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New Grand-Am Daytona Prototype Bodywork  
The January Test Days for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 officially gets underway Friday, but the new bodywork was unveiled a day early as Riley, Lola and Coyote rolled chassis off of transporters to prepare for the three-day test leading into the 46th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The three cars feature significantly different bodywork as the second generation of Daytona Prototype competition gets underway in 2008. Riley has captured all four constructor titles since the Daytona Prototype era began in 2004, but Lola and Coyote teams hope their efforts will close the gap in Riley's virtual dominance over the first four-year stretch.

Coyote Cars, LLC, which has also been known during winter tests as the Cheever, is the brand name made legendary by four-time Indianapolis 400 winner A.J. Foyt. Fellow Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever brought the No. 16 Cheever Racing Pontiac Coyote to January Test Days for its first competitive laps, and the car will make its racing debut later in the month. More ...

Gainsco team ready to defend Grand-Am title  

The Gainsco car leads the Ganassi car of Scott Pruett in the season finale at Utah last year.

GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing will take their familiar No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley back to the race track for the first time in 2008 as the reigning Champions of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at this weekend's Daytona Test Days at Daytona International Speedway, January 4 – 6.

The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings team will defend its 2007 Rolex Series Team and Driver titles with no change to the winning group of personnel that captured last year's honors, including driver Champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty who will join their teammates in trying to become the first repeat Champions in Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype history. Gurney and Fogarty will be the lead co-drivers of the No. 99 GAINSCO machine for the third consecutive year and will be joined for at least the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 27 and 28 (Live on FOX and SPEED), by fellow Champions Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser. All four drivers are California natives with Fogarty and Vasser from the greater San Francisco Bay area, Gurney hailing from Irvine in Southern California and Johnson a native of El Cajon, which is outside of San Diego. More ...

Mosley plays down drivers' wet race fears  (GMM)  Max Mosley has played down formula one drivers' fears that the ban on traction control will make the sport more dangerous in wet weather.

The FIA president denies that the removal of driver aids is set to compromise safety, after a group of drivers expressed their concerns to the British publication Autosport.

The print magazine reports that the drivers have opened talks with the FIA about having input into how wet races are handled this year and beyond.

"I'm confident (race director) Charlie (Whiting) will do the right thing based on us helping and advising him -- and that's why we've started a dialogue now rather than trying to react afterwards," David Coulthard, whose fears are also backed by Ferrari's Felipe Massa, said.

Jenson Button insisted: "We couldn't have raced in Fuji (in 2007) without traction control -- there would have been people spinning on the straight."

But while agreeing that driving in the wet is always dangerous, Mosley argues that rain-affected races will actually be safer because the absence of traction control reduces the speed at which the car loses control and makes contact with a barrier.

"It will make it more difficult in the wet -- but it's difficult in the wet anyway.  And people forget, even the least competent F1 driver is still amazingly good at what he does," he said.

racing news
Heart surgery for Dick Simon  Former IndyCar driver Dick Simon and team owner is in the hospital recovering from heart bypass surgery.  They did 5 bypasses on his heart.  He is expected to be in the hospital in Dana Point, California just three more days before going home.
Skip Barber National publishes 2008 schedule  The BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda has released its 2008 schedule, a 14-race championship that opens mid-March. All seven Skip Barber National race weekends are in support of major spectator shows.  There are two 30-minute races per weekend, plus practice and qualifying. 

The opener is at the Sebring 12-Hour and the closer is at the Petit Le Mans event at the newest Skip Barber Racing base location, Road Atlanta. In between are races at VIR, Mosport, Barber Park, Road America and the all-new Thunderbolt Raceway in southern New Jersey.

Todd Snyder, vice president of racing for Skip Barber, said, "The National already has a solid reputation for introducing and developing star talent to the racing world," citing A.J. Allmendinger, Scott Speed and Marco Andretti as the most recent proof.  Drivers are succeeding on the Mazda speed Motorsports Development Ladder that now starts with Skip Barber, steps up to Star Mazda and culminates in the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. It is an incredibly efficient, not to mention exciting, system for developing the next generation of racing stars. More ...

France wants Dakar to skip Mauritania  France's government urged the Dakar Rally on Thursday to not race through Mauritania after the slaying there of four members of a vacationing French family.  The race starts Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal, and is to finish in Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 20 after crossing Morocco and Mauritania. More than 550 competitors on motorbikes and in cars and trucks are expected to take part.

French ministers discussed safety at the rally at a cabinet meeting Thursday, and foreign ministry officials met with the race's French organizers, government spokesman Laurent Wauquiez said.

"The ministry strongly warns all French citizens against going to Mauritania until further orders," Wauquiez said. "That goes for all French, as well as the organization of the Lisbon-Dakar rally."

Only the father of the slain family survived the Christmas Eve attack in a town 150 miles from Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, as the family picnicked on the side of a road. Authorities blamed a terror group linked to the Algeria-based al-Qaida in North Africa.

Rally director Etienne Lavigne subsequently met with Mauritanian and French authorities to examine security. Organizers said he obtained guarantees of reinforced security measures along the route. ESPN.com

industry news
Toyota U.S. sales dropped slightly in Dec.  Toyota Motor Corp's U.S. sales fell 1.7% in December to 224,399 vehicles, a slight dip that left the automaker up 3.1% for the full year to 2,620,825.

The annual increase marked the 12th straight year of record U.S. sales for Toyota.

The Camry, the best-selling car in the United States, fell slightly for the month but was up 5.5% on the year at 448,445.

The Tundra finished the year at 196,555, up 57.9%. Toyota launched in February a redesigned Tundra that represented its first full-size truck.

The Toyota Sienna minivan, Sequoia and 4Runner were all down for the month and year by 15% or more.

industry news
Toyota ends Ford's 75-year reign as No. 2 carmaker  Toyota Motor Corp. overtook Ford Motor Co. to become the No. 2 automaker by U.S. sales in 2007, using new products and relentless strategy to break Ford's 75-year lock on the position.

Ford sales were down 12 percent for the year; General Motors Corp. reported a 6 percent U.S. sales decline in 2007.

Toyota sold 48,226 more cars and trucks than Ford, according to sales figures released today. Toyota's sales were up 3 percent for the year, buoyed by new products like the Toyota Tundra pickup, which saw sales jump 57 percent.

Ford corporate historian Bob Kreipke said it was the first time since 1931 that Ford wasn't second behind General Motors Corp.

Ford said U.S. vehicle sales in 2007 dipped 12 percent to 2.57 million units, despite strong demand for its crossover Ford Edge and redesigned Ford Focus.

industry news
Porsche Reports Best-Ever Annual Sales in U.S  Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (PCNA), importer and distributor of Porsche sports cars and Cayenne SUVs in the United States and Canada, today announced December sales of 2,891 units in the United States. With December's results, total 2007 U.S. sales reached 34,693, exceeding 2006 record-breaking sales of 34,227, and marking the fourth year in a row Porsche has enjoyed record sales.

Continuing to boost results was Porsche's new-generation Cayenne SUV, which achieved sales of 1,254 units, representing a significant increase of 34 percent over last December sales of 938 units. Total 2007 Cayenne sales reached 12,547, up 19 percent over total 2006 sales of 10,569.

"We realized a significant milestone in 2007, reaching another consecutive record in the United States," said Peter Schwarzenbauer, PCNA President and CEO. "This is more gratifying given the 2007 launch of our new generation Cayenne, which in fact, delivered the strongest sales among our entire model lineup."

The Porsche 911 also experienced another record in 2007, with 12,493 units sold vs. 12,045 units sold in 2006.

In addition, dealers sold 527 Porsche Approved Certified Pre-Owned cars in December vs. 461 for the same period last year.

industry news
GM 2007 sales off 6%  GM dealers in the United States delivered 323,453 vehicles in December, down 5 percent compared with a year ago. With 257,469 retail vehicle deliveries, retail sales for the month were up 1.5 percent.

GM delivered 3.87 million vehicles in 2007, down 6 percent compared with 2006. GM's retail market share is anticipated to be flat for the year, with daily rental share down significantly, as planned.

"We've executed our Go-to-Market strategy throughout the year, and the results show stabilized retail share and net price, reduced daily rentals, improved residual values, smaller inventories and outstanding launch vehicle performance," said Mark LaNeve, GM North America vice president, Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing. "Growing our share in key car segments is integral to our strategy. The retail performance of the new Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CTS, Saturn AURA, Pontiac G6 and the fuel-efficient Chevrolet Aveo, Cobalt and Pontiac G5, demonstrates the enthusiasm customers have for these outstanding vehicles." More ...

industry news
Audi sets US sales record  Audi of America, Inc. set a sales record in the U.S. during 2007, according to the company. Audi dealers sold 93,506 new vehicles during 2007, up 3.8% over 2006, which will aid Audi globally as the company has its sights set on a record year.

During 2007 Audi made significant gains in key markets, including New York (+14.9 %), Miami (+6.6 %), and Los Angeles (+12.9 %).

Audi’s growth, both in the United States and globally, has been fueled by a strong and growing portfolio. Audi introduced the all-new TT coupe and roadster vehicles during the spring, and then followed during the fall with the all-new Audi S5 sports coupe. And Audi was one of the most talked about brands throughout 2007 as the industry and customers awaited the September market introduction of the Audi R8, the all-new, high-performance sports car.

Audi dealers continued to report strong sales in 2007 of the Audi Q7 sport utility vehicle, the A4 cabriolet and RS 4 high-performance sedan.

Servia to drive for PKV Racing in 2008  

Oriol Servia

INDIANAPOLIS, IN  - - PKV Racing General Manager Mark Johnson announced today that Oriol Servia will pilot one of two PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone entries during the 2008 Champ Car World Series season.

Servia, who competed for PKV Racing in the last two events of 2007 and during the 2006 season, finished sixth in the championship standings last year.  The 33-year-old native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain contested 13 of the 14 events in 2007, the two with PKV Racing and 11 for Forsythe Championship Racing, earning 11 top-10 finishes including five top-five showings with five podium performances.  His best finish was a second in Long Beach. 

“We are very pleased to be able to come to an agreement with Oriol so quickly,” Johnson said.  “He did an outstanding job for us the last two events of the 2007 season and is one of the top drivers in the Champ Car series.  Given Oriol’s proven talent, experience, familiarity with the team and having him on board this earlier in the pre-season will allow us to proceed with our off-season program to the fullest as we pursue our goal of winning the championship.”

Johnson went on to say, “Current plans call for the team to run two cars in 2008.  The second driver will be named following a series of driver tests.”  More ...

Expert, Master series emphasized  The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear is the only open-wheel racing series that not only provides a high-profile launching platform for young drivers on the way up, but also an arena for the skills of more mature drivers in which the competitive flame still burns brightly. Every driver in the race is in competition for the best finish, the most points and the biggest share of the almost $1.5 million prize fund, but there are also 'races within the race.'

Every Star Mazda Championship race field includes drivers racing in the open series (which includes every driver 16 and up) as well as Expert (30 to 44 years old) and Master (45 years and older) series. Beginning with the first race of the 2008 season at Sebring on March 14, the Expert and Master Series winners will join the top-3 open series finishers on the podium for presentation of trophies, media interviews and the traditional 'hat dance' photos session and spraying of champagne. More ...

Industry News
Too many buyers for Malibu  General Motors Corp. has finally built a family sedan Americans crave, yet dealers across the country are having a hard time getting the cars on their lots.

It likely will be spring before GM is able to build enough of the new Chevrolet Malibus to meet demand, the automaker's sales chief said Wednesday. Meanwhile, thousands of dealers are without a made-over Malibu on their lots.

GM says the shortage is a good problem to have -- and several automotive analysts agree. 

But the automaker is walking a fine line in the utilitarian and highly competitive midsize sedan segment, in which consumers have scores of options and limited patience.

The new Malibus "are turning faster and more prolifically than we anticipated. They're selling well in Southern California. They're selling well in Flint," Mark LaNeve, GM North America vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing, said Wednesday. "We don't have anywhere near the availability we'd need for peak (sales) performance." More at Detroit News

Industry News
Pininfarina plans battery-powered car  The way to drop the dependence on foreign oil (especially unstable Middle Eastern oil where the inevitable third world war will turn world markets into turmoil) is to build nuclear power plants to generate electricity (at least one in every state we say) and for all cars to be electric powered with outlets everywhere you go to plug in and recharge.  It seems the automakers are starting to think that way too as increasingly we are hearing of eclectic cars on the drawing board.

The Chevy Volt is one such car.  Italian designer and manufacturer Pininfarina and French battery maker Bolloré jointly plan to build a battery-powered car.

Pininfarina will design and build the four-passenger car while Bolloré will provide a lithium-metal-polymer battery from plants in France and Canada, according to a Pininfarina statement.

