Hot News
for your iPhone
for your iPad
Go to our forums to discuss this news
DATE News (chronologically)
Miller: Is George a caretaker or an undertaker? Miller: Is George a caretaker or an undertaker?In his latest SPEEDTV.com article, Robin Miller calls on Tony George to give up the ghost on the IRL and take the sport of Indy Car Racing back to 1995 when it was prospering. So the time has come for the only sensible solution to this mind-numbing, ego-fueled, insane standoff between the IRL and Champ Car. It's simple. It's practical. It's worked before.

Go back to 1995. The Hulman-George family manages the Indianapolis 500 and Champ Car runs everything else.

It's good for everyone concerned.

In a twisted way, George can still be a hero in this deal. Tony Hulman's grandson can talk about providing opportunity for guys like Tony Stewart and Steve Kinser and creating some of the closest, craziest competition ever seen. For a couple seasons, he did have the American short-tracker back at 16th & Georgetown. But, in the long-term, they've all vanished along with the crowds, the teams, the manufacturers, the energy, the buzz and that fragile formula that made Indianapolis such a treasure.

Tony can say that one series is in the best interests of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and open wheel racing. He'd be telling the truth and look very wise in doing so. After all, he's supposed to be the caretaker of the Indianapolis 500 -- not the undertaker. And he can breath some life into open wheel before it's too late.

IRL boat anchor For Sale IRL boat anchor For SaleSo far there are zero bids on eBay for this old IRL engine block that would make a perfect boat anchor.  And since it's aluminum it won't rust in the water.  An alternate use might be as a flower planter.  Just fill the cylinder sleeves with some soil and your favorite plants and presto the old engine gets some new life in it.
2005 ’Year of Liquidators’ for the IRL 2005 ’Year of Liquidators’ for the IRLThis website shows the three IRL teams that were liquidated in 2005 and we hear others are teetering the same fate.  We certainly hope this wasn't part of Tony George's vision for Indy Car Racing. Some are calling 2005 The Year of the Liquidator for the IRL. We continue to ask but have never heard what was the purpose of creating the IRL other than a power play to control the sport. We're 10 years on and the sport is whistling past the grave and the IRL continues to send drivers whistling past their own graves with horrifying accidents. This is progress?
A1 Grand Prix
Mazda Raceway confirms A1GP race Mazda Raceway confirms A1GP raceThe United States round of the inaugural A1 Grand Prix of Nations™ has been confirmed for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on March 10-12, 2006.

“We are pleased to be able to confirm the A1 Grand Prix as the opener for our 50th season of racing,” said Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO/General Manager Gill Campbell. “With new events such as the A1GP race, plus two prestigious sports car races, the Rolex Monterey Historic weekend and the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, our 50th anniversary schedule captures the traditions of this race track and the future of motorsports all at once.”

The A1 Grand Prix pits twenty-five national teams racing identical, 520-horsepower (550 in the limited-use PowerBoost mode) open-wheel cars with no electronic driver aids in what is essentially the “World Cup of Motorsport.” Each car is painted in the colors of the home country, with championship points being awarded to the national team as opposed to an individual driver.

At each venue, the countries “nominate” drivers to compete each weekend. As a result, team drivers can change from race to race and even during the course of the weekend’s activities. All drivers compete in identical “spec” cars and on the same Cooper tires making driver skill the deciding variable of success.

The inaugural season of the A1 Grand Prix of Nations™ began in late September of 2005 at Brands Hatch in Great Britain. The U.S. stop will be the penultimate round in the 11-race championship. Other stops include Portugal, Australia, Malaysia and China as the series “follows the sun.”

Tickets are on sale now for the A1 Grand Prix of Nations™ as well as the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix to be held July 21-23. All other events on the 2006 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca schedule will go on sale January 9th, including the U.S. Sports Car Invitational featuring the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series May 5-7, the 33rd Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races August 18-20 and the Monterey Sports Car Championships featuring the American Le Mans Series October 20-22.

Tickets and more information are available by calling (800) 327-SECA or on-line at www.laguna-seca.com.

Industry News
The 120th birthday of the automobile nearing The 120th birthday of the automobile nearing
• January 29, 1886: Karl Benz applied for a patent for his Motor Car
• The vehicle’s holistic design makes it the first automobile
• Mercedes-Benz remains oriented to this originality even today

Stuttgart. The automobile celebrates its 120th birthday on January 29th. On this date in 1886 Karl Benz applied for a patent for his motorized vehicle. With the German Reich Patent No. 37435a, granted in November of the same year, his Patent Motor Car, as this three-wheeled vehicle has since been known, received official recognition as the world’s first automobile.

It was the individualized technology that secured the Benz Patent Motor Car this status. Unlike other inventors, Benz did not merely install an internal combustion engine into an existing coach chassis, thereby making it capable of autonomous motion (Greek/latin: auto/mobil). His design extended to the entire vehicle: It was quite clear to him that a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine was subject to engineering principles quite different from those applying to a horse-drawn carriage.

Benz created innovative technology with classic engineering methods: a small horizontal, single-cylinder four-stroke engine running on gasoline, electric ignition, carburetor, water-cooled radiator, steering and a tubular frame. With these features, the first motor car came into being in 1886.

It was the Benz Motor Car’s holistic design that made it worthy of a patent. The vehicle is thus an absolute original: all automobiles produced since that time stand in the tradition of the Patent Motor Car. Originality – a quality that constitutes the basis of the entire brand philosophy. This finds its unique and highly diversified expression in the New Mercedes-Benz Museum, to be opened in May 2006.

The further biography of the Patent Motor Car is history. Three vehicles were completed by 1888. One was secretly taken out by Bertha Benz, the inventor’s wife, who drove it with her sons 100 kilometers from Mannheim to Pforzheim; this journey earned the vehicle much publicity, and Benz sold a number of cars to customers as a result. A four-wheeled vehicle, the Benz “Victoria”, followed in 1893. This again incorporated numerous innovations, including double-pivot steering, which is still employed in today’s automobiles. And so it continues: with each new vehicle, the automobile improves just that much more – to this very day.

'06 Skip Barber National Series schedule '06 Skip Barber National Series scheduleThe Skip Barber National Presented by RACER released its 2006 schedule today. The 14-race open-wheel championship plans to open at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in March, supporting the A1GP headliner. The 2006 schedule reflects a doubling of the number of race weekends where the Skip Barber National will support large, successful spectator events – four, compared to two in ’04 and ’05.

‘‘Two big shows with Grand-Am, the inaugural A1GP event, the return of Champ Car to Road America – these are all tremendous venues for our young racers to show what they’ve got, in front of both savvy race fans and professional team owners and managers,’’ said Todd Snyder, race series director.

The double-race format of the National means there are seven race weekends comprising the 2006 championship:

2006 Schedule, Skip Barber National Presented by RACER
March 11-12 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with A1GP (t)
April 22-23 VIR with Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series
May 19-20 Lime Rock Park July tbd Road America
August 5-6 Trois-Rivières with Grand-Am Cup
September 2-3 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
September 23-24 Road America with Champ Car ‘‘

We’re going to shortly confirm the A1GP and the July Road America events,’’ added Snyder. Snyder also said that in addition to the $100,000 title bonus, the National expects to announce soon a significant year-end cash prize fund for the top points scorers. ‘‘We’re really firm in our desire to keep the National the tremendous value it’s always been – a full season will cost a competitor well under $40,000,’’ Snyder said.

‘‘With a cash season-end prize fund, a driver’s net expenditure can be even less than that.’’ Now in its eighth year, the Skip Barber National Presented by RACER is the leading professional steppingstone series for drivers making the move into open-wheel race cars – as well as the next step for top drivers coming out of the Skip Barber Regional Race Series. SCCA regional and national open-wheel drivers with pro aspirations are also drawn to the Skip Barber National.

Gerardo Bonilla is the 2005 champion (he joins the Anderson-Walko Star Mazda pro series team for 2006), following ‘04 Skip Barber National champion Marco Andretti (a full 2006 IRL season after his 2005 success in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series). Scott Speed, who’ll drive for the Red Bull-owned Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 team in 2006, is also a graduate of the Skip Barber National.

Q and A with Tyler Tadevic of PCM Q and A with Tyler Tadevic of PCM
BMW announces diesel race car BMW announces diesel race carBMW will make a racing version of the new diesel powered 120 for all FIA recognized Group N touring car series. The racing kit is expected to cost 95,000 euros when it goes on sale in March 2006 and is available from BMW Racing Parts.

The 245 bhp racing model was developed by BMW Motorsport and is suited to both rally racing and endurance events across the globe. Like its production counterpart, the turbocharged four-cylinder inline diesel engine driving the 120d race version is also coming from BMW Motoren GmbH Steyr in Austria.

BMW is thus perpetuating its customer racing tradition in the year 2006. After the BMW 320i E46 took both the Manufacturers and the Drivers title in the 2005 WTCC, next year will see numerous private teams lining up alongside the BMW national teams to contest the FIA WTCC with its successor model, the BMW 320si.

Remarkably, to date, 114 kits of the E46 series forerunner have been sold around the world by BMW Racing Parts.

In extending its product range with the new BMW 120d, BMW is driving forward its successful concept of offering 200-plus customer teams around the globe a wide range of opportunities to gather racing experience and successes. In addition to the recently unveiled version, with its flared wings modeled on the 320si built for the WTCC, the 120d will also be available with slightly modified bodywork to meet the FIA regulations for Group N.

Champ Car officials excited about 2007 prospects Champ Car officials excited about 2007 prospectsWhile not discounting the importance of the upcoming season, Champ Car World Series officials already are looking ahead to 2007 and the possibility of a growth spurt.

Car count has been stuck at or near 18 since the relaunch of the bankrupt CART series under new management in 2004. Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven doesn't expect any more than that when the 2006 season opens in April at Long Beach, Calif., but he points to two recent developments as reasons to expect significant change in 2007.

The first is a new Panoz chassis and Cosworth engine package that brings with it the prospect of lower costs and better racing on the road and street circuits that are the staple of the Champ Car schedule. That announcement in October virtually guaranteed no new teams would come on board in 2006 because it would require the purchase of cars soon to become obsolete.

Kalkhoven's second reason for optimism is the growth of the Atlantic Series, which he believes not only will train more drivers for Champ Car but will spawn more owners eager to move up, as Carl Russo did in 2004 with his now well-established RuSPORT team.

"A key element for us is the Atlantic Series. I'm thrilled with the way it's developing," Kalkhoven said. "In '07, when we debut the new car, I'm quite sure we'll have some Atlantic teams moving up."

Despite the loss of Toyota as engine supplier and title sponsor, business is booming in the 33-year-old Atlantic Series. With affordable annual budgets of around $500,000 and Kalkhoven putting up a $2 million prize for the champion, more than 40 Cosworth-powered cars have been sold and fields of at least 35 are being predicted. Indy Star

IPS Series
No gain for beleaguered IPS No gain for beleaguered IPSAndretti Green Racing announced a two-car team for the Indy Racing League's Pro Series, but it won't be an addition to the car count. That's because AGR simply is partnering with Sam Schmidt Motorsports in an effort to gain extra test days for the Indy-car program, a perk recently provided by the IRL.

Schmidt fielded three Pro Series cars last year and intends to field AGR's two cars plus one of his own in 2006.

"For us, it's a wash," Pro Series spokesman Tim Harms said. AGR's Pro Series drivers will be Jaime Camara, who finished fifth in the series last season as a rookie, and Jonathan Klein, whose father, Rick, chairman and CEO of Klein Tools, has sponsored the team since 1994. Indy Star

Who was the best American F1 driver? Who was the best American F1 driver?UPDATE Added photos of all three drivers below. 12/29/05 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Who was the best American F1 driver? Dan Dalton, Philadelphia, PA Dear Dan, Here are some statistics of the top-3 Americans that raced in Formula 1. Mario Andretti led every category. He also excelled in IndyCars/Champ Cars so who was best overall is without question. Mark C.

Category Mario Andretti Phil Hill Dan Gurney
Active years  1968 - 1982  1958 - 1966  1959 - 1970
World Champion?  1978  1961  Best 4th
GP started  128  48  86
Wins  12  3  4
Podium places  19  16  19
Pole positions  18  6  3
Front row  24  9  22
Fastest laps  10  6  6
Points  180  98  133
Laps raced  5,279  2,416  3,678
Miles raced  14,670  8,631  12,885
Grand Prix Led  22  9  16
Laps led  798  171  200
Miles led  2,144  917  954

Williams 'calmer' without BMW - Webber Williams 'calmer' without BMW - WebberMark Webber has painted a rosy picture of life after BMW at Sir Frank Williams' grand prix team.

The Australian driver, 29 - although initially worried about the loss of works power and the arrival of Cosworth - reported that things are now 'calmer' without the German carmaker.

''The atmosphere is certainly calmer,'' Webber said, according to wire reports in the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne's The Age.

Earlier this year, Mark urged Sir Frank to make a 'clean break' despite BMW's offer of a customer engine. ''I think it could be better to have a new start,'' the driver advised.

Like V8 engine supplier Cosworth, Williams has also welcomed a new tire supplier - Bridgestone - for 2006, as well as a rookie in the form of Nico Rosberg.

But Mark Webber said Grove-based Williams has set 'big targets' for the New Year 'and I'm sure we can deliver'.

20-year-old Rosberg, meanwhile, is also in an upbeat mood. He told F1 Racing magazine that his strongest point is dueling in races.

''When there's someone in front,'' the German said, ''there's no way he's going to get away.''

Schu hails '06 rulebook Schu hails '06 rulebookDethroned world champion Michael Schumacher has hailed formula one's new '06 look.

The German, who last season failed to win the drivers' title for the first time this century, welcomed the advent of 2.4 liter V8 engines and the axe of the one-tire per race rule.

''We can draw advantages out of the new rules,'' Ferrari's number one driver, to turn 37 next Tuesday, told his official website.

Schumacher called finishing third to Renault's Fernando Alonso and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen a 'miracle' with his '05 car.

''But it is not my style to sit around and wait for miracles,'' he added.

Michael explained: ''At Ferrari, everyone is pushing to the maximum to start winning again. That's our primary desire.''

However, the FIA's '06 rulebook will also help, the seven time drivers' champion conceded.

Denying that the rules leaned in Ferrari's favor, he confessed that the engine and tire shake-up would not 'unfavorably' affect them.

''We seem to have done a good job with the change to V8 engines. And that we can again change tires during the grands prix could also help us in certain ways,'' the F1 driver said.

For one, Schumacher - in 2006 - is unlikely to run out of tread on his Bridgestone boots towards the end of a race.

''That was one of our problems this year,'' Michael admitted, ''that contributed to us being much too slow.''

Button ’20/1’ to win ’06 title Button ’20/1’ to win ’06 titleThe likelihood that Jenson Button will become 2006 F1 champion is 20/1, according to betting shop operator and bookmaker William Hill.

The UK-based gambling service has now opened the annual book on possible events for next year, with Britain's Honda driver given an unconvincing vote of confidence to beat the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.

One bet tipped to come true, however, involves golfer Tiger Woods -- at 10/11 to 'win no majors', however he is also at 66/1 to win four.

A bet on any Premier League football player caught speeding at 133mph is fetching 3/1, while a 4/1 bet is that Harry Potter will die in the series' seventh book.

At 100/1 is a 'proof that the 1969 lunar landings never happened' bet, while proof that Elvis Presley is still alive is a wager worth 5000/1.

Ron aims fire at McLaren drivers Ron aims fire at McLaren driversJust as the F1 world drew breath at Fernando Alonso's Renault-to-McLaren bombshell, Ron Dennis aimed a curve-ball at his silver clad team's current driver pair.

The Woking-based team principal said that while Renault and Alonso 'did the job' from the word go in 2005, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya perhaps had more to do with McLaren's early problems than once thought.

''Our drivers,'' Dennis told the 'Guardian' newspaper, ''psychologically overreacted to problems at the first round of the world championship and definitely didn't respond to the pressure.''

At the Melbourne opener in March, Montoya and Raikkonen finished just sixth and eighth. Colombian Montoya spun, and later bumped into a Jordan, damaging the car.

Finland's Kimi, meanwhile, stalled at the start, and also lost a barge board after on off-track moment.

However, at the next race in Malaysia, Raikkonen was the fastest man in the GP, but he only finished ninth after a tire valve failed after a stop.

Ron said in the English 'paper: ''It was all a bit frustrating. In most seasons, 10 race wins would have been good enough to clinch the world championship quite early in the season.''

BMW Sauber 'wants to win' - Heidfeld BMW Sauber 'wants to win' - HeidfeldPeter Sauber may have taken a back seat, and BMW may have forked out the cash, but not a lot has changed at Sauber since he last drove for the team, according to 2001-2003 driver Nick Heidfeld.

Now, the revitalized German - back in the F1 spotlight after an impressive Williams drive this year - is BMW Sauber's blue eyed boy.

The welcoming atmosphere at Hinwil may not have changed, but 28-year-old Heidfeld reckons the will to win definitely has.

''When I first came here,'' 'Quick Nick' - referring to 2001 alongside Kimi Raikkonen - said, ''everyone gave their best but you felt that the chance of victory was very small.

''Now, we all want to win.''

