubb said.


Rain washes out Nationwide Qualifying, Cup probably too
Rain wiped out qualifying for Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series Emerson Radio 250 at Richmond International Raceway and the field will be set by owner points.

Joey Logano will lead the field to the green flag when the race does take place based on the No. 20 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota leading the owner point standings.

The forecast for the remainder of Friday is not promising however as rains and wind from Hurricane Hannah are expected to engulf the Richmond area for potentially the next 24-36 hours.

Friday night's Nationwide Series race is still planned for a 7 p.m. start. The race to make the Chase has begun in Richmond, but rain may set the lineup by owner's points.  Cup qualifying is scheduled to start at 6:05 PM.  Don't hold your breath.


Conquest Racing announces new sponsors
The 36 Conquest Racing machine driven by Canadian Alex Tagliani will feature two new sponsors this weekend at the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300. Ubisoft and Sennheiser, longtime partners of Tagliani, will be prominently placed on the sidepods and engine cover of the Conquest car.

“We’re pleased to welcome world renowned companies Ubisoft and Sennheiser to our team this weekend,” expressed Conquest team owner Eric Bachelart. “We’re looking to build our future with Alex and I hope this is the beginning of a long relationship between all of us.”

Ubisoft, whose logo will be featured on the sidepod of the 36 Conquest car, is a leading international developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment products. Some of the top games developed by Ubisoft include Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, Assassin’s Creed and Rayman to name a few.

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Team-by-team summary: Friday, Spa
Felipe Massa's strong form continues at Spa-Francorchamps, when on Friday he set the fastest lap of the day in the morning before trailing only the light-fuelled Fernando Alonso in the rain-affected second session.  Also true to his current form, Kimi Raikkonen proved the slower Ferrari runner, and in the slippery afternoon he crashed at turn 9 and damaged his rear wing.  Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella slid on water spilled out of the tire barriers as a result and also crashed, which brought out the red flags.


Solid running for the silver-clad duo, but - as per 2007 at this circuit - the Mercedes powered cars appear slightly outclassed by Ferrari.  "Today's times don't mean a lot, but I think we should be in good shape," said team official Norbert Haug.


A good day for Fernando Alonso; the quickest car besides Ferraris and McLarens in the morning, and - albeit with a lighter fuel load - the fastest runner of all in the afternoon damp.  Nelson Piquet's Friday was less impressive; nearly a second slower than his teammate in the dry, and nearly last after sliding on a wet white line and damaging his rear wing in the afternoon.  "I don't feel perfectly comfortable in the car," the Brazilian said.

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Wade Cunningham to drive for Integra
While much of the focus is on the championship battle heading into final race of the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season, Integra Motorsports already has a keen eye on the 2009 championship as the team has signed Wade Cunningham for this weekends SunRichGourmet.com 100 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The Chicagoland race weekend will see Cunningham, who took the 2005 Firestone Indy Lights Championship in his rookie season, reunited with his former engineer Doug Zister.

Zister joined Integra Motorsports earlier this season to head the technical program for the team. Integra has established a partnership with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and has continued to develop its infrastructure in preparation for an extensive testing schedule as well as a fully committed assault on the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Championship.

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Detroit says race was a success
The echoes of the engines may have disappeared along the Detroit River, but the good feelings and positive memories of a very successful 2008 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will endure following last weekend’s holiday weekend celebration.

After three days of world-class racing, entertainment and excitement at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park street circuit, August 29-31, the final figures reveal another spectacular Labor Day weekend event in downtown Detroit.

For the second consecutive summer more than 100,000 people attended the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix over the course of the weekend. In addition to the impressive attendance numbers in a difficult economic climate in Michigan, the Grand Prix also enjoyed unprecedented corporate support. A total of 69 corporate partners participated in the event either as sponsors or chalet clients, up from 59 in 2007. The occupancy of the luxury chalets was also up overall with 40 chalets in use throughout the weekend compared to 36 in 2007.

There were many more participants in the Grand Prix itself as well this year. A total of three racing series competed on Belle Isle – the IndyCar Series, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and, new for 2008, the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Championship. With more teams racing in both the IndyCar Series and ALMS, along with the new competitors in SPEED World Challenge, the number of teams racing at the Grand Prix rose from 43 in 2007 to 76 this year.

The helpful volunteer work force at the Grand Prix was also larger in 2008. After nearly 900 people volunteered at last year’s races, more than 1,100 dedicated workers devoted their time to help stage another first-class event at Belle Isle last weekend.

“It was a terrific weekend for the fans, our Grand Prix partners, the volunteers and the competitors themselves on Belle Isle,” said Bud Denker, Event Chairman of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. “We enjoyed three great days of racing and awesome entertainment with the real winners being Belle Isle, Detroit and Windsor. The Grand Prix provided stunning views of Belle Isle, our waterfronts and our cities, with millions of people around the world seeing our region in its splendor on television. We’re pleased that we improved upon several areas of focus for this year including fan conveniences and entertainment, transportation and on-track racing excitement. We’re happy to report that we’ve already heard from many of our fans and sponsors that they can’t wait to return to Belle Isle for the 2009 Grand Prix and we are already working to make the event even better next year.”

track news

Spa to rename Stavelot corner
(GMM)  Spa-Francorchamps circuit authorities announced on Friday that turn 15, currently known as Stavelot, will be renamed in memory of Paul Frere.

Located at the top of the famous Belgian circuit, the newly renamed 'Curve Paul Frere' marks the beginning of the ultra fast final sector of the 7km layout.

Runner up in the 1956 Belgian grand prix at the wheel of a Ferrari, Frere also won the Le Mans 24 hours in 1960, sharing his car with Olivier Gendebien.

After his racing career ended Frere turned his hand to writing, and his 1963 book 'Sports Car and Competitive Driving' remains a standard text for aspiring drivers.

The Belgian died in February at the age of 91.


Spa: Alonso tops in second practice
Fernando Alonso ended up fastest at the end of a rain and red flag-interrupted Friday afternoon practice session at Spa.  Felipe Massa, who was fastest in the morning, had to settle for second behind the Renault, ahead of McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton, and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.  There were a number of off-track excursions in the treacherous conditions, including the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen who hit the barriers and took off his rear wing.



Driver Team Time Behind Laps
1. Alonso Renault 1:48.454 + 0.000 21
2. Massa Ferrari 1:48.504 + 0.050 15
3. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:48.740 + 0.286 19
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:48.805 + 0.351 17
5. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:49.328 + 0.874 10
6. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:49.405 + 0.951 17
7. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:49.427 + 0.973 28
8. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:49.585 + 1.131 22
9. Trulli Toyota 1:49.715 + 1.261 22
10. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:49.725 + 1.271 21
11. Kubica BMW Sauber 1:49.875 + 1.421 22
12. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:49.922 + 1.468 20
13. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:49.948 + 1.494 20
14. Glock Toyota 1:50.281 + 1.827 23
15. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:50.364 + 1.910 20
16. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:50.740 + 2.286 11
17. Button Honda 1:50.925 + 2.471 18
18. Barrichello Honda 1:51.238 + 2.784 22
19. Piquet Renault 1:51.334 + 2.880 18
20. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:51.640 + 3.186 7


Kimi fined nearly 5000 euros at Spa
(GMM)  Reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen received a total 4900 euros in monetary fines on Friday for pitlane speeding during practice for the Belgian grand prix.

The Finn was caught not once but twice during the first practice session, which could indicate a problem with his pitlane limiter.

Ferrari driver Raikkonen was second fastest in the opening session, 0.3s slower than teammate Massa.

The fine should be no problem for the 28-year-old, however, after he reportedly spent 10 million euros recently on a new luxury yacht.


Kubica unhappy in Belgian practice
(GMM)  Robert Kubica was reportedly very unhappy after Friday's opening practice session at Spa-Francorchamps, after learning mechanics had set incorrect settings on his BMW-Sauber.

Reports from Polish television TVN24 say the 23-year-old Montreal race winner used "harsh words" over the radio when learning of the error, which left him with an ill-handling car.

Despite the mix-up, Kubica was still faster than teammate Nick Heidfeld, recording a time of 1:49.139 to beat the German by less than a tenth of a second.

Heidfeld was then narrowly ahead in the ultimate afternoon session, the two F1.08 single seaters tenth and eleventh in the field of 20.


Donington GP chief steps down
(GMM)  Lee Gill has resigned as chief operation officer of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, the group which owns the operating rights to Donington Park, the future venue of the British grand prix.

Donington was announced as the new home of the British grand prix just days ahead of the Silverstone race this year.

Planning application for the changes needed for the 2010 race was due to be submitted to the North West Leicestershire District Council on Friday.

Four months of consultation will then take place before the council makes a decision.