Bolloré said its battery pack has no liquids that could spill, overheat or start fires. On a full charge, the car will have a 155-mile range in city driving. Bolloré claims a battery life expectancy of more than 120,000 miles.

On the performance side, the car is expected to accelerate from 0 to 31 mph in 4.9 seconds and have a top speed of about 80 mph. The car can be recharged with a conventional household power outlet. A full charge will take about five hours, while a five-minute jolt will be good for 15.5 miles of range.

Pricing has not been announced. Pininfarina said it expects to begin sales in Europe, Japan and the United States by 2010.

Toyota used Williams for 'advice' in 2008  (GMM)  The relationship between Toyota and Williams in 2007 extended beyond the mere supply and receipt of engines, according to a senior figure of the Japanese manufacturer.

Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Toyota executive vice-president, revealed in the outfit's annual motorsport report for 2007 that Sir Frank Williams was called upon for key advice last year.

Toyota also dipped into Williams' expertise in other areas, including for the development of its quick-shift gearbox for the TF107, it emerged in 2007.

Kinoshita said: "Team principal Frank Williams advised us on many occasions, particularly on matters concerning the politics that are so much a part of the F1 world.

"Benefiting from thirty years experience in F1, Frank Williams proved to be an excellent adviser for us and we are truly grateful for his contribution," he added.

Kinoshita also acknowledged Williams' help in developing Toyota's young driver program, including guiding Kazuki Nakajima through to his first full season of grand prix racing in 2008.

"Having learned so much from Williams regarding how to educate young drivers, we feel we made the correct decision to entrust Nakajima to the Williams team in 2007," he said.

Fiat 500 to make racing debut at Aus GP  (GMM)  The Australian grand prix in March will mark the competitive debut of the new 100 horse power Fiat 500 road car.

The award winning Italian car will be raced by famous locals for the traditional Celebrity Challenge at Melbourne's Albert Park.

"This will be the first time the new Fiat 500 has taken part in motor sport," David Stone, general manager for Fiat Cars in Australia, confirmed.

The twenty seven cars, powered by 1.4 liter engines, will be fitted out with roll cages, racing seats and improved brakes for their racing debut.

Fiat owns 83 per cent of Ferrari, winner of the constructors' and drivers' world championships in 2007.

2008 F1 launch dates  
  • Jan 6 - Ferrari, Fiorano
  • Jan 7 - McLaren, Stuttgart
  • Jan 10 - Toyota, Cologne
  • Jan 14 - BMW Sauber, Munich
  • Jan 16 - Red Bull Renault, Jerez
  • Jan 29 - Honda, HQ, Brackley
  • Jan 31 - Renault, Paris
Former Chinese GP official jailed  (GMM)  The fired general manager of Shanghai's formula one circuit has been sentenced to four years jail for embezzlement, the local Caijing magazine said on Thursday.

Yu Zhifei, instrumental in bringing the sport to China and a key promoter until his removal, had in late 2006 been implicated in a major corruption scandal.

Among other abuses, he was accused of using public money to buy a house.

The Intermediate People's Court in Wuhu, west of Shanghai, also fined Zhifei $40,000; a light sentence because he admitted "his criminal facts", the business magazine added.

Cap F1 budgets says Fry  Budgets in Formula One should be capped, according to Honda Racing F1's Nick Fry and new team principal Ross Brawn. Alongside the FIA's restrictions on wind tunnel use and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) developments, Fry's proposals could see a drastic reduction in spending.

"Ross and I both think that an overall budget cap is something that should be seriously investigated," Fry told autosport.com. "What we see at the moment, if you look at the accounts of any of the UK F1 teams, is that the costs keep going up.

"So far what we have been successfully doing is moving money from one area of the team to another. Money is certainly moved from engines to aerodynamics, because that is the next best area of performance advantage.

"We support a lot of the proposals on the aero restrictions, but the fear is that that money will merely be diverted elsewhere. It will go to driver salaries or engineer salaries, or some other part of the car, but will not necessarily reduce the total bill that a team has to pay.

"So rather than chasing our tails, we think we should be considering an overall budget cap. Although it will be difficult to monitor, we think it can be achieved."

racing news
AARWBA Dinner to Draw Champions, Winners, Headliners  Dario Franchitti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Carl Haas are among the headliners confirmed to attend the Jan. 12 American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association’s All-America Team dinner presented by A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. The 38th annual ceremony will be at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis. AARWBA is the country’s oldest and largest organization of motorsports media professionals. The All-America Team, voted on by AARWBA media members, includes drivers from open wheel, drag racing, stock car, road racing, short track, touring and at-large categories. The highlight of the evening will be the announcement and presentation of the Jerry Titus Memorial Trophy. The Titus goes to the Team driver who received the most votes. In addition to Indy 500 winner/IndyCar Series champion Franchitti, other Team drivers set to attend include: NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher (last year’s Titus winner); NHRA Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon; Rolex Series co-titlists Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty; Rolex runner-up Scott Pruett; ALMS GT2 co-champions Mika Salo and Jamie Melo; and Indy Pro Series champ Alex Lloyd. AARWBA will offer its tribute to Bill France Jr., Wally Parks and Shav Glick. Popular broadcaster Bob Jenkins will serve as dinner Master of Ceremonies for the third consecutive year. The event is open to the public and tickets can be ordered at the www.AARWBA.org
Braun Racing adds Dollar General as sponsor  Dollar General officials announced Wednesday it was moving its Nationwide Series sponsorship to Braun Racing for 2008. Dollar General spent two seasons as primary sponsor of Kevin Harvick Inc.'s No. 77.

Dollar General will serve as an associate sponsor of Braun's No. 38 Toyota driven by Jason Leffler for all 35 races this year, as well as an 11-race primary sponsorship of the team's No. 32 and a one-race sponsorship of the No. 10.

"We are excited about this new working relationship with Braun Racing as well as with their stable of great sponsors," said Monty Bailey, Dollar General's motorsports manager. "What Braun Racing has accomplished as an independent in a series dominated by the big Sprint Cup Series teams is quite admirable. They are true competitors, and we look forward to supporting their efforts that will hopefully lead to even more victories next season."

Leffler was one of three non-Cup drivers to win in 2007, and Braun was one of two independent Busch teams to win last year. The other was KHI, with Bobby Labonte driving the No. 77 with Dollar General sponsorship.

"I have admired the Dollar General racing program ever since the company first came into our sport, and it is indeed an honor that the company has decided to move its sponsorship and marketing support to Braun Racing this coming season and to be a partner on all three of our race cars," Braun said.

track news
Corvette, Former Champ Fittipaldi Chosen for 2008 Indy 500 Pace Car  

Click photo to watch video

The Indy 500 has announced two Chevrolet Corvettes will serve as this year's pace car, with former champ Emerson Fittipaldi as the driver. This is Chevrolet's 19th time serving as the race's official pace vehicle and the 10th time a Corvette has been used. To start the race, Fittipaldi will drive an ethanol-powered Corvette Z06 E85 concept car. The next vehicle he will drive is a special edition Corvette, designed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1978 Corvette Indy 500 pace car.
NASCAR writer Hinton leaves Tribune Co.  This unsigned memo was sent to the Orlando Sentinel sports staff on Wednesday (1/2/08) morning.

With the increasing demand to produce local news, we've decided to eliminate our national NASCAR coverage and focus more on local sports coverage. Following a joint decision by the Sentinel, Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Sentinel, we won't be covering as many NASCAR races and will spend more of our budget on local news. With this decision, award-winning reporter Ed Hinton has decided to leave the company. He is the best NASCAR writer in the nation, winning more awards than anyone, and will be missed dearly. He spearheaded our coverage of racing and safety, the death of Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR and cheating, and the life and times of Bill France. His engaging personality, his Faulknerian mind and his knowledge of racing cannot be replaced. We wish Ed well in his future endeavors.

F1 names prepare for Dakar rally  (GMM)  A collection of famous formula one names will tackle the arduous and famous off-road Dakar rally when it kicks off in Portugal this weekend.

Japanese grand prix veteran and mountaineer Ukyo Katayama is among the 700 competitors who will embark on the two-week, 9000 kilometer odyssey, as is Tiago Monteiro, the former Jordan and Midland racer who will drive a SMG buggy.

"I've always been a bit of an adventurer," said Monteiro, who now races in the World Touring Car Championship for SEAT.

"One of my dreams was to go round the world on a motorbike.  I'd also like to have done the Dakar on a motorbike, but even though I've done a bit of endurance riding, I'm not at a high enough level for that," he added.

Vanina Ickx, the daughter of 8-time grand prix winner Jacky Ickx from Belgium, will drive a Nissan Springbok.

Former twice Dakar winner Jean-Louis Schlesser, whose uncle Jo also raced in F1 and was killed in the 1968 French grand prix, will again contest the event with his own custom buggy.

The rally finishes in Dakar, Senegal, on January 20.

Viso vows to work towards F1 future  

Ernesto Viso

(GMM)  Venezuelan hopeful Ernesto Viso has not given up on breaking into formula one.

The 22-year-old drove Midland's third car on the Friday of the Brazilian grand prix in 2006, before reportedly narrowly missing out on a Toro Rosso race seat for 2007.

Viso then attracted F1 headlines for the wrong reasons last year when he crashed spectacularly in the GP2 support race at Magny Cours.

He recently tested for Minardi Team USA in view of switching to Champ Cars in 2008.

But he told the American news agency Associated Press: "F1 is always my first option.  I really liked it (in Brazil) and I think I did a good job.

"I'm going to keep working hard to be there," Viso, who is reportedly backed by the oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, added.

Karthikeyan says not considered for F1 drive  

Narain Karthikeyan

(GMM)  Narain Karthikeyan has confirmed that he is not in the running to race for countryman Vijay Mallya's formula one team Force India.

The 30-year-old was India's first representative on the grand prix grid, when he raced for one season for Force India predecessor Jordan in 2005.

Karthikeyan then spent two years as Williams' occasional test driver.

But while compatriot Karun Chandhok, who races in GP2 and has tested for Red Bull, has been promised consideration for a seat in 2009, Karthikeyan says he has not heard from Mallya or the Silverstone based outfit since October.

"I sent a congratulations message to Mr. Mallya after he completed the (Spyker) buyout," Karthikeyan told the Indian Economic Times' motoring supplement AutoMania.

"He told me that once he took over the team he would talk to me.  That was in October.  After that, for whatever reasons, they have pursued others.  But that's alright.  It's not the end of the world for me," Karthikeyan added.

MotoGP's Stoner in no rush to test F1 car  (GMM)  Newly crowned MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner says he is in no rush to switch codes and test a formula one car.

F1's retired seven time world champion Michael Schumacher recently impressed when he climbed aboard Stoner's title-winning Ducati at the post-season Valencia test.

Australian Stoner, who is 22, says he would also one day like to follow Schumacher and Valentino Rossi's leads by switching mounts for a day.

But he told Motor Cycle News: "I'm not ready for this because I've never really driven a car.

"I've driven karts a lot but not really a car," he added.

Stoner smilingly recalls driving a Fiat Panda on the ice with Loris Capirossi and Kimi Raikkonen at Madonna di Campiglio last winter, "and I wasn't so good".

"But for sure this is something I want to do," he continued.  "But maybe I'll wait some years yet and for sure it will be nice to get some advice from Michael."

Meanwhile, the website f1grandprix.it reports that Motocross MX2 world champion Toni Cairoli, sponsored by Red Bull, will test a Toro Rosso F1 car at the end of 2008.

Sponsor Würth returns to F1 with Toyota  UPDATE (GMM)  Germany's Würth Group will in 2008 return to formula one as a sponsor.

Four years after linking up with BMW-powered Williams, the tool and screw maker has now inked a deal to become an official supplier to Cologne based Toyota.

The Würth logo will feature on the Japanese team's pit garage, trucks and official communications this year, starting with the launch of the TF108 on 10 January.

Würth had previously sponsored the German touring car series DTM, and formula one in the 80s.

A curve at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, meanwhile, is known as Würth corner.

01/02/08 Toyota Motorsport GmbH is pleased to welcome global fixings and assembly specialists Würth as a new Official Supplier to the Panasonic Toyota Racing team.

Würth is the largest trading company of fasteners and assembly technology in the world, with over 100,000 products, and the Würth Group is represented by 30,000 sales representatives in 386 companies in 86 countries.

For the 2008 season, Würth will supply tools and fasteners to Panasonic Toyota Racing and the company's logo will feature in the pit garage, on team trucks and on all official communication. The partnership with Würth will be showcased in public for the first time at the team's pre-season event on 10 January in Cologne. More ...

Kimi, Alonso, equally good says Todt  (GMM)  Jean Todt says it is impossible to separate the talents of arguably F1's leading driver duo, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.

Finland's Raikkonen won the 2007 world championship at the end of his first attempt in a Maranello built car, but double world champion Alonso is similarly regarded as perhaps the very best on the grid at present.