Nick Heidfeld still lives just a fifteen minute drive from Sauber's HQ in Switzerland, and he described driving to Hinwil for a BMW seat fitting as 'like coming home'.

''Basically, the same structure and the same staff are still here,'' he explained, referring to the recent BMW takeover.

And, even if the German carmaker intends to pump up the team workforce and develop the Hinwil base, Heidfeld reckons Sauber will 'always remain Sauber'.

He said: ''The real difference now is that if we see something that can be improved, we can do it. Before, it was simply not possible to make big jumps.

''That is the one of the biggest advantages of being a works team.''

New Midland ’looks radical’ - Monteiro New Midland ’looks radical’ - MonteiroTiago Monteiro is looking forward to getting at the wheel of Midland's 2006 F1 racer. The Portuguese driver, who will race for the MF1 team next year despite the lack of official confirmation, said he has spotted the so-called 'M16' at the factory.

''In the wind tunnel it looks very radical and modern,'' 29-year-old Monteiro enthused to the f1grandprix.it website.

''Basically it looks good and quick -- let's see how it is on the track soon.''

The 2005 Jordan driver, who is backed by the Portuguese government, hopes the Silverstone-based team - owned by Alex Shnaider - will progress from the very rear of the grid in 2006.

But he admitted that whether M16 will be a regular points scorer 'is still very unknown'.

''I think we could get a good upgrade soon after (the car's launch) as well,'' Tiago revealed. ''Personally I want to do better than last year.''

The scrapping of the one-tire per race rule should, at least, help tire supplier Bridgestone, as will the arrival of
Top teams Toyota and Williams to the Japanese camp.

Monteiro agreed: ''Most definitely it will be better for (Bridgestone).

''It will be a better year.''

Racing News
CART liquidation delayed for more voters CART liquidation delayed for more votersUPDATE Championship Auto Racing Teams stockholders today approved the company's plan of liquidation and dissolution.  The company filed a certificate of dissolution with the Delaware Secretary of State. The company also announced that its board of directors approved a cash distribution of 29 cents per share to stockholders of record at the close of business today.  

12/16/05 Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (the "Company") (CPNT.PK) announced that its Special Meeting of Stockholders held on December 13, 2005 to vote on the approval of the Company's Plan of Liquidation and Dissolution was adjourned to allow stockholders additional time to vote. The meeting will reconvene at 10:00 a.m., Columbus, Ohio time, on December 29, 2005 at the offices of Baker & Hostetler LLP, 65 East State Street, Suite 2100, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

To date, stockholders have voted a total of approximately 6.37 million shares, of which approximately 6.31 million shares, representing about 43% of the Company's outstanding shares on the record date for the Special Meeting, have been voted in favor of the proposed Plan of Liquidation and Dissolution. Under Delaware law, the Plan of Liquidation and Dissolution must be approved by at least 50% of the Company's outstanding shares on the record date for the Special Meeting.

When the Special Meeting reconvenes, if you have submitted a proxy, your shares will be voted according to your direction. You have the power to revoke or revise your proxy at any time before it is voted at the reconvened Special Meeting by submitting a written notice of revocation to our President or by timely providing us with a valid proxy bearing a later date. Your proxy will not be voted if you attend the Special Meeting and elect to vote your shares in person (although attendance at the Special Meeting will not, in and of itself, revoke a proxy).

The Company urges stockholders who have not already done so to vote by Internet, telephone or mail (as described on the proxy card) as soon as possible. Stockholders who have questions or need more information about the Special Meeting should contact Thomas L. Carter, Chief Financial Officer at (317) 715-4196.

Patrick Carpentier Joins Cheever and Fittipaldi at Rolex 24 at Daytona Patrick Carpentier Joins Cheever and Fittipaldi at Rolex 24 at DaytonaIndianapolis, Ind. - Canadian driver Patrick Carpentier will join Eddie Cheever Jr. and Christian Fittipaldi in driving the No. 39 Cheever Racing Lexus Crawford at the 2006 Rolex 24 at Daytona, announced team owner Eddie Cheever Jr. today.

"I really enjoyed the test with Cheever Racing before Christmas," said Patrick who drove for Cheever Racing's IndyCar Series team in 2005. "It was the first time I ever set foot inside the Daytona track or drove a Daytona Prototype. We have a lot of learning to do, in a short time, but a race car is a race car. It will be fun to drive with Eddie and Christian in this historical event."

A favorite of Canadian sports fans, the 34-year-old native, of Joliette, Quebec, will add a new chapter to his racing history by participating in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In 2005, Carpentier drove in his first Indianapolis 500 and finished 10th overall in the IndyCar Series championship with two third-place finishes. Also to his record, Carpentier has five career wins in the Champ Car Series from 1997 to 2004 and is the winner of the 1996 Toyota Atlantic Championship.

"Last year Patrick won a lot of fans at Cheever Racing with his fast, yet skilled driving, and his sense of humor always keeps us smiling" Cheever said. "I am pleased he will be joining us for this event. With our driver lineup confirmed I feel confident heading into Daytona, I am just getting a little tired of the "old" guy comments now that I am teamed with the two young guns Patrick and Christian." zzzz

Carpentier will test at the 3.56-mile Daytona International Raceway road circuit in preparation for his first ever Daytona event during the annual Daytona Test Days, Jan. 4-7. Eddie Cheever Jr. and Christian Fittipaldi will also attend the test where Cheever Racing will make its final on-track preparations for its first entry in the famed Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The 44th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona is Jan. 26-29 at Daytona International Raceway.

Industry News
GM shares plummet to 20-year low GM shares plummet to 20-year lowGeneral Motors Corp.'s shares touched their lowest price in more than twenty years on Thursday, in keeping with the rough road the world's largest automaker has seen in 2005 and uncertainty about the future.

An expected weak end to GM's U.S. sales year, a possible change in pension accounting that could erase most shareholder equity and investors taking their losses in the stock to offset gains in other investments drove GM shares to a new low on Thursday, analysts said.

GM shares slipped as low as $18.33 and were still off 11 cents at $18.50 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

"We have today and tomorrow as the last trading sessions of the year. With the stock being down so far, you would be looking at a little bit of tax selling to harvest those capital losses to offset gains in other areas," Argus Research analyst Kevin Tynan said.

"I wouldn't say it's any one issue or any one news item. It's a combination of what's being going on ... with the timing of having two days left," he added, also referring to an expected weak December U.S. sales report next week and the possible hit from a change in U.S. pension accounting rules. More at Reuters

ISC, SMI stocks plummet on NASCAR TV deal news ISC, SMI stocks plummet on NASCAR TV deal newsUPDATE While NASCAR continues to celebrate its new eight-year, $4.48 billion television contract, investors aren't so sure it's a good deal. The new agreement represents nearly a 40% increase over the current contract, but some wonder whether NASCAR got enough. Even NASCAR chairman Brian France admits NASCAR will never catch the National Football League as the most popular sport on television. But at No. 2, stock-car racing could have demanded more, said one financial analyst. "We believe the announced contract is on the low end of the expectations," said Joseph Hovorka of Raymond James Financial. NASCAR will get about $400 million a year once the new contract starts in 2007. That's well short of the projected $573 figure Wall Street expected. Once the contract was signed, some Wall Street companies recommend its clients sell shares of International Speedway Corp., the company that owns half the race tracks in NASCAR. ISC dropped $5.70 a share when the contract was announced two weeks ago and hasn't recovered. Augusta Chronicle

12/08/05 The stocks of Int’l Speedway Corp. (ISC) and Speedway Motorsports (SMI) today fell on reaction to NASCAR’s $4.48B TV rights deals that “some felt should have been significantly higher.” Raymond James analyst Joseph Hovorka said the contract “is at the low end of expectations and [Wall] Street will view this as a disappointment” AP Story At press time, shares of ISC, which at one point today hit a new 52-week low of $45.90, were down 12% to $46.60, while SMI shares were down 11% $34.62 THE DAILY

Dyson Racing's Return Engagement to Grand-Am with Howard Motorsports Dyson Racing's Return Engagement to Grand-Am with Howard MotorsportsRacing is not necessarily a business known for long-term successful collaborations.  But Dyson Racing remains unique for its lasting partnerships, and for 2006  the team will continue their Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series  effort with Crawford Race Cars and Howard Motorsports. Starting with the January 28th  Rolex 24 at Daytona, Rob Dyson and Chris Dyson will race the #16 Thetford/Norcold Pontiac Crawford Daytona Prototype at a total of six selected events in 2006. 

"We ran five Rolex Series races last year with Rick Howard and Max Crawford's team," explained Rob Dyson, team principal.  "It was educational, fun, and challenging, but most of all, a year that increased our respect for their organization.  They won three races and placed third in the championship with Butch (Leitzinger, also one of the Dyson team drivers). Few teams understand the chemistry needed for a successful effort. They do." 

"I am excited about our association with the Dyson family," said Rick Howard, president of Howard Motorsports.  "We are looking forward to a wonderful season and a long term relationship as partners in the Grand American Rolex Series."  zzzz

Added Max Crawford, "Our off-season testing program this winter has been successful and our entire organization is anticipating a great 2006 season.  Their driver lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona is stellar and should be very competitive.  With the engineering input from the Dyson group, we look forward to strengthening our overall program." 

"Max Crawford has been working with Dyson Racing since the early nineties," noted Chris Dyson.  "He is a valued member of the extended Dyson racing family.  It was an honor for me to give the Crawford Race Cars its first win in 2002.  Their team knows how to win and we learned a lot in a short period of time working together last year." 

In addition to the Daytona 24 Hour where the Dysons will be joined in the cockpit by Oliver Gavin and Guy Smith, they will be racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway (March 25), Virginia International Raceway (April 23), Watkins Glen (June 3), Daytona International Raceway (June 29), and Watkins Glen again on August 11. These are all tracks that have been very successful for Dyson Racing in the past.

Michael will never race with another team Michael will never race with another teamOverlooking the dominance of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in 2005, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has nominated an old favorite to reclaim the championship next year.

The 75-year-old F1 supremo reckons Michael Schumacher, deposed last season despite winning with Ferrari between 2000-2004, will return to the top with a V8-powered scarlet car.

''He will be the favorite,'' Bernie told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Ecclestone rejected theories that Schumacher is nearing the end of a fifteen-year F1 career, suggesting that the German is as hungry and motivated as ever to win.

''I don't see him tired enough to think about retiring,'' the diminutive Briton explained to the Italian sports newspaper.

''He races because he enjoys it. He has gone beyond the money barrier.''

The sport's 'CEO' and so-called impresario also dismissed speculation that Michael could live out his career in a different team, like Red Bull.

Ecclestone explained: ''With Ferrari and their men he's built a strong, loving relationship. He will never race with another team.''

Derhaag Motorsports announces Rolex Series plans Derhaag Motorsports announces Rolex Series plansDerhaag Motorsports has announced its full time entry into the Daytona Prototype category of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Association.  No stranger to the series, having qualified on the GTS pole for the 2003 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the team has signed top drivers Chris Bingham and Randy Ruhlman to drive the #40 Preformed Line Products Pontiac Riley. The team has added racecar engineer Buddy Fey and has slated top Chevrolet factory driver Ron Fellows to complete the driver lineup for the longer races.

"I am thrilled to have the whole team returning this year, with some excellent additions,” says team owner Jim Derhaag.  “Last year, everything jelled.  The crew worked hard, Randy won races; things just clicked.  My team has raced in the Trans Am Series since 1982, and obviously, we are very saddened to see that Series go away.  This move to Grand American with the Daytona Prototype is a milestone for us. The series is growing rapidly, and the knowledge and experience within Grand-Am is phenomenal.  These cars have state-of-the-art technology and are driven by world-class drivers.  We are excited to have such a great driver lineup for this year, with Randy and Chris as our full time drivers for 2006, and Ron coming in for the longer races.  We are very excited about our future here!”

“We had a great year in 2005 in Trans-Am, but we've also been looking at Grand American for a while now," said Ruhlman, driver of the 2005 #49 Preformed Line Products Corvette for Derhaag Motorsports. "We were all set to run for the Trans-Am Championship this year, but when things collapsed at the last minute with Champ Car and Trans-Am, Jim Derhaag found a great opportunity for the team to move up to the Daytona Prototypes.  The Rolex Series is a series that seems to be a natural for Derhaag Motorsports.  They have the teamwork, exceptional organization, and a well-deserved reputation for putting together fast, reliable cars that give their drivers every chance of winning.  That's exactly what it takes to succeed at these long races.  This format will be a new experience for me and I'm excited to be teamed up with a driver of Chris' caliber.” zzzz

Joining Derhaag Motorsports after several successful seasons in Grand American is Chris Bingham, the 2001 and 2002 Rolex Series GTS Champion. “Following a turbulent season both owning and driving the #15 CB Motorsports Pontiac Riley and never quite reaching the levels of performance and results I felt we were capable of, this new opportunity is a welcome relief.  I am in this series to race and to win and that is all,” said Bingham. “Owning the team last year distracted me from my goals and it became apparent I needed someone to handle the car and team and let me focus on the track.  Jim and Derhaag Motorsports are the perfect fit for me, as they have such a strong reputation and pedigree.  I have no doubt that 2006 will prove to be far more satisfying than last year.  Driving with Randy and Ron next year will be a real treat and will undoubtedly help me push my game to a new level.  Working with Jim, Buddy and the entire crew will be a privilege and I look forward to a successful and enjoyable 2006 season.  I’d also like to thank KeyBank, McDonald Financial Group, Centurion Financial Group, Park Place Ltd, and Gatorz eyewear for their support this coming year.”

Stewart to coach hockey team Stewart to coach hockey teamTony Stewart will add another accomplishment Jan. 6 to his impressive career resume - hockey coach.  2005 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner Stewart, a native and resident of Columbus, Ind., will serve as "Honorary Assistant Coach" of the Indiana Ice against the Sioux Falls Stampede on Friday, Jan. 6 at the Pepsi Coliseum, located at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Game time is 7 p.m. (local time).

The Ice will announce "lucky rows" throughout the game, and fans seated in those rows will have the opportunity to meet reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Stewart and get an autograph.

The Tony Stewart Foundation, which supports numerous local and national youth-focused charitable causes, will benefit from the game as the Ice will pledge $2 from every ticket sold to the Foundation.

In addition, the Ice will raffle two collectible jerseys during the game, and the winners will meet Stewart and get an autograph. A silent auction also will take place, with proceeds going to the Tony Stewart Foundation.

"I've been a big fan of hockey since I attended a Dallas Stars game in Texas several years ago, but having the opportunity to support my hometown team and sit right on the ice will be a very cool experience," Stewart said. "I'm looking forward to greeting the fans and the Ice players, and my thanks go to the whole organization for supporting the Tony Stewart Foundation."

J.D. Byrider, a longtime Stewart backer, is sponsoring the night.

Tickets for J.D. Byrider Night with Stewart and the Indiana Ice are available at the Pepsi Coliseum and Conseco Fieldhouse box offices, or at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at (317) 239-5151 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Audi driver Tom Kristensen is “Sports Personality of the Year” Audi driver Tom Kristensen is “Sports Personality of the Year”Audi factory driver Tom Kristensen was voted "Sports Personality of the Year” in his home country Demark. The prize is awarded by the Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) and the National Olympic Committee in cooperation with the daily newspaper "Jyllands-Posten” for the year’s greatest sporting performance and is considered as the highest honor in Danish sport.
The jury paid tribute to the Dane’s record win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the wheel of an Audi R8, Kristensen won, what is quite probably the world’s toughest motor race, for the seventh time again in June. As a result, the 38-year old is the most successful driver ever in the history of the French long-distance classic.
Kristensen was not only successful at Le Mans during the 2005 season: The Dane finished third with an Audi A4 DTM in the most popular international touring car series. At the "Race of Champions" in Paris, he was the best placed racing driver and won the "Nations Cup” together with his Audi team mate Mattias Ekström.
After taking the award in 2002, the Audi factory driver was voted as Denmark’s "Sports Personality of the Year” for the second time. "I’m very proud of this award, for which I have Audi, my team mates and the R8 to thank,” said Kristensen at the award ceremony in Herning, which was broadcast live in Danish television. He came out on top against table tennis professional Michael Maze and shot putter Joachim B. Olsen in the prestigious vote.
TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday (New Year's Eve) USA TV reminders for Saturday (New Year's Eve)
On New Year's Eve, the Lost Drive-In on SPEED will present a marathon of racing-related films starting with a matinee at 2:00 p.m. and running right through the New Year.
Lost Drive-In Movies
'The Last Run'
2:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET, SPEED
'A Man and a Woman'
4:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m. ET, SPEED
'The Gumball Rally'
7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. ET, SPEED
'The Getaway'
9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET, SPEED
'Stroker Ace'
Sunday, 12:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. ET, SPEED
'A Man and a Woman'
Sunday, 2:30 a.m.-5:00 a.m. ET, SPEED

For a complete listing of Saturday's TV Programs, see TVRacer.com and Race Fan TV.

Industry News
Michelin Recalls tires Michelin Recalls tiresMichelin North America has notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Transport Canada that it is recalling approximately 6,500 Michelin(R) Pilot(R) Sport 255/35ZR20 97Y Extra Load tires in the United States and Canada. This recall involves these specific tires only and has no impact on any other Michelin tires.

