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DATE News (chronologically)
02/13/09
f1

Teams eye extended Bahrain test UPDATE (GMM)  The group test organized at Bahrain will not be extended to include Saturday and Sunday.

Following the disruptive sandstorms in the island Kingdom this week, BMW-Sauber and Toyota had requested that the session be extended to include the weekend.

But the Dutch portal f1today.nl reports that Ferrari did not agree to the extension, having booked the Sakhir circuit for exclusive days of promotional shooting.

Friday, however, was a much better day for the three teams, with only a bit of a haze lingering over the circuit as the pitlane opened at 8am.

Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and BMW's test driver Christian Klien were in action, but at the beginning of the session the surface was very sandy and slippery.



02/12/09 (GMM)  The three F1 teams in Bahrain - Ferrari, BMW and Toyota - are in talks to prolong this week's sandstorm-affected test at the Sakhir circuit.

Following Wednesday's events, poor visibility again on Thursday moved the teams to consider extending the scheduled test to include Saturday and Sunday in order to make up lost time, the Dutch portal f1today.nl claimed.

The talks reportedly also involve the management of the circuit.  The teams were due to break for the weekend and then return to action next week.

"My first test in Portugal was also heavily disrupted by the cold and the rain so I'm itching to have a real run in the car," said Toyota's Jarno Trulli, whose Thursday action was restricted to slow installation laps.

All three teams will reconvene at the circuit on Friday.

Comment
02/13/09
f1

Sato to buy test driver role at Red Bull
According to reports in Autosport, Takuma Sato has definitely not given up on his desire to remain in the Formula One championship after being passed over by Toro Rosso for the sole remaining full time drive, instead he is currently in negotiations with Red Bull Racing for a reserve driver role.

Even thought there will be no official in season testing, teams still need a reserve driver in case one of their regular pilots is unable to race due to illness or injury. The role Sato is said to be interested in would cover both of Red Bull’s teams, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso.

"He has a good reputation in Japan," Red Bull boss Dieter Mateschitz told Autosport. "He could work with us very well."  We here at AR1.com suspect that if he brings some money to the two Red Bull teams he can buy the reserve driver role.  Other than that, good drivers are a dime a dozen and there are many that would do it for free.

Comment
02/13/09
automotive
nascar

Bruton Smith dealerships to file for bankruptcy?
Sonic Automotive Inc., the No. 3 U.S. auto dealership group, said on Wednesday it suspended its quarterly dividend and retained a financial adviser to consider options for its debt and liquidity.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Sonic said it had retained Moelis & Company to consider ways to shore up its cash position and address debt coming due this year and next.  Sonic, which operates 169 franchised auto dealers in the United States, had been paying a 12 cent per share quarterly dividend.  Based on the dealer group's most recent share count, the decision to suspend the dividend would represent an annual cash savings of about $20.6 million.  Sonic said it was in compliance with debt covenants under its revolving credit facility.

"Given the continued upheaval in the credit markets and our upcoming debt maturities in 2009 and 2010, we believe the suspension of the dividend and the engagement of Moelis & Company represent a prudent course of action," Sonic President Scott Smith said in a statement.

U.S. auto sales dropped 18 percent in 2008 and are expected to fall further this year. January sales hit 27-year-lows and automakers have said February sales results to date are near the levels of the prior month. Sonic ended the third quarter with $153 million under its revolving credit facility. The company said in late October that it had $105 million outstanding in convertible notes due in May of this year after buying back some of the debt in the market.

Automotive News ranks Sonic as No. 3 among dealership groups in the United States based on retail vehicle sales in 2007, the latest data available. The dealership group relies on California for about 30 percent of its new vehicle revenue and Texas for about 26 percent. Reuters

Comment
02/12/09
atlantic

Tony Ave Racing Considering 2009 Atlantic Championship
Former Pro Atlantic standout and race winner Tony Ave is considering a return to the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda in 2009, and would be doing so with his own operation for the first time.

Tony Ave Racing, based in Maiden, N.C. is currently the leading manufacturer of Trans-Am style tube frame sports cars for the SCCA based GT-1 class as well as the recently re-launched pro Trans-Am series.

“Our sports car business is strong right now, our cars have dominated in the US, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, so fortunately we are really busy,” Ave says. “Now may be the perfect time to diversify our operation a bit, and Atlantic racing has always held a big interest to me. Besides, I could use that one million dollar bonus.”

Tony Ave competed on and off in the Atlantic Championship as a driver from 1993 through 2003, only running one full season during that time, but was consistently one of the guys to beat, despite running with some of the smallest teams. That would no longer be the case.

“We have a 25,000 square-foot facility, with all the resources at hand we could need,” said Ave. “We are seriously looking to do at least a one-car team, perhaps two if the right deal could be found.”

Read more & Comment...
02/12/09
nassprint

Gordon-Evernham Reunion? UPDATE For the first time in almost 20 years, Ray Evernham has no real stake in the Daytona 500. The former crew chief turned car owner is mostly retired after giving up his stake in Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Though he still owns a small portion of the company, which was folded into Richard Petty Motorsports last month, Evernham will work mostly as a consultant while doing some TV work for ESPN on the side. That doesn't mean Evernham, who guided Jeff Gordon to three Cup championships with Hendrick Motorsports before going into business for himself, has lost his need for speed. During a meeting with reporters Wednesday, Evernham passed around a picture of a mock-up of a sleek prototype he hopes will one day set the land speed record for a piston-driven car. Evernham is teaming with good friend and longtime drag racer Doug Herbert on the project. Evernham is handling the financing while Herbert is working on the car. They hope to get it to top 500 mph, well past the current record of 420 mph. AP/NASCAR.com

Before Evernham (L) went off to start Dodge's effort in NASCAR, he and Jeff Gordon (R) were nearly unstoppable
02/09/09  Jeff Gordon opened the door this week to the idea of a reunion with Ray Evernham but it wouldn't be as a crew chief if it ever happened. "We've always stayed great friends, and I admire him and he's a sharp guy and he's done a lot, obviously, in this sport,'' Gordon said. "We're always looking to find ways to make ourselves better. If (an Evernham reunion) was ever the case, it wouldn't be in a crew chief role. If it's an engineer, if it's a team manager, whatever options are out there for anybody we always take them serious. With my experience with Ray being so positive in the past, I certainly wouldn't throw it out. It's not something that is happening, but it's not something that I would ever say never would.''

Asked about a possibility of Evernham returning to Hendrick Motorsports in some fashion, car owner Rick Hendrick didn't say no. Instead, he said that he remains close to Evernham. "We consult with each other all the time,'' Hendrick said. "That hasn't changed since he left. He calls me, and I talk to him. We share information. We talked about the fact that the manufacturers were not going to be around as strong as they are three or four years ago. We think a lot alike, and I respect his knowledge a ton. We talk almost every week. We've been consultants to each other.'' Roanoke Times

Comment
02/11/09
irl

IRL Silly Season Updates
  • Paul Tracy will have a ride if he gets some Monster Energy Drink money
  • Doornbos and Duno to NHLR.  Will be first time the team has run 3 cars out of their shop outside of Chicago
  • Hunter-Reay has most recently been spotted at HVM but nothing done or imminent there though it is hopefully important to the league to keep their reigning Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, and a highly rated American in the series.
  • Dale Coyne will announce his two drivers at the Homestead test
  • Expect 22-23 cars to start the season
  • 1st Rahal Letterman Racing, 2nd KV, 2nd HVM, 2nd Dreyer Reinbold, and 2nd Vision cars all waiting on sponsorship money.


Comment
02/10/09
f1

Button's F1 career over UPDATE (GMM)  Should Jenson Button sit out the 2009 season, he may never return to the formula one grid.

That is the fear of the 29-year-old Briton's friend and compatriot David Coulthard, following the turmoil of Honda's shock withdrawal and the possibility that Button will be left without a seat.

"You cannot say 100 per cent, but it would be very difficult to imagine where he goes from there," Coulthard, who contested the last of his 247 grands prix last November.

"It is a fickle business," the Scot told BBC Sport.

Coulthard worries that, if Button disappears from the F1 radar this year, he might never return.

"The way the sport is now, there are so many young drivers coming through and there are so many opportunities for teams to pick up these guys," he said at Jerez, scene of this week's main pre-season test action.

Even if the team currently known as Honda does find a buyer, Coulthard believes the Brackley based squad is facing a difficult season.

"You would like to imagine that it (the 2009 car) would be better than what they were given last year but I think the team at the back of the grid potentially could be Honda," he said.

12/13/08 Jenson Button might have to take a year out of Formula One next season if his Honda team fail to find a buyer, and in this market it is a long shot.

"At the moment, I'm completely focused on working with the team to try to find someone to buy it - that has to be my best option for 2009," the 28-year-old told the Autosport website at the draw for Sunday's Race of Champions event at Wembley Stadium.

"I'd rather not take a year out because I think that is bad for a racing driver, but that is always an option also," added Button.

"But my first aim is to race with the Brackley-based team, whatever they're called next year."

The Briton runs the risk of being left out in the cold for 2009 after Honda announced this month that they were pulling out of Formula One for financial reasons.

Comment
02/10/09
nassprint

Can Wood Brothers survive without investor?
In this year of economic hardship and disappearing sponsors, #21-Wood Brothers is hunkering down. The team, which has won just one race in the past 15 seasons, will run just a third of the 2009 season. "Our plan is, unless something substantial comes, here's our 12 and that's what we're going to do," team co-owner Len Wood said. The team would rather run just 12 races with Bill Elliott than try to piece together a season by scrounging sponsorships on a race-by-race basis, he said. "If someone comes in and says `I'll give you $100,000 to run this race,' that's not going to make money," Wood said.

The team has also rejected the idea of looking for outside investors with deep pockets. That just brings interference, Wood said. "When it comes to making a decision - do we need to buy this - we don't have to go through a board of directors or anything like that," he said. "It's us. We don't have to answer to anybody." Instead, the Ford team is tightening its belt and finding ways to do more with less. "We have smaller groups than we had before," Wood said. "I need a guy who can jack the car and be a mechanic. I need a guy who can be a fabricator and can also change tires. Instead of two people to do one job I need one guy to do two."

Read more & Comment...
02/10/09
f1

Noise a threat to British GP future
Yorkshire's Croft racing circuit has been ordered to pay $1.2m after being found guilty of noise pollution. The ruling could result in the closure of the facility and could have knock-on effects on other racing circuits in Britain.

Croft Aerodrome has hosted races since the 1920s and, after serving as a bomber base during World War II, was used intermittently for racing between 1949 and 1957. In July 1962 Robert Ropner, the owner of the aerodrome, applied for a change of use to allow racing and permission was granted in August 1963 for no more than 20 racing days a year until 1979. Between 1982 and 1994 there was no racing at Croft apart from some rallycross. In 1989 the claimants' residences were developed from derelict buildings. Then in 1994 Croft Classic and Historic Motorsport Ltd was established to redevelop the circuit. Permission was granted for the track to host 37 race days, 24 exclusive test days and 120 days when the track would be used for other purposes. There was a public inquiry in 1996 and eventually it was agreed that the circuit could host activities on 230 days of the year, with different levels of noise being allowed. Major upgrading work was done in 1997 and since then the circuit has attracted both the British Touring Car Championship and British Superbikes.

Read more & Comment...
02/08/09
f1

More doubts over 2010 Brit GP switch
(GMM)  The question-marks about the 2010 British grand prix switch to Donington continue, with revelations of debts and a new lawsuit against circuit boss Simon Gillett.

The Financial Mail reports that, following the departure of chief operating officer Lee Gill, he is taking CEO Gillett to the High Court in connection with his dismissal.

Additionally, accounts just filed at Companies House show a 14m euro loss for 2008, 76m in debt, and the view of an auditor that Donington may not be ready to host the F1 race next year.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has said he will review Donington's progress in September and is prepared to take his sport away from Britain altogether.

UK's the Financial Mail said Donington's main financial backer is the Monaco-based property developer Paul White but he is "under no binding agreement to keep the company afloat".

Gillett said details about the financial package will be revealed in March.

"Anybody who doubts our progress or commitment is welcome to visit the Donington Park cafe, where they can watch the ongoing construction development on large screens," he said.

Comment
02/07/09
f1

Ecclestone to prostrate himself to wife in hopes of saving himself £1B
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has told the News of the World he hopes to WIN back his wife on Valentine’s Day —even though she’s filed for divorce.

The 78-year-old tycoon admits he now has a dilemma over what gift to woo Slavica with— because she already has everything!

In an amazingly candid interview, down-in-the-dumps Bernie spoke for the first time about the split with his wife of 24 years.

He said: “Slavica is the love of my life. But the lawyers say I mustn’t call her and mustn’t try to get in touch with her.”

And he revealed that despite his £2.4 billion fortune and life of sheer luxury, his marital problems aren’t really that different to anyone else’s.

For fed-up Slavica, 50, walked out on him after a blazing row about their neighbor’s BUILDERS. And Bernie thinks she has become lonely and bored since their two daughters have flown the nest.

Meanwhile Slavica blames Bernie for spending too much time at work—and not enough at home, he says.

But the optimist, who put hundreds of millions of pounds in offshore accounts in his wife’s name, is still hoping she will call off the divorce—even though she’s hired Liz Vernon.

The top-notch lawyer secured a ground-breaking deal for footballer Ray Parlour’s wife, which forced him to pay a huge lump sum plus a third of future earnings.

