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Fernandez sets fast test time
Adrian Fernandez turned in the fastest lap in Thursday’s two-hour test for the Monterey Sports Car Championships, a blistering session that saw the top nine cars setting times under the existing qualifying record at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Fernandez’s lap of 1:11.677 led the way around the 2.238, 11-turn circuit in the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Acura-powered Lola. His time was more than two seconds better than Stefan Johansson’s pole time last year of 1:13.731 and 0.472 seconds better than Penske Racing’s Sascha Maassen on Thursday.

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Wilson leads opening practice in Australia
Justin Wilson led the opening practice session for the Champ Cars in Surfers Paradise.  Oriol Servia was second followed by Australian Will Power.

Pos  Driver  Lap Time  Behind Leader
1  J. Wilson  1:32.754
2  O. Servia  1:32.939   0.185
3  W. Power  1:33.129   0.375
4  B. Junqueira  1:33.220   0.466
5  S. Bourdais  1:33.278   0.524
6  M. Dominguez  1:33.734   0.980
7  S. Pagenaud  1:33.841   1.087
8  A. Tagliani  1:34.167   1.413
9  P. Tracy  1:34.174   1.420
10 N. Philippe  1:34.362   1.608
11 G. Rahal  1:34.372   1.618
12 R. Doornbos  1:34.602   1.848
13 K. Legge  1:34.950   2.196
14 N. Jani  1:35.285   2.531
15 D. Clarke  1:35.337   2.583
16 A. Figge  1:36.580   3.826
17 D. Martinez  137.652   4.898  


Vision, Rahal layoffs
Rahal Letterman recently let a dozen people go, including veteran engineers Ray Leto and Jeff Britton, while Tony George also cleaned house in the engineering department at Vision Racing. SPEEDTV.com


Robertson team to run Ford GTR in '08
Robertson Racing is proud to announce the acquisition of a new Ford GTR (which will be car No. 40) built by Kevin Doran in Lebanon, Ohio. David and Andrea Robertson, owners of Robertson Racing, will be joined by a third driver for the 2008 season. Dick Barbour Racing will continue to operate this campaign from their Braselton, Ga., location. Construction already has started and the car is expected to be delivered before the end of the year.

Currently running a limited race season this year in the No. 53 Panoz Esperante GTLM, the Robertsons have used their GT2 time at Sebring, Detroit, Road Atlanta and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to familiarize themselves with the American Le Mans Series and the “way things are done” in this world-class organization.

“We are very excited about the new car and the introduction of the GTR in to the American Le Mans Series,” the Robertsons said. “Kevin Doran’s organization is an excellent group to work with and is just as thrilled as we are with this new car.”

More updates will follow soon; watch the team Web site located at www.robertsonrace.com.


Kanaan looking to start season as he started
“It makes me proud of myself that you’re able to switch and do different things,” says Andretti Green Racing’s Tony Kanaan. Those “different things” he talks about is a transition to the American Le Mans Series with Acura’s first-year sports car program.

Kanaan’s Series debut was an unqualified success with a historic LMP2 class win for AGR at Sebring. The discipline of sports car racing was a new deal for Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion.

The Brazilian star spoke on the differences between sports car and open-wheel racing to SPEEDtv.com’s Marshall Pruett. Interview

“The differences are big. The cars are totally different,” he said. “Do I want paddle-shifting in an Indy car? For sure! And I’m used to 10 buttons on the steering wheel in an Indy car, and I have more than 50 on the Acura. I have a whole book to look through.”

Kanaan will look to end the season the same way he started it - with a victory. He’ll drive the AGR Acura with Bryan Herta in the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Skip Barber

Date, venue announced for Karting Shoot-out
The date and venue for the 11th annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out, the largest and single most important event for karters transitioning to race cars, has been set: Thursday, January 31 through Sunday, February 3, 2008, at Sebring International Raceway. Any karter that wishes to enter the Shoot-out (including those who think they may later be named one of the 12 ‘‘pre-nominated’’ drivers, each of whom will be awarded the qualifying Skip Barber Three Day Racing School) must submit an application to Chris Kretzmer, the Karting Shoot-out manager.

Karters are urged not to delay, as submission of the application does not guarantee a seat in the Shoot-out.

Over the years, Skip Barber Racing’s ‘‘star search’’ system has unearthed and then developed such talents as A.J. Allmendinger, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Michael Valiante, Marco Di Leo, Ricky and Jordan Taylor, Timmy Megenbier and Gabby Chaves. The two most recent champions of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda – Jonathan Goring in 2006 and Joel Miller this year – won scholarships at the Shoot-out. Following three days of on-track evaluation of all entrants driving the Skip Barber Formula 2000 race cars – there will also be ‘‘off-track’’ assessments – judges will reward the most talented karters with scholarships to race in the Skip Barber Regionals and the Skip Barber National. The biggest prize is a paid season in the 2008 Skip Barber National.

The Karting Scholarship Shoot-out is limited to 50 drivers. The majority come from the ranks of the Snap-on Stars of Karting series and the World Karting Association (WKA). There is no minimum age for drivers to compete in the Regional or National series, provided they pass muster with Skip Barber's chief instructors. ‘‘We truly feel there is no better opportunity for the serious young karter than the Skip Barber system, if the desire is to get into motorsports top echelons,’’ says Todd Snyder, v.p. of competition for Skip Barber. ‘‘The equal-car premise behind every Skip Barber auto racing championship, plus the coaching, the huge amounts of seat time, the furious competition, the simple stark value of our racing – all that has been attracting the best karters for a number of years. Add to that Mazda’s unparalleled support of the Mazda Motorsports Ladder – Skip Barber to Star Mazda to Champ Car Atlantic – and we think it’s clear this is where karters need to be.’’


New Ferrari store opens in Barcelona
Ferrari lands in Spain with the opening of a new Ferrari Store, at the El Prat international airport of Barcelona. The Scuderia Ferrari test driver Marc Genè, Giulio Zauner - Responsible for the Ferrari West Europe branches, Emanuele Sacerdote - Head of sales & retail at Ferrari and José Gabriel Martin - CEO of Areas (the franchising partner of the house with the Prancing Horse for this new store), took part in the opening ceremony.

On a space of about 40 sqm enthusiasts of the brand can now find a selection of the whole product range of the Prancing Horse, dedicated to the Formula One fans, Granturismo cars lovers, but also to children and collectors.

The Ferrari Store in Barcelona is the first store in Europe (except the ones in Italy) and the 16th worldwide. It is also the sixth store built within the structure of an international airport. With more than 30 million air passengers passing through Barcelona airport every year, the airport is the perfect location for the new Ferrari store, which will become a privileged destination for thousands of passionate Ferraristi and fans of the "Reds" from Maranello throughout the world.

Spain is an important market for the Prancing Horse regarding the competition (that this year also was able to win the Spanish GP, courtesy of Felipe Massa) but also as far as car sales, which are constantly increasing, are concerned.

In conjunction with the inauguration of the new store in Barcelona another Ferrari one-brand Store has been opened in Saudi Arabia, in the city Al Khobar: 120 sqm inside the Rashid Mall.

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Brazilian GP: Thursday Press Conference
Participating: Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)

Q: Felipe, winner from pole position here last year, how do you come to this race this year?

Felipe MASSA: With the same mentality as last year, trying to have a good weekend. I think if we can repeat what happened one year ago it will be fantastic.

Q: And your contract has been extended as well; what does that mean to a driver?

FM: I think it's good for stability. I've been with Ferrari for two years and then I was already stable because my contract was actually already until the end of next year. But then we've extended that, so I think it shows the work we've been doing together with the team.

I think (it shows) the confidence the team has in me as well, so I'm very pleased about that and I think it's very nice to carry on doing the job with the team and especially as it's a team that has trusted me since the beginning of my career, so it's very nice to carry on with Ferrari.

Q: How do you see your role this weekend, given the championship battle going on around you?

FM: Well, for sure I would be happy to see my team winning the championship but it's not a very easy race and I think it also depends on what happens in the race. It also depends on Kimi's chances of winning the championship, it also depends how these two guys in front are going to do in the race as well, so it depends on many things but for sure, I'm going to start the weekend and my aim is to try to win the race.