This decision was taken after Michelin's internal quality control system indicated that the tires do not meet its quality standards and are therefore being recalled. In an affected tire, the condition is ordinarily noticeable as a blister on the sidewall of the tire. The blister may produce a noticeable tire vibration, which a driver might detect. The condition may result in a rapid loss of air pressure, which could potentially lead to a loss of control and potential vehicle crash.

To date, there have been no accidents or injuries reported in North America. The majority of the approximately 6,500 tires affected by the recall were distributed in the United States with fewer than 400 distributed in Canada. Related actions are under way in other countries.

The recalled tires were fitted as original equipment on some trim levels of Jaguar XJ8 vehicles and also were available in the replacement market. The affected tires' DOT markings begin with FHPNEFMX and end with 00, 01, 02, 03 or 05.  The company will be replacing all potentially affected tires in a comprehensive commitment to retrieve from the market any tire that does not meet Michelin quality standards. Replacement tires are available at no cost (including mounting and balancing) to consumers through Michelin tire dealers.

Industry News
Bankrupt American firm delays new Corvettes Bankrupt American firm delays new CorvettesGeneral Motors has sent a memo to dealers informing them that Corvette wheel supply has “experienced significant disruption” and production of certain models could be delayed as a result.

Dealers will have to change Corvette orders based on wheel availability. Wheel company Amcast, which went into bankruptcy on Dec. 2, supplied the wheels.

As if GM didn't need more bad news. With the manufacturer teetering on bankruptcy, it did not need problems with one of its more profitable car lines. It's further indication that the entire USA car industry can eventually go bankrupt and out of business. Not only are the car companies themselves in financial trouble, many of its suppliers have gone bankrupt. Bankruptcy may be the only way for the American automobile industry to get out from under the burden placed upon them by the pension plan and health benefit systems in place. These cost the manufacturers a lot of money, forcing them to cut corners in their cars to save money, resulting in an inferior product to the Japanese and Germans.

Discount for AutoRacing1.com readers Discount for AutoRacing1.com readersEffective today AutoRacing1.com members can get a 10% discount on all merchandise in our Racing Store (See link above on our main menu).  Our store is in conjunction with Speedgear and by clicking in through our store page and then using SGAR52 in their Discount Code field an automatic 10% discount will be applied when you check out and pay.
Schu sets sights on title revival Schu sets sights on title revivalMichael Schumacher is hopeful that Ferrari can regain its title winning sparkle in 2006.  The German, to turn thirty seven early in the New Year, spelt out a very positive message after his uncharacteristic pre-Christmas return to the track.

''My feeling about the coming season is not too bad,'' Schumacher told his official website.

''The Jerez tests did please me, but of course it is much too early to make predictions, because the cars were not all in comparable configurations.''

Michael, the most successful driver in the history of F1 and the most experienced on the modern grid, explained that his Jerez test - with the new V8 engine - gave him the 'best feeling' he's experienced on a circuit 'for a long time'.

''At last,'' he explained, ''when I stepped out of the car, I had a satisfying feeling.

''We seem to have done a very good job with the V8.

''At the tests we looked pretty good.

''In 2006, we want to have a say in the outcome of the title again,'' Schumacher said.

'MF1' won't announce Monteiro seat 'MF1' won't announce Monteiro seatMidland's 'MF1 Racing' F1 team will not announce that the second race seat has been filled by Portuguese driver Tiago Monteiro.

The 29-year-old 'rookie of the year' told Italian website f1grandprix.it that the Silverstone-based squad retained him for 2006 by taking up a contract option.

''Actually there won't be an official announcement,'' Tiago revealed.

''It's just a normal continuation with them.''

With a bit of luck to the Indianapolis podium, former Champ Car driver Monteiro scored points twice in 2005, and finished a record 18 of 19 grands prix.

He will line up on the Bahrain grid alongside Dutch teammate Christijan Albers, but could not shed any light on who might land the 'Friday' seat after Nicky Pastorelli ran into sponsorship trouble.

''(I) don't have enough information,'' Monteiro added, but he did hint that a prime candidate was among those who recently tested for the Midland team at Jerez (Spain).

Tiago continued: ''But I won't mention names.''

Last two Champ Car diecast models for 2005 Last two Champ Car diecast models for 2005These 2 cars basically are the last 2 we were able to finish for the 2005 year. They're classic looking Champ Cars with some unique additions. The K-Mart Fittipaldi car, which wasn't the most popular looking car on the grid that year, has surprisingly been one of the most requested cars since we started making these. One thing I was constantly asked was can I do something about the fluorescent orange behind the wheels on this car. So we worked a little magic and the car looks awesome. The da Matta car is one of my all-time favorites because of how cool the race and pole winners were and not too mention the chrome black color that is amazing. Time and time again PPG has come through for us with amazing colors and finishes. I just want to thank PPG, Gatorz sunglasses, and AutoRacing1.com for their support in 2005.

Gary Pino
President and CEO

2002 Chevron car of Cristiano da Matta

K-Mart car of Christian Fittipaldi

Bridgestone 'getting better' - Rosberg Bridgestone 'getting better' - RosbergNico Rosberg agrees with 2006 F1 rival Felipe Massa that beleaguered Bridgestone's latest tires are getting better. Indy aside, the Japanese company failed to win a single grand prix in 2005, so strongly welcomed the FIA's axe of the single-tire per race rule.

The last time in-race tire changing was permitted, 2004, Bridgestone and Ferrari scooped fifteen of the seventeen grand prix wins.

Ferrari's Massa said earlier this week that the new rules - allowing softer tires - would be a help in 2006, but also praised the 'effort put in by the Japanese technicians'.

20-year-old rookie Rosberg, who this month took a leading role in helping Williams to adjust to Bridgestone after the team's five years with Michelin, also said the development tires have 'improved quite substantially' in the winter.

The German-born GP2 champion added: ''There might be a few problems early on as you might expect, but we're starting from a very strong base. They will definitely do a good job.''

Like the new tire supplier, Rosberg says he is also settling in at the Grove based F1 team.

''Obviously there is a lot of work still needed to make things even better,'' said the son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, ''but it's a positive start.''

His successful stint in the GP2 feeder category, Rosberg reckons, will stand him in good stead for an F1 career, set to kick off in Bahrain mid next March.

Nico, who first tested a Williams as a 17-year-old, explained: ''The feel of both (cars) is pretty similar actually. The brakes are a little tricky to get used to ... but I'm not so new to F1.''

Nick not bitter after McLaren snub Nick not bitter after McLaren snubNick Heidfeld says he is no longer bitter after, for 2002, McLaren picked Kimi Raikkonen to replace the retiring Mika Hakkinen.

Mercedes' protégé of the late 90s, during which time he won F3 and F3000 titles, watched the spare silver seat go not to him, but Kimi -- a rookie of one F1 season and 17 Formula Renault races.

Worse still, Heidfeld outqualified teammate Raikkonen at Sauber '01.

At the time, the situation hurt 'Quick Nick'.  But now, his Williams revival of 2005 complete and BMW's new blue-eyed boy, he has relegated the past to history.

''I would have liked to go there,'' the 28-year-old German admitted, ''and I didn't understand why they took Kimi, but Kimi is going a fantastic job.  I would have deserved to go there (too) but it doesn't make sense for me to look at it this way.

''People might think I'm just saying that, but it's true.  What sense would it make to complain about everything?  Maybe I wouldn't be in F1 anymore.''

True to form, Nick is perhaps F1's quietest of the quiet men.  Dumped by Sauber after 2003, he endured a year at hard-up Jordan and trudged through a controversial 'shootout' to win this year's seat over Antonio Pizzonia.

From 2006, however, he is back to Hinwil to head up BMW's new foray.  Heidfeld thinks BMW-Sauber might struggle to beat teams like Williams next year, but 'in the mid-term' it's the right choice.

He explained: ''It won't be a piece of cake for Sauber and BMW to get together.  It always takes time, but I think BMW is the best option.''

Sauber not ’sad’ at privateer demise Sauber not ’sad’ at privateer demisePeter Sauber has brushed aside suggestions that he is 'sad' at the demise of privateers in formula one.   In 2006, the passionate Swiss will no longer feature on the pitwall, even though new team owner BMW has elected to retain the Sauber name.

Also missing will be Paul Stoddart's Minardi, and the Jordan and BAR names.  In recent years, Prost and Arrows went broke, and the 2006 entry list reads more like a roll-call of carmakers, without Benetton or Brabham, Ligier or Lotus.

But Sauber, 62, is not nostalgic.

''It is a natural process,'' he told the 'swissinfo' agency, ''that also takes place in the normal business world.''

Sauber insisted: ''To say it's sad is a romantic way of looking at things and there is no space for romance in the business world.''

Peter did, however, find a little room in racing for romance -- all of his cars carried the letter 'C' in their designation.  The 2005 Sauber, for example, was the C24.  For those who don't know, it stands for Christiane, his wife.

But Sauber smiled: ''The initial idea was not (romantic).  I am a very rational thinking person and I needed a name for my cars.  I started with A1, but the name was taken by somebody else.  So was B1, so I settled for C1.

''Then (I) had to think of an explanation.''

Happy Birthday, McNish Happy Birthday, McNishFormer grand prix driver Allan McNish is celebrating his thirty sixth birthday on Thursday.   The Dumfries-born Scot, who lives in Monaco with his wife, finally made his F1 debut in 2002, after testing for a year with the Toyota team.

In 2005, he drove in the German 'DTM' touring car championship, and retains his links with sports cars after a successful earlier career at races like Le Mans.

McNish's F1 race foray lasted just a single season, and he failed to score a single point.  He was Renault's 'Friday' tester in 2003, and first tasted the pinnacle of motor sport as a McLaren test driver in 1990, when Ayrton Senna raced for the team.

In 1993-4, his test ride was a Benetton.

Also on 29 December, East London hosted the South African grand prix of 1962.  That year's world champion, Graham Hill, won the race in his BRM, beating the Cooper-Climax of Bruce McLaren.

Racing News
Europe under snow Europe under snowJust as formula one takes a short break in winter testing, the weather has taken over Europe.

Heavy snow caused dozens of car crashes in Austria, extending throughout Italy, while thousands of motorists had to spend the night in a French traffic jam.

France closed its border with Italy on Wednesday, hundreds of homes lost power in Vienna, highways were closed, some cold-related deaths were recorded in parts of Germany, and homeless shelters set up in the Netherlands. Trains and roads ground to a halt in Hungary and Britain.

Three homeless people froze to death in Paris.

Rumors of petrol shortages have other areas worried, while sports fans groaned at the cancellation of things including Premier League football games.

The extreme low pressure system is expected to keep dropping snow this week, and in many parts of Europe over the weekend.

NASCAR to restructure regional divisions NASCAR to restructure regional divisionsNASCAR announced it will restructure its regional touring series divisions beginning in 2007. Citing declining support for the Elite Division style of racing at all levels, NASCAR said it will focus its resources and efforts on those Divisions that will help build and sustain a better developmental program for the future. Following the 2006 season, the four current Late Model Elite Division Tours will be discontinued. The Elite Division tours were formed nearly 20 years ago, in the Southeast, Midwest, Southwest and Northwest regions of the country. Beginning in 2006 and continuing in 2007, NASCAR will implement several Grand National Division changes in an effort to reduce the cost of competing in the Busch North Series (which will be re-named the Busch East Series) and the AutoZone West Series. These changes include a less-costly "spec" engine, as well as composite bodies. NASCAR PR
Penske Racing South Announces Team Changes Penske Racing South Announces Team ChangesUPDATE Contrary to what the Penske Racing South press release below says, In this article Darrell Waltrip says, "With my brother Michael being over at Bill Davis Racing, he's bringing NAPA and some resources. Davis brought back Dave Blaney, who is one of those consistent guys. If you put Blaney in a good car next year, Michael and Blaney could work well together next year. They brought in Larry Carter from the #2 car to help them. That's going to be a big plus. Derrick Finley has a few years under his belt as a crew chief. I see good things happening at Bill Davis Racing. But Michael has to stay out of trouble and finish races — that's got to be his number 1 priority. FoxSports 12/08/05 Penske Racing South announced today that Roy McCauley will become the crew chief of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge effective immediately. 

McCauley replaces Larry Carter who will move to a management role within Penske Racing South's operations division.

“I am pleased to announce these changes to our racing organization,” Roger Penske said.  “Roy brings a wealth of technical and engineering experience to the No. 2 team.  Roy and Kurt will be a great team and when you combine them with Ryan Newman and Matt Borland, we are looking forward to building on our recent successes. 

"I want to thank Larry Carter for his contributions as crew chief with the No. 2 team. His leadership was instrumental in guiding Rusty into 'The Chase' this season.  Whereas Matt and Roy will focus on the competition side of our business, Larry will bring a wealth of experience to an important management role within the operations of Penske Racing.” 

The moves of Carter and McCauley were made along with other personnel changes at Penske Racing South as the company prepares its two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams for the 2006 season.

Waltrip: Indy 500 one of most exciting races of year Waltrip: Indy 500 one of most exciting races of yearWho would think that a NASCAR announcer like Darrell Waltrip would say that an open wheel race was one of the most exciting of 2005. 

"We've all talked about the exciting races of the year in NASCAR, but one of the most exciting races that I saw in 2005 was the Indy 500 with Danica Patrick leading and finishing 4th. It was as good as it gets. She spun out and had trouble in the pits, but she was there at the end of the day when it was time to decide who was going to win the race. She battled it out with eventual race winner Dan Wheldon and three or four of the top drivers in the series to see who was going to go to victory lane. It was as good a race as I've seen. Of course, the IRL cars put on an incredible show any time they go to the mile-and-a-half tracks, but Danica's Indy 500 was one race that got me really excited. It was the lead-in to the Coca-Cola 600 on FOX so I sat and watch it, and I thought it was a pretty exciting race." Foxsports

USGP Notebook USGP NotebookAfter a period of intense testing in December at tracks in Spain and Italy, the Formula One teams are taking a holiday break before work resumes in January as they continue to prepare for the upcoming 19-race FIA World Championship season that includes the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Among those testing was Californian Scott Speed, who next year will become the first American to compete in F1 since Michael Andretti in 1993. Speed and Italian teammate Tonio Liuzzi drive for Red Bull's new F1 team, Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Many of the teams tested with the new 2.4-liter V8 engines that replace the 3-liter V10s in 2006. The new engine rules have been introduced to cut speeds for safety reasons. The V8s produce approximately 20 percent less power than the V10s that had an output of more than 900 horsepower.

"It's hard to compare the V8 with the V10, but I was expecting a bigger loss of power and more vibrations," said 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve who will drive for BMW in 2006. "It was not too bad and actually quite nice to drive. In fact, you do feel a little loss of power, but it doesn't make driving less fun. The speed in the corners seems to be the same while you are going slower on the straights.

"Nevertheless, the driving will still be exciting and physical. Hopefully since we are all going less fast on the straights this will give us a bigger tow and this could mean more overtaking in the future."  zzzz

New team: The Super Aguri F1 team is poised to enter the 2006 World Championship. Having failed to get all the paperwork completed by the Nov. 15 entry deadline set by the FIA, Aguri needed agreement from all the current 10 teams to file a late entry. That goal has been accomplished.

"I am very happy to be able to announce that all 10 F1 teams have approved our late entry to the Formula One World Championship," said former F1 driver and team principal Aguri Suzuki. "I would like to thank all of the teams for approving our late entry and assure them that the Super Aguri F1 team will cooperate and do our best to reach your expectations. We appreciate your support, and we will not let you down."

Suzuki raced in 88 Grands Prix between 1988-95 and achieved one podium, the first by a Japanese F1 driver.

Suzuki also fields a team in the IRL IndyCar® Series.

McLaren signs Alonso: 2005 World Champion Fernando Alonso will drive for McLaren-Mercedes in 2007. Alonso has raced for Mild Seven Renault since 2003 and remains with the team in 2006 to defend the title.

"To become part of a team with such a desire to succeed and passion for performance is a dream come true for any Formula One driver," Alonso said of joining McLaren. "I'm very excited about 2007 and the fantastic opportunity to drive for Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes. It will be a new beginning for me and a tremendous challenge.

"Obviously, I will be sad to leave Renault, but sometimes possibilities come along which are just too good to miss. I'm pleased that we are able to make this announcement already now as it will allow my current team and I to focus 100 percent on defending the World Championships next year."

McLaren's current driver lineup of 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen remains unchanged for 2006. The team has yet to announce which driver Alonso will replace in 2007.

"We are in discussions with our current drivers regarding the 2007 season," said team principal Ron Dennis. "Both Juan Pablo and Kimi are extremely talented, professional and competitive Formula One drivers, and they have and will continue to concentrate on our joint challenge for the championships."

Schumacher gets back to work: Seven-time World Champion and four-time United States Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher usually takes a long vacation at the end of the F1 season. But, after an uncompetitive 2006 season, he was anxious to get back to work and thus tested with Ferrari in December.

"When I came home from racing in China, I did not feel the way I expected to feel," Schumacher said. "I had no need for a vacation and no desire to rest. Quite the opposite, in fact.