Between them, moreover, Raikkonen and Spaniard Alonso are F1's only active title holders.

"I don't know if Kimi is better or worse than Alonso," Todt told the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.  "It is not for me to say -- both are excellent drivers.

"Instead, the difference between them are their cars," he contended.

Alonso has been linked with a switch to Ferrari in the future, but Todt explains that Raikkonen, 28, is currently the most suitable of the pair for the Italian team.

"Of them, Kimi's character is best for us," the Frenchman confirmed, adding that he ideally would have maintained Ferrari's long and successful driving partnership with Michael Schumacher to the present day.

"Michael was the best candidate of all, but he did not want to (keep going)," Todt explained.

Todt said Schumacher, to continue as a part time advisor this season, was also offered and turned down the 'direzione sportiva' post; a job to instead be handled on the Ferrari pit wall by Stefano Domenicali in 2008 and beyond.

AMS Offers $88 Ticket in Earnhardt Grandstand  Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans will have another reason to get excited about the upcoming NASCAR season and the March 9 Kobalt Tools 500 Sprint Cup race as Atlanta Motor Speedway today introduced an $88 ticket special in the frontstretch Earnhardt Grandstand.  There will be a limited number of the $88 tickets available which go on sale today at 9 a.m. through the AMS ticket office and at area Ticketmaster outlets.

The Kobalt Tools 500 will help usher in a new era in motorsports when Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes his first competition laps in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Fans who take advantage of the ticket special are encouraged to don their No.88 gear in support of Earnhardt Jr. as they sit in the grandstand named after his father, the winningest driver in AMS history. More ...

Patrick to appear at Consumer Electronics Show  Andretti Green Racing driver Danica Patrick will attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 7. Patrick will be at the GoDaddy.com booth. The show is expected to attract 140,000 people over a four-day period.
Castroneves appears on Jimmy Kimmel Show  

Helio 'Twinkle Toes' Castroneves

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 2007 "Dancing with the Stars" champion Helio Castroneves will open the New Year as a guest on the Jimmy Kimmel Show on ABC when the program returns to original programming on Jan. 2.

Castroneves also was busy during the recent holiday week, acting as co-grand marshal of the Spherion Orlando Citrus Parade presented by Delta Airlines on Dec. 29.

The Team Penske driver joined PGA Tour regular Chris DiMarco, a resident of the Orlando (Fla.) suburb Heathrow and a University of Florida graduate, as grand marshal of the event.

"Participating in the Orlando Citrus Parade was a lot of fun," Castroneves said. "It reminded me of the 500 Festival Parade in Indianapolis, which is always great because you get to see the reaction on people's faces in response to all of the parade participants. The reception I received was great, and hopefully through my appearance on "Dancing with the Stars" and the upcoming tour as well as some of the other appearances that I have coming up, I'll be able to bring some new fans to the IndyCar Series. That's the ultimate goal in all of these events."

IndyCar Series bids Clarke adieu  

Robert Clarke

Robert Clarke, who has been the guiding force at Honda Performance Development since its inception in 1993, began a new chapter with the company Jan. 2 that will allow a smooth transition for his successor, Erik Berkman. Clarke, a 27-year Honda associate, will hold the executive advisory role until his retirement June 30.

"Robert's been a good open-wheel supporter and a fan of Indy car racing and that's a great tribute to him in itself," said Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations divisions of the sanctioning Indy Racing League. "He's very much responsible for an unbelievable increase in the level of performance and reliability in regards to engines in Indy car racing in the last decade.

"The performance and reliability of the Honda engine is unparalleled, and that's much to Robert's credit. The fact that we've run the last two Indy 500s without an engine failure, and it's the only two Indy 500s ever without an engine failure, speaks much to this."

The Honda Indy V-8 will be the power plant for all IndyCar Series cars during the 2008 season, including the 92nd Indianapolis 500.

HPD's operations have expanded from an engine-rebuild and trackside-support operation to a self-sufficient motorsports R&D company of more than 125 associates. HPD's activities include engine design and development, prototype- and production-engine manufacturing, chassis R&D, material analysis, and race team support.

For the 2007 season, all IndyCar Series cars ran on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol - a first in motorsports and no small feat of transition for an engine manufacturer. For the previous three-plus decades, methanol had been the fuel of choice.

"Robert has guided HPD in a strategically right direction to allow us to capitalize so that we could introduce 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol," IndyCar Series senior technical director Les Mactaggart said. "It's been a very enthusiastic response from HPD from a league standpoint."

Added IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch: "With all the knowledge and experience he brought and the people he was able to put around him, the transition was seamless. Anytime you do something major like that, you expect there to be two or three times to run the car and get it sorted out. We ran the car the first time and had zero problems. They're able to accomplish just about anything you ask them to. They have a no-lose attitude, so when they bring a product out they've spent the time and effort to make sure it was superior right out of the box. A lot of times you have to spend time in development."

In its first three years of IndyCar Series competition against multiple manufacturers, Honda drivers and teams compiled an unmatched record of two Indianapolis 500 victories, two Manufacturers' Championships (2004, '05) and 28 race victories. Resting on its laurels won't do for Clarke and HPD associates.

"Robert loves open-wheel racing and wants it to reach its full potential," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League. "He, in a very positive way, pushed the IndyCar Series to try to be as good as it can be in terms of competition, technology and forward thinking about the business."

Undoubtedly, Clarke will continue to present concepts and plans over the next six months as he gets Berkman up to speed. Berkman, a 25-year Honda associate, most recently had been executive engineer, Honda R&D Americas, Inc., based in Raymond, Ohio. He holds a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, and began his Honda career at the Honda of America Mfg., Inc. in Marysville, Ohio, in 1982.

"Robert has been instrumental to the success of the IndyCar Series," Andretti Green Racing co-owner Michael Andretti said. "He has always been a strong supporter of the series, its drivers and especially to Andretti Green Racing's IndyCar Series and ALMS programs. Robert's accomplishments at Honda will be difficult to match."  IRL PR

industry news
Daimler pays record $30 million fuel mileage fine for 2006  Daimler AG paid a record $30.3 million fine for failing to meet fuel efficiency requirements in the 2006 model year for its import fleet.

The fine was collected in October and made public in a document posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month. Since 1983, NHTSA has collected $735 million in fines from companies who failed to meet the requirements of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program.

The Daimler fine -- largely because of Mercedes vehicles imported into the United States -- topped the $28 million paid by BMW in 2002. It was levied to the former DaimlerChrysler AG, the company's name before it shed the now standalone Chrysler LLC.

Daimler AG sold an 80.1 percent stake in Chrysler Group to Cerberus Capital Management last year. Chrysler LLC is a privately held unit of the New York private equity fund.

NHTSA also collected $1.01 million from Volkswagen last year because its light truck fleet didn't meet the 21.6 mpg requirement.

Porsche paid $4.6 million in fines on both its import fleet and light truck fleet.

BMW paid $5.1 million on the import fleet. Maserati paid $1.4 million and Ferrari paid $842,000 on its import fleet. Detroit News

Dominick Muermans signs with Condor  

Dominick Muermans

Dutch youngster Dominick Muermans has signed to drive with the Condor Motorsports Champ Car Atlantic team for 2008.  He drove two races for Jensen Motorsport last year before returning to Europe to drive.  His father Harry Muermans backs fellow Dutchman Robert Doornbos in Champ Car.
Grand Prix Masters series folds  Grand Prix Masters is no more.  Delta Special Projects, the company behind GPM, was declared bankrupt in London's High Court. The series failed to get off the ground after a relaunch in January 2007. Three GPM races were held from November 2005 until August 2006.
No launch for Williams team  (GMM)  Williams will kick off its championship campaign for 2008 without a traditional launch presentation, according to reports this week.

The Toyota-powered FW30 will make its test debut in the opening weeks of January, but with no major new sponsors or driver revelations to make, it is believed that the Grove built machine will clock up its first miles without fanfare.

Although aided by McLaren's disqualification for spying, Williams finished the 2007 constructors' championship a credible fourth -- a vast improvement compared with the previous season.

Nico Rosberg will be joined by rookie teammate Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel of the FW30 in 2008, with rising German youngster Nico Hulkenberg recently signed as a test driver.

"In terms of overall performance, narrowing the margin to the front runners, having concluded the (2007) season an average of eight tenths of a second behind the leading team, will be vital to the principal goal of elevating the team up the constructors' ladder," an excerpt from an official team review recently said.

Gaughan filling in for Robby Gordon at testing  Brendan Gaughan will fill in for Robby Gordon in the No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Ford during the upcoming Sprint Cup test session at Daytona International Speedway.

Gordon is in Africa to compete in the Dakar Rally, which runs Jan. 5-20. With Gordon tied up, the No. 7 team opted to go with a substitute driver for the session, which begins Monday.

Gaughan will fill that role, a team spokesman said Wednesday. Gaughan is currently without a NASCAR ride after his South Point Racing team in the Craftsman Truck Series closed down after a failed merger with Wyler Racing in the offseason.

Gaughan will be working with the team's new crew chief, Frank Kerr, who came to RGM after being released from Michael Waltrip Racing, where he worked as a crew chief with David Reutimann's team last year.

tv news
SPEED to go High -Def for Daytona Speedweeks  SPEED will make its move to High Definition in 2008, beginning Feb. 7 with 100 hours of NASCAR on SPEED HD from Daytona Speedweeks.

“With the Gatorade Duel 150’s on SPEED, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, NASCAR RaceDay and all of the other programming SPEED will deliver surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the Daytona 500, this is one of our most visible times of the year for the network and the perfect time to launch our move to HD,” said SPEED President Hunter Nickell. “SPEED already offers some of the most action-filled programming on television and the move to HD in 2008 enhances all of it exponentially.”

Topping the 70-million U.S. household mark and coming off four consecutive years of ratings growth in 2007, the move to High Definition is the next step in the evolution of a network that has added more than 30 million homes since being fully acquired by Fox Cable Networks in 2001. More ...

Dakar Rally starts Saturday  

Route for 2008 Dakar Rally

Just a few days before the start of the 30th edition of the Dakar, bets are open on most of the on-line gambling and betting websites. In the car category, one of the best known sites offers a list of 16 pilots to bet on. With odds of 2.90 to 1, Giniel De Villiers - even if he never won the rally raid - is the favorite, just ahead of his Volkswagen team mate Carlos Sainz (at 3.20). Stéphane Peterhansel, title holder and nine-times winner of the race is third in the odds with a smaller 3.60 to 1. But more daring gamblers will bet on pilots like Yvan Muller (at 251 to 1) or Germany’s Dieter Depping (Volkswagen) who gets top odds with 300 to 1. More surprising however is the presence of Austria’s Raphael Sperrer (300 to 1)… People can also bet on possible duels based on the overall rankings at Lake Rose, for instance between teammates of the BMW X-Raid team, Nasser Al Attiyah (at 1.55) who is favorite over his team mate Bruno Saby (at 2.30).


05/01/08 Lisboa Portimão 104 km 120 km 262 km 486 km
06/01/08 Portimão Málaga 15 km 60 km 460 km 535 km
07/01/08 Nador Er Rachidia 182 km 372 km 163 km 717 km
08/01/08 Er Rachidia Ouarzazate 29 km 356 km 199 km 584 km
09/01/08 Ouarzazate Guelmim 188 km 498 km 148 km 834 km
10/01/08 Guelmim Smara 66 km 454 km 105 km 625 km
11/01/08 Smara Atâr 198 km 619 km 12 km 829 km
12/01/08 Atâr Nouakchott 44 km 450 km 37 km 531 km
13/01/08 Rest Day
14/01/08 Nouakchott Nouhadibou 37 km 525 km 86 km 648 km
15/01/08 Nouhadibou Atâr 111 km 552 km 22 km 685 km
16/01/08 Atâr Tidjikja 35 km 524 km 133 km 692 km
17/01/08 Tidjikja Kiffa 131 km 398 km 2 km 531 km
18/01/08 Kiffa Kiffa 25 km 484 km 6 km 515 km
19/01/08 Kiffa Saint-Louis 326 km 301 km 130 km 757 km
20/01/08 Saint-Louis Dakar 239 km 23 km 42 km 304 km
TOTAL 1,730 km 5,736 km 1,807 km 9,273 km
New rules to spice up GP starts - Heidfeld  (GMM)  A new set of rules could have an immediate impact on the 2008 formula one championship, according to BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld.

The German driver told his website that he is "anxious" to see the effect that the ban on driver aids including traction and launch control will have when the five start-lights extinguish in Melbourne this March.

"In past years we had the launch control or at least some help," Heidfeld, who is 30, said.

"That is why the starts were always pretty predictable.  In the beginning Renault always had fantastic starts and after that we had very good starts.

"Before the return of the launch control it was easy to gain or lose positions during the start.  So next season will be more interesting again," he added.