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Champ Car hammers cheaters
A penalty on Team Australia for using its push-to-pass button in Assen may force Toowoomba tornado Will Power to fight with one hand tied behind his back for a Lexmark Indy 300 win this weekend.

Tony Cotman, the Champ Car series race director, removed 40 per cent of Team Australia's push-to-pass feature, which lets drivers deliver a substantial 50bhp extra to their Cosworth engines during a race.

Champ Car introduced the feature a few seasons ago to encourage overtaking. Drivers have 75 seconds of the push-to-pass feature available in a given race.

Some drivers were penalized after a software glitch was discovered in the electronic device, which subsequently led to warnings of penalties if any driver used the function in Assen.

The problem surfaced when Sebastien Bourdais hit the button, which mysteriously activated the pit lane speed limit restrictor and caused the car to lose speed.

Champ Car then told all teams to refrain from using push-to-pass because of the potentially dangerous glitch.

Bourdais and teammate Graham Rahal did not use the feature at Assen, so their Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team has escaped any penalty.

But Power and his teammate Simon Pagenaud face being swamped by rivals late in the race if they have used up the reduced time allotted for use of the push-to-pass boost.

The team's US-based co-owner Derrick Walker has appealed against the penalty. Yesterday he presented Cotman with data in a bid to have the penalty lifted for the squad's home race.

The other drivers who face the penalty are Dan Clarke, Ryan Dalziel, Neel Jani and Bruno Junqueira. Courier Mail


Hamilton calls off Senna grave visit


(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton on Thursday backed away from his earlier plans to visit the grave of his childhood hero Ayrton Senna.

Before travelling to Sao Paulo for the 2007 title decider, the British championship leader had let slip to reporters that, on his upcoming first visit to Brazil, he would make his way to Morumbi cemetery to pay his respects.

Senna, arguably the greatest formula one driver of all time, was killed during the San Marino grand prix in 1994.

"I'll definitely be going there," British newspapers including the Mirror had quoted Hamilton, 22, as saying.

"It will be quite moving, quite emotional for me."

His comments, which sparked international headlines, drew criticism from some who feared that Hamilton's cemetery visit would turn into an unseemly media frenzy.

Hamilton said at the Interlagos circuit on Thursday: "I doubt I'll go because I know I'll be followed.  So perhaps I'll leave it until another trip.

"I know my hotel is only a couple of miles from where he is, that's the closest I've ever been to him.  So it's quite an unusual experience for me," he added.


Rahal nominated for ROY Award


Graham Rahal has been nominated for the prestigious Autosport magazine 'Rookie of the Year' award, as voted for by Autosport.com readers. Rahal is currently in his debut year of the Champ Car World Series with the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team, driving the Medi | Zone entry. The candidates for the award have been revealed today, with ten drivers from seven different championships in contention. Rahal currently lies second in the rookie of the year standings of the Champ Car World Series with current leader Robert Doornbos, a fellow Award nominee. The winner of the award will be announced at the Autosport Awards Gala evening in London on December 2 this year.

Previous winners of the title include Jenson Button, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber, and Tiago Monteiro for their rookie F1 season, while Dan Wheldon and Lewis Hamilton have also scooped the prestigious title.

Rahal is the youngest nominee this year, at only 18 years of age, but his rookie season in the Champ Car World Series has proven that he is a teenage talent with a bright future ahead of him. With two more races remaining in the championship Rahal lies fifth in the overall drivers points standings, with four podium finishes.

This award is voted for exclusively by Autosport.com readers and as with any accolade that is decided by fans, is particularly prestigious. Rahal, currently 'down under' for the Surfers Paradise Champ Car race says of being nominated, "It's an achievement in itself to be nominated for this prestigious Award, particularly being alongside Lewis Hamilton, who is commanding so much attention this year. Of course I hope that I can be the fans favorite and be voted the Rookie of the Year, but I guess I'll have to wait until December 2nd to find that out.

"Vote now!" says Rahal.

Graham Rahal fans can vote for him online at www.autosport.com/awards/2007/rookie.


Alonso disagrees with ’equality steward’ decision


(GMM) Fernando Alonso on Thursday refused to back the FIA's decision to this weekend install an 'equality steward' in the McLaren garage for the final grand prix of 2007.

The controversial decision was commissioned by the governing body, after Spain's highest ranking motorsport official, Carlos Gracia, told Max Mosley that he feared his 26-year-old countryman might not receive fair treatment for his battle against teammate Lewis Hamilton in Brazil.

But Alonso, sitting alongside Briton Hamilton, told reporters at Interlagos: "I don't agree with the decision, but it's not up to us.

"We don't need anything like that in the garage."

The Spaniard also backed away from recent suggestions that McLaren may have doctored his tire pressures, contributing to his crash in Japan and six-tenths qualifying deficit two weeks ago in China.

"I have realized that the tire pressures were a bit high and I just want to think that it was a coincidence and a bit of bad luck," he said.

Alonso also played down suspicions that the championship battle could be decided after a Senna-Prost style collision.

"I want to be world champion and for that I have to finish the race, first of all," he said, according to the news agency 'sid'.

"Lewis and I cannot afford to make any mistakes, because Kimi (Raikkonen) will only be waiting."


Champ Car sets pre-season open test dates
Champ Car officials announced today that both the Champ Car World Series and the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will return to Sebring International Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for preseason test sessions in preparation for their respective 2008 seasons.

The first open test for Champ Car and Atlantic will be held at the historic Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida beginning on Saturday, February 2, 2008 and running through Wednesday, February 6. The Champ Cars are slated to be on track from February 2-4, with Atlantic testing planned for February 5-6. Sebring’s mild central Florida climate and challenging layout provides the perfect setting for drivers and teams to prepare for the rigors of the 2008 season.

In March, Champ Car and Atlantic teams will make their way west to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. for “Spring Training” as they make their final preparations for the upcoming season. Testing is scheduled for Monday, March 10 through Friday, March 14, with Atlantic machines kicking off the on-track activities on March 10 and 11, followed by the Champ Cars on March 12-14.

“Testing is a very important part of racing, and being able to get quality miles at Sebring is critical to having a successful season,” said 2003 Champ Car World Series champion Paul Tracy.  “The track allows us to try a lot of different things and because we will only be in the second year of the DP01, information is still very important. 

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Down Under Diary - Day Three
The Champ Car drivers were up early this morning as they were the main attraction at the Press Conference / Breakfast. All but an ill Alex Figge was in attendance although a few were barely awake... I told you yesterday that they were in for a special treat. All the drivers received an authentic Australian didgeridoo and received a short lesson from a professional player. I must say that it was easy to pick out the Australia-native as he was the only one able to produce the right sound! You don’t even want to know how PT sounded when he attempted to play the didgeridoo….

The traditional “People’s Day” at the event attracted a record-setting attendance figure of 56,867, and fan number 4 million in Surfers 17-year history walked through the turnstiles today. Imagine the crowds when the Champ Cars actually hit the circuit tomorrow.


Ethanol to sap Midwest water supplies
The ethanol fallacy, which we have spelled out repeatedly here on AutoRacing1.com, just keeps getting worse as this Wall Street Journal article points out.

If the Senate's new "renewable fuels" mandate becomes law, get ready for a giant slurping sound as Midwest water supplies are siphoned off to slake Big Ethanol. House and Senate negotiators are preparing for an energy-bill conference, and if the Senate's language prevails, America's economy will be forced to consume more than five times current ethanol production.

Heavily subsidized and absurdly inefficient, corn-based ethanol has already driven up food prices. But the Senate's plan to increase production to 36 billion gallons by 2022, from less than seven billion today, will place even greater pressure on farm-belt aquifers.

Ethanol plants consume roughly four gallons of water to produce each gallon of fuel, but that's only a fraction of ethanol's total water habit. Cornell ecology professor David Pimentel says that when you count the water needed to grow the corn, one gallon of ethanol requires a staggering 1,700 gallons of H2O. Backers of the Senate bill say that less-thirsty technologies are just around the corner, which is what we've been hearing for years.