Read more & Comment...
02/07/09
f1

Another F1 race circling the drain
The İstanbul Formula One Grand Prix, famed for its challenging curves and relished by F1 fans around the world, is in serious danger of being left off the racing schedule after 2011 amid worries over contracts and competition from other race tracks around the world. The race takes place at İstanbul Park, which was constructed by the Formula One Investment Co. (FİYAŞ). FİYAŞ belongs to the İstanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO); however, due to the difficulties of managing the racing track, İTO rented it to Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One Administration Ltd. (FOA).

According to the contract, either party has the right to give advance notice of their wish to cancel agreement, allowing the contract to be nullified three years after notice is received -- in 2011. Speaking to a TV station on Jan. 15, İTO President Murat Yalçıntaş confirmed that they had received notice, but he added that he believed this was a precautionary move by Ecclestone due to the instability brought about by the global financial crisis. He further noted that the notice did not mean that races would be cancelled immediately and the İstanbul race will take place as planned in 2009.

Read more & Comment...
02/07/09
irl

IndyCars may race in Alabama in '09 or '10 UPDATE #3 The Indy Racing League has decided not to replace the canceled Detroit Grand Prix on its 2009 schedule, dashing any hope that Barber Motorsports Park might fill the vacant spot.

Clark Virden of Zoom Motorsports said Barber was concentrating now on the upcoming March 21-23 full field, preseason Indy test at Barber and securing a spot on the 2010 schedule.

Barber hosted a limited Indy test session in 2007 but the one scheduled for March will include the entire field, plus the Indy Lights division. The hope, Virden said, is that the IRL will like what they see and include Barber when the schedule expands in 2010.

Barber promoters believe they can win an Indy race date since the league has no other races in the Southeast and because of the proximity of Indy engine supplier Honda just a few miles away near Talladega and of tire supplier Firestone in Nashville. AL.com

[Editor's Note: What are these people smoking?  99.9999% of race fans in Alabama and surrounding states love NASCAR and nothing but NASCAR.  One needs to attend a NASCAR race at Talladega to understand the mentality of the fan base there.]

12/22/08 Barber Motorsports Park is hoping to take advantage of a sudden opening in the Indy Racing League schedule to bring an Indy race to Birmingham in September.

The Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for Sept. 6 at the street course at Belle Isle was canceled Thursday due to lack of sponsorship and financial support. That leaves an open date in a schedule that Barber unsuccessfully tried to get on previously. But with the Detroit race becoming the latest victim of the recession, track promoters plan to try to fill the vacancy.

"We are going to reach out to them on Monday and track them down over the holidays," said Gene Hallman, president of Zoom Motorsports, which is working to bring the race to Barber. "We've not been contacted by the Indy Racing League," he said. "If they called, we'd certainly explore the possibility of an '09 race."

Hallman said it would be a challenge to line up sponsorships for a Labor Day weekend race in just seven or eight months. He said they would need a decision by the end of January to have a chance to pull it off.

Indy officials said they have not decided whether to try to add a new race at a different venue or just leave the date open.

"The current economic climate is a challenge for all of us but as we look ahead to 2009 and beyond we remain bullish on the opportunities ahead for the unified IndyCar Series," said Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League's commercial division. "There is little doubt that the IndyCar Series offers considerable value opportunities for current and potential partners of the series and its teams and tracks.

Read more & Comment...
02/07/09
lmes
f1

Bourdais to drive LeMans again
Sebastien Bourdais is set to become the first active Formula 1 driver to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours for many years. A report in French newspaper L'Equipe reported that Bourdais would be part of Peugeot's 2009 Le Mans line-up.

Peugeot will make an official announcement at its headquarters in France on Monday afternoon. Although grand prix drivers used to regularly make time in their schedules for the famous endurance race, and many former F1 racers and test drivers still appear at Le Mans, Bourdais' involvement in the 2009 race will mark the first time in recent history that a driver has tackled Le Mans and the F1 world championship in the same season.

The 29-year-old Frenchman, who was confirmed as a 2009 Toro Rosso driver on Friday, has raced at Le Mans six times while racing in the junior classes and Champ Car, taking second for Peugeot in 2007.Bourdais has strongly hinted that he will return and try to go one better with Peugeot this year.

"I will be with Peugeot on Monday to talk at a press conference," he told L'Equipe."But if I take part [at Le Mans] it will definitely be to win it."

Comment
02/07/09
automotive

Toyota to announce $5 billion loss
Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday it expects to post an even greater net loss for fiscal 2009 -- its first full-year loss since 1950.  Blaming world-market conditions, Toyota said Friday it expects to lose 450 billion yen or $5 billion in the current fiscal year -- ending in March.

Revenue for the third quarter declined slightly more than 28 percent. The company saw the most decline in vehicle sales in North America and Europe.

Toyota’s North American sales declined by 235,000 vehicles, and it saw 73,000 fewer vehicle sales in Europe.

Comment
02/07/09
f1

Mosley close to nailing orgy sting rat
By revealing that he knows who ratted him out about his sex-preferences, Max Mosley will let the individual squirm for quite some time before filing his lawsuit to send him to the slammer and empty his bank account.
FIA president Max Mosley revealed that he is pretty much sure of the person who set him up in the famous sex scandal following the News of the World article about his private sex life last year. According to autosport.com site, Mosley suggested that the individual is no stranger of Formula 1 but refused to reveal any more details until he is absolutely sure on the matter.

Having already won the High Court legal case against News of the World for invasion of privacy in July 2008, Mosley revealed that he has set up criminal proceedings all over Europe to find the people guilty of destroying his image.

“We pretty much know who it was now. But I am not going to do anything or say anything until I am absolutely certain. That is going to take a little bit more time,” said Mosley in an exclusive interview for the aforementioned source.

“It wasn't done for fun. It was to get rid of me. I think the theory was that if that came out, I was going to resign. That is what the News of the World thought as well. They thought I would just go away and that was it.”

Read more & Comment...
02/07/09
f1

Williams, Toyota diffusers illegal? UPDATE #2 According to Max Mosley the FIA have ruled that both the FW31 and the TF109 are within the new 2009 rules, although he concedes race stewards may take a "different view."

"It will always happen when you have got new regulations," Mosley told Autosport.

"The current FIA view is that Williams and Toyota have been clever and have exploited the wording of the rules in a clever way.

"But somebody may challenge it and the stewards may take a different view - it could happen.

"It is a curious idea in a way - where you are not allowed two surfaces, you have a surface and then something that is not a surface because it is unsprung.

"The view on our technical people is that it is okay, we will wait and see if someone challenges it."

02/03/09 (GMM)  Williams and Toyota believe their controversial diffuser designs for 2009 are legal, and it is likely the FIA will not intervene, according to the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell.

It was reported last week that rival teams expressed concerns about the legitimacy of the two teams' separate designs, after "clever aerodynamic shaping" was used to sidestep the regulation about the maximum height of 175mm.

Motorsport Aktuell, however, claims that the designs - while using a loophole for extra bodywork not intended for diffusers - conform to the letter of the technical rules.

Separate technical analysis published on F1's official website describe Williams' design as "highly innovative", and Toyota's "very interesting", as both use clever shaping of the rear crash structure to effectively increase the height of the diffuser.

It is believed that the teams in question, who are both powered by Toyota's 2.4 liter V8 engines, separately got clearance from the FIA about their interpretations of the 2009 rules.

The FIA has not confirmed publicly that the designs are legal, however, and an official protest can only be lodged by a rival team once the cars are presented for scrutineering in Australia late next month.

01/28/09 Williams and Toyota’s 2009 cars will be the subject of close inspection by the FIA after other teams sought a clarification of the rules regarding their rear diffuser arrangements. Some technical experts believe that in molding the bodywork around their respective diffusers (beneath the rear wing) the two teams have exceeded the 175mm maximum height regulation.

Pat Symonds, technical director of Renault, was one of the first to speak out on the issue. ‘They (the diffusers) are certainly interesting, although I don’t think I can comment on their legality.

“That’s something for the FIA to comment on. We will be asking the FIA about it, but we haven’t yet,” he told Autosport.

A piece of bodywork exceeding the permitted height could give the teams in question added downforce as part of the rear aerodynamic structure, resulting in a potentially significant performance advantage.

Comment
02/06/09
nassprint

Subway to announce Edwards deal today
Subway To Formally Announce Relationship
With Roush Fenway Racing, Carl Edwards
Sports Business Daily reports that Subway will formally announce a new relationship with Carl Edwards and Roush Fenway Racing Saturday prior to the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona.

In addition to serving as the primary sponsor on Edwards’ No. 99 Ford for three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season, Subway will use the driver in its TV, print and online advertising and also receive placement on the car as an associate sponsor the rest of the season.

Comment
02/06/09
f1

Bourdais to secure second Toro Rosso seat UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see this Hot News article.

02/03/09 French website Toile F1 claims to have ‘exclusive’ information that Sebastien Bourdais will sign for Toro Rosso this week.

01/28/09 (GMM)  Sebastien Bourdais' manager hopes that by the end of the week the Frenchman's future will be clear.

It has been reported that Toro Rosso has decided to keep the 29-year-old former Champ Car champion for a second season, but his manager Nicolas Todt would not confirm the news.

"For the moment, nothing is done.  We are having discussions with Toro Rosso and also with other series, and right now nothing is set," Todt told French radio Europe 1.

Todt said he hopes the discussions will be concluded by "the end of January".

"I am quite confident that something good will come out of it in the coming days," he added, although confirming that Toro Rosso is requiring Sebastien Buemi's 2009 teammate to bring sponsors.

"They have been very clear about needing a driver with a budget," Todt admitted.

Sebastien Bourdais
01/22/09 (GMM)  Reports in the Swiss and French press on Thursday suggest Sebastien Bourdais will shortly be confirmed as Toro Rosso's second race driver for the 2009 season.

The 29-year-old Frenchman raced with the Faenza based team last year, but so far only the Swiss rookie Sebastien Buemi has been confirmed for the forthcoming season.

2009 would therefore be Bourdais' second season in formula one, following his mixed debut, when he finished the championship with just 4 points compared with his Red Bull-bound teammate Sebastian Vettel's 35.

It is reported by the Swiss magazine Speedweek, with close links to the team's owner Red Bull, that Toro Rosso selected Bourdais over the other candidate for the seat, Takuma Sato.

The French website sport24.com speculated that Sato's expected personal sponsorship may have dwindled as the Japanese recession worsens.

Bourdais' manager Nicolas Todt would not confirm the news but insisted that "we are always in negotiations".

Moreover, the official website of the Ferrari-powered team is now showing Bourdais and Buemi as the drivers in the 'team' section.

Comment
02/05/09
nassprint

Waltrip may retire
Michael Waltrip
Michael Waltrip once worked at Wendy's, but quit the fast-food chain after cutting his finger in a tomato slicer.

He later had a job helping his father deliver Pepsi-Cola, but as a loyal Coca-Cola customer, he walked away because he felt as if he were deceiving the customers.

Now Waltrip is at another career crossroad, unsure if its time to climb out of his race car.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner said Thursday he will end his driving career at the end of 2009 if his results don't improve this season.

"I want to race for many more years," he said at media day for the Daytona 500. "I want to race the NAPA car in '10 and beyond, because I'm the best guy for it. But if I notice (teammate) David Reutimann out in front of me and I'm not able to catch him, and if I don't see the results that I think can get the 55 car the results it deserves, then as an owner, I want to get somebody in there that can post those results."

Comment
02/05/09
automotive

January sales plunge could collapse Big 3
January sales plunged 55 percent at Chrysler; 49 percent at GM, the largest U.S. automaker; and 40 percent at No. 2 Ford. Toyota Motor Corp. dropped 32 percent, Honda Motor Co. fell 28 percent and Nissan Motor Co. was down 30 percent.

The three U.S.-based automakers “can’t survive if these rates continue,” Jesse Toprak, director of industry analysis for auto-research firm Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California, said in a conference call today. “But not just the big three. All automakers are going to suffer if this continues.”

Comment
02/04/09
nassprint

Marco Andretti to NASCAR with Bill Davis Racing
If you can believe this ESPN listing, which we don't, Marco Andretti will drive a Chevy in NASCAR this year for Bill Davis Racing.  Somebody had better let AGR know.  They also have Stanton Barrett driving for a team.  Is he doing a split schedule or did his IRL team not materialize?  If you look even closer at the ESPN list, there are several more errors. Such as Yeley in the 96, Menard in a DEI car and Allmendinger in a Red Bull car.

Comment
02/04/09
f1

Mosley may run for another 4-year term UPDATE Despite the sadistic sex scandal that surrounded Max Mosley a year ago, the president of the FIA, hinted yesterday that he may stand for re-election for a further four years when his term as president expires in October. Mosley said that many FIA members had suggested to him that they want him to continue.

Asked if he was tempted to run again at a press conference Wednesday, Mosley said: “Yes. If a lot of people say to you, ‘You should stay,’ it’s churlish in a way not to. People have indicated they want to go on with the status quo and that is pretty widespread. That is nice and flattering, but I’ve got to ask myself if that’s what I really want to do.”

12/24/08 Max Mosley has warned the candidates lining up to succeed him as FIA president to "think very carefully" before standing for election, after revealing he will wait until June before making a final decision on his retirement from the post he has held for the past 15 years.