Heidfeld also predicts that the absence of traction control in 2008 is going to spice up the sport.

"There's going to be more drifts," he said, "you will make mistakes more easily which should lead to more overtaking maneuvers -- especially when you are under pressure."

Racing News
Merc slammed for anti-German driver policy  (GMM)  A former formula one driver from Germany has hit out at Mercedes-Benz for not putting a countryman at the wheel of its works grand prix program.

For the past fifty years, a German has not steered a works Mercedes in formula one.

In contrast, German rivals BMW have recently had three compatriots on the pay-roll; Nick Heidfeld and test drivers Sebastian Vettel and Timo Glock.

Michael Bartels, who failed to qualify for four races with Lotus in 1991, told the news agency SID that he does not understand the phenomenon.

"I can simply not fathom how a German make never gives a German driver a chance," the 39-year-old, who races a Maserati sports car in the FIA GT championship, said.

McLaren-Mercedes' silver cars this year will be raced by a Briton and a Finn, despite speculation linking two rising Germans with the vacancy that was recently filled by Heikki Kovalainen for 2008.

"Nico Rosberg could be gotten out of his Williams contract, and also Adrian Sutil would be a candidate for me," Bartels observed.  "Ralf, too; he is fast and has great experience," Bartels added.

"It is a great pity that those in Stuttgart apparently think otherwise," he said.

Alonso to kick off 2008 campaign this week  (GMM)  Fernando Alonso will get his 2008 campaign off to an early start this week when he formally begins working at Renault after a one year absence from the team.

The former double world champion is due at Renault's UK headquarters this week, according to the Spanish newspaper Diario AS, which said December 31 officially marked the last day of McLaren's contractual hold on him.

Another Spanish newspaper, El Pais, describes 2007 as Alonso's 'anno horrible', as he now prepares to begin contributing towards the early development of the R28.

Grand prix veteran and British television commentator Martin Brundle, however, points the finger at the 26-year-old rather than McLaren, revealing to ITV that he lost some respect last year for the 2005 and 2006 drivers' title winner.

"I almost idolized Fernando Alonso after 2005 and '06," he said.

Brundle says Alonso's behavior at McLaren therefore disappointed him, "because instead of stepping up a gear with the arrival of Lewis Hamilton, like Michael Schumacher would have done, he tried to slow the rookie down."

He notes that Alonso has always been a difficult character, and that Flavio Briatore "managed him better" than did McLaren's Ron Dennis, which "is probably why he's back tracked" to Renault.

"Let's see how it works out this time around," Brundle added.

racing news
James "Penny" Paniagua dies  James “Penny” Paniagua, who gave NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon his first taste of speed, died Saturday, a week after suffering a heart attack. “He was at home, surrounded by all his family,” said son Jimmy Paniagua of his father’s passing. James Paniagua, 89, introduced hundreds of youngsters, including a 4-year-old Gordon, to quarter-midget racing.

An innovative designer and mechanic, he custom built more than 100 quarter-midget cars. Among his first models was one bought by John Bickford, Gordon’s stepfather, for the racing prodigy. His wife of 65 years, Naomi, also has been in poor health. The couple have four children, all of whom have been active in the local auto racing community. Their grandson, Paul McMahan, is a veteran sprint-car racer in the World of Outlaws.

Visitation for Paniagua will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Elk Grove Funeral Chapel, 9101 Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove. His memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at the United Methodist Church, 6th and M streets in Rio Linda.

Gaddafi Ferrari seized in Germany  German police have seized a Ferrari belonging to the son of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, saying its exhaust was too noisy.

Seif al-Arab, 25, who is registered as a student in Munich, watched as his £170,000 Ferrari 430 was loaded on to a lorry and driven away after being stopped by local police.

Officers claimed that they recorded 110.5 decibels from the sports car's exhaust system instead of the permitted 98 decibels.

The vehicle has been impounded and will be returned only when Col Gaddafi's son - one of seven - pledges to change the exhaust system and pays a £100 fine. Police said that Seif al-Arab had been stopped and warned before. Telegraph.co.uk

racing news
PitFit Training Announces Scholarship Winners for 2008  PitFit Training (PitFit) today announced winners of the 2008 PitFit Training Driver Memorial Scholarship. The winners are Kelsey Bauer (Karting), Kristine Daggett (Karting), Michael DeNino (Skip Barber), Kyle Hamilton (USAC), Jeff Oleen (Ford Focus/Western USAC), Miranda Throckmorton (USAC), and Stars of Karting JICA West and East Division Champions Gustavo Menezes and Brendan Langlois.

"Once again, it was quite a challenge to choose the 2008 Scholarship winners,” noted PitFit Training President Jim Leo. “The quality of the applications, especially the essays improve year after year. This year's winners are very deserving of the scholarship, and we are especially proud to award another scholarship to two of last year's winners, Jeff Oleen and Miranda Throckmorten.”

Leo noted the level of difficulty in applying for a scholarship and said many racers are determined to succeed. “It was rewarding to see the improvement of Kristine Daggett, who barely missed the cut in 2007 but, she worked diligently and was awarded a scholarship for 2008,” said Leo.

He went on to thank staff and sponsors, Shock Doctor, Bodyblade, and Gatorade, for their support and efforts in helping to make the scholarship a success. More ...

Industry News
China automaker develops engine for new ethanol type  Dongfeng Motor Corporation, one of China's largest auto makers, has developed technology to use a new type of ethanol as fuel in cars.

The new technology could produce combustible gas, mainly hydrogen, from hydrous ethanol that contained 65 percent ethanol. The present ethanol-fuelled vehicles need pure ethanol blended with gas, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said.

Experts said producing 65 percent ethanol could save up to 60 percent of energy compared with producing the same amount of pure ethanol, as dehydration is energy-consuming.

The use of hydrous ethanol, unlike some synthetic fuels that required adapted engines, only needs an additional device to be fixed on present engines. Thus, it is more likely to be accepted by consumers.

The company planned to set up an ethanol-fuelled automobile plant by the end of 2008. This included a design and test centre as well as an assembly plant for ethanol engines.

The plant is expected to turn out a limited number of ethanol-driven car by the end of 2008. MalaysiaSun.com

Industry News
General Motors India Posts 68% Rise In 2007 Sales  The Indian unit of General Motors Corp. (GM) Tuesday said it posted a 68% rise in sales last year as demand for models such as the Chevrolet Spark minicar rose in the South Asian nation.

GM, the world's biggest automaker by sales, sold a record 60,032 vehicles in India in 2007, compared with 35,823 vehicles a year earlier, the company said in a press release.

General Motors India Pvt. Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of GM and produces vehicles at a factory in the western state of Gujarat. It will invest more than $300 million to build a second factory in the western state of Maharashtra that will have a capacity of 140,000 vehicles a year when production starts by the end of 2008.

GM's sales in December more than doubled to 6,309 units from 2,583 units a year earlier. That was the highest-ever monthly sales for GM since it began operations in India in 1996, the company said.

The December sales comprised 2,179 units of the Chevrolet Tavera sport-utility vehicle and 1,508 units of the Spark minicar, which was introduced in April last year.  Lloyds.com

Two teams combine to form new truck series team  Green Light Racing, which competes in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series, has formed a joint venture with SS-Racing. The organizations will combine their resources and enter two teams for 2008 truck series competition.  The organization will field the No. 07 Chevrolet and the No. 08 Chevrolet in Craftsman Truck Series competition.  SS-Racing has competed in ASA Late Model racing since 2002. Its primary sponsor, ASI Limited, has served as part-time sponsor for Green Light Racing since 2004. The company will continue to sponsor the combined organization.
Yeley to auction helmet for charity  

J.J. Yeley

J.J. Yeley and sponsor DLP HDTV are raffling a TV and the helmet Yeley will wear during the Jan. 8-12 Chili Bowl Nationals.

Fans can purchase raffle tickets for $10 at www.jjyeley.com until Jan. 4 and will also be available at the Chili Bowl. The drawing will take place Jan. 12 before the feature race.

"I'm excited about the raffle," Yeley said. "Last year we raised $10,000, so we're hoping to top that this year."

Proceeds from the raffle will benefit St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and the Jake Owen Raborn Foundation.

industry news
Big 3 finally get it - to go after diesel market  After we at AutoRacing1.com wrote numerous articles that the US automakers were missing the boat on diesel engines it is finally sinking in.

Recently passed energy legislation that mandates 40 percent fuel efficiency increases on automakers has them looking toward a technology that's existed for years -- diesel. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC have committed to a diesel option in the next generation of their light-duty pickups, which are the best-selling vehicles in each of their lineups. If all goes well and more consumers accept diesels as an option, the technology could expand beyond trucks. Adding diesels will help the automakers reach the fleet-wide, industry average of 35 miles per gallon signed into law by President Bush on Dec. 19. But they'll have to work hard at selling the public on diesel's benefits.

Diesel engines can I improve a vehicle's fuel efficiency 30 percent; the fuel is readily available and millions of people drive diesels daily. Diesel engines also have a decades-longer track record than hybrids and are the choice among about half of all European car buyers.

But, in the United States diesels haven't caught on, and account for only 3.2 percent of the domestic light vehicle market. That's due in large part to European emissions rules and a tax structure which favors diesels there. In the United States, until recently, diesel fuel refining rules made it hard to have a 50-state standard. But with consistency in low-sulfur diesel fuel regulations and the newly passed energy legislation, Detroit's automakers are making a push into the diesel market. More ...
'08 NASCAR Sprint Cup Preseason Thunder Testing Schedule  
The following drivers are expected to participate in the first test session (Jan. 7-9):

AJ Allmendinger (No. 84 Red Bull Toyota)
Aric Almirola (No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet)
Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)
Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet)
Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford)
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Ford)
Travis Kvapil (No. 28 Ford)
Mark Martin (No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet)
Casey Mears (No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet)
Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco-Havoline/Big Red/Juicy Fruit Dodge)
Kyle Petty (No. 45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge)
David Reutimann (No. 00 Aaron’s Toyota)
Scott Riggs (No. 70 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge)
Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge)
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet)
Jacques Villeneuve (No. 27 Toyota)
J.J. Yeley (No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota) More ...

Mazda's Doonan never gives up  John Doonan is the man who manages all of Mazda's professional motorsports involvements. And there is a lot of racing going on under his watch as Mazda prides itself as being one of the most raced brands in the world. No matter what level, Doonan says that it is all important to Mazda. He takes pride that Mazda is "anywhere from grassroots racing to the American Le Mans Series."

Doonan describes Mazda factory-supported racing as a ladder system. Mazda drivers have the potential to move up through the ranks as they progress in their racing careers. 2007 B-K Motorsports drivers Raphael Matos, Ben Devlin and Jamie Bach are all products of the ladder system, each coming from other racing series in Mazda powered cars. "The American Le Mans Series is the pinnacle of the pyramid for us," stated Doonan.

Mazda has a pyramid of its own within IMSA, the sanctioning body for the American Le Mans Series. In addition to its partnership with B-K Motorsports in LMP2, Mazda also has heavy involvement in the Star Mazda Championship and IMSA Lites, both IMSA-sanctioned series. More ...

racing news
Ferrari 312 PB replica scale model. Must Watch!!!  We think everyone will be most impressed with this video of a fully working model of a Ferrari 312 PB.  It gets better the more you watch.  If this is not the ultimate working model of a race car, nothing is.
Ambrose going Nationwide  The Nationwide (nee Busch) Series’ resident multinational is giving the Sprint (nee Nextel) Cup Series a shot next year.

On a week-to-week basis, Aussie driver Marcos Ambrose will continue competing regularly in the second-string series, but he is slated to compete in 12 Cup races next year for Wood Brothers/JTG Racing.

After a year of Craftsman Truck and another of Busch racing, Ambrose said: “It’s a lot tougher than it looks.

“It takes its toll on you personally and physically over the course of the year, and I just think I’ve learned to pace myself better at the end of the season than at the start.”

Ambrose, who cut his teeth road racing, pronounced himself a full-fledged convert to the ovals.

“I hadn’t really experienced the ovals until I came over the NASCAR to drive these stock cars,” he said, “and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to road-course racing full-time because it’s just so much fun and so dynamic and exciting.”

Robby Gordon On His Way To Dakar Rally  Robby Gordon left Saturday to attempt to do what no other American racer has accomplished - capture an overall victory in the adventurous Dakar Rally - a 16-day treacherous 5,000 mile event that runs from Lisbon, Portugal, to Dakar, Africa, and is widely considered the toughest test for man and machine in all of motorsports.

Gordon, fresh off the 40th running of the legendary SCORE International Tecate Baja 1,000 - an all-out burner from Ensenada down to Cabo San Lucas on Mexico's Baja California Peninsula - is primed and ready for the Jan. 5-20 Dakar Rally.