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Schu happy to watch F1 finale from home
(GMM)  A year after racing in formula one for the very last time, Michael Schumacher said on Thursday that he is happy to watch the 2007 championship finale from the comfort of his lounge.

"I remember well the tension a weekend like this one means to the driver, and to be honest I am quite happy to be watching the race from my sofa at home this time," F1's record holding seven time world champion outlined in a statement.

38-year-old Schumacher's final grand prix, and ultimately failed last shot at an eighth drivers' title, took place at the Interlagos circuit last October.

"I miss him and would love to see him back in formula one -- particularly in the current situation," Bernie Ecclestone, referring to the rare three-way battle for the title, was quoted as saying by the Austrian news agency APA on Thursday.

Schumacher, still tied with Ferrari, said he would cross his fingers for his successor Kimi Raikkonen, who is three points behind McLaren's Fernando Alonso and a further four adrift of championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

But he said he has no regrets that he is no longer in the title spotlight.

"As I've said so many times before, my family and I feel wonderful with the life that we have nowadays," said Schumacher.


Coleman signs full Nationwide Series ride for 2008
After a successful rookie season in the NASCAR Busch Series, teenage driving sensation Brad Coleman has decided to leave Joe Gibbs Racing to pilot a full-time ride in the No. 27 Kleenex Ford Fusion with the new owners of Brewco Motorsports.

In only 15 races to date for JGR in 2007, Coleman has posted three Top 5’s, five Top 10’s, seven Top 15’s, and nine Top 20’s, winning the Pole at Talladega and posting the highest finishing average of any non-Cup experienced driver in the series. Extraordinary statistics considering he was the youngest driver in the series for most of the season, seeing many of the race tracks for the very first time, and competing against a host of Nextel Cup drivers.

Brewco Motorsports’ new owner and CEO Gary Baker feels fortunate to have Coleman on his roster.

“We believe Brad is one of the hottest young prospects on the circuit and when we found out he was not going to be in a full ride at Gibbs, we made a run for him,” stated Baker. “He is an impressive young man with a bright future ahead of him and is the kind of guy we want to build our organization around. He is not only talented on the track, but off the track as well and will add significant value to our sponsors. We think he can contend for the Nationwide Championship next year and the guys on the team are already excited about 2008.”

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industry news

Video: Maintaining hybrids can be difficult

While hybrids are known for conserving fuel consumption, the question as to where and how to maintain these types of vehicles is still somewhat unclear. Hybrids have two power sources that each require separate attention – its conventional gas engine and an electric motor connected to a battery. General Motors reports that battery-operated engines can prove deadly due to their voltage capacity and many technicians are not properly trained to work on them. To ensure the safety of both the vehicle and mechanic, automakers recommend servicing a hybrid at the dealership where it was purchased. If a driver moves and this is not an option, consumers are advised to talk to their local vehicle repair shop to determine which of their mechanics have been properly trained to work on a hybrid.


Michelin deal for Speedcar Series
Globally renowned tire manufacturer Michelin has signed a deal with Speedcar Series to provide racing rubber for all cars over the next three seasons.

With three months to go until Speedcar's debut race at the Dubai Autodrome on January 26, organizers have confirmed that all 24 competitors will use 33/70.15 tires designed specifically by the French company to suit track and weather conditions in Asia and the Middle East.

Michelin is one of the world's most innovative and respected tire manufacturers, achieving success in all levels of motorsport, including both Formula One Driver and Constructor Championships in 2005 and 2006. The partnership with Speedcar will increase Michelin's global motorsport portfolio, which already includes teams in single-seaters, rally, sportscars and motorcycling, as well as their profile in the region.

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Fittipaldi to return to the track
Emerson Fittipaldi has vowed to come out of retirement to test the new Ferrari-powered A1GP World Cup of Motorsport car next season.

The 60-year-old A1 Team Brazil boss is so excited about A1GP’s involvement with Ferrari that he has confirmed he will get back behind the wheel to test the contemporary single-seater.

Following last week’s historic announcement that the Italian sports car manufacturer will supply all engines to A1GP from next season, Fittipaldi, who never drove for Ferrari in his Formula One career, will not race the car but instead will look to get behind the wheel at the earliest opportunity.

‘When I was told about the possibility of Ferrari coming on board I thought it was brilliant,’ Fittipaldi said.

‘The Ferrari name alone is incredible and people are going to give A1GP more respect and we are going to be much bigger. When Ferrari’s people visited us in Zandvoort they loved our A1GP weekend and they are very enthusiastic to get involved with A1GP.

‘Ferrari will help design a beautiful car. I always wanted to drive for Ferrari and now I can! I will at least test the car. I won’t race it, but I want to test the car. I’m very excited about it.

‘The partnership with Ferrari will make more drivers want to get involved in A1GP too. It will be an exciting formula for the racing.’


Force continues to recover
Longtime National Hot Rod Association star John Force continues his recovery from serious hand, leg and foot injuries sustained in a Sept. 23 crash at the Texas Motorplex.

Force, who has been doing rehabilitation in Dallas, said his doctors plan to release him to travel home to Southern California on Saturday if he continues to progress at his present rate.

"My brother, Walker, is trying to find a place in Orange County where I can continue to do my physical therapy,'' Force said. "I told him I want to work with some young people who'll push me. That's what I need to do to get back in my race car, and nothing's more important to me right now than that.

"If everything goes well, I'll come back to Dallas in four to six weeks for them to remove the pins from my (left) hand.''

Force, a 14-time NHRA champion, apologized to his fans for misleading them when he said he was going to be back in his Funny Car by last week's event in Richmond.

"I know I said I was gonna drive at Richmond, but that was mainly the drugs talking,'' Force explained. "I know now that I'm not going to drive the rest of this year. My real goal the last two weeks was to make it to Vegas (for the next event on Oct. 27-28), and that's what I'm going to do.

"I can't wait to get back to the races. That'll be the best therapy.'' SI.com


Five hoping to make some history Down Under
The 17th edition of the Lexmark Indy 300 Champ Car race will be run on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia, with five drivers hoping to make history Down Under.

In the 16 previous visits to the 2.795-mile temporary street course, no driver has managed to win the event twice. Surfers Paradise remains the only continuing venue on the Champ Car Schedule without a repeat winner.
The drivers hoping to end that streak are Paul Tracy, Mario Dominguez, Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais and defending champion Nelson Philippe.

Philippe, who with his victory last year became youngest driver to win a Champ Car race at 20 years, 2 months and 29 days, will be making his season debut when gets back behind the wheel for Conquest Racing.

Bourdais, who will leave at the end of this season for Formula One's Scuderia Toro Rosso team, needs only to finish 14th or better on Sunday, the penultimate race of the season, to wrap up an unprecedented fourth straight Champ Car World Series title.

The Frenchman, who has six victories in 12 races this season, has finished no worse than 13th. SI.com


Swiss club joins Superleague Formula
Leading Swiss football club FC Basel has set its sights on climbing a new sporting summit – taking on the world's best football clubs on four wheels in the new Superleague Formula championship.

FC Basel President Gigi Oeri with Superleague Formula President and CEO Alex Andreu

The 2007 Swiss Cup winners join European clubs AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven, FC Porto, Olympiacos, Borussia Dortmund, RSC Anderlecht plus Brazilian giants Flamengo in the new motorsport competition.

A further 12 clubs will be added to the roster – providing a grid of at least 20 cars for the first race of the championship that will commence in August, 2008.

Superleague Formula will feature 750 horsepower, V-12 powered single-seaters bearing the colors of the world's finest football clubs.

The club's red and blue colors were unveiled today at Superleague Formula's Barcelona headquarters with FC Basel President Gigi Oeri and Superleague Formula CEO and President Alex Andreu on hand.

FC Basel will be looking to transfer their on-field footballing success to race track victories.

Swiss team colors

Along with its Swiss Cup victory from this year, FC Basel has 11 Swiss League championships to its credit – including three in the new millennium (2002, 2004 and 2005).  This year's Cup win brings their total to eight – including the club's very first trophy success from 1933.

FC Basel also won the Swiss League Cup in 1973 and the Coppa della Alpi in 1969, 1970 and 1981.