The president of motorsport's governing body had said he planned to step down when his term ends next October, but has now confirmed that some members of the governing body have asked him to remain for another four-year term.

Mosley says he will make a definite decision on his future in the middle of 2009. "I will take a final decision in June," the president told formula1.com, opening up the possibility that he may continue.

Outlining the qualities his successor required, Mosley said: "A great deal of patience and ideally an ability to understand quickly a great variety of technical and legal issues. I would advise a potential successor to think very carefully before standing for election."

He added: "The difficulty is finding somebody who has the necessary experience, but also the time and inclination to do the job. [Take for example] Nick Craw, the president of ACCUS [Automobile Competition Committee for the United States], which controls all the different forms of racing in the States. With all this to contend with, he is probably not exactly looking for work." The Guardian

Comment
02/04/09
f1

Will Panasonic chop Toyota team budget?
The Japanese electronics producer, Panasonic, who is Primary sponsor of the Toyota F1 Team, will layoff 15,000 of its employees according to a company statement. 27 of their factories will be closed globally. The company lost almost $4 billion last year.

Earlier this year, the company announced that it will remain title sponsor of the Toyota team, but after the news of today it's unclear whether the company will cut the F1 budget or not.

Comment
02/04/09
atlantic

Millions to be paid out in Atlantic Series 2009 UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  See feature article.

01/31/09 Following what was a day-long meeting between Atlantic Championship officials and the series' team owners, eFormulaCarNews.com rumors that over $3.5-million in prize funds is scheduled to be awarded in 2009.

While an official announcement likely won't come until early next week, sources within the Atlantic Championship community have informed the staff at eFormulaCarNews.com that the prize fund for the upcoming 2009 season will feature both an extensive per race fund and a hefty champion's bonus. It is believed that the winner of each 2009 Atlantic Championship race will receive $50,000 in prize money, with further money paid down to 10th place. In total, $1.5 million will be paid out in race prize money. Perhaps more importantly, the 2009 Atlantic Champion bonus will return with the series champion being presented with a check for $2 million at the conclusion of the season. Unlike the previous champion's bonus, this is prize may be used by the driver to help fund his 2010 campaign in any race series worldwide.

Comment
02/03/09
irl

New IndyCar engine to be delayed
Today IRL President Brian Barnhart said that although 2011 is still a possibility for the league to introduce their new IndyCar engine, it's looking increasingly likely that it will be 2012.  The new engine will be smaller, lighter, yet more powerful and the goal is still a turbo inline 4 or V6 configuration.  They are looking for similar performance at Indy, increased performance on the street and road courses, and reduced performance on the high-banked ovals.

Series officials revealed Tuesday that Honda, Audi, Fiat, Porsche and Volkswagen remained in negotiations about building a new engine.  Brian Barnhart, the IRL's president of competition, says one manufacturer would be seeking approval for competing in IndyCar from its board within the next 60 days.

Comment
02/03/09
f1

F1 teams seek change to 2009 testing ban
(GMM)  The new agreement to ban in-season testing this year could be modified before it takes effect next month.

The specialist website grandprix.com, headed by the British reporter Joe Saward, claims that the looming ban was discussed by team management at the recent Portimao test.

The in-season ban, designed to cut costs and staff numbers, has been controversial among some teams, given the simultaneous introduction in 2009 of KERS technology, which has proved troublesome in the development phase.

It is therefore proposed that three official tests be excluded from the 2009 ban, which is currently scheduled to take effect shortly before the Australian grand prix through to November's season ending race in Abu Dhabi.

"It's not in everybody's interest to see only five or six cars finish races, so we're trying to get an agreement on a change of the rules for 2009," a top team member is quoted as saying.

Modifying the ban, agreed in collaboration between the teams' FOTA alliance and the governing FIA, would require an unanimous vote.

Comment
02/02/09
fil

HVM to start Indy Lights team UPDATE #2 We are hearing that HVM is in talks with several drivers for their Indy Lights team in 2009.  Sources tell us that Richard Philippe may be one of them.

08/30/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. In line with their intended goal to become a key player in the IndyCar Series, HVM Racing announced today that they will field two entries in the Firestone Indy Lights Series in 2009. The addition of the Indy Lights team will complement HVM Racing’s program in the IndyCar Series and confirm the team as one of the fastest-growing in the Indy Racing League.  The Indy Lights team will be run by Michael Crawford, who will be the General Manager

HVM Racing has a long history of competition and success in North American open-wheel racing primarily in the Champ Car World Series where they captured six wins, 23 podiums and two poles.  In 2008, Keith Wiggins, HVM Racing team owner, followed the unification of open-wheel racing and is determined to put all the pieces in place for a winning organization.

“This has been the plan since we committed to the IRL,” said Wiggins.  “We didn’t want to come into this league and just be another team.  We want to be a premier team, but also understand it takes the necessary steps.  The move into the Firestone Indy Light Series is very important to us. This will allow us to immediately become a stronger team in 2009,” continued Wiggins.  “We are going to add additional engineers, mechanics, and obviously we have begun the process of searching for drivers that are the right fit for the HVM Racing brand now and in the future.”
 
Michael Crawford has been a major player in the Indy Lights Series since the series’ inception in 2002 when he was the successful General Manager for Sam Schmidt Motorsports before taking ownership of his own team in 2006. For Crawford, this is an opportunity to join HVM and gives him the resources to perform at a racing organization with proven credentials.

“I am thrilled to be joining HVM.  I look forward to delivering race wins and a championship run in 2009,” commented Crawford.  “Keith (Wiggins) has a super organization and HVM’s expansion into the Firestone Indy Lights Series comes at a perfect time for us to work together. We will begin finalizing our driver lineup and infrastructure immediately after Chicago.”

08/02/08 We are hearing that HVM may run an Indy Lights program in 2009 to complement their IndyCar program.

Comment
02/02/09
nassprint

2010 Camaro to pace Daytona 500?
The 2010 Camaro will be the 2009 Daytona 500 race’s official pace car per an advertisement found by a whole host of our readers.

Comment
02/01/09
f1

Portugal GP to return?
The new Toyota F1 car tests at the new Algarve circuit in Portugal under ominous skies recently
Bernie Ecclestone is showing interest in getting the Portuguese Grand Prix back in the Formula One calendar, now that the country has a new, state-of-the-art circuit in Algarve. For 13 years, between 1984 and 1996 the Portuguese Grand Prix was a very popular venue for teams and drivers, with the Estoril circuit holding the race and becoming a favorite test track during the winter season. But the facilities were never properly upgraded and, in the end, Ecclestone pulled the plug on the deal, cancelling the 1997 Grand Prix and replacing it with the European Grand Prix in Jerez de la Frontera, in Spain, where Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve famously clashed in the World Championship decider.

The new circuit in Algarve is already built and fully functional, having held two F1 tests since it was opened in December, and has been highly regarded by the teams and drivers. The circuit is 50km from an international airport with direct motorway access, and has more than one thousand hotels and resorts in the region. There is also the fact that the weather in the region allows Ecclestone to hold a race as early as in April or as late as in October without much risk of being caught by rain or cold.

Ecclestone had planning to visit the track during the last test but the bad weather scrubbed this. Ecclestone had his people inspect the facilities and the surrounding area. According to sources close to Ecclestone, he might be looking to hold a Grand Prix in Algarve as soon as 2010, making it the last European race of the season, in the second half of September. Grandprix.com

Comment
02/01/09
irl

Another IndyCar team to fold? No! UPDATE #2 Further to our update below, The following is a statement from Conquest Racing in response to a story that was posted on Speedtv.com.

Eric Bachelart, Conquest Racing team owner: “No matter how hard the current economic situation is making things for us in the racing world and everywhere else, never once did I think of closing the doors of Conquest Racing. I had two options in front of me. One was to reduce the number of employees while moving ahead on finalizing our program for 2009. The other was to ask the employees to take a salary cut and stay with the team while we move forward. I’m really happy that everyone has decided to stay together and that I didn’t have to layoff anybody.

“We’re a close group at Conquest Racing and we’re excited about the upcoming season. Our cars are ready to go racing per the 2009 rules and we hope to be at the test in Homestead in a few weeks time. We’re confident that we will succeed in putting together a strong program for the 2009 season. We are in contact with many potential sponsors and we should hopefully have deals finalized in a matter of weeks.”

02/01/09 This rumor is downgraded 'false.'  We spoke Eric Bachelart who assures us he is not going to fold the team.  "I am confident that something will come together before the start of the season," said Bachelart.  "We are working hard on many fronts and we have ongoing discussions with potential sponsors to run at least one car despite these trying economic times."

02/01/09 With the combination of the economy and the Versus TV deal, IndyCar teams are having a hard time justifying to a sponsor why they should put their name on the side of their race car.  It appears the grid will be back down to 17 or 18 cars in 2009, to a level where it was prior to the merger with Champ Car.  Failing are many of the ex-Champ Car teams who have had to make major adjustments to compete in IndyCar and effectively throw all the money they had invested in Champ Car equipment out the door. 

SpeedTV.com' Robin Miller reports there is a good chance the Conquest Team will be forced to call it quits, but Eric Bachelart is still pounding the pavement looking for sponsorship. 

"We had a long meeting on Friday and I gave them two choices," Bachelart told Miller. "I said we could close the doors or they could take a salary reduction and we could keep going and see where we were in a few weeks. "They agreed to stay with me so we haven't laid anybody off. We're a small team, I think we've only got 15 people, but they're a good group and most of them have been together for six or seven years."

However, when you have a monopoly like NASCAR with it's plethora of teams in the Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series looking for sponsorship they pretty much suck the market of potential sponsors dry.

Comment
01/31/09
irl

KV Racing down to one car in 2009? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as AutoRacing1.com has learned that indeed KV Racing will be down to 1-car in 2009.  "Last year we had no engine lease so it's $2 million more we've got to come up with and we've got less money," said one of the team owners, Jimmy Vasser, to SPEEDTV.com, referring to the fact all the transition teams received free engines, less operating expenses, from Honda in 2008. "I've never seen anything like this economy in my lifetime and it's tough but we're fighting and we're doing everything we can."

01/31/09 KV Racing may run only one car in 2009 unless a sponsor can be found for a 2nd car to run alongside young Brazilian Mario Moraes who is already signed.  Word is that the team laid off 18 people on Friday.

Comment
01/31/09
alms

Acura cut budget when Audi pulled out
According to AR1.com sources, Acura cut their LMP1 budget substantially when Audi pulled out.  Audi said they pulled out because of budget constraints but scuttlebutt in the paddock is that they didn't want to harm their brand image by getting beat by a Japanese company like Acura (i.e. Honda) or the Mazda in the Dyson Lola.  It's one thing to compete and get beat by a Mercedes Benz, BMW or even Peugeot, but if they get beat by Acura it lowers their image and raises Acuras according to our source.  Adding to this logic is the pullout of the Penske factory Porsche effort.  Audi does not mind going head-to-head with Porsche as they consider them to be in the same 'class' of status symbol car.  Supposedly Audi decided to let the Mazdas and Acuras compete for best in 'Japanese class' in order to maintain their brand image.

Comment
01/30/09
nassprint

John Andretti to drive for EGR? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Front Row Motorsports and driver John Andretti have formed a partnership with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing that will put Andretti behind the wheel of the No. 34 Sprint Cup car in the Daytona 500, Front Row Motorsports announced today.

The team will be guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500 because it will have top-35 owners points from last year, although it was unclear whose points it will have. The Dale Earnhardt Inc.-Chip Ganassi Racing merger had resulted in six full-time teams being folded into three full-time teams.

“Anytime you get the opportunity to race in the Daytona 500, it’s a privilege," said Andretti, who has 358 career Sprint Cup starts. "I am honored to be able to do that this year through a relationship with Earnhardt Ganassi and Front Row Motorsports."

"We believe this is the beginning of a long-term partnership that will provide a technical platform for our team," Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins said. "After being in last year’s Daytona 500 with John Andretti, I realized that with the right alliance and adequate resources, we could put ourselves in a position to have a front-running car."

John Andretti
01/27/09  John Andretti is expected to drive the fourth Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevy at Daytona. A technical alliance is in the works that would partner Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins and Andretti with EGR for Daytona and beyond, The car's number and sponsor should be announced later this week. Andretti, 45, who won the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in 1997 driving for Cale Yarborough, has raced for Jenkins the last two seasons but would not comment on the current negotiations. Andretti admitted that after four seasons, Jenkins has wanted to expand his involvement in racing but wasn't entirely sure to what extent. "We're good friends and we work together on a lot of things," Andretti said of Jenkins. "(The future of the team) all depends on what Bob can do because sponsorship right now is limited." In 2009, Andretti’s plans will not be limited to NASCAR. "The Indy 500 is not going to go off my radar screen," Andretti said. "I can't imagine not doing the Indy 500. I've had so much fun at Indy the last two years." FOXSports

Comment
01/30/09
motogp

MotoGP to implement major rule changes
The MotoGP World Championship are rumored to be making three main cost-cutting rule changes for the 2010 season.

Motociclismo reports that the Grand Prix Commission will meet in March to approve radical plans for 2010: Limiting each rider to one bike, banning carbon brakes and forcing each engine to last for three grand prix weekends.

Comment
01/30/09
f1

British Government to bail out failed Japanese team? UPDATE #2 Honda Racing have denied reports that they are looking for a government bail-out to ensure the team makes the 2009 F1 grid.