Teamed with fellow Californian Andy Grider, a two-time competitor in the Dakar Rally, Gordon is can't express is pleasure enough with the opportunity afforded him by Monster Energy and has set lofty aspirations for the event which begins next week.

Gordon, who finished 26th in the Nextel Cup NASCAR points chase this past season, placed 8th overall in last year's Dakar Rally. He's so focused on this international event that he's bailing on a crucial test weekend at Daytona International Speedway so he can pursue his dream of winning Dakar.

There will be daily updates on Robby Gordon's web site: http://robbygordon.ning.com/

Missing the days of open competition  A reader writes, Think of this approach.  The perfect high-tech platform in auto racing is an open wheel car with a turbocharged V8.  The thing that drew me to CART was the technology race between the manufacturers.  I miss the days of multiple chassis and engine manufacturers all with different attacks on speed and horsepower - 900 HP and 16,000rpms.  The spec racer may be good for the economics of the teams but I would like to see the fastest cars and the best drivers.  Even within the spec series platform,  I would suggest a jump to 850× HP with 100 HP P2P.  Allow the teams to do limited aero development and open the chassis formula up to make CC the fastest open wheel  cars in the world and advertise it to everybody.  With NASCAR and IRL restricted to boredom, it would differentiate CC from everything but maybe F1 which doesn’t’ run in the US.  The drivers would come to tame the fastest and everybody would want to watch.  We as a nation love the extreme.  It would help attract a younger demographic as well as satisfy long time fans with fast exciting racing.  I have no interest in NASCAR or the IRL with their low tech low RPM machines going around in a circle.  John Schieving - Denver, CO

Dear John, What you suggest was fine for CART in its golden days when the series was flush with sponsor and manufacturer money.  After Tony George started the IRL open wheel racing in the USA was destroyed and money has flowed out of Champ Car and the IRL and into NASCAR and other series.  Mark C.

Another reader writes, I have been around Champ Car for many years and have seen their attempts to make things happen.  The problem is that they do not get it.  The current administration is blind to the realities of what is going on in open wheel racing.  The ONLY solution to try to make open wheel racing relevant is to merge the two series.  Champ Car should be doing everything in its power to try to join Indy Car and create one series.  I am no fan of the IRL and Tony George but from a branding stand point, the name INDY is a recognized name anywhere in the world.  The Indy 500 is still the biggest open wheel race in the world. Trying to explain what Champ Car is or does is next to impossible, except for the hard core race fan. 

Champ Car is on life support but management portrays that it is healthy.  Why is it that Gerry Forsythe has only gone to a couple of races?  Why is it that trying to get real sponsorship is next to impossible, for both series? 

The solution is very simple.  As a race fan it is so frustrating seeing the state of open wheel racing.  What is more frustrating is seeing the blindness of Champ Cars management.  Name Withheld

Over the years Champ Car has made many overtures to Anton George to merge the two series.  Anton has no desire.  We suggest you write him.  He is the one who started this mess and is the one who can end it.  Mark C.

Kingfisher Airlines dumps Toyota for rival team  Toyota Motorsport GmbH and Kingfisher Airlines. today announces the premature end of their relationship.

Toyota Motorsport GmbH and Kingfisher Airlines have mutually agreed to end the contract as Official Partner one year early, meaning the relationship will cease at the end of 2007. This decision allows Dr Vijay Mallya, the Chairman and CEO of Kingfisher Airlines, to focus his Formula 1 activities on the Force India team, of which he is co-owner.

Toyota Motorsport GmbH has enjoyed a successful partnership with Kingfisher Airlines, collaborating on several promotional events both in India and across the world. However, Dr Mallya is now focusing on his new Formula 1 project and Kingfisher Airlines' request for an early end to the partnership has been agreed to be in the best interests of both parties.

Chairman and Team Principal Tadashi Yamashina said: "I would like to thank Kingfisher Airlines for its support during 2007 and I wish Dr Mallya good luck with his new Formula 1 venture. I look forward to seeing him next season, even if he is now associated with a rival team. Toyota F1 PR

When the post-season tests began in Spain last month, the re-liveried burgundy and white Spyker/Force India cars were sporting 'Fly Kingfisher' logos.

Trulli motivated for 08  After a tough 2006 season with the TF106 a car that was compromised in terms of design because it had been designed too hurriedly following the late introduction of new regulations, Toyota pinned all their hopes on the TF107. The new car, which was the second Toyota Formula 1 car to race following the change to the 2.4-liter V8 engine, was better prepared from the start because it had been designed as an optimum package for the V8 engine.

However, numerous problems hampered the development of the car and Toyota had to start the season without enough speed to be competitive. In this situation, Jarno Trulli experienced his third year with Toyota and achieved a total of four finishes in the points during the season, accumulating in just eight points in total.

As Jarno explained, at the beginning of the season they had better results, the Italian driver finishing in the top eight in two of the first three races of the season, but that said, it doesn't really reflect the development throughout the year with some strong performances in the middle of the season, that unfortunately didn’t see them end up with the expected results. More ...

Stewart wins the Rumble  Tony Stewart held off teammate Mike Fedorcak over the final 25 laps to capture Saturday's USAC midget feature, capping the Rumble in Fort Wayne at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center. The two-time NASCAR champion won on the one-sixteenth-mile indoor track for the fifth time in eight races over the past four seasons. After posting the fastest qualifying time and winning his heat race, Stewart sliced through the feature field, moving from his eighth starting position to fifth by lap four and into second place on lap nine. Stewart took the lead with an inside move on Geoff Kaiser in the first turn on lap 17 and beat Fedorcak by nearly a straightaway in the 60-lap race. Dave Darland was third, followed by Derek Bischak. Indianapolis Star and Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
industry news
Bid on a Corvette ZR1  

Corvette  ZR1

Barrett-Jackson calls it Muscle Car Wars, a chance to bid on high-performance models from the three Detroit automakers, including the Corvette ZR1 and Dodge Challenger SRT8.

The Jan. 19 event will benefit charities and is part of the famed Barrett-Jackson auction held in Scottsdale, Ariz.

• The orange pearl 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 will feature a dash plaque indicating that it's No. 1 of production. The auction benefits notMYkid -- an organization dedicated to facilitating improved understanding about youth behavioral-health issues.

• The Corvette ZR1 convertible, which will be displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, will be the first production model available to the public. Proceeds will benefit the United Way in Michigan.

• Ford will sell a 2008 Ford Shelby GT500 KR coupe, first shown at the New York Auto Show in 2007, to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

For more information on the auction, go to www.barrett-jackson.com.

Industry News
GM centennial to embrace future as it salutes past  As General Motors Corp. begins the celebration of its 100th year this week, the automaker hopes to focus on the technological and business promise of its next century as much as it commemorates its storied history.

GM has been a large force in shaping the American automobile and global commerce, and its executives today have their sights set on making vehicles that redefine personal transportation for the next century. They’ve already promised to sell the first mass-produced, long-range electric vehicle. And next week, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner will address the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to share the automaker's vision of the vehicle of the near future as a safer, more fuel-efficient transportation appliance.

"The company has had a huge impact on the industry, a lot of industry firsts, so we're looking forward to the next hundred years to try to do some more of that -- same things in a very different context," Wagoner told the Free Press recently. "A lot of the first century was about the U.S. and developed markets. The way it looks right now, it's really going to be a very different geography for our business as we go forward." More ...

'Two more years' for Toyota success - boss  

Tadashi Yamashina

(GMM) Team principal Tadashi Yamashina says he has been given two more years to deliver the goods for Toyota in formula one.

The Japanese took the reigns of the struggling Cologne based team earlier this year, following a half decade of underperformance despite Toyota's top annual budget.

"(For Toyota) to become stronger it is more important to improve the level of organization in general rather than to rely on the power of one person," he said in Toyota's latest Motorsports Annual Report.

"My job is to mobilize the resources to achieve that. I have been given two more years.

"So, we will work and fight to make sure we prove ourselves in the 2008 season," Yamashina added.

Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher amassed just 13 points in 2007, with a highest finish in a grand prix of just sixth.

Toyota will launch the TF107's successor, to be raced by Trulli and newly crowned GP2 champion Timo Glock next year, on January 10.

Yamashina said: "This year's experience brought home to me the fact that we have lot of work to do.

"We need to continue to push hard to arrive at the top.

"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to lead the second group and gradually reduce the gap between us and the two top teams, but in the end it was proved that we had been too optimistic," he admitted.

"We studied our performances in 2007 and we believe we have found areas where we have to improve. We expect more from the aerodynamic side and also from an operational side but I am optimistic that the team knows what needs to be done to improve our performance."

Heidfeld cautious about next step for BMW  

A clean shaven Nick Heidfeld before he grew his hideous beard

(GMM) Nick Heidfeld says he is cautiously expecting a strong season for BMW-Sauber in 2008.

The Swiss based German squad finished the 2007 season second behind only Ferrari in the constructors' championship, after McLaren's exclusion for espionage.

Mario Theissen is targeting a debut victory next year, and Heidfeld, the team's 30-year-old race driver, shares his countryman and boss' optimism about 2008.

"It should be an advantage for us that Ferrari and McLaren had to give everything in order to win the title whereas we and Renault were already able to concentrate on the next year," the German said.

"So theoretically things look pretty good," Heidfeld told his official website.

"I have a good feeling but you can't always rely on your feeling, as I noticed in the past years. In the 2001 season Sauber came fourth in the constructors' championship and after that I also thought that now things will get better, which they didn't.

"I don't think that will be the case next year but as I said: feeling does not count in formula one," he added.

Kovalainen wants long stay at McLaren  

Heikki Kovalainen

(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen says he intends to stay at McLaren for "as long as possible", beginning in 2008.

The Finn is joining the British team from Renault to replace Fernando Alonso, who spent an ill-fated single season with McLaren alongside Lewis Hamilton last season.

But Kovalainen, who is 26, told the British tabloid The People that he is not similarly expecting to clash with Hamilton, an old karting rival.

"I want to stay with
McLaren as long as possible," he said.

"It has been my favorite team since I was a kid and I always wanted to be part of it.

"Now I want to make the most of the challenge and make sure that nothing goes wrong," he added.

Kovalainen notched up a best finish of second at Fuji last season, and rounded out his debut season seventh in the drivers' classification.

Interestingly, due to Kovalainen's full season as a Renault test driver in 2006, the Finn actually has more formula one experience under his belt than Hamilton.

But Kovalainen said of his new British teammate: "He is a very strong driver and clearly he is one of the favorites for the championship.

"I want to build a relationship with the team so that I can be competitive as well, even if he is going to have a little bit of an advantage.

"I think I will have a little bit of catching up to do," Kovalainen acknowledged.

tv news
Weekend USA TV Reminders  UPDATE The Score Baja 1000 was added to today's TV schedule show below.  It is an NBC Special hosted by veteran TV announcer Bill Weber.

Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Knoxville Nationals -Highlights Knoxville, IA
3:00am-5:00am (R) SPEED
Le Mans Endurance Series
Silverstone  2:00pm-3:00pm (R)
Spa 3:00pm-4:00pm (R) SPEED
Victory By Design -Grand Prix Greats Race vehicles

2:00am-3:00am (R) SPEED
Australian V8 Supercars
Hidden Valley 3:00am-4:00am (R)
Oran Park 4:00am-5:00am R) SPEED
German Touring Cars Norisring
12:00pm-1:00pm (6/24/07) SPEED
Australian V8 Supercars Bathurst
1:00pm-3:00pm (10/7/07) 2 hour show? SPEED
Mazda RoboPong 200 Karting Championship
IRL, NASCAR, and USAC drivers also compete
(Oct 2007) New Castle, IN 4:00pm-5:00pm (R) SPEED
Australian V8 Supercars Bathurst
3:00am-5:00am (R) 2 hour show? SPEED
Back in the Day with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7:30am-8:00am (R) SPEED
American Muscle Car -History of Trans Am Racing
9:00am-9:30am (R) SPEED
Formula 1 Debrief Brazilian Grand Prix
11:00am-12:00pm SPEED
Off-Road Racing -Baja 1000 (2007) Baja
2:00pm-3:00pm NBC
The SPEED Report
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED

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

EM Motorsports plans to run some NASCAR '08 races  E&M Motorsports team owner John Carter is no quitter. "Whatever I go out to do, I go out to win," Carter said. "There's no negative thoughts on anything I do. I don't care if it's the scrap business, trash or whatever I'm trying to conquer. I go in with a positive outlook, no matter what it costs." A partnership that would have provided stability and sponsorship fell apart after a handful of races. His team made just one race -- at Michigan -- and Joe Nemechek wound up crashing the team's best car after 92 laps. A driver from Europe who promised to bring money to the team instead turned out to be a fraud. He can't sell any of his remaining rolling stock because of the change to the Car of Tomorrow chassis. And plans for a shop to replace his little two-car garage have stalled for lack of working capital. "The last three years I've run  it's all come out of my pocket," Carter said. "I'd rather not say how much. I don't want to make myself sick thinking about it. I've had to take out a loan because I still don't have a sponsor. But I do have one trying to come on with me and help me. We have the same shop, but we can make it happen out of there." Carter has purchased one COT and has another on order. He plans on being at Daytona in February, with either Burney Lamar or Carl Long behind the wheel of the #08 Dodge, whether that's out of his pocket or with partial sponsorship. "We've got new cars being built right now, one for Daytona and one for the races after that," he said. "You can use the same cars because of the same suspension pieces. One car's built now and the other's being built and I'm in the process of buying it." Engine builder Ernie Elliott -- the man behind Bill Elliott's superspeedway domination in the '80s -- is responsible for the horsepower. "He's building us a special engine to run Daytona with," Carter said. "We believe we've got a good package to run at a superspeedway with the Car of Tomorrow." "With the two drivers I've got, I still think we can go out there and win," Carter said. "A lot of people think this is off the wall, but with these new cars and all, I still think we can compete and still win a race. If we can get in a race and run with Ernie's engines and these cars are so equal to each other, I think we've got a better shot than ever, as far as going there and running in the top five or 10." NASCAR.com
Force India to name drivers on January 11  (GMM)  Force India has scheduled to announce its full driver lineup for the 2008 season on January 11, reports from India on Sunday said.