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Skip Barber

Miller ready for next step on Mazda ladder
MONTEREY, Calif. - In one of the more closely fought championship chases in its nine-year history, the 2007 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda was won by 19-year-old Joel Miller of Hesperia, Calif. Winning the Skip Barber National title earned him one of the most significant championship bonuses in North American open-wheel racing – a paid ride in 2008 with a leading Star Mazda team, valued at roughly $350,000, courtesy of MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development and Skip Barber Racing.

Miller joins recent Skip Barber National champions Raphael Matos (2003), Marco Andretti (2004), Gerardo Bonilla (2005) and Jonathan Goring (2006) on the Mazda Motorsports Ladder. This ladder begins with high-level karting, progresses to the Skip Barber Regional Series then the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda. The next step is the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear, followed by the Cooper Tires Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. From Atlantic, motorsports top rungs are just one step away.

Miller won five Skip Barber National races this year, more than any other previous champion with the exception of Grant Maiman in 2002. He was on the podium a total of 10 times and, significantly, finished fifth or better in 11 of the 14 races.

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Matos ready for final step on Mazda ladder

Rafael Matos

In winning the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, Brazilian racer Raphael Matos served as a prototype of sorts for the Mazda Motorsports Ladder.

While Mazda unveiled its approach to promoting drivers through the open-wheel racing ranks earlier this year, Matos proved in 2007 that by following the steps on the Mazda Motorsports Ladder, reaching the pinnacle of the sport is an attainable goal. In 2008, the 26-year-old from Belo Horizonte, Brazil will take the final step into the Champ Car World Series armed with $2 million toward a Champ Car ride as part of Champ Car’s significant commitment to graduate Atlantic champions to the next level.

Following in the footsteps of many other great drivers from his home country, Matos made his way to the United States to continue his racing career after a successful start in Brazil. His first step in 2002 was in the Skip Barber Midwest series, where he finished second in the championship and earned series Rookie of the Year honors. From there, it was onto the Formula Dodge National Championship in 2003, where he claimed his first U.S. championship.

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Cameron to replace Matos at Sierra Sierra

Dane Cameron

Dane Cameron, winner of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear -- and arguably the fastest-rising young star in open-wheel racing today – has signed to race for the championship-winning Sierra Sierra/ProWorks team in the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

Cameron, who turns 19 on October 18, has already undergone a seat fitting at the Sierra Sierra race shop in Minden, Nevada and will begin testing with his new team next week, following this weekend’s Round Twelve season finale of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship at the American Le Mans Series’ Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 20.

“Nothing I’ve ever done in racing has felt as fast as what’s happened in the last two weeks since I won the Star Mazda championship,” says the native of Sonoma, California. “I’m honored, and relieved, to be the next graduate of the Mazda Motorsports Ladder and delighted to be racing for a championship-caliber team like Sierra Sierra next year. I’d like to thank my Star Mazda team, JDC Motorsports for taking a chance on me and delivering a championship season. Also Rob Finlay, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, and, of course, my father, Rick Cameron, who also engineers my cars. There may be only one person in the car, but racing is a team sport and a lot of people helped me get where I am today.”

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Mazda Ladder Series Update
For many road-racing fans, the annual season begins with Sebring in March and ends at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October.  At Sebring this year, Mazda announced their first-in-the-industry approach to promoting drivers based on talent alone along a structured ladder. Mazda committed to provide a next-level, fully-funded 2008 ride in a Mazda powered car to the 2007 champions of selected Mazda series.

“As we stated at the beginning of the year we are committed to developing the next generation of racers with a ladder system that provides drivers with Mazda and Mazda-powered open and closed-wheel cars throughout their careers,” said Robert Davis, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Quality, and the man responsible for Mazda’s North American motorsports operations under the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development banner. “We are happy to be working with a talented group of 2007 champions.  We have high hopes for Dane Cameron, Joel Miller, and Jason Saini.  We hope they follow in the steps of Raphael Matos, who has raced and won in just about every Mazda series there is.” 

Open-wheel racers are competing for these new awards:

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Webber crosses fingers for friend Alonso
(GMM) Mark Webber has vowed to cross his fingers for Fernando Alonso this weekend as the 2007 championship reaches its climax in Brazil.

Twice title winner Alonso is four points behind his rookie McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton with just the Interlagos finale to go, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen a further three points adrift.

Mark Webber

"I would be delighted if Fernando won it," Australian Webber told the Spanish newspaper Diario As, "but I do think that Hamilton is going to.

"He is in the best position to be champion."

Webber, who drives for Red Bull, said 26-year-old Alonso is his personal favorite because of his "good friendship" with the Spaniard over many seasons.

Despite their friendship, however, Webber joins Bernie Ecclestone in excitingly contemplating a Senna-Prost style collision that could crown the champion.

"That would be very interesting!" he beamed, "and then Raikkonen would win the championship."

Honda racer Rubens Barrichello also said he hoped Alonso emerges on Sunday as F1's newest triple world champion.

"If you ask me who I prefer personally, then I would say Alonso," the Brazilian said.

"Firstly because he is a great driver, but also because of everything he has gone through this season."

Former McLaren team coordinator Jo Ramirez, however, says it has been fascinating to watch how Alonso handled his championship campaign in 2007.

"Against Schumacher, he was flawless," the Mexican told sportnet.at, "but this year his teammate has beaten him and he has made so many mistakes.

"It is really interesting. I have lived in Spain most of my life and have read in the newspapers how McLaren favor Hamilton and that Alonso has done absolutely nothing wrong.

"That is all nonsense!"


McLaren to blame for teammates’ wrangle - Mansell

Nigel Mansell (L) talking to Champ Car driver Sebastien Bourdais

(GMM)  Nigel Mansell has accused McLaren of badly managing its driver lineup in 2007.

The 1992 world champion, who had a disastrously short tenure at the Mercedes powered team in 1995 before leaving formula one, told the Daily Express that he can relate to how Fernando Alonso has felt left out in the cold this year.

"I suspect from my experience that he probably had a number of things in his contract he feels he has not got," Mansell, who is now 53, said.

The Englishman also shared an acerbic relationship with his Williams teammate Nelson Piquet, who famously called Mansell 'dumb' and his wife 'ugly'.

But the team bosses, he said, are always also to blame.

Referring to Alonso's bitter pairing with rookie Lewis Hamilton, Mansell said: "It is an internal problem with the team who have demonstrated to the world that they have not managed their drivers very well."

tv news

Lexmark 300 Indy on Race Director
For those of you who do not have ESPN Classic, the Lexmark 300 Indy Champ Car race in Surfers Paradise can be seen on the Champ Car Race Director Saturday night.  There will also be webcasts of Practice 4 and Final Qualifying on the Race Director late Friday night.  

Lexmark Indy 300 Surfers Paradise
Race Director webcasts
Friday, October 19, 2007
11:59 pm - 12:20 am ET - Practice 4
Saturday, October 20, 2007
12:20 am - 1:30 am ET - Final Qualifying (following P4 Friday night)
11:25 pm - 1:30 am ET - Race


Injury sidelines Gore

Gore, center, with his two Champ Car drivers

Team Australia co-owner Craig Gore has suffered an inner ear injury which will see him absent from this weekend’s Lexmark Indy 300 on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Queensland.

Gore received the injury during a routine flight in his helicopter on Monday and was operated on by leading Gold Coast Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon Dr. Jim Hallam at Pindara Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

Gore, a passionate and successful businessman, has many and varied business interests including co-ownership of the Team Australia Champ Car operations and a V8 Supercar team, both of which will be competing on the Gold Coast this weekend.

The 40-year-old entrepreneur has been instructed that traveling at heights of more than 2000 feet, exposure to loud noise or sudden movement could permanently damage his hearing.

As a result Gore has elected to watch this weekend’s action from the luxury of his Gold Coast lounge room.

“I am absolutely shattered that I have received this injury in the most exciting week of the year for myself, all our Team Australia, WPS/WOW Racing team members and Australian motorsport fans,” said Gore.