"We have met with BERR on several occasions, to discuss how things are progressing, plus the prospects for the team and their 700 employees," a Honda spokesman told autosport.com.

"However, we have not met with them to discuss a bail-out and no discussions have taken place about a government financial bail-out."

01/29/09 (GMM)  The team currently known as Honda is in talks with the UK government in the hope of qualifying for a loan.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has announced a multi-billion euro bailout package for the ailing car industry, and the Brackley based team confirmed it is set to apply for some of the taxpayer-funded help.

Asked whether the team qualifies, a spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) told the Guardian newspaper: "There is no reason why Honda Racing couldn't apply."

It is expected that any company in the automotive industry with a turnover of 27m euros or more, pledging to reduce carbon emissions and create jobs, will be eligible.

"All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis," the BERR spokeswoman added.

01/28/09 Honda Racing could apply for a bailout from the British government, which this week said it would unlock billions of pounds in credit funding for the auto industry, it was reported on Thursday.

The team said it had had meetings with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, whose chief minister Lord Peter Mandelson unveiled the funding plan on Tuesday, the Guardian newspaper said.

'We have had meetings with BERR over the future of the team on several occasions over the past month,' the team was quoted as saying.

A BERR spokesman told the paper there was 'no reason why Honda Racing couldn't apply' for funds from the package worth up to 2.3 billion pounds (S$5 billion).

Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry has been looking for a new owner since the team's Japanese parent company said in December that it was withdrawing from Formula One because of the global financial crisis. StraitsTimes

Comment
01/30/09
f1

New Renault a slug? UPDATE
Renault's Pat Symonds
After a somewhat disappointing first test of the newly launched Renault R29 at the Portimao circuit in Portugal last week, the French based squad have admitted that they are not overly concerned about finishing at the bottom of the timesheets, several seconds off the pace.

Bad weather was a factor in the test, however on the one day the skies were favorable to the teams in attendance, Fernando Alonso complained that the new car was lacking grip and poor performance. Despite this, the team’s director of engineering, Pat Symonds is not too concerned.

"I was disappointed. It wasn't a great test. We didn't really have everything quite the way we wanted it on the little bit of dry running we did,” he told Autosport. "But we did come away with a lot of data to study and saw some things that we need to attend to.”

“The aerodynamic maps of these cars are really very different and maybe we hadn't taken enough notice of that in the set-up. We can do better, which will make the car easier to drive and therefore better. But I really think this year more than ever it will be those last couple of tests that are the indicator."

Read more & Comment...
01/30/09
f1

New Ferrari 'illegal'? UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Ferrari has now modified the rear exhaust outlets of its new F60 single seater, after rivals expressed concern about the launch design's legality.

Numerous teams, including McLaren-Mercedes, BMW-Sauber and Toyota, had questioned the design of the exposed exhaust pipes.

It was reported that the 2009 Ferrari contravened the new bodywork regulations cracking down on aerodynamic appendages like winglets and other accessories.

It now emerges that Ferrari has modified the design so that the pipes do not protrude beyond the allowed tolerance above the surface of the bodywork.

It should be noted that Ferrari's controversial design complied with the original 2009 regulations, but a clarification about exhaust pipes was subsequently made in September by FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting.

01/22/09 (GMM)  A third formula one team has expressed concern about the questionable legality of Ferrari's newly launched F1 car ahead of the forthcoming 2009 season.

It has been reported that the F60 specification launched at Mugello, and currently testing at the same circuit near Florence, features exterior rear exhaust outlets that contravene the new technical regulations.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug and BMW's Walter Riedl have backed the report, and now the technical chief of a third team has announced his similar concern.

"The Ferrari has a few illegal features, like the exhaust pipe," Toyota's chassis technical boss Pascal Vasselon is quoted as saying by the BBC.

"We expect that to change as it is outside the regulations," the Frenchman confirmed.

01/20/09 (GMM)  Chiefs at two formula one teams have confirmed their belief that the current specification of Ferrari's new F60 single seater is not legal.

A German magazine on Monday said the newly launched car, which is being tested alone at the Mugello circuit this week, features exterior rear exhaust outlets that contravene the new technical regulations.

Norbert Haug, in charge of Mercedes-Benz racing activities, is quoted by the German news agency SID as saying he believes the Italian team "will change" the offending feature before the Australian grand prix in late March.

"Who knows, perhaps we are talking only about the launch version," he said.  "Every team knows that the exhaust pipes must be covered in 2009."

Similarly, BMW-Sauber's managing director Walter Riedl said he assumes that the launch specification of the Ferrari exhaust was merely "provisional".

01/19/09 (GMM) Ferrari's newly launched 2009 single seater, the F60, has been declared "illegal" by a specialist German motoring publication.

Auto Motor und Sport said the car, revealed last week at the Mugello circuit in Italy, features rear exhaust outlets that contravene the sweeping new technical regulations.

The magazine said some of the Italian team's rivals have noted that because of the new rules cracking down on bodywork appendages like aerodynamic winglets, exposing the exhausts in the way the F60 is designed is not allowed.

A glance at the other new cars revealed so far - the Renault, Williams, McLaren and Toyota - shows that their exhausts have all been mounted in-board.

Auto Motor und Sport said it should not be too much of a problem for Ferrari to redesign the exhaust housing, but it may help to explain the team's retreat from the Portimao group test this week to Mugello.

Officially, Ferrari decamped to Mugello because of adverse weather forecasts for this week, but the magazine said the F60 also showed a significant problem with its front wing when tested last week.

It is suggested that, in light of these challenges, Ferrari concluded that it should be conducting the car's first major test as close as possible to its Maranello base.

Comment
01/30/09
f1

FIA may publish qualifying car weights
(GMM)  The FIA is considering publishing the weights of cars after the final phase of qualifying sessions in 2009.

The move, claimed in the online diary of British F1 television broadcaster James Allen, would presumably be for the benefit of the spectators.

Knowing the weight of cars after qualifying would put into context the formation of the grid, given the rule requiring drivers to enter the final 'Q3' phase with the fuel for the first stint of the race.

But Allen, who is not switching from ITV to Britain's new F1 broadcaster BBC this year, said he would not be a fan of the new system.

"I think it is mad as it takes away from the suspense of the opening part of the race and might make teams inclined to do more or less the same thing on fuel strategy as each other, which will create more of a procession," he wrote.

Allen also claims that TV viewers will hear more car-to-pit radio dialogue in 2009, with teams no longer to be given the option of only broadcasting transmissions when they press a pitwall button.

Comment
01/29/09
atlantic
gpusa

Savannah races to be back flagged?
The Indy-car race planned for St. Patrick's Day weekend will be black flagged soon. Racing on Hutchinson Island should be to the finish line, not the start, and both the road course and the GreenPrix USA racing series would fail the pre-race technical inspection.

The track needs more safety measures to protect competitors and spectators. Converting a public road, even one seldom used, to a professional race course takes time or money, and organizers are short on both.

As for GreenPrix, the start-up series needs a marketing plan beyond its rudimentary Web site and random message board chatter. The man behind GreenPrix, Atlanta business mogul Ben Johnston, answers media inquiries strictly at his own convenience - and then only if doing so benefits him.

Contacted about the race's status four days ago, Johnston refused comment and insisted I call back Monday. But the only interview he gave Monday consisted of the recorded message on his voice mail. He failed to return several telephone calls.

Read more & Comment...
01/29/09
f1

Ferrari tested unique KERS solution
(GMM)  Ferrari, albeit a fierce critic of the new energy re-use technology, worked on an innovative solution for its 2009 KERS system.

The Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell reports that, parallel to a more conventional in-house project, engineers at Maranello devised a system whereby the KERS batteries were located in the front nose of the F60 single seater.

The solution would have negated one of the teams' main concerns about deploying KERS in 2009: that the location of unwanted ballast in the centre of the car disrupts the ideal weight distribution towards the front.

During initial testing of the new Ferrari, reports indicated that one of the problems encountered was in the area of the front wing.

The front nose solution for KERS would also have resulted in the need for high-voltage cables to run through the cockpit.

The saga goes some way to explaining Ferrari's negative attitude about the entire KERS deployment, given the vast sums of money spent already by the team.

Ferrari's initial KERS project, developed by Magneti-Marelli, also struck technical trouble, and the more conventional third solution tested recently at Mugello reportedly delivered a questionable performance benefit.

Toyota has already announced that KERS will not be fitted to its TF109 in Melbourne, and with two months to go until the season opener, most other teams are undecided.

Toyota's chassis boss Pascal Vasselon told ITV: "At the moment our estimation is that KERS will be detrimental on almost all circuits, because of the weight and the difficulty to manage braking."

Comment
01/28/09
automotive

British Motor Show in trouble?
The British International Motor Show appears to be in trouble. The biennial show, which has seen its fair share of big debuts and publicity in its past two outings, might skip 2010 and instead next appear on the calendar in 2011. The show's profitability, a lack of manufacturer participation, and a possible conflict with the 2012 London Olympics are to blame. The organization that runs the show is known as The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), and they've admitted that skipping a year and shifting the normally biennial show to 2011 is a possibility. The SMMT's committee will meet in March to discuss the matter and come up with some strategies to attract more of the major automakers.

Last year's no-shows included Audi, BMW, Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen. Audi, for one, found it more effective to market themselves at the Goodwood Festival of Speed instead. We have to admit that we were grateful for that decision, as the Auto Union Type D, Le Mans-winning R10, and Sport Quattro S1 among others were amazing. Things might be getting even worse for 2010. Autocar is reporting that several manufacturers have already pulled out of the 2010 show, and that several others are considering similar action. While we hate to see any show cancelled, even the largest auto shows are hurting in this economy. Perhaps taking an extra year to regroup isn't such a bad idea. Autocar

Comment
01/28/09
nascar

NASCAR could be hammered with huge lawsuits
NASCAR violated federal regulations when it allowed a plane involved in a deadly 2007 crash outside Orlando, Fla., to return to the air without maintenance after a pilot reported an electrical malfunction the previous day, federal investigators said Wednesday. [Editor's Note: This gives the families of those killed a reason to file huge lawsuits against NASCAR]

The crash -- which killed five people, including two children and an adult on the ground -- was partly a result of sloppy maintenance record-keeping at NASCAR's aviation unit, staff investigators told the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday. NASCAR has a fleet comparable to a small charter operation or a tiny airline.

The board was set to vote later in the day on determining the official cause of the July 10, 2007, crash in Sanford. Investigators said the pilot flying the plane the day before the crash deactivated the plane's radar system in mid-flight when it began producing a burning smell.

The pilot submitted an incident report to the maintenance division, but the problem was not inspected before the plane was allowed back in the air the next day. Instead, the radar system was kept off.

The pilot in charge on the day of the crash was told of the incident before he took off, investigators said, but may have believed the radar system was simply broken. Instead, an electrical problem reoccurred, this time tragically, as the plane was making a 100-mile trip from Daytona Beach to Lakeland. "I think we're going to find that this accident started before the airplane even left the ground," said NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt.

"We're going to see that the organization ... enabled this tragic, unnecessary crash." Investigators said they found that NASCAR kept poor records of maintenance problems with its planes and had no system for ensuring that reports were addressed. NASCAR couldn't provide a copy of the maintenance report that the pilot submitted the day before the crash, for example. The accident killed a woman and her and 6-month-old son when their home was hit by the plane, as well as a 4-year-old child in a second house that was hit. NASCAR pilot Michael Klemm and the husband of a NASCAR executive, Bruce Kennedy, also died in the accident. Board members expressed frustration that corporate flight divisions aren't subject to greater oversight. CBSSports.com

Comment
01/28/09
f1

Problems with new Renault?
(GMM)  The opening test of Renault's 2009 car did not proceed as planned for the French team, the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell reports.

Although the Portimao test was badly marred by the weather last week, it is suggested that Renault struggled with the early performance of the new R29.

The aerodynamics of the unique-looking racer is apparently the culprit, and at the end of the only dry day in Portugal last week, Fernando Alonso was easily the slowest of the four new cars.

The Motorsport Aktuell report is backed up by suggestions last week in the Spanish press, where Alonso was said to have complained bitterly about the car's low-speed handling.

The Spaniard did not make his concerns public, as he told the sports daily Marca: "The main thing is that there were no technical problems; the times are not important."

Marca said Alonso will only turn his attention to performance at the last two tests, beginning at Jerez, prior to the start of the season in Australia.

"Hopefully we can make some good progress with the performance of the car there," the 27-year-old driver said.

Comment
01/27/09
fil
irl

Herta buys race team? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Bryan Herta is back in the Indy Racing League, although not as a driver. The former CART and IndyCar Series race winner has purchased the Firestone Indy Lights equipment of Playa del Racing for his new team, Bryan Herta Racing. Interestingly, the equipment was delivered to Vision Racing's shop in Indianapolis. Herta has not named a driver, or drivers, but expect that information to be forthcoming. Indy Star

01/25/09 The Editor of eFormulaCarNews.com (Rob Howden) reports that Bryan Herta has purchased Playa Del Racing and will operate a Firestone Indy Lights (FIL) entry out of the spacious Vision Racing garage.

Playa Del Racing traditionally fielded a single FIL car per season and also 1-2 IndyCar entries at the Indianapolis 500. The last known chassis inventory at Playa Del Racing was one Dallara FIL chassis [#12] and two Panoz IR5 IndyCar chassis [#21 and #31] both of which successfully qualified for the I500 grid in 2007.

