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Champ Car rejects hapless TSN?UPDATE #2 Another reader adds, The comment with respect to TV coverage of the Canadian events is simply wrong. How would someone in Topeka even know what the coverage is on Global when he can't get Global in the US (even though virtually EVERY Canadian household gets EVERY US TV network and many cable/satellite channels such as Speed TV and CNBC). Global's coverage of ChampCar has been more extensive than that of Speed and CBS as they have provided a half hour pre race show and full post race coverage for podium activities, interviews and race highlights.
TSN carried the non Canadian races and that is where all the conflicts arose. It all too often carried ChampCar (and IRL) races late Sunday night or early Monday morning. If it was a race covered by CBS, Canadian fans had already watched it live on that network so TSN would only get a handful of viewers in the middle of the night and, of course, close to a zero rating (why would TSN have expected anyone to watch?). I should add that for the two Far East races, TSN usually carried them live at or around midnight on Saturday while Americans usually had to wait until Sunday to see the race.
Speed TV is available in most of Canada and I still can't understand why Speed TV and TSN could not do a deal to lift the Speed TV blackout when TSN could not carry a race live (in some cases I think it even carried NASCAR races live and delayed CC when the NASCAR race was also available to Canadians on a US network channel). Perhaps ESPN's significant ownership share of TSN and its veto power precluded such a deal.
Hopefully Global will cover the entire 2006 season - but I doubt that will happen if it has conflicts with other sports that produce higher ratings. Don Leslie, Brantford, ON
Dear Don, AutoRacing1.com has just learned that the SPEEDTV broadcasts will no longer be blacked out in Canada, which would indicate Champ Car will indeed not be back with TSN nor will it have network TV coverage in Canada except for the three Canadian rounds. Mark C.
01/30/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, What is the Canadian business community's problem with Champ Car? The series has always been pro Canada and Canada seems to do every thing they can to kill the Champ Car series. They will not support their native drivers, including Tracy when he was the defending champion, or give good TV coverage for their very well attended races. It seems the only people that understand the product are the people that attend the races. J. Marney, Topeka, Ks
Dear J. Champ Car does not market itself enough so the Canadian and American business communities have no idea what you are talking about when you walk in and pitch "Champ Car." Huh, what's that are the stares. Marketing and advertising takes money and ever since CART was created back in 1979, and continuing to this day, the effort to market/advertise the series has been small compared to NASCAR and F1. When CART had the big "star" names the PR surrounding them helped advertise the series. Today the "star" names are all in NASCAR and F1 so Champ Car is going to have to make a bigger effort than it did back in CART's "star power" days. As with any business, you must market and advertise or you won't sell product or services. Mark C.
01/29/06 TSN released its auto racing lineup this week and no Champ Car races are on the schedule.
There have been scheduling conflicts in recent years — baseball or CFL football always seemed to take priority — and Champ Car (not to mention its fans) was not happy.
Let's hope Sportsnet, The Score or the Outdoor Life Network will guarantee to telecast Champ Car races when they are actually happening, not eight hours later.
Meantime, the 21-race NASCAR Nextel Cup coverage will start Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. with the Budweiser Shootout from Daytona. The Daytona 500 will be covered the following weekend, Feb. 19.
All 19 F1 races will be live on TSN, beginning with the Grand Prix of Bahrain at 6 a.m. on March 12.
Eight IRL races are promised, with the showcase Indianapolis 500 coming on May 28. The first race shown, however, will be through the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 2. The Star
[Editor's Note: Rumor has it Champ Car might do a network TV deal in Canada.]
'All teams' eye seamless gearbox (GMMf1NET) 'Seamless' gearboxes will soon become commonplace in formula one.
That is the claim of Williams' technical director Sam Michael, who admitted that more than one F1 rival already raced the pioneering technology in 2005.
Williams' seamless 'box will not be ready until later this year, but sources suggested that Renault and McLaren - and possibly Toyota - used variants of continuous-power gearboxes throughout last year.
''I believe all the teams are looking into it,'' Australia's Michael, 34 years old, said.
A seamless transmission is able to change gear without needing to momentarily 'blip' the engine.
It is therefore an advantage both in terms of acceleration but also in reaching high speeds.
Michael continued: ''I think that within twelve months, everyone will be using this technology.''
Will A1GP’s success spur Champ Car or F1? A1 Grand Prix has hit a home run in Durban, South Africa. This weekend's 3-day event drew 100,000 spectators, with most of them crammed into the beachfront resort street circuit for the Sunday main event as the grandstands were packed with race fans. Auto racing has always been popular in South Africa back from the days when F1 raced at Kyalami. South Africans pride themselves in hosting big international sporting events. (Photo to right courtesy A1 Grand Prix)
On the heels of this success it will be interesting to see if Champ Car or F1 move forward with their interest in a race in Cape Town. Durban is nowhere near as big a city as Cape Town, so we can only imagine how huge a race in Cape Town would be. The last we heard from our sources in South Africa, the government told Bernie Ecclestone they do not have the money to build an expensive F1 track. So unless Bernie builds it himself, or finds a rich investor to build it, we don't see F1 racing there. Given the fact that all F1 race promoters lose money, who besides a government would be stupid enough to build an F1 circuit meetings today's standards?
Panther Racing future unclear, Scheckter to VisionUPDATE #12 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Our inside sources at 16th and Georgetown tell us that Vision Racing has officially signed Tomas Scheckter. He will partner with team owner Tony George's stepson, Ed Carpenter. This would also seem to indicate that Panther Racing is indeed done. We await the formal announcement.
01/25/06 Tomas Scheckter hasn't signed a contract with Vision Racing, but he will be in the team's Indy car today during testing at Phoenix International Raceway, team president Tony George said Tuesday.
The South African driver who has a pair of victories in his Indy Racing League career will team with George's stepson, Ed Carpenter, in the two-car entry. "We think he can take our team to the next level," George said of Scheckter, who drove for Panther Racing the past two years. Scheckter will give the IRL 16 confirmed combinations for the season. Paul Dana (Rahal Letterman Racing) and Kosuke Matsuura (Super Aguri Fernandez) were confirmed earlier this week. Indy Star
01/07/06 In another clear sign Panther Racing may not answer the bell in 2006, Veteran engineer Andy Brown, who helped Sam Hornish Jr. win two consecutive IRL titles, joined Ganassi Racing to work with defending league champion Dan Wheldon. Indy Star And.......The entire Panther operation is set for ABSOLUTE AUCTION by the company that we provided a link to below. The web site auction info lists in detail every piece of their equipment from trucks to car stands. Stick a fork in Panther Racing, they're done.
12/18/05 SPEED News Sunday reports that Pat Patrick will not be buying Panther Racing. Where that leaves the team is anyone’s guess, but like Cheever Racing and many others folding, it's the direct result of the ongoing war in open wheel racing.
12/16/05 Team co-owner and general manager John Barnes is scheduled to meet with potential buyer Pat Patrick this morning in Phoenix in what figures to be a take it-or-leave it proposition. If Patrick doesn't want the bulk of the Indy Racing League team's assets, Barnes will move on.
"I don't care either way," Barnes said before leaving Indianapolis. "If he wants to buy it and pay what I want, fine. If not, I'll get it sold some other way." Panther has scheduled an auction for late January to sell its extra equipment. The team still hopes to field one car in 2006, if sponsorship can be secured. Patrick, a co-founder of CART in 1978, said he is eager to return to Indy-car racing. He last competed in 2004 with a small IRL team. "It left a void," he said. "I think I've gone through remission."
Barnes and fellow co-owner Doug Boles met with a potential sponsor Wednesday in Indianapolis. Possible deals once considered dead are back in the mix, Boles said. "A lot's changed in the past 72 hours," Boles said prior to the Wednesday presentation. "We're doing everything we can. Hopefully, we can make this work." Indy Star
12/02/05 Longtime Indy-car owner Pat Patrick says he's trying to buy Panther Racing and keep it a two-car team for 2006. "It could happen, it's probably 50/50," said Patrick, who began fielding Indy cars in 1969 and won the Indianapolis 500 three times with Gordon Johncock (twice) and Emerson Fittipaldi. "There are a lot of variables but I'm trying to buy that team (Panther Racing) and I'd like to run Tomas Enge and Vitor Meira."
The wildest rumor has Tomas Scheckter joining Vision Racing as a teammate to Tony George's step-son, Ed Carpenter. George can count and knows he needs to run at least two cars in '06 for his depleted series. More at SPEEDTV.com
11/26/05 AutoRacing1,com is getting word from some Champ Car team insiders that there now only remains a core group of about 10 people at Panther Racing and although they have been told that there is a plan, panic is beginning to set in. And we continue to hear there is keen interest from Tomas Scheckter and his manager, his brother Toby (right), who are regular callers too. 11/23/05 According to this SPEEDTV.com article, "We're looking at several options," said Griffin, whose group is thought to be talking with Pat Patrick and the sons of Jonathan Byrd about keeping Panther alive. "We've got five sponsorship deals in the hopper and several people have inquired about buying the place. The people we're talking to want us to stay in the IRL and, obviously, our druthers would be to keep going in the series we love.
"This has always been a family deal and we want to keep it going. But you can't do anything without money.
"We told Tomas if he finds something to go for it because we don't know what's going to happen," said Griffin. "We just need one of these sponsor deals to come through and we could have a positive answer for everybody by December 5."
09/25/05 Panther Racing, which does not have a sponsor for the 2006 season, has been the subject of speculation that it will switch to the Champ Car series. Not according to team co-owner Gary Pedigo, an Indianapolis auto dealer. "We're not," he said. "And if we are, I'm not personally interested in that. I won't be involved with that." Indy Star
07/31/05 Although we had downgraded this rumor to 'false' based on statements made by John Barnes on SPEED News Saturday evening, we are changing it back to 'speculation.' When he was asked at Michigan whether he would reject an offer by Champ Car to move to their series, Barnes refused to deny it. His comment was quite interesting - he first rattled off a number of good teams in the IRL and then said, "sometimes the only thing that matters is change." We are told by Champ Car that there was never an offer made to Barnes. So what is the real story? Hmm.......
07/25/05 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today as we expected it would be. Panther Racing has declined an offer to join the Champ Car World Series in 2006, opting to remain in the IRL for what will be a ninth season. Team co-owner John Barnes said Panther would "absolutely not" be changing its status at the end of the season. He refused to detail the financial offer made by the owners of Champ Car, citing a confidentiality agreement he signed.
One part he did confirm was an agreement to run Champ Car teams in next year's Indy 500, much as Panther did in 2003 with Michael Andretti. Barnes said he doesn't know which engine manufacturer his team will be partnered with in 2006. His staff will meet with top General Motors officials this week in an attempt to convince them to keep their Chevrolet brand with the league beyond this season. Barnes said he has a group of Chevrolet dealership owners that wants the manufacturer to stay in Indy-car racing. But if GM doesn't come back, Barnes said his team will become a Honda outfit. Indy Star [Editor's Note: Racing makes interesting bedfellows as they say. The IRL will have difficulty filling the 33-car Indy 500 field in coming years, but Champ Car has agreed to help do that while the IRL to this day continues to try and put Champ Car out of business by undermining it at every turn. Instead of building its own marquee event on Memorial Day weekend, something that will take time, we hear there can be as many as 12 Champ Car drivers that attempt to qualify for next year's Indy 500.]
Yates thinks Penske will jump to ToyotaUPDATE Penske officials announced a contract extension that will keep Alltel as Ryan Newman’s sponsor through the 2008 season. Walt Czarnecki, Penske Racing LLC president, also said the team has “a long-term commitment from Dodge,” obviously implying that no move to Toyota was imminent. “We wanted to answer that question because I anticipated that coming up,” he said. Gaston Gazette
AND John Fernandez, Dodge's racing boss, was asked about the possibility that some of his Dodge teams might jump ship. "Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi and Ray Evernham are all under contract for periods of time beyond when Toyota is coming into the marketplace," Fernandez said. "Nothing is guaranteed, but we believe those people will be loyal to us." Penske Racing's Don Miller said that Roger Penske's Dodge contract runs through the end of 2009. Winston Salem Journal
01/26/06 There is still a strong feeling in NASCAR that Roger Penske will eventually move to Toyota. Ford's Doug Yates said he's convinced that is coming, which would put Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch in the Toyota camp. If, as expected, both Penske and Chip Ganassi leave Dodge for Toyota, that could give Toyota 10 drivers eventually. Winston Salem-Journal
Mercedes V8 engine has problems Kimi Raikkonen says McLaren have an engine problem and Mercedes have a lot of work to do before the start of the Formula One season if they are to be competitive. The Finn, runner-up to Renault's world champion Fernando Alonso last year after winning seven races, tried out the new MP4-21 for the first time at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.
He was 12th fastest out of the 14 cars on track after completing 65 laps.
"I was expecting nothing before I came, so I knew we have issues with certain stuff, but we are going to get there and there is going to be some improvement," he told the autosport.com website.
"The biggest part of the problem is the engine, but like I said, things are happening so in the coming weeks we will improve it," he added.
"They (Mercedes) are not where they should be and they need to improve. On the engine side we have a lot of work to do."
FIA set to confirm ’Aguri’ entryUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' based on yesterday's announcement.
01/23/06 The Super Aguri F1 team has confirmed that they have lodged the $48 million bond required to compete in Formula One this season.
A spokesperson for the team told Crash.net that while they were hoping to hear something over the weekend of January 13, they now hope their entry will be officially confirmed very soon.
"The bond was indeed lodged and we are waiting to hear from the FIA," the team replied when asked if they had in fact managed to put together the finances necessary to secure their entry. With the legal teams working in both France and Japan, we were hoping to hear over the weekend January 13, but we now hope to hear this week."
01/16/06 While Super Aguri Racing has the agreement of the other ten teams to join the championship this season, there is a small delay with the official FIA approval following some legal issues. However, an announcement is thought to be made later this week with their first official test to take place in a few weeks time.
01/11/06 (GMMf1NET) F1's eleventh team, Super Aguri, is likely to be shown a green light by the FIA this week.
It had been expected that the governing body would formally approve the Japanese outfit's late entry last week, after all ten fellow teams unanimously agreed to let it happen.
According to whispers, the FIA will now make an announcement on Thursday or - at the latest - early on Friday. It is understood that Aguri Suzuki-led 'Super Aguri' has now lodged the mandatory $48m bond.
''A formal announcement of the new team's entry will be made on receipt of the (financial) guarantee,'' a spokesman said last week.
Mercedes in McLaren buyout link (GMMf1NET) If you listen to the muses of the F1 grapevine, then Mercedes-Benz could be preparing to buy the remaining slice of McLaren.