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Risi-Krohn Ferrari Returns for ALMS Finale
The No. 61 Risi Competizione-Krohn Racing Ferrari 430 GT returns to the American Le Mans Series October 18-20 for the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Looking to assist their sister No. 62 Risi Competizione team win the manufacturer’s championship for Ferrari, Tracy Krohn and Nic Jönsson will take to the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course for the four hour ALMS finale. Krohn and Jönsson had to retire the No. 61 Ferrari at the recent Petit Le Mans in the final hour with oil pump failure. They had Top Ten finishes with the Risi-Krohn Ferrari 430 GT at both the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Houston Grand Prix (ninth and tenth respectively). The highlight of their year with the Krohn green colored Ferrari was their second-place class finish, along with third driver Colin Braun, at the 75th Annual 24 Hours of Le Mans, the pinnacle of their season. Krohn and Jönsson also drive Krohn Racing Pontiac Rileys in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, where the team finished fourth in the Team Championship and Krohn won the prestigious Jim Trueman Award for gentlemen drivers. Tracy W. Krohn, owner of Krohn Racing, driver of the No. 61 Risi-Krohn Ferrari 430 GT: Tell us your thoughts on returning to the cockpit of the Ferrari 430 GT for the final ALMS race of the season at Laguna Seca. “The Ferrari 430 GT is a great car to drive and so much fun. It’s a good package and prepared by an outstanding team, so I’m happy to return to the cockpit and give it a go on a fantastic circuit.”

Give us your thoughts about the historic Laguna Seca circuit.

“Laguna is always a great place to race. The climate is good. The track changes from dawn to dusk, so it is always challenging. It is really all about getting the car set up for the race. We plan to have a great set-up and go out there and challenge the rest of the GT2 class field.” Nic Jönsson, driver of the No. 61 Risi-Krohn Ferrari 430 GT: It is the final race of the season and you are back in the Ferrari. Talk about Laguna Seca being the last race of the season and also the opportunity to drive the Risi/Krohn Ferrari one more time.

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Geoff Bodine crashes testing bobsleds in Lake Placid
Yes…it’s true. Geoff was there Sunday testing equipment. He crashed on his first trip, but changed runners and made it the next two runs down the course. Ironically, Geoff rolled it in the famous Trickle Turn (turn 18) where Dick Trickle was upended twice at the Bodine Bobsled Challenge in 2006.

industry news

Toyota Recalls 470,000 Vehicles
Toyota recalled 470,000 vehicles in Japan Wednesday for engine, steering and motor problems in the latest sign of growing quality problems as the automaker embarks on ambitious global growth.

None of the recalled models were exported, Toyota Motor  Corp. said. There were no reports of accidents related to the defects, but more than 300 problems were reported, it said.


Former motorcycle racer tests IPS car
Italian Super Bike rider Alex Pignone completed a successful Indy Pro Series test in a Cheever Racing-fielded race car at Kentucky Speedway on Monday, October 9.

The test was the latest comeback milestone for 41-year old Pignone, who suffered serious injuries in a 2003 motorcycle racing accident at Daytona International Speedway.  The former Italian Superbike and AMA Superbike star has undergone years of extensive physical therapy in recovering from his injuries.

"We are very pleased with Alex's performance during the test session at Kentucky," said Cheever Racing team owner, Eddie Cheever, Jr.  "The competitive spirit and concentration Alex used to great effect in his motorcycle racing career definitely came into play with the Indy Pro Series car.  He never turned a wheel wrong, and there is little doubt that with additional seat time his confidence and performance will increase further."

Pignone's successful Indy Pro Series test represents a further stepping-stone in his conversion from two-wheel to four-wheel racing. One of the most competitive open-wheel support formulas in North America, the Indy Pro Series is an essential stepping stone for teams and drivers aiming to compete in the IndyCar Series.


Helio: NASCAR is the biggest
IRL driver Helio Castroneves admits NASCAR is the biggest and most attractive racing series in America. How could it not be after Anton George created the IRL, split open wheel racing in America, and destroyed it.

"I think, definitely, NASCAR is the biggest motorsports series in America," Castroneves said. "The popularity is huge. Drivers want to go and you want to take the challenge. Obviously, I'm dancing instead of going to NASCAR -- it's a different challenge.

"I enjoy open-wheel racing, but if I have an opportunity to try something new and different, why not? [Dario] Franchitti accomplished his goals [winning the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series title this year], so it's natural. When you see something that's similar to what you do, you want to try and see what you can do."


IndyCar Series teams given off-season testing days
The IndyCar Series will allow limited testing opportunities prior to the start of the 2008 season.

IndyCar Series teams will be allowed a maximum of four test days during the off-season – two days between Oct. 22 and Dec. 19 and two days from Jan. 11, 2008 through Feb. 20, 2008.

“Because we have very few opportunities to test, teams had limited chances to improve at tracks where they may have issues,” said Kevin Blanch, IndyCar Series technical director. “This will allow teams the flexibility to pick where they want to test and to improve.”

Tests days will be granted in addition to any Open Tests, manufacturer tests or bonus test days that the team has earned during the 2007 season. Teams will not be allowed to carry over days from one testing period to another.


FIA probes Gracia’s racial comments
Carlos Gracia faces serious sanctions if his comments regarding racial discrimination in England are found to be accurate.

Gracia, head of Spain's motorsport federation, has caused a storm ahead of this weekend's title-deciding showdown in the Brazilian Grand at Interlagos.

Apparently questioned about the support Lewis Hamilton enjoys in England and the media's desire to see an English world champion, he is quoted in Spanish daily newspaper, El Publico, as saying: "It's understandable they want to make the most of it.

"But given how racist they are in England, the fact that they have to rely on a colored driver..."

Gracia maintains he was misinterpreted and the quote was taken out of context, but nevertheless it has added fuel to the fire ahead of the race.

It was Gracia who spoke to FIA president Max Mosley on behalf of Alonso as he was concerned about the prospect of inequality in the McLaren team and Hamilton receiving preferential treatment.

That prompted Mosley to appoint an FIA official to oversee that no favoritism unfolds in the McLaren garage this weekend.

In light of this latest furor, the FIA are far from enamored and are currently investigating the matter.

A spokesman said: "The FIA have noted the recent press comments attributed to the president of the Spanish Motor Sport Authority and we have received his assurance that such comments have been inaccurately reported.

"The prohibition of racial, political or religious discrimination is fundamental to the FIA's role as the governing body of international motor sport.

"No compromise or violation of this prohibition will ever be acceptable." Sporting Life


Ganassi signs Alex Lloyd

Alex Lloyd

Chip Ganassi Racing announced today the addition of young driving standout and 2007 Indy Pro Series Champion, Alex Lloyd to the team’s Driver Development Program. Lloyd, a native of Manchester, England joins the team after a record setting Indy Pro Series season that saw him dominate the field with eight wins and five poles positions.

The team is in the developing process of the complete 2008 plan for Lloyd but it most likely it will include some combination of IndyCar Series races, Grand Am races and a great deal of testing

In August 2007, with permission from his Indy Pro Series team, Sam Schmidt Motorsport, the Target IndyCar team invited Lloyd to participate in a team test at Sebring International Raceway with IndyCar driver Scott Dixon. Lloyd was given the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an IndyCar for the first time and was able to set lap times that were comparable to Dixon’s.

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TV news

ESPN, Nielsen Take Step Toward 'Total Audience' Measurement
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Hoping to help TV advertisers understand how commercials on TV and various digital platforms drive consumer behavior and marketing results, the two parties are working to develop a new audience-measurement model that will stretch across online, mobile and other emerging media.

That type of measurement is "somewhat of a Holy Grail, and this is our first shot at it," said Jon Mandel, CEO of NielsenConnect, Nielsen's information-and-insights unit. Advertisers want to know not only "how does my media drive sales," he said, but also how altering the media mix within a particular outlet can change the effectiveness of ads.

First goal: monitor and measure The initial goal is to monitor audiences and measure reaction. Nielsen will deploy its new TV/Internet Convergence Panel, a sample of households that will help measure TV and internet use in the same home. The system will also link research from Nielsen Mobile and other sources. The panel aims to measure the impact of TV promotions in driving people to the internet and of web promotions driving people to ESPN programs, and examine new kinds of media use, such as viewing TV and web-streamed content at the same time.