No confirmation has been provided as of yet, but Herta remains adamant that he still wants to drive in 2009... "I am optimistic that 2009 will find me back in a good ride…the question is in which series?"

Comment
01/27/09
automotive

GM to kill the Cadillac XLR
The Bowling Green Daily News reports that the Cadillac XLR will cease production forever this spring. Spawned from the eye-popping Evoq concept, the Corvette-derived (but Northstar-powered) hardtop convertible finds itself as General Motors' latest cost-cutting casualty. Its high price, low volume and decreasing sales do not make for a strong business case anymore, especially in an economic environment that is not conducive to new car sales in general.

Comment
01/26/09
irl
a1gp

Dan Clarke eyes IndyCar return
Dan Clarke
Dan Clarke, who made his A1GP debut in New Zealand over the weekend, has hailed the series that he would love to become a more regular fixture in. Team GBR’s regular driver Danny Watts was unavailable for the event, giving former Champ Car racer Clarke his chance.

The 25-year-old, who finished 12th both races on Sunday, after being given a hugely limited amount of time, told setanta.com: “I think anyone that has watched A1GP can see that it’s a great series of racing.

“There’s great hospitality here and TV coverage all around the world. I think you’d be hard pushed to criticize it really.”

Clarke feels the in the competitive world of open-wheel motorsports, where series battle to be known as the best of the rest after Formula 1, A1GP – the cars in which are now powered by Ferrari engines – has found a good spot.

He said: “There are a lot of series out there, but A1GP has got its own niche, especially now with the support of Ferrari.”

“But that was a decision that I made because there wasn’t an opportunity that I considered strong enough for me to show my potential in previous years, when I had a very good team.”

Clarke, who still resides in the United States, has admitted he would jump at the chance of more A1GP opportunities, but is currently involved in negotiations with IndyCar teams with regard to a potential race seat.

Comment
01/26/09
f1

ING could leave F1 UPDATE Major F1 sponsor ING has confirmed that it's committed to the sport in spite of announcing a cut of 7000 jobs in its workforce on Monday. ING is the title sponsor of the Renault team, as well as being the title sponsor of the Australian, Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix and availing of significant trackside advertising at many races.

A spokesperson for ING told the AFP news agency that the job cuts won't affect their F1 involvement in 2009. “This announcement is totally without effect on the coming season,” the spokesperson said.

However, with ING's title sponsorship contract with Renault due to come to an end in 2009, the bank will decide mid-season whether or not to extend the arrangement, having joined the French team in 2007. “This is the last year of a three-year contract with Renault,” the spokesperson continued. “We'll decide this summer what we'll do with the contract after 2009.”

01/26/09 (GMM)  ING, Renault's embattled title sponsor, will review its sponsorship of the French formula one team in the middle of 2009, a spokesman has told the International Herald Tribune.

And the financial news service Bloomberg said the Dutch bank, already propped up by the government and now posting a second consecutive multi-billion dollar quarterly loss, has already decided to cut its Renault backing this year by 40 per cent.

Just the latest example of how the global financial crisis is affecting the sport, ING - one of the most visible and lucrative F1 sponsors - is shedding 7000 jobs and has announced the departure of its chief executive Michel Tilmant, an F1 fan.

The institution's loss to F1 would be significant, given its title sponsorship also of two grands prix, and trackside advertising at most races.

A spokesman clarified that the 40 per cent cut reported by Bloomberg relates to ING's non-F1 contracts, but it is true that the existing Renault deal expires this year.

ING's annual spend on F1 currently tallies about 77m euros.

Comment
01/25/09
irl

Rubicon and Pacific Coast to merge UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Rubicon's website.  Note that Tyler Tadevic is now part owner.

01/23/09
Question: I have done some research on this. I believe that Buddy Rice will retain his seat at D&R. This being because he has sponsor money for the 2009 season, Dad's Root Beer. The person who might be left out is Darren Manning, who could use SAMAX's money for a seat. (TJ, Athens, Ga.)

Answer: Robbie Buhl made it pretty clear that Rice won't be returning to D&R, and after some digging I think it's fair to say the most likely scenario would be to put Rice and Rubicon in the same sentence. By the way, Rubicon and Pacific Coast have officially merged, although they have not finalized sponsorships to determine how many races they'll participate in. Therefore, they have not signed a driver, although they want a veteran and have targeted Rice. Stay tuned for that one. I still think it's possible we'll see Darren Manning in Sarah Fisher's car for the road/street circuits. But that's a ways from being decided. Indy Star

Comment
01/25/09
a1gp

White knight on the way to save money-losing A1GP series?
Click Image to watch interview
Pete da Silva - Click image to watch interview on state of A1GP
A1GP's future looks a lot rosier with an announcement expected of a wealthy investor piling some of his millions into the troubled series.

Debate about the sport's longevity has been circulating since one of its founding investors, Sheik Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum of the Dubai royal family, walked away from A1GP in 2006.

That intensified when RAB Capital, which paid the sheik US$200 million for an 80 per cent stake in A1GP, was virtually brought to its knees by the current economic crisis. Matters were not helped by the costs of the new Ferrari engines in all the cars. Ferrari's parent Fiat sued late last year to impound the new cars as A1GP owed it $2 million.

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01/25/09
f1

Williams team to lose another sponsor
(GMM)  Off the back of a disastrous chapter for the British company, the Royal Bank of Scotland has admitted its sponsorship of the formula one team Williams is under review.

Williams' RBS deal still has two years to run, but after losing nearly 70 per cent of its share price, the bank admitted this week that it is set to record the biggest ever corporate loss in British history.

"We recognize the need to ensure that our sponsorship activity reflects the process of restructuring that the bank has under way," a spokesman is quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.

The bank would not be Williams' only sponsorship loss, after recently unveiling its 2009 car without the usual backing of Baugur firms, as well as 2009 sponsors Lenovo and Petrobras.

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01/24/09
f1

F1 drivers may boycott F1 licenses UPDATE (GMM)  The F1 drivers' representative union, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), is asking that drivers not renew their mandatory Superlicenses following the latest price rise.

Drivers were already unhappy last year when the sport's governing body, the FIA, raised the price from just 1725 euros plus 456 euros per point to 10,000 euros and 2000 euros per point.

Further enraging the sport's highly-paid stars, who threatened to boycott the 2008 British grand prix over the issue, an inflation increase has now further lifted the flat fee by 400 euros, and 100 euros per point.

In an email, the GPDA has asked drivers not to sign their 2009 licenses or pay the fees, pending the F1 teams' FOTA alliance's next meeting, at which the issue will be discussed, according to the website of the British magazine Autosport.

It is suggested that Max Mosley, who has previously defended the price hikes on the grounds that safety advances most benefit the drivers, is willing to consider the issue but only if the drivers reveal their individual incomes.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton is not a GPDA member, but with the latest price increase his 2009 Superlicense will cost 216,200 euros.

Without the increase, it would cost him 206,000 euros.

01/23/09 F1 drivers have deferred signing their superlicences for the current season following the latest price rise imposed by the FIA. Prior to last season, motor sport's world governing body increased the fee for the superlicense - the document that allows drivers to compete in Formula One - from 1,725 euros (£1,626) to 10,000 euros (£9,430).

The cost of each point won also rose from 456 euros (£430) to 2,000 euros (£1,885). The FIA said the hike was necessary to help cover the escalation in costs of safety measures in F1, primarily for the benefit of the drivers.

After a considerable amount of discontent, and despite suggestions of a strike ahead of the British Grand Prix, the drivers eventually backed down.

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01/24/09
irl

What shape is IndyCar really in?
A reader writes, Dear AR1.com, After scanning your IRL Silly Season page, it reminds me a lot of the Champ Car days with a lot of speculation surrounding the core teams.

How solid are the Strong teams noted in blue?

With the state of the economy, auto manufacturers in serious peril and possible failure, NASCAR shutting down race shops, laying off employees, teams closing up shop, and iconic NASCAR team owners forced into mergers, I cannot believe Indy Car is on real solid ground for the “Full Season."

There is always a big drop in car count following Indy, and many of these teams are good thru Indy only?

It also appears that motorsports in general is losing ground in TV ratings and attendance.

The IRL fell into the same trap Champ Car did by signing a bad TV deal.  It killed Champ Car’s exposure, so what will the IRL do after Indy and for the full season?  Bad move….

I also cannot believe with the current state of auto manufacturing that Audi, VW, or anybody else would spend a lot of money with a marginal motorsports program like the IRL……

Any insight will be interesting. Bill K.

Dear Bill, The cost of entry into IndyCar is a fraction of that to enter NASCAR, however, the TV ratings are a fraction of NASCAR's so in that regard it might be a wash.  For sure any momentum IndyCar got from the merger with Champ Car has been wiped out by the global recession.

The Versus TV deal will have a negative effect on IndyCar in the USA, however, the key was sticking with ESPN International for overseas TV distribution.  Because of that the cumulative number of people watching IndyCar races globally will dwarf their USA TV ratings and save the day so-to-speak for those sponsors who sell product globally and want that exposure.  The IRL got it right in that regard, but Versus?  Sigh......

It is hard to say what car count will look like for 2009, but I doubt it will surpass 2008 numbers, which is what one might gather by looking at the current Silly Season page. Mark C.

Comment
01/23/09
automotive

Ford to Start Volvo Sale Next Month
Ford Motor Co., the only U.S. automaker to forgo government loans, will begin seeking buyers for its Volvo luxury brand next month and expects to draw bids from Chinese carmakers, said a person familiar with the plan.  Sales documents will be sent to prospective buyers in the middle of February, said the person, who declined to be identified because the details aren’t public. Ford is considering a sale of Volvo as part of a “strategic evaluation” of the Gothenburg, Sweden-based unit, spokesman Mark Truby said. He declined to comment on possible buyers.

Ford, which bought Volvo for $6.4 billion in 1999, plans to sell assets and combine production platforms globally to ensure the Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker survives the worst U.S. car market since 1992. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally is trying to avoid tapping a $9 billion government credit line.

“It’s not an ideal time for a sale, but obviously there’s a need for cash,” said Alan Baum, director of automotive forecasting for Planning Edge in Birmingham, Michigan. Chinese buyers may be the only ones because there is overlap with European rivals, and India’s Tata Motor Ltd. has “its hands full” with Jaguar Land Rover, said Baum.

Chinese bidders may include SAIC Motor Corp., China’s largest carmaker, Chery Automobile Co., and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. Zhu Xiangjun, a spokeswoman for SAIC, declined to comment. Chery spokesman Jin Yibo said the carmaker is “open to cooperation and joint investments with other companies.”

Lu Sa, board secretary for Guangzhou, China’s sixth-largest automaker, said the company hasn’t made “any decisions on whether we will take over any assets from foreign automakers.”

Comment
01/22/09
f1

India GP pushed back to 2011 UPDATE #4 India will definitely host a Grand Prix in Delhi in 2011, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has told the BBC Asian Network.  Ecclestone insists he and Indian company Jaiprakash Associates Ltd are "fully committed" to the project.

"Of course we will deliver... otherwise we wouldn't have entered into an agreement," said Ecclestone.

Work on a new circuit on the outskirts of Delhi was meant to begin in October 2008 but was postponed.  Ecclestone said that this was because he has issues with the global calendar of sporting events and "certain contracts elsewhere to fulfill".

BBC Sport understands that work on India's track will now begin this summer, with completion expected at the end of 2010.

Top Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan cast doubt over the project last month, saying he didn't believe "anyone would want to invest in motorsport" during the current global economic crisis.

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01/22/09
f1

Banker lines up Mosley's job - report
(GMM)  Rumors in the UK's business and financial world indicate that Sir Fred Goodwin, although not the most lauded businessman of the moment, is being lined up for a new career in formula one.

"Sir Fred has been sounded out over a role (in F1), possibly in a post-Max Mosley world," The Times newspaper said.

Mosley, the current president of the sport's governing body the FIA, is yet to decide whether to stand for re-election later this year.

Scotsman Goodwin, 50, was until recently the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, but is now being blamed for the institution's spectacular slump amid the global financial crisis.

But The Times said Goodwin, knighted in 2004 for services to banking, is a "petrolhead" and regular visitor to grands prix who masterminded the bank's current sponsorship of the British team Williams.

RBS's sporting ambassador, meanwhile, is the former triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who has stridently called for Mosley to step down in deference to a "captain of industry, a CEO of standing" from outside F1.

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01/21/09
f1

Las Vegas to host resurrected USGP? UPDATE A reader writes, Could be some truth to that rumor. Dubai World invested roughly 3.5B into City Center which was initially started by Kirk Kerkorian and MGM...Set to open in stages roughly at the end of 2009, so a 2010 Grand Prix would be timed perfectly...a Las Vegas Resident

01/21/09 According to an AR1.com source from Europe, a couple of very wealthy Arabs wanted to pay huge money to have a race in Qatar but Bernie Ecclestone said no because they already have two Middle Eastern races (Bahrain and Abu Dhabi). He said if they wanted, they could have their event in Vegas as early as 2010.

Apparently, these Arabs are also stockholders and big land owners in Vegas and have the pull and the money to get whatever they want in the way of city cooperation, casino enthusiasm...etc.

