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Will Toronto race survive IRL/Champ Car merger?UPDATE There's a good chance that the roar of race cars will still reverberate from Exhibition Place this summer.
That optimism comes despite reports that Champ Car, which has brought its open-wheel machines to Toronto every year since 1986, is about to declare bankruptcy.
Even if Champ Car goes under, the race could be held under the banner of the rival Indy Racing League. That possibility arises from the unique ownership of the Toronto race.
The Toronto and Long Beach events are not owned by Champ Car, but rather as a separate entity of Champ Car co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe.
Toronto Grand Prix president and CEO Charlie Johnstone explained that as such, they could run the race by paying a sanctioning fee to the IRL, if, of course, the IRL elected to put Toronto on its schedule.
Molson Sports and Entertainment, which ran the Toronto race from its inception until 2005, owned the rights to the event and paid a sanctioning fee to Champ Car each year.
In last week's reports that a merger between Champ Car and the IRL was close, Toronto was not on the list of three Champ Car races that would be added to the IRL schedule. The Toronto date (July 4-6) clashes with the IRL race at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Johnstone, however, suggested that if the IRL had to choose between Toronto and Watkins Glen, Toronto would get the nod.
"Toronto is the fifth-largest market in North America," he said. "It wouldn't be a hard decision."
IRL spokesman John Griffin, however, declined to address that possibility.
The Toronto race is without a title sponsor after Steelback Brewery went bankrupt this winter after just one season in that role. Johnstone admitted that while he has been negotiating with potential sponsors, the uncertainty has stalled those talks.
"Once we can show stability I'm sure we'll get the deals done," Johnstone said. Toronto Star
02/10/08 The future of the annual Champ Car race in Toronto has been thrown into doubt by the latest developments in the long-running saga of merger talks between the two premier North American open wheel racing series. Tony George, owner of the Indianapolis Speedway and founder of the Indy Racing League, will fly to Japan this weekend to talk to the owners of the Twin Ring Motegi race course about moving the date of an IRL race scheduled there on April 19.
If that happens, the long-rumored and long-awaited merger of the Champ Car World Series and the IRL might finally take place.
According to rumors some Champ Car races would be included in a unified IRL/Champ Car schedule for 2008 — but not Toronto.
Only Long Beach, Edmonton and Surfer’s Paradise, Australia, are on the reported list (we hear Mexico City too).
Toronto Grand Prix President and CEO Charlie Johnstone told the Toronto Star shortly before noon today that he was “dumbfounded” by the reported developments.
But as has happened so frequently in the 13 years since George formed his own league and cut away from the long-established CART series, it is not yet a done deal — and it might not be done in time for the 2008 season, as is being reported on several Internet sites (yes it will be done).
There is no doubt that a merger is close and is closer than it’s ever been. But as several of the key participants said this morning, there are still several high hurdles to get over before a deal can be signed.
But Johnstone’s boss, Kevin Kalkhoven — who owns the Champ Car World Series with Gerald Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi — told the Indianapolis Star website today that everybody just has to remain calm.
Motegi/Long Beach conflict close to being resolved?UPDATE Regarding a date change to the Motegi Race, a Japanese Autosport Magazine website reported on February 12 (Japan time) that Motegi and IRL officials held a meeting, but the meeting ended without a date change to the Motegi race. According to the website the IRL will travel to Japan as scheduled, and will not be racing at Long Beach. Tony George and Robert Clarke came out of the meeting with Motegi officials saying they are very optimistic. Hmmm......could the merger deal be off?
02/12/08 The Indy Racing League apparently is armed with options to negotiate a reconciliation of open-wheel racing following a Monday meeting in Japan.
The IRL sought and likely gained permission from Honda to move its April 19 race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit north of Tokyo to accommodate the addition of Champ Car’s marquee event, the Long Beach (Calif.) Grand Prix, which is obligated for April 20. If Champ Car is folded into the IRL, the Long Beach race will be one of several Champ Car World Series events added to this year’s IndyCar Series schedule.
To do so means moving the Motegi race. The options there include moving it to August, when the IRL has a break in its schedule, or to the end of the season as a non-points race. An other option is postponing the event for a year.
At least one of them apparently was approved by Honda because Robert Clarke, the former president of U.S.-based Honda Performance Development, said today that he is optimistic merger talks with Champ Car can continue.
“It was a good meeting, yes,” said Clarke, who joined George and IRL presidents Brian Barnhart and Terry Angstadt in the meeting.
“Am I optimistic? I don’t see any reason why not (to be).”
Clarke said all other questions must be answered by George, who was not available for anything more than a brief e-mail comment. He is due back in Indianapolis Tuesday.
Motegi, a 1.5-mile oval track, has held IRL races since 2003 and was a Champ Car venue from 1998 to 2002.
In an e-mail to The Star, George warned that there are still no guarantees to ending the sport’s 13-year-old split.
“Nothing is going to happen quickly, if at all,” he said. IndyStar
IRL signs letter of intent for a new raceUPDATE #2 An IRL spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com, "We have a letter of intent only. And we will NOT have a championship points events there. The proposed event would be a test mixed in with a festival all positioned as a kick-off event to the new season. Turks and Caicos is searching for a marquee event to highlight/showcase their island."
Mr. George said: "This is a very exciting opportunity for us to come to the Turks and Caicos and have the opportunity to really use this as a springboard to launch our season every year."
Moreover, "I think that the timing of a February event could be a great way to start off our season on an annual basis."
George added that the TCI is very a hospitable country. “The Government and the Premier has been very gracious as our host; and we are very excited to work with them in developing this opportunity, that I'm sure will be good for everyone concerned."
The CEO and President of the IRL further stated that there has been some history of racing in Nassau, Bahamas, and he sees no reason why this alliance could not work. "We have used our energies and creative ideas to come up with activities to make an entire week of events around what would be in our first event of the season".