The track's chief executive Simon Gillet told a meeting of the Donington Parish Council on Thursday that the venue will be ready for formula one in 2010.

"The reason I invested in the track was not to make it the best in the UK or Europe but in the world," he said.

Regarding the news of Gill's departure, spokesman Dave Fern told us that the circuit is "now moving forward under the leadership of Simon Gillett", adding that "the departure of Mr. Gill will have no impact on the grand prix".


Pastor Maldonado tops Pantano in opening GP2 practice
Pastor Maldonado set the pace in the 30 minutes of free practice ahead of qualifying for the GP2 Series round at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.  The Venezuelan lapped the track in 1:57.055, just 0.048 seconds quicker than series leader Giorgio Pantano.


Driver Team Time Behind Laps
1. Maldonado Piquet Sports 1:57.055 + 0.000 12
2. Pantano Racing Engineering 1:57.103 + 0.048 10
3. Petrov Barwa International Campos 1:57.219 + 0.164 11
4. Buemi Trust Team Arden 1:57.333 + 0.278 12
5. Valsecchi Durango 1:57.537 + 0.482 13
6. Chandhok iSport International 1:57.558 + 0.503 11
7. Zuber Piquet Sports 1:57.576 + 0.521 12
8. Soucek Super Nova Racing 1:57.644 + 0.589 12
9. Kobayashi Dams 1:57.661 + 0.606 11
10. D'Ambrosio Dams 1:57.681 + 0.626 13
11. Parente Super Nova Racing 1:57.760 + 0.705 12
12. Rodriguez FMS International 1:57.803 + 0.748 14
13. Yamamoto ART Grand Prix 1:57.874 + 0.819 9
14. Di Grassi Barwa International Campos 1:57.905 + 0.850 11
15. Senna iSport International 1:57.998 + 0.943 11
16. Grosjean ART Grand Prix 1:58.265 + 1.210 10
17. Filippi Trust Team Arden 1:58.420 + 1.365 12
18. Tung Trident Racing 1:58.476 + 1.421 12
19. Nunes DPR 1:58.494 + 1.439 13
20. Conway Trident Racing 1:58.611 + 1.556 13
21. Asmer FMS International 1:58.960 + 1.905 11
22. Valerio Durango 1:59.127 + 2.072 12
23. Villa Racing Engineering 1:59.146 + 2.091 10
24. Valles BCN Competicion 1:59.148 + 2.093 13
25. Herck DPR 1:59.416 + 2.361 11
26. Iaconelli BCN Competicion 1:59.487 + 2.432 13


F1 won't forget Mosley saga - Webber
(GMM)  Mark Webber, the only Australian driver in formula one, is not so sure the world of formula one will easily forget the Max Mosley sex scandal.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who earlier called for the embattled FIA president to resign, said last week that Mosley will be welcomed back in the paddock at Monza in a week to "carry on like normal".

Ecclestone also said Mosley should be remembered for the positive contributions he has made to the world of motoring and motor racing.

But Webber, consistently the most outspoken driver on the Mosley issue, isn't so sure.

"I appreciate Bernie has a point in a way.  The best thing for the sport is that it is forgotten, but it is easier said than done," Webber, 31, was quoted as saying by the Press Association at Spa-Francorchamps.

He thinks Mosley will be remembered for the sordid tale of prison-themed sadomasochistic sex with five prostitutes.

"We read newspapers because it is full of bad news.  No-one likes to read about good news," Webber said.

"We only remember things for negative and bad stuff.  No-one wants to talk about anyone doing a great job.  That just doesn't happen."


Rivals question Hamilton 'long game' approach
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton's rivals have reacted coolly to news that the championship leader has a better strategy to win the championship this year.

As a rookie in 2007, many observers believe the McLaren driver failed to secure the title because he was more focused on proving himself at individual races than on the ultimate prize.

But according to espn.com, his chief title rival Felipe Massa is unconvinced the Briton is more a threat now that he considers himself a "fully fledged" F1 protagonist in 2008.

"I don't know," the Ferrari driver said at Spa-Francorchamps.  "It is difficult to say.  To be honest, this season, up until now, I think he was even less consistent than he was last season."

Fernando Alonso, Hamilton's teammate at McLaren last year and certainly not his biggest admirer, also questions the McLaren driver's new approach to winning the title rather than races.

"Now is the time to win races," the Spaniard said in Belgium.

"For sure, consistency will be very important for the title contenders.  They need to finish all the races and always be on the podium.

"But the one that wins more races at the end has a great chance to win the championship," said the 27-year-old, who now races for Renault.


Senna thinks 2009 F1 debut likely
(GMM)  Bruno Senna is still giving little away about a looming future in formula one, but the Brazilian seems confident he can soon be part of the exclusive club.

The 24-year-old GP2 driver told the German news source Der Spiegel that his debut in 2009 is likely.

"The possibility is not very low, but there is no deal signed so far.  I'm talking to different people," said Senna, whose famous late uncle Ayrton Senna won three world championships.

Senna's links with Toro Rosso, the team co-owned by Gerhard Berger, are obvious, given the Austrian's promise to Senna's mother Viviane - Ayrton Senna's sister - a few years ago.

"She wanted me to see that he was making the right moves, and I decided to help," Berger, Ayrton's former McLaren teammate and friend, said.

"He reminds me of Ayrton.  He's very switched on, very quick-thinking."

Even for a STR seat, however, Senna will have to fight.  The Faenza based team is giving candidates Sebastien Buemi and Takuma Sato a test at Jerez later this month.

Berger concedes that the decision about 2009 is not his alone.

"I run a team in partnership with Red Bull, and shouldn't mix personal things with business," he said.

racing news

McLaren expands to America
McLaren Electronic Systems, the specialist electronics arm of British Formula 1 racing and automotive company McLaren, has launched McLaren Electronics Inc, a North American subsidiary. The British company already has a firm foothold in the USA providing mechanical components in the three major NASCAR championships, electronics and software for the Indy Racing League and track support systems for the American Le Mans sportscar series. The new company will be based in Mooresville, North Carolina, in the heart of NASCAR country.

The company will be headed by Mike Phillips, previously managing director of McLaren Applied Technologies.

While McLaren Electronics Inc's core interests will remain in the motorsport arena, the business will also pursue contracts in the automotive, software and medical sectors.


Spa: Ferrari dominate first practice
Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen set the two fastest times as Ferrari dominated the first practice session ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.

European Grand Prix winner Massa's best time of 1:47.284 was quicker than the current champion's (Raikkonen) on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, while points leader Lewis Hamilton got closest to the Ferrari duo, with his fastest lap nearly six tenths of second slower than Massa's.

Hamilton's McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen was fourth quickest, slightly slower than the Briton, with Fernando Alonso and encouraging fifth for Renault. Red Bull's Mark Webber finished the session in sixth, ahead of Toro-Rosso duo Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel.



Driver Team Time Behind Laps
1. Massa Ferrari 1:47.284 + 0.000 26
2. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:47.623 + 0.339 26
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:47.878 + 0.594 27
4. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:47.932 + 0.648 24
5. Alonso Renault 1:48.104 + 0.820 26
6. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:48.428 + 1.144 29
7. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:48.557 + 1.273 31
8. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:48.958 + 1.674 24
9. Glock Toyota 1:48.997 + 1.713 26
10. Piquet Renault 1:49.068 + 1.784 25
11. Kubica BMW Sauber 1:49.139 + 1.855 25
12. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:49.185 + 1.901 26
13. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:49.611 + 2.327 30
14. Trulli Toyota 1:49.625 + 2.341 14
15. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:49.849 + 2.565 18
16. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:49.986 + 2.702 27
17. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:50.117 + 2.833 19
18. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:50.125 + 2.841 30
19. Button Honda 1:50.464 + 3.180 25
20. Barrichello Honda 1:50.905 + 3.621 25


Alonso admits no Ferrari drive in 2009
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso acknowledges that moving to the Ferrari team for 2009 is not among his options.

Despite the Italian team's president stopping by the Renault garage for a chat with the Spaniard at the recent Monza test, Luca di Montezemolo also made clear that Ferrari will head into next season with an unchanged driver lineup.

"It has always been known that their two drivers are under contract.  It was never an option for next year," Alonso, 27, is quoted as saying by the Spanish newspaper Diario AS at Spa-Francorchamps.

He plays down his reported conversation with Montezemolo.

"I saw him for five seconds; he asked me how I was doing," Alonso explained.  "Next door was Fisichella and he gave him a hug.  He also saw Hamilton."

It is clear that Renault, BMW-Sauber, Honda and Toyota are holding off on finalizing their plans for 2009 while Alonso is still on the market.

Alonso said the fact that Ferrari is not an option for 2009 is not a problem for him.

"I am 27 and have enough time to get back to winning races and championships, whether with Ferrari or another team.