The Silverstone based team, recently acquired by Vijay Mallya and the Dutch Mol family, had been expected to make its decision about the occupants of its cars before Christmas or in the opening days of the new year.

But with Giancarlo Fisichella, Roldan Rodriguez, Christian Klien, Vitantonio Liuzzi and others seemingly still in the running for the vacant seat opposite Adrian Sutil, it is believed Mallya's final selection was delayed.

The Indian national newspaper The Hindu said Force India will announce the 2008 driver lineup in Mumbai, the world's most populous city.

Kubica optimistic for 2008  

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica says he is optimistic about the upcoming season after BMW went fastest on two of the four final days of testing this year at Jerez.  The new BMW will be launched on 14 January.

"We've been mainly working on the 2008 electronics and on the mechanical side of things," he told F1.com. "Aside from that I was running with the 2009 Bridgestone, which was great fun."

"We will run the new car in January and I am quite optimistic after our Jerez test session," he added. "But the final answer will be in Melbourne."

Brawn: Schumacher happy just to test  

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher is not likely to try to make a competitive race drive comeback in F1 according to former Ferrari mastermind Ross Brawn. Schumacher's former technical director and master strategist is now team principal at Honda and believes that the German great is happy simply to continue testing.

"Michael loves driving a car," Brawn told Autosport. "At the moment that's what he's doing and it's what he loves. Knowing him as I

Ross Brawn

do, I don't think there's a natural extension from driving a car to racing a car. I can see why he enjoys that, because he just enjoys driving, developing a car and being a part of that process."

"I don't know if he misses the racing because that's a different thing, but he just likes going fast," Brawn added. "And he loves the interaction with the engineers and making a car better. So I can see why even a testing role would be quite fulfilling for him."

Boris Said talks about 2008 plans  Boris Said told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway Thursday that his 2008 plans are to race in the Bodine Bobsled Challenge, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, attempting five Sprint Cup races, including the Daytona 500 and the road course races in a Ford working with Roush and with SoBe NoFear Energy Drink as the sponsor.  Said also a deal to run the three Nationwide Series road races but didn’t say what team. Said has also partnered with Rick Hendrick to open Boris Said BMW in California later in 2008.
Castroneves to lead parade  Indy Car driver Helio 'Twinkle Toes' Castroneves will be leading the Citrus bowl parade in Orlando. The big game is on Tuesday.
NASCAR Unveils New 'Car Of Yesterday'  

NASCAR's new Car of Yesterday

CHARLOTTE, NC—Only days after its long-anticipated, much-criticized Car of Tomorrow debuted to overwhelmingly negative reviews at the Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR responded to the wishes of competitors and fans alike by introducing the stylishly retro, technologically retrograde NEXTEL Cup Car of Yesterday.

"This is exactly what everyone from race teams to race fans wanted all along—a real American racecar," said Robby Gordon, standing in front of the Jim Beam '77 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme he will drive for the rest of the season. "To hell with things like spoilers, adjustable suspensions, disc brakes, shoulder belts, all that junk. People want to see us racing the cars they drive every day, and anyone who's seen the parking lot at a NASCAR race will tell you that's what the Car of Yesterday gives them."

Based on tried-and-true NASCAR designs from what many consider the golden age of stock-car racing, the Car Of Yesterday is based on the racing team's choice of four-door body styles: either the '77 Cutlass Supreme, the '79 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, the '78 Dodge Diplomat, the '77 Ford Granada, the '77 Mercury Gran Marquis, or for series newcomers Toyota, the 1989 Corolla. All cars, regardless of body style, must have fully reclining seats, column shifters, vinyl tops, ashtrays, and automatically retracting seatbelts. Adding spoilers and air dams for purposes other than providing advertising space is forbidden, although teams will be allowed to bolt wooden 2-by-8 planks to their front and rear bumpers for the contact-heavy short-track races. Mechanically, all cars will be basically identical, featuring 360-cubic-inch V-8 engines with the air filters reversed, "glass-pack" mufflers, and factory power steering.

"Our primary concern with the Car of Yesterday was safety," said NASCAR competition director Robin Pemberton. "The fans hate that shit. We had to keep that in mind when we went back to the drawing board, so we took away anything that increased grip, improved handling, or prevented a stock car from experiencing a sudden and total loss of control. NASCAR isn't about the cars, it's about the drivers. And the Car of Yesterday keeps the driver involved with the vehicle, whether he's just driving it or, ideally, crashing it."

The Car of Yesterday underwent intensive single-car and multi-car tests earlier this week at Daytona, Texas Motor Speedway, and Martinsville, with testing director Brett Bodine and his crew wrecking 34 cars in routine driving. An enthusiastic Bodine reported the new design passed with flying colors.

"I could barely keep the thing out of the wall. It swapped ends, got way loose, and nearly spun out with little to no warning. Sometimes it dove down towards the infield for no reason I ever did figure out, and once coming off the banking at Daytona it rebounded off the suspension stops hard enough to bounce the whole front end in the air," said Bodine, who was pronounced healthy and released from Daytona Beach Memorial Hospital early Wednesday afternoon. "It may be the best all-around NASCAR stocker I've ever driven. I wish they had these cars when I was still racing, but unfortunately, they'd advanced past that point by then."  More at The Onion

NASCAR Truck Series Team Joint-Venture  SS-Racing announced today that it has executed a formal Joint-Venture agreement with Green Light Racing for the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Season.  The teams will combine resources towards their campaign with two full time trucks, the no.07 and no.08 Chevy Silverado’s.  ASI Limited, the primary sponsor for SS-Racing has participated with Green Light Racing as a part-time sponsor in limited races the past several seasons.  ASI Limited will continue with sponsorship in this new partnership.

The relationship between the two teams advanced recently when SS-Racing began exploring options to start its own full time truck team.  At the same time co-owner of Green Light Racing, Gene Christensen had made the decision to direct most of his efforts towards his campaign in Texas for the U.S. Congress.  “My racing responsibilities will be much less going forward so that my efforts can be concentrated on the Congressional run.” stated Christensen.  “Having Bobby (Dotter), Butch (Miller) and Greg (Carr) a part of this team will add a development program that is not to be under valued.  These winning drivers and their knowledge will take this team to the next level.” More ...

ALMS poll down to 20  Only two more rounds remain in voting for the American Le Mans Series Greatest Moments, part of the celebration of its 10th season of world-class sports car racing. Fans from around the world have narrowed the field from its original 75 choices (and write-ins) down to just 20. Voting in Round No. 4 is open and will run through January 10.

For this round, users may choose up to FIVE moments. Voting for the 10 Greatest Moments in the American Le Mans Series will begin January 11 with those choices being featured on Series broadcasts throughout the year.

Preparations for the 2008 American Le Mans Series, its 10th season of world-class sports car racing, begin January 28-30 with the annual Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway.

The 2008 season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.

F2007 weakness solved, designer says  (GMM) Ferrari's new car for 2008 will be an "evolution" of its championship winning predecessor, according to chief designer Nicolas Tombazis.

The Greek 39-year-old, who returned to Maranello early last year following a stint at McLaren, told the Spanish newspaper Diario AS that the F2008 will feature a shorter wheelbase than the 2007 car when it is revealed on 6 January.

"Much has changed, although the car will be an evolution of the previous one," Tombazis said.

"In 2007 we were faster on the fast circuits than on those with predominantly slower curves. We have worked on the weakness and solved it," he added.

Tombazis also rejected suggestions that Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's new world champion who joined the Italian team in 2007, faced internal criticism for his failure to communicate effectively with the team.

"Kimi speaks little, but he says important things," Tombazis remarked, also explaining the Finn's apparent difficulty to adapt to Ferrari life early in 2007.

"The change from Michelin to Bridgestone cost him, which is what happened to Alonso as well. He needed some time to understand his new team and environment," he added.

"Since Indianapolis, however, he had a very strong end to his season," Tombazis said.

Feedback - Is Champ Car at risk?  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, With regard to your recent article, Is champ car at risk of racing headlong into oblivion?  By Jeff Kitchen  December 27, 2007.  Jeff has provided good constructive feedback and from an execution standpoint, he has outlined what I would call ‘tablestakes’ or key components of the basic model of doing business for any auto racing and/or sports related organization in today’s sports & entertainment marketplace. 

However even with the additional ‘carrot’ incentives he is proposing, they still would fall short as can only work if Champ Car was more fundamentally sound and better poised to sustain/grow than the situation is currently.  Why is this? 

It is obvious the market place is in the process of making a choice and continuing not to choose Champ Car in it’s present form.  With the title of Jeff’s article, I thought he was going to address the fundamental issues of why it is at risk….such as, “Why is Champ Car relevant”?  For example, there are many other overlapping types of global racing now so what is Champ Car’s niche is no longer clear (is there’s one at all anymore?).  Also, is it a domestic series or international series…who/where is the ‘home’ fan base for sponsors to target as well as how can deal with the driver musical chairs?  These and many other issues have been well documented previously in AR1 so don’t need to fully list all here.

I too am concerned about the future of Champ Car as a longtime fan.  However, until the larger fundamental questions are addressed and more significant changes considered, Jeff’s proposals are only band-aids.  It does not appear anything is happening quickly enough for the downward trend to change and the marketplace will continue to choose something else.  Even possibly making 2008 Champ Car’s last season.  For myself I even have begun asking the question “Would I miss it?”.  At this time with not much to look forward to for upcoming 2008 season with no new announcements on drivers and other details, my answer would be “No, not really”.  Kirk Gillette, Dallas, Texas

Indy 500 History Book A Must-Have  

IMS Historian Donald Davidson co-wrote the Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 with longtime racing author and historian Rick Shaffer.

Motorsports fans and historians have a new book to put on their “must-have” list: the Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 by Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson and motorsports author and historian Rick Shaffer.

The 368-page “coffee table” book offers a definitive history of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, telling the story of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” from the track’s pre-Indy 500 years in 1909-1910, to the events that led to the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911, to Sam Hornish Jr.’s stunning victory in the 90th Indy 500 in 2006.

Davidson and Shaffer have been students of Indianapolis 500 history for decades. Thanks to their dedication, readers of the Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 will enjoy a thorough, lively account of each year of the Indianapolis 500 in an engaging narrative format.

Their words are complemented by nearly 1,000 black-and-white and color photographs, plus reproductions of many Indianapolis 500 program covers.

“The Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 is an excellent source for Indianapolis 500 historical reference,” said IMS CEO Tony George. “The pages of this book contain one fascinating story after another and draw the reader into the rich traditions and heritage of the world’s greatest race.”

Besides the facts readers expect from a highly detailed history, the book contains numerous “sidelight” stories about nine decades of Indianapolis 500 personalities and traditions. More ...

Bid on Dales SR's race car  
One race-car fan will have a dream fulfilled in February, when he or she wins a car that once belonged to legendary driver Dale Earnhardt. The orange No. 3 car, a Chevrolet Monte Carlo painted with the Wheaties logo, is part of a NASCAR exhibition at Orlando Science Center. Come February it will be sitting in some lucky ticket holder's garage, after it is raffled off. Edgewood Children's Ranch and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Central and Northern Florida chapter, have teamed up to raffle off this one-of-a-kind race car to benefit their charitable organizations. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 2001.

Earnhardt, known as the "Intimidator," drove the car in five races between 1993 and 1995. The car was later moved to the show-car division. In 1997, Richard Childress Racing converted two cars from Earnhardt's black paint scheme to the Wheaties trademark bright orange in order to promote the Winston Select Race in Charlotte, N.C.