02/13/08 AutoRacing1.com has learned that our informant was indeed correct and hence this rumor has been upgraded to 'fact.'
Turks and Caicos is not far from Miami and the Bahamas
02/13/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the Turks and Caicos Government has signed a letter of intent with the Indy Racing League (IRL) to launch Indy Turks and Caicos Grand Prix, slated for February 2009.
The Grand Prix will kick start the year of events for the IRL; and for this momentous world class event, a racing track will be constructed in Blue Hills, Providenciales, with work to commence in short order.
The event is to be broadcast live on ESPN, NBC and ABC. The exposure along with the potential injection of large sums of revenue into the TCI's economy will be a tremendous boost to the tourism product; as there will be four to five hours of non-stop racing related activities and events to be aired.
The promoters for the event will be Andretti Green Racing, which is a leading promoter of racing events, and owned by Michael Andretti, the former race-car driver.
(GMM) Despite finishing last in the 2007 constructors' championship, McLaren may this year avoid the indignity of occupying the last garage slot in the grand prix pitlanes of the world.
As well as having the highest race numbers - in McLaren's case 22 and 23 in 2008 - finishing the previous year's teams' title last usually means having to take up residence in the farthest pit boxes at each circuit.
However, despite having all its points taken away last season amid the espionage scandal, it seems that McLaren will call the fifth garages home in 2008.
The Finnish daily newspaper Turun Sanomat reports that Bernie Ecclestone has ordered the re-shuffle so that one of F1's 'Big Two' teams can still have access to first class circuit facilities this year.
It is reported that Ecclestone, F1's chief executive, actually wanted Mercedes-powered McLaren to have the third pit area, but Renault - officially third in the championship last year - objected.
At most F1 circuits, the first three pit garages are wider and include better amenities for its personnel and guests.
McLaren would not confirm the Turun Sanomat report.
Is Dale Earnhardt Jr. overrated? It's not a fair question. Given his popularity -- who he is and, more notably, who was his father -- he couldn't possibly be underrated. When has there ever been a star in any sport who was adored more while achieving less? That's not his fault. It's more like his burden.
Imagine if Elvis Presley had had a son.
So far, so good, though, in Earnhardt Jr.'s personal quest for the Holy Grail. It's the one his father found seven times, not the one sought in the movies by the comedy troupe Monty Python. Nowadays it's called the Sprint Cup.
Earnhardt, who left the family team this year to seek his fortune with Hendrick Motorsports, won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night. The victory was impressive, but it doesn't count toward the Cup. Since the Shootout doesn't reward its winner with championship points, the victory has no pertinence. It was reassuring for Earnhardt and the millions who watch his every move. It was a great way to start, but regardless of what happens from here, winning the Shootout will end up being, in hindsight, no more than a footnote.
What the opening salvo in his crusade demonstrated was the many advantages of being a member of the Hendrick juggernaut. Roaming the high banks of Daytona, Earnhardt might as well have been the lead pilot in the Air Force's Thunderbirds. It was formation flying. Teammates Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Casey Mears had his back in the Daytona draft. They finished third, fourth and sixth, behind him, and together they sealed his victory over the considerably more lonely Tony Stewart, who fought the good fight and managed to hold on to second. AOL Sports
Portland to lose race if merger happens Maybe Mark Wigginton, the manager of Portland International Raceway, has the right idea: Don't worry about doomsday until it arrives. The news that Champ Car and the Indy Racing League are close to a merger -- again -- has caused barely a ripple in Portland. The city's 25th Champ Car race is scheduled for July 27 at PIR. But if Champ Car and the IRL merge before the start of the 2008 season, there most likely will be no Portland race.
Reportedly, only three Champ Car races would be absorbed in the merger -- Long Beach, Edmonton and Surfer's Paradise in Australia (we hear Mexico City too). That would leave 11 scheduled Champ Car races out in the cold, including Portland, Houston, Laguna Seca, Cleveland, Toronto, Road America and maybe Mexico City. Oregonian
Villeneuve's NASCAR future shakyUPDATE Villeneuve strongly hoped to reach an agreement with CGI, the multinational computer services based in Montreal and founded by Serge Godin. The car was painted red to welcome the signing of CGI. Godin had to devote a few hours of his day Monday to consider one last time the issue but it seems that the answer already fell yesterday. That will be for another time. Fortunately, Villeneuve can help those who are still in talks with Canadian companies doing business in the United States and Canada. "I am confident, but I admit that I cannot wait until everything is signed," said Villeneuve.
02/09/08 Jacques Villeneuve is about to embark on the riskiest venture of his racing career. The former Formula One world champion from Iberville, Que., has moved to NASCAR, where he has signed on with a fledgling team short on sponsorship. If he's worried, the 36-year-old Villeneuve isn't letting on.
"It can't fall apart ... I won't let it," he said this week at a media day for the Daytona 500. Of course you are not in 100 per cent control of what happens all the time, so if it does fall apart, I will just persevere."
It begins this weekend for Villeneuve, who will attempt to qualify his unsponsored car for the Daytona 500. If he's not among the fastest two in tomorrow's time trials, he'll have to race his way into the field next week.
He's not prepared to finance this venture himself and says he has a sponsor on the edge of commitment, a company just needing one final push to sign on the dotted line. This weekend could seal it, ensuring him a fully funded car for the entire 36-race schedule. The Star
Super Aguri future in doubtUPDATE Super Aguri owner, founder and boss Aguri Suzuki has denied that the team's current financial situation could spell an end to his formula one foray. Reports recently have revealed talks with potential buyers in India and possibly also Spain, Japan and Russia. To the Tokyo Chunichi Sports newspaper on Saturday, Suzuki played down fears that the team could fold. "There are many things to be resolved at all levels. But we will be alright, we will never disappear," he said. Suzuki added: "We are holding talks with a few companies not mentioned before.