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racing news

SPEED Weekly Top 20 Driver Ranking
Updated 10-17-07
Pos.  (LW) Driver (Series)                     Pts
1. (1) Kimi Raikkonen (F1)                     8.761
2. (2) Jeff Gordon (NASCAR)                    8.607
3. (7) Clint Bowyer (NASCAR)                   7.973
4. (4) Dario Franchitti (IRL)*                 7.632
5. (3) Jimmie Johnson (NASCAR)                 7.559
6. (5) Fernando Alonso (F1)                    7.453
7. (6) Tony Stewart (NASCAR)                   7.314
8. (8) Scott Dixon (IRL)*                      7.272
9. (9) Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS)               7.162
10. (24) Kyle Busch (NASCAR)                   7.112
11. (16) Carl Edwards (NASCAR)                 7.085
12. (13) Justin Wilson (CCWS)                  6.837
13. (14) Tony Kanaan (IRL)*                    6.693
14. (NR) Jeff Burton (NASCAR)                  6.452
15. (10) Casey Mears (NASCAR)                  6.341
16. (18) Felipe Massa (F1)                     6.166
17. (20) Kasey Kahne (NASCAR)                  6.154
18. (11) Denny Hamlin (NASCAR)                 5.954
19. (12) Kurt Busch (NASCAR)                   5.935
20. (NR) Martin Truex Jr. (NASCAR)             5.928

Dropped out: Ryan Newman (NASCAR), Kevin Harvick (NASCAR), Greg Biffle (NASCAR)

*Season complete

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.


Young American to test Champ Car

Carl Skerlong

American Champ Car Atlantic driver Carl Skerlong to going to test a Champ Car in November courtesy of PCM.

"I spoke with Tyler Tadevic at Pacific Coast Motorsports (PCM) recently and my Champ Car test has been planned. We’re looking at a test date at the end of November for my first try-out in the Champ Car, most likely at Buttonwillow Raceway in California. I’m scheduled to run for 150 miles which is a good amount and I think I’ll get a shot running both the short and long track at Buttonwillow."


Down Under Diary - Day Two
After a day of rest yesterday for nearly everyone (some of us were rolling cars on their roofs... more on that later), it was back to work for the Champ Car Community. The teams were getting their garage areas and pit boxes ready for the weekend and the drivers, with their engineers, were busy doing their track walk.
The rookies however had the chance to see the track for the first time aboard a different kind of vehicle: the Adventure Croc land/sea vessel. That wasn't the only treat, a "track" commentary was provided by Jason Bright, a V8 Supercar driver who also ran a Champ Car in 2000. The rookies sat attentively listening to Jason all while taking in the sites around the track. With a lap complete, the "Croc" then headed to Southport to take a quick dip in the water before taking its passengers to Marina Mirage for lunch with some media members.
After judging the sportswear part of the Bartercard Miss Indy (BMI) competition in Brisbane on Tuesday, Bruno Junqueira, Nelson Philippe and Simon Pagenaud were back with the BMI finalists today. This time, they were at the beach and accompanied by Dan Clarke, Mario Dominguez, Oriol Servia and Justin Wilson testing their volleyball skills in a friendly match up between the girls, the Champ Car drivers and some V8 Supercar drivers. The story doesn't really say who won... but if a winner were to be declared it would have to be the heavy winds that made playing beach volleyball quite a challenge! The drivers did enjoy it though.

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Speedcar secure exclusive television rights deal
The Speedcar Series has secured an exclusive deal with media group One-o-One to distribute the worldwide television rights for the all-new series.

The announcement follows quickly from the news earlier this week that Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) organization will provide high-quality F1-style TV feed for the competition when it begins at the Dubai Autodrome on January 26th, 2008.

The distribution deal was revealed at the Sportel Monaco trade show for companies involved in sport media communications on Wednesday (October 17th) and One-o-One are already in discussions with broadcasters from around the world to televise the series.

Massimo Satta, Sales Director of One-o-One, said: "We are overjoyed to have reached this agreement with Speedcar, this is a major achievement for our group. Together with the host feed from FOM TV, I am sure we will be able to provide the best entertainment that motorsport can offer."

Grand Racing Calendar 2007/2008

Round Date Circuit Country Events
1 Jan. 26, 2008 Dubai Autodrome UAE Speedcar Series + GP2 Asia
2 Feb. 17, 2008 Sentul International Track INA Speedcar Series + GP2 Asia
3 Mar. 22, 2008 Sepang International Circuit MAL Speedcar Series + GP2 Asia
4 Apr.  5,  2008 Bahrain International Circuit BHR Speedcar Series + GP2 Asia
5 Apr. 12, 2008 Dubai Autodrome UAE Speedcar Series + GP2 Asia


Ecclestone gives thumbs-up for Speedcar Series
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has given his thumbs-up to the new Speedcar Series, after yesterday it was announced his Formula One Management (FOM) organization would supply TV feed for the championship when it begins in January.

Ecclestone said: "Speedcar have been working extremely hard to put together their championship in a very short time, and I am pleased that FOM TV will be able to work together with them so that their show can be given the platform it deserves to succeed."

[Editor's Note: Recall we told you a long time ago that Bernie created this stock car series behind the scenes and will use it to stop NASCAR's global expansion when he needs to.]


GEM Introduces New Driver Patrick Carpentier
Patrick Carpentier was introduced to the media Tuesday at a press conference prior to the Montreal Canadiens game at the Bell Centre. Foster Gillett welcomed Carpentier on behalf of the Gillett family, who owns the Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club and recently purchased ownership in Gillett Evernham Motorsports. “There is tremendous local support for our hometown sports figures here in Quebec and Canada,” said Foster Gillett. “That is why we wanted to introduce Patrick to the local media and fans here at the Bell Centre.”

Patrick Carpentier

“These past few months have been a dream come true for me,” said Carpentier, driver of the #10 Dodge Avenger [in 2008]. “I look forward to working with the Gillett family, Ray Evernham and my teammates Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler.” Appropriately, the Montreal Canadiens presented Carpentier with a personalized #10 hockey jersey. Clear!Blue/GEM PR

It was hard to tell which was the bigger thrill for Patrick Carpentier - getting a full-time ride in NASCAR or wearing a Montreal Canadiens' No. 10 jersey at the Bell Centre.

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Open-wheel drivers face same challenges as Mario
When reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti attempts to qualify for the Craftsman Truck Series event at Martinsville (3 p.m. ET Saturday, SPEED), he joins a pack of open-wheel standouts already paving the path to stock cars.

Franchitti is preceded in his jump to NASCAR by former open wheelers Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Montoya, Scott Speed and Sam Hornish Jr., among others. A variety of opinions exist as to why these men are making the move.

Andretti in his Daytona 500 winning Ford

"From where I'm sitting, it is probably because of the money [in NASCAR]," said Mario Andretti, a multi-series champion who crossed over to NASCAR and won the 1967 Daytona 500.

"Every individual would give you a different reason. I think the strongest one might be financial. It's not the only motivating factor but it is a strong one. And right now, the best chance to earn some money is NASCAR."

Others appear a bit stumped as to why these drivers, all of whom have won championships in their respective series, would venture into the vastly different world of NASCAR.

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Pascal Vasselon Q+A
Panasonic Toyota’s technical director, Pascal Vasselon has looked ahead to this weekend’s final round of the 2007 Formula One season that will take place at the notorious Interlagos Circuit in Brazil….
What are the main characteristics of Interlagos?
The circuit itself is unique in that it is probably the only track where suspension settings are so important. Normally the main performance factors on an F1 car are aerodynamics and tire usage. At Interlagos it is still about tire usage but suspension settings are clearly a major performance factor due to the bumpy nature of the track. You basically have to find a way to keep your wheels on the ground and so set-up parameters that are secondary everywhere else become key in Brazil.

Do the nature of the bumps change year to year with land movement?
They may change but you know you have to deal with bumps that are well distributed over the whole lap. One especially difficult bump is the one in Turn 11, a quick left-hander. The bump there is more of a problem because of the speed at that part of the track.