"Instead, I began my preparation training for the next season. Through the winter I have been in regular contact with Maranello and stayed permanently in touch during the tests. This only made me want to drive again even more."

Toyota switches to Bridgestone: Panasonic Toyota Racing will run on Bridgestone tires in 2006.

"After a rather successful 2005 season, our sights are now set even higher up the grid, and we feel that Bridgestone is ideally suited to the technical demands of F1 in the future and will be the best match for our 2006 car," said Tsutomu Tomita, the chairman of Toyota Motorsport. "Toyota is serious about winning in F1, and we feel that the switch to Bridgestone tires is the best option in the medium-long term."

New title sponsor: Mobile telecommunications giant Vodafone has signed a long-term contract to become the title sponsor of McLaren in 2007. The official name of the team will be Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.

Kovalainen joins Renault: Renault has signed Finland's Heikki Kovalainen, 24, as its test/reserve driver for 2006. Kovalainen finished second in the 2005 GP2 series behind Nico Rosberg and ahead of Scott Speed.

"He has demonstrated that he is a talented, aggressive driver in the GP2 series, and he has impressed our engineers during his tests with the team," Renault team principal Flavio Briatore said of Kovalainen. "The test driver's role will be crucial during 2006 as we develop our V8 engine through the season to defend the World Championship."

2006 USGP tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2006 United States Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, July 2.

All fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday, while online orders can be made at any time.

Track News
Track improvements continue at Laguna Seca Track improvements continue at Laguna SecaUPDATE What the track failed to mention in their press release are the changes being made to the approach to the top of the Corkscrew.  The biggest change to the track is from turn six to the Corkscrew, with run-off added to both sides of the straightaway, and the dip just before the Corkscrew flattened.

“I’m all for the change, making it better,” MotoGP rider Nicky Hayden said. “Turn six, I think that was probably the worst corner on the track. I mean I think that one needed to be fixed. I’m definitely glad to see it done in the right way with added run-off, where one time they were thinking of just slowing it down, making it a slower corner. I hate tracks when they just put in chicanes, put in bus stops. That’s not cool.

“Laguna, give them credit; they stepped up to the plate, putting money back into it. Making it happen.”

What Hayden didn’t endorse was the leveling of the run to the Corkscrew, an area where he could always make time.

“That part of taking the hill off going up to the Corkscrew I don’t really like that,” he said. “That’s part of Laguna, part of the track. There’s a technique to it, not wheelying. It’s not luck. (Doug) Chandler taught my brother the line, then he taught me how to keep the wheels on the ground and keep the power on. It’s just another element of the racetrack to get around there. I don’t really like the idea of taking the hill out and making it a straight shot. It might make it easy for passing now, because, boy, it was hard to pass there with all the stuff going on.”

12/21/05 Construction is set to begin on nearly $7 million of improvements to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, part of an ongoing safety and facility upgrade for the world-renowned circuit. These improvements are scheduled for completion in time for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 21-23, 2006. 

The most dramatic improvements include an entire surface repaving, as well as creating additional run-off at Turn 1. Adding runoff at the fast first turn requires removing a portion of the hillside as well as the former media center building that sits atop it. A state-of-the-art hospitality center will replace the former media center building. Additional runoff will also be added at turns 3, 4, 6, and 7.

The improvements are being made with input from the Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme (FIM) and the MotoGP Rider Safety Commission. These new changes follow a Yamaha Motor Corporation-funded $2 million upgrade that occurred one year ago making it possible for MotoGP World Championship to return to the United States for the first time since 1994 as the 2005 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.  zzzz 

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is the only racetrack in the United States to receive Grade A homologation from the FIM, as well as Grade 2 homologation from the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The FIM and the FIA are the world’s governing bodies for motorcycle and automobile racing, respectively.

“This is a significant upgrade for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and continues to push us toward our goal of leading racetrack safety, not only compared to tracks in the United States but around the world,” said Gill Campbell, CEO/General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “These changes are only possible through the assistance and support we get through our partners and sponsors like Red Bull, Yamaha and Mazda.”

“While these changes were made in conjunction with Dorna and the MotoGP riders, it will also increase safety for everyone who runs at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, from track rentals and club competition to our other professional events like the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series,” Campbell said.

John Pinio, Director of Parks for Monterey County states, "The County of Monterey, who own the 542 acre recreation area that is home to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, has a 31-year relationship with SCRAMP through a concession agreement. As a County Park facility, we greatly appreciate the commitment of SCRAMP, Mazda, Red Bull and Yamaha to not only bring this world class motorcycle event to our community, but also provide the financial resources to fund the improvements needed to keep the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the forefront of the racing industry."

Necessary permits to complete the work have been acquired, and demolition of the existing media center will take place December 27 at 8:00am.

The 2005 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix drew a weekend attendance of 153,653, the largest event attendance in the 49 seasons of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Tickets for the 2006 event went on sale on September 1. General Admission tickets, general camping, and grandstand seats are still available for the July 21-23, 2006 event weekend at www.laguna-seca.com or by calling (800) 327-SECA.

Tickets for the remaining Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca events will go on sale January 9th, including the U.S. Sports Car Invitational featuring the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series May 5-7, the 33rd Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races August 18-20, and the Monterey Sports Car Championships featuring the American Le Mans Series October 20-22.

Bill France Jr. Honored by Volusia County Sheriff Bill France Jr. Honored by Volusia County SheriffHe’s been called everything from a racing titan and sports entertainment visionary to a living legend. His picture hangs in both the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame and the Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame. And today, International Speedway Corporation Chairman of the Board Bill France Jr. has a new title to add to his resume -- honorary sheriff of Volusia County. Sheriff Ben Johnson bestowed the honorary title on France earlier this week as a tribute to France and his many contributions to the public safety community. “This is a small token of appreciation for all that you’ve done to help us protect the community,” Sheriff Johnson said on Wednesday as he presented France with a plaque and honorary sheriff’s badge. “This is something very special to us, and we hope it’s special to you.”  France is known the world over for transforming NASCAR racing into a global sports juggernaut. However, what’s perhaps less well-known is France’s long history of providing equipment, resources and financial support to public safety agencies throughout the county, both during routine times and special events as well as during natural disasters and other emergencies.

France’s efforts on behalf of the public safety community most often have been behind-the-scenes, with no fanfare. However, Sheriff Johnson said France has always answered the call for help. “You’ve always been there,” Sheriff Johnson told France. “And we’ll continue to be there,” responded France. “Somebody’s got to back you guys up. We’re just happy to be a part of it.” 

Sheriff Johnson, who was joined at the ceremony by Daytona Beach police officers, Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Ryan, speedway officials and members of the France family, noted that France’s assistance has been invaluable in helping public safety officers fulfill their mission to protect the community. For instance, when the 2001 terrorist attacks underscored the local need for a bomb robot to assist law enforcement in keeping the community and officers safe, France opened his checkbook to help pay for the high-tech apparatus. He has given financial support to a number of children’s programs, including DARE and Character Counts. France also supplies public safety agencies with everything from spare motorcycles, radios, traffic cones and light fixtures to the use of Daytona Beach’s world-famous Speedway for advanced police motorcycle training and public safety exercises. Volusia County Sheriffs

Track News
Stewart to present awards Stewart to present awardsIn a role reversal of sorts, on Sunday afternoon, January 8, 2006, reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart will become the ‘presenter’ rather than the ‘receiver’. On that day, Stewart will honor the Eldora Speedway champions and their court, as he concludes his first year as owner of the storied southwestern Ohio speed plant. Fresh off his recent New York appearance to accept NASCAR’s highest honors, Stewart is anxious to similarly reward the Eldora honorees. “I know exactly what these guys went through. A points chase is grueling, for sure, but the end results are gratifying and I’m excited to be able to share this moment of glory with them, and thank them for supporting my first-year efforts at Eldora”. Accepting championship honors at the Eldora Ballroom will be Chad Kemenah (Sprint), Aaron Scott (Late Model), Scott Orr (Modified) and Mike Dirksen (Stock Car), while those finishing behind them will be acknowledged as well, with trophies and point fund rewards. As added drama, Stewart has announced the formulation of several ‘specialty trophies’. Each of the four divisions will see honorees named for best improved driver, hard luck award and best appearing car award, while an overall sportsman of the year will be named. Geared primarily for the Eldora participants, track officials have announced that a limited number of tickets are being made available for fans wishing to join in the celebration. Priced at $23 per person, ticket requests will be received by mail only (13929 SR 118 - New Weston, OH 45348), and granted in the order of acceptance, until full. Phone and ‘in person’ sales will not be accepted. Tickets will not be available the day of the event.
NYC/Seattle Track funding have some wondering NYC/Seattle Track funding have some wonderingInternational Speedway Corp.'s open-wallet approach to building a NASCAR track on Staten Island isn't sitting too well in the Seattle area, where the developer wants the government to help fund a new track. ISC wants to build an 83,000-seat, $345 million track in Kitsap County, Wash., around 20 miles away from Seattle, and it's asking the state to fund half of that cost with bonds and admission fees. The motorsports giant doesn't think Washington compares with New York, but some Northwest track critics see ISC's plan to foot the entire $500 million-$600 million bill for its proposed Staten Island track and wonder why the developer can't do the same thing in Kitsap. The Seattle Times made a similar argument to Sheldon's in a Dec. 18 editorial urging lawmakers to dump the Kitsap proposal. "ISC has committed to paying all of the $600 million for a new track on Staten Island in New York. With the sport awash in fans, Fortune 500 sponsors and television revenues, backers should find a way to pay for all or most of the track here," the paper wrote. Staten Island Advance
Track News
Where's the lime? Where's the lime?The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and Tecate have partnered for the fourth consecutive year, inking a contract earlier this month that once again makes the popular Mexican cerveza the official beer sponsor.

It was seen as an upset when Tecate won the title four years ago, beating out big-name domestic labels for the chance to be the exclusive brew of choice at the race.

But when you take a look at the increasing demographic presence of Hispanic fans at the Champ Car event, and the Latino drivers competing, it makes perfect sense.

The Grand Prix has taken big steps in recent years to court the Hispanic fan, and high-profile companies like Tecate and King Taco have been the primary drivers.

"It is important for Tecate to have a presence … not only because an increasing number of Hispanics are attending, but also because we have seen a growing appreciation for Tecate among non-Hispanic consumers, as well," said Jorge Cornejo of Heineken USA , which imports and sells Tecate in the United States.

Tecate will once again sponsor major concerts at the 32nd annual race, April 7-9 , with Tecate Thunder Thursday and then a Latin music-themed concert, Fiesta Friday. There will also be the return of the Miss Tecate Long Beach Grand Prix Beauty Pageant and cantinas throughout the race course. Long Beach Press Telegram

Alonso gets no respect Alonso gets no respectWorld Champion Fernando Alonso has been snubbed yet again, this time by one of his own national publications.

Spain’s 'El Pais' newspaper, formed a panel of 100 professional Spanish sportspeople, who opted to elect Tour de France winner, American Lance Armstrong instead of Fernando Alonso for the honor of ‘Sports Personality of the Year.'.

Valentino Rossi, multiple MotoGP champion was also overlooked after securing yet another dominant season for Yamaha.

French newspapers sued French newspapers suedThree French newspapers - Le Point, Le Monde and Les Echos - have been fined for publishing photographs of Formula One drivers whose overalls featured tobacco logos.

The Rights of Non-Smokers action group filed the suit. A court of minor offences in Paris fined the papers between 800 and 1,000 EUR each for printing the pictures. The newspapers were also ordered to pay 2,750 EUR in damages to the Rights of Non-smokers.

FIA costing teams more money, not less FIA costing teams more money, not lessHonda Racing's technical director Geoff Willis says the FIA is speaking through both sides of their mouth. They say they want to cut costs yet each year they make rules changes that cost the teams even more money.

Speaking in an interview with the team's official website, Willis insisted that, all too often, changing the face of F1 actually costs the teams more money than leaving the rulebook alone for a long period of time. Citing the switch to V8 engines, in place for 2006, and talk of a revised aero package - including the controversial CDG Wing - he explained that the teams are having to dig deeper to ensure that they will be competitive with their rivals in future.

"The big advantage in rule stability is that it reduces the amount you need to spend to be competitive, so it gives the smaller budget teams an opportunity," he stressed, "That, in turn, tends to close the field up and give you closer racing, so rule stability is good for the sport. That said, rule changes do sometimes lead to a bit of a mix-up in the pecking order among the better-financed teams, as we saw this year. On balance, though, I'd like to see more rule stability. zzzz

"It's been proven over the last ten years that regulation change simply does not control costs. Costs will only be reduced when teams have less money to spend. What regulation changes have done is to cause us to spend money unnecessarily and probably increase our costs. The financial implications, for instance, of going from the V10 to V8 are simply astronomical, and they are unlikely to be fully compensated by any possible reduction in technology in the next few years.

"It is a case of not being able 'to put the genie back in the bottle'. Once we've discovered new technology and realized what benefits can be achieved in terms of car performance, taking that technology away doesn't mean that you're going to revert to 15-year-old technology. Instead, you're going to have find a new solution within the revised regulations, and you only end up spending more money mimicking the technologies that got banned. Trying to control costs via technical regulations is pretty much doomed to failure."

Cutting back on the amount of testing conducted by the teams is a favorite claim from the rule makers, who cite that a return to one single tire manufacturer would enable this to become a reality. With Michelin having announced its withdrawal from the sport at the end of 2006, F1 will be left with that scenario, but Willis admits that, again, there are pros and cons.

"I'm torn in two directions here," he says, "Firstly, Formula One is all about competition at all sorts of levels and, so, from that perspective, permitting multiple suppliers is absolutely right. A control tire, however, is a simple way to control car performance, so there's a certain amount of logic from that point of view. We've very much enjoyed working with Michelin over these last few years and we're sorry to see them go. F1 will be poorer for the lack of such a technical battle we've seen [with Bridgestone]."Honda Racing's technical director Geoff Willis has added his views to the ongoing debate over rule changes and cost-cutting in Formula One, agreeing with those that claim tinkering with one in order to aid the other does not necessarily ring true.

Rosberg and Williams working hard Rosberg and Williams working hardNew Formula One recruit Nico Rosberg has been a busy man in the weeks since signing for WilliamsF1 but the GP2 Champion says that he has settled in well and is enjoying the team's winter testing program.

Rosberg, 20, has been testing at Barcelona and Jerez in Spain to help Williams develop their understanding of their new Cosworth V8 engine and Bridgestone Potenza tires and the German-born driver is happy with progress.

"I'm settling in well - the team have made me very welcome, I've got to know everybody off the track and at testing as well," said Rosberg. "Obviously there is a lot of work still needed to make things even better, but it's a positive start. We're making progress with the engine and tires, which is good because it's very important to get the mileage in and check the reliability, so we're making good steps there."

The Spanish tests provided a chance for Williams and Bridgestone to re-establish their working partnership for the first time since the 2000 season and Rosberg has already noticed the rate of progress from the tire manufacturer.

Despite anticipating some early teething troubles, the son of 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg is confident that a successful testing program will help Williams and Bridgestone improve on last season's performances. zzzz

"The work has been especially good in Jerez as opposed to Barcelona because the temperatures were a bit low there so grip was limited," said Rosberg. "But the tires have already improved quite substantially in the short time between the tests. There might be a few problems early on as you might expect, but we're starting from a very strong base. They will definitely do a good job."

Rosberg has three years of occasional testing for Williams already under his belt - and believes the interim FW27B requires a similar style of driving to the GP2 car - in which he won five races this year.

"The feel of both is pretty similar actually, but obviously the Formula One car does have much more grip and downforce so, to drive it, is amazing," said Rosberg. "The brakes are a little tricky to get used to as well, but I'm not so new to Formula One because I first tested a Williams three years ago, and I've done multi-day tests throughout the year."

Button's tabloid tribute Button's tabloid tributeIt is unlikely that British driver Jenson Button will be proud of his newly announced 'Sportsman of the Year' title. Why?

Because the award is devised by English tabloid newspaper The Mirror's '3am' lifestyle-related column.

The 25-year-old's talent at the wheel of his BAR-Honda has not caught the attention of the three female journalists, but rather the fact that he also lives 'life in the fast lane ... off the track'.

''(Button) knows how to party and his, er, colorful love-life has kept us guessing,'' the description of the Briton's '3am Emmy' read.

Also given plaudits by the newspaper's 'showbiz' section were sexiest group 'Girls Aloud', Kylie Minogue, 'Sex and the City' actor Sarah Jessica Parker, wild family 'The Osbournes' and Spice Girl Victoria Beckham.

Racing News
Mosley's father named 'worst' in Britain Mosley's father named 'worst' in BritainFIA president Max Mosley's notorious father has been named the worst British person of the 20th century.

Academics and historians put together a list of the 'worst of the worst' villains and evil-doers for the BBC History Magazine, according to the British 'Guardian' newspaper.

Sir Oswald Mosley, who died in 1980, founded the 'British Union of Fascists'. Mosley's movement was linked with several violent conflicts, often directed at Jewish groups in London. In 1936 he was married -- in Nazi chief Joseph Goebbels' house, with Adolf Hitler as a guest.

During World War II, he was imprisoned.

Oswald Mosley's dubious honor on the list put him alongside Jack the Ripper, the worst figure of the 19th century.