01/31/08 (GMM) The sale of Super Aguri to an Indian consortium could be scuppered by a disagreement about the team's 2008 driver lineup.
The small Japanese team's manufacturer partner, Honda, is not keen on the interested Spice Group's plan to put Narain Karthikeyan in the cockpit this year.
Honda F1 chief executive Nick Fry made it clear earlier this week that he thinks Anthony Davidson is of a higher standard.
Spice Group spokesperson Neha Rastogi is adamant, however, that bringing 31-year-old Karthikeyan back to the grid is central to the consortium's interest in buying into Super Aguri.
"The discussions right now are centered on commercial feasibility," Rastogi told India Times.
"But our main mission is to support Indian drivers and give Narain the opportunity to drive in F1 again.
"So you can say the deal is contingent on this condition," she added.
(GMM) As Ferrari, and particularly Kimi Raikkonen, already display an apparently obvious level of dominance, the Italian team's 2008 car could be set for some radical treatment as the final test days before Melbourne draw near.
It is reported in the Italian magazine Autosprint that, before the F2008's Australian grand prix specification is finalized, a unique solution at the front of the red single seater will be tested in Spain.
Reportedly, the innovation is an opening in the upper front of the car's nose; where the Bridgestone 'B' logo is currently located.
"Well, it's an interesting idea," Red Bull technical director Geoff Willis commented.
"Its function is probably to use the central part of the front wing in a better way."
At the Barcelona circuit next week, Ferrari will also test with new wings, bargeboards and engine cover, despite team manager Luca Baldisserri declaring that he is already "very satisfied" with the F2008's winter showing.
Alongside only Toyota, the team resumed testing in Bahrain for another three days on Saturday.
Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni played down the reliability faults that plagued Felipe Massa on Saturday, and both runners on Sunday.
"It's these little glitches you find during testing that are very important. If you have a similar problem in the race and don't know how to fix it, you're out.
"It's crucial that you be very careful and find them now," he told Gulf Daily News.
Tony Stewart has never been able to control his temper
Tony Stewart hit Kurt Busch with more than his car on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway. The two-time Sprint Cup champion also hit Busch with his fist inside a NASCAR hauler, sources close to the situation confirmed on Saturday.
The second incident occurred while the drivers discussed the first incident with series director John Darby and vice president of competition Robin Pemberton.
Officials from NASCAR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing would neither confirm nor deny the punch occurred, saying what happens in the hauler stays in the hauler.
Darby, however, said a Saturday morning meeting, which was called to give all parties time to cool off, was less "hostile."
"Partially, I wanted to make sure that in the heat of everything last night our message was delivered very clearly to both competitors," he said. "So we let them go back to the buses and sleep on it overnight."
Australia likely to lose GP - EcclestoneUPDATE #3 Event chairman Ron Walker says the future of the Australian Grand Prix is safe, despite reported comments from Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone that the race would be more financially viable elsewhere. The contract for the 25-year-old Australian race, held first in Adelaide and then in Melbourne since 1996, is up for renewal in 2010. On Sunday, News Limited newspapers quoted Ecclestone as saying the contract might not be renewed.
"Maybe we don't want to be in Australia," Ecclestone was quoted as saying. "Our costs are very high in Australia and we get a lot less money. It's bloody bad for us."
Ecclestone said the race would make more money in Russia, India or South Korea, and also said the race should be held at night to attract an American television audience.
"We've got quite a few places on the list which would like to have Formula One and as it seems your guy (Victorian state Premier John Brumby) down there doesn't want Formula One, we can make him happy and make the other people happy."
Brumby has raised doubts about the race, which has been steadily losing money. This year's race is scheduled for March 16 on the city's temporary Albert Park circuit.
Walker said Sunday the race continues to be viable.
"When you look at other Grand Prix around the world in China, Dubai and Malaysia they don't get anything like the attendances we get in Melbourne," Walker said.
He described threats that Melbourne could lose the race as a "storm in a teacup."
"This will just blow over and negotiations will take place in a normal fashion," he said. Canadian Press
02/04/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. The Victoria Premier John Brumby says the State is not prepared to keep the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne at any price. Mr. Brumby has responded to comments from F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who was reported as saying that Melbourne's contract to hold the race, due to expire in 2010, has little chance of being renewed. The grand prix lost over $30 million dollars last year and Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker predicts it will blow out even more this year. Mr. Brumby says the event must continue to provide value for money if it is to stay in Melbourne beyond the current contract and that will be decided when new negotiations are held.
02/03/08 Just like other circuits before them have done, the Australian Grand Prix has come under threat of abolishment from Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, as it is not paying enough money to make the trip down under worthwhile, nor is it willing to host a race at night.
Other tracks, such as Spa Francorchamps in Belgium and Gilles Villeneuve in Canada, know what it is like to be threatened with extinction by the FOM chief and ever since organizers stated it would be too expensive to light the Albert Park circuit, the sound of the hammer falling could be heard.
Word is now that the race won’t be extended after the end of its 2010 ending contract, at Albert Park, or any other Australian venue, with venues such as Russia and India vying for a slot on the championship calendar.
"Maybe we don't want to be in Australia," Ecclestone was quoted as saying to News Ltd. "Our costs are very high in Australia and we get a lot less money. It's bloody bad for us. We've got quite a few places on the list which would like to have Formula One and as it seems your guy (Victorian Premier John Brumby) down there doesn't want Formula One, we can make him happy and make the other people happy."
F1 poised to hold first Russian GP Formula One is set to explore another new frontier by staging the first-ever Russian Grand Prix.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will travel to St Petersburg next weekend to try to thrash out the deal.