Team boss Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh hold the 60 per cent in question, with the German manufacturer already owning the rest.
'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh would not comment specifically on the buyout rumors, but he did admit this week that Mercedes' 'interest' in the Woking based grand prix team 'is higher than ever before, on all fronts'.
He told the Reuters agency: ''I think there is absolutely and clearly a commitment (from Mercedes) to being in F1 for a long time.''
At the Circuit de Catalunya venue this week, moreover, it was rumored that McLaren and Stuttgart based Mercedes could collaborate on more sports car projects in the future.
Will Gordon jump to Toyota camp? Toyota executives certainly didn't wait long before making some big waves in NASCAR. Just two days after officially announcing its 2007 debut in Nextel Cup racing, Toyota said that Red Bull, one of sport's hottest new world-wide sponsors, will be one its three team owners.
When Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian who has made a fortune with his caffeine-laden energy drink, steps into a sports arena, big things happen. So when Jim Aust, Toyota's racing boss, said that Red Bull will be joining NASCAR's Cup tour as a two-team, company-owned operation running Camrys, it got everyone's attention.
The big question now is, who will drive for Toyota, and who will drive for Red Bull?
Aust has a three-team, six-driver lineup for Toyota in 2007. But so far only Michael Waltrip and Dave Blaney have been listed as drivers. Waltrip will drive for his own two-car team, and Bill Davis will run a two-car team.
Manager Marty Gaunt of Red Bull, who ran Michael Kranefuss' NASCAR Ford team five years ago, said he still hasn't picked his two drivers, but said he hopes to have one driver racing in the last four or five races this season, running out of Roger Penske's former shop in Huntersville.
Speculation promptly centered on Robby Gordon, a Chevy driver but with long ties to Red Bull as well as to Toyota. General Motors may have to raise its sponsorship to keep Gordon from jumping. Gordon is one of the sport's few stars not under a long-term contract.
Mateschitz spends an estimated $600 million a year promoting and marketing Red Bull, through extreme sports such as Amazon surfing and ventures such as Gordon's driving in the Dakar Rally. Gordon tried to draw the company into Nextel Cup racing last year, but Red Bull instead decided to buy Ford's Formula One team and play in that arena.
Now Red Bull has taken up this challenge and is looking for two Cup drivers. More at Winston Salem Journal
Karthikeyan signs Williams dealUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' as AutoRacing1.com has confirmed that Karthikeyan has indeed signed with Williams and there will be an announcement Friday.
01/25/06 (GMMf1NET) India's Narain Karthikeyan has now finally signed a contract to test for the Williams team in 2006.
That's the claim of the Mumbai-based 'Business Standard' newspaper, which said on Wednesday that the 28-year-old - who became the first Indian to drive grands prix last year in a Jordan - would share Friday practice driving throughout this season with teammate Alex Wurz.
With a consortium of Indian companies backing him, Narain's sponsorship kitty is an ideal way for Sir Frank Williams to finance Austrian Wurz's '06 wage.
Is Champ Car bound Howard the next Senna?UPDATE We are hearing that Jay Howard's agent, Sam Schmidt, is talking to some Champ Car Atlantic teams and to some IndyPro teams about a ride for Howard in 2006. This guy is just too good not to be in a top team in 2006. Let's hope his talent isn't wasted on 100% throttle racing, but given who is agent is........
11/29/05 British driver Jay Howard hopes to go straight to Champ Car in 2006 and skip right over the Atlantic series, not unlike many of the greatest drivers of all-time that went straight to the big leagues. Find out why some are calling him the next Ayrton Senna in this exclusive Autoracing1.com interview.
Toyota to run at least six cars According to Toyota Racing Development officials, the newest manufacturer will field six Camrys when it debuts in 2007. Bill Davis Racing, Waltrip-Jasper Racing and Team Red Bull will each enter two apiece. The only driver sure to be racing a Toyota in 2007 is Michael Waltrip. Dave Blaney, who will drive a Dodge for Davis this year, is only under a one-year contract with the team. Gaston Gazette
Red Bull team to buy old Penske shop The new Team Red Bull Toyota NASCAR team is tipped to be buying the old Penske Racing South facility on Knob Hill Road in Mooresville, North Carolina. Penske recently moved out to a new 425,000 sq ft facility, leaving the old workshops available. Team Marty Gaunt is a former general manager of Kranefuss Haas Racing and later Penske Racing South before moving on to smaller teams and becoming an owner in recent years with Red Horse Racing. The team is planning to have 75 employees by the summer and wants to run a car at the end of this year to prepare the team for its debut with Toyota next year. As the team cannot run Toyotas until 2007 this would have to be an existing model from one of the rival operations.
Gaunt says that information from the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team should prove helpful.
"I think we can tap into some of their technology and things they've already learned," he said. "That's going to help us."
Knob Hill Road is at the very centre of the NASCAR cluster with Roush Racing and PPC Racing also based on the same street. Grandprix.com
McLaren lose another man - reportsUPDATE Red Bull Racing have signed McLaren's head of aerodynamic development Peter Prodromou, This rumor is now 'fact.' 01/26/06 (GMMf1NET) Until recently, McLaren boasted the highly respected technical talents of Adrian Newey, Nicholas Tombazis and Peter Prodromou.
But now, with the F1 grapevine suggesting that the latter head of aerodynamics has left Woking, and lingering speculation that Tombazis will soon return to Ferrari, McLaren may have lost the entire talented trio.
Reports in Italy and Germany suggest that - like former technical director Newey - Prodromou is bound for Red Bull.
''If a team has success, then inevitably other teams start to make good offers,'' said managing director Martin Whitmarsh this week, but he denied that any key figures had joined Newey in finding the door.
Rusty Wallace IRL TV announcerUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See story on Hot News page.
01/20/06 Let's not forget that Rusty Wallace was quoted as saying in the last 6 months or so, "I wouldn't get out of an electric chair to get into one of those things," when talking about driving an IRL car.
01/20/06 Don’t look now, but the IRL’s television broadcast team is about to get a new face. Actually, it figures to be an old one. Auditioning as Autoweek went to press was retiring NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace, who appears to be prepping for a switch to the Nextel Cup announcers booth when ABC and ESPN get back in the game in 2007. Hiring Wallace, an avid Indy car fan, figures to be a win-win for all parties, including the IRL, which is in desperate need of a ratings jolt. The IRL’s play-by-play voice figures to be Brian Kenny, host of Friday Night Fights on ESPN2, with former driver Scott Goodyear joining Wallace in the booth. Jerry Punch, Jack Arute and Jamie Little will be the pit reporters. Autoweek
Will Durban A1GP race be cancelled? The Ecopeace party has threatened to obtain a high court interdict to stop the A1 Grand Prix from going ahead if the city's management and race organizers do not reply by noon today to concerns raised by the party over the race.
In proposed court papers, Ecopeace attorney John Govender states that the party is concerned that there has not been proper consultation with all the relevant stakeholders about this weekend's race. The proposed papers have been forwarded to Sports and Recreation MEC Amichand Rajbansi, City Manager Michael Sutcliffe and race organizers. The party has raised concerns about elderly people, children and pets living in the race area being subjected to high noise levels during the event.
The party is also worried about the security of residents. "Beaches, amenities and roads have all been appropriated for the private and commercial use of the race event.
"Surely they (residents) should have been consulted in this matter," Govender said. He had been instructed that if Ecopeace had not received a satisfactory response from the event's organizers and the government departments which had authorized the event by 12pm today, the party would make an application to the Durban High Court to stop the race from continuing without notice to the event's stakeholders. Alternatively, Ecopeace has asked that residents living in the area be offered alternative accommodation for the period of the race or be compensated for inconveniences and given complimentary tickets.
Govender said they were serious about the legal threat and would follow it through. Sutcliffe said the city had responded within 10 minutes of receiving the proposed court papers and denied all allegations leveled in the court papers. He threatened to sue Ecopeace convener Alan Murphy for legal and other costs if the matter went to court. Sutcliffe said he did not know if he should take the legal threat seriously, because it appeared that Murphy was simply trying to score free hotel accommodation and tickets for the race. The Mercury
Japan team to miss Durban race A1 Team Japan could miss this weekend's A1 Grand Prix race in South Africa due to a budget shortfall.
Martin Stone, whose Carlin Motorsport team runs the Japanese squad, admitted to autosport.com that they still had to secure the money to race at this weekend's inaugural Durban street race.
"We are still working to secure the funds for Japan," Stone said. "The equipment and the car will be there. Our other teams, Portugal and the Lebanon, will be present and the mechanics have already flown out."
Red Bull to sponsor NASCAR teamUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See story on our Home page.
01/24/06 Further snooping around we find that the NASCAR team sponsorship has been something they've been planning for some time. Our understanding is that this will not effect their Champ Car sponsorship as the two series cater to two totally different markets. Red Bull is very impressed with the hip, urban crowd and energy that Champ Car brings at its enormously popular street races LB (So. Cal), Denver, San Jose (No. Cal) and should bring to new events like the upcoming Houston race (essentially the fourth biggest metro population in the U.S.). But they can't ignore the NASCAR crowd due to its large TV viewership and sponsor support. Pure speculation here, but we think come Long Beach you'll see either Allmendinger's entire Champ Car done up in a Red Bull scheme or significant signage on both A.J and teammate Justin Wilson's machines. Mark C.
01/24/06 Toyota tonight will introduce their initial NASCAR Nextel Cup teams and sponsors for 2007 at Lowe's Motor Speedway as part of the week-long NASCAR media tour. Bill Davis Racing and Michael Waltrip's team are expected to be two of the teams. We also hear that Red Bull will sponsor a team. Team Red Bull will be based in Mooresville, NC, and stock car veteran Marty Gaunt [ formerly with Penske] will serve as the team's general manager.
With Red Bull in NASCAR and F1 big time, will they still do a Champ Car program as rumored?
Champ Car to pick up MuddUPDATE This rumor, broke by AutoRacing1.com last Saturday, is upgraded to 'fact' today. See story on Hot News page.
01/21/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car will soon announce that Garrett Mudd has joined their marketing staff. Mudd, VP of Marketing at the SCCA, worked under Champ Car President Steve Johnson when he was President of the SCCA. As we understand it, Mudd will report to current Champ Car marketing honcho Will Wilson. No word on who will replace Mudd at the SCCA.
Audi R10: A boon or a bust? After the spectacular presentation in Paris in December and a brief appearance at the Los Angeles Auto Show at the beginning of January, the Audi R10 is again proving to be a sensation: Since Monday, the new diesel sports car turns its first laps in front of public eyes at the "Winter Test” of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Sebring (Florida). The media interest is correspondingly high: Never before have there been so many journalists, camera teams and photographers attending an American Le Mans Series test. The Audi R10 has even attracted spectators to attend Sebring, the venue for the new Audi sports car’s race debut on 18 March.
The development team of Audi Sport runs two Audi R10 prototypes at Sebring. German Frank Biela and Italian Rinaldo Capello are driving the two cars. While Biela had completed the roll-out of the R10 in November 2005, Capello was at the steering wheel of the new diesel sports car for the first time on Monday.
On Monday, the two Audi drivers completed a total of 86 laps around the 5.955-kilometre circuit that is especially demanding for machinery due to its bumpy surface and is regarded as an ideal test track for a new race car. Furthermore, the newly developed V12 TDI engine faces its first test in high temperatures: While the previous tests in Europe were run in cool weather conditions, temperatures in Florida are reaching about 30 degrees C in the shade. Audi Communications
[Editor's Note: We are getting reports from Sebring that the fumes from the Diesel engine are horrible. The car is also dead silent and you hear the wind noise and the chirps from the turbo wastegate, but not the roar of the engine. As the car approaches a blind corner you don't even know it's coming.]
MF1 to sign WinkelhockUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact' - see story on Hot News page.
01/23/06 Markus Winkelhock is going to be the test driver of MF1 Racing this, according to reports in Germany. The 25-year-old son of Grand Prix driver, the late Manfred Winkelhock, may be seen in the car on Fridays but that decision apparently depends on which driver has the most sponsorship available. The job was announced as having gone to Dutchman Nicky Pastorelli but there have been rumors for a couple of weeks that his money did not materialize. Winkelhock tested for the team in December and by all accounts did a good job. The German raced in the Renault World Series last year, scoring three victories. Grandprix.com
Toyota to open flood gates of foreign manufacturers Ford team owner Jack Roush said Monday that he expected Toyota to open the floodgates for other foreign automakers, especially Honda, to get on the Nextel Cup bandwagon.
NASCAR CEO France was noncommittal about such a possibility. “Honda, or others, I have no idea about that,” France said Monday. “Those are all choices people have to make.”
YOUR THOUGHTS ON TOYOTA COMING INTO CUP?
“Like it or not Toyota is a very important part of our economy today. We’ve got a lot of dealer investment dollars out there and we’ve got a lot of our population that works in Toyota plants around the country. So they have every right to be here. Based on the way that they have dealt with the other series that they’ve been in and what’s happened to the series after they arrived and what happened to the series after they’ve left, NASCAR will have to think about what they allow them to do here in terms of changing the order of things technologically or the way we staff and the other things that we do. They have a way of carrying a different level of investment than would otherwise be justified based on the business aspects of the business, and we’re yet to see how that will unfold. I knew that it was inevitable and I know that they’ll be very tough competitors, but, again, like I said about the way they count the points and which races they decide are more important than other races as it relates to a championship, I welcome their being involved because I think they’ll be good for the sport. I think they’ll be great for the fans and the enthusiasm, I think, will sell more tickets to our race tracks. How we wind up dealing with the problems Ford Motor Company and General Motors are going through today and how that relates to the investment dollars that are in Japan versus the ones that are in Detroit and middle America I can’t say. I’m not enough of an economist to be able to judge that, but for the near term we’re gonna race them real hard.”
Toyota to start with 7 Cup teams When Toyota begins competition next year in the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series, there will be at least four Toyota Cup cars in 2007, Illingworth said Monday following a press conference at NASCAR’s R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. “Right now, we plan on having four cars, but it could go as high as seven,” Illingworth added. “We’ll have to wait and see how the sponsorships go.”