Jani will be ready to race Jani will be ready to raceIf required, Neel Jani says he will be ready to race for 'Scuderia Toro Rosso' this season.

The Swiss youngster, 22, is certain to continue his run for his country's 'A1' team in the next weeks, but vowed to then concentrate fully on getting ready for his F1 debut.

Jani, a former Sauber test driver and GP2 racer in 2005, is the Red Bull junior (formerly Minardi) team's 'Friday' and reserve driver for 2006.

But he said he will not be wishing for a scenario where racers Scott Speed or Tonio Liuzzi are unable to compete.

''Yes, but it is important that I am ready in the crucial moment,'' Neel told the 'Bieler Tag Blatt' daily.

Jani said a future in formula one was not always certain.  ''But you must never lose sight of your goal,'' he beamed.

''Three years ago I said I wanted to be part of the F1 circus in 2006.  Now, that is the case.

''I am already training harder -- I will be ready.''

Fisichella: I'll never go to America to race on ovals Fisichella: I'll never go to America to race on ovalsGiancarlo Fisichella has denied a rumor that he is planning to hang up his helmet after the 2007 F1 season.

However, in the Italian 'Autosprint' magazine, the 32-year-old Roman admitted that he has begun to think about his future beyond the pinnacle of motor sport.

''I never heard that rumor before,'' the 2006 Renault driver, who made his F1 debut in 1996 for Minardi, said.

''I'll be 33 in January and I hope to carry on racing as long as possible, at least until I'm 40.''

Fisichella referred to the German 'DTM' category, FIA GT and world touring cars, and also said: ''I'd really like to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours, a unique race. ''I don't think, however, that I'd ever go racing for a season on ovals (in America).''

Lepage and LaJoie to pilot bobsleds in Lake Placid Lepage and LaJoie to pilot bobsleds in Lake PlacidNortheast NASCAR fans will be especially happy to know that two native sons will join the action Jan. 5-7 when the Chevrolet Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge hits the ice at the Verizon Sports Complex in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Kevin Lepage of Shelburne, Vt. and Randy LaJoie of Norwalk, Conn. have both committed to participating in the competition among 10 drivers that will raise money for the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project. This research and development initiative, started in 1992 by Bodine, is striving to raise needed funds to keep the United States Men’s and Women’s Bobsled Teams at the forefront of international racing. And that includes the Winter Olympics.

Lepage won over $1 million in 12 Cup starts in 2005. His top results were ninth in Daytona and 12th in Charlotte coming from start 43.

LaJoie, two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion, was sixth at Talladega, seventh in Milwaukee and eighth in Las Vegas.  zzzz

Lepage is hoping that many of his Vermont fans will make the journey to Lake Placid. He was in his home state recently for the holidays and made several local appearances.

“It will be a great experience in the sense that I have never been to Lake Placid,” said Lepage. “But growing up in Vermont, I was always intrigued by the sport of bobsledding. Most importantly though, I’m looking forward to supporting Geoff and his design project for the U.S. team.”

In 1997, LaJoie rode in a bobsled with 2002 Salt Lake City bronze medalist Brian Shimer. He recently recalled that ride in Utah with the five-time Olympian.

“I wanted to get out halfway down,” admitted LaJoie. “It was a different speed than I had ever experienced. I’m really looking forward to driving the sleds and support Geoff and the whole American team. What Geoff has done is great.”

One needs to look no further than the current World Cup results in the men’s and women’s divisions. Approximately one-third of the medals awarded to date have gone to Uncle Sam’s racers in the Bo-Dyn craft. These sleek, aerodynamic sleds are born at Chassis Dynamics in Connecticut under the watchful eye of Bob Cuneo.

After a day of training on Jan. 6, the green light will be flashed on Jan. 7 as Lepage and LaJoie will go up against Geoff and Todd Bodine as well as Johnny Sauter, Boris Said, Steve Park, Dick Trickle, Joel Kauffmann and Stanton Barrett.

Other drivers, such as Cup winner Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., are hopeful their schedules will enable them to attend.

The pilots will race twice on Jan. 7 – at 10 am and 2 pm – after qualification on the afternoon of Jan. 6.

ESPN will televise a one-hour program on Jan. 29 at 5 pm (Eastern), while Speed Channel will provide two hours of coverage on Feb. 4 at 2 pm (Eastern).

Follow Team USA in Dakar Follow Team USA in DakarA reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have no affiliation with Team Dakar USA or Robby Gordon, but I'm a big fan and I'm hoping that more Americans will follow the race this year now that there is an American team to pull for!  I noticed that the teamdakarusa.com website is up now, and it's actually very well done.  I think some of your readers might like to know about the site because it does a great job of explaining the race and describing each stage.


Rob Baas

Famous drag racer dies Famous drag racer diesWorld-champion race-car driver Steve Carbone, who won the American Hot Rod Association World Finals in 1969, has died. He was 61.

Carbone, owner of Steve Carbone Racing Engines in Tulsa, died on Tuesday.

Born on March 17, 1944, in Bell, Calif., Carbone's first major win was at a 1967 Hot Rod Magazine meet. He quickly gained fame in the top fuel-racing circuit, and in 1968 he received the Faces in the Crowd award from Sports Illustrated magazine.

He set a track record when he won the National Hot Rod Association Pro-Fuel Dragster Circuit Race in Amarillo, Texas, in 1968. The next year, he won the NHRA's World Finals championship, which was the last time a front-engine dragster won an NHRA race.

In 1970, he had a successful drag-racing campaign in Australia, winning nearly every race he entered. That same year, he and his wife, Paula Carbone, moved to the Tulsa area.
In what would be the defining race of his career, Carbone won the 1971 National Hot Rod Association's Nationals top fuel eliminator championship in Indianapolis, upsetting his rival, three-time national champion Don Garlits.

Carbone retired from racing in 1973 and opened Steve Carbone Racing Engines, where he built engines for racing boats, hot rods and sprint cars. He built engines for 2001 American Sprint Car Series national champion Zach Chappell and for Lloyd Stephens' Ofixco racing team, the largest racing team in the nation at the time.

Carbone was a director of the National Championship Racing Association in 1987, and he was instrumental in creating a full-time presence for sprint cars at the Tulsa Speedway.  In 1992, he purchased Port City Raceway, which he owned and promoted for 10 years. AP Story

Industry News
Honda sets sales records Honda sets sales recordsHonda Motor Co. set sales records almost everywhere but in Japan in 2005. And 2006 looks even better. Honda estimates that its 2005 global automotive sales will rise 5 percent to a record 3.35 million vehicles. It also predicts 2005 will see record sales for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and power products.

Honda predicts sales will continue to rise in the United States in 2006 and will rebound in Japan. It also sees growth in several other markets. But Honda would not predict whether 2006 would be another global record sales year.

Honda CEO Takeo Fukui declined to offer forecasts for the carmaker's global production and sales in 2006. He said the company no longer will make its calendar-year forecasts public. Honda will release forecasts only for its fiscal year, which begins April 1.  More at AutoWeek

A/C required for closed-top cars A/C required for closed-top carsAll closed-top Le Mans cars will be forced to use air conditioning starting next year, when Le Mans organizers will mandate a maximum cockpit air temperature of 75 degrees. The move means all coupes, both GT and prototypes, will have no choice but to be equipped with air conditioning at Le Mans, in the European-based Le Mans Series and most likely in the American Le Mans Series.

Le Mans sporting director Daniel Poissenot explained that the rule was introduced as a result of the extreme cockpit temperatures recorded during this year’s Le Mans race, particularly in the Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 cars.

George Howard-Chappell, project leader on the Aston project at Prodrive Engineering, said a “major engineering exercise” would be required to meet the rules. AutoWeek

Track News
With loss of F1 race, Honda forced to consolidate track ops With loss of F1 race, Honda forced to consolidate track opsUPDATE Suzuka Circuitland and Twin Ring Motegi have agreed to merge around June of 2006, naming the new company Mobilityland Co., Ltd..

The two Japanese circuits will benefit from the merger by combining their management resources while utilizing the characteristic of both companies to improve their overall performance.

With Motorsports at the core, the two Japanese circuits are aiming to become a company that will be widely recognized in the community and society that can offer ‘Happiness’, ‘enjoyment’ and a ‘touching experience’ created by the mobility culture in the society.

In preparing for this merger, Suzuka Circuitland Co., Ltd. will become a whole subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. after approval at the extraordinary stockholders meeting. Source Suzuka press release

12/20/05 [Editor's Note: It's really too bad that Champ Car and Honda do not have a better relationship.  If Suzuka does indeed lose the Japanese GP to Toyota and Fuji as rumored, they will need a big race to replace the F1 race at Suzuka, and Champ Car is looking for a race in Japan.  Otaru is looking promising, but it's not a done deal yet and as we have seen with other Champ Car races in Asia (China and South Korea), could be a non-starter.]

TOKYO, Japan – As the only company in Japan that owns three facilities promoting mobility, which combine racing circuits together with multi-purpose recreational facilities - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced plans to strengthen its Suzuka Circuit, Twin Ring Motegi and Tama Tech operations to promote further growth of mobility and a motor sports culture.

Two Honda subsidiaries, Suzuka Circuitland Co., Ltd. and Twin Ring Motegi Co., Ltd., today reached a basic agreement to merge their operations sometime around June 2006. Prior to this merger, Honda will obtain all outstanding shares of Suzuka Circuitland and make it a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honda.

The new merged company, planned to be named Mobilityland Co., Ltd., will leverage the know-how and experiences of each facility to offer higher-quality events, products and services and contribute to the further growth of motor sports, mobility and safe driving promotion.  zzzz

Honda began operation of Suzuka Circuit (Suzuka, Mie-prefecture) in 1962 as the first full-fledged international race course in Japan, but also as a place to promote a mobility culture, to host educational activities, to create the joy of mobility for individuals of all ages including younger generations and children, and as a facility that also features an amusement theme park and traffic safety education facilities. Since its establishment in 1961, Tama Tech (Hino, Tokyo), another facility of Suzuka Circuitland, has been offering the joy and fun of mobility to a wide range of people through its amusement park – Motopia. For over 40 years since its establishment, Suzuka Circuitland has maintained its vision to contribute to the healthy growth of motorization and carried out a variety of activities.

In 1997, Honda opened a new facility promoting mobility, Twin Ring Motegi (Motegi, Haga, Tochigi-prefecture), which was developed under the theme of “Fusion of People, Nature, and Mobility.” Twin Ring Motegi has two race courses – an oval course and a road course – and provides its visitors with opportunities to participate in and experience motor sports along with safe driving education activities. Twin Ring Motegi also has “Honda Collection Hall,” a display of motorcycles, automobiles, power products, and racing machines which Honda has developed since its establishment, as well as “Fan Fun Lab” where visitors can enjoy experiences in various areas including environment and safety initiatives, and opportunities to use their skills to create something. Honda also offers different kinds of enjoyable experiences through its various corporate activities including “Hello Woods,” which offers participants fun and learning experiences in the rich nature area surrounding Twin Ring Motegi and enables them to cultivate their own sensitivities.

Honda will utilize the facilities as the foundation for Honda to disseminate messages through its corporate activities and provide a wide range of people in society with joys and dreams through mobility.

About Suzuka Circuitland Co., Ltd.
Establishment: February 1, 1961 (Suzuka Circuit began operation in September 1962.)

Representative: Ikuo Shimizu, President

Capital Investment: 2 billion yen

Capitalization Ratio: 85.4% Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
14.6 % others

Headquarter Location: Suzuka, Mie-prefecture

Business Facilities: Suzuka Circuit (Suzuka, Mie), Tama Tech (Hino, Tokyo)

Employment: 373 associates (as of March 31, 2005)

Sales Revenue: 18.56 billion yen (fiscal year ended on March 31,2005)

1961 February Motor Sports Land Co., Ltd. (later changed to Suzuka Circuitland) was established

October Tama Tech (Hino, Tokyo) began operation

1962 September Construction of Suzuka Circuit was completed / operation began

1963 January The first automobile amusement park was built in Suzuka Circuit / operation began

November The first Japan Grand Prix Road Race for the World Championship was held

1964 September Skill training for police officers with motorcycle and automobile began at Suzuka Circuit

1978 July The first Suzuka 8-hour Endurance Motorcycle Race was held

1987 March Motorcycle Road Race World Championship Japan Grand Prix

June The company name was changed to Suzuka Circuitland Co., Ltd.

November The first Japan Grand Prix for FIA Formula 1 World Championship was held

1992 April Racing School (SRS) opened at Suzuka Circuit

2000 July “Putti Town” opened within the amusement park of Suzuka Circuit with a concept of “Children play the leading role”

About Twin Ring Motegi Co., Ltd.
Establishment: February 1, 1991 (Twin Ring Motegi began operation in August 1997.)

Representative: Ikuo Shimizu, President

Capital Investment: 5 billion yen

Capitalization Ratio: 100% Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

Headquarter Location: Tokyo

Business Facilities: Twin Ring Motegi (Motegi, Haga, Tochigi-prefecture)

Employment: 133 associates (as of March 31, 2005)

Visitors/Sales Revenue: 8.62 billion yen (fiscal year ended on March 31,2005)

1991 February Honda Mobility World Co., Ltd., which later became Twin Ring Motegi, was established
(The company name was changed to Twin Ring Motegi Co., Ltd. In January 1994)

1997 August Twin Ring Motegi began operation

1998 March Indy Car World Series race was held for the first time using the Super Speedway (oval course of Twin Ring Motegi),
Honda Collection Hall, Fan Fun Lab, and Hotel Twin Ring opened

1999 April FIM Motorcycle Road Race World Championship was held for the first time.

2000 July “Hello Woods” began activities

2003 April Indy Racing League was held for the first time  Honda

German DTM
Audi signs Mattias Ekström till 2008 Audi signs Mattias Ekström till 2008Only a few days after AUDI AG revealed its long-term involvement in the DTM till 2008, the company has agreed terms with Mattias Ekström to extend contracts. The 2004 DTM Champion will once again compete as Audi works driver in the most popular and high-caliber international touring car race series. "Mattias is an incredibly fast and pleasant racing driver. He fits perfectly to the Audi brand,” explained Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "We are delighted that he will continue to fly the flag for Audi over the next three years.”
The 27-year old Swede, who is one of the world’s best touring car drivers, said after lengthening his contract: "I’m very happy that we are able to continue this long-term and successful relationship, especially since we have created an excellent foundation for a long-term plan with the signing of this three-year contract. Although I obviously already have the next target in my sights: to reclaim the DTM title for Audi in 2006.”
Mattias Ekström was born on 14 July 1978 in Falun (S), has his home in Krylbo (S) and lives together with Swede Tina Thörner who is also actively involved in motorsport. His career started in 1993. In 1999, he was Swedish Touring Car Champion driving an Audi A4 quattro. In 2001 he arrived on the DTM scene where he has driven exclusively Audi cars from his first race. In 2004, he won, as youngest driver ever in DTM history to that point, the title in an Audi A4 DTM. In 2005 he was narrowly beaten to the title and finished, as best Audi driver, in second place.
IRL Stars of Karting 2006 technical regulations IRL Stars of Karting 2006 technical regulations
Toyota aim for wins in 2006 Toyota aim for wins in 2006The Panasonic Toyota racing team is pulling out all the stops to take their first win, something they are hoping will come in 2006.  Ultimately they want to win the F1 World Championship.

“To take our first win is my aim. Whether it is realistic or not, we will have to wait and see, but having decided to compete in Formula One we have to challenge at the very front,” said Tsutomu Tomita (pictured right). “We had two targets at the start of this season. The first one was to score points at as many races as possible and once we had satisfied those circumstances, the aim was to get onto the podium. We finished 17 out of the 19 races in the points and we scored five podiums. We have also finished the season very close to the defending champions, so I am more than pleased.”

Jarno Trulli fully agrees that the squad’s first win is not very far away and hopefully it will come at his hands in the upcoming 2006 championship.

"I hope it'll be me giving it to them,” he said of the first win. “As a team we should do it. We want to be at least among the top five in the championship, but if the car gets to the end you can be sure I'll take it up to the front, very much at the front."

Webber happy with new teammate Webber happy with new teammateWilliamsF1 driver Mark Webber is looking forward to contesting the new 2006 Formula One championship with the Grove based squad and is pleased with new teammate Nico Rosberg.

“He's been testing with us a lot so there's no surprise in that he's capable of driving the car very, very quickly,” he told Eurosport. “It's a great signing for the team; he won the GP2 championship in a very good fashion he's certainly ready for Formula 1, and with Heikki Kovalainen also coming through the ranks, they will be the future stars.”

Massa says Ferrari and Bridgestone making progress Massa says Ferrari and Bridgestone making progressFelipe Massa is confident that Ferrari and Bridgestone are making significant gains.

"Since the first tests in Vallelunga at the end of October, the tires have definitely improved," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"You can really see the effort put in by the Japanese technicians. Undoubtedly this is also thanks to the new regulations, which now allow us to use softer compounds.

"For sure, however, you can't say that the fault for some terrible results last season was all down to the tires. Likewise, it would be wrong to say that the improvements we have now are all thanks to the tires.

"I'm really happy about the relationship we've built with the technicians and the mechanics," he added. "Everyone is giving me a big hand, not only in setting up the car, but also in refining my driving style.