He will meet the governor of St Petersburg to discuss the building of a new circuit on the outskirts of the city. Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is thought to be in favor of the proposals, may also attend the meeting. It is hoped that the race, which will be on a purpose-built track, not a street circuit, will be part of the calendar for 2010.
"Nothing is done yet," Ecclestone said yesterday, "but this could be an interesting development for the sport.
"We'd like to get it in the calendar as soon as we can but that depends on them.
It's down to how long it takes them to get the circuit ready." The move follows previous plans to stage an F1 race in Moscow which eventually came to nothing.
It also fits in with Formula One's general shift towards the east and exploring new markets, where tobacco advertising is not banned. In recent years, new races have been established in Malaysia, Bahrain and China. And this year F1 will stage its first ever night race in Singapore at the end of September. Daily Mirror
Busch and Stewart to be penalizedUPDATE Did Stewart take a poke at Busch? The rumor in and around the Daytona garage this morning and as reported by Speed's Dave Despain is that Tony Stewart took a swing at Kurt Busch last night during their meeting in the NASCAR hauler after their on track incident during practice for the Bud Shootout. The word from NASCAR is that what happens in the hauler stays in the hauler. Let the games begin!
02/09/08 NASCAR chairman Brian France kicked off the 2008 media tour in Charlotte, N.C., last month by saying Sprint Cup drivers needed to show more of their personalities. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart obliged on Friday night when they got into a sheet metal exchange on pit road after an on-the-track incident that wrecked both of their cars in the final practice for Saturday's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. Both drivers immediately were summoned to the NASCAR hauler to meet with Series director John Darby and competition director Robin Pemberton. They will meet again on Saturday before the governing body determines what fines, if any, will be issued. The only words spoken by either driver -- both left through a side door without commenting -- came from Busch before entering the hauler. "It's a great way to start off 2008," he said, clapping his hands together. more at ESPN.com
Overseas races to move to autumn If Champ Car and the IRL are to merge for 2008, rumor has it that Tony George will try to convince the Honda powers to be in Japan to move the race to the autumn (late season) after the IRL season finale in Chicago where it could be packaged with Champ Car's non-USA races in Europe, Australia and Mexico City. We assume these races would be run as non-points paying races for 2008 but could be part of the championship in 2009. If George is successful in getting Honda to agree, this would eliminate the date conflict between the Long Beach GP and the Motegi race in Japan.
IRL needs more ride-buyers There is a lot of talk about Champ Car having a thin field again in 2008, but the IRL isn't in much better shape. Despite the appearance that it is in better shape, the fact remains that they only have 14 or so confirmed cars so far.
From Panther Racing's website
Q. You’ve flirted with possibly being a one-car team this season, how is that looking right now? No deal for PJ Chesson? A. (2-8-08) It’s safe to say now that Panther will be a one-car team in 2008, at least until the Indy 500, where we would likely expand to a two-car operation.
Villeneuve close to a sponsor? Hires Barry Green Jacques Villeneuve has moved to NASCAR, where he's signed on with a fledgling team that's very short on sponsorship. If this venture fails - and it soon might if he doesn't find a sponsor for his Bill Davis Racing team - there's nowhere else for the 36-year-old driver to go. If he's worried, Villeneuve isn't letting on. "It can't fall apart. I won't let it,'' he said Thursday at media day for the Daytona 500. "Of course you are not in 100% control of what happens all the time, so if it does fall apart, I will just persevere.'' It begins this weekend for Villeneuve, who will attempt to qualify his unsponsored car for the Daytona 500. If he's not among the fastest two in Sunday's time trials, he'll have to race his way into the field next week. He's confident about his chances, even though he has a shell of a team working on his Toyota Camry. The financial limitations have him lagging behind the super teams, and even though his years of open-wheel success made him a very rich man, he's not prepared to finance this venture himself because he spent so much to get the operation off the ground late last year, and money is a little tight. But Villeneuve claims he has a sponsor on the edge of commitment, a company just needing one final push to sign on the dotted line. This weekend could seal it, ensuring him a fully funded car for the entire 36-race schedule. Having to deal with all the details has stressed Villeneuve a bit, so he last week called Barry Green, who fielded his cars for him in CART, and asked him to handle his business affairs. "The only thing I want to be doing is drive the race car,'' he said. "When you try to do more than one job at a time, you won't do it as good as you should because your mind is not as rested the way it should be. It's not a positive thing. If I am driving, then I just want to concentrate on that.'' More at Sports Illustrated/AP
ISC and France family linked to Mob in NY Authorities carried out one of the largest Mafia takedowns in recent memory today when they charged dozens of reputed members of the Gambino crime family with gangland crimes spanning three decades, -- including an extortion plot at the failed NASCAR track proposed for the Bloomfield section of Staten Island, NY. A federal indictment in Brooklyn named 62 defendants, including the three highest-ranking members of the Gambino family along with the brother and nephew of the late Gotti. Authorities said a separate state investigation had resulted in charges against 26 others. Many of the charges relate to the activities of a Staten Island cement business, whose owner was identified in the indictment only as "John Doe No. 4." Prosecutors allege that mob figures extorted the owner for money and jobs, and interfered with several of his business ventures, including the proposed NASCAR track on Staten Island. In 2006, the cement business was forced to pay extortion to reputed mobsters to prepare the race track site for construction, court papers said. The project abandoned before the track could be built. As part of the scheme, mobsters allegedly forced John Doe No. 4 to give $9,000 to two workers affiliated with International Speedway Corp., builder of the race track. A company spokesman said today that the men have since quit their jobs, and that the indictment "is not directed at ISC, any of its subsidiaries, or any of its current employees." Staten Island Advance
Villeneuve to return to LeMans According to the Journal de Montreal, Jacques Villeneuve is reportedly considering a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2008. The former F1 champion has spoken with Peugeot officials about a possible return with the team for the June 14 - 15 race.