There will also be at least four Toyota Busch cars next season, which may or may not be run by the Cup teams, Illingworth said. “We’re still putting the Busch program together. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”
St Modwen wins Silverstone deal? According to the magazine Property Week, St Modwen Properties PLC has won the deal to develop Silverstone in partnership with the British Racing Drivers' Club. The Birmingham-based property company, which is quoted on the London Stock Exchange, is a leading UK developer specializing in regeneration schemes, working in partnership with both the public and private sector. The company has wide experience in such schemes, including the revitalization of three racecourses at Brighton, Newcastle and Uttoxeter in addition to redeveloping the Thurleigh Airfield at Bedford, where Jonathan Palmer established his Bedford Autodrome for corporate motorsport activities. That site includes a museum for the 306th US Bombardment Group in addition to a landscaped business park. St Modwen has also developed the Cranfield Technology Park next to Cranfield University where Nissan Europe has established a major Technical Centre for its European operations.
St Modwen won the bid against Development Securities PLC and Scotland's Kilmartin Property Group. It remains to be seen what the plans are for the 800-acre site but we are expecting details to be announced by the BRDC in the not too distant future. Grandprix.com
Sato, Matsuura, in Honda ’b’ team?UPDATE #3 The Matsuura part of this rumor is downgraded to 'false' as he was announced yesterday as returning to the IRL with Aguri. He has been removed from our 2006 F1 Silly Season page above. 11/01/05 With this new Aguri F1 team headquartered in Tokyo and with Japanese Honda power, it's expected that this may be an all-Japanese team with IRL backmarker Kosuke Matsuura joining F1 veteran Takumo Sato as the team's drivers. F1 will then have their Team Japan, with a Team China, Team Russia (Midland), Team Germany (BMW), Team USA (Red Bull B team), etc all planned as F1 looks to mimic the A1GP team/country concept and snuff out the A1GP threat headed by Sheik Maktoum. They fooled Bernie Ecclestone once by downplaying what they would be, but then rolled out with a big splash that caught Ecclestone by surprise. No one fools Bernie twice. On Japanese TV later in the day, Bernie Ecclestone was interviewed, the Englishman promising to give the fledging team whatever support he can. Ecclestone then said that he would be "delighted to see the team enter F1 with an all-Japanese driver line-up", at which point Suzuki gave a wry smile. 10/21/05 Takuma Sato is a man in demand at the moment in F1 circles, despite his somewhat erratic driving in recent months. The former BAR driver had an awful season which ended up in a flurry of accidents, penalties and unforced errors. But it seems that Honda is keen for Takuma to stay in F1 and he has an offer to drive for the much-vaunted Honda B team, which is currently being put together by Aguri Suzuki. If that materializes - and our understanding is that the only thing in the way of that is the practical difficulties involved in building a car in the time available - Sato and Anthony Davidson will be the team's drivers. Both men have also been on the shopping list of Midland F1 but there appears to be one slight problem in this as Midland wants money. Takuma's principal backer is Honda and so it is not very likely that they will pay for him to race in a Toyota car, although it might come to that if Suzuki's team does not make it. The team has until November 15 to file an entry. Grandprix.com10/16/05 Takuma Sato will be part of an all-Japanese formula one line-up at the mysterious second Honda powered team next season. That's the latest gossip in the Shanghai paddock, with speculation putting Sato next to current IRL driver Kosuke Matsuura, 26, who is part of the 'Super Aguri' race program. ''I have no right to say anything,'' Sato told Reuters in China. ''I can't suddenly announce a team that doesn't exist yet.''
Pizzonia coming to Champ Car?UPDATE #4 After saying in November that he was too young to race in America and that he will stay in F1 and not consider Champ Car, now Antonio Pizzonia has had to eat those words. Shunned by F1 this year, he was quoted by Brazilian website Formula News that "My future is in the United States. I have spent much time testing in F1 and now I want to race, preferably in Champ Car, but IRL too. My bigger intention is to run in the Champ Car series. I am negotiating with the Newman/Haas, PKV, Forsythe and HVM, who would be interested in adding a third car. But, for this, I would need a sponsor." We're raising this rumor from 'false' to 'speculation' for the time being.
11/06/05 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Antonio Pizzonia said in Colombia this weekend where he was attending a charity karting event organized by Juan Montoya, "I think I'm still too young to go to America. I'm still 25 and I think it's better for me to stay in F1 and try to get a good deal within the next couple of years. Then we’ll see. Right now we're talking to some teams, but I think finding a race seat will be very difficult. We're analyzing what is best for me - if staying at Williams or going to another team as third driver. We have to see what's best."
11/02/05 As reported below by Autoracing1.com, SPEEDTV.com reports that Bruno Junqueira will step back into his Newman/Haas Lola-Ford for a two-day testing session on December 12-13, at a location still undetermined (we heard there is a big Champ Car test scheduled in Sebring in early December).
“Hopefully Mexico City will be the last race on my career I’ll watch from the sidelines,” said Junqueira, who won the previous Mexican round of the Champ Car World Series (at Monterrey) before suffering his Indy crash. “I had never spent so much time without racing since my career began 18 years ago. I’m excited about coming back and feel ready to drive again."
If Junqueira tests well and Newman/Haas finds money for Servia, Antonio Pizzonia will be out of any chance with the team.
10/25/05 If Pizzonia lands the third seat at Newman/Haas then either Oriol Servia or Bruno Junqueira will be out of a ride for 2006, which is quite unfortunate. AutoRacing1.com was told by a Newman/Haas team member that the plan is to test Bruno in late November or early December to see how well he has recovered from his injuries at Indy.....a victim of another IRL oval track accident.
10/24/05 Antonio Pizzonia will reportedly leave formula one after missing out on Williams' full time ride for the second year running.
With the 2006 seat alongside Mark Webber all but definitely in Nico Rosberg's grasp, the Brazilian nicknamed 'Jungle Boy' is eyeing a new foray -- in America.
''I need a new challenge,'' the 25-year-old recently said when musing the possibility of staying on as 'Friday' test driver for the Grove squad.
Earlier this year, Pizzonia seriously considered the US-based Champ Car series after missing out on the '05 seat to 'shootout' rival Nick Heidfeld.
At the time, he admitted to being 'in touch' with a team or two, but it is suggested that Williams actually prevented Pizzonia from escaping his 2005 test contract. His manager, Jaime Brito, told the Brazilian press: ''The priority will be racing.''
Hoover Orsi to test for PKV Rumor has it that Brazilian Hoover Orsi, a former Toyota Atlantic winner, is telling people in Brazil that he hopes to test with the PKV Champ Car team in early February. He was hoping to test in December but PKV was testing too many drivers at the time. He says he needs to bring sponsorship in order to land a ride and will probably stay in Brazilian Stock Cars if he can't.
Desperate times for IndyPro Series Word going around Indy is that Brett Van Blankers, an 18-year-old from New Westminster, British Columbia, was announced to drive with Brian Stewart Racing in the Infiniti Pro Series this coming year with not so much as a test to see if he has the talent to even drive the car. Despite a his very limited racing experience -- an abbreviated schedule of Formula 1600 TR on the west coast, Van Blankers landed the ride with a simple $500K check from dad.
One has to be concerned for his well being on those bone crunching dangerous ovals with 450 HP behind him. Yes, 100% throttle racing requires very little talent, but the IndyPro Series does race on road courses now, so some talent is required.
Paul Dana to run third Rahal carUPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot news page for story.
01/19/06 Rahal Letterman Racing has scheduled a press conference Monday and we assume it is to make the announcement that Dana and Ethanol will form the team's third car.
01/08/06 Paul Dana has let go his publicist Saturday. Reason - he has made commitments for next year and he will not need her as "they" will take care of everything....they being Rahal Letterman one can assume.
01/07/06 In a story first revealed exclusively here, we are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today. Danica Patrick appears set to get another partner in the Indy Racing League. Paul Dana and officials of the Ethanol fuel sponsorship program are in discussions with Rahal Letterman Racing, which employs Patrick and Buddy Rice in the IRL. Dana, who drove for Hemelgarn Racing under the Ethanol banner last year, is optimistic details will be finalized next week. "I cannot comment on that at this time, but if you want to reference the fact that changing teams is highly likely, you wouldn't be wrong," Dana, 30, said Friday. Indy Star
01/04/06 In a somewhat related rumor, the word on the street is that Hemelgarn Racing may have lost Ethanol as a sponsor. Not yet sure if it is true, but it's possible they have either followed Dana to Rahal, which is undoubtedly a better ride, or have opted out of the sport. Paul Dana is the one who found and signed the Ethanol sponsor so it makes sense that it would follow him. Stay tuned....where this leaves Hemelgarn is anyone's guess.
12/29/05 Rumor has it that Paul Dana may run a third Indy Car for Rahal Letterman Racing in 2006. We hear that he's bringing some sponsorship with him. It must be more than Vitor Meira, who lost the ride, was able to raise. Stay tuned as we investigate further.....
Toyota to announce ’Camry’ Busch and Cup entry in JanuaryUPDATE #7 This rumor is now 'fact' as a Toyota representative just made the announcement of their entry into Busch and Cup in 2007. Full story later..... 01/23/06 [Editor's Note: Toyota will announce that the Camry will be the car they use in Busch and Cup] Toyota will race in Nextel Cup events beginning in 2007, becoming the first foreign competitor in NASCAR's top stock car series since the 1950s. The Japanese auto maker will also run the Busch Series races after the 2006 season, joining Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge. The announcement was expected at a Monday news conference from NASCAR's research and development facility in Concord, a person close to Toyota told The Associated Press. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official announcement hasn't been made, said Toyota ``is looking forward to being competitive right off the bat'' in both series. The last foreign manufacturer to participate in NASCAR's top racing series was Jaguar, which entered several races in the 1950s [and even won a race]. The move by Toyota was not a complete surprise. The company moved into NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series in 2004 and quickly became competitive, with Travis Kvapil giving the manufacturer its first win in July of that year. Toyota raced in several American-based sports car series before moving into open-wheel racing in 1996. ESPN.com/AP
01/20/06 Toyota will move into NASCAR's Nextel Cup and Busch Series beginning in 2007, becoming the first foreign manufacturer to compete in the top racing series since Jaguar in the 1950's. The announcement is expected Monday in a news conference at NASCAR in Concord, N.C., according to a person with knowledge of the announcement who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it. Toyota will join the American brands Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge in the top two levels of competition. Toyota has competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since 2004, ending a long-held rule by NASCAR that only American-based manufacturers could compete in its events. Toyota has paid to align itself with elite teams and drivers in the Truck series. There has been widespread speculation that Honda will follow Toyota into NASCAR. New York Times
01/19/06 NASCAR has scheduled a special press conference for Monday January 23rd where it is expected the Toyota announcement will be made.
01/19/06 Toyota could join the three American manufacturers [Chevy, Dodge, Ford] within two years. NASCAR is expected to address the issue Monday when it holds its state of the sport address on the annual media tour [in Charlotte]. Toyota, which already competes in the NASCAR truck series, has a press announcement scheduled Tuesday. St. Petersburg Times
Martini and Rossi to sign deal with FerrariUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact'. Ferrari announces that it has reached a sponsorship agreement with Martini Racing. The agreement, which covers a three year period, will see the Martini logo appear on the cars that will contest the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
"We are extremely excited about our new partnership with the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team," said Robert Furniss-Roe, director of Martini Racing. "We have a long and proud heritage in motorsports and this latest chapter promises to be rewarding and exciting for us and our consumers.
"Ferrari has produced some of the most evocative and famous racing cars ever built, and there is no other team in Formula One that better reflects the personality and character of Martini.
"The global appeal of Formula One also provides us with a highly visible platform to engage and communicate with consumers around the world."
01/23/06 Ferrari is expected to announce later today that it has signed a new sponsorship deal with the drinks company Martini & Rossi. The Turin-based drinks company has a long history of involvement in motor racing but in recent years has been out of the sport.
Tracy to add more NASCAR races to his '06 schedule Paul Tracy could increase drive in more than just the five NASCAR Busch series races he is contracted for with Frank Cicci racing this season.
"Right now we have the five races," Tracy said, "but if we could piggyback those events with other races, it's only going to get me more experience in those types of cars.
"Those are deals we are trying to put together. But I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and not get into situations with anybody.
"I've had a career in Champ Car, and I have another year on my contract with Forsythe. I have been dabbling into NASCAR to see if there is an opportunity here.
"For my first five races, my focus will be just to do the best that I can and learn as much as I can and finish each race, and try and finish well. Hopefully that will open up more opportunities for the future."
"I don't know where my future is going to go, but I have the opportunity to be allowed to do all kinds of different things," he added.
"It is just a great point in my career right now. To drive three disciplines of races cars - a Champ Car, a Busch car and a Grand AM car in one season is something not a lot of people have done.
"I don't expect it to be easy. The level of drivers and competition and the teams is tough. I have no experience of that. I have to go out and get my feet wet and see what it is all about.
"There are guys who have made the transitions successfully and there are guys who haven't. Hopefully I'll be on the right end of it."
Bourdais may follow Tracy to NASCAR Because of the continued split in open wheel racing and its devastating effect on its popularity, more and more open wheel racing drivers are looking to a possible move to NASCAR where the money you can earn as a driver is huge.
After Paul Tracy announced a 5-race deal to drive in NASCAR's Busch Series in 2006, 2-time Champ Car titleholder Bourdais has also said he is considering such a move.
"Yes, I'd like to take part in some of the series' races this year, starting with the Busch Series," Bourdais told Autosprint.
"Having raced in the IROC last year, it's something I'm considering, but it is part of a much larger issue about what's better for my future.
"NASCAR is something completely different from other series; it is a world apart. You don't race in NASCAR - you live NASCAR."
Davis and Waltrip to field Toyota teams Toyota’s entry to the NASCAR Nextel Cup series in 2007 will “have a significant impact on the sport,” one car owner said Friday. Toyota is expected to announce Monday that it will field cars in the Cup and Busch series in ’07, according to a New York Times report that cites an unidentified source. Toyota, which has competed in NASCAR’s truck series since 2004, will reveal more details Tuesday night.
The company is expected to announce that Bill Davis Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing will field Toyotas in Cup, according to multiple unnamed racing industry sources. This week’s Autoweek reports that Toyota will field Camrys, which are made in the United States.
A Toyota spokesperson, who declined to be named, said that the company will “discuss expanding our relationship with NASCAR” on Monday. Speed Channel will broadcast the news conference at 12:15 p.m.
Car owner Cal Wells says Toyota will challenge Cup teams. Wells, who owns the Chevrolets driven by Travis Kvapil, partnered with Toyota for nearly 20 years in off-road and Indy car racing.
Wells says that stable senior management, learning from past experiences, and a passion for excellence will help lead Toyota to victories.
“I think where you’re really see them produce, I mean really be championship contenders, is three years down the road, which is quick,” Wells said in a phone interview.
Wells said Toyota’s biggest impact might be how other manufactures respond.
“The DaimlerChryslers, the Chevrolet GMs and Ford Motor Company will refocus their efforts to ensure that they can continue to find success,” Wells said.
