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Not good enough for F1, Speed forced down to 4th tier series
Team Red Bull formally announces an agreement with former Formula 1 Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Scott Speed to race the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota Camry with Eddie Sharp Racing for the 2008 ARCA Re/MAX Series Season. Patrick Donahue will serve as crew chief for the rookie driver as he begins his ascent into stock car racing.

Red Bull may consider occasional opportunities for Speed in NASCAR as the 2008 season progresses. Speed’s connection with Red Bull dates back to 2002, when Speed won the Red Bull Driver Search, a program aimed at putting an American talent into Formula One. With Red Bull backing, Speed raced his way through the European ranks and into a full-time seat in 2006 at Red Bull Racing’s sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, before mutually parting ways in 2007.  

SCOTT SPEED – No. 2 Red Bull Toyota Driver: “I’m really excited to race ARCA because it’s an opportunity to learn a completely new animal for me - stock car racing - without being put under a huge spotlight. One of the great things about ARCA is that you have a whole field full of young guys like me just trying to make a name in this sport. It’s hard to judge the level of competition I’ll face next year, but that’s just part of the fun.”

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Kimi: "I will be trying to win the last two races"
In marked contrast to the wet and cold in Fuji, it is a warm and sunny Shanghai International Circuit that greeted the circus at this, the penultimate round of the 2007 World Championship. Kimi Raikkonen's first appointment of the day was the FIA Press Conference, although the Finn did not get the chance to say much as, with Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso sharing the platform, most questions revolved around the fairness of various penalties handed out during and after the Japanese GP and specifically, the driving style of Lewis Hamilton while leading the field behind the Safety Car.

Asked for his views on the circuit, Kimi said it was "quite okay" and that he "enjoyed driving it." In the past, the Finn has come second and third here. "But I don't think past results mean anything," continued the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver. "We will see how it goes this weekend, although the position in the championship does not look strong. I will be trying to win the last two races, but really now, the championship is not up to us, because even if I win the last two grands prix, that might not be enough to take the title. It's looking pretty impossible."

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Massa enjoyed last-lap Kubica battle
After spending a couple of days in Tokyo, after the deluge in Fuji, Felipe Massa faced the media in Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's press hospitality area - a building perched on stilts in an ornamental pond. One of the highlights of the Japanese GP was Massa's last lap dice with Robert Kubica. The Ferrari man was asked what he recalled about it. "I remember it very well," began the Brazilian. "I was trying to catch him on the last lap. I caught him and passed him in Turn 6 and then he passed me again. After that, every corner was exactly the same as we kept overtaking one another for the whole lap. On television, viewers only saw the very end but we had been fighting much earlier than that and it is a great memory to have. We were both fighting in a very honest but aggressive way and I enjoyed it."

A race here on Sunday and another in Brazil and then the championship is over, but as far as Massa is concerned, the Japanese result put an end to his title aspirations. "The position in the championship is that my hopes of taking the title are over. I already knew before last weekend it was going to be very difficult because being 20 points behind at the time was a big gap. Only a miracle could have changed things. But I am not concerned about that now. My main concern is that this year, our team has had some ups and downs which our main rivals did not have. That put us behind in the championship. But in terms of our potential and our car, we had a good year in terms of having some very good races in a very competitive car. Unfortunately, we were not one hundred percent consistent, finishing every race in the way that, for example, Hamilton did. When a championship is as close as this, you can see that with Alonso for example not finishing one race, that already put him quite a bit behind in the classification."

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Aussie takes pole for Star Mazda race
During a hot and humid qualifying session with air temperatures reaching into the 90s, Australian racer James Davison took the pole for tomorrow’s Round Eleven of the Star Mazda Championship at Road Atlanta with a lap of 1:18.956 (115.811 mph) in his #7 Velocity Motorsports / Easternats Mazda.

Davison is moving from strength to strength in the latter part of the 2007 season; he won Round Ten at Mosport and has been fast in every session of the last several races. He is currently 2nd in the championship battle with 319 points.

“We learned a useful lesson about setting our car up for hot and humid conditions at Mosport and we applied those lessons,” says Davison. “My engineer, Pete Mercier, has had the lap record at this track every year and he really put the pressure on me to keep his streak going. Thanks to the efforts of the Velocity team, I was able to oblige him with the only lap in the 1:18s. This is a daunting and risky track and you have to attack it with a great deal of commitment in the high-speed turns. I drove the wheels off on every lap, and it paid off. We’ll keep the setup the same for tomorrow, but I’ll drive with more of an eye toward managing the race and my tires… no point it vanishing off into the distance if you run out of tires before the race is over.”

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Tost alerted FIA to new Hamilton evidence
Franz Tost has revealed that he alerted the FIA to the new evidence of Lewis Hamilton's driving behind the Safety Car at Fuji. Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal contacted the race stewards after seeing a YouTube video of the incident that saw STR's Sebastian Vettel ram into Mark Webber. This resulted in both drivers' retirement, but the video clip shows Hamilton slowing down on the right-side of the circuit which caused the incident. Tost told Autosport that he believes Hamilton was at fault: "You could see quite clearly that Hamilton slows down quite unexpectedly."

"Look at the video. Sebastian would have had to have gone between the cars (Webber and Hamilton) and there was no chance. It was totally unexpected. It looked like Hamilton was stopping, that is why I went to the stewards." Tost was quick to point out that the reason for him visiting the stewards was to protest Vettel's 10-place penalty, rather than to get Hamilton into hot water. "If anything I want to see Vettel's grid penalty taken away because it is totally unfair," he said. Planet F1


Franchitti and Speed will start 6th and 7th
Chip Ganassi Racing's Bryan Clauson won the pole for the ARCA Re/Max Series race Friday at Talladega Superspeedway while his teammate Dario Franchitti, the defending Indy Racing League and Indianapolis 500 champion, will start sixth on the grid Friday.

Top-Right Dario Franchitti jokes with F1 reject Scott Speed - Photos by Dodge. 

Other notables: Colin Braun (Roush Racing) will start third, Phillip McGilton (Brewco Motorsports) will start fourth, Bobby Santos III (Bill Davis Racing) will start fifth, Scott Speed (Team Red Bull) will start seventh, Eric McClure (DDL Motorsports) will start 12th, Richard Johnson (Team Rensi Motorsports) will start 12th and Erin Crocker (Gillett Evernham Motorsports) will start 19th.