"When I won my two championships with Renault, Ferrari were behind me, so I am not afraid of the challenge."

In interview with the British broadcaster ITV in Belgium on Thursday, Alonso would not rule out driving for Ferrari in the future.

"I need to keep thinking not only for next year but also for the near future, so we will see," he said.

Alonso answered "I don't know" to whether he might be lining up a Ferrari drive for 2010.


Glock recovered after Valencia cold
(GMM)  Timo Glock at Spa-Francorchamps said he is feeling well, after struggling through the Valencia weekend two weeks ago with a heavy cold.

Having achieved his maiden podium in Hungary, the Toyota driver was then less competitive on the streets of the Spanish port city, qualifying 13th and finishing 7th while his teammate Jarno Trulli had an outstanding weekend.

"It's still there a little bit," Glock, 26, told Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell when asked about his cold, "but I am feeling good again."

He said he pushed through the pain barrier during the Valencia race.

"If I would have been driving for places 11 or 12, I might have given up," Glock explained.  "But because I was fighting for points, I bit my lip."

Apart from his test day at Monza, Glock said he recovered from Valencia by neglecting his usual training regime and "sleeping a lot".


2006 Super Aguri car sold for $150,000
(GMM)  A 2006 car of the defunct formula one team Super Aguri has reportedly sold at auction for $150,000.

Driven by Takuma Sato, the car - one of the last assets of the Leafield based team to be sold by its liquidator - was bought by a Japanese fan.


Vettel to test Red Bull at Jerez
(GMM)  Current Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel will get another taste of life at Red Bull's senior team at the forthcoming Jerez test.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that the young German, who is to replace David Coulthard at RBR next year, is being given the opportunity to drive the team's car essentially in order to get used to the different Renault engine and characteristics.

It will be 21-year-old Vettel's second taste of the RB4, after he stepped in for the injured David Coulthard at Barcelona earlier this year.

Red Bull's Mark Webber was asked about his 2009 teammate in the Spa-Francorchamps paddock on Thursday.

"I will only get the real picture when we are both sitting in the 2009 car," the Australian said.

"With the slicks, new aerodynamics and KERS, so much is new that it could all be turned upside down.

"I would say that Sebastian is an experienced youngster.  For his age he is doing a great job," Webber added.


No engine 'joker' for Massa at Spa
(GMM)  Ferrari has decided against using Felipe Massa's free engine 'joker' for this weekend's Belgian grand prix.

After winning in Valencia, the Brazilian driver said the Italian team should consider the option, given Ferrari's recent engine reliability problems.

The rules in 2008 allow each driver to make one unscheduled engine change without incurring the ordinary penalty.

But with his Budapest failure and teammate Kimi Raikkonen's Valencia problem apparently traced to a bad batch of conrods, Ferrari figures are now feeling more confident about their engine.

"We believe that we understand the problem we had, so I will not be changing my engine," said 27-year-old Massa, who began a new two-race cycle with his current engine in Spain two weeks ago.

"My engine of Valencia had a different conrod installation and so we are much more confident to be able to not repeat the problem," he explained in the Spa-Francorchamps paddock.


Nationwide COT won't debut until at least 2010
NASCAR says it will test its new version of the Nationwide Series car Monday and Tuesday at Richmond International Raceway but will not begin using the car until at least 2010.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series begins a new era when its new car goes on track for the first of two scheduled tests Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 8-9, at Richmond International Raceway. Wednesday, Sept. 10, will be a rain date.

Each of the four series manufacturers – Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota – will be permitted to bring two cars. The drivers are to be announced but will be representative of their specific manufacturer.

“The goal of this test is for the manufacturers and participating teams to start laying a foundation for the transfer phase from the current car to the new car in the Nationwide Series,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition.

The cars will be on track in their current stages of development and the test data will be shared among the manufacturers, teams and NASCAR.

“We’re still in the process of approving the cars,” Pemberton said. “This wasn’t a quick process on the NASCAR Sprint Cup side and it won’t be with these cars. We’ve also been talking to teams and they’ve indicated they’d be better suited budget-wise to spend a full season building cars instead of a mid-year transition.

“We’ve had this style of chassis for more than two years in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and many questions have already been answered,” he said. “In applying the new car to the Nationwide Series, we fully anticipate the teams to be as competitive and resourceful as possible throughout the developmental process.”

The NASCAR Nationwide Series’ new car is also set to test at Lowe’s Motor Speedway Oct. 13-14.

track news

Georgia track closed after spectator killed
Citing violations of state safety codes at Cochran Motor Speedway following the death of a race fan this past weekend, Georgia officials closed the facility Wednesday until further notice.

The investigation came about after Cynthia Nobles, 43, of Danville, was killed and four others were injured during a race Saturday night when a tire and part of an axle flew from a race car and landed in a section of the pit area where there was no fence between the race cars and spectators.

Nobles died Monday at The Medical Center of Central Georgia from her injuries.

State Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John Oxendine said Wednesday the track doesn't meet safety codes.

"We are taking the position that we believe there were violations of state regulations," he said. "We've ordered (the track) closed until further notice. ... There shouldn't have been anybody in that area. There was no barriers or fencing of any type."


Porsche's sales down 45%
Porsche's August 2008 sales have gone down 45% in North America compared to the same time last year.  While this figure may seem alarming at first, it's explained by the imminent arrival of the 2009 Porsche 911. As the 2009 model year of the 911 has been upgraded, many buyers prefer to wait for its arrival, which is scheduled for September 20. The result: sales of the 911 alone fell 58%.


Ex-F1 driver headed for NASCAR truck title
Scott Speed
Former Formula One driver Scott Speed will compete in Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350 for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on Sept. 20. It will mark Speed's first visit to LVMS.

Speed is a young man in a big hurry. At the still-young age of 24, Speed already is a veteran of 17 years behind the wheel. And what a ride it's been for the Manteca, Calif., native.

Scott cut his auto racing teeth in go-kart competition and won his first national go-kart championship in 1995 at age 12. He earned several more karting titles before graduating to full-sized cars.

Speed stepped up to open-wheel racing in 2001 and won the U.S. Jim Russell Racing title in his first try. In 2002, he competed in the Barber Formula Dodge and U.S. Star Mazda series. That same year, Red Bull launched the Red Bull Driver Search. The goal of the driver search was to place an American driver in the Formula One Series (F1). Speed, now 19, won the Red Bull driver search and joined the British Formula Three Series. In 2004, he won the German Formula Renault and Eurocup championships. The European road-racing apprenticeship continued, until sponsor Red Bull purchased the Minardi Formula One team. In 2005, at the Canadian Grand Prix in Quebec, Speed took part as a test driver for Red Bull Racing, becoming the first American driver to participate in a Formula One event since Michael Andretti (1993). He was also the test driver for the United States Grand Prix. Speed joined the Red Bull F1 team, now known as Scuderia Toro Rosso (Italian for "Red Bull Stable").

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Q&A with Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso's plans for 2009 remain a source of feverish paddock speculation – but he is playing a long game and at Spa on Thursday he again batted away questions on the subject.

Instead, the former champion told ITV Sport's pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz why he expects a close battle at the front this weekend, and why he feels Kimi Raikkonen cannot be written out of the title script.

Ted Kravitz: Would you prefer a dry or a wet race at Spa on Sunday?

Fernando Alonso: When I have no chance to win in the dry, I prefer that it rains; if I’m in the top three I prefer a dry race.

Ted: What about the temperature here – will that suit you, or do you think it will suit McLaren, as they seem to go well in the colder conditions, and not suit Ferrari?

FA: We’ll see. For us I think it will not make a huge difference [whether] it’s a hot or cold circuit.

For the championship fight, we saw some advantage for the McLaren car when it’s cold, but also Spa is a good track for Ferrari, to [exploit] the benefits of the aerodynamics of their car.

So I think it will be a good battle.

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Renault heads to the streets of Kiev
As part of its Roadshow program, the Renault team is preparing to offer a unique demonstration on the streets of Kiev on the 21st of September. After Johannesburg and Rotterdam earlier this summer, the French based squad now heads to Eastern Europe where the streets of the Ukrainian capital will echo to the sound the team's Formula 1 cars.

On a 1.2km track especially designed for this occasion in the heart of Kiev, the team hopes to give the public a unique experience of Formula 1 in a friendly and relaxed environment. Romain Grosjean and Sakon Yamamoto, the team's test drivers, will be the men behind the wheel of the R27 for what promises to be an unforgettable event attended by a large number of spectators.

"I am very happy to be going to Kiev for this demonstration," said Romain Grosjean. "I have never been to Ukraine and I think the atmosphere promises to be very special. I will do my best to make it an unforgettable day for the public who don't have a Grand Prix in their country."