NASCAR may buy NHRA NHRA drivers and crews will spend part of the season wondering who is going to buy the series. HD Partners Acquisition Group was set to purchase the NHRA and its assets for $121 million, but the company's board voted down the deal last week, citing the uncertain economic climate. No one is sure when or if the series will be sold this season. Bruton Smith, head of Speedway Motorsports Inc, which owns Texas Motor Speedway, had expressed an interest in buying the series. He is building a drag strip at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. "We'll wait, and sometime down the road we'll probably take a look at it," Smith said this week. "I see that the sport is growing. We'll see." Dallas Morning News[Editor's Note: Smith could just be a front for NASCAR who would like nothing more than to expand their motorsports monopoly in the USA]
Williams to base test team in Spain (GMM) British formula one team Williams is to base its test team near the Valencia circuit on the eastern Spanish coast, it is reported.
The newspaper Diario AS says an agreement has nearly been reached with the local authority, the Generalitat Valenciana, in exchange for giving young Spanish race drivers the opportunity to test Williams' F1 cars.
The first Spanish youngster tipped for a Williams test under the arrangement is 19-year-old Dani Clos, the 2007 F3 Euroseries driver who spent the recent Circuit de Catalunya test in the team's pit area.
According to AS, the exact location for Williams' test base is yet to be determined. "The intention is to accommodate the test team and thus save a lot of money on transfers" between Britain and Spain, the article explained.
Oxfordshire (UK) based Williams also explored the option of basing the test project at Circuit de Catalunya, but those talks did not reach a financial agreement, Diario AS added.
ATR to build Ferrari for A1GP Word is that the ATR Group in Italy will be building the new Ferrari designed A1GP car, and not Ferrari itself. Ferrari will outsource the work to ATR, which has done work for Minardi and for a few of Ferrari's road cars.
IRL to change driver weight rules - Not really!UPDATE #2 As it turns out this is another smoke and mirrors IRL rules change. The IRL is not implementing the rule like a professional race series would....like the FIA does....i.e. to make all car/driver combos equal in weight. The other professional race series like Champ Car and F1 do it that way. How could we ever believe that the IRL would do anything to take away Danica's weight advantage? How naive we were.
As it turns out the IRL is going to take an average weight of drivers and if you are under that weight you add 10 pounds to your car. If you are over that weight, you remove 10 pounds from your car. That's it! However, some cars don't have 10 pounds to take out, especially when they are carrying an onboard camera.
So if a driver weighs 180 pounds, and Danica weighs 100 pounds, then the difference might be reduced to 60 pounds instead of 80 pounds as it was before. Well 60 pounds still equates to about 1/2 second per lap on a road course. On top of that they implemented variable steering and paddle shifters for Danica because at the end of the road course races she was extremely tired. So in effect, when you add it all up, they have given Danica more advantage then they have taken away in what truly has to be the biggest farce in racing we have seen in quite some time.
02/06/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. In an attempt to keep lighter drivers from having an unfair advantage over heavier ones, the IRL IndyCar Series will institute a minimum car-and-driver weight requirement this coming season, 6Sports Director Dave Furst reported Tuesday.
The minimum combined car-driver weight has yet to be established. The rule will require lighter drivers to add weight to their cars to meet the established number.
Cars carrying less weight are considered to have an advantage over cars carrying more, especially in road and street races. This has caused some to say that lighter IRL drivers such as Danica Patrick had an unfair edge over heavier ones.
IRL President Brian Barnhart said he doesn't want the new rule "to be viewed as a Danica rule."
"It's clearly not," Barnhart said. "It's the direction the series is going, with a third of our events on road and street races, and it's our obligation to provide as level a platform as possible." The Indy Channel
02/02/08 Rumor has it that starting this year, like Champ Car, IRL drivers will be weighed and cars will be made the same weight for all drivers by adding additional weight to the car....no more advantage for Danica or the smaller drivers. The GoDaddy.com girl could be going to the back of the pack once her lack of weight advantage is taken away. Helping her of course will be the paddle shifters and variable rate steering rack.
Speaking of paddle shifters, three IRL cars were here in Sebring the last two days testing their new paddle shifter system. Dixon was driving for Ganassi, Castroneves and Briscoe for Penske and Andretti for AGR. We hear the system worked pretty well but they had to make some changes in the software because the drivers could not feel the shifts. Lap times were two seconds slower than the Champ Cars.
Expect the news to be made public on Monday....maybe Tuesday we hear. Mark C.
Robert Doornbos is sending some pretty strong signals in the Dutch media that he may not return to Champ Car in 2008 with Minardi. Apparently the main issue involves money between his backers and the Minardi USA team. His side feels the team needs to do more to get sponsorship dollars. He was also in the running for the second NHLR seat that went to Justin Wilson and the open Forsythe Pettit Racing seat that looks set to go to Franck Montagny.
He has delivered Minardi Team USA an ultimatum. He wants the team to increase their budget by 20% (compared to last year's budget) to $12 million, so they can invest more in testing together. He's very surprised the team hasn't been able to find and/or attract a title sponsor for this season after his 3rd place in the championship last year and the Rookie title! The ball is in their court ...
Robert says he was in the running for the second NHL Racing seat for quite some time but it's now taken by Justin Wilson. If Minardi Team USA can't raise the necessary budget Doornbos requires, he has got alternative options in Champ Car for this year. Both Forsythe Pettit Racing (in a third car/entry) and PKV have shown interest in his services. "Jimmy Vasser, co-owner at PKV Racing, expressed his interest and asked me at the Daytona 24 hour race if I was on the market, which I confirmed" Robert says and he continues: "There is no doubt in my mind I will be driving in Champ Car this year! I will definitely be in a car by the next test at Laguna Seca (March 12 - 14)", Doornbos claims.