Starting Lineup


1 40 Bryan Clauson/Noblesville IN Memorex Dodge 51.807 184.840
2 28 Michael Annett/Des Moines IA Pilot Travel Centers Toyota 51.865 184.633
3 99 Colin Braun/Ovalo TX Roush Fenway Racing Ford 51.898 184.516
4 47 Phillip McGilton/Marion IL SI Performance Ford 52.003 184.143
5 20 Bobby Santos III/Franklin MA Chimney Rock Cattle Company Toyota 52.053 183.966
6 42 Dario Franchitti/Edinburgh Scotland Target-FugiFilm-Tums Dodge 52.117 183.740
7 21 Scott Speed/Manteca CA Red Bull Toyota 52.191 183.480
8 94 Max Dumarey/North Haverhill NH BodyCoach.net Ford 52.259 183.241
9 46 Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN Pork-Fort Dodge Animal Health-Greenheck Ford 52.294 183.119
10 15 Billy Venturini/Chicago IL Hampton Luxury Homes Chevrolet 52.305 183.080
11 2 Michael McDowell/Phoenix AZ Lotame-Make A Wish Dodge 52.394 182.769
12 04 Eric McClure/Abingdon VA Hefty Brand Chevrolet 52.417 182.689
13 12 Mario Gosselin/Lake Wales FL DGM Racing Chevrolet 52.435 182.626
14 39 Richard Johns/Charlotte NC BeavEx Ford 52.489 182.438
15 3 Jeremy Clements/Spartanburg SC 1 Stop Convenience-Saxon Group Chevrolet 52.499 182.403
16 7 Jason Hedlesky/Clinton MI Curtis Air Compressors Ford 52.518 182.337
17 09 Eddie Mercer/Pensacola FL Miccosukee Indian Gaming & Resort Chevrolet 52.540 182.261
18 18 Billy Leslie/Algonac MI Titan Tires & Wheel Ford 52.584 182.109
19 98 Erin Crocker/Wilbraham MA MAC Tools Dodge 52.598 182.060
20 5 Mark Thompson/Cartersville GA Lucas Oil Chevrolet 52.684 181.763
21 1 Dominick Casola/Holmdel NJ A. Casola Farms Ford 52.731 181.601
22 61 Chase Austin/Mooresville NC HomeLife Communities Dodge 52.798 181.371
23 31 Tim McCreadie/Penfield NY Camping World Chevrolet 52.830 181.261
24 29 Mike Ciochetti/Clayton GA Daytona-n-Friends.com Ford 52.932 180.911
25 22 Josh Wise/Riverside CA NAPA-ESR Development Toyota 52.958 180.823
26 07 Billy Tanner/Newtown PA CheapCaribbean.com Chevrolet 52.959 180.819
27 60 Patrick Sheltra/Indiantown FL US Construction-CP Concrete Products Chevrolet 52.975 180.765
28 00 Robb Brent/Shelby Township MI Orchard Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ford 53.003 180.669
29 8 Marc Mitchell/Tallahassee FL Ergon Pontiac 53.029 180.580
30 16 Justin Allgaier/Springfield IL AG Tech-Schluckebier Farms-Auto Xpress Chevy 53.068 180.448
31 52 Bill Baird/Sarasota FL Saturn Machine Dodge 53.069 180.444
32 4 Tim Andrews/St. Louis MO Dodge Motorsports Dodge 53.071 180.438
33 6 Dexter Bean/Westby WI Cycle Country-Five Star Telecom Chevrolet Provisional
34 32 Brian Scott/Mooresville NC Red Line Oil Dodge Provisional
35 65 Justin Marks/Rocklin CA Crocs Dodge Provisional
36 59 Justin South/Hueytown AL G-Force Racing Gear-Alabama Brick Dodge Provisional
37 11 Bryan Silas/Stuart FL Nortrax-Holland Pump Chevrolet Provisional
38 23 Josh Krug/Omaha NE Bigford Enterprises-ARCASimRacing.com Chevy Provisional
39 84 Norm Benning/Pittsburgh PA Valley Air Supply-Baptist Physical Therapy Chevy Provisional
40 90 Gabi DiCarlo/Phoenix AZ Great Clips Chevrolet Provisional
41 25 Ryan Fischer/Surrey BC LBT Inc-Venturini Motorsports Chevrolet Provisional


2008 NASCAR truck schedule
NASCAR has released the 2008 Craftsman Truck Series schedule.

There are no significant changes to the schedule with the series visiting the same 22 tracks for 25 races in the same order as in 2007.

As previously announced, the Feb. 23 race at California Speedway will be run on the same day the Nationwide Series (formerly Busch Series) takes to the track. It is the first time that a Nationwide and truck race are scheduled for the same day on the same track for a doubleheader event.

The race at Atlanta is a week earlier to coincide with the changes to the Sprint Cup schedule. Martinsville falls the week after Easter instead of the week before as it did this year. The race at Gateway was moved to the week following the Labor Day holiday instead of Labor Day weekend as it did in 2007.

Fifteen of the races will be conjunction with the Sprint Cup Series weekends.

2008 Craftsman Truck Series schedule
Date - Site
Feb. 15 - Daytona International Speedway
Feb. 23 - California Speedway
March 7 - Atlanta Motor Speedway
March 29 - Martinsville Speedway
April 26 - Kansas Speedway
May 16 - Lowe's Motor Speedway
May 24 - Mansfield Motorsports Park
May 30 - Dover International Speedway
June 6 - Texas Motor Speedway
June 14 - Michigan International Speedway
June 20 - The Milwaukee Mile
June 28 - Memphis Motorsports Park
July 12 - Kentucky Speedway
July 25 - O'Reilly Raceway Park
Aug. 9 - Nashville Superspeedway
Aug. 20 - Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 6 - Gateway International Raceway
Sept. 13 - New Hampshire International Speedway
Sept. 20 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Oct. 4 - Talladega Superspeedway
Oct. 18 - Martinsville Speedway
Oct. 25 - Atlanta Motor Speedway
Oct. 31 - Texas Motor Speedway
Nov. 7 - Phoenix International Raceway
Nov. 14 - Homestead-Miami Speedway

tv news

SPEED Nears 73 Million U.S. Homes
According to Nielsen Media Research, SPEED added 1,606,000 U.S. households in the last two months, pushing the network total to 72,916,000 homes, up more than 4.7 million from a year ago. SPEED, which will make the move to High-Def in February 2008, also is available to more than five million homes in Canada.


Petit: Audi tops practice 2
Audi returned to the top of the timing chart at Road Atlanta on Thursday afternoon in advance of Petit Le Mans. Allan McNish toured the 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit in 1:09.295 in the No. 1 Audi R10 TDI he shares with Dindo Capello. McNish holds the existing track record, a 1:10.379 he set in 2000 in an Audi R8.

The freshly repaved surface at Road Atlanta continued to yield quick times. Penske Racing’s Ryan Briscoe was second overall and first in LMP2 at 1:09.894. His time in the Porsche RS Spyder he is sharing with Sascha Maassen and Emmanuel Collard was more than 1.5 seconds better than the class qualifying record set last year by Lucas Luhr in the first-generation RS Spyder.

The second Penske Porsche of Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard and Patrick Long sat third overall and second in class at 1:09.929. It was nearly 0.7 seconds ahead of the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Lola-Acura of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz. Next was the second-quickest of the P1 cars - the Zytek 07S of Tom Chilton and Darren Manning at 1:10.710 followed by the Team Cytosport Lola at 1:10.855.

In GT1, Corvette Racing’s two Corvette C6.Rs set the pace again. Oliver Gavin put the No. 4 entry at the head of the class with a time of 1:16.955. The No. 3 Corvette was at 1:17.250, followed by Doran Racing’s Maserati MC12 at 1:17.679.

Jaime Melo turned in the best GT2 lap on his final pass of the session, a 1:20.793 in Risi Competizione’s Ferrari F430 GT that he will share with Mika Salo and Johnny Mowlem. The Petersen/White Lightning Ferrari of Dirk Muller, Peter Dumbreck and Lucas Luhr was second at 1:21.294 with Graham Rahal third in the Rahal Letterman Racing Porsche at 1:21.404.

Near the midpoint of the session, the top eight cars in GT2 were running within 0.7 seconds of each other.

The two-hour night practice session is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight.


Grand-Am adds race in New Jersey to '08 schedule
Reinforcing its position as the only sports car series to race in major markets throughout North America, Grand-Am officials announced a 2008 race schedule for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series that will once again see the series visit premier road courses in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The 2008 Rolex Series schedule includes a total of 15 events with 14 races for the Daytona Prototype category and 13 events for the GT division. Like 2007, the Daytona Prototypes will be featured in two stand-alone feature races at Watkins Glen (August 8) and Infineon Raceway (August 23) while the GT class takes center stage for the third consecutive year with its own headliner at Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day (May 26). The remaining dozen races will see the Rolex Series run combined events with the Daytona Prototypes and GT classes racing at the same time.

It all begins with the 46th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona (January 26-27). The twice-around-the-clock spectacle waves the green flag on the international racing schedule as the world's best sports car drivers and teams combine with the stars from NASCAR and open-wheel racing for a race like no other. The Rolex 24 is one of three endurance races on the 2008 schedule, including the Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen (June 7) and the season-ending Sunchaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park (September 20). The Sunchaser and Sahlen's Six Hours are two of the seven races following the Rolex 24 that will be Saturday feature events in 2008.

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Indy Pro Series announces 16 race schedule
The Indy Pro Series will again offer one of the most diverse and cost-efficient schedules in motorsports in 2008, featuring a record-tying 16 races divided evenly among eight ovals and eight road/street courses.

For the sixth consecutive season, the series will begin competition on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 29. The series then heads to the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. April 5-6 for the first of four doubleheader race weekends slated for 2008.

On April 27, Indy Pro Series teams will return to Kansas Speedway, site of the first race in series history, before beginning preparations for the series' premier event - the Freedom 100 at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 23 two days before the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500.

"We're very excited to offer a 16-race schedule for the second consecutive season," Indy Pro Series Executive Director Roger Bailey said. "Just like the IndyCar Series, our champion will have to succeed on all types of racing circuits from short ovals, speedways and the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis to road and street courses.

"The opportunity to compete on Carb Day at Indianapolis in front of more than 100,000 fans is an experience that is second to none for our drivers, teams and sponsors."