"As a racing driver, driving through the town in a Formula 1 car is something that feels extraordinary and I hope that the Ukrainian public will enjoy this event and seeing the R27. I will do my best to entertain them and I have no doubt that it will be a truly exceptional day," Sakon Yamamoto added.


Tire 'check' by Goodyear at Dover
Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin were the drivers who were drafted by Goodyear to perform what they both called "a tire check" for the company at Dover International Speedway on Wednesday [9/3]. Labonte and Martin each took to Dover's high-banked, one-mile oval throughout the day in single-car runs, trying to ensure that Goodyear chooses the best tire compound for the Camping World RV 400 presented by AAA that will be held at the "Monster Mile" on Sept. 21. "It's just about tires. Goodyear's brought two different compounds of tires for us to test," said Labonte. "The tire test sometimes consists of trying different compounds and constructions, but this is more of a 'tire check' just to make sure everything's OK with the tire." It is standard operating procedure for Goodyear to conduct a tire test at virtually every race track in preparation for a Sprint Cup race. "Goodyear does the picking [of drivers] and they do a lot of testing, so obviously they don't have me and Mark [Martin] do all of the testing," Labonte said. "They kind of pick and choose with these guys here and these guys there." And since Dover is one of the races involved in the Chase, it was no coincidence that none of the championship contenders were asked to participate. "They've spread [testing] around a lot this year," Martin said. "I think when you're getting right on top of the Chase that they try not to choose Chase guys because that might give them an advantage or something." Delaware News Journal


GEM sues Robby Gordon
Gillett Evernham Motorsports has filed suit against NASCAR team owner/driver Robby Gordon in a North Carolina court, claiming he has "violated terms of a tentative agreement" made in January "that would have sold his team to GEM for $23.5[M]." The suit claims that Gordon broke an exclusivity clause that "would not allow Gordon to entertain talks with other teams about possible mergers." Gordon said in a statement, "We categorically reject the allegations."  SceneDaily


Matos, Antinucci set for Chicagoland finale
Raphael Matos and Richard Antinucci are engaged in the closest points battle in Firestone Indy Lights history. While the three-point margin presents a multitude of possibilities for either of the drivers to claim the Firestone Firehawk Cup, the easiest solution would be for one of them to win their first race on an oval.

Matos and Antinucci are both accomplished road racers who are competing on ovals for the first time in their careers.

Matos’ career is studded with championships – Champ Car Atlantic in 2007, Star Mazda in 2005 and Formula Dodge in 2003. He’s built a three-point lead over Antinucci with three victories and seven top-five finishes. His wins came on the streets of St. Petersburg and the road courses at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. His best finish on an oval is third at Milwaukee, although he won the pole at Homestead-Miami and Kentucky.

“I think the approach will be pretty much the same as everywhere we've been,” Matos said. “We show great speed pretty much everywhere we've been. Obviously we won three races on a road course, but we had two pole positions at the mile-and-a-half oval courses. We tested last week at Chicago, and we showed great speed. We definitely have a great car for that track.”

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Dixon, Castroneves eye first win at Chicagoland
Scott Dixon or Helio Castroneves will emerge from the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 as the IndyCar Series champion. To do so, they’ll have to outperform the other on a track where neither has won.

Dixon, the points leader heading into the season finale, has made five starts on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway. He’s finished second three times, including last year when he saw the championship slip away on the final turn of the final lap when his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine ran out of ethanol.

“It's a tough circuit,” Dixon said. “It's one of those that provides great racing and definitely nail biting for a championship race, which is exactly what the fans want and everybody that's watching. I guess they'll definitely get that.

“I think for me it's been a mixed bag in the way of how we've done there. To never have won there is definitely frustrating. We're hoping that we can definitely turn that around this weekend. But there's a lot of other people that are going to be trying to do the same thing.”

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NASCAR buys Grand-Am UPDATE NASCAR Holdings today announced an agreement to acquire the Grand-American Road Racing Association (Grand-Am). The future move will allow for resource sharing between Grand-Am and NASCAR while both organizations continue to operate independently. NASCAR Holdings is the legal operating entity that includes the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and many of its subsidiaries.

Grand-Am, one of the world’s most competitive road racing organizations, and NASCAR, the No. 1 spectator sport in the U.S., will combine marketing and communications efforts to include brand management, research, marketing and public relations.

Grand-Am consists of six racing series, including the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series, which has millions of loyal fans.

“This combination of resources will benefit Grand-Am and NASCAR, their competitors and fans, as the two companies work together to enhance the two sports,” said Jim France, NASCAR Vice Chairman and Grand-Am founder.

The two racing brands will continue to independently sanction and officiate race events for their own series and there will be no change in management. Roger Edmondson will continue to serve as president of Grand-Am.

There has been a rise in crossover drivers and team owners between Grand-Am and NASCAR in recent years. NASCAR drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kyle Petty, Bobby Labonte, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon have raced in the Grand-Am Rolex Series. Full time driver and 2008 Grand-Am Daytona Prototype team champion Scott Pruett has driven in many NASCAR events. Chip Ganassi and Richard Childress own teams in both sports. Press Release

09/04/08 Sports Business Journal reports that the Grand-American Road Racing Association, a sports car racing series founded by Jim France, has been acquired by France's family business, NASCAR. Grand-Am will become a part of NASCAR Holdings, the business entity under which its racing series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and others) are held. An announcement is expected later today. France founded the series in '99, but it was never officially under the NASCAR flag until now. Grand-Am officials say that the property will benefit from shared resources with NASCAR, including marketing, communications, brand management and research, but it will continue to run as a separate series under President Roger Edmondson.


Latest F1 news in brief
  • Future decision due 'soon' - Alonso
  • Hamilton finds focus for 2008 title
  • Nakajima hopes to keep Williams seat
  • Kimi says he may support Massa title

Future decision due 'soon' - Alonso
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso on Thursday said he will make a decision about his team for 2009 "soon", but denies reports an announcement is due in seven days time at Monza.

"I will decide very soon on what I will do next year and what possibilities there are but there is not a fixed day," the Spaniard, who currently drives for Renault, told reporters at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

The 27-year-old would be first in line to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari should the Finn retire, but he has also been linked with moves next year to Honda or BMW-Sauber.

However, he dismissed as "untrue" rumors that all will be revealed ahead of the Italian grand prix in a week.

Hamilton finds focus for 2008 title
(GMM)  As in 2007, Lewis Hamilton is still a title protagonist, but the McLaren driver insists he is more focused on winning the championship this year.

Then a rookie, the McLaren driver entered the final phase of last year's contest with a points advantage, but errors opened the door for Kimi Raikkonen to snatch an unlikely crown.

"Last year I wasn't focused on the championship," Hamilton, 23, told reporters at Spa-Francorchamps on Thursday.

"I was so happy to be here.  It was all very overwhelming for me.  I was living the dream.

"This year I'm a fully-fledged formula one driver and I am here to win the championship, and whatever that takes," he said.

Hamilton, with a 6 point advantage over Ferrari's Felipe Massa, suggests the practical difference between his approach this year compared to 2007 is his focus now on the bigger picture rather than individual grands prix.

"That means scoring points and staying out in front, so I have to make sure I finish the remaining six races with as many points as possible," he explained.

Nakajima hopes to keep Williams seat
(GMM)  Kazuki Nakajima on Thursday said it is possible he will still be a Williams driver in 2009.

The Japanese racer's team boss, Sir Frank Williams, said recently the 23-year-old is likely to still be on the grid next season.

"I would imagine he will be at one of the two (Toyota) teams," Williams said at the French grand prix.

A few months on at Spa-Francorchamps, however, Nakajima had little news for the media corps.

"I really hope to stay at Williams," he said before the Belgian grand prix weekend.  "That would be my best choice, I think.  I don't think there are many other choices.

"We will have to wait for the team's decision," Nakajima explained.

Many commentators have been impressed with Nakajima's performances alongside his highly rated teammate Nico Rosberg this season.

But triple world champion Niki Lauda isn't as sure.

"It is too hard to give a clear judgment about the drivers because the car's performance is not good enough," the great Austrian said.

Kimi says he may support Massa title
(GMM)  World champion Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday did not rule out helping his Ferrari teammate win the 2008 title, should his own championship chances continue to dwindle.

Felipe Massa, who is on top form in the sister F2008, insists he has not yet been conferred official number one status, despite his 7 point advantage over Raikkonen in their pursuit of championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali confirmed: "For the moment there is no hierarchy for our drivers."

Raikkonen, 28, is a renowned Spa-Francorchamps specialist, and his hopes of getting his title quest back on track almost certainly rest upon a strong result this weekend.

But he was asked at the Belgian circuit on Thursday if he can imagine falling in line to back Massa.

"It can happen," the Finn said.  "We will see.  It all depends on how the next races go and where we are at the end of the year.  We race as a team.