"How? For example by suggesting to me the best gear in which to go through a turn, or how to delay braking and take a different line. So, I'm building experience, and now I feel ready to race with Ferrari."

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
New 'Bull nearly ready to race
Alonso misses Spanish gong
Ferrari head for Mugello launch
McLaren not 'better' car - Renault

First 'MF1' car to run in February
Midland confirm V10 advantage
A Christmas grand prix
Ferrari slam McLaren’s Alonso coup Ferrari slam McLaren’s Alonso coupLuca di Montezemolo has added his criticism to Fernando Alonso's recently announced switch for 2007 to McLaren.

Like F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, the Italian president of Ferrari does not agree with the tactic of announcing a deal to change teams more than a year before he'll even try the new cockpit.

Montezemolo might also be annoyed that the Alonso deal seems to indicate that Kimi Raikkonen is indeed bound for the red squad. ''It doesn't please me at all,'' Luca replied to a question about the move.

Perhaps referring specifically to Renault, he added: ''It can only harm the motivation and the work of the entire team.  I think it is not morally right.

''Ferrari would never behave like that.''

Montoya's 'tennis' moment Montoya's 'tennis' momentMcLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya lived through the most embarrassing moment of his life in 2005.

The Colombian driver told the 'Eurosport Automagazin' that his face went brightest red when he made a phone call to team boss Ron Dennis earlier this year.

JPM said: ''I had to tell him that I had broken my shoulder by slipping on a tennis ball.

''It was anything but a good moment in my life.''

Montoya's curious story sent the paddock cynics into a spin, with many purporting that the grand prix ace had crashed an off-road motorcycle.  The tennis account, they said, was to keep his salary insurers happy, and to avoid Dennis' renowned wrath.

In the same year, meanwhile, Montoya enjoyed his best moment.  In April, around the time of his 'tennis' lay off, wife Connie gave birth to their first baby, Sebastian.

''Nothing can ever beat that,'' he added.

Michael scared Marco will become another IRL victim Michael scared Marco will become another IRL victimGiven the statistics of the IRL that has seen so many drivers injured since its inception, it's no wonder that Michael Andretti is scared his son Marco will become another of the walking wounded in the most dangerous form of motorsports on the planet (See this article for the grim statistics). In this interview, Michael Andretti expresses his trepidation.

"It scares me, just like it scares me when I see my three other friends out there," Michael said. "It's a scary thing. It's a scary sport. Let's not hide any of it, it's dangerous out there. "Having said that, I mean, it would be pretty hypocritical to say, 'You know what, Marco (pictured right), you can't go driving those things because they're too dangerous. Dario, Tony, it's OK for you.'

"No. I mean, it's part of the game. It's part of the game since day one. It will always be there.

"I'm going to be nervous, just like I always am. Maybe even a little extra because, you know, it's different when it's your blood out there.

"Having said that, I'm going to be nervous, but I'm going to be very excited. I think it's just an exciting moment for our family, I really do, and this team.

"Just because Marco is my son doesn't mean that they have to be careful with him," Andretti said. "He gets treated like everybody else.

"Marco is going to have a tough year. I think the racing is going to be the easiest part for him."

V8 Supercars
China nixes V8 Supercar race China nixes V8 Supercar raceThe Federation of Automobile Sports of China (FASC) has axed the June date for the V8 Supercars' proposed round at Shanghai's International Circuit.

V8 Supercars Australia has been informed that the proposed date of June 10-12 does not suit the Chinese calendar and that the FASC had informed FIA to withdraw it from the next year's calendar.

But officials remain optimistic the round will go ahead and are in negotiations with FASC, event promoter the Greenland Group, the Shanghai International Circuit and the Chinese Ministry of Sport about a new date proposal.

"The date of the Chinese round has been always conditional with the FASC since it was first proposed at the launch of the 2006 V8 Supercar championship series calendar in October," V8 Supercars Australia said in a statement. V8 Supercars Australia is very disappointed with this outcome and remains hopeful this issue can be resolved." Sportal.com

[Editor's Note: As they do in Surfers, perhaps Champ Car and V8 Supercar should team up in Beijing. We doubt Bernie is going to allow another potential big race in Shanghai that could detract from the F1 race that is already losing huge sums of money. ]
Barros quits MotoGP Barros quits MotoGPAlex Barros has quit MotoGP and will ride in the World Superbike Championship next season. Barros was not satisfied with the offers he had received to stay in MotoGP, and has decided to try his luck in the Superbike class.

"I don't want to compete if I can't be a contender," Barros told the sports daily Lance. "My goal now is to be a world champion in the Superbike."

It ends a 16-year association in MotoGP/500c for the 35-year-old. During that time he won seven races, earned five pole positions and had 31 podium finishes. He was fourth in the championship on five separate occasions. Sportal.com
Button backs rules changes Button backs rules changesHonda's Jenson Button had backed the new rules governing engines for the 2006 season and believes that they will make Formula One more exciting.

Under the new rules, teams have to downgrade their engines from three-liter V10s to 2.4-litre V8s.

While this has come under criticism from some quarters, the move has been popular with most drivers, with Michael Schumacher saying the move will improve safety in the sport.

Now the British driver has added his weight to the argument, saying the move will make for more exciting racing.

"It's a completely new engine for everyone but we are only three seconds off the V10 so it's not that slow," Button said.

"It definitely feels a lot different and you really notice it when you make a mistake so if someone makes a mistake in front of you, it will be better for overtaking." London News

Busch court date postponed Busch court date postponedKurt Busch has a January court date to face a criminal reckless driving citation he received while in the Valley for the Nextel Cup race last month. Busch was scheduled to appear in Tolleson Justice Court on Thursday but changed the court date to 9:00am on Jan. 27, according to court officials. The 2004 Nextel Cup champion was belligerent and uncooperative when he was pulled over by Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies on Nov. 11 near Phoenix International Raceway, according to sheriff's reports. A breath test and field sobriety tests confirmed Busch wasn't drunk, but deputies issued a criminal traffic citation for reckless driving. Busch's 2005 team, #97 Roush Racing, suspended him for the final two races of the season. East Valley Tribune
Ferrari helping Red Bull team Ferrari helping Red Bull teamRed Bull Racing technical director Mark Smith says that his team's new engine supplier, Ferrari, is making for a good partner.

"Working with Ferrari has been a very interesting experience," he said in an interview with Italian Autosprint magazine. "They have their team and the engine is designed around their needs, but I've found them extremely competent and helpful people.

"The modifications we requested in accordance with our installation design have been granted. In other words, they haven't told us 'this is the engine, build the car around it,' but they have satisfied all our requests for modifications.

"The car that ran in Silverstone is in its almost definitive configuration," added Smith. "Based on future tests there might appear some aerodynamic modifications, but we're talking about details. The aerodynamics, especially on the sides of the car, are definitive.

"The second chassis, whose monocoque has already been built, will be assembled only in February, after the month of testing we'll carry out in the new wind tunnel and in the tests planned for Spain. The official presentation, on the other hand, will only happen in Bahrain."

Sato is a father Sato is a fatherJapanese F1 driver Takuma Sato was blessed with an early Christmas gift this year when his wife presented him with a son just in time for Christmas.   Born at Princess Grace Central in Monaco at 2:40 pm local time Friday the 23rd of December, the newest addition to the Sato family has yet to be given a name.  Mother and child are both said to be doing well.
Christmas wishes from BMW and Williams Christmas wishes from BMW and WilliamsIn 2005, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team contested the longest season in the sport’s history. Altogether, Mark Webber, Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia scored a total of 66 World Championship points, thus securing fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship, for the Anglo-German cooperation.

In just a week’s time, BMW and Williams F1 will officially go their separate ways as both companies continue the hunt for points and wins on their own.

They have both taken this opportunity to wish their loyal fans a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year and hope you all look forward together with them to a thrilling and fair competition on all the circuits around the world in 2006. BMW Williams

"Scuderia Ferrari Club" founded "Scuderia Ferrari Club" foundedMaranello, Italy - Ferrari announces to all its fans that, as from 1st January, all existing clubs and their members will be reunited under the banner of "Scuderia Ferrari Club", a new non-profit making limited company.

The new company has Ferrari S.p.A. as its founding club, with a Capital of 105,000 Euro. For obvious reasons, including the use of brand names, it is planned that Ferrari will remain the major share holder.

All clubs currently recognized by Ferrari will be invited to the first official appearance of the 2006 F1 car, due to take place at Mugello in the second half of January. On this occasion and in the presence of a public notary, club presidents will be able to draw up subscription documents, with all relevant costs met by Ferrari.

Existing clubs can join at a cost of 200 Euro per year, which among other benefits will see the club provided with the identification badges for their sections, letterheads and posters to decorate their clubhouse - while an extra 40 Euro one-off payment is needed to enroll in "Scuderia Ferrari Club."

Individual members can pay a subscription of 20 Euro plus VAT per year (5 Euro plus VAT for family and junior membership.) They will receive a personal membership card with which they can enjoy planned benefits and services, at no additional cost. The main advantages are factory visits in Maranello, attending Formula 1 test days, free tickets to the Ferrari grandstands at the Imola and Monza GPs for Friday practice, discount on products from the Ferrari Store at Maranello and on admission to the Galleria Ferrari, as well as for events organized by the Prancing Horse company. In addition, they will have access to a special community on the www.Ferrariworld.com site, which provides live news on the company and its Formula 1 activity, including videos. zzzz

The new program maintains the identity of the local Clubs and their Presidents. They will continue to be the meeting point for the Marque's supporters, ensuring correct behavior in promoting events which will be discussed and decided up by the relevant Committee, elected and made up of representatives of these same clubs.

New clubs, constituted as a free association of people, can also join "Scuderia Ferrari Club" and be represented by a President, as long as they have sufficient members.

Marco Andretti to Begin IndyCar Series Career with ArcaEx Team Marco Andretti to Begin IndyCar Series Career with ArcaEx TeamUPDATE #2 This SPEEDTV.com article by Robin Miller asks the same question on everyone's mind - why is Michael Andretti rushing his son Marco into dangerous Indy Cars before he's ready? Some think it's a recipe for disaster, but we see it slightly different. Until the IRL changes their downforce rules, 2006 will see lower HP engines and slower speeds. Without taking downforce out of the cars they will be easy flat, so it will be simple for Marco to make the transition, perhaps the timing is perfect. He just needs to keep his nose clean and not bang wheels with other drivers. If he can do that it will be a like a Sunday drive - just mash the pedal to the floorboard, turn the wheel a few degrees and ride around. 12/23/05 Having raced go-karts, Skip Barber, Star Mazda (below) and the Infiniti Pro Series, Marco Andretti, like Danica Patrick before him, came up through the road racing ranks. Some bemoan the fact that Marco Andretti only has one oval track race on his resume, at Indy in the IPS cars. However, Danica Patrick had zero oval experience too and was competitive immediately in the IRL cars because compared to road racing, driving 100% throttle Indy Cars is easy and requires very little talent, especially in 2006 with the drop in HP (making cars 'easy' flat). Because it is so easy, we expect Marco Andretti to be competitive immediately.   He just needs to avoid touching wheels with other cars to avoid a Kenny Brack or Ryan Briscoe-like crash.

Marco Andretti at Laguna Seca in Star Mazda Car
Photos by Marco S.

With the well financed Andretti Green team behind him, he will have the best chassis under him, having been developed special by AGR with funding from Honda in previous years. They will take their superior chassis with them into 2006, though eventually the other teams may catch up since AGR won't be getting any further subsidies from Honda to make their cars 'special.'

12/20/05 Third-generation driver Marco Andretti will launch his Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series career in 2006 as the driver of the #26 Honda-powered Dallara for Andretti Green Racing with the backing of the Archipelago Exchange (ArcaEx), which is returning to the team in its role as a major sponsor. Marco, 18, is the son of two-time IndyCar Series championship-winning team owner and former CART champion Michael Andretti, and the grandson of racing legend Mario Andretti.

ArcaEx, the nation's first totally open all-electronic stock exchange, has been a major sponsor of Andretti Green and driver Dario Franchitti since the start of the 2003 season. ArcaEx has visited victory lane five times in the IndyCar Series with Andretti Green, most recently at California Speedway when Franchitti won from the pole in the 2005 season finale. Marco has been competing in various levels of motorsports since the age of nine. Most recently, he participated in the 2005 Star Mazda Series on a full-time basis, placing fifth in the final championship standings while registering three top-fives over 12 events. He also competed in six IRL

Infiniti Pro Series events, earning three victories from the pole (St. Petersburg, Indianapolis road course and Infineon Raceway). Previously, he claimed the 2004 Skip Barber Series National Championship, the 2004 Formula TR Championship, the 2004 Skip Barber Formula Dodge Southern Series Championship and the 2003 Skip Barber Formula Dodge Eastern Series Championship. He has also notched multiple karting wins and championships.  zzzz 

The younger Andretti will team with 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan, four-time IndyCar Series winner Dario Franchitti and two-time IndyCar Series winner Bryan Herta in the four-car Andretti Green Racing stable. And, for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500, the quartet of drivers will be joined by Michael Andretti as they attempt to win consecutive Indianapolis 500-mile races for Andretti Green Racing. The event will mark the first time since 1994 that a father and son will compete together at the event. That year saw Mario make his final Indianapolis 500 appearance while Michael made his 10th Indy start.

The 2006 IndyCar Series schedule begins Sunday, March 26, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 14-race schedule features 11 oval tracks, two permanent road courses and one temporary street circuit. 

Marco Andretti, #26 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "I'm excited about having the opportunity to drive the ArcaEx car for Andretti Green Racing. Over the past couple of years, I've had the opportunity to spend time in the paddock with the ArcaEx team, as well as my three teammates, so that is a plus. I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me and a pretty steep learning curve, but I also know that I have one of the best teams in motorsports working with me." 

Michael Andretti, Chief Executive Officer, Andretti Green Racing: "It's a thrill, both as a team owner and as a father, to have Marco joining the ArcaEx team and Andretti Green Racing. ArcaEx has been a great partner and to have their support behind this effort means a great deal. Marco has shown his abilities while competing in the various development series and it will be exciting to watch him grow as a driver in the IndyCar Series." 

Jerry Putnam, Chief Executive Officer, Archipelago: "Archipelago has enjoyed a great relationship with Andretti Green Racing and with Dario over the past three years, and we are excited about this opportunity to align our company with the rise of a young star like Marco Andretti. We strongly believe that the combination of speed and technology in IndyCar racing and Marco's incomparable legacy offers us a unique marketing opportunity."  AGR

TV News
USA TV reminders for Sunday USA TV reminders for Sunday
5:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m. ET (Replay) Discovery HD Theater
12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. ET, SPEED:  American Le Mans Series
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. ET, SPEED:    Formula One
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET, SPEED:    NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. ET, SPEED:    NASCAR Nextel Cup
4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. ET, SPEED:    NASCAR Busch Series
5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. ET, SPEED:    Grand Am/Rolex Sports Cars
Stade de France, Paris
5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. ET (Replay) HDNet
'The Great Race'  (1965)
8:00 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET, SPEED

For a complete listing of Sunday's TV Programs, see TVRacer.com and Race Fan TV.

EU reviewing Spain and Hungary F1 tobacco exemption EU reviewing Spain and Hungary F1 tobacco exemptionUPDATE #2 Formula One will not be allowed to run any races in Europe with tobacco sponsorship, despite attempts by some governments to get the sport an exempt from cigarette advertising legislation.

Philip Tod, the European Commission spokesman for health and consumer protection, told autosport.com: "While the Commission cannot comment at this stage on any specific national legislation which is still pending or under examination, the Tobacco Advertising Directive includes no exemptions for Formula One or any other sport.

"The Directive makes clear in its article 5 that, 'Sponsorship of events or activities involving or taking place in several Member States or otherwise having cross-border effects shall be prohibited'."

Autosport.com reports that legal proceedings are expected to be taken by the Commission in early 2006.

12/22/05 The European Union said it will review a Dec. 15 ruling by Spain to exempt Formula One car racing and MotoGP motorcycling from a ban on tobacco advertising through the end of 2008.
The exemption contravenes an EU directive on tobacco ads that came into force Aug. 1, European Commission spokesman Philip Tod said by telephone today.

``Sponsorship of cross-border events by the tobacco industry is no longer permitted,'' Tod said. The commission is reviewing interpretation of the directive by each country, he added, without giving more details.

Spain, which hosts a Formula One race in Barcelona, joins Hungary in exempting the most-watched motor sport from a tobacco advertising ban. It benefits companies such as Altria Group Inc., which sponsors the Ferrari team.

Spain, which also hosts MotoGP races in Cheste and Jerez, is protecting its ``important'' motor sport industry, said Carolina Herrero, a spokeswoman for the Catalan nationalist party, which requested the exemption.