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Track sponsors Houston ALMS race
The Grand Prix of Houston announced today a multi-year agreement for MSR Houston to be presenting sponsor of the event's American Le Mans Series race, to be called the "Lone Star Grand Prix Presented by MSR Houston." The 2008 Grand Prix of Houston at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park will once again feature a world-class combination of open-wheel and sports car racing, with the Lone Star Grand Prix Presented by MSR Houston on Saturday and the Champ Car World Series on Sunday.

"We are very proud to introduce MSR Houston as the newest sponsor of the Grand Prix of Houston," said Michael T. Lanigan, CEO of the Grand Prix. "MSR Houston is an outstanding facility, and they share our interest in promoting auto racing in Southeast Texas. We're looking forward to a great partnership."

MSR Houston, a 2.38 mile, 17-turn road course in Angleton, Texas that opened in 2006, has quickly become a popular testing location for professional race teams. Over the past two years the facility has hosted sessions for many Champ Car World Series teams as well as Dyson Racing from the American Le Mans Series.

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Petit: Dumas quickest in opening practice
Romain Dumas laid down the gauntlet for Penske Racing and Porsche in the first official practice for Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Thursday morning. The Frenchman posted a fast lap of 1:08.720 in Penske’s No. 7 Porsche RS Spyder that he will share with Timo Bernhard and Patrick Long to outpace Audi’s Allan McNish.

The Penske Porsches have won the last eight overall races in the American Le Mans Series, taking advantage of some of the tighter circuits on the Series schedule. But the smaller LMP2 cars also have had success on the faster circuits like Road America and Mosport.

Audi was 1-2 Wednesday during testing with McNish’s time 0.127 seconds slower than Dindo Capello’s Wednesday lap.

“The circuits over here are very different than Le Mans,” McNish said. “Penske also has done a very, very good job as well as some of the Acura teams. We have had victory taken from our grasp a couple of times.”

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FOM orders removal of YouTube clip
(GMM) A YouTube clip that is central to the stewards' inquiry into Lewis Hamilton's alleged erratic driving at Fuji Speedway last Sunday has been removed from the popular video-sharing website.

Even though the less than 20-second clip was captured privately by a Japanese spectator in the grandstands, YouTube said on Thursday that it is "no longer available due to a copyright claim by Formula One Management" (FOM).

While FOM can and does legitimately claim ownership of official formula one broadcast footage, the copyright to private recordings is by law possessed by the owner of the recording device unless a separate agreement is reached.

A copy of the original clip was, however, copied prior to its removal and can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QJurnfxRm4

Moments before Sebastian Vettel hit Mark Webber from behind, it depicts Hamilton following the safety car before dramatically swerving and slowing down.

Stewards are currently reviewing the footage and will reportedly interview the McLaren driver before making a decision about a possible penalty on Friday.

The Daily Telegraph cited the prospect of a ten-position grid penalty, which would severely dent Hamilton's chances of winning the Chinese grand prix and therefore securing the drivers' title on Sunday.

The newspaper also quoted Jenson Button as on Thursday joining Webber, Vettel, Alonso, Nick Heidfeld, Franz Tost and others in criticizing Hamilton's driving.

"When I was behind him it felt really inconsistent," the Honda driver said.

"I don't know what he was doing really. He came through the last section and he kept slowing down. He knew the safety car wasn't coming in and he kept hitting the brakes hard in the last sector so everyone would bunch up. Then he'd shoot off and brake again."


Even more NASCAR TV coverage
[Editor's Note: As their TV ratings continue to plummet because viewers are so disgusted with the oversaturation of NASCAR programming in the USA, NASCAR has come up with yet another program.]

ESPN has expanded its NASCAR coverage for 2007 with a weekly program chronicling the 12 NASCAR drivers competing in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

NASCAR: Chasing Glory is an 11-week, behind-the-scenes series that features Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and the other eight Chase drivers as they pursue the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship. The half-hour series documents the drivers’ preparation, as well as their teams’, for each race in the Chase.

 “This program gives NASCAR fans new insight and information from their favorite drivers as they deal with the rigors and stress of competing for the championship,” said Julie Sobieski, ESPN vice president, programming and acquisitions. “It provides a very in-depth look into the life of a top NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver.”

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UNICEF backs Villeneuve on Cup debut
Villeneuve partners with UNICEF for NASCAR Nextel Cup debut Jacques Villeneuve’s NASCAR career moves to a new high this weekend, as he makes his Nextel Cup debut at the famous Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. His Toyota Camry, car number 27, will carry the iconic blue branding of UNICEF, the globally-active, United Nations-founded children’s charity.

One of the fastest circuits on the NASCAR calendar, Villeneuve has tested several times at Talladega in recent weeks, including a highly-successful ‘bump draft’ session. Alongside his ‘Cup’ debut, the 36-year-old Canadian, the first F1 World Champion to move to NASCAR, will contest Saturday’s Craftsman Truck race in his Bill Davis Racing Toyota Tundra. As with his ‘Cup’ car, UNICEF will be the strongest brand message on his race truck.

On a flying visit to his team’s workshops in High Point, North Carolina, en-route to Talladega, Villeneuve was clearly upbeat, relishing the various challenges that the weekend presents him with.

In addition to managing the different characteristics of the truck and the car, as a series rookie, Villeneuve will again be required to qualify both vehicles, and assuming that everything goes to plan, this will be his first time to race two different classes at a single event.

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Hamilton calms Alonso feud with text message
(GMM) After regularly criticizing his teammate a week ago in Japan, runaway championship leader Lewis Hamilton sent Fernando Alonso a clear-the-air text-message on the eve of this weekend's Chinese grand prix.

The specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport also quotes the 22-year-old rookie, who could wrap up his drivers' title with a win in Shanghai, as saying he then had a "good conversation" with his Spanish colleague at the circuit on Thursday morning.

"I approached him and said thanks for the SMS," Alonso confirmed.

Hamilton also said he wishes Alonso "all the best" for 2008, whether he is still a McLaren driver or switches to another team.

"If he is with us next year, then we will work the best way we can," the Briton added.

"I get on with Fernando well, there is nothing wrong with us," he told reporters on Thursday.

"So I think for the future, wherever he is, we will get on well."

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Formula BMW

Formula BMW USA changes name
In preparation for its fifth season Formula BMW USA is changing and growing to better meet the needs of young racing drivers in North, Central and South America. To recognize the scope of the championship, Formula BMW USA will add two rounds in support of the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix and be renamed Formula BMW Americas. To further strengthen the young driver development program, BMW Motorsport will also increase the Junior scholarship award to $80,000.
Formula BMW Americas reflects the growth of Formula BMW worldwide. Formula BMW Germany and Formula BMW UK announced on June 28th that the two series will reorganize to form Formula BMW Europe. Formula BMW Europe, Formula BMW Americas and Formula BMW Asia will now comprise the new face of Formula BMW.

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen is happy about the upgrading of the series: - "Formula BMW is becoming more and more international. What we do with Formula BMW Europe we continue with Formula BMW Americas. We pay contribution to the fact that we had growing interest from the bordering regions - in that case the South American region. In 2007, we had Formula BMW USA drivers from Brazil and Colombia. South American youngsters already comprise more than one-third of the entry in the upcoming October scholarship course. We therefore look forward to continuing to increase Formula BMW's presence there."

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Chinese GP: Thursday Press Conference
Participating: Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) Mark Webber (Red Bull).

Q. Mark, Sebastian and Fernando, would you just talk a little bit about the problems following behind the guy who is actually controlling the field when it's under the safety car?

Mark Webber: It's pretty easy when the safety car lights are on because a) you can see everything, if you're the next guy behind the silver Mercedes and you just have to try to keep a sensible rhythm behind it and obviously in the first safety car (period) and clearly in the second safety car (period) there was not a sensible rhythm.

I'm all up for not a great rhythm when the lights are off, because we're preparing for a re-start when the lights are off and there were a few times when I believe Jenson was being backed up by Nick. I think sometimes Jenson passed Nick nearly and I passed Jenson sometimes because the pace was yo-yoing around massively.

We know what pace the safety car can do and I accept a little bit that maybe you get a bit bored in that situation because we did a lot of laps and sometimes you get ready to go. It definitely contributed to Sebastian hitting me up the back that we were confused at what the other car was doing because he was doing what he wasn't doing what you are supposed to do (behind the safety car). Clearly.