That could mean more money, more support and more resources for teams. More at Roanoke Times
Lauda to race for Mercedes Rumor has it that Mathias Lauda, son of former World Champion Niki Lauda, is apparently going to race for Mercedes in the German DTM Series. Rumors say that Lauda will likely get a brand-new 2005-spec car.
Everyone thought that Mathias was on the track toward F1, so it's a bit surprising to see him taking the DTM route. We seldom see drivers come out of DTM and graduate to F1, though Gary Paffett was an exception.....at least he made it to test driver.
Possible new team?UPDATE With regard to possible new Champ Car teams, here's another hint for you fanatical fans to chase. We don't create the rumors, we just report them.
01/19/06 AutoRacing1.com has learned that a possible new Champ Car team is in the works for 2006. We doubt it will come together at this late stage in time, but it involves a former driver and a UK/Africa businessman. We can give you one hint - the team initials would be MDR. We hear of a possible 2nd new team for 2006, but it is just in the embryonic stage so we do not give it much chance.
In a related rumor, we have now become aware of a number of possible new Champ Car team owners for 2007, one of which will make for some good press worldwide. The team would certainly come out of the box ready to win on Day 1. The owner would not be an American.
Fernandez and Haberfeld Rolex car to be unveiled Word is that Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve drivers Adrian Fernandez & Mario Haberfeld will unveil the No. 12 Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley that they will drive with Scott Sharp in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 28-29 this coming Tuesday.
AGR might switch back to Champ Car Four times Champ Car champion Mario Andretti reckons that his son Michael's Andretti Green Racing team could switch back to Champ Car in the future.
"Champ Car nowadays is more interesting for the circuits they race on," Andretti told Italian Autosprint Magazine, "both geographically-speaking and for being more various and complete, because you have street circuits and ovals, while in IndyCar almost all races are on ovals.
"There are many reasons why Michael has a team in this series, due to the support he's had from Honda up to now and to the importance of being present at the Indy 500 for his sponsors.
"His team could even do Champ Car and just the Indy 500, but that would mean racing with completely different cars, making the costs soar and so on.
"Maybe they will [switch to Champ Car]. I think that in 2007 things will change.
"I think as soon as one of the top teams, Penske, Ganassi, Andretti or Rahal will decide to move, the others will follow suit. Rahal and Ganassi could be the ones making the first move."
Asked what Champ Car needed to make it more attractive, Andretti added: "The Indy 500. It's OK for the rest, while IndyCar is more and more in a crisis because they race on ovals. And having just Honda is a signal of technical decadence."
More proof NASCAR taking over open wheel racing?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. ISC's chief operating officer, John Saunders, has indeed been added to USAC's board of directors.
01/14/06 As if we needed more proof that NASCAR was moving to take over the open wheel short track business in the USA, comes word from the grapevine that J. Saunders, VP of NASCAR has been elected to the USAC Board of Directors. From where we stand it's clear that NASCAR is positioning itself to monopolize the entire oval track business in the USA, from the grassroots right up to the top. See related article)
De la Rosa eyes Champ CarUPDATE #3 More from that same Europa Press article - "If by 2007 I haven't found a good drive in Formula One it will be time to leave. There was contact with other teams, but nothing came out of it,” de la Rosa admitted. “That's the reason why I'm staying at McLaren for 2006."
01/18/06 McLaren F1 test driver Pedro de la Rosa, 34, told on Tuesday to news agency Europa Press that he would consider a move to Champ Car next year if he can't land an F1 racing seat for '07 - the Spaniard has been testing for McLaren since 2003. "It's a series where all the cars are the same and where the driver is more valuable," he said of the Champ Car World Series.
10/09/05 Pedro de la Rosa is unlikely to return to the grand prix grid in 2006. The McLaren tester, who had been in talks with the BMW works team, told Spanish daily 'As' that there are 'no good seats' left for next year.
''When BMW signed (Nick) Heidfeld,'' the 34-year-old Spaniard - former racer for Arrows and Jaguar - said, ''a lot of opportunities vanished.
''I don't get it -- I can't do anything more.''
De la Rosa's racing grit shone through when he replaced Juan Pablo Montoya at Bahrain, and he reckons he is driving quickly in testing.
He thinks his age is putting teams off. ''If I was twenty,'' de la Rosa explained, ''I'd be formula one's man of the moment.''
Why Champ Car doesn't go after him is beyond us as obviously he is one of the quickest drivers in the world, and 34 years old is not too old. This guy deserves a race seat before he retires.
07/20/05 Will McLaren drivers eye Champ Car? McLaren drivers have a dilemma - there's too many good ones and not enough race seats. Pedro de La Rosa is often the fastest in testing, yet he remains a test driver. McLaren's Young Driver Support program has 20-year-old Lewis Hamilton who has won nine of the 12 Formula 3 Euro Series races this season, the most recent two victories coming on the streets at the Norisring last weekend. Winning more than 50% of the races in a major Formula 3 title is a rare achievement and most of the drivers who have achieved that have gone on to leap straight into Formula 1.
Back in 1979 Alain Prost was signed by McLaren after winning seven of 12 European F3 events; Ayrton Senna collected 12 wins in 20 British F3 races in 1983 and Mika Hakkinen won nine of 17 in 1990. In modern times Takuma Sato won 12 of 26 British races in 2001 and went to Jordan in 2002 although he was dropped by the midseason.
Regular drivers Juan Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen are not going anywhere, and what about the other test driver Alex Wurz? Something has to give and with Champ Car gaining strength rapidly, one has to wonder if one or more of these excellent drivers will eye Champ Car. In part from Grandprix.com
Dario gets an upgrade? A rumor making the rounds is that IRL driver Dario Franchitti had a Rhinoplasty. Yep, the word is that Dashley had a nose job. Well, you know how rumors are, so we have included a photo of Dario from last year, and one from two weeks ago in Daytona for the Rolex 24 test sporting a hat and a bit of face hair......you be the judge.
New Formula BMW teamUPDATE This story, rumored by AutoRacing1.com earlier today, is now 'fact.' See exclusive story on our Hot News page that Derrick Walker and Mario Haberfeld have formed a new team.
01/19/06 AutoRacing1.com has learned that a new 2-car Formula BMW team will be announced soon that involves a Champ Car team owner and a former Champ Car driver. We hope to have the scoop on this story later this evening.
Heidfeld the real No. 1 at BMW BMW Sauber team boss Mario Theissen maintains that he has employed 'two number one' drivers for the 2006 season. But former grand prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck, the 55-year-old German who raced 74 times in the 70s, reckons reality at the Hinwil based grand prix team this year will play differently.
He told the German Sport1 publication that 28-year-old Heidfeld - on a new three year team agreement - is BMW's number one when it comes to what will actually happen.
"Nick is German and will probably also stay at the team for longer," Stuck said. "I think Villeneuve is absolutely the right choice, but there will be more emphasis on Nick."
Hyundai eyeing ALMSUPDATE Correction, we meant to write the new GT2S class, not GT3, for Hyundai. We hear Kia, which is owned by Hyundai, is in the mix. Also still hearing other GT2S entries could come from Nissan (350Z) and Dan Pastorini's Mercedes SLK55 AMG. This rumor is upgraded to 'strong.' 01/18/06 Hearing rumblings that South Korea manufacturer Hyundai is eyeing a possible entry into ALMS. If true, one would assume it is for the new GT3 class.
Pecorari to Atlantics series Yesterday Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa., who finished second in the Star Mazda championship last year and earned its Rookie of the Year award, said "As of now we have made the decision to run the Champ Car Atlantic series for 2006. We have not signed anything yet, but hopefully in the next few weeks we should be able to announce which team we'll be running with and all of the details."
Pecorari broke the track record at Arizona's Firebird Int'l Raceway in November while testing an Atlantic car with Brooks Associates Racing.
It should be noted that the most talented drivers from the Star Mazda Series are smart enough to move next to the Atlantics series, which will be a tough series with 40 entries and with cars that actually require some talent behind the wheel. Some of those who got smoked by the top drivers last year, and who, therefore, must doubt their own abilities, are eyeing 100% throttle racing which masks driver talent.
International Race of Champions?UPDATE #3 [Editor's Note: The following article from GrandPrix.Com shows what a sham the IROC is. The Race of Champions held in Paris' Stade de France last month probably couldn't use "International" in their event name so as not to be confused with the American IROC. The Paris event fielded many truly international star drivers, including Jeff Gordon.] The baseball World Series is a contest limited to teams from the United States and Canada as it is assumed that no-one outside Major League Baseball could win. Attempts to allow Japanese or Latin American teams compete have, so far, failed. It is a very similar story with the International Race of Champions which ignores the fact that there is motorsport beyond the shores of the United States.
This year's field consists of Mark Martin (who has never won the NASCAR title), NASCAR's Nextel Cup winner Tony Stewart; Busch series winner Martin Truex Jr; Craftsman Truck champion Ted Musgrave plus the World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser and Frank Kimmel, who has won the ARCA Re/Max Series. GrandAm supplies Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor, who won the title last year while the field is padded out with IRL's Sam Hornish and Scott Sharp, plus NASCAR's Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth and Max Papis, the only man to have experience (albeit brief) in F1 back in 1995.
When IROC began back in 1974 the series included F1 drivers Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme and early competitors included Ronnie Peterson, Jody Scheckter, James Hunt, Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, Alan Jones, Clay Regazzoni, John Watson and others but since the 1980s the only men racing have been those competing in America. Back in 1990 Martin Brundle gave the Good Old Boys a shock by beating them at Cleveland and last year Sebastien Bourdais gave them another taste of defeat at the Texas Motor Speedway, beating the oval specialists on an oval!
This year there are no date clashes this year between Formula 1 and the Crown Royal International Race of Champions series but that does not mean that there is much international interest in the grandly-named US series designed to discover which driver from a selection of different categories is the best. This year IROC will include a road course for the first time in 14 years but we have heard of no attempt to allow non-American champions to take part.
01/17/06 We already had this rumor as 'fact' but it was confirmed with today's IROC lineup announcement - see Hot News page.
01/10/06 There was interest in having Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy -- as well as possibly Oriol -- participate in the IROC series this season but unfortunately there is a conflict with Champ Car's season opener in LB and the Texas round, which Bourdais won in 2005. The two-hour time difference (PT to CT) was insurmountable despite having the drivers depart immediately after qualifying, traveling in a private airplane and landing next to the track in Alliance. All parties wanted to make this happen but it was impossible for the drivers to get to the track in time for the race. Champ Car even planned on moving their Friday qualifying back to help make up the time distance, and IROC tried to help them but in the end, Texas Motor Speedway (Eddie Gossage) would not let IROC move their race start to help Champ Car. It would have been great for the drivers to compete in this event, and now more so with the announcement of adding a road course race for the first time in years. Champ Car drivers are more familiar with road courses and are at a disadvantage with all ovals on the schedule.
01/10/06 There has been some speculation that Paul Tracy might join Sebastien Bourdais in IROC this year. We didn't think Champ Car would have any participation in this year's IROC because of a conflict with the Long Beach race and the Texas IROC race. Perhaps they have worked something out such that the race and qualifying will be at night and the drivers will jet over to TMS and back.
Red Bull eyes Montoya According to reports in the German press, Red Bull Racing are interested in securing the services of Juan Pablo Montoya, who, it is thought, would be interested in joining the man he replaced last season, David Coulthard, in an Adrian Newey designed car.
McLaren has failed to take up an option on both Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen on December 31st, making them both free agents. Raikkonen will likely go to Ferrari if Schumacher retires after 2006, but stay at McLaren if not. Montoya would probably keep his seat at McLaren if Raikkonen goes to Ferrari, but could switch to Red Bull if Raikkonen stays to be teammate to Fernando Alonso who has already signed with McLaren.
Minardi could make racing return (GMMf1NET) The famous Minardi name could return to the race track in the near future.
The former grand prix team's founder, Gian Carlo Minardi, revealed in an interview that he was currently in the process of re-gaining control of the brand, after selling it to Paul Stoddart in late 2000.
''This brand could be rented to various teams,'' Italy's Minardi told f1grandprix.it, ''so a Minardi F3000 team could soon be born.''
Gian Carlo Minardi also mused as to how his little Faenza-based team survived at the pinnacle of motor sport, while so many other privateers went under.
He said the secret was to stick to a staff of 100.
''Other teams, growing to 250-300 employees, made a mistake,'' Minardi explained, ''because in tough moments they didn't have enough money and had to give up.''
NASCAR close to iPod deal A deal is supposedly in the works with Apple and NASCAR that will allow fans with a Video iPod to download NASCAR video content to their iPod and take it with them to watch later in the day, such as their train commute to work. The deal might be done in time for the Daytona 500. And with a wireless video iPod rumored for the future, the possibilities are endless.
In other words, NASCAR wants to bombard us with NASCAR media content 24 x 7. If they could someday have us dream NASCAR they'll find a way. Instead of counting sheep, you could count laps. Of course a nightmare sure to wake anyone out of a sound sleep would be Darrell Waltrip spouting Boogity-Boogity-Boogity. If that isn't an insult to one's intelligence, nothing is.
Panther could be rescuedUPDATE We failed to mention that the date of the Panther Racing auction is February 6th and 7th, so essentially they have 3 weeks to find a sponsor, or it's curtains for what was once the best team in the IRL.....until the CART teams came in and steamrolled right over them. 01/18/06 We are hearing that one of the irons that Panther Racing had in the fire with regard to sponsorship for 2006 may come through. We hear it's 50/50 right now, but if it happens, it will be for two cars. Meanwhile, the team's auction whereby they are selling everything, including their latest cars, is still scheduled as planned.
Scott Dixon eyes A1GP rideUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today - see story on Hot News page.
10/12/05 Subject to contract negations with Chip Ganassi, former IRL IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon will race for New Zealand in A1 Grand Prix this season, as predicted by Autosport-Atlas.
"I'd like to do some races," Dixon said. "I think I'd probably do key races that I know the circuit, such as Laguna Seca, Monterrey (Mexico), and maybe Eastern Creek. A lot of it still lies with Chip Ganassi because I am contracted with them and Target, so it still lies all in their hands, and we'll probably work that out over the next couple of weeks.
"I think as long as there's no conflicts, and that it's a good series and something strong, you know, that's not going to hinder anything I do for them, I think it shouldn't be too much of a problem."
"It looks like a series that's been around for quite some time - very professional," Dixon added. "I think there are definitely some key people involved over there and there seems to be a good sort of amount of money, which is good to see for a different series at this point in time because a lot of the single seater series are struggling around the world.