After the race, one car was returned to the original paint scheme while the other retained the Wheaties colors. In 2001, Richard Childress Racing sold the Wheaties car. More ...

Andy Wallace joins Ruby Tuesday’s Rolex 24 line-up  

Andy Wallace
Bob Heathcote

The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team announced today that Englishman Andy Wallace is the fourth and final driver added to the team's roster for next year's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Rolex 24 At Daytona Jan. 26-27.

Wallace, who is a Crawford factory driver, completes an all-star lineup that includes Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand and Patrick Long. All four will drive the Alex Job Racing-prepared No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Crawford for the first time as teammates at January's (4-6) Daytona Test Days.

"I'm absolutely delighted to be driving the Alex Job Racing, Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford DP03 at this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona," Wallace said. "The car has been improving all the time and Alex always puts on a very competitive show. I'm also thrilled to be teaming up with such accomplished co-drivers as Bill, Joey and Patrick. I can't wait to get started at the official test in just a few days." More ...

Panis Joins Team Oreca for 2008  

Olivier Panis

Olivier Panis will drive, in all Le Mans Series events and, for the first time, in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the new prototype COURAGE-ORECA currently under development.

Olivier PANIS : "After F1, I wished to involve myself in a project of a high technical level, with a very motivated team but still having a human dimension, and capable to take on a real challenge.

The ORECA project perfectly fits that goal, even more so due to the fact that it is based on a mythical race : every driver is sensible to the magnetic attraction of the Le Mans 24 Hours. I have been totally seduced by the enthusiasm of Hugues and his team around this superb project."

Hugues de CHAUNAC : "To sign such a high profile driver as Olivier PANIS is a major asset to reach the ambitious goals that we have settled. Above the talents of the driver and of the man, the technical experience from his many F1 years will be an ideal interface to optimize the work from our engineers.

We are impatient to start testing and, as soon as in January, we shall announce the other drivers who will be part of our commando".

Hamilton relishing new role  

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton says he is looking forward to being the senior driver at McLaren next season. The Briton will be joined by Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen next season and Hamilton says he feels it is his job to lead the team because it is Kovalainen's first year with the Surrey-based outfit.

He told BBC News 24: "For me it's great, I'm almost seen as the leader of the team and hopefully I can do the job."

"Politics-wise it (2007) was a disaster but that is the business, there is nothing you can do about it," said Hamilton.

"You won't see a season quite like it again but I hope next season is just as exciting without the politics."

SPEED to Cover NASCAR Practice Beginning Jan. 7  Before all of the holiday decorations have been put away and the last fruit cake has been re-gifted, SPEED will be setting up shop in Daytona, Charlotte, Las Vegas and Fontana to bring NASCAR fans 22 days of testing coverage as part of NASCAR Preseason Thunder beginning Jan. 7.

“This season opens with quite a few questions to be answered,” said SPEED President Hunter Nickell. “There will be a lot of interest in seeing NASCAR back on the track for the first time in ’08 … Dale Jr. in a Hendrick car, Kyle Busch in a Gibbs car, the COT at every track, new title sponsors … there is no shortage of storylines for 2008 and SPEED will be there from the very beginning … we’ll be there all season … and we’ll be there at the end. NASCAR fans have come to expect that from SPEED and our team will deliver.”

Testing coverage will be comprehensive as SPEED will cover sessions for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In addition, for the first time, SPEED will offer multiple shows from the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, hosted by Lowe’s Motor Speedway. More ...

What - a Corvette again?  A reader writes, How many more times is the Corvette going to be selected as Indy pace car? Are there no other worthy choices?

How about rewarding Honda for it's inexplicable unwavering support of the IRL?  Perhaps an S 2000CR or a V-6 Accord Coupe would look good pacing the
field.  Every other car on the track has a Honda engine - why not the pace car?

If they must stay with an American car (after all, we all know Tony George wouldn't dare go against tradition), how about one of the many hot Mustangs

Viper, anyone?  Cadillac STS?

I really miss the days when there was variety in the Indy pace car selection.  Gordon Knight

Dear Gordon, It's not a matter of being selected to be the pace car at Indy each year.  It's whoever pays the most money to the Speedway for the privilege each year.  It's interesting to see that the car will be powered with E85 Ethanol.  After Champ Car has been talking about switching to E85 Ethanol, the IRL (which uses 100% ethanol in its cars) once again trumped them with this pace car announcement.  Mark C.

3 Top USA series represented at Detroit Auto Show  The NAIAS 2008 Racing Day, presented by Sprint, will arrive at the auto show on Friday, Jan. 25 with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Greg Biffle, IndyCar Series Drivers Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan and American Le Mans Series Drivers Bryan Herta and Tom Milner. Now in its third year, NAIAS Racing Day offers horsepower-driven celebrity appearances and exciting on-site activities for race fans of all ages.

Drivers confirmed for autograph signings during NAIAS Racing Day are:

• American Le Mans Series Drivers Bryan Herta and Tom Milner
Jan. 25 - Michigan Hall

• IndyCar Series Drivers Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan
Jan. 25 - Michigan Hall

• NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Greg Biffle
Jan. 25 - Sprint Booth (located on Cobo Concourse)

“Racing Day is always a highlight of the NAIAS, and with drivers like these, 2008 will be a banner year for all motorsports fans,” said Carl Galeana, senior co-chairman for the NAIAS 2008. “With so many racing enthusiasts in Michigan, surrounding states and Canada, we’re excited to have driver appearances, driving simulators and other fantastic activities. Many more plans are coming together for NAIAS Racing Day, so we encourage fans to keep an eye out for more announcements in the coming weeks.” More ...

Baja 1000
SCORE Baja1000 on NBC Sunday  The recent 40th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 desert race will be telecast nationally as a one-hour sports special at 3 p.m. (EST) Sunday on NBC.

In an yet another impressive display of power and poise, American Honda motorcycle teammates Robby Bell, Steve Hengeveld, Johnny Campbell and Kendall Norman along with the team of Mark Post/Rob MacCachren/Carl Renezeder posted the overall motorcycle and 4-wheel victories early Wednesday to lead the field.

The granddaddy of all desert races, the flagship event of the world’s foremost desert racing series was a rugged peninsula odyssey of 1,296.39 miles from Ensenada in Baja California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Baja California Sur.

The telecast will mark the fourth consecutive year that the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 is televised nationally by NBC. The race will be shown across the globe starting in January on ESPN International. In association with NBC TV, the race was co-produced by Aura360, the SCORE electronic media partner.

Noted NBC sportscaster Bill Weber will be the anchor announcer for the telecast. More ...

Perera wins ROY award  

Franck Perera

SPEEDTV.COM Open Wheel Racing Fans have voted and spoken! Declaring "FEARLESS" FRANCK PERERA the "MINOR LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2007".

For a Driver who had never raced in North America till this season, Champ Car Atlantic Rookie Franck Perera racked up an impressive list of accomplishments. From the moment the Frenchman jumped into the Atlantic Car on the last two days of pre-season testing at Laguna-Seca Raceway, he set the fastest times in all four sessions and broke the unofficial track record and never slowed down all season.

In a mere five months, Franck became the first Champ Car Atlantic Driver in the last 11 years to finish all 12 races in the Top-5. The first Non-North American to win the Toronto Grand Prix in 17 years. And closed the season with an impressive 8 podiums, 3 Wins, 2 Poles and 1 Best Lap Time. Garnering Perera hands down the Champ Car Atlantic title "Rookie of the Year". More ...

Ferrari drivers to be equal in 2008 - Massa  

Felipe Massa

(GMM)  Ferrari will approach the 2008 season again with a policy of driver equality, according to Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian 26-year-old's teammate Kimi Raikkonen won the world championship in 2007, but Massa insists that the Italian team will not designate a preferred driver for next season even though Raikkonen's car will officially bear the number one.

"The strategy will not change," he told the Brazilian publication Terra.

"In 2007 we won everything thanks to team work," Massa added.

In its first championship campaign without Michael Schumacher since 1995, Ferrari won both the drivers' and constructors' titles this year.

"Thanks to team work we had a great season," said Massa, who placed fourth in the final drivers' classification, 16 points behind Raikkonen.

"We will continue in the same way," he explained, "because when you win championships, there is no reason to change."

Massa said he will not go to the first grand prix of 2008 feeling inferior to Raikkonen, although his red car will bear the number two.

"Unfortunately I had several problems that prevented me from fighting for the (2007) title," he said.

"Now I am getting ready for the new season."

Raikkonen to debut new Ferrari  

Kimi Raikkonen

(GMM)  Newly crowned world champion Kimi Raikkonen will be the first to sample Ferrari's 2008 car.

According to the German news agency DPA, the 28-year-old Finn is scheduled to test the car with which he will defend his crown in 2008 on January 7, the day after it is launched.

The launch and test will take place at Fiorano, the Italian team's private circuit located near the Ferrari headquarters at Maranello.

Raikkonen's maiden test in the 2008 Ferrari will coincide with the presentation of top rival McLaren's new challenger in Stuttgart, Germany.

The next day, the Mercedes-powered team will begin testing the MP4-23 with two completed single seaters at an exclusive three day session at Jerez, Spain.

Cheerios becomes 1st client for Labonte's marketing firm  General Mills has selected Breaking Limits as its motorsports agency for event and promotional marketing, giving Bobby Labonte’s new firm its first client. Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion, opened Breaking Limits in the fall as a full-service marketing agency. For the past two seasons, Cheerios, a General Mills brand, has been the primary sponsor on Labonte’s #43 Dodge at Petty Enterprises.

General Mills has sponsored the #43 since 2000, when it replaced longtime Petty sponsor STP. General Mills has been the only primary sponsor for the car since then. General Mills previously was an associate sponsor for Roush Racing’s #6 Valvoline car driven by Mark Martin. “We’re looking forward to help grow their brand and presence in the sport for years to come,” Labonte said. Julie Busha, director of marketing at Breaking Limits, will oversee the account.

Petty Enterprises migrates south hoping to improve  By Jan. 2, 2008 most of the move for Petty Enterprises will be complete as the NASCAR operation moves its headquarters 74 miles south from Level Cross, N.C., to the recently vacated Robert Yates Racing buildings in Mooresville, N.C., much closer to most of the other top race shops who call North Carolina home. The red moving trucks with the Petty Enterprises logos displayed prominently on the side have been rolling out of 311 Branson Mill Rd. (a Randleman, N.C. mailing address but actually located in Level Cross) for weeks now, heading south toward the RYR complex in Mooresville. On Wednesday, the fabrication shop and machine shop personnel and their equipment were scheduled to complete their move from the old facility to the new. On Dec. 31, the finished fabrication and suspension folks and all their machinery is scheduled to arrive at their new working address. Most of the rest of the Petty operation will move into the new digs by Jan. 2, followed by the assembly and setup teams for the group's two Sprint Cup cars by Jan. 8. The #45 car driven by Kyle Petty, Richard's son, will leave for the first week of testing at Daytona out of Level Cross but will return to the new shop in Mooresville on Jan. 10. The #43 car driven by Bobby Labonte will leave for the second week of Daytona testing out of Level Cross around the same time and return to its new base of operations for good on Jan. 17. Back in Level Cross, Petty wants to make it clear that he isn't vacating the old place completely. "I'm still going to operate out of here, as far as a bunch of stuff that I do," said Richard, owner of 200 of the race wins claimed by Petty Enterprises. "My secretary will still be here and all that stuff. I'll spend a lot of time going back and forth, seeing what's going on at the race shop. But all my scheduling and all my deals will be done out of here, so I'll spend half my time here and half my time over there. I've got some of the deal done for the body shop. I've got a bunch of cars for them to work on and stuff," Richard said. "We might move the museum back up here [from its current location in Randleman]; we might run a [Nationwide Series] car out of here. We don't know yet. Our main deal now is let's leave this place in limbo, and let's go get our [Cup] racecars going down at the new place, our new main deal. Then we'll figure out what we're going to do with what we've got left." More at NASCAR.com
Kovalainen: I can help McLaren move forward  Heikki Kovalainen is confident he is the right man for McLaren to help the team move forward in the development of the car.  "I have a lot of experience of testing the car for many kilometers with Renault, and I will be able to help the team develop," Kovalainen told Autosport. "And if Lewis and I ever get stuck because of our experience Pedro will be able to help. He is one of the best test drivers in F1 and is really quick. What we have to aim for now is that we make sure when we get to Melbourne we have done absolutely everything that we can possibly do to get the best results. That's the big aim for the winter."

"McLaren are the best team in Formula One and they are never going to be happy unless they are winning races. That's of course something I'm working on myself - that's the goal."

Industry news
Auto recalls up more than 25%  The number of vehicles recalled increased more than 25 percent in 2007, but the biggest recalls were largely limited to older models, suggesting that automakers are building more reliable cars and trucks.