"Hopefully we don't end up in this situation, hopefully I will be in the championship up to the last race.  But you never know what happens," Raikkonen added.


Gene Simmons sued over IndyCar deal UPDATE Here is a copy of the lawsuit against Gene Simmons.  Thomas Girardi, the plaintiff's lawyer, is a well known, serious trial lawyer.  He typically handles large personal injury and toxic tort cases, including his role as co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the Erin Brokovitch case.

09/03/08 A Los Angeles man claims in a lawsuit that Gene Simmons took him for a ride on a marketing deal with the Indy Racing League.

Allan Brown on Wednesday sued Simmons and two business partners, claiming the group cut him out of a 2006 deal between the Kiss bassist and the racing league.

Brown is seeking unspecified damages and is claiming fraud and slander. His suit alleges he helped broker the deal between Simmons and the IRL, but was cut out of the contract while on a personal vacation.


Rosberg absent at Spa on Thursday
(GMM)  One regular face missing from the Spa-Francorchamps paddock on Thursday was Williams' Nico Rosberg.

The 23-year-old German was apparently still in England, where at the Silverstone circuit he was completing a final shakedown at the wheel of a Toyota-powered FW30.

Normal testing is banned on the week of a grand prix, but teams are allowed to complete up to 50kms for preparatory running.

Rosberg's task on Thursday was, nonetheless, unusual -- especially given the fact that Nico Hulkenberg is the British team's regular test driver.


Honda figures hope for wet Belgium
(GMM)  At least one team not perturbed at the prospect of inclement weather for this weekend's Belgian grand prix is Honda.

The Japanese outfit, just eighth in the constructors' championship, struggled at Valencia two weeks ago.

Six of the team's 14 points so far in 2008 were scored by Rubens Barrichello in the wet British grand prix.

"The weather conditions really helped us to get the best out of the car," said the Brazilian, the event having marked his first podium since 2006.

Barrichello, whose outing on the Spanish streets at Valencia was disastrous, believes the Monza test last week resolved his braking problems.

Teammate Jenson Button is also hoping the forecasts for rain at Spa-Francorchamps are right, saying "the weather can play a big part in the race weekend which is great for us as the car goes well in the wet".

Team principal Ross Brawn added: "We have seen already this season that our car can perform rather better in the wet than the dry.  I for one would certainly not object to an inclement weekend."


SunRichGourmet.com Named Title Sponsor of Grand-Am Race
SunRichGourmet.com, the Internet home of Sun-Rich International, a purveyor of global gourmet delicacies based in Woodridge, Ill., has signed on as the title sponsor of the upcoming Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 event at Miller Motorsports Park over the weekend of September 19-21.

What was previously known as the Sunchaser 1000 will now be branded as the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels. The event will include the 7.5-hour season finale for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, the most competitive professional sports car series in North America. Supporting series will include the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, the KONI Challenge Series, the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup and the SCCA Pro Racing Sirius Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup.


Tagliani to Drive in Final Two Races of the Season for Conquest
Conquest Racing announced today that Alex Tagliani will be returning to the cockpit of the Conquest Racing machine as a replacement for the injured Enrique Bernoldi for this weekend’s upcoming race at Chicagoland Speedway. In addition, Conquest has elected to sign Tagliani for the final event of the season at Surfers Paradise due to his vast experience at the Gold Coast street circuit.

While Bernoldi was hoping to be back behind the wheel of the Conquest car for this weekend’s PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300, the ligaments in his left hand, injured at Sonoma two weeks ago, are not healing properly and rest seems to be the best medication.

“Unfortunately Enrique’s injury is not healing as fast as we thought and would’ve liked, and with Alex doing such a great job last weekend it was an easy decision to keep him in the car for Joliet,” explained Conquest team owner Eric Bachelart.

“We also elected to keep Alex for Australia since he has so much experience at that track. We’ve been looking for strong results all year and we saw what he was able to do in Detroit. Bringing Alex to a track he knows at Surfers and with more time behind the wheel, I think we will be able to fight for a win and end the season on a high note.”

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F1 teams to test new wet tire
(GMM)  Bridgestone has developed a wet-weather formula one tire that it says could be used in all rainy conditions at grands prix.

Currently, the regulations require F1's official single tire supplier to offer two compounds of wet tires - 'standard' and 'extreme' - to teams.

However, inspired by its similar solution for the GP2 category, Bridgestone on Thursday revealed that a single wet tire - with an initially 'extreme'-style tread designed to wear down and become useable also in drier conditions - is in development.

Bridgestone intends to offer the tire for teams to trial at the next rain-affected F1 test.

"We have learnt a lot from our formula one wet tire development and our GP2 single wet tire is an interesting area of development," said the Japanese company's director of motor sport tire development, Hirohide Hamashima.

He explained that deploying the tire at grands prix would require a rules change.


Ed Justice dies
Ed Justice, a race car builder who joined his brothers to start the Justice Brothers Inc. car care products company, has died. He was 87.

Justice, the last surviving brother, died Saturday in Arcadia of complications from kidney failure, said his son, Ed Justice Jr.

Ed Justice and his brothers Zeke and Gus founded their business after World War II with $2,500 they earned from selling a midget race car they built in their garage.

The brothers brewed fuel and oil additives in their backyard. An early success was a stop-leak additive for transmissions.

The company’s reputation was enhanced by sponsoring the winning car driven by Johnnie Parsons at the 1950 Indianapolis 500. Justice Brothers, now based in Duarte, Calif., went on to sponsor winning cars in nearly every form of racing.

Born in Paola, Kan., Justice and his brothers built their first race car as teenagers. After World War II, Ed Justice joined Zeke in working for famed Southern California car builder Frank Kurtis.

“My dad and his brothers were stereotypical Midwesterners who came to California to find a better life, and they did,” Ed Justice Jr. said in a statement released by the company.

Justice is also survived by his wife, Linda; a sister, Marie; two stepdaughters; two granddaughters and six step-grandchildren.


Knaus named crew chief of the race
Chad Knaus, crew chief of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of driver Jimmie Johnson, has been named the Wypall Wipers crew chief of the race for Sunday’s Pepsi 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in California.

The team started from the pole and led 228 of 250 laps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

Knaus worked to adjust the car throughout the race, which started in daylight and ended at night.

“We found a direction with some tire pressure that worked, but it was just an awesome car all night long,” Johnson said. “These guys [and Chad] were put under a different form of pressure, being up there with a lot to lose. It was good for them.”

Knaus opted for four times instead of two on the final pit stop, a call that helped Johnson move back into the lead for the final time and net his third win of the season.

“The driver/crew chief communication level and confidence in one another is what carries performance up a bit higher,” Knaus said.

The 2008 Wypall Wipers Crew Chief Challenge is a season-long contest to determine the best crew chiefs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage. It isn’t necessarily the crew chief who goes to victory lane, but the crew chief who makes the biggest difference for his team.


Honda Passes Chrysler as Asia Brands Widen Share in the U.S.
Honda Motor Co. passed Chrysler LLC in August to grab fourth place in U.S. auto sales this year as cars won market share from trucks amid an industrywide slump.  Asia-based brands led by Nissan Motor Co.'s 14 percent gain raised their share of August U.S. sales to 47.3 percent, beating General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler for a fourth month, research firm Autodata Corp. said yesterday. While Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda fell, they dropped less than the U.S. trio.

Tokyo-based Honda may keep the No. 4 spot as a sluggish economy and fuel prices crimp demand for the light trucks that make up more than half of Chrysler's volume. Honda's 2008 U.S. sales are up 1.7 percent, while Chrysler's are down 24 percent.

``Honda and Nissan will likely be the only big automakers that post positive numbers in the U.S. for the calendar year,'' said Jesse Toprak, director of industry analysis for automotive research firm Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California. ``In this kind of economy, with double-digit sales declines for the industry, any kind of gain is a good one.'' Bloomberg


Struggling Kimi buys new 10m euro boat
Sunseeker Predator 108
(GMM)  Reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who is currently struggling for form with the 2008 Ferrari, has bought yet another luxury yacht, according to a report in the Spanish press.

The national daily Sport claims the 28-year-old driver's new toy is a 33 meter Sunseeker Predator 108, which reportedly cost the Finn 10 million euros.

Living Room
Raikkonen's boat, with a customer interior ordered by Kimi and his wife Jenni, apparently has four cabins with bathrooms and a Jacuzzi on deck.

Intriguingly, amid criticism of Raikkonen's disappointing form early last season, it was reported at the time that he paid about 3.5m euros for a new 22-metre yacht.

It emerged recently in the Finnish press that Raikkonen's Sunseeker Predator 72 was then damaged when it ran aground on rocks.