"I was very impressed with the New Zealand team and WSR Racing which they did a superb job and it's good to see them get the job done."
Forsythe lining up sponsorship, drivers Forsythe Racing's Neil Micklewright today told AutoRacing1.com that the team has some forthcoming sponsorship announcements for their 4-car Atlantics superteam.
With regards to sponsors, there will be some announcements in the coming weeks, but nothing that we're at liberty to announce at this moment," said Micklewright.
As for the Champ Car team, the driver lineup is not finalized yet but he hopes to announce that in the next 3 to 4 weeks.
"There's no specific plans in place right now, but I do anticipate in the next few weeks being able to make the announcement after it's finalized," said Micklewright.
We also learned that the team has option years on all four of their Atlantic drivers - Maia, Philippe, Wirth and Hinchcliffe and are confident one of the four can win the $2 million to the champion. Then it will be up to the team to help find the driver a competitive Champ Car ride in 2007. The team has hired 17 new crewmembers for the four cars and need about three more.
There's that $2 million pot of gold sitting out there at the end of the year for somebody to take. A four-car super team, your odds of winning that are pretty good I would say. Have you thought about what -- I'm not sure exactly who gets the money, whether it's the driver who gets the money, but he has to use it to get the Champ Car ride if I understand correctly. Have you thought about if one of your drivers were to win, using that money and put that person into driving the Champ Car?
"Well, it's an interesting question," said Micklewright. "I think that the $2 million accrues to the driver that wins the championship and is there and needs to be spent on a Champ Car ride. We have options on all these young men going toward the future, so hopefully depending on how things work out, we could consider in the future running a third car in Champ Car. Who knows what the future brings. But certainly we've got them on board now because we think that they're the wave of the future, and whichever one of them wins the championship and the money that goes with it, then certainly we'll bend over backwards to make sure that they get a top quality ride with somebody in Champ Car."
Another sponsor linked to Ferrari (GMMf1NET) Another potential sponsor has been linked with Ferrari's F1 outfit.
With news that the much reported 'De Beers' cash may not materialize, it is now suggested that 'Alice' - a Telecom Italia subsidiary - could be lining up to replace the lost Vodafone sponsorship in '07 and beyond.
Italian media sources hint at a $25 million per-year deal, and the remote possibility that Vodafone and Ferrari could end their deal early to allow the sponsorship to begin in 2006.
This could explain Ferrari's so-far blank livery on its 2006 car, and the fact that McLaren - Vodafone's '07 destination - is running around the test tracks wearing traditional orange paint.
Biaggi eyes possible F1 go, Rossi doubtfulUPDATE #2 Max Biaggi is testing the MF1 Racing car today and over the next two days at Silverstone circuit in Great Britain. See Hot News page for more.
01/14/06 Two-wheeled rival Valentino Rossi, however, steered away from Michael Schumacher's recent statement that he could soon switch to the F1 grid.
''F1 is still something very far off,'' the Italian told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. ''This year I'll race again with Yamaha, and maybe in the future too.''
01/13/06 Rumors in Italy say that former MotoGP champion Max Biaggi (pictured right) could test with the MF1 Racing squad before the start of the 2006 F1 season. Biaggi previously tested for Ferrari at Fiorano. “In a week we will try to get back to you and let you know the ultimate news,” he said. “Certainly if we add two more wheels, we could risk to do something totally different and maybe interesting... is not a bad idea isn’t it??!”
No. 77 team to be sold? At least six car owners have inquired about the possibility of buying the #77 [Penske-Jasper] team that won't race this year. That's because that team finished in the top 35 in last year's car owner points. If a new team can transfer the #77's points from last year, that would mean it would be guaranteed a spot in the starting field for the 2006 Daytona 500 and the new season's next four races beyond that. Any such arrangement would have to be submitted to NASCAR for its approval. ThatsRacin
Glock and DHL - Champ Car or GP2UPDATE #5 "We are still talking to GP2 teams but we also have two strong options in Champ Car," the 23-year old Timo Glock revealed to Autosport magazine. "I think Champ Car is the way forward for us, but we will find out soon what those teams want." We hear one of those teams could be Newman/Haas as a third car.
This from Grandprix.com - Timo Glock used to be a Jordan Formula 1 driver, and a pretty good one based on a limited number of appearances. Then he went off to America and impressed in his first season in Champ Car with Rocketsports. Glock came back to Europe over the winter to do a test in GP2 with the ART team but as the operation will be running Alexandre Premat and Lewis Hamilton in 2006, Glock's choices are somewhat limited if he wants to make a big impression and it looks more likely that he will return to the United States in an effort to get himself back on the F1 radar screens. To do that he needs to win and so it is believed that Glock is looking at trying to do deals with the top teams, notably Newman Haas Racing which is happy to run a third car if funding can be found. We believe that several drivers are in the hunt for such a deal, including Cristiano da Matta but Glock's hefty support from DHL may help him sign up alongside Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira. Grandprix.com12/19/05 Frenchman Alexandre Premat says he is 99% certain he will land the 2nd ART GP2 seat. If so, Timo Glock may be out of GP2 and headed back to Champ Car, but we hear DHL is insisting he be with a team that will allow him to challenge for podiums positions and win races in 2006 on a consistent basis. Only three teams do that on a consistent basis - Newman/Haas, Forsythe and RuSPORT. Newman/Haas has stated they are trying to run a third car, but only if they find sponsorship. With DHL money behind him, it would seem that may be a match made in heaven. Forsythe can field three cars, but we hear he is testing three Mexican drivers in January, two of which could team with Paul Tracy. We assume Mario Dominguez is in the running. RuSPORT probably does not have the shop space to run a third car yet. Conclusion, if Glock and DHL stay in Champ Car (they can still go to another GP2 team) we can speculate and say it will be with Newman/Haas.
12/16/05 According to crash.net, Timo Glock is still neck and neck with Frenchman Alex Premat, who has shone in the A1 Grand Prix series, for the 2nd seat in the ART GP2 team alongside McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton.
And we will repeat once again, how can Champ Car let Glock and DHL get away? If it takes putting him in the third seat at Newman/Haas, then so be it.
12/01/05 Autosport asked Timo Glock the following questions at today's GP2 test at Paul Ricard and it sure sounds like he is leaning toward GP2 for next year.
Q. Obviously coming to do this test here means people will be wondering about your plans for next year – what are you looking at for 2006?
Glock: We have to look at what happens in the next couple of weeks – we are still talking to the guys in Champ Car, and I think it's open in every way. If I have a chance to drive with ART in GP2 then I think I would take it, but if I get a good ride in Champ Car ... It's difficult to say now, I think – it would make sense to stay for another year in Champ Car, but GP2 is a good series with a lot of strong drivers. We'll see what's going on in the next couple of weeks.
Q. Considering your backers are based over here, it would seem to make sense for you to come back to Europe.
Glock: Definitely, and you are closer to Formula One. Formula One is still my goal, so that's the main reason to be here I think – to be close to Formula One. Autosport
11/30/05 According to this Speed-Academy article, Glock says, "The first year in the series of Champ Car opened my eyes. If it should not work out for Formula 1 for 2006, I would like to go in any case another year over there in order to transfer the skills I have learned." However, with that said, for Glock to land a ride with the top GP2 team will give him a chance to win races on a regular basis in front of the F1 community and will probably take him away from Champ Car unless they feel he can win races in Champ Car in 2006. He came close once in 2005 (Montreal) but that was largely the result of some good pit strategy.
11/29/05 In what can only be termed a major loss for Champ Car, Autosport.com reports that Champ Car rookie of the year and ex-Formula One tester Timo Glock is believed to be testing Nico Rosberg's championship winning GP2 car at this week's test in Paul Ricard, implying a return to Europe is on the cards for the German driver.
Even more critical is the loss of sponsor DHL to Champ Car, a series in major need of every team/car sponsor they can get. How that relationship wasn't properly nurtured is beyond us.
Glock, who made a number of appearances in the GP2 paddock this season, has been a member of the Deutsche Post Speed Academy for a number of years, and moved to America when he was unable to find a drive for this year in Formula One.
Given his backing, a return to European racing would provide a better marketing platform than continuing in Champ Car, despite his success there reports Autosport.
Glock is expected to share the car with Lewis Hamilton, who is strongly tipped to take one of the ART seats for 2006, while Hayanari Shimoda is likely to be in the second car on both days.
Carpentier and Team CanadaUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. In an interview today Patrick Carpentier said,
They expect him to race on two race courses he has driven before, Laguna Seca and Fundidora Park.
Other candidates like Paul Tracy and Andrew Ranger were invited but both declined.
After the A1GP season Carpentier still has no plans as he is no longer with Cheever Racing. He intends to return to Champ Car.
01/16/06 Word on the street is that former Champ Car and IRL driver Patrick Carpentier will soon be announced as being a part of the Team Canada A1 Grand Prix team. He is set to be announced as teammate to regular driver Sean McIntosh and will probably drive in at least two races. A Thursday announcement is planned. Carpentier is looking for a fulltime ride since his Cheever Racing IRL team folded. He will drive in the Rolex 24 Grand-Am race.
New Champ Car to be shown According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the new 2007 Champ Car being designed and manufactured by Panoz, will be first shown to the media at an event tentatively planned for late July or August. We hear that a comprehensive test program for the new car will commence soon thereafter.
Big Atlantic Series presentation planned According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car is planning a big Atlantic Series presentation of the new car on February 14th in Los Angeles. We hear there will be a number of announcements as part of that event, including PKV Racing announcing their 2006 Champ Car and Atlantic drivers.
Our sources tell us that the 40 Atlantic cars ordered will all be delivered on March 8th, as planned.
PKV could add third carUPDATE We are downgrading this rumor to 'false.' AutoRacing1.com has learned that PKV Racing will run just a 2-car Champ Car team in 2006. They will again run a young promising Atlantic driver with the Polestar team.
01/14/06 There is some speculation as to why PKV Racing continues to test drivers such as Franck Montagny in two weeks at Sebring. According to our sources PKV Racing was planning to run just Katherine Legge and Oriol Servia in 2006 (rumored) but now we hear that a third car is possible, which might explain the Montagny test. As we stated, Servia could still be picked up by Newman/Haas, but if anyone gets that third Newman/Haas seat we still think it will be Timo Glock.
Team Australia gearing up for big year Our sources tell us that a lot of work is being done at the Walker Racing/Team Australia shop getting it ready for a big season of racing. Because all the sponsorship money is not in place yet, there has been no testing so far and they are not working directly on the Champ Cars. However, their engineering staff is working very hard on a well defined plan and the workforce has and is spending the time working on shop changes (to include Atlantic, BMW and Champ Car, 8 cars and 4 trucks plus equipment) and building/updating equipment.
They have hired some Atlantic employees, but one of the Atlantic drivers they were talking to has joined the Forsythe superteam instead. The plan is for a 2-car Champ Car program, and if Craig Gore (pictured right talking to Australian driver Will Power)can find the sponsorship, a 3rd Champ Car will be added.
In related news, we hear that Team Australia driver Alex Tagliani and his wife Bronte have bought a new house and are in the process of moving. It is expected that he will be back with the team in 2006.
Long may run Daytona 500 with 2nd Peak team Carl Long Looking to Run Daytona 500 with Peak Performance: Peak Performance Motorsports, who will field the #61 Peak Fitness Ford in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup with Kevin Lepage as driver for 2006, is looking to have Carl Long run a 2nd team car in the Daytona 500. The team will make a decision on whether or not they will run the 2nd team after the three-day Daytona testing session beginning this Monday. Only Lepage will test, Long will not. Carl-long.com
F1 could shed races - Ecclestone (GMMf1NET) F1's lengthy grand prix calendar could shed one or two races in 2007 or beyond.
That is the admission of Bernie Ecclestone, F1 'supremo' and author of the unprecedentedly long 2005 and 2006 world championship schedules.
''Nineteen is too many,'' the diminutive Briton, 75, said after the Sid Watkins safety lecture in Birmingham (UK).
''We want 17-18 -- trim one off.''
Ecclestone will reportedly leap to the rescue of the embattled Spa Francorchamps (Belgium) and Hockenheim (Germany) races, but indicated that he was unlikely to do the same for the ever-condemned British GP.
Referring to Silverstone, Ecclestone said: ''If they don't rebuild it and put it in line with the other third-world countries, there won't be a Silverstone.''
Also in doubt is the US grand prix, the F1 impresario contended. In the context of the expiring deal with Indianapolis, scene of the farcical race last June, Ecclestone said: ''For 2007, the answer at the moment is let's see.''
Bernie also reckons another customary fixture of the F1 circus may be about to exit -- Michael Schumacher.
He said he 'wouldn't be surprised' if the seven time world champion calls it quits at the end of the 2006 season. Bernie Ecclestone added: ''He'll probably get a bit tired of chasing round the world.''
Davidson may race (GMMf1NET) Anthony Davidson may pop up on the 2006 formula one grid in the second half of the year.
That is a growing feeling in grand prix circles, after the comments both of a 'Super Aguri' boss and now Honda sporting director, Gil de Ferran.
Aguri's managing director Daniele Audetto said earlier this month that Davidson's '06 role as Honda tester 'may change' when the new team has a bespoke car up and running. The Leafield based outfit, Super Aguri, will kick off the year with the 2002 Arrows 'A23' racer, which will almost certainly be slow.
''Maybe Anthony will have a (racing) opportunity with us,'' Brazil's de Ferran said at the Autosport International in Birmingham, ''or maybe he will have an opportunity with somebody else.
''I'm sure that eventually he will get to race.''
Gil also revealed that Jenson Button, who is set to return to the test track at Jerez this week, is not regarded as a 'number one' driver alongside Honda's new works signing, Rubens Barrichello.
De Ferran: ''It will be every man for himself, with the only order to not take each other out.''
Toro Rosso team to sport new livery (GMMf1NET) Scuderia Toro Rosso will bolster Red Bull's image as a 'fun' influence on formula one with a radical livery for its 2006 car.
That's the latest whisper in F1 circles.
Weekend gossip suggests that the former Minardi team, now owned by energy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, will move away both from the black liveries of 2001-2005, and the interim test identity comprising a Red Bull car with a gold-painted nose.
The new livery, however, will not be unveiled until the car is launched just prior to the first race in Bahrain.