Q. And is that something you will bring up say, in the drivers' meeting?

MW: Yeah. We'll talk about it, waste a bit of oxygen and move on.

Sebastian Vettel: I think, as Mark said, it's never easy when the rhythm is just not there. The safety car driver is pushing as hard as he can and for us, that is not the highest speed.

Obviously the very first part of the race was done behind the safety car; we had a couple of laps and it was always quite close sometimes, and I remember I sometimes had to pass Mark and Mark was beside Jenson and so on, so it always got quite tight and in the second safety car (period) I was in third position, I only had two cars to observe, so the job was a bit easier, you might say, and I can only repeat what I said after the race: just exiting turn 13, all of a sudden I saw... as a human being you react to movement, I would say, and all of a sudden I saw Lewis pulling far to the right and slowing down a lot.

I was wondering what happened to him, I already thought he's retiring, there's no more power. That's what it looked like for me because he was going so slowly, and yeah, by the time I looked back in front of me I was already in Mark's rear, so for sure, I apologize again. Obviously I did not plan to destroy both of our races in the end.

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Shanghai very severe on tires
Formula One makes its fourth visit to Shanghai for the Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix on October 5-7 where Bridgestone’s hard and medium compound Potenza Formula One tires will be put through their paces on the Hermann Tilke designed track. At 5.45km in length the Shanghai International Circuit layout features a diverse mix of corners as well as two long straights.

This configuration means that a compromise car aero set-up is required, with sufficient downforce for the turns, but not too much to compromise speed down the straights. There are sixteen corners on the Shanghai track and their variety means that teams and drivers will have to work hard to perfect their chassis set-ups to get the most out of the two Bridgestone Potenza compounds on offer. There are also sections of heavy braking, extreme lateral loads and high demands on traction too.

Finding the correct balance between grip and wear will be crucial for a winning performance. Turns 2 and 7 are likely to induce tire graining, whilst the high lateral G-force generated through the sequence of turns 7-8 will place strong demands on the tires’ construction and heat durability.

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A lap of Shanghai with Fernando Alonso
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso heads into this weekend’s penultimate round of the 2007 Formula One championship season twelve points behind his rookie teammate and the reigning world champion will be going all out to ensure he closes the gap before heading to Brazil for the season finale and here he describes just how he intends to lap the Shanghai International Circuit.

“Shanghai circuit is a very modern track; it’s very wide with a lot of safety escape roads. Gravel traps don’t really exist here; they are mainly asphalt run off areas which increases the safety. It is a very challenging track; especially Turns One, Three and Four. Turns One and Two are pretty high speed, you start in fifth gear, you downshift from seventh to fifth; you brake very gently and have to keep a lot of momentum through the corners.”

“As you are going through here the circuit just gets tighter and slower. You then have to decelerate into Turn Three, which is a blind entry after a very long corner, so you really have to commit into it without knowing where the apex is. It helps a little that they put a post in the middle of the curb which acts as an indicator and means we can be more precise on the entry. However the first sector is pretty difficult and it is important for a good lap, especially if you get to Turn Three and you get it right; the car has to just touch the curb over it. The rest of the track is pretty straight forward, with a lot of heavy braking. You could have a go at someone if you have a clean exit coming out of Turn Four with good traction.”

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Q and A with Pascal Vasselon
Toyota’s technical director, Pascal Vasselon, has previewed the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix that will take place here at the Shanghai International circuit this coming weekend, the penultimate round of the 2007 Formula One world championship.

What is the major consideration when preparing for Shanghai?
On our previous visits to Shanghai , which started in 2004, we found that the track generates a lot of understeer and consequently a lot of wear to the left front tire, so one of the challenges was always to control graining. This season we go there with the two hardest compounds in the Bridgestone range, with graining resistance that is quite high, so we should have an easier weekend in that sense because the tire choice should make that reasonably easy to manage.

Why was that such an issue at Shanghai?
When we have been there with optimal tires in terms of grip on the very smooth asphalt, you ended up with not enough graining resistance and too much understeer because of the two long corners that generate the high loads on the left front.

Are there any other considerations driven by the track lay-out?
Shanghai has quite a special lay-out with interesting implications in terms of set-up. You have two major straights at Shanghai and in fact the back one is quite long, but we have seen interesting situations where the balance in Turn 13, the very long right-hander, was so important in this last sector dominated by straight lines that we were able to have a good level of speed and strong sector times even with relatively high downforce. It was all about the balance out of this long corner and that was critical for the average straight-line speed. I think it was very specific to the graining situation but we would still expect that in Shanghai this year we will go on the high side for downforce.

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industry news

DCX set to shed Chrysler from name
From Daimler-Benz to DaimlerChrysler and now just plain old Daimler.

Many shareholders are breathing a sigh of relief as DaimlerChrysler goes through the formality of shedding "Chrysler" from its letterhead -- a final farewell to the money-losing American automaker it sold most of earlier this year.

But some are wondering: What happened to Mr. Benz?

Though shareholders are widely expected to approve the change to Daimler AG today, scores have complained that the company should still include the name of Karl Benz, a man often considered the grandfather of the automobile in Germany.

Among several motions to be considered at the meeting in Berlin, shareholder Bernd Gans of Vaterstetten, Germany, argues that returning to the original name would right a wrong.

"Replacing the traditional name of Benz with the name of the U.S. corporation, which at that time was already sufficiently well-known as a crisis company, was always regarded as arbitrary and in bad style," he wrote.

"A return to including the name of one of the founders, Benz, would ... constitute a certain degree of compensation for the many years of frustration for the employees, particularly in the traditional Benz plants, who deserve to find equal recognition in the name of the corporation in the same way as the employees of the Daimler plants."

Daimler-Benz was formed in 1926 by a combination of companies founded by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. More at Detroit News

tv news

Castroneves shines UPDATE #2 With all the positive attention Helio Castroneves is bringing to the Indy Racing League through his appearance on "Dancing With the Stars," IRL president Brian Barnhart is doing his part to ensure the Brazilian driver's longevity on the show.  Asked if he is voting for Castroneves, Barnhart said: "Absolutely. Computer. Cell phone. Home phone. I've got 'em all."  Castroneves received the top score from the judges this week and has emerged as a contender to win the 12-celebrity competition. Barnhart said the exposure is priceless.  "A staggering number of people watch that show," he said, "and as we know, it's hard not to like Helio." Indy Star

10/03/07 Helio Castroneves learned Tuesday what the "Dancing With the Stars" judges suggested the night before: That he deserved to continue with the popular television show.   Castroneves, who received the highest judge total in Monday night's second round, was one of 10 celebrities advancing to next week's program. Indiana University graduate Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, also advanced along with actress Jane Seymour, who did not attend Tuesday's show because her mother died.  Model Albert Reed was eliminated from the competition based on the judges' scores and fan voting. Indy Star

10/02/07 Did you tune in to "Dancing with the Stars" last night on ABC?   Helio Castroneves was absolutely amazing doing the mambo!  He and Julianne Hough (last year's winner) received the top votes from the judges, and now the viewers will call in their votes.  The second round results, after the viewers vote, will be announced tonight on ABC, 9:00 pm - 10:00 pm ET.  Please check your local listing for your location and time zone.  After seeing these first two dances (Fox Trot and the Mambo), we would not be surprised if Helio and Julianne win the championship this season.  There will be four more weeks of competition after this week.  Regardless if Helio wins the title, the publicity the IRL is getting from this is a real coup and a feather in their PR cap because they are exposing their series to millions of potential new racing fans for many nights in prime time.