Formula One is the last major sporting organization to accept money from cigarette brands. The Olympic Games stopped accepting tobacco sponsorships in 1968 and international soccer's ruling body FIFA followed suit in 1986. Bloomberg News

12/20/05 The EU said that it will review a December 15 ruling by Spain that exempts F1 and MotoGP events “from a ban on tobacco advertising through the end of” ’08. Spain and Hungary are the only two EU nations to exempt F1 from the tobacco ban. BLOOMBERG NEWS
No cash crisis, says Ferrari No cash crisis, says FerrariBeleaguered Ferrari has played down suggestions of a cash crisis at Maranello.  Despite major backer Vodafone's impending $40m a-year switch to McLaren, and carmaker Fiat's lesser support, principal Jean Todt grinned - at the Ferrari Christmas party in Italy - that the team 'had never had so much'.

The Frenchman told 'FAZ': ''Vodafone went to our competitor because we couldn't give them everything they wanted.''

And, even though tobacco advertising bans are sweeping Europe, Todt revealed that the new Philip Morris (Marlboro) deal is 'larger' than in the past.  It is also a fact that Ferrari's 2008 'Concorde Agreement' deal involves substantially more money.

In other Christmas Eve news, Honda announced that it will launch the 2006 'RA106' car on 25 January, in Barcelona (Spain).

'05 'BAR' driver Takuma Sato, meanwhile, won't get to steer the new works Honda car next year, but the Japanese is a dead-cert for the primary Super Aguri ride.

'Taku' also got a nice early Christmas present this week -- his first child.  Sato's partner Chiharu gave birth to the healthy but unnamed baby on Friday, at Monaco's Princess Grace.

Track News
Sepang to expand motorsport offering Sepang to expand motorsport offeringWhile Formula One (F1) will remain as its top priority in 2006, Sepang International Circuit (SIC) has declared it will be giving equally strong emphasis in the organization of its local events next year, including further expanding the Malaysian Super Series (MSS) championship.

"For 2006, the MSS will see two new events; the Super Compact Championship and the Formula Malaysia Championship.

"With this expansion, we may have to look at splitting the MSS into cars and bikes events only - running on separate weekends," said SIC Director Datuk Seri Bashir Ahmad Abdul Majid, who is also the Managing Director of Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB).

He also said that the SIC AAM Malaysian Motocross Championship would also be expanded into a full 12-round championship with three rounds of enduro challenge.

Speaking at the 2005 SIC Championship Dinner and Award Presentation ceremony here Thursday, Bashir also announced increases in prize money for the 12-hour Merdeka Millennium Endurance (MME) race, which currently offers some RM200,000 in cash and prizes.  zzzz

"F1 will remain as SIC's top priority for next year and we aim to repeat, if not better, this year's race attendance of over 106,000 fans," he said, adding that the eighth edition of the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix will be held from 17th to 19th March.

The 2006 F1 World Championship opens in Bahrain on March 12.

"Apart from the annual events of Formula One, MotoGP, Japan GT, the MME, the Malaysian Super Series, the National Motocross Championship and the highly popular Sepang Drag Battle, we hosted for the very first time the A1 Grand Prix of Nations and the Japanese K-Car Championship," he said.

He said outside of these events, SIC had also successfully organized this year the MotoGP tests, various cars and bikes test sessions, track days, private gatherings of motoring enthusiasts, race camps, advanced driving courses and casual rides; making 2005 the busiest year ever since SIC was established in 1999. Bernama.com

Track News
Bruton Smith gets hefty bonus Bruton Smith gets hefty bonusSpeedway Motorsports Inc. has approved cash bonuses totaling $3.22 million to its top executives for 2005, the company says in a regulatory filing. 
Chief Executive Bruton Smith led the bonuses with $1.35 million granted by a Dec. 7 vote of Speedway's compensation committee. In 2004, Smith received a $1 million cash bonus to supplement his $400,000 salary.

Speedway President Humpy Wheeler got a $650,000 bonus, up from $550,000 in 2004. His base salary in 2004 was $325,000.

Treasurer William Brooks received $600,000, up $200,000 from 2004. Brooks' base salary in 2004 was $300,000.

NASCAR Legends NASCAR LegendsLegends came together in Daytona Beach in February as 10 Daytona 500 champions posed for a photo during the Short Track Racing Summit's "Gathering of Champions." Left to right: Michael Waltrip, Pete Hamilton, Junior Johnson, Darrell Waltrip, Marvin Panch, NASCAR Vice Chairman Bill France, Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Buddy Baker. Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/NASCAR
Hamilton and PPI part ways Hamilton and PPI part waysUPDATE The official statement from Bobby Hamilton Jr. regarding his release from PPI: "Today [Thurs] PPI notified me that I was terminated. I'm looking forward to talking to teams about the opportunities that are still out there for next year and beyond. I've been a full time driver in Busch or Cup for five years, I've won races, I'm still just 27, and I know I can drive. While I don't agree with PPI's decision, I have only best wishes for Cal and the whole team as they prepare for next season. Motorsports Management PR

12/22/05 PPI Motorsports has announced that Bobby Hamilton Jr. will no longer be the driver of the No. 32 Tide/Downy Chevrolet." I want to thank Bobby for his efforts over the past year and a half," said Cal Wells III, owner of PPI Motorsports. "I wish Bobby nothing but the best as he pursues his options for next season."

In 44 starts for PPIM, Hamilton Jr. produced three top-15 and 13 top-25 finishes.

PPI Motorsports, based in Hickory, N.C., fields the No. 32 Tide/Downy Chevrolet in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Since joining the series in 2000, the team has earned two wins, three pole positions, 10 top-fives and 26 top-10s. The team also owns multiple titles and victories in off-road and open-wheel racing and celebrates its 25th year in racing this season.

Yates signs new driver Yates signs new driverTwo-time defending NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Midwest point series champion, Justin Diercks, will sign a contract with Robert Yates Racing in the coming days, Yates team general manager Eddie D’Hondt said Thursday. The Yates team has three Nextel Cup cars, but D’Hondt said Diercks likely would spend the coming year driving on the ARCA circuit. D’Hondt said Diercks also could earn some starts in the Busch Series, which is raced at NASCAR tracks in conjunction with Nextel Cup events. Diercks could not be reached for comment, but D’Hondt confirmed that the 26-year-old Quad-Citian tested twice at different tracks for RYR, driving Dale Jarrett’s #88 UPS Ford Taurus once and Elliott Sadler’s M&Ms Ford on another occasion. “He did a really good job both times and on different-sized racetracks,’’ said D’Hondt, who is entering his third year with RYR and previously worked for Bill Elliott Racing and Evernham Motorsports. “We plan on making him part of our family in the near future.’’ Diercks has been racing on asphalt tracks for almost a decade and won his first feature at the age of 17. D’Hondt said a Diercks representative made the Yates team aware of Diercks a year ago, and he said RYR closely followed Diercks’ second straight Midwest Series points win last summer and fall. Diercks interviewed with D’Hondt and RYR engine builder Doug Yates twice and impressed them, D’Hondt said. “He is just a good kid,’’ the general manager said. “He’s a racer, and he’s a worker. He has a very good background, and what he has accomplished to date is strong. Marketability-wise, he will do a good job for any sponsor. We just have to get behind him.’’ D’Hondt said Diercks would be one of three young racers RYR planned to groom for a possible Nextel Cup future, joining racers Steve Leicht and Matt McCall. Diercks will continue to test in RYR’s Nextel Cup cars throughout the year, D’Hondt said. As for getting to drive in a Nextel Cup race, “Not until he earns it,’’ the GM said. “But he’ll get to that eventually.’’ Quad-City Times
Holiday Plans for Raikkonen, Montoya and de la Rosa Holiday Plans for Raikkonen, Montoya and de la RosaIt's hard enough knowing what gifts to buy friends and family but imagine trying to buy a gift for a McLaren Mercedes driver? Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya and Pedro de la Rosa all have their own plans for the holiday period...

Kimi Raikkonen
"I am looking forward to spending Christmas with my family, this is a tradition for me as Christmas is a great time to catch up and spend time with parents and in-laws. This year the perfect present for me would be a jet; this would make my journeys to all the overseas races a lot easier as there would be less waiting around, however I would be happy with clothes, CD's and DVD's as well."

Juan Pablo Montoya
"This year will be my son Sebastian's first Christmas and to make it extra special we are going to take him to a ski resort in Europe with our family and friends so that he will get to see snow for the first time. Our Christmas is usually fairly traditional, which in Colombia we celebrate on Christmas Eve. We attend church and that is usually followed by a meal and all the children are given their presents then. For me all I will be hoping for is that Team McLaren Mercedes have a great 2006!"

Pedro de la Rosa
"Christmas for me is a family occasion with us visiting my wife Maria's family for lunch on Christmas day and then going onto my parents in the evening. This is usually a fun occasion as my brother dresses up as Santa to give all the children their presents. This year we are also going to go to New York on the 27th December so that should be great fun for the family. As for presents all I hope for is good health as when you are healthy then you can achieve anything."  Source McLaren Mercedes

Paffett weds Paffett weds24-year old McLaren Mercedes F1 test driver and 2005 German DTM champion, Gary Paffett, married Lisa on December 17th of this year.  They have one child.   After a honeymoon they will reside in Haverhill, England.
Quote of the Year Quote of the YearIn reviewing all the various quotes in racing from 2005 AutoRacing1.com editors have selected the best Quote of the Year. This year's award goes to David Letterman.

Back in May Letterman had Paul Newman on his Late Show on CBS and one of the topics was the Indy 500. Dave asked Newman if he would attend the 500 to support his two drivers, Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira. Newman's answer was "No, I won't be going, I have a problem with the management." To which Letterman replied, "We all have a problem with the management, but I still go there to take his (Tony George's) money."

One has to wonder if all the ex-CART owners and drivers in the IRL feel the same way.
Budweiser gets the most in-broadcast TV exposure value Budweiser gets the most in-broadcast TV exposure valueThe streak continues. For the 21st consecutive season, the primary team sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series champion (The Home Depot/Tony Stewart) did not earn the most in-broadcast exposure value for the season. The 2005 team sponsor top-five ranked as follows: Budweiser ($149.0 million), Lowe's ($140.2 million), The Home Depot ($125.0 million), NAPA Auto Parts ($105.5 million) and DuPont ($84.7 million). The hood of a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series car is some of the most valuable real estate in all of sports. The following is the top-3 of the top hoods in terms of generating on-screen time during the race telecasts: 1) Lowe's/#48-Johnson, 7:16:32; 22.0%; 2) DuPont/#24-Gordon, 5:40:24 (exposure time), 28.3% (% of Brand's Exp); 3) The Home Depot/#20-Stewart, 5:39:27; 19.7%. Joyce Julius PR
Yamaha team goes smokeless Yamaha team goes smokelessUPDATE As of today, Yamaha Motor Company has announced that "Altadis/Seita's sponsorship regarding Yamaha's Factory MotoGP Team will not continue after the end of the 2005 season." Yamaha's announcement comes while the two companies are still in the midst of negotiating the terms of a settlement agreement that would amicably resolve the dispute that arose between them earlier this year. Altadis considers that Yamaha is still bound by a legal obligation that prevents Yamaha from collaborating with sponsors whose products compete directly with the Gauloises brand or with Altadis products for the 2006 season.

Altadis laments that Yamaha, even while acknowledging that "Altadis/Seita have been sponsors of the Yamaha Factory MotoGP project for the past 3 seasons under both the Fortuna and the Gauloises brands during which time the companies shared 2 world championship victories in the MotoGP class in 2004 and 2005," appears poised to disregard the significance of the Altadis investment in that project.

In the absence of a settlement, Altadis will not hesitate to seek the appropriate legal remedies if Yamaha fails to abide by its legal obligations towards Altadis and the Gauloises brand.

12/23/05 Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. hereby announces that Altadis/Seita’s sponsorship regarding Yamaha's Factory MotoGP Team will not continue after the end of the 2005 season. For more than 40 years, Yamaha has successfully participated in the Road Racing Grand Prix World Championship and it has become the leading manufacturer of the MotoGP competition. Altadis/Seita have been sponsors of the Yamaha Factory MotoGP project for the past three seasons under both the Fortuna and the Gauloises brands, during which time the companies shared two world championship victories in the MotoGP class in 2004 and 2005. Yamaha will announce its 2006 MotoGP program in January 2006.
Honda to launch at Barcelona Honda to launch at BarcelonaHonda Racing have announced that the launch of their 2006 Formula One car will take place at Barcelona on January 25th.  Jenson Button will do the first testing of it.
Marco Andretti moving to Indy Marco Andretti moving to IndyMarco Andretti, who lives in Nazareth, Pa., said he plans to move to Indianapolis after the holidays to be near Andretti Green Racing, the IRL team for which he will drive in 2006.  Andretti, 18, signed his three-year contract Tuesday morning before a news conference to announce his hiring. Indy Star
Clint Field: In his own words Clint Field: In his own wordsAt last, Clint Field has his championship. After winning six times in 2004, the 22-year-old won five times in the American Le Mans Series' LMP2 class in '05 and became the youngest Series champion in its seven-year history, along with leading Intersport Racing to its first team championship in the Series.

Now things are beginning to crank up once again as the American Le Mans Series Winter Test and the 54th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring are quickly approaching. With an eye toward a new season, we picked Clint's brain for his thoughts on 2005 and Intersport's prospects for 2006:

Question: How long did it take to soak up all that you and the team accomplished this year?

Answer: We have kept pretty quiet. We're just taking it easy. Competing at the highest level is stressful. We're getting ready for Sebring where we hope to pick up where we left off.

Q: If you had to pick one crowning moment of 2005, what would it be?

A: Laguna defined our year. We had great points where we started at the back and came through the field, then had some bad luck and troubles. But it all turned out good in the end.

Q: You gave a special thanks to your dad (Jon) during your speech at the season-ending banquet. How has he helped in your development as a driver?

A: He's been in the game for so long and knows what he's doing. We're a good pairing because we both want the same thing. We push each other so well and we feed off each other, which is a really good feeling. Those races were some good races, and racing with Liz (Halliday) was good, too. Throughout my career, I've gone from race-to-race and never felt like I had one person as a constant teammate. You never know what you're going to get with someone at each race. You have to adapt yourself to the car and another person's driving style. zzzz

Q: Intersport isn't the largest team out there, so this must be especially rewarding for all of the people involved.

A: Yeah, we were definitely the smallest team in the Series. There are only really three or four people who help us throughout the year, including Brian (Alder), myself and my dad. It's on a small scale, but we do it well. We've proved it in the past, this year and hopefully in the years to come. We've got a great combination.

Q: How much development work did the team do with the Lola over the course of the season?

A: Not much. That's something we didn't do a lot of. With Penske and Porsche coming in, that's something we want to do more of. I don't think the car showed what it can be. We want to focus more on optimum performance. Last year, we were focused on competing just in LMP2 and winning that championship. With Penske and Porsche coming in, we have to be on top of our performance.

Q: What sort of things are you and the team doing during the off-season? Will you stick with the Lola-AER combination?

A: We're definitely going to bring the same exact car back. Liz had a great season, and we're bringing her back. We wanted to finalize that before working on our performance testing. We'll be at the Winter Test in January at Sebring.

Q: What's in store for Intersport in 2006? Rumors have the team moving back to P1 and running P2, as well.

A: As for right now, there's nothing. We're working hard on trying to bring in a second car. We're working hard on our contracts and sponsors and get drivers in here. It may not be Sebring or Houston. We're just trying to get everything all in a row.

Q: Testing at Sebring next month will help, won't it?

A: It's going to be a bonus to go there with Penske and see how we stack up and just brush off the rust a little bit. It will be good to get back in the car. Then after that point, we'll do some more tests, perhaps after Sebring and work on some performance issues. Mainly, the Sebring test will be to get everyone who will be driving some seat time and see where we are.

Q: We would be remiss to ask how Intersport is preparing to face Penske and Porsche next season. How do you size up that challenge?

A: I wasn't surprised (at the Laguna performance). We tested with them at Atlanta and we knew we would be right on top of them. I think we were a little off (in Monterey), and we knew they would have a little edge on us. It'll be good to see how we stack up with them at Sebring. It's going to be extremely hard-fought all season, difficult for all the drivers and the crew. ALMS

Jacques Villeneuve F1 quiz Jacques Villeneuve F1 quizUPDATE Answers to the quiz : 1.) a ; 2.) c, Williams FW 18, 19, 20, BAR 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, Renault R24, Sauber C24; 3.) b ; 4.) d ; 5). All of the above answers.

1. In his first Grand Prix, in March, 1996, at Melbourne, Jacques Villeneuve came within five laps of repeating a feat that only one driver had ever achieved before: to win on his F1 debut. Who was the Italian driver who made history in his first F1 appearance at the 1961 French Grand Prix?
a. Giancarlo Baghetti.     
b. Lorenzo Bandini.
c. Ludovico Scarfiotti.
d. Giorgio Scarlatti.    
2. How many different F1 race car models has Jacques Villeneuve driven since his debut at the 1996 Australian Grand Prix until the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix?
a. 8
b. 9
c. 10
d. 12
3. In 1996, Jacques Villeneuve ended up second in the driver standings, behind his team-mate Damon Hill. Previously, his father Gilles also finished as overall runner-up behind his team-mate. In which year and with which team-mate at Scuderia Ferrari?
a. 1978 with Carlos Reuteman.
b. 1979 with Jody Scheckter.
c. 1980 with Jody Scheckter.
d. 1981 with Didier Pironi.
4. Jacques Villeneuve competed against which of these two drivers in both Champ Car, several times in 1994 and 1995, and again in Formula 1 since 1996?
a. Giovanni Lavaggi and Nigel Mansell.
b. Nigel Mansell and Andrea Montermini.
c. Andrea Montermini and Alex Zanardi.
d. Giovanni Lavaggi and Andrea Montermini.   
5. It happened one January 1...
a. Birth of Jacky Ickx in 1945
b. Birth of Hans Stuck in 1951
c. Jim Clark's last Grand Prix victory in South Africa in 1968
d. Birth of Zolt Baumgartner in 1981

Wurz’s F1 future in doubt Wurz’s F1 future in doubtMcLaren Mercedes announced earlier in the week that Gary Paffett is to leave behind the DTM series that he conquered this year and joins Pedro de la Rosa on the testing front at the team in 2006. This currently leaves long-time McLaren test driver Alex Wurz out of a role next season.