Five Mexican drivers in Busch race At least five Mexican drivers will participate in the NASCAR Busch Series race scheduled for March 5 in Mexico City, something organizers called a sign of the U.S. circuit's growing popularity south of the border. "This says a lot about the growth of auto racing in our country," said Federico Alaman, director of sporting events for OCESA, which is organizing the event. "There are already five or six, and more names are being included all the time." Alaman was accompanied at a news conference by some of the Mexican drivers likely to race in the Busch event, including Carlos Contreras, Michel Jourdain and Jose Luis Ramirez. Top Mexican driver Adrian Fernandez will also be present. He is planning to run in both the Busch race and the Grand Am contest to be held March 4. CBS Sportsline/AP
Ecclestone: Schumacher could retire after '06 Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Friday he would not be surprised if Michael Schumacher retires this year. "I wouldn't be surprised," Ecclestone told reporters at the Autosport International show. "He's done very well, hasn't he, and probably gets a bit tired of chasing around the world." Ecclestone admitted he had not talked to the seven times world champion, but you know Bernie hears things as he has his finger on everything in the sport.
Manning eyes IRL or Champ Car returnUPDATE #2 Darren Manning revealed during the Autosport International show in England that he is still trying to land a drive in the USA for the 2006 season. "I am going back to the USA next week to talk to some Champ Car teams about a deal," the 30-year old said. "It will be good to go back to road courses. Justin came into Champ Car after I did my time there, and he's since carved himself out a nice career.
"I have not turned my back on F1 but we are not pushing that side of things," he admitted. "If I do Champ Cars this year, win every race and the championship and then get some phone calls from F1, we will obviously take them and put those on the table..."
07/28/05 Darren Manning told Autosport-Atlas, "I have to be thinking about 2006 immediately. I have thought about it and there is no holding me back. I don't have to go one way or another, other than just talk to people. I haven't become a terrible driver overnight. Chip signed me for a reason, I was a Formula One test driver for a reason and I'm still around racing for a reason. People aren't going to think that and I'm sure there are opportunities out there for me.
"I'm going to be looking at IRL and Champ Car primarily because like I've always said this is where I want to be racing in US open wheel racing.
"It's got to be a top-level drive. That's why I came to Ganassi because I thought they were going to give me an opportunity to win. Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way.
"No-one has given me a call yet, but it's mid-season so there is nothing I can really do for the rest of this year. I'm not desperate for the rest of this season. I want to be in chance to win races for next year. All the teams will pretty much know who I am. I've made a name for myself on the American scene."
"I can promise them that it will be competitive. I don't need to do anything on a low level anymore. I don't need to get a ride for a rides sake. I'm working towards a top-level drive in IRL or Champ Car for '06 or something on the world scene. The phone will start ringing today I guess, and my manager will start ringing round.
"Ganassi are not standing in my way. I've got to see out my contract but they are letting me look around. And if something comes up we'll have to talk to them."
07/27/05 Darren Manning said was shocked but not necessarily angered by his sudden firing Tuesday by Chip Ganassi. “I’ve been in a lot worse situations than this,” Manning said shortly after he was told he was out of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing No. 10 Panoz-Toyota. “He hasn’t cut my legs off; he hasn’t shot me. I’m still breathing, so everything will be all right. This isn’t but a dent in my ambition at all. It might even make things better.”
“It wasn’t that I wasn’t a good-enough driver,” Manning said. “I don’t think that was the decision he made – ‘Manning’s a terrible driver; let’s get rid of him.’ I don’t think that was the decision, but I don’t know if anybody will ever know. I can’t speak for Chip as to why he picked me to take the brunt of the problems. It was either leave it as it was or make a change, and Chip decided to make a change.”
“I’ve got to move on in my career and get back to something good,” said Manning, adding that he would be interested in returning to the IRL or the Champ Car World Series. “I’ll only take a top-level drive. I don’t need to take a low-level drive that I’m unable to win in. Maybe this is good for me. It might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t wish anybody any harm or malice over it.” More at SPEEDTV.com
Bernie puts USGP future in doubt Formula 1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has hinted that the spectator turnout at this year's United States Grand Prix will be crucial to determine the future of the event, as the current contract between F1 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway expires after the 2006 race.
"The deal finishes this year - for 2007, the answer at the moment is let's see," the sport's "supremo" said at the Autosport International Show in England.
Ecclestone, however, stopped short of pointing out a crowd size that would define the 2006 USGP as successful enough to guarantee its future. Asked what a good turnout would be, he quipped: "Of teams?", referring to the six-cars-only race provoked by the boycott of the Michelin-shod squads last year. Previous USGP crowds always exceeded 100,000 spectators. SPEEDTV.com
New IRL TV anchorUPDATE This rumor is bumped up to 'strong' today. ABC/ESPN auditioned Brian Kenny and former Indy-car driver Scott Goodyear this week for its Indy Racing League broadcast team. Kenny, 41, is best known for hosting "Friday Night Fights" on ESPN2. Goodyear has been an IRL analyst since 2002. . . . Jack Arute is expected to be one of the IRL's three pit reporters during TV broadcasts with Jamie Little and Jerry Punch. IndyStar
01/10/06 A rumor making the rounds is that the new Play-By-Play announcer for the IRL on ABC and ESPN to partner with Scott Goodyear is Brian Kenny (pictured right). He has been with ESPN since 1996 and was Kenny Mayne's fill in for RPM 2nite on weekends in the past.
Friesacher could snare top test seat (GMMf1NET) Another candidate has moved into the frame for the second test seat at Williams in 2006.
Although India's Narain Karthikeyan looked like a shoe-in for the sponsor-funded seat next to Friday driver Alex Wurz, Austria's 'Salzburger Nachrichten' claims that Patrick Friesacher also stands a fighting chance.
The 25-year-old Austrian drove 11 grands prix for Minardi last year until his sponsorship purse ran dry.
It is suggested that between $2.5 and $5 million would secure the ride, contemplated by Sir Frank Williams to help fund the 'Friday' car and Wurz's wage.
Denmark's Nicolas Kiesa was also reportedly considered for the test ride, but it remains uncertain that anyone will inevitably get the nod.
Mild Seven, Renault plan F1 exit (GMMf1NET) 2006 will likely be tobacco brand Mild Seven's final year in F1.
The long-time Benetton/Renault sponsor, according to speculation, will apparently stick to its current contract - which expires this year - but join Lucky Strike (Honda) and West (McLaren) in farewelling the sport amidst the backdrop of the European advert ban.
2006 will also be Lucky Strike's final season, after parent company British American Tobacco sold BAR to Honda. West left McLaren mid last season.
Mild Seven is owned by Japan Tobacco. The latest speculation will add fuel to gossip that Renault is also preparing to withdraw from F1.
The French carmaker's new chief, Carlos Ghosn, is likely to make an announcement about the future of Renault in F1 next month.
More San Jose track changesUPDATE #13 This story, broke by AutoRacing1.com is now fact. San Jose will swap the pitlane and main straight to make the track much better. See Hot News story. This change was proposed by AutoRacing1.com before last year's race ever happened. It is a great move by the race organizers and the City. 01/06/06 We hear a press conference announcing the San Jose track upgrades is slated for later next week. 12/30/05 The reply we received from San Jose race boss Bob Singleton on this latest rumor was, "We are working on a couple of significant changes both on and off the track. Stay tuned as we should announce something soon. Always trying to make the experience for the drivers and fans better." 12/30/05 Nine months ago we proposed the track changes shown below for San Jose that would swap the pits and main straight thereby eliminating the chicane in the first turn chicane and making the main straight nice and long. At the time we were told it was a fire code issue and it could not be done because there would not be enough room behind the pits for fire equipment, to which we said it's just as much as Long Beach has. This change of course would upgrade the track from being a Mickey Mouse nightmare to a proper street circuit. According to rumors, this change may indeed be made. We are trying to confirm.......
04/13/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' based on today's story - see Hot News page.
03/31/05 The Valley Transportation Authority gave its blessing Wednesday night to a new course for the San Jose Grand Prix, one that will run through more of downtown San Jose and disrupt transit service for three days this summer. The unanimous 12-0 board vote dismissed a staff report opposed to the change. The agency said the course change could cost up to $400,000 -- money San Jose officials say the city will pay from funds it expects to get from the organization putting on the July 31 race. ``We are not asking VTA to subsidize this event,'' said San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, a VTA board member. ``I think this will increase ridership and we'll see an extra financial benefit for the VTA.'' The San Jose City Council will vote on the new course April 12. The original route, approved in December by the city council, revolved around HP Pavilion. But hundreds of thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs related to construction on two Highway 87 overpasses were the primary factor that forced organizers to look for another course. The new route will be closer to the heart of downtown. Although it avoids the Highway 87 overpasses, it crosses light-rail lines at Almaden Boulevard and Market Street. VTA General Manager Peter Cipolla recommended that the board reject the request, saying that the agency's ``first responsibility'' is to its current riders. The transit district will have to use buses to bridge the gap in trolley service between the Tamien station south of downtown and the transit mall one block east of the new course. Bus lines also would have to be re-routed. Excerpt from San Jose Mercury News
03/31/05 Here are some photos shot yesterday pertaining to this topic. Our proposed pit lane (left photo) would be on the Convention Center side and the track (center photo) would move to the opposite side. Turn 1, a lefthander, is shown in the center-right photo. The organizers could extend the track by 1/4-mile by moving Turn 1 further down the road in the center-right photo. That would mean looping the cars down Almaden Avenue (right photo) which has some homes. These people would have to be sent on a free vacation for the weekend, but it's well worth the price. The track would then be approx. 1.75-miles long and no longer Mickey Mouse.
03/29/05 In the image to the right we make what was a no-passing allowed Mickey Mouse San Jose track into one with a nice long straight that will enable passing. The fix was done by moving the pit lane to the Convention Center side of the main straight and eliminating the silly chicane that creates a safety hazard (by putting the end on the pit lane wall looking straight on at the drivers - bad idea) and kills any chance for passing on the short 1.5-mile track. It's clear the track designers had the pits on the wrong side of the road so the paddock area was right behind the pits to make it easier on the teams. As Cleveland has proven, although desirable, the paddock area does not have to be directly behind the pits. The teams can tow the cars a couple of hundred feet to one of two paddock areas shown. It's about time Champ Car puts the fans first by making a track that drivers can pass on, even if the teams have to suffer slightly. This officially starts the campaign to rid San Jose of its silly chicane.
Carter to Bill Davis Racing Crew chief Larry Carter, who led #2-Rusty Wallace into the Chase for the Nextel Cup in Wallace's final year in Cup racing, was a victim of a reorganization at Penske Racing South after Kurt Busch was named driver of the team's #2 Miller Lite Dodge at the end of last year. This week at Daytona, Carter was in Daytona helping driver Mike Skinner test a pair of #23 Bill Davis Racing Dodges. He said he hoped to have his next career step in place shortly. "I don't really know yet what I'm doing but I've got a couple opportunities that I'm looking at, and I'm probably going to be making a decision this week," Carter said. "There's nothing official yet, and I'm just down here helping Bill Davis with a couple of his cars, so we'll see what happens by the end of this week and into next week." NASCAR.com
Unser stays committed to Champ Car Al Unser III, son of Champ Car legend Al Unser Jr. and a 2005 Atlantics competitor, begins 2006 with renewed hopes and a reaffirmed commitment to the Champ Car family of open-wheel racing. Unser joined the 2005 Atlantic season after two races had been contested, yet his consistency earned him and his sponsor BOSPoker.Net seventh in the championship standings in an abbreviated season defined entirely by top-ten results.
Bernie to run German, Belgian, GPs?UPDATE #2 (GMMf1NET) Just as he reportedly also will for the German grand prix, Bernie Ecclestone is poised to rescue the historic Belgian grand prix.
Local Wallonian minister for the budget, Michel Daerden, said in parliament that a new agreement with the F1 supremo - to promise the race at Spa Francorchamps - has nearly been finalized, according to the Belga agency. ''I have here a near agreement,'' he stated.
Meanwhile, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has promised to 'soon' reach an agreement to save Germany's embattled grand prix at Hockenheim.
The 75-year-old Briton told 'Mannheimer Morgen' newspaper that he had not yet signed off on a solution to promote the race himself.
''But I will find an agreement with my friends at Hockenheim soon,'' Ecclestone vowed.
It is understood that he favors the concept of alternating the race, year on year, with Germany's other grand prix venue in Nurburg.
Hockenheim mayor Dieter Gummer, also chairman of the near-bankrupt formula one track in south-western Germany, confirmed that Bernie was deeply involved in the rescue of the event.
He said: ''If we are talking to Bernie, then I assume there will be a solution.'' The key meetings are planned for the end of January, at Ecclestone's London base.
01/11/06 (GMMf1NET) Hockenheim mayor Dieter Gummer has confirmed media reports that Bernie Ecclestone may be involved in the rescue of the German GP.
It was reported on Tuesday that, after Hockenheim ran into financial strife, the 75-year-old F1 supremo is poised to take over as promoter of the race.
''We have planned a meeting for the second half of January,'' said Gummer, who is also chairman of the circuit.
He declined to go into detail about what may be discussed with Ecclestone at the meeting.
''We will be well prepared,'' Gummer revealed, ''and we will discuss things openly.''
However, while is has been suggested that the July 30 (2006) event may be in jeopardy, other sources are vehement that this year's German grand prix will go ahead despite the outcome of the Ecclestone discussions.
01/09/06 (GMMf1NET) After reportedly jumping to Spa-Francorchamps' aid, Bernie Ecclestone may also rescue the endangered German grand prix.
The 'Mannheimer Morgen' newspaper claimed on Monday that Bernie, the 75-year-old F1 supremo, is poised to take over as promoter of the Hockenheim event, just as he apparently will for Belgium's grand prix.
Ecclestone has reportedly called a meeting with officials of the near-bankrupt F1 circuit, located in the south west of the country.
Houston we have a sponsorUPDATE #3 As it turns out, the ALMS portion of the Houston doubleheader weekend will be called the 2006 American LeMans Lone Star Grand Prix at Reliant Park so that may be where our source heard Lone Star and thought it was associated with the Champ Car race that weekend.
11/05/05 After the Mexico City race, several Champ Car executives and drivers will head to Houston for a news conference Wednesday afternoon that will include details about the weekend of racing next May at the Reliant Stadium complex. It's expected the layout of the 1.7-mile track will be announced. Among those expected at the news conference are Champ Car president Steve Johnson and drivers Andrew Ranger and Nelson Philippe. Champ Car will have some cars on display, including some pace cars and possibly the 2-seater.
10/20/05 Now hearing the announcement is due to be made in Houston the Wednesday after the Mexico City race and Lone Star may be the steakhouse, not the beer company.
10/19/05 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that the Houston race will probably be named the Lone Star Grand Prix of Houston. We assume Lone Star Beer is probably the title sponsor. We were told the race definitely has a sponsor because someone else wanted to sponsor the event and were told, sorry you're too late. We expect a formal announcement next week in Houston where the track layout will be unveiled around Reliant Stadium.