Talladega COT rules
Sunday’s UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway marks the big track debut of the Car of Tomorrow, the first time it’s run on a superspeedway. The COT is taller and has more drag than the old-style spoiler car, which means NASCAR car run a larger restrictor-plate this weekend. Teams will begin the weekend using a 31/32-inch restrictor plate – the same size they tested with last month. They ran 7/8 (28/32) inch plates the last time they raced at Talladega in May. The bigger plate is expected to add 75-80 horsepower, NASCAR said. Should the cars prove too fast during practice, NASCAR has the option of installing smaller plates for the race. NASCAR also has mandated a minimum rear wing angle of 10 degrees. NASCAR will supply the wings at the track, as it has done in all previous COT races. NASCAR also will issue the teams end plates at the track, which has not been done before. Other changes include a taller wicker on the rear wing (one inch compared with 3/16 inch in the past), which will help add drag to the car. And for the first time, there will be a mandated gear rule. SPEEDtv.com


Nemechek to the No. 78 in 2008
Barney Visser, owner of Denver-based #78 Furniture Row Racing, said he and driver Joe Nemechek have agreed in principle to a contract for next season. Visser also said his team has stopped producing its own engines and has been powered by Hendrick Motorsports motors since Nemechek came aboard. CQ Hendrick will provide Visser with all his engines next year, he said. Denver Post


Without Cup drivers, Busch series is nothing
This article exposes the fact that the NASCAR Busch, now Nationwide, Series would pretty much collapse overnight were it not for all the Cup drivers that come in and poach every race. Take away all those Cup drivers -- the Busch Whackers, as they've been dubbed in recent years -- participating in Saturday's glorified 2-plus hour practice session known as a Busch race, and what are you left with? A bunch of guys nobody's ever heard of competing in a series without an identity of its own.


Todt slams Stepney as spy saga sizzles again
(GMM)  Mere hours after Nigel Stepney threatened to sensationally re-open the espionage affair, Ferrari boss Jean Todt says the sacked employee "lost his head".

Michael Schumacher's former chief mechanic Stepney is accused of triggering the spying affair with deliberate acts of espionage and sabotage, but - as the saga calmed down in the wake of McLaren's $100m fine and championship exclusion - he revealed this week that Ron Dennis' team may not be the only guilty party.

Stepney told the formula one website grandprix.com that the transfer of information between Ferrari and McLaren had not been one way, and that he received from Mike Coughlan details about McLaren's pit strategies, test programmes, fuel levels, weight distribution, and various other aspects of the MP4-22.

After the revelation, Ferrari boss Jean Todt described the Briton as a "difficult character" whose unhappiness increased when he did not receive the promotion he wanted following the departure of Ross Brawn.

"I was never expecting the guy to lose his head," Todt said in an interview with The Times.

"He lost his head, that's all.  Unfortunately, sometimes you have people who lose the sense of things and it's a shame because we all have some personal responsibilities.

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Webber blames Hamilton for Fuji smash
(GMM) After slamming Sebastian Vettel a week ago for ruining his shot at victory in the Japanese grand prix, Australian driver Mark Webber has now turned his fury to championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull driver Webber, who was in a rare position to challenge McLaren's British rookie for the win at Fuji Speedway, retired from the race when Vettel crashed into him while the field circulated behind the safety car.

Vettel, who was penalized ten grid places by the stewards for the incident, was immediately blasted as a "kid" by 31-year-old Webber.

But the German, third in the queue behind Webber at the time, argued that he had been distracted by Hamilton's erratic driving, including a dramatic swerve to the right.

"It definitely contributed to Sebastian hitting me up the back because he (Hamilton) wasn't doing what he was supposed to be doing, clearly," Webber told a news conference in Shanghai on Thursday.

"He spoke in the drivers' meeting about how good a job he was going to do and he did the opposite. Still, we know for next time."

Webber described the Fuji incident as "one of the lowest points" in his entire career, made worse by food poisoning that caused him to vomit in his helmet in the opening stages of the rain-drenched race.

He insisted that he was genuinely in with a shot of winning, "and it was taken away not even in a racing incident".

"It was very, very hard to swallow," said the Australian. "It's under the bridge, it's gone and we'll never get that back."


Alonso has 'chink in armor' - Symonds
(GMM) Fernando Alonso's "inability to accept being beaten" may explain the reigning world champion's seemingly incurable rift with the McLaren team this year.

That is the belief of Pat Symonds, Renault's engineering chief who worked closely with the 26-year-old Spaniard when he raced to two consecutive world championships in 2005 and 2006.

Symonds, who worked at Toleman with Ayrton Senna, and also with Michael Schumacher at Benetton, describes Alonso as "one of the most difficult drivers to understand" that he has personally encountered.

"He's a very complex character," the Briton said, amid Alonso's seemingly broken relationships with his current team boss Ron Dennis and teammate Lewis Hamilton, who this weekend in China could wrap up the title.

"He only had one very, very small chink in his armor when he drove for us," Symonds explained, "and that was the inability to accept being beaten.

"Actually that's a really good quality, but it was the one time he was perhaps slightly irrational -- when Giancarlo (Fisichella) beat him, for example.

"I think that what we've seen this year, with Lewis unexpectedly giving him such a hard time, it's opened up that chink a little bit," Symonds said.

Symonds' boss Flavio Briatore, however, suggests that while Alonso can be difficult to work with, getting the most out of a driver is the responsibility of the team.

The Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "(Ron) Dennis has often alleged to be very good at managing drivers, especially the Latin ones.

"With the problems he's had with (Ayrton) Senna, (Juan Pablo) Montoya and Alonso, he must have lost the instructions manual. Maybe he did not study Latin at school."


The chore of feeding the F1 circus
An Interview with Nick Haworth, Operations Director, MSL Global

Qu: Nick, catering for a Formula One team is a tough task. How do you plan for a season?
NH: We know how many races there are in advance and we usually start the season with three fly-away races. We begin planning in November and prepare the freight to be sent out by the middle of December. We send three identical sets of kit, namely our ovens, refrigerators, tables, crockery, everything we need to set up a traveling restaurant. These are shipped to Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain in the SUPER AGURI F1 TEAM sea freight. We rent some elements locally, such as the televisions that we have in the hospitality units. There are also two types of fly-aways to consider when packing the electrical goods; the 110 volts and the 220 volts power supply countries.

I plan the food supplies three races ahead. For the Australian Grand Prix, for example, I will start calling our local contacts in January. Our contact will then supply all of the food that we require directly to us at the circuit. For the European races we have central distribution base in Stuttgart. There is an MSL Global staff member who maintains our supply of fruit, vegetables, tractor units etc. We carry out a stock take in the motorhome on a Sunday night after the race and then on the Monday our man in Stuttgart receives an order from us for the next event. The order arrives on a Tuesday at the circuit of the following Grand Prix weekend and we then prepare the menus. It is quite involved, but we have been doing this for many years now and so we have the routine down to a fine art!

Qu: There are over 50 people on the race team, of differing nationalities, how do you cope with this scale of catering?
NH: We are an international caterer so even though the majority of the race team is English and we are a Japanese team we have two chefs who can turn their hand to any dish. We make all of our own Japanese food and it is in some ways easier than making the Western cuisine. If Taku gives it the thumbs-up we must be doing something right! We talk to the drivers and team physio to ensure that we produce what they want and also to the team to ensure that they are happy, as they are away from home for a long time. We also like to provide an individual and personal touch if someone in the team has a specific request, for example Daniel (Audetto) likes to eat a certain type of spaghetti dish, so we have to be flexible to accommodate for these requests.

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Geico, Allstate, have two years to leave series
GEICO will have a two-year "sunset" period to transition out as a team sponsor after Nationwide signed on to replace Busch as the title sponsor of NASCAR's No. 2 series.

Nationwide also will replace Allstate as the official auto, home and life insurance carrier of NASCAR. Nationwide's bank/mortgage division is not part of the sponsorship platform.

GEICO has sponsored Mike Wallace for the last few seasons and is currently sponsoring him at Phoenix Racing. The company is known for its commercials featuring a "cousin" of Mike's.

"We think [it] will give those involved to go elsewhere and potentially migrate into what will be called the Sprint Cup or to the Craftsman Truck Series," NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Marketing Steve Phelps said.

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Weekly NASCAR cheating report
NASCAR has fined Hendrick Motorsports Busch Series crew chief Mike Bumgarner $10,000 for unapproved intake manifold modifications. Hendrick Motorsports said it plans to appeal.

The penalty, announced Wednesday, was lighter than anticipated after NASCAR confiscated the intake manifold following Kyle Busch's win in the Yellow Transportation 300 on Saturday at Kansas Speedway. He will keep the win, and the team, which does not compete full time in the series, will not lose points.

"To say we're confused about this situation would be an understatement," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. "The intake manifold that the team used was legal, and we look forward to presenting the facts to the National Stock Car Racing Commission."

Hendrick Motorsports Vice President Doug Duchardt said Sunday that a sister manifold to the one confiscated had been inspected and approved in the past.