Will there be any factors especially relevant to this year’s race?
An interesting thing about going to Sao Paulo in 2007 is the tire choice. Bridgestone has proposed us the two softest compounds - Monaco compounds. But in terms of tire severity, Interlagos is much harder than Monaco so one of the challenges of the weekend will be tire management and we expect the track to be tough on the softer tire in particular. We don’t really expect the very soft compound to be that raceable. It should be okay in qualifying but definitely in the race it will be hard to make it survive.

Does the long, uphill straight have any implications?
Because of it, you might be tempted to go light in terms of downforce but it’s something you simply cannot do, especially if you struggle with traction. It’s a circuit where you have many events with very strong coupling between lateral forces and traction, so if you start to degrade the tires you have to put on more downforce. Usually, therefore, you run higher downforce levels than you would otherwise expect.

Turn 1 seems like a real overtaking opportunity?
The races have shown us that it is one of the places where you can pass. I think everyone well remembers the move by Juan Pablo Montoya on Michael Schumacher in 2001. You can pass there but you need to have good top speed and the move is never easy.

What are the working conditions like in Brazil?
We cannot say that the facilities are outstanding. The most critical factor for us is the limited space available. We really have to think hard about the quantity of spare parts and material that we take to Interlagos because we don’t have enough room. It’s a little bit like Monaco – at some places you have to accept the downsides to go and race there.

Is there a special feeling being in Brazil?
In the last 30 years or so there have been so many Brazilian drivers, and they have won multiple championships - Fittipaldi, Piquet, Senna. It is a nation that cares a lot about motorsport. We enjoy going there because in Brazil there just seems to be more fans than virtually anywhere else– they have a true passion. Motorsport, together with soccer, is important to Brazilians. With the spectators thronging in those big grandstands right opposite the pits you simply cannot miss the Brazilian drivers.


Bourdais Aims to Make History
Although Australia could be the site of something that has never been done before in a top American racing series – four consecutive titles by one driver -- Sebastien Bourdais is focused on another achievement some might consider a lesser feat.  Bourdais, driver of the McDonald’s entry, will remain consistent to his practice of taking it one race at a time and he is focused on aiming to be the first repeat winner in 16-year Lexmark Indy 300 history.  He figures that if he can do that the rest will take care of itself.  He holds a 58 point advantage (301-243) over Justin Wilson and the worst case scenario calls for a 14th place finish or better to clinch the title. 

Sebastien Bourdais

Four championships in a row are very rare in professional sports in fact it has never been done in either NASCAR or NFL and it hasn’t been accomplished in the last twenty years in the NBA, NHL or MLB.   Never one to achieve great heights in order to see his name in records books, his motive has always been to get the most out of the situation and also reward the hard work of those who helped put him in the position to do so and this weekend is no different. 

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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Massa renewal leaves F1 theorists puzzled
  • Title race descends into racist row
  • Rodriguez again tests Spyker at Silverstone
  • Alonso most likely to 'lose nerve' - pundits
  • Mercedes board votes to oust Alonso
  • Trulli advises Alonso against joining Toyota

Massa renewal leaves F1 theorists puzzled
(GMM) The news on Tuesday of Felipe Massa's new Ferrari contract was met by almost universal surprise in F1 circles.

The 26-year-old Brazilian has driven well and won three grands prix this year, but it had been strongly rumored that Fernando Alonso was edging towards a Ferrari deal for 2009 amid high level talks with the Italian marque's president Luca di Montezemolo.

"Everyone here is astonished," Jayme Brito, a producer with Brazil's national TV Globo network, was quoted as responding to the news by the Independent newspaper.

He added: "It is not the proper time for such a thing, and there is a strong suspicion that it may be a smokescreen for other things."

One such theory is that there may be more than meets the eye to Tuesday's 81-word Ferrari press release.

For example, while the team announced that Massa's agreement has been extended through to the end of 2010, it was not specifically made clear that his role must always be as a race driver.

The second sentence of the statement begins with the information that "Felipe has been contracted to the Scuderia since 2001", but Massa only made his grand prix debut in 2002 -- for the Ferrari-powered team Sauber.

He was then Ferrari's test driver in 2003, before returning to Sauber for two more years. Massa only raced a Ferrari for the first time in 2006.

Much has also been made of the tense political situation at Ferrari this year, with Montezemolo supposedly pushing for Ross Brawn to succeed Jean Todt as team boss in preparation for a new era that involves Alonso in the cockpit.

Todt, on the other hand, has previously and publicly lobbied against signing Alonso, while his son Nicolas is Massa's manager.

Spanish 'Diario As' journalist Carlos Miquel on Wednesday concurred that Massa's re-signing through to 2010 is a more than 81-word story.

"The only thing that is for sure is that (Kimi) Raikkonen is now in a weaker position with regards to the possible arrival (at Ferrari) of Alonso in 2009," he wrote.

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Something about those Australian women

Alex Tagliani and wife Bronte

Not only did Nelson Philippe meet the love of his life - Sarah Buller - winner of last year's Miss Indy beauty contest, at Surfers Paradise, Alex Tagliani has special ties to Australia as well.

Back in 2001, Tagliani met the beautiful Australian Bronte Kok while participating in the Bartercard Miss Indy functions. The Bartercard Miss Indy of 2001 not only grabbed his attention, but won his heart, as the two were married in 2003. Since they met, Bronte has not missed a single race. While Tagliani is not superstitious, he does not climb into the car without kissing his wife.


Rocketsports picks up new sponsor

Alex Tagliani

The Rocketsports team is proud to announce a new partnership with Australia-based PBS Equities. PBS Equities is a diversified global property group, and makes investments in the development, construction, and acquisition of signature properties globally. Based in Queensland, Australia, PBS ventures into the world of motorsports with a bang, in the famed Lexmark Indy 300 which sees the Champ Cars roar around the streets of Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia for racing and festival fun. The #8 PBS Equities Champ Car will be a sight to see, as the revived paint scheme on the #8 Rocketsports entry will be unveiled in Australia to introduce PBS Equities to the Champ Car environment and the international market it attracts.


Swimming in Sydney
Jennifer Figge, Champ Car rookie driver Alex Figge’s mother is a long-distance ocean swimmer. Earlier this summer she swam from Elbow Cay to Miami.  Today, she swam the heads of the Sydney harbor.  While the Sydney swim is not necessarily a long swim for Jennifer (seven miles), it is an invigorating challenge as the area is known for currents and Great White Sharks!  It is rare for people to make this swim and had to be approved by the Sydney Harbor.


JV to compete in truck race UPDATE Another NASCAR media lie - first sub-20sec lap..
Phoenix starting grid
Racing series   CHAMPCAR 

Pos  Driver                Nat  Chassis-Engine                Time
 1.  Bryan Herta           USA  Reynard 95-Ford XB          19.785
 2.  Emerson Fittipaldi    BR   Penske 95-Mercedes 108      19.957
 3.  Jacques Villeneuve    CDN  Reynard 95-Ford XB          19.994

10/16/07 Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve will attempt to do something this weekend that he has not previously done in his competitive career: Complete a sub-20-second lap.

Jacques Villeneuve

Villeneuve is entered in the Kroger 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race for Bill Davis Racing at Martinsville Speedway, where lap times hover around the 20-second mark.

Villeneuve tested for Martinsville at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., last week.

"Well, again, it's another circuit that is new to me," said Villeneuve, who has made one Nextel Cup start and two truck series starts this year. "I must admit that I found it fun to drive Caraway last week, and for now, that's my closest reference point.

"I've just got to keep building on the progress to date, to take it one step at a time, and most importantly, to keep focused on finishing - on covering the maximum distance to help me learn as much as I can."

Villeneuve’s publicists said he has driven a lap under 20 seconds only once before. He drove his F1 car on an asphalt "track" laid out the night before on the roof of a multistory car park in Tokyo as a public relations event for one of his team's sponsors - in the rain.

Suffice to say Martinsville could be more daunting for the NASCAR neophyte.

"I can only imagine how busy it will be out there with all the other trucks all fighting for the same few inches of track," Villeneuve said, "and that's one thing that testing cannot prepare you for." Scenedaily


Speedcar schedules to receive F1-quality TV coverage
Speedcar Series fans will be treated to the highest-quality TV coverage of the championship after organizers agreed a TV production deal with Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM). The deal will see F1-style coverage beamed around the world, ensuring that the new series is given the very best possible exposure across the globe.