Raikkonen, 13 points behind the lead of the drivers' championship, moored boats in the harbor for both waterfront grands prix this year, at Monaco and two weeks ago at Valencia.


LOA: 108’0”
Length waterline 79’10”
Beam 20’8”
Fuel, Diesel: 2,906 gals.
Water: 478 Gals.
Grey water: 132 gals.
Black water: 132 gals.
Generators: 2x 40 kW 60Hz
Engines: 3x MTU 2000 Series @ 2000 hp
Propulsion: Direct gear drive through triple Arneson surface drives or submerged twin props

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F1 braces for more wet weather in Belgium
(GMM)  If Wednesday's evidence was any indication, the 2008 edition of the Belgian grand prix could be a wet and wild affair.

It rained heavily only once at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit - all day! - as teams, personnel and reporters set up at the venue in the Ardennes.

Fog and rain are not uncommon at Spa
Parking lots were soaked and puddles saturated the paddock, and local reports indicate that more rain could be on the way, with a more than 50 per cent chance for Thursday through to Sunday.

BMW-Sauber driver Robert Kubica says the weather can be a "crucial" factor at Spa, which at 7kms is the longest layout on the calendar, nestled in a region that is often said to have its own 'micro-climate'.

"It can rain in one sector and it can be dry in another," the Pole added.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa comments: "Sometimes the rain at Spa comes with fog and that makes visibility very poor and it's not too comfortable to drive in."


Massa expects 'strong support' by Ferrari
Felipe Massa
(GMM)  The figures imply a different tack, but Felipe Massa heads into the last six grands prix of 2008 insisting he is not yet Ferrari's number one driver for title honors.

The Brazilian, who dominated at Valencia, would also have won in Hungary and has won twice as many grands prix this year as teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Massa now lies just 6 points behind McLaren's championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

Reigning world champion Raikkonen, meanwhile, is struggling for form with the sister F2008 and is 13 points adrift Hamilton's lead.

But on Wednesday, 27-year-old Massa said he is not now the officially prominent Ferrari driver.

"I am not the number one," he told Italy's Sky Sport 24, "although I can certainly count on the very strong support of my team.

"I have been encouraged and assisted all these years, and that work is going to continue as always," Massa added.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali confirms: "For the moment there is no hierarchy for our drivers."

Indeed, Massa says he is expecting a strong challenge this weekend by Raikkonen, who has won the last three Belgian grands prix.

"I will be hoping to be ahead of my teammate, but Kimi has always been quick at Spa, not just in formula one but he was also a winner here in the junior categories," Massa said.


Renault aware of engine deficit - Coulthard
(GMM)  Red Bull driver David Coulthard admits there is a difference in performance between the Renault engine in his car, and the Ferrari V8 that powers the almost identical chassis of junior outfit Toro Rosso.

The difference between the two teams' performances at Valencia recently was stark, as Toro Rosso had its best showing of the season, while Coulthard and teammate Mark Webber struggled very much amid the bottom half of the grid.

Coulthard, 37, wrote in his website column for the British broadcaster ITV that Renault's 2.4 liter unit is inferior to the Ferrari "in both the power and drivability stakes".

"That's something that we're aware of, Renault is aware of and we're trying to work through," the Scot said.

As ever in F1, Red Bull's recent problems are probably more complex than a simple power deficit, and indeed team boss Christian Horner earlier this week insisted that "tires are proving to be the biggest factor".

Sebastian Vettel, who is making good use of Toro Rosso's run of current form, also believes Ferrari's reported 30 horse power advantage over Renault is too simple an explanation.

"I think the way you set up the car can make a huge difference for straight-line speeds," the young German told Speed TV.

"It's a bit more complicated than it looks," Vettel added.


Erin Crocker to call ARCA race for SPEED
Driver Erin Crocker will make her SPEED broadcasting debut this weekend, teaming with veteran motor sports journalist Ralph Sheheen to call the ARCA RE/MAX Series Chicagoland 200 from Joliet.

Sheheen and Crocker, who scored 12 Top 5s and 16 Top 10s in her 25 career ARCA starts, will call the race from the booth, while Jim Tretow and Brian Till report from the pits.

Race coverage airs Sunday (Sept. 7) at 4 p.m. ET on SPEED.


NASCAR clips Toyotas Wings again
Just as NASCAR did with the Nationwide Series in July, the sanctioning body has changed the engine rule in the Craftsman Truck Series.

NASCAR announced the rule change Wednesday. Engines with cylinder bore spacing of less than 4.47 inches must use a spacer with four 1.125-inch diameter holes, which restricts engine air flow. All other engines must use a spacer with four 1.1-inch diameter holes. The change likely will impact the horsepower of the Toyotas – on the Nationwide side it impacted the Toyotas by 15-20 horsepower.

“As was the case with the amendment we recently made in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, all teams that upgrade to new engine packages will be subject to this rule modification,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition. “This is a continuance of the ongoing engine evaluation we’ve had in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series over the course of this season and is a step we’ve taken to help further maintain a level playing field among our competitors.”

NASCAR impounded several engines for testing after the Aug. 20 race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The change is effective immediately as the teams head to Gateway International Raceway this weekend.

[Editor's Note:  This will have Lee White and his Toyota engineers fuming again.  They will now probably roll out some more horsepower they were holding in their back pocket for the truck engine and destroy Chevy, Ford and Dodge, just to teach NASCAR to leave well enough alone.  We don't think NASCAR realized what they were doing when they let Toyota into their den to play.  They come to win, and annihilate the competition.]


NASCAR TV ratings continue to tank on ESPN
ESPN says its ratings for both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series races last weekend at Auto Club Speedway in California were down from the same events a year ago.

Sunday night’s Pepsi 500 Cup race earned a 3.9 household coverage rating, down 10.3 percent from last year’s 4.3

The race was the sixth and final Cup event of the season to air on ESPN. For its six races, ESPN averaged a 4.12, down 6.6 percent from last year’s 4.41 average for five races.

The final 11 races of the 2008 season are scheduled to air on ABC while produced by ESPN.

Saturday night’s Camping World RV Service 300 Nationwide Series race earned a 1.1 household coverage rating on ESPN2, down 15.4 percent from last year’s 1.3. The race started on ESPN Classic and then went to ESPN2 after nine laps because a college football game ran long. Both the race this year and last year started shortly after 10 p.m. EDT.

[Editor's Note: With TV ratings down how is ABC/ESPN going to justify all that money they will lose on their NASCAR TV deal?  NBC, who refused to bid again because they knew it was a money-losing proposition, must be laughing all the way to the bank.  With attendance down dramatically, being blamed by the fuel prices, you would think more people would be staying home and watching the race on TV, thereby, bumping up ratings.  The fact of the matter is that NASCAR, with its gas guzzling, 1950s technology (some say what technology?) is losing touch with the average consumer, who is becoming more sophisticated by the day.]


National Stock Car Racing Commission rescinds probation for Stewart
On September 3, 2008, the National Stock Car Racing Commission heard and considered the appeal of Joe Gibbs Racing. The appeal concerned two penalties issued by NASCAR to drivers Tony Stewart and Joey Logano.

Briefly, the penalties concern Section 12-4-A of the NASCAR Rule Book “Actions detrimental to stock car racing,” Section 8-9 Competitive Analysis – From time to time, NASCAR may determine, in the interest of competition that it is necessary or appropriate to undertake an analysis of the performance capabilities of a car, car part, component or equipment. The Competitor shall take whatever steps are requested by NASCAR Officials for this purpose. NASCAR also has the right to seal or impound cars, car parts, components and/or equipment for this purpose. NASCAR is not responsible for payment, reimbursement, damage or loss to the Competitor as a result of such analysis, sealing or impounding,” Section 12-4-Q (1) “Any determination by NASCAR Officials that a car, car component, engine, engine component, or any other part or related equipment used in the Event does not conform to NASCAR Rules, detailed in Section 20A of the Rule Book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the Event, or is not required for the normal functional operation of the race car, or has been altered to detract from or compromise its integrity or effectiveness, whether operational or not,” and Section 12-4-K “When NASCAR Officials mandate inspection during the Event, if any car, car parts, components, and/or equipment which have been used in the Event are taken from the racing premises without permission of a NASCAR Official, or are tampered with by any member of the team or anyone associated with the team:  Magnetic spacer attached under the gas pedal with the intent of compromising the chassis dyno test.”

This stemmed from post-race inspection for a NASCAR Nationwide Series Event held at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2008. 

The penalties assessed against each driver were: 

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GM sales drop 20.3% (Get welfare checks ready)
General Motors Corp.’s August sales dropped 20.3% to 307,285 total vehicles as sales of its large trucks continued to drop in the face of higher gas prices and a weakened U.S. economy.

Sales of GM’s cars dropped 13.9% to 124,441 units in August while sales of GM’s trucks fell 24.1% to 182,844.