[Editor's Note:  Too funny.  No one EVER wins a NASCAR appeal.]


What They're Saying About IndyCar TEAM
Here's what several IndyCar Series team owners and team officials are saying about IndyCar TEAM, the new earnings distribution program for the IndyCar Series.

JOHN BARNES (Co-owner, Panther Racing): "I think this is something that needed to happen for a long time. This moves the IndyCar Series from the way it was in the early 20th century to something we needed to move us into this century. Teams need to know what they have coming in and how they can spend that with their different programs. Look at Major League Baseball and how the profit-sharing program has worked and benefited everybody involved. The Yankees spend a lot of money towards revenue-sharing every year and, if they didn't do that, they'd be playing against themselves. This is, without a doubt, going to take IndyCar racing to the next level."

GREG BECK (Owner, Beck Motorsports): "The program gives us an opportunity to get back in the series full time, which is what we've been trying to do. This gives us a great base to work from. We've already talked to some of our sponsors and they are willing to participate because there's already some funding in place. We're actually very happy with it and hopefully it can help me get back into the series as a full-time competitor."

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Ganassi goes global
NASCAR was the furthest thing from the minds of Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya as they battled for the 1999 CART Series championship. Pictured right, Dario and car owner Michael Andretti.  The IRL's loss is NASCAR's gain. Photo courtesy IRL

Now they are Nextel Cup teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

A 34-year-old from Scotland and a 32-year-old from Bogota, Colombia.

NASCAR international.

Who would have thought?

"They've always been attracted to NASCAR," Montoya said of international drivers as he watched Wednesday's press conference introducing next season's driver of the No. 40. "The hardest thing about it is it was seen as a very American sport.

"If you were an American, you were in. If you were not American, you were not. Nobody ever committed full time to it until I did. When I came and committed and things have panned out pretty good, people go, 'Oh, this is great.'"

Franchitti was supposed to be the leader of this international pilgrimage that also includes Jacques Villeneuve, the former IRL champion who will make his Cup debut this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway for Bill Davis Racing.

He had discussed extensively with Ganassi plans to drive the No. 42 car this season until a late phone call from Montoya knocked him out of that ride.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Franchitti won the Indy 500 and the IRL title, the latter edging Ganassi's Scott Dixon when Dixon ran out of gas on the last lap of the season finale.

"I'm betting you wish I'd come over," Franchitti jokingly told his new boss as the story was relived.  More at ESPN.com


NASCAR steals one of the IRL’s brightest stars
Congratulations, NASCAR Nation.

With today's confirmation that Dario Franchitti will drive Chip Ganassi's No. 40 Dodge in the 2008 Sprint Cup Series, you have successfully and officially seduced one of American open-wheel racing's few true bright lights.

Franchitti doesn't have Sam Hornish Jr.'s records or Paul Tracy's reputation, but he boasts an unexplainable star quality that few racers in any series are capable of pulling off.

Maybe it's his mixture of Italian and Scottish heritage. Maybe it's his taste for exotic toys ranging from a Ferrari to the helicopter he pilots himself. Maybe it's the fact that Ashley Judd married him when she was at the peak of her career and he was relatively unknown.

Wherever it comes from, Franchitti has the kind of charisma and charm you can't buy in any store. And now he's taking it to NASCAR.

It wasn't until 2007 that Dario finally pulled together the championship-winning season he was always capable of. Winning the Indianapolis 500 in the process only made the long wait more worthwhile.

At the same time, winning Indy and the IndyCar Series championship in one fell swoop meant that Franchitti had won pretty much everything worth winning in American open-wheel racing.

Hence a most unexpected career change at the age of 34. But one that had apparently been in the works for more than a year. It turns out that Franchitti started talking to Chip Ganassi last year about the NASCAR seat that went to Juan Pablo Montoya.

"I've really been intrigued by the challenge of NASCAR for quite a while and that was the overriding [factor]," Franchitti said at a North Carolina press conference announcing his arrival to the stock car world. "Winning the Indy 500 and the championship made the decision easier because I had achieved what I wanted to achieve. It was time to move on and jump into this new world for me.

"I had 11 great years in open-wheel racing and the time came for a new challenge. This is it." More at ESPN.com


Impressions from Road Atlanta
We caught up with a few special drivers at Petit Le Mans this weekend to get their thoughts on the 10th running of the endurance classic, the new surface at Road Atlanta and the Series in general.

Vitor Meira, Andretti Green Racing
Acura ARX (LMP2)
“I got the call Tuesday night to drive (replacing Dario Franchitti). I’ve only had 15 minutes in the car but I’ve very happy. The Acura is much better and we have much more development and support compared to the Lola (last year’s car for Highcroft Racing). Turn 5 and Turn 7 are much better. The overall grip has improved and the track is less bumpy.”

Darren Manning, Arena International Motorsports
Zytek 07S (LMP1)
“I feel the car is very competitive. It feels really good and I do like the track very much. It’s my first time with this chassis in LMP1.”

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Racing
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2)
“The track improvements are fantastic since I was here the last time with Star Mazda (in 2005). It’s impressive how much better it is. There are still are a few bumps but overall it’s very nice. It’s not as nerve-wracking as with Champ Car. It’s not as intense and the attitude throughout the paddock is friendly.”


Audi draws first blood at Petit test day
For seven years, Audi simply has dominated Petit Le Mans with an undefeated record in the American Le Mans Series’ cornerstone event. Make that eight years if Wednesday’s first test session for the 10th running of the annual endurance classic at Road Atlanta is any indication.

The two diesel-powered R10 TDIs sat first and second following a two-hour test for the 1,000-mile/10-hour classic. The first Audi of defending race champions Allan McNish and Dindo Capello were quickest on the day at 1:08.777. Capello set the time, which was 1.6 seconds better than McNish’s track record from 2000 in an Audi R8. That was the year Audi debuted in the American Le Mans Series and saw McNish, Capello and Michele Alboreto claim the manufacturer’s first Petit win.

Wednesday marked the first time that the full field got its first laps on the repaved Road Atlanta surface 

The other R10 TDI of Marco Werner and Emanuele Pirro, LMP1 winners at the previous Series round at Detroit, sat second overall at 1:09.256


NASCAR announces '08 Nationwide Schedule
As NASCAR celebrates its 60th anniversary, the 2008 season will bring a new name – the NASCAR Nationwide Series to the nation’s second-most popular series.

Nationwide Insurance was announced today as the new series sponsor. In 2008, the series – currently known as the NASCAR Busch Series but in its final year of sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch – will again start its season at Daytona International Speedway (Saturday, Feb. 16) and end at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Saturday, Nov. 15).

For the second consecutive season, there will be two international events. The series will return to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on Aug. 2. And for a fourth consecutive year, the schedule includes a race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course in Mexico City, Mexico. However, for the first time in the brief history of the event, it will move from its previous date on the first Sunday in March to April 20.

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Ganassi announces Franchitti into NASCAR team UPDATE We announced this back on September 11th in this rumor that the Franchitti to Ganassi deal was done.

10/03/07 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) announced reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series Champion Dario Franchitti has signed a multi-year deal with the organization to compete in the Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) beginning in 2008. Franchitti will become the first European driver in the 59-year history of NASCAR to join the series full time when he assumes the driving duties of #40 Dodge Avenger next season.

“Any time you can sign a driver of Dario’s caliber you have to be thrilled,” said Team Owner Chip Ganassi, who now fields cars for three former Indianapolis 500 winners (Juan Pablo Montoya-2000, NNCS; Dan Wheldon-2005, IndyCar; and Franchitti-2007). “Dario is a world-class driver. He is a proven winner, an Indianapolis 500 champion and an accomplished individual that will be a super teammate to both Juan Pablo and Reed.”

Franchitti will immediately begin a stock car development program similar to the one CGRFS teammate Montoya engaged in just over a season ago when he attempts to qualify a CGRFS-prepared #42 Target Dodge in Friday’s ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway. Franchitti will pilot the #40 Dodge Avenger next season while running for the Sprint Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year title along with an assortment of Busch Series races.


Busy week for O’Connells
Johnny O’Connell will have more on his mind this weekend than simply picking up his second GT1 victory at Petit Le Mans. There always is a lot going on for Corvette Racing’s O’Connell, who makes his home in nearby Flowery Branch, Ga.