The team confirmed that they are ‘still in discussion’ with Wurz regarding next season but with both testing seat already occupied, it leaves the Austrian short of options. Wurz had been linked to either a race or testing seat at BMW Sauber earlier in the season but with Jacques Villeneuve remaining with the team and Robert Kubica drafted in for the testing role, it now seems that the BMW Sauber option is now closed for Wurz.

While perhaps a future in the DTM is one option, it is not all bleak news for Wurz household ahead of Christmas.

"My Christmas was going to be different this year as my wife and I were expecting our second child on Christmas Eve - however Charlie was born early so my hope for getting out of cooking the turkey has gone,” said Wurz. “That means that we will go back to our usual celebrations which are a mixture of the Austrian (where we celebrate on Christmas Eve) and the British traditions. I will have to start thinking of new presents to wish for as I had only been thinking about the birth of my son."

Wurz competed in one race this year with a strong showing at the San Marino Grand Prix in which he finished third standing in for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya. Source McLaren Mercedes

Maserati to build car for LeMans Maserati to build car for LeMansMaserati director Claudio Berro has stated that the Italian Manufacturer will attempt to build a car eligible to compete at Le Mans in 2007. The current Maserati MC12 does not conform to the event's regulations. It is allowed by the FIA's GT series and in the USA by ALMS, but can't fight for the championship.

"The road has already been marked: Maserati will carry on with GT racing," Berro told Italian race magazine Autosprint. "We do want to go to Le Mans, not in 2006 but in 2007. It will be with a GT car, and different from the MC12 (pictured right), because that's not allowed to race in the 24 Hours race. Our future car will be the Grand Sport model, which is suited to different interpretations of the regulations."

"The possibility of an MC12 conforming to Le Mans regulations is definitely over because besides having to be reduced to two meters in its maximum width, we would have to make 100 (of the narrower version). We've only produced 50 MC12s."

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Schu is Ferrari 'future' - president
BMW's 'long road ahead'
Mosley no fan of F1 'knockout'
Alonso debate rolls on
'STR' to launch in March
Penske eyes cut-price F1
Duckworth website
Bridgestone not guaranteed '08 contract - Mosley
Cow manure could power F1
Michele Alboreto
Rossi must do more testing - Ferrari
JV not 'favored' driver, says BMW boss
Bilbao street race fails Bilbao street race failsThe inaugural street race in the Spanish city of Bilbao last July may be the last. After disagreement between local political parties (not uncommon for a street race), Bilbao has been forced to pull out of its three year deal to run the race with only one event having been run. Organizers confirmed that the Spanish round of the championship will now switch to Barcelona after unveiling their calendar for next season.

World Series by Renault 2006 calendar:

April 28-30: Zolder (Belgium)
May 26-28: Monaco *
June 16-18: Istanbul (Turkey) **
July 14-16: Misano (Italy) **
July 27-29: Spa-Francorchamps * (Belgium)
August 4-6: Nurburgring (Germany)
September 8-10: Donington (UK)
September 29 - October 1: Le Mans (France)
October 20-22: Barcelona (Spain)

* World Series by Renault 3.5 only, the rest include the full program
** To be confirmed

* World Series Formula Renault 3.5 only

3M to sponsor Kluever 3M to sponsor Kluever3M Company and Roush Racing announced today that 3M will be the primary sponsor for the No. 06 Ford Fusion entry driven by Todd Kluever in the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series. The season-opening February 18th race at Daytona International Speedway will mark the Busch Series debut for Kluever, the new No. 06 team under the leadership of crew chief Mike Kelley, and 3M.

In addition, 3M will be the primary sponsor for Todd Kluever's six planned Nextel Cup races in the No. 06 Ford. The company will also be an associate sponsor of Mark Martin's No. 6 AAA car for the entire 2006 season. Kluever will replace Martin in the No. 6 Cup car in 2007, when the veteran retires.

"We previously had a relationship with 3M through Greg Biffle's Cup team [Post-it is a 3M brand] and we are pleased they have decided to take a primary sponsorship role with Todd in the Busch Series," said Jack Roush. "3M is an outstanding organization, and the support of a company of its caliber will help Todd achieve his full potential."

Ferrari wants to keep Schumacher Ferrari wants to keep SchumacherFerrari is keen on extending Michael Schumacher's contract beyond the 2006 season. According to Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo Schumacher still has a great future ahead at the Italian team. It's Michael that has to decide what he wants to do in the future," said Di Montezemolo. "He is not just a part of our team, he is the future. He is simply the best driver."

The Scuderia has reacted to the news of Alonso's move to McLaren - and the immediate claims that Raikkonen's move to Ferrari must now be true - by insisting that no decisions would be taken just yet.

"I expect it will be late spring before we have to make any decisions," a spokesman told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

That timescale, of course, ties in with Willi Weber's assertion that Schumacher is unlikely to make his mind up about possible retirement before the start of the 2006 campaign, having also promised an announcement early next year.

Mosley: F1 owners will accept CDG wing eventually Mosley: F1 owners will accept CDG wing eventuallyFIA president Max Mosley believes the Formula One technical directors will eventually support the radical Centerline Downwash Generating (CDG) wing - despite their unanimous rejection of a proposal to get it introduced for 2007.

"There has been a will to take time in order to study the proposal, to see how it will impact on the bodywork, on the chassis and so on," said Mosley in Gazzetta dello Sport.

"2007 is too close, but in 2008 people will like the proposal. The FIA studies say there won't be air vortexes over the cars following, nor loss of grip. Therefore overtaking will be back, as the fans demand."

Vasser says Legge ready for Champ Car Vasser says Legge ready for Champ CarRising open-wheel star Katherine Legge completed a two-day evaluation with PKV Racing Wednesday at Sebring Raceway in Sebring, Florida and veteran Jimmy Vasser says she's ready for Champ Car.

Commenting on the test Vasser (pictured right with Kevin Kalkhoven, photo by ChampCar) said, “Katherine did a great job and she’s definitely not afraid to push the car to the limit. We all watched her race last year in Atlantics and we knew that she was a good driver, but until you work with someone you don’t truly know how determined they are. After these last two days, one thing I know for sure now is that she has a tremendous amount of determination. Katherine has the talent to compete at this level.” PKV Racing

US Army to still sponsor No. 01 car US Army to still sponsor No. 01 carThe U.S. Army will no longer be a sponsor of the NASCAR series, Street & Smith¹s SportsBusiness Journal reports, but it will continue as sponsor of MB2 Motorsports' #01 Chevrolet driven by Joe Nemechek in NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series. The publication reports that the decision was based on price and says the Army will spend the money it would have used in NASCAR for "grassroots programs supporting the Army's primary sponsorship objective of generating recruiting leads." The story says NASCAR will leave representation of the armed forces with individual teams. NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Industry News
Nissan planning to import Infiniti brand vehicles to China Nissan planning to import Infiniti brand vehicles to ChinaNissan Motor Co. will begin importing its Infiniti luxury sedans into China by the end of 2007, the Japanese automaker said on Monday, Dec. 19.  "We aim to have 10 percent of the premium (import) market by 2011," said Sharon Shen, spokesperson for Nissan (China) Investment Co.  The company is still working out which models will be imported, she added.  Nissan hopes to have 10 dealerships in place for the launch, Shen said. AutoWeek
Mosley knocks new quali system Mosley knocks new quali systemFIA chairman Max Mosley believes the new knock-out qualifying system imposed in Formula One will make the pre-race sessions confusing for the public. "The qualifying system for the races in 2006 is going to be very tough to understand," Mosley was quoted as saying in an interview published on Thursday by sports daily L'Equipe.

"I think that the public is going to be just like me when I watch an American football game. I can watch it. It's a great show but I don't have the slightest idea about what's happening," he said.

"It's very annoying. I knew that qualification based on the fastest lap were not much fun for the public in the stands. But on television it was really good. You knew exactly what was going on," he said.

World Series happy to see Kubica graduate to F1 World Series happy to see Kubica graduate to F121-year old Polish driver Robert Kubica, the 2005 World Series by Renault champion, has joined the BMW Sauber F1 Team outfit as its new test and third driver for 2006, it has been officially announced.

Kubica had a great 2005 season at the wheel of the Formula Renault 3.5 prepared by Basque team Epsilon Euskadi, taking four victories in 17 races to become the first ever World Series by Renault champion.

Even before his success in 2005, Kubica was already considered to be one of the best young drivers of his generation. After shining in the international Karting championship in 1998, he switched to single-seater racing, taking part in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 between 2001 and 2002.

Consistently regarded as a title contender in the 2004 F3 Euroseries, Kubica joined the World Series by Renault in 2005 with one aim: to reach Formula One from a category that was proven as a stepping stone to motorsport’s senior discipline.

Kubica had his first taste of Formula One a few weeks ago in Catalonia, when the Renault F1 Team invited him to test the recently crowned 2005 F1 World championship-winning car, the Renault R25. The test gave Kubica the chance to demonstrate his considerable driving skill with a F1 car. He completed a positive test program and impressed all the team.

The signing of Kubica for F1 is great news for the World Series by Renault. Source WSbR

Interview with BMW’s Mario Theissen Interview with BMW’s Mario Theissen
Q: Today, 22nd December, marks exactly six months since BMW announced its takeover of the majority shareholding in Sauber. How has the integration between Munich and Hinwil progressed so far?

Mario Theissen: "Naturally, integrating both companies is a very complex process. But thanks to the commitment and resolve of all those involved, we have completed that phase successfully and are now focused on the tasks before us. We have set up structures, allocated responsibilities and defined our resources and work procedures. Now the implementation phase is underway."

Q: You intend to take on more than 100 new staff at Hinwil. How is that side coming on?

Theissen: "That is a very demanding task. It's time-consuming and painstaking work, but we're making good progress. We already have more than 50 employment contracts signed. As to when the new employees will take up their posts, that of course depends on the periods of notice involved. But the workforce has been steadily expanding since November, and on January 3rd we will see as many as 20 people turning up for their first day's work with the BMW Sauber F1 Team."

Q: What about the expansion plans for the Hinwil facility?

Theissen: "We're also making rapid headway there. We'll be adding an annex to the main building, and the plans for that are already in place. We're currently in close consultation with the authorities and will shortly be submitting our planning application. If everything goes as smoothly as it has done so far, we'll be able to start building in June." zzzz

Q: Last week you announced that Intel was to be another partner. What is the overall sponsoring situation for the team?

Theissen: "We're very happy with the situation. Intel is a global brand, and the cooperation between the BMW Group and Intel extends well beyond our Formula One involvement. The new team will have a clear-cut, upscale presence. We have deliberately limited the number of sponsors, and the sponsor space on our car is now largely accounted for. In Petronas, Intel and Credit Suisse the team has three strong partners - one could say the best partners we could have wished for."

Q: You took quite a lot of time signing up the drivers.

Theissen: "That's right, but there was no rush, after all. Nick Heidfeld was our favored driver. We got to know him at Williams this year as a fast driver with a strong analytical approach. He shows the necessary aggression on the race track when the situation calls for it, and he is able to provide the engineers with sound, detailed feedback. When it came to Jacques Villeneuve, we took our time in making a careful assessment of his performance. The start of season 2005 was difficult for him for a number of reasons, but then as the year went on he made significant progress. He made a good impression during his first test in the Sauber C24B with the BMW V8 engine. We believe he's going to improve further. In Robert Kubica we have signed a talented young man as a test and substitute driver. In 2005 he ran away with the World Series by Renault title and also made a strong impression during his first test in a Formula One car."

Q: On the subject of test drives, how happy are you with the first tests of the Sauber C24B with BMW's P86 V8 engine?

Theissen: "There were several reasons why it was important to us to build an provisional car. On the one hand we wanted to test our P86 engine out on the race track, and on the other it was a matter of fine-tuning the entire engine environment - e.g. cooling, hydraulics and electronics. As expected, not everything ran entirely to order during our three tests in Spain, but there was nothing our engineers can't rectify in the time available. We are satisfied with the initial results - and I feel very positive about the way the people from Munich and Hinwil are working together. Everything's happening in an atmosphere that encourages efficient, target-led work. The new car will be rolled out on 17th January during the presentation of the new BMW Sauber F1 Team in Valencia. I am confident that we will have a technically well-functioning package."

Q: Taking stock six months on, what's your verdict?

Theissen: "We have worked hard. We have driven the integration process forward, got an interim car up and running, signed up the drivers, signed contracts with three major partners and concluded over 50 work contracts for new employees. Things are shaping up nicely at the first stage of assessment. But that doesn't mean we harbor any illusions. There's a long road ahead and we will negotiate it with perseverance and circumspection."

PKV Racing on Legge test, choice of ’06 drivers PKV Racing on Legge test, choice of ’06 driversRising open-wheel star Katherine Legge completed a two-day evaluation with PKV Racing today at Sebring Raceway in Sebring, Florida.

Legge ran a total of 238 laps (119 each day) on the 1.66-mile Sebring road circuit, December 20-21.  She ran in cool and overcast conditions on the first day and very chilly (temperatures in the 50’s) and overcast conditions today, but still managed to post very competitive times.

“It was an awesome experience,” Legge began.  “I have to give a huge thanks to both PKV Racing and (team co-owner) Kevin Kalkhoven for this opportunity,” she said.  “We did a lot of laps and some pretty long runs and I came away from the experience knowing I did my very best,” she concluded.

Commenting on the test PKV Racing General Manager Jim McGee said, “Katherine did a very good job.  On the first day she ran quite a few miles and after she got comfortable with the car we tried some different things.  The second day we did some long, full-tank runs.  Overall, her times were competitive.”  zzzz

This is just the second time Legge has driven a Champ Car.  On December 13 the talented and determined 25-year-old Briton got some seat time with Rocketsports Racing running 70 laps at Sebring.  Legge, who earned three victories last year in her rookie Atlantic season and placed third overall in the in the standings, became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America when she captured her debut Atlantic event in Long Beach.  Her strong showing in the Atlantics also earned her a Formula One test for Minardi and an A1 Grand Prix test for Team Great Britain in November. 

This is the second driver evaluation test in as many weeks for PKV Racing, which is seeking anywhere from zero to two drivers for 2006.  In addition to Legge’s test, the team tested Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Dalziel and Giorgio Pantano at Sebring on December 12-14.  PKV Racing continues to have discussions with Cristiano da Matta, who piloted the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine during the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season, about returning.  Also in the mix is a decision, in consultation with co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit, by team co-owner and driver Jimmy Vasser, who was behind the wheel of the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry last year, about possibly resigning his Champ Car seat.  All of the above will be taken into consideration before PKV Racing’s driver line-up is announced.

Pettit, who along with Vasser was present at both PKV Racing Sebring tests (Kalkhoven attended both days of the Legge test) said, “Katherine did a good job during her two-day test for PKV Racing.  She ran a lot of miles and her results were competitive.  At this time PKV Racing is not ready to make a decision on our driver line-up for the 2006 season.  We have a lot of information and data to evaluate, which we will do in a careful, conscientious and business like manner.  We will take all the time we need to make a decision that is best for the team now and in the future.” PKV Racing

TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
Istanbul, Turkey (11/13/05)
12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. ET, SPEED
Mid-Ohio  (9/25/05)
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. ET, SPEED: Formula Ford
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET, SPEED: Spec Racer Ford
Lowe's Motor Speedway
3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. ET, SPEED: Round 5
4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. ET, SPEED: Round 6
'A Man and a Woman'  (1966)
A French auto racer and an actress meet at their children's boarding school and gradually fall in love
8:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET, SPEED
Hurricane Relief Tribute Show
Angelle Sampey
Richie Stevens
Josh Hayes
11:30 p.m.-12:00 a.m. ET (Replay) SPEED

For a complete listing of Saturday's TV Programs, see TVRacer.com and Race Fan TV.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Official - Aguri win teams' green light
Mosley 'sure' Aguri will race in 2006
Sato at front of queue - Aguri Suzuki
FIA unwrap cut-price future
Bernie rips Dennis, Alonso 'deceit'
Kimi says future undecided
'06 not 'back to the future' for Bridgestone
Hockenheim sale to 'save' German GP
2006 car won't be ready - Super Aguri
Aguri launch F1 logo
'Breakaway' threat is empty - Mosley
Fisi a winner in Alonso swap - Mansell
Hot News Archives
2000 2001 2002 2003

Search Hot News
Search Help
AutoRacing1 Inc. BBB Business Review