GM put a positive twist on its results, saying August was its best monthly sales total so far in 2008.

“Compared with an exceptionally strong retail and fleet month last year, August total sales were down 20%. However, when compared with July, 2008, total sales were up 31%,” the company said in a statement.


Scott Sharp Wins 'Drive of the Race' Honors for Detroit
He's been knocking on a door of a breakthrough performance since Lime Rock, and at Detroit last Saturday, Patr¢n Highcroft Racing's Scott Sharp became the easy choice for SPEEDtv.com's 'Drive of the Race' award. 

During that event, Patr¢n Highcroft Racing continued its run of podium finishes and secured second overall and in the LMP2 class at the Detroit Sportscar Challenge. The latest stellar performance from the Patr¢n Highcroft crew helped drivers Scott Sharp and David Brabham slash the LMP2 championship gap from 10 points to four heading in to the last two rounds of the season.

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Q & A with John Barnes and Dan Wheldon
IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon and Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes were guests on today’s Indy Racing League teleconference.  Dan Wheldon is in his sixth full season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. In 2009, he will return to Panther Racing where he debuted in 2002.

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Our guests today are Dan Wheldon and John Barnes. Good afternoon, gentlemen.

DAN WHELDON: Afternoon.

JOHN BARNES: Hey, guys.

THE MODERATOR: John is the co‑ owner of Panther Racing, and yesterday the team announced that Dan Wheldon will be returning to the team for 2009. Dan started his career with Panther with two races in 2002 before moving on to Andretti Green Racing where he won the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series Championship in 2005. Dan has been with Target Chip Ganassi racing the last two seasons.

Dan, there have been some rumors swirling around you and your future for a while now this season. Tell us about how things have gone for you this season, and how it eventually now has worked into a deal with Panther for next year?

DAN WHELDON (1:15): Well, as far as the season has gone so far it's perhaps not been the season that I would have liked. I'm always one that's aiming to win the Indianapolis 500. That is a race that's very kind of near and dear to my heart. I didn't achieve that.

As far as the other races, we've been competitive at all of them, but just perhaps haven't had the result that we've wanted.

In terms of the news that just brought yesterday I'm incredibly excited to be joining Panther Racing for next season, and possibly a little bit sooner. You know, can't wait to get started.

It's an organization I'm very familiar with. I started my IndyCar Series career there back in 2002. The team has always been a contender for victories. Like I said, I'm just very, very excited.

It's great to be working with J.B. again. He's a guy that's near and dear to my heart and one that's very honest. There's no kind of ‑‑ there is nothing that really surrounds him. He just tells you how it is and gives you the best possible equipment to win races, and that's all I want to do. So I'm really excited and raring to go.

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HVM Racing will make 200th Indy car start
The PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 will be HVM Racing’s 200th start in Indy car racing since the team was acquired by Keith Wiggins in late 2000. The team competed in CART and the Champ Car World Series from 2001-07 before joining the IndyCar Series this season.

“Reaching 200 starts is a great milestone, but you don’t really think too much about what you’ve done in the past more than looking ahead to the next 200 starts and being stronger and more competitive,” Wiggins said. “We’re a team that has been fortunate to have had success in the past and have done so with many different drivers in many varying circumstances. We’ve been able to help some young guys and give them the opportunities to be successful. That was again the case this season with E.J. (Viso).”


Ford sales down again
Sales of Ford Motor Co. cars and trucks plummeted 26.6% in August, despite healthy gains of the company’s fuel-efficient cars, such as the Focus compact car, which was up 23.4% during the month.

Year-to-date sales for Ford are now down a sharp 15.8%.

Other automakers were slated to release their results throughout the day.

Ford sales were down the most for the Mercury brand, which was off 31.7%, followed by the Ford brand, down 26.2%.

Ford’s luxury Lincoln brand, which is enjoying strong sales of the MKS large car, was down 8.5%, a performance that will likely outperform the declines in the overall market.

Overall, sales were down 8.9% for the automaker’s cars, down 1.3% for crossovers, down 53% for SUVs and down 38.5% for pickup trucks and vans.

Ford’s crossover segment was boosted by the small Ford Escape crossover, which posted a 17.3% sales gain in August.

“The Focus and Escape offer the features and fuel economy today’s consumers want,” Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president for sales and marketing, said in a statement.

Ford does not see the market for new vehicles rebounding anytime soon.

“We expect the second half of 2008 will be more challenging than the first half,” Farley said, “as weak economic conditions and the consumer credit crunch continues.”  Detroit Free Press


Bridgestone goes with harder tires for Spa
As a contrast to the all-new Valencia street course, the next event will take place at a now permanent race facility which is steeped in motor racing folklore, Spa Francorchamps. At 7km long, Spa is the longest circuit on the calendar, by well over a kilometer, and there is quality in its layout as well as quantity in its length.

In tire terms it's a severe track and Bridgestone will bring the hardest two compounds from the range, the hard and medium. This is a change from last season when the medium and soft compound tires were used. Speeds regularly approach or exceed 300kph, whilst the slowest speeds on a lap are seen in the first turn, which F1 cars tackle at just over 60kph.

Bridgestone comes to Spa fresh from a tire test in Monza where the hard and medium compounds were used.

"Spa is extremely challenging for drivers and for tire engineers too," said Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima. "The layout is the longest of the year and it has a lot of complexity, with the added challenge of significant gradient changes. It is a high speed circuit, and one with particularly high loads on the tires because of the high levels of downforce used. Added to this, the weather in Belgium is often variable and we have seen rain a number of times previously, so Spa is likely to give everyone a lot of hard work. We have changed the tire allocation a step harder for this season as last year we had issues with heat durability, which should be less of a problem with the harder compounds."


TV ratings for Detroit IndyCar race
The overnight TV Rating for the IndyCar Series race on Belle Island in Detroit last Sunday on ABC was a  0.9.

track news

MIS forced to lower ticket prices
Michigan International Speedway is offering new lower-priced ticket options to make NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events more affordable for its fans in 2009. 

Highlights of the pricing changes include a $40 general admission ticket for the track’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. The Sprint Cup Series returns to the Irish Hills in 2009 on June 14 and August 16. Children 12 and under will also be admitted free of charge in the general admission area only to those events. These tickets will be available in grandstands 14 and 16, between turns 3 and 4.

Additionally, ticket prices will also be lowered in upper rows 55-70 of the Turn 3 grandstand by $15. Those seats, formally $110, are now $95.

“We know there are tough economic times in our country right now and we are committed to do all we can to make NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing more affordable for our guests,” speedway President Roger Curtis said. “These new pricing options will make it easier for families and any race fan who may be struggling with making tough economic choices to make the decision to renew their tickets at MIS or come and enjoy NASCAR racing at our track for the first time.”

Parking will remain free of charge at Michigan International Speedway, and the speedway will continue to allow fans to bring in their own food and beverages in 6x6x12-inch bags.

Race fans may also find the speedway’s “Half Now, Half Later” payment plan useful during these times.

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Franck Perera to drive #41 for Foyt at Chicagoland
Franck Perera will audition for a potential 2009 IndyCar Series ride at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend in the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda-powered Dallara for A.J. Foyt Racing.

Perera, 24, has made nine Firestone Indy Lights starts in the No. 55 CJ Consulting Guthrie Racing car since June, posting one victory (Infineon Raceway road course from the pole) and four top-10 finishes. He competed in the first two IndyCar Series races of the season car before sponsorship issues forced him out of the No. 34 Conquest Racing car.

Team director Larry Foyt brought the French driver to his father's attention as the team begins scouting for a driver for a possible second car in 2009.At the beginning of the year, I noticed that Franck was one of the quickest among the transition team drivers to adapt to the IndyCars," Larry Foyt said. "He fared well on the oval in Homestead (started 13th and finished 14th) and qualified well (10th) at St. Pete. We thought then that he was a talented driver and, as we're looking to become a two-car team next year, we thought he might be a good asset to our program. We'll see how we get along with him this weekend."

Perera will have veteran Darren Manning, driving the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car, as his teammate.

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Penske Racing confirms Stremme to replace Newman
Penske Racing today announced that David Stremme, 31, will pilot the No. 12 Alltel Dodge for the 2009 NASCAR Cup Series season. 

Stremme is currently ranked 12th in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver points standings after starting 24 of 27 races. Driving for Penske Racing alumnus Rusty Wallace, Stremme has posted five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes.  In April 2008, Stremme was announced as an official Penske Racing test driver and has accelerated the understanding of the new NASCAR Cup Series Dodge that made its full-season debut in 2008.

“We’re pleased to have David join Penske Racing as the driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge,” said Roger Penske. “His past accomplishments and current experience as our NASCAR test driver, as well as his character and desire for success, make him a good fit into our culture.”