"Steve Johnson, CCWS President and CEO told me he wants me, PT, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson to come back to Champ Car this year, as Champ Car can't afford to lose their front-runners!"
Overheard in Sebring - 2UPDATE Franck Perera was announced as one of the drivers for Conquest Racing today so that portion of this rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' See Hot News.
02/02/08 We are hearing that Conquest Racing will soon announce two new primary sponsors, one for each car, and their two drivers will be Simon Pagenaud and Franck Perera. The Conquest team will be testing a third French driver, but for their Atlantic team. Sebastien Chardonnet will test here at Sebring Tuesday and Wednesday. He raced Formula Renault in 2007.
Franck Montagny looks pretty definite at Forsythe Pettit Racing alongside Paul Tracy. We spoke to Montagny who said, "It looks pretty good that I will be racing here this year. I am tired of being a test driver. I want my name on the side of the car, I want to race and I want to win. I don't care if I never go back to F1. I am very impressed with this team. The shop is very good and everyone is very professional."
On a related note/rumor, we hear that Montagny may also drive in this year's 24 Hours of LeMans for the French Peugeot team. Look for an announcement soon.
Mario Moraes is looking pretty good at Dale Coyne with a full year of sponsorship and we hear if a race materializes in Sao Paulo (good possibility for 2009 we hear) that will help his sponsorship. He tells us that Champ Cars are a big step up from British F3 last year, but he is ready for it."
We caught up with Dan Clarke who is still hopeful of putting together a deal for 2008. He was seen lunching with his team boss from last year, Keith Wiggins. Robert Doornbos is not yet signed, but we hear it is likely to happen.
We spoke to Graham Rahal who said, "My goal this year is to win races and challenge for the championship. I'm happy to have Justin [Wilson] as my teammate. I'm no longer the tallest or the heaviest driver on the team, which is a disadvantage for sure. We need to be more consistent than we were last year." Asked if he might run the Indy 500 this year for his father's team he said, "That all comes down to sponsorship, but I would like to if the opportunity presents itself." Mark C. reporting from Sebring
Will Alonso be chasing Ferrari again in his Renault?
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has reignited speculation that his future lies at Ferrari by suggesting that he would already like to be piloting the Italian team's newly launched F2008.
"At the moment they have the best car and that is why everyone wants to be in the places of Kimi and Massa," the Spaniard said in an interview with the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell.
Former double world champion Alonso, 26, was strongly linked with Ferrari towards the end of his unhappy tenure at McLaren last year, but for 2008 he has returned to Renault.
It is understood that his new contract with the French team binds him only for this year.
Along the same lines, Alonso refuses to confirm that he will still be a Renault driver in 2009.
Asked if he can guarantee that he will still occupy the same seat next season, he answered: "No. My decision will depend on a combination of three factors: the competitiveness of the car, the atmosphere and the financial element."
Alonso is also not confident that he will be a championship contender with Renault's R28 machine.
"The title is more a medium-term goal," he said. "It is going to be very difficult to fight with the fast ones; the objective (for 2008) is to fight for the podium."
(GMM) Williams team co-owner Patrick Head has acknowledged that the Grove squad stands to lose Nico Rosberg if the young German is not given a front-running car to race, which we all know won't happen.
Rosberg, 22, recently inked a new contract to keep him at the Toyota-powered outfit until the end of next year. He warned that if he is not firmly a front runner by then, he will search for an alternative employer.
McLaren-Mercedes was interested in buying Rosberg from Williams for the 2008 season, but Head and the team's chief Sir Frank Williams remained firm that their climb back to the to top requires a driver of Nico's caliber.
Head acknowledges the McLaren speculation but insists that, "internally, it was always clear that we would not be letting him go".
The British team veteran also admits that Rosberg will not be forever content to collect F1's 'best of the rest' plaudits.
"He is very determined to be a successful driver," Head said, "and we are equally committed to return to being a successful team."
Oxfordshire based Williams is among F1's historically most successful teams, but since 1997 has not won a title. Since 2004, Williams has not won a race.
Head said of Rosberg: "We need to arrange a better car for him.
"If we do not manage to do that, the speculation will surely come back -- and then it is possible that the story will play out differently," he told the Swiss specialist publication Motorsport Aktuell.
Champ Car Silly Season Our 2008 Champ Car Silly Season page has been updated based on rumors we heard at Sebring this past weekend. A lowly 17 cars again for 2008 unless Forsythe decides to add a third car as rumored.
IndyCar Silly Season As many as 19 cars could form the grid at the IndyCar opener in Homestead, Florida in March.
2 Penske (Castroneves and Briscoe), 4 AGR (Mutoh, Marco, Patrick and Kanaan) 2 Ganassi (Dixon and Wheldon) 2 Roth (Marty Roth and Jay Howard) 1 Foyt (Manning) 1 Dreyer & Reinbold (Rice) 2 Panther (Meira and maybe PJ Chesson), 2 Vision (Carpenter and maybe Alex Lloyd) 2 Rahal (Hunter-Reay and a TBD) 1 SAMAX (Maybe Dominguez) 19 Total (Bold = Pretty much definite)
Ex-F1 Stars to spearhead Peugeot’s Le Mans assault? While an official announcement has yet to be made we hear that Franck Montagny, Ricardo Zonta and Alex Wurz have signed for Peugeot to compete in this years 24 Heures Du Mans.
Various insiders have stated that it could be only one of the three that gets the drive but some have said that both would compete in the 908 HDi FAP. Montagny hinted to AutoRacing1.com at this past weekend's Champ Car Sebring test that he would drive for Peugeot at LeMans.