The FOM-managed broadcasts will begin at the first Speedcar Series round of 2008.

The first Speedcar season will start at the first-ever Grand Racing event together with GP2 Asia at the Dubai Autodrome on January 26, to make certain both championships receive maximum worldwide spotlight. Top Speedcar drivers will be on hand in Bahrain on November 2nd and 3rd and in Dubai on November 16th and 17th to perform demonstration runs in their cars.

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MIS Drives Economy Forward
Michigan International Speedway has an economic impact greater than the Super Bowl, with its marquee NASCAR events raking in $400 million a year, according to an economic study released today.

“Hosting a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series weekend is about so much more than simply hosting a stock car race,” speedway President Roger Curtis said. “It’s about jobs, tourism, national visibility, economic impact and development and a quality of life for Michigan businesses and residents. Michigan International Speedway is a much-needed, financial shot in the arm for this state that takes place on an annual basis. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the community to bring in tourist dollars, generate jobs and support the economy.”

The study, conducted by noted economist Gary Wolfram, Ph.D., shows:

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Andretti on Open Wheelers Moving to NASCAR
  • Mario Andretti: “Experience is always golden … I would try to run Trucks and Busch along the way and speed up the learning curve.”
  • Robin Miller: “NASCAR wins … you just have to bring your helmet and your talent and that’s the way racing is supposed to be.”

When reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series Champion Dario Franchitti attempts to qualify for Saturday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Martinsville Speedway (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET LIVE on SPEED™; pre-race show NCTS Setup 2:30 ET), he joins a pack of open-wheel standouts already paving the path to stock cars.

Franchitti is preceded in his jump to NASCAR by former open wheelers Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Speed and Sam Hornish, Jr., among others.  A variety of opinions exist as to why these men are making the move.

“From where I’m sitting, it is probably because of the money (in NASCAR),” said Mario Andretti, a multi-series champion who crossed over to NASCAR and won the Daytona 500 and is considered by many to be the greatest driver of all time.  “Every individual would give you a different reason.  I think the strongest one might be financial. It’s not the only motivating factor but it is a strong one.   And right now, the best chance to earn some money is NASCAR.”

Others appear a bit stumped as to why these drivers, all of whom have won championships in their respective series, would venture into the vastly different world of NASCAR.

“This makes no sense,” said SPEED reporter Robin Miller.  “Neither Franchitti nor Jacques Villeneuve need the money.  Jacques was making $20 million a year driving Formula One.  These guys have already made it financially and have won major championships, so maybe they look at this as their 401K years.”

Despite the varying opinions as to the motivation behind the open wheelers’ departure to NASCAR, most agree that if open wheel racing currently was a healthier series, this trend would not be in effect.

“Looking at certain drivers who have pretty much been open wheel the majority of their career, if open wheel was what it should be, I don’t think they’d even be thinking of leaving,” Andretti said.

“Open-wheel racing is such a dead industry now,” lamented Miller.  “It’s so hard to get money and there’s so little sponsorship.  Right now, Champ Car and the IRL have only limited seats in which drivers can make a decent living.  Open wheel racing hasn’t provided a platform for these guys to succeed, especially these young kids.

“When I go to the sprint car races, all these kids are talking about the NASCAR development deals,” he continued.  “They’re not even looking at the Indy 500 because they know it’s a dead end and they have no chance unless they have $4 or $5 million to bring to the table.  Again, NASCAR wins because it has a viable ladder system in place that is supportive and you can be taken right to the top.  You just have to bring your helmet and your talent and that’s the way racing is supposed to be.”

Despite all the talent and accolades these drivers hold, anytime the new kid on the block comes knocking on the door, he usually has to prove himself first.
“I thought it might be hard to be accepted (in NASCAR) but it really wasn’t because across the board, the racing community has camaraderie,” Andretti said.  “Among the drivers, I never felt like I was out of place or not accepted.  If you earn your respect and you don’t do stupid things, and you show that you have respect for them and you do well, you’ll be respected back.

“These guys are well-established in their field and the drivers know the quality of driver they’re dealing with,” Andretti continued.  “These guys are not fools - they’re not going to do stupid things.  There was a lot of speculation about Juan Montoya at first and all that was dispelled pretty quickly and I think it’s going to be the same with these guys.  If you’re going to make the move and make the commitment, you’ve got to deal with all these elements.”

Being welcomed by the NASCAR fans might prove a more challenging order, though. 

“It (acceptance) is more of a fan situation because I’m beginning to think NASCAR is purely an American sport,” Andretti sport.

“But that’s why it works - Americans want to cheer for Americans,” Miller explained.   “When CART was in its heyday in the early and mid-90s and had Franchitti and Christian Fittipaldi, they were great world-class drivers, but there were still Americans like Robby Gordon, Scott Pruett, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Jr.  It was a great melting pot of talent. The people that went to the CART races loved the fact that there were great foreign drivers there but you’re talking about a whole different animal in NASCAR.”

 Even if every NASCAR fan in America embraces this rush of foreign and open wheel drivers, the welcome mat will not teach these newcomers the idiosyncrasies of piloting a stock car.  Patience and learning to finesse the heavy machines are two of the toughest lessons to master.

“When Paul Tracy drove the Busch races last year, he said it’s different because you can’t be that aggressive and you have to be patient,” said Miller.  “NASCAR races are not one-and-a-half or two-hour races like these open wheel guys are used to.  You can’t go for the throat and run as hard as you can the whole race.  These guys have to focus on conserving tires, staying awake, making 9,000 pit stops and trying not to crash.  Franchitti is a very patient guy and it might play to his strengths because he’s got 500-mile races to get the car dialed in.”

Demanding more from the car than it is capable of giving can be one of the pitfalls awaiting these open wheel newcomers.

“From a driver’s standpoint, especially a seasoned driver like Dario Franchitti, it’s probably overdriving the car (the toughest thing to learn),” Andretti analyzed.  “This is one of the first things we talked about when Juan Montoya came in.  When he figures it out, the better he’s going to be.  There have been times when he’s gotten the best of himself because an open wheel racer is used to a lot higher speed, a lot more cornering force and they have a tendency to really barrel in and waste the lap time sliding around.   That’s what I experienced myself.  It’s all about containing yourself and trying to give it (the car) only all it will accept.”

A good place to hone these much-needed skills is in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

“I think it’s a good place to learn in the Trucks,” Andretti said.  “I think Dario is doing the right thing there.  What he learns will be very beneficial when he gets to the Cup car.  Experience is always golden.  If I were doing it, I would try to run Trucks and Busch along the way and try to speed up the learning curve.”
With all this new information to keep in mind, what is a sufficient amount of time to adjust to this new series and race car?

“It’s a learning curve,” Miller said.  “These guys will get enough testing and the right kind of testing.  The tough thing with Franchitti and Montoya is they will look to their teammate to lean on and he’s young.  They don’t have someone who’s been around 20 years to tell them about the tracks, the tires, the gears and the strategy.

“As far as the owners are concerned, even if you’ve got someone to be patient with you – Sam Hornish does with Roger Penske and he’s not going to throw Sam out after one or two years,” Miller continued.  “Whereas, will Chip Ganassi be patient with Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti? Don’t bet on it.”

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series broadcast schedule on SPEED:

• NCTS Qualifying (Oct. 20, 11 a.m. ET LIVE)
• NCTS Setup pre-race show (Oct. 20, 2 :30 p.m. ET LIVE)
• NCTS Race (Oct. 20, 3 p.m. ET LIVE)

SPEED, now in nearly 78 million homes in North America, is the exclusive home of the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge, Gatorade Duels at Daytona, NASCAR Nextel Pit Crew Challenge and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The only network delivering  live, at-track programming all season long, SPEED offers the definitive pre- and post-race NASCAR Nextel Cup Series programs – NASCAR RaceDay and NASCAR Victory Lane, as well as other popular NASCAR programs including Trackside Live, Tradin’ Paint, NASCAR Performance, NASCAR Live!, Inside Nextel Cup, NASCAR Setup,  Go or Go Home and The Chase is On.

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