GM may export cars from China General Motors Corp is considering exporting vehicles from China to developing markets, with a decision expected later this year, the Financial Times reported. The exports will consist of small vans and buses made by Wuling, a firm bought by GM and its Chinese partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp in 2004.
Citing Troy Clark, head of GM's Asia division, the newspaper said the US automaker is evaluating whether there is sufficient demand for exports to markets including India, Indonesia, the Middle East and South America.
The small vehicles, likely to be around the 5,000 USD price range, are used as basic people carriers and vans but are not appropriate for developed markets, the newspaper said, citing Clark.
Last year Wuling sold 337,188 units, up 43.4 pct from 2004.
Clark told the newspaper that GM is running at maximum capacity and may need to invest to start exports.
Will the Indy 500 have 33 cars? From the Indy Star: Question: How many cars will compete in the IRL in 2006? Hope for more in 2007? (Ken from Yuba City, Calif.)
Curt Cavin: It would be a guess at this point, but senior IRL officials are confident there will be 33. I only count 16 for the regular season at this point, and while another one or two might materialize, that's still four or five fewer than ran most of last season. So, I'd expect at least a half-dozen or so fewer at Indy than last year, which puts the count at about 26 or 27. I'll have to see the rest to believe it.
AutoRacing1.com Prediction: Honda and/or Tony George will write checks to ensure a full 33 car grid.
Spread of bird flu could affect Turkish GP Five new human cases of bird flu have been confirmed in several Turkish provinces, pushing the number of people infected up to 14, officials say. The cases, identified as being of the deadly H5N1 strain, mean the virus is now present in the east, north and centre of the country.
At least two Turkish children have died, and correspondents say fear is spreading rapidly across the country. Forty-eight cases are said to be under investigation in Turkey.
The fact that the virus is now present along the Black Sea coast and central Turkey, as well as in the east, is seen as worrying. The main concern is that the virus will mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans. Turkish television has begun broadcasting a public health warning telling people how to protect themselves from the virus.
There are still 8 month to go before the Turkish GP, but if the Turkish health officials don't get this under control soon, it could become a country epidemic.
Will Tata eye a F1 or Champ Car program? India's Narain Karthikeyan has sponsorship from Tata an India car manufacturer and this making it difficult for Narain to get a seat in a F1 team that already has manufacturer ties.
The closest opportunity has been Williams, who has no affiliation to a car manufacturer, the test driver seat went to Alex Wurz. However, Williams is are expected to have Toyota backing in '07 which would conflict with Tata.
Some are speculating that a twelfth F1 team could see Tata badged Cosworth engine in a Tata chassis. Tata certainly has the money to do this. The Tata Group accounts for almost 3% of India's economy with 91 major companies across seven business sectors - Engineering, Materials, Energy, Chemicals, Consumer Products, Services, and Communications and Information Systems.
Tata Motors is among the top six commercial vehicle manufacturers in the world. In 2005 their vehicle sales increased 11.4%. If they have goals of increasing vehicle sales internationally, then an F1 program could be right for them.
Another option is for Tata to badge the Cosworth engine in Champ Car alongside Ford (50% of the grid each). North America has a large Indian population and Champ Car has North America covered fairly well. Tata could certainly sell cars in North America if it wanted to. North America is the world's largest car market. In addition, Champ Car is trying to expand internationally, but so far all efforts (besides Australia) have not borne fruit. We'll see if the South Korea race happens this year as planned.
San Jose organizers to ask taxpayers to chip inUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' See the exclusive report on our Hot news page. 01/10/06 [Editor's Note: Even NASCAR is asking taxpayers to chip in before building a new race track. The economic benefits of a race for a city are significant. Of course Bernie Ecclestone does this with all his races, but F1 fees are so high, they have to.]
Operators of the San Jose Grand Prix will ask today for $4 million in taxpayer money to keep the race going over the next two years, saying the cost of running the event exceeded what they expected.
The first car race drew an announced attendance of nearly 154,000 over three days last summer, and organizers were supposed to have covered anticipated city costs for such things as traffic management and code inspections.
Instead, city officials revealed Monday that San Jose was left with nearly $600,000 in unreimbursed expenses, and the organizers are asking the city council for much more.
``We were hopeful that we wouldn't have to change the agreement with the city that we had last year, but it became clear the start-up costs were significant enough that we need to partner with the city in a little stronger way to make sure we could continue the event,'' said Dale Jantzen, the race's president. Jantzen declined to discuss how much money the event lost on the 2005 race, saying it was ``proprietary business'' information.
Organizers have said the losses would be covered by Don Listwin, the former technology executive who founded the event to create a fundraising mechanism for his charitable organization, the Canary Fund, which focuses on research for early cancer detection.
City administrators who negotiated the new deal over the past several months with Jantzen and Listwin said the increased subsidy is justified by the other economic benefits the race brought to San Jose. They estimate the total economic impact from the 2005 race at $41.6 million, although that figure is not based on an actual survey of activity associated with the race.
Instead, it's an extrapolation based on spending patterns for other events that have been held in the city, which were then applied to race organizers' estimates of attendance. It also includes $18.5 million in indirect spending activity assumed to have trickled down through the economy.
The race, a Champ Car World Series event that was carried on the low-rated Speed Channel in 2005, will be broadcast on NBC this year on July 30, race officials said. The move, which has not been announced by the race circuit, should broaden the recognition the city will receive, officials said.
``This is an investment toward a long-term relationship that already has proven some great value,'' said David Vossbrink, spokesman for Mayor Ron Gonzales, who supports the new subsidy. More at San Jose Mercury News
LVMS to double banking Las Vegas Motor Speedway has devoted previous on-site construction projects to enhancing the fans' experience. But after hosting a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race in March, the speedway's focus is likely to shift to improving the quality of racing.
The speedway is expected to at least double the banking in each turn of its 1.5-mile tri-oval. Construction is to begin immediately after the March 12 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 and be completed before the Sept. 23 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
"Our company has announced it is going to make a significant capital expense investment at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but on the specifics of those projects I'm not ready to comment," said Chris Powell, the speedway's general manager since late 1998. He did say he expects the speedway to make an announcement about major improvements soon, possibly during an official NASCAR testing session at the track that runs from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.
The Review-Journal has reported that most of the structures in the infield of the 1.5-mile tri-oval will be razed and rebuilt, including most of race-car garage buildings and the combination media center and suite building, after the March race. Pit road also is expected to be replaced by one moved closer to the main grandstand.
A source close to the speedway said banking in the corners will go from 12 degrees to 21 degrees, which would allow cars to race faster through the corners at higher speeds and produce more exciting races.
Corner banking is 24 degrees at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., Texas Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, which also are 1.5-mile ovals like the one in Las Vegas that are owned by publicly-held Speedway Motorsports Inc. More at Las Vegas Review Journal [Editor's Note: Another good reason for Champ Car to deep six this track. Should make it a perfect facility for the IRL. Get the body bags ready.]
Bank of America to ink big NASCAR deal Bank of America will “soon expand its NASCAR portfolio with a wide-ranging sponsorship deal at most or all of” Int’l Speedway Corp.’s (ISC) 12 owned or operated tracks, according to sources cited by Erik Spanberg of the CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL. BofA inked its first NASCAR deals in ’05, signing on as the lead sponsor of NBC and TNT’s “Countdown to Green” prerace show and as the official bank of Speedway Motorsports Inc. The SMI deal, “estimated to be worth” $2.5M per year, includes the naming rights for the fall Nextel Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway beginning this year. The ISC deal “makes sense for BofA, as the company has tracks in several of the bank’s key markets, including California and Florida” CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL
Schu could switch team in 2007UPDATE (GMMf1NET) Niki Lauda has added his two cents to speculation that Michael Schumacher could see out his career with another team.
The 56-year-old former triple world champion, who switched from Ferrari to join Brabham at the end of 1977, suggested that there is a high possibility that Michael will make a similar move later this year.
Germany's Schumacher, 37, told a magazine on Sunday that it was '99 per cent certain' that he would race his final grand prix in a red car.
''But if he voluntarily talks about this one per cent,'' Austrian Lauda told 'Bild' newspaper, ''then in truth the probability is bigger than we all think.''
Schumacher has been linked with switches to McLaren and Toyota, but the most likely destination for 2007 - should he not stay at Ferrari or retire - is actually Red Bull Racing.
However, that team's new 'chief technical officer' Adrian Newey says that the first goal - before hiring star drivers - is to build a better race car.
But the Briton told Autosport: ''It would be tremendous to work with Michael. He's one of the few great drivers I haven't had the opportunity or pleasure of working with.''
A Ferrari spokesman, too, played down all the gossip of recent days. Luca Colajanni reckons Schumacher has always pushed the Maranello team to do better.
''It is everyone's goal,'' he told the 'dpa' agency, ''to put Michael in a competitive car again.''
01/09/06 (GMMf1NET) At the same time as warning Ferrari to up its game, Michael Schumacher has refused to rule out switching to another team in 2007.
The seven time world champion, who managed only to win the embarrassing US grand prix last year with the F2005 car, told Der Spiegel magazine that it is '99 per cent certain' that he would race out his career in red.
''But you always have to leave even the most remote possibilities open,'' the German cautioned.
37-year-old Schumacher's claim came in the same interview as advising Maranello based Ferrari to take on more staff, and warning that he could quit if not given a competitive racer in 2006. He suggested that 'carelessness' played a part in Ferrari's fall from grace.
''After 84 grand prix victories,'' he explained, ''it is hard to stay motivated if eighth or tenth in the races is the maximum goal.
''That also applies to the team.''
But Michael admitted that even he could have worked harder last year. Thirteen years older than the new champion, Schumacher confessed that he 'could have done more' to be physically prepared for season '05.
He admitted: ''Maybe that would have added another tenth of a second to the race car. As one gets older, things do not get simpler.''
Hamilton may sue PPI Word on the street is that Bobby Hamilton Jr. will likely file a lawsuit against PPI Racing after he was dismissed early by the team and replaced by Travis Kvapil who had lost his ride with Penske Racing South when the team dropped the #77 car.
Bobby Hamilton Jr. picked up a new ride on Monday. Hamilton Jr. has worked out a deal with his father, Bobby Hamilton Sr., to drive the full season in the Craftsman Truck Series. Hamilton Jr.
Walkinshaw to make racing return (GMMf1NET) Former F1 team owner Tom Walkinshaw is poised to return to racing.
Although the 56-year-old Scot has been recently involved with a V8 team in Australia, he has kept a low profile since his 'TWR' empire and the Arrows F1 outfit went broke in 2002.
Walkinshaw has re-formed the 'Tom Walkinshaw Group' (TWG) and will launch two projects - one in motor sport (thought to be Touring Cars) - at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham (UK) this week.
No Champ Car ride for Dalziel?UPDATE With our sources telling us that Servia and Legge will be the regular drivers for PKV Racing in 2006, and the fact that Dalziel told AutoRacing1.com that he had re-signed to race in Grand-Am, it appears this rumor is likely to go to 'fact' for 2006. 12/20/05 Ryan Dalziel told AutoRacing1.com at Sebring Tuesday that he had re-signed with Pacific Coast Motorsports (PCM) for 2006. PCM will campaign Pontiac-powered Riley prototypes in the Grand-Am Rolex Series in 2006. We would assume this means Dalziel is not in line for a Champ Car ride in 2006 unless his PCM contract has an out-clause should he land a Champ Car seat.
Chevy to bring back CamaroUPDATE The Road & Track Magazine website has a video feature on the Concept Camaro. 01/09/06 With the Ford Mustang doing so well Chevrolet is considering bringing back their Pony Car - the Camaro, and have released these concept vehicle images below.
Truck champ Ted Musgrave’s team closes doorsUPDATE The following statement from Ford Racing is in regard to the closing of Ultra Motorsports, which the team announced on Friday, Jan. 6. Statement attributable to Greg Specht, Performance Operations Manager, Ford Racing Technology.
"All of us at Ford Racing are surprised and disappointed to hear that Ultra Motorsports decided to close its shop last Friday. We understood they were having some sponsorship difficulties, but we were prepared to support them based on the agreement that we were working out with Jim Smith. Contrary to published reports, we were planning to support their efforts as a manufacturer. When we first started speaking with Jim last year, the plan was for them to have a two-truck operation, and we were prepared to support that level of operation. When it became clear that there would be only one truck for this year, we did propose to cut that support back proportionally to help them with a one-truck operation. Our support for the Ultra Motorsports program was going to be equal to our other factory-backed teams in the series. At no time did we ever plan on cutting support for them completely, but we are not a team sponsor. We provide manufacturer support in ways that a traditional sponsor would not, and we were very willing to provide that support for this year. "
01/06/06 It appears the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion is without a ride for this season, at least for now. Ted Musgrave, who won last season's championship with Ultra Motorsports, has been talking with other Truck teams about a ride for the 2006 season opener at Daytona Beach, Fla., next month, The Observer has learned.
Among the teams Musgrave has had contact with is Billy Ballew Motorsports, sources said. Ballew is already fielding the No. 15 Chevrolet for rookie Kyle Krisiloff this season. Ultra, owned by Jim Smith, has fielded teams in the series since its inception in 1995, but Musgrave's title was the first for Smith. At the end of the 2005 season, Smith announced he had re-signed the primary sponsor for Musgrave's No. 1 Dodge and the team was planning to switch from Dodge to Ford.
The team apparently closed its doors on Friday. Calls went unanswered top Ultra's shop. Ford officials said Friday their manufacturer support was not the issue behind any changes at Ultra Motorsports. By JIM UTTER/The Charlotte Observer
McLaren the new Ferrari of F1 After a near decade of Ferrari dominance, Formula One could be heading towards an era of McLaren domination says Paul Stoddart.
"Ron Dennis and his people are not messing around," said Stoddart in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live. "They are making statements not just with Fernando but with Vodafone and various other things that they are contenders for the championship.
"I think it is going to make a good partnership."
"I think a lot is going to depend on how Ferrari reacts in the next 12 months," he explained. "Clearly they have been the dominant force in five out of the last six years and no doubt a lot of that is down to Michael (Schumacher).
"But there is also a pretty good team of people from Jean Todt to Rory Byrne, Ross Brawn and so many people that made Ferrari a good team to be in.
"They lost the plot last year though. A lot of people blamed Bridgestone but it wasn't entirely Bridgestone's fault. And I don't think anyone thinks Michael is less of a driver, but he is clearly getting older now and Fernando is the young talent coming through.