As for Zonta, well, he has admitted that no contract has been signed as of yet but that he will test the car again in a few weeks following his first outing at Paul Ricard in January. If all goes well during that test then he hopes to sign a deal with the French giant and if he get his wish he will double up his commitments this season along with a Grand-Am campaign with Krohn Racing.
Peugeot Sport Team Manager, Serge Saulnier, has however refused to confirm nor deny any of these rumors and will not comment further until the official driver announcement to be held in Paris on the 15th February.
LeMans cars to be slowed For safety reasons the ACO is thinking about reducing the LM P1 and LM P2 prototypes’ performances at LeMans to prevent them from lapping the 13.629-km circuit in under 3m 30s. Discussions with the teams will begin in 2008 with the aim of introducing such measures in 2009 or 2010. The main modifications will involve bodywork, wings and air restrictors.
Is AT&T ready to hang up on NASCAR? Hold the phone. AT&T has not given up on NASCAR, despite its agreement to exit the Sprint Cup Series at the end of the 2008 season, sources told SportsBusiness Journal.
The telecommunications turf war that raged throughout much of 2007 between AT&T and series sponsor Sprint supposedly was settled last September with an agreement -- mediated by NASCAR -- that allowed AT&T to keep its marks on Jeff Burton's No. 31 car. In exchange, AT&T agreed to leave Sprint Cup, NASCAR's top series, after the 2008 season.
But that hasn't stopped team owner Richard Childress from lobbying NASCAR to keep AT&T in Cup racing, sources say, and Sprint's continuing financial woes are only adding to the sense that AT&T's sponsorship might not be dead yet.
Also, AT&T is in the first year of a three-year contract with Richard Childress Racing to sponsor the No. 31 car, and there are no exit provisions or refunds for AT&T in the deal, sources said, which obligates AT&T for the sponsorship fee through the 2010 season. AT&T agreed to the deal last June before the settlement was reached with NASCAR and Sprint in September. The deal between AT&T and Childress did not require NASCAR's approval.
If it eventually leaves, AT&T has said it will work with Childress to find new sponsorship. AT&T's annual costs for the sponsorship are believed to be $16 million to $18 million.
RCR officials said they've had no formal talks with AT&T about its plans beyond this season and offered no further comment. NASCAR reiterated that the door is not open for AT&T's return.
"Nothing has changed," said Ramsey Poston, NASCAR's managing director of communications. "The fans certainly don't want to hear any more of this. This is a closed issue. Agreements were made, and we expect all sides to live up to them." More at Scenedaily.com
What's up with Team Australia? Much speculation has been made about Team Australia missing the Sebring test this past weekend, and whether their entry in Champ Car is at risk for 2008. The answer is no. Derrick Walker told AutoRacing1.com, "We will have a press release next week. Don't always believe what the rumors say."
Franck Perera is moving up from the Atlantic Series to run with Conquest Racing in 2008
Without a doubt the Champ Car series is in better shape this year than at the same time last year here at Sebring. There certainly are more car/driver combinations that appear to be ready to go versus last year, the bugs are worked out of the Panoz now whereas last year at this time there were a number of issues that had to be resolved. The standing starts and P2P have proven to work well and the depth of driver talent is certainly better this time around. We expect that by the time Spring Training rolls around to Laguna Seca in mid-March that the grid is going to be fairly well firmed up.
Losing Cotman hurt Champ Car, but he left in place an organization that is far better than when he arrived. No one is irreplaceable and Champ Car will have to find a suitable replacement.
Champ Car still certainly has a lot of challenges ahead of it, and the bad news we hear each and every off-season kills any momentum they otherwise may have gained. The lack of sponsorship and car manufacturer support continues to be the Achilles heel of the series and until they can come up with a business model that works for sponsors and manufacturers the series will continue to exist but not flourish.
Graham Rahal in the No. 2 McDonald's Panoz
Everyone in the paddock pretty much agrees that there will not be a merger with the IRL until 2010 at the earliest, which is when the IRL is slated to introduce a new car so that the Champ Car teams would be somewhat on equal footing with the IndyCar teams. The Panoz Champ Car is still relatively new and has many years of good service ahead of it so do not look for teams to be throwing their investment away to switch to another league. This is why no teams took Tony George up on his offer for free cars and engines to switch to the IRL....which would have left Champ Car dead had he been successful. Mark C. reporting from Sebring
Testing has begun at Sebring Saturday morning and we are here to bring you all the news and behind the scenes talk. Both Newman/Haas/Lanigan drivers (Wilson in the No. 1 car pictured right and Rahal in the no. 2 car) are in identical McDonald's livery and talk is that the 2-car deal is for at least a partial season, but it may become a full season. AutoRacing1.com hears that indeed both drivers would run with McDonald's backing, which verified a previous rumor.
We hear that Mario Moraes (pictured left) has a good shot at staying in the Dale Coyne car all year. The team tested him in December. He raced in British F3 most recently and is in the Katherine Legge car from last year, still with the old paint scheme.
Nelson Philippe is still looking for a ride for next year. He has partial funding but not enough for a full season. He's not even sure which series he will race in next year. His girlfriend Sarah is now living with him in Miami and found a job as a 5th grade school teacher.
Look for a bigger spread in performance from the Bridgestone tires this year with the option tires getting a bit softer and the regular tires a bit softer.
The driver lineup for 2008 looks better than ever for Champ Car with all the drivers here today likely to keep their rides all season, or so we are told. A go or no-go for Ernesto Viso at Minardi will be made in the next couple of weeks we are told. Definitely look for both Simon Pagenaud and Franck Perera to be driving for Conquest Racing in 2008.
Tire temperature sensors on Tracy's car.