Comment
01/21/09
a1gp

Dan Clarke to drive for GB team UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Former Champ Car driver Dan Clarke will race for his nation in New Zealand as A1 Team GBR heads to Taupo determined to move up the championship leaderboard

A1 Team Great Britain is gearing up for round four of the 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport in New Zealand next week, and is pleased to announce that Dan Clarke will join the team for the first time to lead the charge at the Taupo Motorsport Park.  James Winslow, who has been an integral part of the British team for a year, will represent the team as rookie driver.

On his debut in Taupo, New Zealand in January 2009, 25-year-old Dan Clarke will become the fifth driver to race for Great Britain in A1GP, following in the footsteps of Robbie Kerr, Darren Manning, Oliver Jarvis and Danny Watts.

A veteran of British Formula Ford where he won the prestigious Formula Ford Festival in 2004, Dan moved up the British Formula Three Championship in 2005 in a team part owned by Kimi Räikkönen - Räikkönen Robertson Racing -and finished fifth overall, taking one win at Castle Combe.

After a series of impressive tests he was signed to drive in the 2006 Champ Car World Series for CTE Racing – HVM. At the Denver event, Clarke finished in third place to achieve his first podium finish as a Champ Car driver. In fact, the Denver result was the first podium finish for a Champ Car Rookie driver in the 2006 racing season. Dan returned to the team for the 2007 season, by then named Minardi Team USA. Clarke had a troubled season, finishing 13th in the overall standings and missing one race at Zolder. He did however record a fine second place at Road America.

Taupo has not traditionally been a happy hunting ground for GBR, with the team failing to score points in the previous two rounds in 2007 and 2008. However, as the team is currently in ninth position in the A1GP standings, there can be no margin for error and the squad is determined to break its duck in New Zealand next weekend.

Dan Clarke: “It's amazing really - a real boost and fabulous surprise. A1 Team GBR is a great team and they have the potential to win every time they compete. I'm here to help and hopefully the relationship can become long term. Firstly I've got to get used to a new car, new team and new track. I’m delighted to be driving for Great Britain - it’s a real privilege, and it'll be great to be back battling with some of my friends and enemies... from Champ Car!  I'm fully ready for 2009 and even more determined to win."

Katie Clements, Team Principal: “We have been evaluating our driver options since we knew Danny Watts would be unavailable for this round. Dan Clarke is a British talent that has perhaps been overlooked and, since the demise of Champ Car at the end of 2007, he has been sadly without a drive. I am confident that his experience of high level single-seater racing combined with his thirst to return to the cockpit will produce good results next weekend. We had an unfortunate race day in Malaysia at the last round before Christmas, and it is absolutely vital that we score well this weekend to move up the standings. I would also just like to take this opportunity to congratulate Danny Watts and his partner, Fiona, who welcomed their son Joshua into the world on 15 January.”

01/20/09 Rumor has it that former Champ Car driver Dan Clarke will drive the Great Britain A1GP car in this weekend's race in Taupo, New Zealand.  We expect an announcement soon.

Comment
01/21/09
irl

3 cars for NHLR?
Question: I read that Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing is close to signing Doornbos and is seeking sponsors to recruit Bourdais. If this were true, and if either case is to carry out, what would be the future of Graham Rahal? Will he go to his father's team? (Marco, Catania, Italy)

Answer: Reports out of Europe have Doornbos all but signed with NHLR, and I'm sure the team is working hard to put something together for Bourdais. If the latter happens, it will be a three-car team as Graham is signed for 2009. Indy Star

[Editor's Note: Won't happen.  The team has told us repeatedly there is no room in their shop for a 3-car team.  They have been rumored to be running 3 cars for 10 straight years and it has yet to happen.]

Comment
01/21/09
f1

Dell drops BMW team?
A detail that seems to have gone unnoticed is that not only is Credit Suisse no longer with the BMW SauberF1 team, but the Dell logo is no longer appearing on the car nor on the sponsors wall. What's more, it is no longer in the sponsors list of the team's press kit.

Comment
01/21/09
f1

Toyota may not race KERS at all in 2009
(GMM)  It is possible that Toyota will not use a KERS system at any time during the 2009 race season.

It is already known that the Cologne based team will contest the season opening Australian grand prix without the energy re-use technology, despite the TF109 being fitted with a functioning KERS at times during this week's Portimao test.

However, although team president John Howett said the KERS has been developed at extreme cost, team boss Tadashi Yamashina on Tuesday suggested Toyota may proceed in formula one without the technology.

It is believed that two separate monocoques for the TF109 have been in production at the team's German factory; one for KERS, and one that does not accommodate the heavy technology.

Quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, Yamashina said: "The KERS for formula one has nothing to do with the hybrid cars on the street.  So I think we would be forgiven for not using it."

He added that KERS will only be fitted to the TF109 at the grands prix if it is "safe and reliable".

Comment
01/21/09
f1

Toyota committed to F1? Could be next out of F1 UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Toyota chiefs have effectively confirmed reports that a poor showing in 2009 will spell an end to the Japanese manufacturer's formula one foray.

At and before the recent launch of the new TF109 car, representatives of the Cologne based squad intimated that without a successful campaign this season, the Toyota board could echo Honda's decision to withdraw.

"We need a strong season," team president John Howett confirmed at the Algarve circuit on Tuesday, where Toyota and other teams are testing their new cars.

He said the team is under "increased scrutiny" from its bosses in Tokyo due to the world financial crisis.

"If we have a weak season we have no future," Howett added.

Howett and his management colleagues have set the target of securing Toyota's first race victory in 2009, and driver Jarno Trulli told an Italian newspaper just before the recent launch that a win within six races in 2009 is necessary.

Howett responded: "Whether we have to win is difficult to say, but I think we feel we have to win.

"It's our desire and our passion, shared by our people in Cologne, and we feel we must win to secure a very bright future in formula one."

One factor in the team's favor could be the new promotion to president of the Toyota Motor Corporation of Akio Toyoda.

"Mr. Akio Toyoda is a fan of motor sport and he himself used to do some races, for example participating in the Nurburgring 24 hours," team boss Tadashi Yamashina said.

Yamashina suggested that Toyota's outgoing president, Katsuaki Watanabe, had recently overseen a review of the formula one project.

"Fortunately for us, our president decided that we will stay (in F1)," he is quoted as saying by Auto Motor und Sport.

"This season is therefore very important for us.  We need to reduce costs and demonstrate to Toyota that the investment in formula one is worthwhile," he added.

12/07/08 The most obvious candidates to follow Honda out of F1's door are Japanese rivals Toyota. The Japan Automobile Dealers Association say Japan's carmakers suffered their biggest drop in sales of new cars for 39 years last month. This coincided with Toyota announcing that by March 2009 their net income would be $5.88bn – a 68 per cent decrease on last year. Their shares have lost 52 per cent of their value over the past year which could leave shareholders demanding they boost profits by ditching costly outgoings – such as the huge F1 expenses. 

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01/20/09
nassprint

EGR could drop to two cars UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will field full-time Sprint Cup teams for Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola, team president Steve Lauletta said Tuesday.

Montoya will have sponsorship from Target on the No. 42 and Truex will have most races sponsored by Bass Pro Shops in the No.1, Lauletta said. Sponsorship for Almirola in the No. 8 will be announced at a later date. The team also plans a fourth car, with driver and sponsor to be announced, for at least the Daytona 500 and possibly for additional races.

The team originally had hoped to run four full-time cars this year following the merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Wrigley's, which had been slated to sponsor the Montoya car for half the season, will be an associate sponsor, Lauletta said.

“We’re still facing a very difficult sponsorship environment and a very difficult economic environment,” Lauletta said. “And so the decision-making takes longer. … We took on this partnership and had about a year’s worth of work to do in two months and it’s taken us until today to get to the point of where we’re ready to say, ‘This is what we’re doing.’

“The reason it has taken us until today is because it’s a lot of hard decisions and it’s a lot of work and a lot of moving parts.”

Lauletta stressed that Almirola, whose status seemed questionable without sponsorship, will run the full season and never was in danger of losing his ride. He said Almirola's sponsorship would come from multiple sponsors.  Last year, Ganassi suspended operations of a team after sponsorship fell through for Dario Franchitti, but Lauletta indicated that Almirola could run without sponsorship.

“You’ve got to keep in mind that sponsorship is a piece to the puzzle,” Lauletta said. “It’s a pretty big piece of the puzzle, but there also are other things that have happened. Look at DEI with the 01 [with Regan Smith]. They ran that car. It had sponsorship. It may not have had a main sponsor on the hold all year, but they ran it all year (last season).” Scenedaily.com

01/20/09 It looks as if the No. 8 Chevy at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing will not run any races in 2009.

Monday the team laid off another 40 employees bringing the total number of employees cut from the newly merged organization to nearly 170.

The team had been hopeful that they would find a primary sponsor for car and driver Aric Almirola but with less then a month before the start of the 2009 season no sponsor has been found.

Barring any last minute sponsor salvation, the team will compete with two cars, the No. 1 and No. 41.

Dale Earnhardt Junior made the No. 8 Chevy famous before he departed the team in 2007 for Hendrick Motorsports. The car was campaigned by Almirola and Mark Martin last year. Martin has joined Hendrick Motorsports and will be behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevy this year. Cupscene

01/20/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  And while this wasn’t officially on the Media Tour, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing cut another 40 jobs on Monday, making it a virtual certainty that the team won’t field more than two full-time cars next year.

01/17/09 When Dale Earnhardt Inc. merged with Chip Ganassi Racing last year, the plan was to run four cars in NASCAR's top series. It could be down to two. Driver Martin Truex Jr. said Friday night that Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing is planning to field just three cars for next month's Daytona 500 -- with him, Aric Almirola, behind the wheels. And Almirola said he has no guarantee to drive beyond the season-opening race because of sponsorship woes.

"As far as I can tell, I believe three," Truex Jr. said at NASCAR's preseason tour at Daytona International Speedway. "I'm pretty sure that's what's going on. .. I believe that's it. That's about all I've got there. Montoya, me and Aric."

Truex Jr. and Montoya are fully sponsored for 2009, but Almirola conceded his lack of sponsorship could be a problem this season. "Chip and Teresa (Earnhardt) have to do whatever makes financial sense to them, and hopefully for me that means run 36 races," Almirola said. "For them, I hope that's the case because that means that they'll have been able to afford to do that. Now, saying that, I don't know. I'm not privy to look at their financial statements every week or every month, so I don't know what they're going to be willing to do and not do without a sponsor. "The moral of the story is we need a sponsor badly. We need sponsorship dollars to be able to take our No. 8 Earnhardt-Ganassi with Felix Sabates' Chevrolet to every single race that we can. We need sponsorship dollars."

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01/20/09
f1

Honda exit could mean more income for teams
(GMM)  Formula one teams may actually benefit financially if a buyer is not found for the entrant currently known as Honda, according to the Financial Times.

An unanimous commercial contract, known in formula one as the Concorde Agreement, is currently not in effect, meaning that the sport is being governed by an interim 'memorandum of understanding'.

An insider told the FT that the document provides that "all money be distributed, even if there are fewer than 10 teams".

In interview with the FT, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said the memorandum is not, however, legally binding.

He therefore warns the teams' unified alliance, FOTA, not to push too hard in demanding that Ecclestone apportion more of the sport's income to them.

"We don't need to pay more.  We've got to give them less," he said.

The FT said Ecclestone warned that if the teams continue to delay signing a new Concorde, they risk losing the millions of dollars that would have been earned by Honda in 2009.

And he said: "They could ask for more money but they won't get it."

Comment
01/19/09
nassprint

Penske Alltel sponsorship in jeopardy? UPDATE #7 Verizon will fully fund the No. 12 Sprint Cup car of Penske Racing this season but the company's logo and name will not be allowed on the paint scheme.

"The [Cup] car will be identified and branded as the Penske Dodge Charger," said Walt Czarnecki, the executive vice president of Penske Corporation.

That means David Stremme, who replaces Ryan Newman in the No. 12, could find himself promoting Verizon even though the name can't be on the car, thanks to a 2004 ruling after Nextel became the top series sponsor (it was since become Sprint). That ruling allowed existing wireless communication companies with teams and tracks to keep their sponsorship, unless a team or company changed hands.

Verizon took over Alltel, the long-time sponsor of the No. 12, on Jan. 9.

Earlier, the ruling forced Richard Childress Racing to seek a replacement for Cingular Wireless on the No. 31 car of Jeff Burton after it merged with AT&T and kept the AT&T name.

Czarnecki doesn't believe Penske will have to find a replacement for Verizon because of the multi-year deal it signed with Alltel.

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01/18/09
motogp

Silverstone balking at MotoGP upgrades
The news that Silverstone has landed the MotoGP British GP from 2010 onwards sounded good when it was announced last week, but we hear that there is grumbling within the British Racing Drivers' Club over the modifications that will have to be made the track in order for the motorcycle racers to visit.

We hear that the MotoGP authorities are not at all keen on the track confuguration at Bridge Corner, where the track is bounded on either side by walls. These cannot easily be moved as the bridge into the centre of the circuit crosses the track at this point. There is no room on either side of the track for run-off. The options would appear to be to build a tunnel at this point but even that would be difficult as there is not much room on either side.