"I think it makes a lot of sense for him (Alonso) to go somewhere where he knows the future - (Ferrari is) a small car company, losing sponsors, who perhaps have had their best time. It is hard to turn down an offer from McLaren that is stable and prosperous."
Team USA out of Dakar Rally? Unofficially Team Dakar USA is out of the Dakar Rally. While the team battled overnight to make repairs to the Hummer's clutch and radiator apparently they did not make the ASO's allowed starting time.
Patrick Dempsey eyes Rolex Series in 2007 Patrick Dempsey is no stranger to driving a car at high speeds, dodging in and out of traffic. The Grey's Anatomy star gets that every morning driving to and from Hollywood. But in the cockpit of a race car, Dempsey had never experienced the fast-paced, high-adrenaline world of Grand-Am Cup Series action until climbing into the No. 54 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT for this weekend's Daytona Test Days.
Turning his first laps at Daytona International Speedway this morning, in preparations for his Grand-Am Cup Series debut on the track less than three weeks from now, Dempsey admitted that it took a couple of laps before he fully realized where he was.
"Being at this track, with all the history, it took me a while just to get back into my body," said Dempsey. "I was so excited about being here. This is a great series to start off, and the people around me have been very supportive. Today was just a big learning day for me--and I think the season will be a big learning curve for me. I just want to get as much seat time as possible and earn my way up the rankings."
Dempsey, an avid racing fan, is stepping up to Grand-Am Cup Series competition in 2006, with an eye toward the GT class of the Rolex Series in 2007. Dempsey and team co-principals Joe Foster and Rick Skelton all agree that developing a driver for any series takes time. And in the case of Hyper Sport, Foster and Skelton want to make sure it's done right.
Sponsor clash to keep Karthikeyan on benchUPDATE Narain Karthikeyan is leaning towards accepting an offer to be Williams' second test driver this season.
The Indian, whose main carmaker-sponsor Tata may be in conflict with 'Super Aguri' backer Honda, is reportedly also hesitant to join the prospective new team as a race driver alongside Japan's Takuma Sato.
Sources close to 28-year-old Karthikeyan suggested to the 'Press Trust of India' that another year like 2005 with Jordan - at the back of the grid - would only damage his fledgling grand prix career.
''Super Aguri are lagging behind,'' the source told PTI. ''They say the (new) car will be ready for the San Marino grand prix, but we have our doubts.''
Other Indian media reports said Karthikeyan would make a decision by January 15. It is also purported that an official role at Williams could involve sharing the 'Friday' test drive with Alex Wurz.
01/05/06 (GMMf1NET) Clashing sponsors are likely to spoil Narain Karthikeyan's quest to remain on the F1 race grid.
The 28-year-old, who debuted for Jordan last year but fell out with team boss Colin Kolles, is sponsored mainly by 'Tata', an Indian car maker.
The company had been linked with a title sponsorship of the new Japanese 'Super Aguri' outfit, after early favorite, Tokyo-based Softbank, reportedly pulled out.
It would've involved Karthikeyan at the wheel.
But the 'Outlook India' publication claimed on Thursday that there is a 'conflict of interest' between Aguri and Tata -- the team's sponsor and supplier, Honda.
Although the true extent of the connection between Leafield based Super Aguri and Honda is not entirely certain, the Japanese carmaker has a strong presence in India and neither it or Tata are likely to want to 'share' their F1 camp.
''Tata Motors would not want Narain to be seen driving for their rival in the Indian market,'' sources close to Karthikeyan, the first ever Indian in F1, said.
Grove based Williams, however, are keeping the 'offer' of a fourth-driver testing role open for Narain, even if the coveted 'Friday' seat has already gone to Alex Wurz.
Karthikeyan's manager, Piers Hunnisett, told the 'Times of India' that, as well as Williams, he also negotiated with 'three others'.
He told Autosport that the ultimate objective should be to allow NK to 'keep his profile up'.
Piers Hunnisett explained: ''(Then) he could be in a good position by the end of the year.''
Spa still in jeopardy The 2006 Belgian Formula One Grand Prix is in jeopardy because of major delays in improvements to the Spa Francorchamps circuit, the Belgian press reported on Saturday.
The enlarging of existing stands, the construction of new pit lanes and the modification of a chicane need to be done before the September 17th race.
Between 15 and 20 million euros will be allocated for the work which has been demanded by Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone, la Derniere Heure/Les Sports newspaper said.
"We have to complete the work demanded by Ecclestone. We realize the reality (that the race could be cancelled) but we will do all we can so that it can go ahead," economy minister Jean-Claude Marcourt told La Derniere Heure.
What is the Grand-Am secret? A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, How is it possible for the Rolex Series to have so many sponsored teams and drivers who are all paid a decent salary given so few fans in the grandstands and such miniscule TV ratings that SPEED TV brings? I just do not see what commercial value the sponsors get with so few eyeballs watching. Where is the money really coming from? Robert Berkus, St. Louis, Mo. . Dear Robert, We are not privy to the inside deals that are going on in the Grand-Am. Some say much of the money is coming from the France family who need some tax write-offs. Regardless of where the money is really coming from, they have managed to get a stellar field of big-name drivers for this year's Rolex 24....and they are getting paid to drive. Meanwhile, every sponsor in a France family racing series means one less for IndyCar racing. Mark C.
Goosens to test For Yates Our sources tell us that Marc Goosens will test Robert Yates Racing (RYR) No. 90 Citifinancial Ford Busch Series car at Sebring on January 11th and 12th. Goosens, from Belgium, will compete in both the Busch Series road course races in 2006 as part of a joint effort between RYR and Rile Technologies, the championship team in the Rolex Series.
Will new Champ Car have onboard starters?UPDATE We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today as we hear the Cosworth and Panoz engineers have overcome the obstacles and onboard starters will likely get the go-ahead for the 2007 car. If true, this is a most welcome addition and should help to reduce the number of full-course cautions.
09/18/05 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Will the new Champ Car have onboard starters that was mentioned by Champ Car as a goal for 2007? Dave Pearson, Edmonton, Canada Dear Dave, Onboard starters were still being debated a few weeks ago. It may have been resolved by now. The issue is the added weight of carrying the batteries and starter when the goal is to reduce the weight of the car.
Whereas the handheld starters used by the pit crews have very large heavy batteries, the onboard starter does not need as large a battery. Why? Because the handheld starter has to crank over the engine and transmission from the back of the car, whereas the onboard starter would just be turning over the engine (assuming the car is in neutral). As long as the batteries are good for just two or three restarts as a minimum, the size of the battery can be kept small. Mark C.
Boris Said eyes full-time Cup ride Boris Said is still waiting for his 2006 Nextel Cup plans to be finalized. After running a part-time schedule in 2005 [in the #36 Centrix Chevy for MB2 Motorsports], Said expected to run at least 12 Nextel Cup races this season. But his deal hasn't been completed other than a commitment to run two Busch Series road races for Ray Evernham. "I know I will run at least six to eight Nextel Cup races," Said said. "But I'd hate to miss the Daytona 500 and right now a package for Daytona has not been finalized." Bill Elliott will drive the #36 Chevy at Daytona in Feb. San Diego Union Tribune
Larry Foyt eyes NASCAR Ride for 2006 Larry Foyt, Dave Tomasello and Zekko Racing have ended their business relationship after two months. Foyt cited differences in business philosophy as the underlying reason for the termination of the relationship. Foyt, son of A.J. Foyt, is now looking for a ride in one of the NASCAR-sanctioned series for the 2006 season. "I don't think there is enough time to secure sponsorship for the 2006 season in the NASCAR Busch Series, so I am focusing now on landing a ride," said Foyt, who has driven in NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series. "While I haven't ruled out running my own team, it has been really difficult to secure sponsorship and the time is getting critical to field a car for the opening race at Daytona," said the 28-year-old Texan. "I really want to get back to driving so I'm looking seriously for a ride with an established team. Obviously if one of my sponsorship pitches works out, we'll spare no effort putting a program together that works best for everyone. However, right now my focus is on getting a ride." Foyt, who graduated from Texas Christian University in 2000 with a degree in communications, has competed in NASCAR since his debut there in 2001. He also is a two-time starter in the Indianapolis 500 driving for his father's Indy car team. A.J. Foyt Racing PR
Webber eyes future at Williams 'beyond 2006' (GMMf1NET) Williams' Mark Webber has hinted that he could commit to the Grove based team beyond 2006. For 2005, the Australian driver nearly switched from Jaguar to Renault, but ultimately plumped for Williams, for whom countryman Alan Jones won the 1980 championship.
But for next year, although Heikki Kovalainen is possibly a surer bet, Webber - still managed by Flavio Briatore - is a candidate to fill Fernando Alonso's 2007 seat at French owned Renault.
Webber, 29, tested for the Enstone based team (then Benetton) in 2001.
The blue and yellow camp could be a better bet for the gritty pilot, as Sir Frank Williams's Oxfordshire squad has lost the support of a works carmaker.
''It's my absolute desire that we overcome those dramas and get Williams back to the front this year, and beyond,'' Webber told Australasian Motorsport News.
Mentioning Renault, Mark only suggested that Alonso's 2007 switch 'raises further questions' about the carmaker's future in F1. Webber added: ''The bottom line is it's my desire if at all possible to be at Williams well beyond this year.''
France family to steal IRL’s biggest starUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to near- 'fact' today as a last minute deal is in the works for the France family to get their claws on Patrick. Danica turned approximately 20 laps at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday during the first day of Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series testing in preparation for the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 28-29.
The 23-year-old Patrick tested the No. 2 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford with an eye toward competing in the 44th annual twice-around-the clock event, and is sharing the car at the test with recently-retired NASCAR star Rusty Wallace. The 1989 NASCAR champion has officially announced his participation in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and has invited Patrick to join the team, which will also include American road racing stalwart Boris Said, and Scottish sports car ace Allan McNish.
“We’re running the Rolex 24 for sure,” Wallace said. “We’re going to get (Patrick) in the car and get her some time, and see if she likes driving the car. It’s kind of up to her if she wants to be the fourth driver in the car. She’s got the invitation, there’s no doubt about that, but we feel like we’re going to have a good, winning team, and we feel like we’re organized.”
After testing the car Thursday afternoon and evening Patrick—the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and Indy Racing League IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year—plans to accept Wallace’s invitation.
“I want to run it,” Patrick said. “If it’s up to me, and he’s leaving it open, I’d love to run this race. I think it’s one of those races that you just need to stay consistent. Even with what I was doing out there, I was able to still not drop too far off in lap times with traffic. As soon as I pick up my speed on the track, hopefully that’ll stay consistent with traffic. I want to do the race, so if he lets me, I’m in.”
01/05/06 Word on the street is that the France family has their eye on snatching Danica Patrick, the IRL's only draw, right out from under Tony George's nose. While she will drive in the IRL in 2006, when her contract is up look for someone in NASCAR to make her an offer she can't refuse. In fact, if we were the France family we would be on the phone to her now getting her a ride in the Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona race to whet her appetite. With all the other big names in Grand-Am's biggest race, adding Patrick will be icing on the cake for the powerful France family. Mark C.
’Lauda Jr’ moves to DTM (GMMf1NET) Another son of a world champion is set to take the final few steps on the road to formula one.
Germany's 'Bild' newspaper will report on Friday that Mathias Lauda, 24 - the son of 1975, 1977 and 1984 title winner Niki (56) - is about to sign for Mercedes' works DTM team.
''That's right,'' said motor sport director Norbert Haug. ''We tested Mathias in December at Hockenheim, and despite the terrible weather he performed outstandingly.''
At the end of January, 'Lauda Jr' must test the AMG C-Class DTM car again, at Barcelona, but it is expected that he will sign a contract.
Mathias raced in F1 support-category GP2 in 2005, which the series' champion Nico Rosberg - another son of a drivers' champion - used as his springboard to the grand prix grid. Lauda also drives for the Austrian 'A1' entry.
''He is a good talent,'' Haug continued. ''He is only missing experience, but can make up for that quickly.''
Infiniti dumps IRL’s IPS SeriesUPDATE To rub more salt in the IRL wounds, it seems that Menards has dropped sponsorship of the Pro Series as well. Maybe Honda will step up and supply engines and sponsorship for the Pro Series too as they appear to be the only company who still believes in the IRL's business plan. 01/04/06 Word on the street is that the IRL has lost yet another major car manufacturer as we hear Infiniti has axed their sponsorship of the Infiniti Pro Series and the series will now be called the Indy Pro Series (see new logo to left). We await the official announcement from the IRL.
With Chevy and Toyota also leaving this year, the IRL under Tony George's leadership has managed to lose three major car manufacturers in one year. Even CART wasn't that bad. The only reason Honda stayed was because as sole engine supplier they saw a cash cow in the IRL. Tell us one more time Tony why we needed the IRL, but to destroy the sport?
Toyota eyes RaikkonenUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' The Toyota Formula One team has denied rumors that they have offered Finn Kimi Raikkonen a contract to race with them.
Toyota Motorsport president John Howett said: "Much like the rumors concerning Toyota and Fernando Alonso some weeks ago, there is absolutely no truth in the rumor that Toyota has offered a contract or payment for the services of Kimi Raikkonen.
"We are only just at the start of our 2006 season preparations and, together with our race drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli, we will do our utmost to take Toyota another notch up the constructors' championship this year."
12/26/05 When the Japanese want something, they pay the highest dollar and buy it, as we saw in CART and then in the IRL where either Honda or Toyota had all the best teams.
According to reports in the German press, the Panasonic Toyota F1 team may be trying to secure the services of this year’s runner up, Kimi Raikkonen.
Currently on record with the highest budget in the series, the Bild reports that Team boss Tsutomo Tomita, has put a 120 million dollar 5-year offer on the table.
The deal would run for five years, 2007 – 2011 and would see Kimi partner Ralf Schumacher, who has also signed a multi year deal with the team.
Bild quotes Hans Joachim Stuck as saying: "Raikkonen moving to Toyota makes sense. The Japanese team wants to challenge for the World Championship, and therefore must strive to get hold of the Finn."
"Raikkonen is free to choose the team he wishes to join in 2007," added former World Champion, Niki Lauda. "He is in such demand that teams will work hard to make the money available."
However, other rumors say Raikkonen already signed a deal with Ferrari that would see him take over from Michael Schumacher, if the German retires at the end of 2006. If not he would either stay at McLaren or go to Toyota and their larger salary offer ($24 million per year). If Raikkonen stays at McLaren, look for Montoya to get the Toyota offer. If Raikkonen leaves McLaren for either Ferrari or Toyota, look for Montoya to stay at McLaren.
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