Overall, 14.2 million vehicles were recalled this year, up from 11.2 million in 2006, but still far below the 30.8 million recalled in 2004, according to preliminary figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The increase is mainly due to a big jump at Ford Motor Co., which recalled 5.5 million vehicles this year, with about 4.8 million from 2004 and earlier model years. Most were recalled for a nagging problem with a cruise control deactivation switch the Dearborn-based automaker has been dealing with for years.

The other top five automakers saw their recall numbers decline, with General Motors Corp. seeing the biggest improvement. GM recalled 537,992 vehicles as of Dec. 21, a 61 percent drop from 1.37 million in 2006. Honda Motor Co. saw a 54 percent decline to 547,215 vehicles, from 1.19 million in 2006. Chrysler LLC and Toyota Motor Corp. also recalled fewer vehicles than last year, although the improvement was less dramatic.

Another contributor to the overall increase this year is Volkswagen of America, which recalled 1.5 million vehicles, mostly by expanding recalls of parts that are used in multiple vehicles.

Final recall figures won't be available until early next month. NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson declined to address the reasons behind the drop for most automakers.

Recalls include vehicles from all model years with the reported defect. So while some 2007 recalls include recent models, problems with newer vehicles often aren't showing up until later because vehicles generally are built better than in previous years. More at Detroit News

Harry Holly joins Wallace Busch team  Officials of Rusty Wallace Racing announced today that Harold Holly, former NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion Crew Chief, has been selected to lead two-time 2007 pole winner, Steve Wallace and the No. 66 team in their bid for the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship.

One of the most well-known crew chiefs in Nationwide Series history, Holly dominated the series during the 1999-2001 seasons.  During that time, he and driver Jeff Green combined for 13 wins, 11 poles, 56 top-five finishes and 72 top-tens en route to the 2000 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship.  His 72 top-ten finishes equate to scoring a top-ten in three of every four races during that 96-race span.  Holly’s run during that time still holds the records for top-five finishes in single season (27 in 32 starts) and greatest championship margin of victory (616 points).  Prior to his appointment by Rusty Wallace Racing, Holly served as crew chief on the No. 66 HAAS / CNC Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. More ...

McLaren to launch new car in Germany  (GMM)  McLaren-Mercedes has amended plans to launch its 2008 championship campaign without an official presentation, reports on Thursday said.

Mercedes competition director Norbert Haug confirmed to the German news agency SID that the new MP4-23 will be presented on 7 January at the Unterturkheim Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart.

McLaren had previously announced that the car would appear for the first time at an exclusive test at Jerez in the second week of 2008.

Mercedes boss and parent company Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche is scheduled to attend the launch, which will surely be billed as a sign of Mercedes' commitment to formula one despite the tumultuous 2007 season.

Open-wheel racing in U.S. continues its fade  As a backward way of beginning a review of the 2007 motorsports season, I'd like to say this should be the second “golden era” of IndyCar racing.
The first came during the 1980s when fields were packed with legends – A.J. Foyt; Mario Andretti along with son Michael; Rick Mears; the Al Unsers, Sr. and Jr.; Johnny Rutherford, and Gordon Johncock . . . just to name a few.

It should almost be that way again today.

IndyCar fields could include drivers such as Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Sebastien Bourdais, Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve, Tony Kanaan and Kasey Kahne.

But that is clearly not the case.

The ongoing – and unbelievably stupid – death struggle between the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series combined with the rising (but noticeably slowing) popularity of NASCAR has turned American open-wheel racing into a footnote. More ...

Toro Rosso gelling nicely says boss  Scuderia Toro Rosso are beginning to gel nicely according to boss Franz Tost.  "The team is coming together well now," Tost told Autosport. "An F1 team reshuffle is not possible to achieve in one day in order to build up such an organization. You have to find the right people and they have to work together."

Toro Rosso has already been setting surprisingly fast lap times in winter testing.

"As you know in F1, you never have technical problems, you only have personnel problems," Tost added. "Sometimes there are much more difficult things to sort out than some technical problems but I'm very optimistic for the future because the team is coming together more and more."

Verstappen, Bleekemolen and van Merksteijn to race Porsche  UPDATE Another former F1 driver, Olivier Panis - a veteran of 158 races until 2004 - recently joined the French Oreca-Matmut team for 2008, which will contest the Le Mans Series and the 24 hour race with a prototype car.

Under the banner of Van Merksteijn Motorsport by Equipe Verschuur, Jos Verstappen, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Peter van Merksteijn will be racing a Porsche RS Spyder sports prototype next season. The program includes participation in the 1000 kilometer races of the Le Mans Series (LMS) plus the Le Mans 24 Hours, provided the team will receive an invitation from race organizers Automobile Club de l'Ouest. Jeroen Bleekemolen and Peter van Merksteijn already have a lot of experience in endurance racing, both having already raced at Le Mans as well. For Jos Verstappen, the most successful Formula 1 driver ever from The Netherlands with two podium finishes and 17 world championship from 107 Grand Prix starts, switching to endurance racing means an entirely new challenge. "The Porsche RS Spyder is a very good car and I have a lot of confidence in the team. I am really looking forward to this new duty", says Verstappen.

The Porsche RS Spyder, an open-top sports prototype especially built for endurance racing purposes, won eight of the twelve rounds of last season's American Le Mans Series, beating even the more powerful opponents from the LMP1-category. In 2008, the Porsche RS Spyder will be racing in Europe for the first time, a premiere eagerly awaited by many sports car fans. Dutch team, Van Merksteijn Motorsport by Equipe Verschuur is one of three teams having received the opportunity from Porsche Motorsport to enter such a car for the Le Mans Series. "It is a fantastic car and a fantastic project", says team owner, Peter van Merksteijn, who has entrusted preparation and running of the car to the seasoned specialists from Frans Verschuur's crew. More ...
Piquet to be best rookie in 2008 - Lauda  

Piquet Jr.

(GMM)  Niki Lauda has tipped Nelson Piquet Jr to emerge as F1's best rookie of 2008.

The former triple world champion, who still attends grands prix as a commentator for German television, studied the prospects of the Brazilian youngster, as well as the three other rookies on next year's starting grid, in the Swiss newspaper Blick.

"The most certain performer is the little Piquet at Renault," Lauda, currently holidaying in Bali but recently in Dubai for the launch of the 'Niki Lauda Tower', said.

"He knows the team and the tracks," the Austrian veteran, 58, added.

Of the other three rookies, Lauda said: "Glock is going to have to deal with a difficult car at Toyota.

"Bourdais needs to forget all his accomplishments and titles in Champ Car -- with formula one you are playing at a higher level.

"And Nakajima showed in his debut in Brazil that he is fast, but he does not belong in any race if he runs over his mechanics in the pits," Lauda concluded.

Rosberg demands ’better car’ for future  

Nico Rosberg

(GMM)  Nico Rosberg says he has moved up a peg at Williams and is demanding a better car for the future.

The German was an outstanding performer of the 2007 season and consequently was linked with the vacant cockpit at McLaren.

The British team Williams, however, was ultimately not interested in selling its firm contractual hold on the 22-year-old, and recently yielded to Rosberg's push for a far more lucrative deal also for 2009.

With the driver's newfound elevated status, meanwhile, has come more respect from his paymasters.

"In the Asian races I wrote a very long email (to them) with the things that I needed for the future," Rosberg revealed to the Swiss journal Motorsport Aktuell.

He also insists that he must make more strides towards the front of the grid with the Oxfordshire based team.

"I want to stay with them," said Rosberg, "as long as they arrange for me a better car.

"2007 was a huge step up," he added.  "We improved together, and it's a really big motivation to play a central role in the next steps of the process."

F1 trio say spy scandals good for F1  (GMM)  A trio of formula one luminaries have rejected suggestions that the espionage scandals in 2007 damaged the sport.

The illegal transfer of secrets between Ferrari and McLaren, and subsequently McLaren and Renault, was by some compared to the destructive doping scandals of international cycling.

But Mario Andretti, the world champion of 1978, told Autoweek: "You might think it hurts credibility, but you know what?  It brought a lot of attention, and it's not all that bad."

Triple world champion Niki Lauda agrees that the intense media exposure can in hindsight be seen as positive.

"It was a very good year for F1 from a publicity point of view," he told the magazine Business 24-7.

"There was so much bad news, but then any news is good news," Lauda added.

Max Mosley, president of the governing body FIA, said in an interview with The Guardian: "People are interested in the human aspect, and the whole human aspect of the Ferrari-McLaren thing fascinated a lot of people outside formula one.

"The publicity actually increases interest.  So I don't think it does any harm to formula one as long as the sponsors and so on feel the sport is honestly run and honestly governed," he added.

Jan Lammers Announces 2008 Plans  Jan Lammers has decided not to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Racing for Holland in 2008. Over the past seven years Racing for Holland often was the best performing privateer team at Le Mans. But Lammers finds the financial risks to big and is focusing in his role as team principal of Racing for Holland on competing with his team in A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. Lammers will also be active as racing driver next season; amongst others he has signed a contract with the Horag Racing team, with whom he will compete at the Sebring 12 Hours and the Le Mans Series with a Porsche RS Spyder prototype.

Jan Lammers; “I did not want to compete at Le Mans again with a big chance that we would lose money as a business because of this. Le Mans is held mid June and then you must be there and ready, also financially. We are not going to succeed in doing this for 2008, so we will have to skip Le Mans this time.”. By mistake the English motor sports magazine ‘Autosport’ reported last week that Racing for Holland would close completely. Lammers; “This only concerns our Le Mans activities. Also as a racing team the bottom line is first to earn more money than the cost you generate and thus make a profit. Second you have to be able to secure the revenues before you need the money. When you only get money halfway through February, but the payment deadline is already in January, you are continuously playing catch up. From that moment on you are mainly occupied with explaining to people why you cannot pay them. I did not want to put others and myself through this again. As far as our Le Mans project is concerned our costs were amongst the front runners, with our revenues in constant pursuit.”

Tester Chandhok won't attend Red Bull launch  (GMM)  Comments by Karun Chandhok are likely to temper speculation that the Indian GP2 driver is first in line to become Red Bull's official test driver in 2008.

The 23-year-old Indian on Wednesday revealed that he will not be present for the official presentation of the team's RB4 single seater at Jerez on 16 January.

"Red Bull is having a low key launch for the car at the test and I will also be tied up with the GP2 Asia series and the pre-season testing for the European championship," Chandhok is quoted as saying by the Indian Times.

He recently made his formula one testing debut with Red Bull at Barcelona, and it is expected that he will  also be given opportunities to test for countryman Vijay Mallya's Force India team some time in 2008.

Hamilton sparked McLaren crisis - Campos  (GMM)  Adrian Campos says Lewis Hamilton was squarely to blame for the turmoil within the McLaren team in 2007.

The GP2 team boss, who formerly managed Fernando Alonso and also raced for Minardi in the 80s, refutes Emerson Fittipaldi's warning that Nelson Piquet Jr could create similar trouble for double world champion Alonso at Renault next year.

"It seems that Nelsinho has inherited the character and the pride of his father," Campos told the 'Radioestadio del Motor' show, featured on the Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

"But he also seems to have the humility to know who his new teammate is.  I can't see him causing a crisis, like Hamilton did at McLaren," Campos added.

Campos said relations began to turn irrevocably sour at McLaren in 2007 when Hamilton bemoaned a race strategy that favored Alonso winning the Monaco grand prix.

He said: "If you wear the number two on your car, you need to know why.  He sparked a crisis that Ron Dennis was then unable to manage.  But this would not happen with Flavio (Briatore)."

industry News
2008 Cadillac CTS is Car of the Year  
The editors at Motor Trend, one of the world's premiere automotive authorities, announced that they have chosen the Cadillac CTS as the 2008 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

If you were one of those who wrote off General Motors as a dying dinosaur -- after all, it's been a decade since any GM car took home the Golden Calipers (the Chevrolet Corvette won back in 1998) -- prepare to rewrite everything you think you know about what's in the General's store. With this bold, savvy, uncompromising showpiece of a sedan -- the all-new Cadillac CTS -- GM has leapt straight from the rabble's side of the velvet rope into that coveted, highly selective inner sanctum marked "World's Finest Cars."

industry news
New Ford GT500KR Mustang lands starring role  

Ford Mustang GT500KR

When the 2008 Ford Shelby GT500KR launches this spring don't be surprised if there's some confusion over what the letters "KR" stand for.

While the super car has been known to racing fans as "King of the Road” since 1968, it's about to star in a remake of the hit TV series Knight Rider making mix-ups inevitable.

"It's purely a coincidence and a nice one at that,"" said Al Uzielli a senior advisor, to Ford Global Brand Entertainment the Ford office in Beverly Hills which works to place Ford branded vehicles in movies, TV and other media. "Auto enthusiasts will know what KR stands for. But most viewers will probably think it means Knight Rider; at least at first." More ...

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