The alternative would be to reroute the circuit up the South Circuit and the cut through in the area of the old aerodrome Control Tower to Priory. This would still require a bridge or a tunnel for access. We also hear that there is controversy over Woodcote where extra run-off might be needed. This would either require moving the track or moving two grandstands... MotoGP has been very careful of barriers close to the racing since the death of Daijiro Kato after an accident at Suzuka in 2003. Grandprix.com

Comment
01/18/09
nassprint

Waltrip could retire after 2009
Excerpt from the 2009 NASCAR Preseason Thunder Daytona Fan Fest: Saturday news conference transcripts:

Q. Do you get the same sense of excitement or anticipation when you get ready to race as you do when you go on camera to do the funny NAPA commercials with Ron Capps?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: I'm just real lucky, and I think the question earlier about would I have started my team, I'm all in. Me and Capps just finished our commercials for this year yesterday and the day before, and they're awesome. I can't wait for everyone to see them. That's fun. When I get to go on TV and talk about truck racing, the last season of that truck racing were as fun as anything I've done hanging out with Phil and Rick and Al and all the folks on Speed. I love that. But I'm a race car driver, and when I came through that tunnel a minute ago here at Daytona, it almost brought tears to my eyes. It's almost like coming home when you've had success here and you know the people that have won and the people that have lost their battles here. Just I love it. It'll be interesting.

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01/18/09
f1

Bernie predicts Vettel-Ferrari union
Bernie Ecclestone
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone says he is "surprised" that a union of the Ferrari team and the young German racer Sebastian Vettel has not already taken place.

At Ferrari's 'Wrooom' media event last week, the F1 chief executive pinned his colors to Felipe Massa for the 2009 championship but named Vettel, 21, as his man of the future.

Sebastien Vettel with Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost
Vettel, nicknamed 'Baby Schumi' by the German press, stunned the formula one world with his and team Toro Rosso's debut grand prix victory at Monza last season.

In 2009, he moves up to the energy drink Red Bull's primary team.

But Ecclestone told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag: "I see Sebastian with Ferrari.

"I am actually a little surprised that he is not already under contract, but I am absolutely sure that it will be so," the Briton explained.

Ecclestone said the biggest difference between Vettel and Michael Schumacher is the latter legend's record seven world titles.

"Ask me again in eight, nine, ten years," Bernie said.

Comment
01/17/09
f1

Ron Dennis to quit as McLaren boss UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact'.  See Q & A with Ron Dennis in Hot News.

01/16/09 At the launch of the new MP4-24 McLaren on Friday, Ron Dennis announced he will be handing over the reins of the Mercedes powered team to his long time deputy Martin Whitmarsh.

The transition of the team principal role will occur on March 1, but Dennis insisted that he is not retiring and the move is "100 per cent my decision".  Dennis will remain executive chairman, and focus on McLaren's new production car project without attending all the grands prix from now on. More at SPEEDtv.com

Comment
01/17/09
irl

Shorter month of May at Indy? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  IndyCar Series teams will have less time to practice for the 93rd Indianapolis 500 and other races on the 2009 schedule, the Indy Racing League confirmed Friday.

Two practice days have been trimmed from the 500's May schedule and most of the other series races will be reduced to two days of track activity.

"It's clearly a response to the economic times we're facing," league spokesman John Griffin said.

Full practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been pushed back to Wednesday, May 6, and the Wednesday (May 13) practice in the event's second week will be eliminated.

Team officials said it is too early to predict how much the savings will be, but reducing the frequency of accidents is significant. Even minimal contact with a wall at the Speedway can cost a team $100,000 to repair the damage.

"The only drawback is possible rain," Craig Baranouski, team manager of A.J. Foyt Racing, said of the shorter 500 schedule. "I think (officials) need to have flexibility, especially in the second week. The teams are going to be there anyway."

The IRL has not said what days the series will be on the track at its 16 other races, but many are likely to be two-day shows.

The 500's four-day, two-weekend qualifying format will remain. Pole day, which sets the race's first 11 starting spots, will be Saturday, May 9.

The annual rookie program begins Tuesday, May 5.

The Speedway's three-year Centennial Era, which includes the 100-year anniversary of the first 500 in 1911, begins May 1 with the first of three days of balloon activities.

Two balloon races will commemorate the first competition in the Speedway's history -- in June of 1909. The races May 2-3 will be known as the Founders Race and the 100 Years Race, respectively. IndyStar

01/16/09 It's been rumored the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could trim the schedule for May to save teams a little money.

Nothing official as yet but it's believed the track might not open until Tuesday (May 5) for rookie orientation and Wednesday (May 6) for the veterans, giving them three days of practice prior to the first weekend of qualifying (May 9-10). The past couple years, rookies were the only drivers allowed on the first two days of practice and IMS opened on Sunday, with vets allowed out on Tuesday.

Depending on the number of rookies and their progress, it's possible they could also get some additional time on Wednesday as well.

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01/17/09
nastruck

Truck to limit pit stops UPDATE NASCAR is considering ways to allow Camping World Truck Series teams to save costs, and one of those could be limiting the number of crew members brought to the track, NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp confirmed Friday.

NASCAR could just limit the number of crew members brought each weekend, but it also could prohibit pit stops except after an accident or a flat tire.

When the series first started, the teams did not have pit stops unless the car had a mechanical problem on the track. NASCAR had a halftime break for teams to adjust on their cars and teams did not lose position for pitting.

If implemented, the move could save anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 per team, said TRG Motorsports Director of Competition Butch Hylton.

“I’m more worried about the fans and how they are going react to it,” Hylton said. “Is that part of the show for them? Is it OK that we don’t have pit stops? At the end of the day, if they’re not happy with our races, that’s not going to help us economically.”

And with the current length of Truck races, often teams would need two breaks.

“It takes some of the glamour out of it for the fans and it kills the TV thing because the fuel cells, with the way they are today, we would have to have two breaks, not a halftime break,” said Germain Racing general manager Mike Hillman Sr. “I don’t know for sure, but I’d be surprised if they went totally that way [to no stops].”

Another option, Hillman said, would be to limit teams to four over-the-wall crewmen during a pit stop instead of seven. The stops would be slower but all teams would be on equal footing. SceneDaily.com

01/16/09 NASCAR officials met with owners from the Camping World Truck Series at the Kevin Harvick, Inc. shop on Thursday to discuss potential procedural changes for this season. Chief among those discussed changes was the possible elimination of green/yellow flag pit stops, multiple sources told FOXSports.com. The sanctioning body wanted to open dialogue to discuss cost saving measures to ensure the health of the series this season since the truck count - and the sponsored truck count in particular - has diminished drastically. When the truck series first debuted, the series was able to limit expenses by having teams pit once at halfway under a competition caution and have fewer men over the wall. A similar plan could be in the works that would bring trucks down pit road according to the order on the track. Teams would be allowed to pit and the trucks would then return to the track in the same order, similar to a TV time out in football or basketball.

Last season, 27 teams drove full time and 11 of 25 races had a full field of 36 trucks starting. While no confirmed counts have been released yet, it appears that number will be lower as some teams have shut down during the offseason. The full impact of the economy likely won't be felt by the sport until after the season opening weekend at Daytona. Fox Sports

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01/16/09
racing news

Court ruling could be crushing blow for auto racing in FL
Parents cannot waive the right of a child injured in a commercial event to file lawsuits, the Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this month.

The ruling may have a significant impact on auto racing, particularly its junior classes, which is designed to feature kids as young as 6 years old, in go-karting. For most purposes, Florida law defines children as anyone under 18.

The December 11 ruling stems from a May 10, 2003 accident involving a 14-year-old boy who was killed while jumping an ATV at an off-road motorsports park. The child’s father had signed a “release and waiver of liability, assumption of risk, and indemnity agreement,” according to the ruling. However a representative of the child’s estate stepped forward and filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against the park’s operators.

A majority of the Florida Supreme Court justices said, in ruling that the lawsuit could go forward, that the waiver signed by the father is “unenforceable.”

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01/16/09
f1

Two new F1 deals in works - Ecclestone
(GMM)  Formula one is not immune from the global financial crisis, but the sport remains in good health, Bernie Ecclestone said on Thursday.

Asked about the decimated car sales industry and Honda's departure from the sport, the F1 chief executive admitted that the situation is "obviously" having an impact on the entire world.

"At the moment we have to be patient and see how things develop," Ecclestone, attending Ferrari's 'Wrooom' media event, is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy.

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01/15/09
irl

IRL to sign Hot Wheels deal
Indy Racing League officials are finalizing a deal with Mattel’s Hot Wheels to roll out a line of replica open-wheel cars this spring. As little cars go, this is a pretty big deal. Hot Wheels, which first came out in 1968, is easily the leading seller of toy and replica cars in North America. Hot Wheels has long been one of Mattel’s top revenue generators internationally.

Mattel officials approached the IRL last year about releasing a line of the standard-sized Hot Wheels cars to look just like the real race cars, something which should make IRL sponsors very happy. Though Mattel isn’t forking over much cash for the deal, the California-based company is promising to put lots of marketing muscle behind the initiative.

“This is a pretty comprehensive program where Hot Wheels is going to come up with a bunch of cars,” said IRL spokesman John Griffin. “They’re working with all the teams and drivers, so you’ll see a 7-11 car and a Motorola car and a lot of others. Clearly from a licensing and promotional stand point, this is a huge opportunity for us.”

Mattel also has proposed releasing a special series of larger toy IRL cars, and intends to put the 2009 IRL schedule on all of its packaging for IRL-themed items. IRL also will have a prominent presence on Hot Wheels’ interactive Web site.

Mattel officials are currently working on a number of promotions for the new line, Griffin said, and plan to be active at IRL races during the upcoming season. The Score Sports Blog

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01/15/09
nassprint

Cuts to Toyota Racing program coming
The president of Toyota Racing Development said Wednesday he expects budget cuts in its NASCAR program as the Japanese automaker feels the effects of the global economic crisis.

Typically immune from the declining sales that have rocked Detroit's Big Three automakers, Toyota recently said it anticipates its first yearly operating loss in 70 years for the fiscal year ending March 2009.

The losses will have a ripple effect on Toyota's racing program, TRD president Lee White predicted.

"There is probably not anything on this earth here that Toyota is involved with now that is not under some level of review regarding budget expenditure,'' White said in a national conference call. "That includes everything that we do, everything that TRD does and everything we do around motorsports. There is a review of everything. Certainly if contracts have expired, it's very likely that contracts have not been renewed, or if they are being renewed, they are certainly being renegotiated.''

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01/14/09
automotive

GM may need to file Chapter 11
Bankruptcy might be the only option to complete the massive restructuring of General Motors Corp.'s debt as part of the federal loans approved last month to save the struggling company, a key industry analyst suggested Tuesday.

Rod Lache, the Deutsche Bank automotive analyst who set the target price for GM shares at zero, told the Society of Automotive Analysts that GM might have to consider bankruptcy given complications that arose with the rescue of GM's minority-owned financial arm, GMAC.

"The probability is greater than not that there will be bankruptcy" at GM, Lache said, "but not the kind of disruptive, scary bankruptcy with calamitous impact that a lot of suppliers are afraid of today."

Lache's remarks were made at the Society of Automotive Analysts' annual Automotive Outlook Conference, which is usually held during the Detroit auto show. This year's event was held at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center.

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01/14/09
nassprint

Yates to give Gilliland walking papers
David Gilliland appears to be the odd man out at Yates Racing, where the team says it will field three cars following its new partnership agreement with Hall of Fame Racing.

Along with Paul Menard’s No. 98 and Bobby Labonte’s No. 96, Travis Kvapil’s No. 28 team is expected to remain while Gilliland and the No. 38 appear to be out.

“I just heard of the thing today, from the Internet, so that’s what I assume,” Gilliland said Wednesday afternoon. “I haven’t actually had a sit-down with them, but I’m still under contract with them through 2009. So we’re just going to have to work through it, and hopefully, we can get something else going.”

Gilliland said he’s sorting through the contract and seeing what he’s able to do and what the next step could be, but he understands that the current economic climate makes it tough.

He was “a little bit” shocked that he is now likely without a ride just a few weeks before the Daytona 500 and the start of the new Sprint Cup season.

“It’s just kind of a bummer that it’s this late in the [offseason], you know?” he said. “We’ll just have to see what we can come up with and see what we can try and do.”

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01/14/09
irl

Philippe family buy Roth Racing UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' because, at least for now, the Philippe family is denying this rumor to AR1.com.

01/12/09 According to Robin Miller's latest SPEEDTV.com article, the Philippe family bought Marty Roth's IndyCars and equipment and will take over his Indianapolis shop and will field cars for sons Nelson and Richard as Team France.  AutoRacing1.com spotted crewmembers wearing Roth Racing jackets flying out of Newark airport Sunday heading to the shop in Indianapolis we assume to get working on the cars for 2009.

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01/14/09
nassprint

Siegel leaving DEI UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Max L. Siegel, former president of global operations for Dale Earnhardt Inc., is rejoining Baker & Daniels to lead an expansion of the law firm's sports and entertainment practice.  Baker & Daniels says Siegel's experience as an industry insider makes him "ideally suited" to head the team, according to a news release issued today.  Siegel, a native of Indianapolis, represents a variety of entertainers and athletes.