For starters, there is the annual auction to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association and the Guest House in Gainesville, a private, nonprofit adult day healthcare center. Since 2001 at Petit, O’Connell has auctioned off a variety of merchandise – many of it racing related – to raise money for the two organizations, and United Way also was a benefactor following the September 11 terror attacks.

In six years, O’Connell estimates the auctions have raised more than $240,000 with Road Atlanta also helping to raise money for the Guest House.

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Force plans to be in Richmond - No UPDATE John Force got a reality check late Tuesday, and the 14-time NHRA Funny Car world champion found he didn't have a leg to stand on. Faced with the knowledge that he can't put weight on a badly broken left ankle for at least 60 days and the realization that his severely damaged right knee and foot simply won't hold him up, Force finally acquiesced to the wishes of orthopedic surgeons treating him at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

The upshot is that the injured icon will remain at Baylor for an undetermined amount of time under the supervision of trauma specialist Dr. Michael Foreman, orthopedic traumatologist Dr. Alan Jones, and orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Zehr and immediately will embark on a more intense physical therapy program.

Although, with assistance, he has been up on his feet since the Sept. 23 accident at Texas Motorplex that left him seriously injured for the first time in his 30-year career, reports that the 125-time tour winner has been walking have been greatly exaggerated.

His physical activity to date has consisted primarily of doing pull-ups with his right arm and raising and lowering his legs – all from his hospital bed, which is why, on Tuesday, drag racing's biggest star acknowledged that while he is extremely motivated to get back in his race car as quickly as possible, he finally understands that he cannot accelerate the healing process.

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Toyota Celebrates 50th Anniversary In America
This October, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. is celebrating its 50th year of doing business in the United States.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., was formed October 31, 1957, establishing its headquarters in a former Rambler dealership in Hollywood, Calif.  Sales began in 1958 and totaled a modest 288 vehicles that first year -- 287 Toyopet Crown sedans and one Land Cruiser.

Today, Toyota produces nine vehicles in the United States, including the Avalon, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Corolla, Sienna, Solara, Sequoia, Tacoma and the Tundra.  Toyota operates 10 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and builds approximately half the vehicles it sells here.  Recently, Toyota announced it will build its 11th U.S. vehicle assembly plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi.

In nine of the past 10 years, the Toyota Camry has been the best-selling car in America. Assembled at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant, more than six million Camry models have been sold in the United States since its debut more than 20 years ago.

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Newman/Haas/Lanigan committed to Champ Car
We have received a number of emails about a rumor going around that the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team might move to the IRL next year. For the record, this is false. A team spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com, "Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing is committed to the Champ Car World Series."


Conquest Racing announces Nelson Philippe
Nelson Philippe, the popular French driver who was the youngest driver to ever start and win a Champ Car World Series race, will return to his former team, Conquest Racing. Philippe will defend his title this month at Surfers Paradise, Australia in the blue and white livery of Australian based Juniper Property Development Group. Additionally, the 21-year-old Philippe will compete in the Champ Car season finale in Mexico City in November.

"I'm thrilled to be back, and no better time than now with Surfers Paradise around the corner [October 21]," said Philippe, who earned his first career title in Australia last year. "It's been a challenge to be sidelined this year, but things happen for a reason and right now it's full steam ahead for Australia and Mexico."

Philippe made 19 starts for Eric Bachelart's Conquest Racing in 2004 and 2005. He raced in 2006 for CTE-HVM Racing, where he earned his first podium finish at Milwaukee, second podium finish in Montreal, and his first career win at Surfers Paradise. Nelson finished the season ranked fourth in the series. While driving for Conquest in 2005, Philippe was voted by his peers as the Bosch Most Improved Driver in the Series, and won the award last year as well.

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M&M’s will sponsor Busch
Mars U.S. on Wednesday announced a three-year partnership with M&M's Brand Chocolate Candies as sponsor of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team and driver Kyle Busch in the Sprint Cup Series, beginning in 2008.
"I can't wait to climb behind the wheel of the M&M's car next season," Busch said. "M&M's Racing has been a fan favorite for years in the sport and it's an honor to drive for one of the most recognized brands in the world.

"My focus is to win, and I know that everyone at Mars shares that vision as well. I want to thank the associates at Mars U.S. for this opportunity and look forward to a winning relationship."

Interstate Batteries will serve as a primary sponsor of the No. 18 car for six races.

"We are excited to welcome Kyle Busch as the driver for M&M's Brand Chocolate Candies," said William Clements, director of sponsorships and sports marketing for Mars Snackfood U.S.

"The opportunity to partner with a championship-level organization in Joe Gibbs Racing, and a proven talent in Kyle Busch, sets the stage for an exciting year for M&M's consumers and fans.

"On behalf of our 40,000 associates worldwide, I welcome Kyle and Joe Gibbs Racing to the Mars Incorporated family and look forward to seeing M&M's in Victory Lane with the No. 18 team."

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Latest F1 News in brief UPDATE Update shown in red below.

  • Title 'almost' out of reach, Ferrari admits
  • Toyota needs top car to woo Alonso, says Haug
  • Hamilton wants to keep cherished trophies
  • Fuji debacle exposed Ferrari 'weakness' - Coulthard
  • Nakajima to return to Williams cockpit in China New

Title 'almost' out of reach, Ferrari admits
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen and his Ferrari boss Jean Todt have all but written off Ferrari's hopes of securing the drivers' title.

Because of McLaren's exclusion due to the espionage saga, Maranello based Ferrari in Belgium wrapped up the constructors' crown with a dominant one-two triumph.

But an ill-starred showing two weeks later in Japan means that Felipe Massa is now mathematically out of the hunt, while Raikkonen lags championship leader Lewis Hamilton by 17 points with two races to go.

"We went to Japan in quite a difficult points situation. For sure, now it looks much worse," the Finn wrote on his website this week.

"It is up to the others how we finish in the championship. It looks like Hamilton has wrapped it up, but at least we will try to make it more difficult for them by winning these last two races," Raikkonen added.

Team boss Todt agreed on Tuesday that it will take a "miracle" in Shanghai and the finale in Brazil later this month for 27-year-old Raikkonen to win the title.

The Frenchman insists that if a McLaren driver ultimately does secure the championship, "it is because we didn't have enough reliability".

Todt added: "This will always remain a positive season, although there were some moments when we really suffered and which did no good to formula one."

Massa also thinks the title is basically over for Raikkonen.

"I think so," said the Brazilian. "For me it's finished, for Kimi it's almost (finished)."

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Meira to drive for AGR at Petit
Andretti Green Racing announced today that Brazilian Vitor Meira will join drivers Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan behind the wheel of the #26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a in this weekend's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Meira is replacing Dario Franchitti, who was released yesterday from his Andretti Green Racing driver agreement.

Meira, who is a veteran of 76 starts in the IndyCar Series, has posted 25 top-five and 49 top-10 finishes during his career, including a runner-up finish in the 2005 Indianapolis 500.

Meira has one previous American Le Mans Series (ALMS) start, which resulted in a third-place overall finish in last year's running of the Petit Le Mans.

The Andretti Green driver trio will be looking to give the team its second win of the 2007 ALMS season. The XM Acura team scored an LMP2 class win at the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 17.

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SPEED Weekly Top 20 Driver Ranking
Updated 10-3-07
Pos.  (LW) Driver (Series)                     Pts
1. (19) Lewis Hamilton (F1)                    8.391
2. (9) Jimmie Johnson (NASCAR)                 8.207
3. (8) Jeff Gordon (NASCAR)                    7.946
4. (12) Clint Bowyer (NASCAR)                  7.748
5. (1) Dario Franchitti (IRL)                  7.632
6. (16) Greg Biffle (NASCAR)                   7.373
7. (6) Scott Dixon (IRL)                       7.272
8. (7) Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS)               7.162
9. (18) Casey Mears (NASCAR)                   7.078
10. (4) Kimi Raikkonen (F1)                    7.014
11. (21) Kevin Harvick (NASCAR)                6.979
12. (22) Kurt Busch (NASCAR)                   6.914
13. (13) Justin Wilson (CCWS)                  6.837
14. (11) Dale Earnhardt Jr. (NASCAR)           6.718
15. (15) Tony Kanaan (IRL)                     6.693
16. (2) Tony Stewart (NASCAR)                  6.297
17. (NR) Kasey Kahne (NASCAR)                  6.036
18. (NR) Reed Sorenson (NASCAR)                5.871
19. (3) Kyle Busch (NASCAR)                    5.785
20. (17) Martin Truex Jr. (NASCAR)             5.736

Dropped out: Carl Edwards (NASCAR), Fernando Alonso (F1), Jeff Burton (NASCAR), Felipe Massa (F1)

Provided by STATS Inc.
Current year results, last 10 races, last five races and last race are factored in equally, with an adjustment factor to compensate for the series different scoring systems. In addition, a competition difficulty factor has been included to balance the competitive depth of each series


Q and A with Spyker's Mike Gascoyne
Q. How gratifying was it to see the team finally score its first point on only its third race with the new B-spec car?

Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer: It's very satisfying and it really exceeds our expectations as a team. We've introduced a new car, we have a 100% finishing record with it and have raced other teams with a much higher budget than ours.

To score a point is all we could have asked for and it's a just reward for all the team. Just because we are at the back of the grid, we don't work any less than the teams at the top, so I am very pleased we have got this point and am very proud of everyone involved.

Q. What is your verdict on the weekend as a whole?

MG: Saturday was disappointing, as we didn't show what we were capable of in the wet. In the race we were much more competitive, and we were more competitive on Friday in the dry. Really it was a very good weekend all round. Adrian obviously got the point, but Sakon also did a very good job, he was quick, consistent and got everything right.

Q. The B-spec now seems to be a real force. How pleased are you to see this step in performance?

MG: It is very encouraging. We've now had two cracking races with the B-spec car, and six finishes out of six with it as well. So the team is doing a good job. Teams with far more resources than us have not been as successful or seen such a step forward with the new mods they have introduced, so this result in Japan is very good for the team. Now we've got the wind tunnel up and running, give us six months before next season and people will have to look out.

Q. Are there any more modifications for China?

MG: The cars in China will be the same specification as the ones we raced in Japan. We were very competitive on Friday and in the race so I hope we should continue to do well in this race.

Q. Do you think the B-spec car will suit the Shanghai International Circuit?

MG: In China there are two long straights going into long corners, so the downforce levels will be very important. I think you will see higher levels of downforce here than in Japan but I hope you will see the same level of performance from us as a team.

Q. Again we saw the team out-race two works teams. How far can you go this season with the current package?

MG: If we have a race with mixed conditions, we have already proved that we can get the strategy calls right and, if this happens again, I hope we would be able to score another point and go up another position in the championship. On Sunday there is a chance of another tropical storm, which would make it extremely wet. We'll of course be looking to exploit this. Spyker PR


Q and A with Spyker’s Colin Kolles
Q. After 15 tough races for the team, you must be delighted with the outcome of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Colin Kolles, Spyker team principal: After Midland failed to score any points in 2006, it was our aim this year to secure at least one point with Spyker. At the start of the championship everyone said it wasn't possible, but now thanks to the hard work and continued determination of the team we have finally got it. It's a great reward to everyone and it will be a good motivating factor going into the winter and next season.

Q. Adrian Sutil drove a very measured race in difficult conditions. How impressive was that performance to you?

CK: A lot of people thought after the mid point of the season that Adrian was quick, but I believe they also thought he was a little too 'enthusiastic'. We always knew that taking a rookie driver on will have these risks, but also knew that he had the potential to be very, very good.

In Turkey he kept calm when he was being put under pressure by the Hondas; in Belgium he showed he could be patient and attack only when the time was right. Now in Japan in difficult conditions he kept it on track and got past a lot of experienced drivers. I think this shows clearly how far he has come and how much he has matured.

Q. Sakon too had a good race.

CK: Yes, in only his fifth race for the team and his 12th ever F1 race, he showed how he could keep it together and bring the car to the finish to get his best result to date. Since he has joined the team he has been hard-working and professional and it's a great result for him, especially in front of his home crowd.

Q. That first point was also a boost for the team as it moved you to 9th in the constructors' championship. How important is that for the team?

CK: Our aim was to finish in the top 10, so to be 9th is beyond our expectations. Financially it will be very important, but for the motivation of all the team members it is a real boost. Of course now we have got it, we will still want more! We've been quicker than the Hondas in the past two races and they have two points, so this is now our target. Spyker PR


Alonso focussed on winning
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso will have to win both the Chinese and Brazilian Grand Prix to get a realistic chance of winning the Formula 1 championship for the third time in a row. He is currently twelve points behind on teammate Hamilton and has said that all he thinks about his racing and winning in China and Brazil.
Alonso refuses to give up his championship fight, even though he failed to finish in Japan while team-mate Hamilton won the race. "My retirement in Japan has not made it easy for me in the Championship, but there are still 20 points to be won and I am going to fight hard for each one of them," Alonso said. "There is always a lot of talk of pressure and distractions at this time of the year, all I think about is racing and winning at Shanghai and Interlagos. We are all focused on this aim and giving the maximum over the next few weeks."

On Sunday Formula 1 will enjoy its fourth visit to the Shanghai International Circuit. Speaking about the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix Alonso said: "I like to race at the Shanghai circuit, it is new but it has character, although I have mixed memories from the track. Last year was a frustrating race, whereas in 2005 I won. I hope to repeat this result this weekend! The track is very wide and has been designed to allow overtaking. Slipstreaming along the main back straight and then passing into the first corner is one of the main chances. You have to make sure you have as much momentum as possible when you exit turn 13, so mechanical grip is as important as making sure we have a competitive top speed."


Why Hamilton should not become World Champ
The hard truth is that when the lights go out before the start of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, Hamilton should not be in with a glimmer of a chance of clinching the world drivers' title.

I know it would spoil an awfully good story, the best British sports story of the year, a story we all want to sign up to.

But the fact is Hamilton should be starting the race in Shanghai precisely 90 points behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

He shouldn't be driving for points at all, let alone the title. He shouldn't be driving for anything other than the chance to try to restore a little of McLaren's shattered reputation.

The decision to strip his team of all its points but leave those gained by Hamilton and Alonso intact defied logic when it was made last month and it defies logic now.

Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday but the constructors' table still shows McLaren with a big fat zero next to its name. I'm sorry but Hamilton should have one next to his, too. Most people in the sport recognize this.

Read more & Comment...

AGR releases Franchitti from contract UPDATE SPEED will interrupt regularly scheduled programming at approximately 10:30am/et Wednesday, October 3rd in order to bring viewers a live press conference from the headquarters of Chip Ganassi Racing in Concord, North Carolina. Programming will resume following the press conference.

10/02/07 Andretti Green Racing announced today it has released Dario Franchitti from his driver agreement [so he can move to NASCAR]. The team's agreement with Franchitti was set to expire later this year.

Chip Ganassi Racing has set a news conference for Wednesday, where it will announce the hiring of the driver of the No. 40 Sprint Cup car for next season. The driver is expected to be 2007 Indy Racing League and Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti.

Franchitti's much-anticipated move to stock cars will begin Friday with an ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Rumor has it that the 2007 Indy 500 winner and IndyCar Series champion has agreed to a multiyear deal to replace David Stremme in the No. 40 Dodge for NASCAR's Chip Ganassi Racing, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who requested anonymity because the deal had yet to be announced.

[Editor's Note: Recall weeks ago our rumor went to 'fact' on Franchitti moving to Ganassi's NASCAR team for next year, so the announcement Wednesday will be old news for AutoRacing1.com subscribers.]


Traffic accident won't slow Power
News that Champ Car driver Will Power had been involved in a major traffic accident at the Gold Coast on Wednesday came as a shock - particularly to the Australian.

The rumor mill spun faster than Power hopes to tear around the Gold Coast circuit at this month's Indy 300 after the Queenslander's vehicle was hit from behind during a radio interview on Wednesday.

Power was on the phone to a local station when the interview was interrupted by a minor bingle as their vehicle stopped at Gold Coast city traffic lights.

"Next thing we knew we got a call from the local newspaper saying 'we just heard that a Champ Car driver has been involved in a major accident'," Power's media spokesman told AAP.

"It must have sounded a lot worse than it was.

"Will was on the phone and I was driving. I just lost a bit of paint on the rear of the car.

"There was nothing in it.

"Straight away when Will got off the phone and I pulled off the road to get the lady's details I said 'you are not going to hear the end of that'."

Power said he was "fine and pumped for Indy".

"We saw the funny side of it," said Power who took pole position at last year's Indy. Brisbane Times

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