Alltel has been a longtime partner of Penske Racing, and the near-decade association between the two organizations has produced impressive results with 23 victories and 55 pole positions in Cup, Nationwide and ARCA.  Stremme is only the second driver in Penske Racing history to wear the Alltel blue-and-white. 

“Alltel is proud to welcome David into our ‘Circle’ and have him behind the wheel of the No.12 Alltel Dodge in 2009,” said Frank O’Mara, chief marketing officer, Alltel Wireless.  “We look forward to having him serve as an ambassador for Alltel both on and off the track.”

Stremme is joining one of the most successful motorsports organizations in history, with more than 300 major race wins, including the 2008 Daytona 500, the 2008 12 Hours of Sebring and 14 Indianapolis 500s.  In stock car racing, Penske Racing has scored 77 wins and 106 pole positions since 1991.

“It’s an honor to join Penske Racing as the driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge,” said Stremme.  “To be a part of Penske Racing’s 40-plus-year legacy has been a longtime dream of mine.  I cannot wait to join my new teammates and work to get the No. 12 into the 2009 Chase.”


Phil Hill memorial service
Memorial services have been announced for Phil Hill. They will be held in Santa Monica, California September 10 with visitation on September 9th.


Tuesday, September 9
4:00 - 7:30PM

Gates, Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy Funeral Directors
1925 Arizona Ave.
Santa Monica, Calif.

Funeral Service

Wednesday, September 10

St. Monica Church
725 California Avenue
Santa Monica, Calif.

Funeral Service to be followed by private burial

Note: Memorial contributions may be made in Hill's memory at www.philhill.com. The website contains an area where one can leave a remembrance of the first American to win the Formula One championship.


Charity branding for Nakajima's car
(GMM)  In the place of the usual branding of Williams' title sponsor AT&T, the logo of the global telecommunications charity Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) will feature on the headrest of Kazuki Nakajima's FW30 at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.  AT&T said in a statement that it wants to "raise the profile" of the charity.


ESPN Star Sports Inks Five-Year Extension For F1 Broadcast Rights
ESPN Star Sports (ESS) and F1 today announced that they have renewed their media rights deal for five more years. The deal awards ESS exclusive broadcast rights to the F1 series across multiple platforms in 24 Asian markets, including India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea (ESPN).  The deal marks the first time F1 rights "have been awarded on a platform neutral basis; the first time that radio rights have been included; the first time ESS will have terrestrial rights in a number of markets; and the first time F1 content will be made available on a linear and non-linear basis" Daily Variety


Bourdais fighting to stay in F1
(GMM)  After a less than spectacular start to the season, Sebastien Bourdais will be looking for a strong performance at this weekend's Belgian grand prix.

Pressure is mounting on the Frenchman as Toro Rosso bosses look to the 2009 lineup, with Sebastian Vettel bound for Red Bull's senior team in 2009.

"He is now in the situation where he has to prove his talents," commented team co-owner and ten time grand prix winner Gerhard Berger.

Impressive in the opening race in Melbourne, 29-year-old Bourdais has subsequently struggled to compete with Vettel, his young teammate.

"Every weekend is going to be different," said the former four-time Champ Car title winner, who finished seventh on debut in Australia, at the time.  "If people had asked me to sign for that, I would have."

His tenth place at Valencia two weeks ago, however, was his best result then.

On the same Spanish street circuit, Bourdais was again overshadowed by Vettel, who claimed 3 points after arguably the drive of the weekend to sixth.

The result means Vettel has 9 points in the drivers' championship compared with Bourdais' 2.

Berger admits that, in order for Bourdais to stay in formula one, he must impress not only him but also those at Red Bull.

"At the end of the day the last word will come from Red Bull, because that is where we get all our resources from," the Austrian says.


Q & A Pascal Vasselon fully at home at Spa
Toyota Chassis Manager Pascal Vasselon always feels at home at the Belgian Grand Prix. Ahead of the 13th round of the championship he talks of the demands of the seven kilometer circuit and of course the unpredictable weather conditions...

Would it be fair to describe you as a big Spa Francorchamps fan?
"I live close to the circuit, it's really my home Grand Prix and yes, I love the place."

So do you commute from Spa to Cologne every day?
"Yes, but it's not too bad, 100kms each way and not so demanding for my Toyota! I can put it in cruise control and it's actually quite relaxing. I leave at 6.20am and get back after 9.30pm - a Formula One working day! So traffic is not a problem at that time."

So why does a Frenchman live in Belgium?
"First of all it is good for my family because it is a French-speaking area. Also the people seem to have a different approach to life. It is very easy to integrate whereas in the small village I used to live in near Clermont Ferrand in France it took me three years to know my neighbors. In Belgium we had a social life and a lot of friends after a couple of months. The people are very relaxed, it's a nice way of life and the area has a lot of different cultures - move 20kms to the east and you are in a German-speaking area, move 20kms to the north and you are in a Dutch-speaking area, then around Liege you have a nice French-speaking area."

And you think the circuit itself is a bit special?
"Absolutely, and I'm not alone there. 

It's just one of those places where you feel the enthusiasm in the drivers and to be there is just fantastic. To see Formula 1 cars through Eau Rouge is fabulous - it is so quick. The only slight problem now is that Eau Rouge is flat-out and while it is still impressive you know that the cars are not at the very limit anymore. Drivers, engineers, everyone in the team loves going to Spa - even when it rains. But when the sun shines it is fantastic."

Is Eau Rouge flat-out in any conditions - qualifying and race?
"With the V8s it's easily flat except in the rain. If I remember correctly, with the V10s it was flat-out in qualifying but with the V8s it's always flat-out whatever the fuel load or tire degradation is. The thing that is still outstanding about Eau Rouge is the loading and the forces generated through the corner. They are close to the limit thanks to the downforce at high speed, the tire grip and the compression that you have. We all design suspension to be able to face extreme conditions and Eau Rouge at Spa is an extreme corner. When we are designing suspension parts, Eau Rouge is a reference point for extremely high loading. But it's not just the suspension; the tires are also under a lot of stress."

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Saturday GP unlikely for Bahrain - boss
(GMM)  The boss of the formula one circuit in Bahrain has played down local hopes that the country's annual grand prix might in future be raced on a Saturday.

F1 races are traditionally held on Sundays, which in the island country in the Persian Gulf is actually a normal working and school day.

Moreover, the provisional date of the 2009 race at the Sakhir circuit - April 19 - is the first day of the summer school term, moving one local school principal to delay the start of the term until Monday so that his pupils and staff can attend the race.

"We consider that F1 should, in future years, consider a Saturday date for race days in Muslim countries and hope that some consideration might be given to this by the worldwide F1 body," St Christopher's School principal Ed Goodwin is quoted as saying by Gulf Weekly.

But Martin Whitaker, chief executive of the Bahrain International Circuit, doubts the plan is a realistic one.

"The FIA and formula one have for many years worked towards continuity in qualifying and race day timings.

"Moving the race to a Saturday would cause many, many problems for the organizers of the championship -- not least in global television schedules," he said.


Rosberg wants better Williams in 2009
(GMM)  Nico Rosberg has once again confirmed his intention to stay with the Williams team in 2009, but highlighted his desire for a better car.

"It is quite difficult at the moment, but I will definitely be here also next season," the German is quoted as telling Bild newspaper.

Rosberg, 23, ended his recent points drought with eighth place at Valencia two weeks ago, but before that he was just fourteenth in Hungary.

"I am extremely ambitious.  13th or 15th places do not interest me," he said.

"The team this year has given me a good car only for the three street races.  And for one of those I was on the podium," the publication quoted him as saying at the Bad-Nauheim sports fitness clinic in Germany.


Massa's run to end at Spa - Hamilton
(GMM)  Ferrari's Felipe Massa is on a run of strong form, but championship leader Lewis Hamilton believes the Brazilian will have a fight on his hands for victory in Belgium this weekend.

Massa, 6 points behind McLaren's Hamilton in the drivers' standings, dominated the recent Valencia race, and would also have won the previous Hungarian grand prix if not for an engine failure.

But Briton Hamilton, 23, disagrees that his chief rival should be considered favorite to win again as F1 moves on to the famous Spa-Francorchamps venue.

"I think Ferrari have been strong when we have had the softest two (Bridgestone) tire compounds," he is quoted by Motorsport Aktuell as having said at the recent DTM race at Brands-Hatch.

Hamilton points out that, at Spa, the formula one field must use Bridgestone's medium and hard tires.

He said: "The last two races for Massa were impressive but I actually consider our car the most competitive overall."

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Massa finished first and second in Belgium last year, with Hamilton fourth, behind his then McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso.

The Briton also qualified fourth, behind the same aforementioned drivers.

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