01/11/09
Max Siegel talks to reporters after Dale Earnhardt Jr. left the team
A NASCAR team source told ESPN's Kelly Naqi that Dale Earnhardt Inc. president of global operations Max Siegel is close to leaving the team. Siegel said he's talking to DEI chief executive officer Teresa Earnhardt about his future plans with the team, which was part of a merger and has been renamed Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. When contacted, Siegel said, "This has been a great opportunity and I have always been committed to doing what's in the best interests of the sport and the company. I am currently in discussions with Teresa about how I can have the most positive impact on the future of DEI." ESPN.com

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01/14/09
nascar

"Digger" NASCAR's next big superstar
Despite soft merchandise sales that forced them to reduce the number of merchandise trucks they bring to each NASCAR race from 49 to 25, Motorsports Authentics plans to expand its offerings of the “Digger” merchandise representing the graphical gopher on Fox’s broadcasts.  Seems the typical NASCAR fan likes being a walking billboard for almost anything or anyone without being paid a single cent to do so.....in fact they even pay for the billboard (shirt).  However, sometimes a NASCAR 'bubba' won't buy the billboards and will revert to using the hair on their back.  Now that is the 'perfect' customer.

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01/14/09
irl

Tracy to KV Racing?
Paul Tracy inched a step closer to a triumphant return to IndyCar racing yesterday.

The 2003 Champ Car World Series champion is in serious talks with KV Racing Technology about taking over their Indy Racing League car from Will Power who yesterday signed a deal to move to the 14-time Indy 500 winning Penske Racing team for 2009.

He'll replace Helio Castroneves, who faces a criminal trial on charges he evaded taxes on income of $5.5 million US.

KVRT co-owner Jimmy Vasser told Sun Media yesterday he is actively negotiating with Tracy and is seeking American and Canadian corporate support to help make the deal happen.

"I definitely think that PT has a few good years left in him," Vasser said. "I know he has some sponsors that he is working on. I just thought it would be a good idea if we worked together."

Vasser, who is also a former CART series champion (1996), said that Tracy's fourth-place finish at the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton in 2008 showed the 40-year-old still has the will and talent to win at the top levels of open wheel racing.

It doesn't hurt either, Vasser said, that Tracy's personality -- love him or hate him -- would be a terrific draw not only in the races at Edmonton and Toronto but across the IRL calendar.

"I think the series needs him," he said.

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01/14/09
f1

Teams to use 'mini-KERS' at some races?
(GMM)  Some teams may be planning a partial deployment of KERS systems in 2009, according to a report in the Spanish press.

The sports newspaper Marca claims that some teams have calculated that because the benefit of the energy-reuse technology will be limited at some circuits, it may be wiser not to use a heavy and fully-functioning KERS unit all of the time.

However, a scaled-back version of the technology - presumably lighter and smaller - might be fitted to the cars simply to provide an acceleration boost off the grid at the start of grands prix.

"That is something that could be done," Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali is quoted as saying.

Comment
01/13/09
automotive

Tokyo Motor Show may be canceled UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association denied reports Tuesday that it was considering canceling the Tokyo motor show this year.

Most of the world's automakers are struggling because of the global downturn, and there has been talk in the industry that several car companies will skip the Tokyo show held in the fall to save money.

But William Duncan, general director of JAMA's Washington office, said the association had stated firmly that there was no discussion of a cancellation.

01/13/09 The Japan Automobile Manufacturers’ Association is debating whether to cancel the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, a JAMA executive said today.

The debate is driven in part by fewer non-Japanese automakers’ having signed up to take part in the October show amid the global financial crisis. But some Japanese exhibitors also are proposing that the show be canceled this year.

“A couple companies are not in favor of organizing the show under these conditions, but that is not JAMA’s opinion,” Toshihiro Iwatake, JAMA’s executive director and secretary general, told Automotive News.

The 41st annual Tokyo Motor Show is scheduled to take place Oct. 23-Nov. 8. Press days are to be Oct. 21 and 22. The theme is “Fun driving for us, eco driving for earth.”

A decision on whether to cancel the show will be made by early next month, he said. AutoWeek

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01/13/09
nassprint

Labonte to drive No. 96 Hall of Fame entry
Bobby Labonte is expected to drive for Hall of Fame Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season, sources close to the situation confirmed.

The announcement of the hiring of the 2000 Cup champion is expected to come Wednesday morning.

Hall of Fame Racing announced Tuesday that it had formed an alliance to have Yates Racing operate its No. 96 car for the 2009 season.

The car is expected to have sponsorship from Texas Instruments DLP and Ask.com. Scenedaily.com

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01/13/09
nascar

Ask.com to become NASCAR search engine
Ask.com, the Barry Diller-owned Internet search engine, is expected to strike a multi-year official status deal with NASCAR, giving it new league and team sponsorships going into the '09 season. In addition to its deal to become the official search engine of NASCAR, Oakland-based Ask.com will sponsor a Sprint Cup car run jointly by HOF Racing and Yates Racing. Ask.com also is expected to buy a significant ad presence on Turner-run NASCAR.com.

Terms on these deals were not available, but official sponsors at NASCAR typically spend in the low seven figures annually, and the deals usually go three to five years. Ask.com has hired GMR Marketing to handle its motorsports activation, while Taylor is running the public relations. The Daily

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01/13/09
f1

F60 to be heavily revised for Melbourne
The 2009 Ferrari Felipe Massa drove on Monday in Mugello is unlikely to be anything like the one he and Kimi Raikkonen will drive for the opening F1 race of the year in Melbourne.

Ferrari's technical team has admitted that there is still a lot to do before they would consider it ready for action at the opening round of the 2009 season in Melbourne.

Gilles Simon, Aldo Costa, Nikolas Tombazis
Speaking after Felipe Massa had given the F60 a brief shakedown at Mugello, Gilles Simon, Nikolas Tombazis and Aldo Costa conceded that the radical overhaul of the F1 rulebook for the coming season had left them with numerous angles to consider both in the design and development of the machine.

"Last year, we were fighting for the championship until the last race and concentrated a lot on the car's development," Costa explained, "Today we presented a complete car, which refers also to the level of the engine speed, and fitted with KERS.

"Although we had very short time, I want to congratulate everybody - Gilles, Nikolas and everybody at Maranello.

We can have eight aerodynamic tests this year, which means eight days where we can test as far as this issue is concerned."

Tombazis confirmed that work would continue on the new car right up until Melbourne, although the speed at which changes could be made may be limited by expected staff cuts - a problem facing all ten teams.

Ferrari F60 on track
"The F60 will be very much overhauled for the first GP," he noted, "The rules have been changed recently, so we have to rethink our working methods and the programs, but this has to be done gradually, without rushing things. We have to evolve the team's structure. Also because this year will be dominated by the team which will be able to develop the fastest, we want to resolve all the issues as far as the mechanics and the reliability are concerned [before the season starts].

"Obviously the KERS' 'nuisance' is remarkable - we're talking about more than 30kg of weight - but we've done a lot of developmental work to insert the system and compensate for it.

"We also want to maximize the aerodynamic development, so I can confirm that, visibly, the car will be really different at the first race. Many rules, as far as the aerodynamics are concerned, are completely new, so the speed of development will be the main issue. Whoever knows how to develop faster will be better than the others. We can work on the development in the Fridays at every GP and, before the season, there's still some good margin. And, if we're ahead at the first race, it means that we can keep our cool."

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01/13/09
irl
nascar

Smaller Engines for IndyCar, NASCAR
Roger Penske
IndyCar and NASCAR may see a resurgence in smaller-engine cars within the next five years as racing leagues try to keep pace with changes in the auto industry, said Roger Penske, whose team holds the record for Indianapolis 500 wins.

“We’re going to see four-cylinder, turbocharged engines maybe at Indianapolis as we go forward over the next four or five years, rather than V8s,” Penske, 71, said in a Bloomberg radio interview from the Detroit Auto Show to be broadcast tomorrow. “I think you’ll see that migrate even into NASCAR because that’s where we are today.”

Concerns about the environment and the cost of operating large vehicles led to a slump in sales of V8-powered sport utility vehicles last year that forced General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Holding LLC to seek funds from the government to stay in business. The automakers have pledged to develop more fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles.

Penske, whose NASCAR team won the Daytona 500 last year, is also the distributor for the Smart, a mini-car that sold about 25,000 units last year. IndyCar uses ethanol to power cars in its top series. The open-wheel cars use fuel-injected V8 engines produced by Honda Motor Co. NASCAR uses carbureted V8s that run on unleaded gasoline.

Read more & Comment...
01/13/09
f1

Force India's 2009 livery?
This picture from the Force India 2009 F1 calendar shows a new livery.

The car in each of the pictures on the calendar isn’t in the team’s 2008 colors as a bright flash of green on the front has replaced the red of last year. The colors are much closer to the flag of India.

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01/13/09
irl

Penske to replace Castroneves with Power UPDATE #11 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' now.  After weeks of speculation and a wild day that appeared set to make sports-car ace Romain Dumas as an IndyCar Series driver in 2009, Team Penske officials confirmed that Australian driver Will Power, 27, will be on stand-by to replace Helio Castroneves as a driver this season.

Castroneves was indicted on federal tax evasion charges in October and is scheduled to go on trial March 2, five weeks before the IndyCar series season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.  Team Penske will make the appointment official at a press conference scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Eastern at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Will Power
Power and fellow Australian Ryan Briscoe will team up for as long as two-time Indianapolis 500-winner Castroneves is busy answering his legal charges. Castroneves will be in Indy to support the team that supports him. He joined Penske in 2000 and will be retained through the outcome of the trial, at the least.

Power will drive the No. 3 car in the Indy Racing League's two preseason tests scheduled for late February at Homestead-Miami Speedway and late March at Barber Motorsports Park--assuming Castroneves does not return sooner. The season begins April 5.  AutoWeek

01/12/09 In this SPEEDTV.com article Robin Miller is predicting that Will Power will get Helio Castroneves' Penske ride making it an all-Australia team.  All well and good but why would Penske have an all-Aussie team yet his team campaigned hardest against going back to Surfers Paradise.  Go figure......unless Penske has something up his sleeve with regard to Australia.

01/12/09 Penske Racing has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow to announce their 2009 IndyCar plans.

01/12/09 According to Robin Miller's latest SPEEDTV.com article Team Penske has decided to replace Helio Castroneves and three drivers are in the running - Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and Justin Wilson.  The announcement will be made this week according to Miller.

12/17/08 You can add Justin Wilson to the list of potential drivers who will replace Helio Castroneves at Team Penske.  In his latest column Robin Miller says that what he hears.

12/01/08 Should Penske elect to replace Castroneves, who has been with the team since 2000, there would be no shortage of quality drivers to choose from.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is in sponsorship limbo over at Rahal-Letterman Racing while Justin Wilson has yet to confirm his return to Newman/Haas/Lanigan. The uncertain future of KV Racing Technology could see either or both of Oriol Servia and Will Power available. Alex Lloyd, Tomas Scheckter and Darren Manning are also looking for rides this winter. 

Read more & Comment...
01/12/09
irl

Mario Moraes to drive for KV Racing UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.

Mario Moraes
01/12/09 According to Robin Miller's latest SPEEDTV.com article, KV Racing lost its Team Australia sponsorship when IndyCar decided to drop the Surfers Paradise race so team owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser have opted to sell at least one of their seats to 20-year old Brazilian Mario Moraes who drove for Dale Coyne Racing last year and showed some real promise.

Comment
01/12/09
f1

Ferrari engines for Honda now unlikely
(GMM)  Ferrari is no longer likely to supply the Brackley based formula one team currently known as Honda Racing F1 with engines in 2009.

A spokesman for the Italian outfit last week confirmed Ross Brawn's claim that a supply of the Maranello-built 2.4 liter V8s will be available for Honda's potential buyers.

But at the launch of Ferrari's new F60 single seater in Italy on Monday, team boss Stefano Domenicali said: "The chance of us supplying engines to Honda is close to zero."

Including Toro Rosso, Ferrari supplied two customer teams with engines in 2008, but Force India will switch to Mercedes-Benz power ahead of the forthcoming season.

Comment
01/12/09
f1

Property tycoon interested in Honda F1 team
Achilleas Kallakis
According to Crash.net property tycoon Achilleas Kallakis is deadly serious about acquiring the ex-Honda F1 team.  Kallakis boasts a significant property portfolio through his ownership of what is said to be one of the largest private property companies in the UK.  Though he has no prior motorsport experience per se, Kallakis was one of the bidders for Scuderia Toro Rosso when it was officially put up for sale just after the start of the 2008 campaign. Whilst that bid was ultimately unsuccessful, it did enable the 40-year-old to put together a well thought-out business plan and sponsorship package comprising financial backing from two sponsors who have never been involved in the sport before – but who are ready and able to invest as much as £30 million in the first year alone – as well as from his own drinks company.

Comment
01/12/09
f1

Red Bull scrapped own KERS project
(GMM)  Red Bull abandoned its own project to develop a KERS system for 2009 and will instead source the technology from engine supplier Renault.

Mid last year, the local fire brigade was called when a high voltage battery failed during in-factory KERS testing at the team's Milton Keynes headquarters.

It is not known if this incident alone motivated the decision to scrap the program, but David Coulthard confirmed at the Autosport International show that Red Bull's KERS is now "coming as part of the engine package".

"Red Bull initially looked at developing its own system and then decided it would be economically better and more efficient to work with Renault," the retired race driver, now an advisor to the energy drink-owned squad Scot, is quoted as saying by ITV.

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