Paul Tracy has Mike Palowski back as his engineer. Mike worked with Tracy back in 2003. And of course the Forsythe team hired Kenny Siwieck away from the NHLR team and there is another engineer at Forsythe Racing that was with the NHLR team as well in 2007. With Franck Montagny in as Tracy's teammate in 2008 the talent pool at Forsythe has increased so look for that team to step up its game in 2008.
Alex Tagliani at Sebring Saturday
Paul Tracy's car was equipped with sensors to read tire temperatures real-time Tracy told us he does not like them because they upset the air flow around the tires, but they provide the team valuable information.
Alex Tagliani's (pictured left) driver uniform was full of sponsor decals so it looks as though he's in better shape financially this year.
Word is that indeed an offer came from Tony George to teams directly to steal them away to the IRL, but that offer never came to Kalkhoven, Forsythe or series President Steve Johnson.....which gives credence to the fact that George's offer was a ploy to kill off Champ Car by stealing its teams.
We hear the reason Team Australia isn't here at the test is because of some unfinished business between Craig Gore (Aussie Vineyards) and Derrick Walker, but that it should eventually get worked out. Mark C. reporting from Sebring
Cotman to the IRLUPDATE #2 A reader asks, Why wasn't Cotman under a non-compete clause and why didn't management give him a golden handcuffs contract? Every other company in the world makes their senior people sign these type of deals to make sure their intellectual property stays with them. Either Champ Car didn't care if he left or Kevin Kalkhoven et al are not as savvy business people as we were led to believe. Randy Stocker
Dear Randy, Good question. What on earth were they thinking? Hopefully Champ Car learns from all this and they start to run it like a proper corporation, instead of treating it like a hobby. They need a President that can be in the office every day, a realistic and believable strategic plan, a proper marketing and advertising budget and proper corporate governance. With proper corporate governance Champ Car would never be in the shape it is today. Mark C.
01/31/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Champ Car tried to convince Tony Cotman to stay but Robin Miller reports on SPEEDTV.com - As speculated the past two weeks on SPEED, Tony Cotman will be named vice president of competition for the Indy Racing League on Friday.
“I’m just going where I think the future of open-wheel racing is going to be,” said Cotman, who quit as Champ Car’s executive vice president earlier this month. ”It’s a good job. I’m going to oversee anything that has to do with competition, technical issues, tracks and assist Brian (Barnhart) in race control.”
01/21/08 According to a report on SPEEDTV's Speed Report Sunday night, Champ Car's VP of operations Tony Cotman, who announced his resignation from Champ Car last week, may be headed to the rival Indy Car organization to first run their Indy Pro Series and then move up to the Indy Car Series. If true, this becomes a double blow to Champ Car - they not only lose Cotman, their rival gets him.
Scheckter likely back at Indy 500 The Indianapolis 500 is on the verge of receiving another winning combination when Penske-powered Luczo Dragon Racing announces its multi-race program for this Indy Racing League season.
Luczo Dragon, co-owned by Roger Penske's son, Jay, and Steve Luczo, fielded a car for Ryan Briscoe in last year's 500. Jay Penske said Thursday that details should be finalized next week, but he endorsed driver Tomas Scheckter, who is unemployed after two seasons at Vision Racing.
"He's certainly one of the best out there who doesn't have a ride," Penske said.
Briscoe finished fifth in last year's 500, using that performance to replace Sam Hornish Jr. at Penske Racing. He will team with two-time 500 winner Helio Castroneves this season.
Scheckter has more IRL experience than Briscoe and is an established oval-track driver, particularly at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He led 85 laps as a rookie in 2002 before crashing with a 10-second lead on the 173rd lap. He led 63 laps the next year, finishing fourth.
Scheckter has won two IRL races, one each with Cheever Racing (at Michigan in 2002) and Panther Racing (Texas in 2005). He has won eight poles, all on oval tracks.
Jay Penske said his team plans to run one race prior to Indy -- likely the April 27 event at Kansas Speedway -- and one other in the market of the primary sponsor. Indy Star
One rumor making the rounds on ChampCarWorld.net is that ex-F1 test driver Franck Montagny is eyeing a possible seat at Forsythe Pettit Racing alongside Paul Tracy. Montagny was talking to Rocketsports two years ago but opted to stay in F1 as a test driver in hopes of someday landing an F1 seat. That opportunity never materialized but recently he said he had pretty much given up on F1 for now.
Champ Car to announce new PR DirectorUPDATE #2 David Higdon announced that Champ Car has hired Pat Caporali as Director, Media Relations. She will work for both the Champ Car World Series and Atlantic Series, and report to David Higdon. Both Karina Redmond and Nate Siebens now will report to Pat.
Pat has been working since January 2004 with Chip Ganassi Racing's IRL IndyCar Series team, Rolex Grand-Am Sportscar Series team and Indy Pro Series team. Before joining Ganassi, she served as Project Manager of Player’s/Forsythe Racing with Torchia Communications. Pat also was a sports reporter and writer for CFCF 12 TV in Montreal prior to her work with Torchia.
01/29/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as we have learned that because David Higdon is now responsible for overseeing TV for Champ Car, he has hired this woman to head up PR and it will be the first of several exciting announcements Champ Car has coming out. The new PR Director will report to Higdon.
01/29/08 Rumor has it that Champ Car will soon announce a new head of PR and the woman comes from a race team.
McDonald's to sponsor both NHLR cars Rumors on ChampCarWorld.net say that McDonald's livery will be on both Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing Champ Cars for Justin Wilson (#1 or #6) and Graham Rahal (#2)when they roll off the trailer in 2008.
Alonso, Renault, to reveal new sponsors (GMM) Fernando Alonso will display a new personal sponsor on his helmet this season, it will be confirmed at the launch of Renault's 2008 car and livery in Paris on Thursday.
Spanish media reports reveal that Alonso, who arrived in the French capital on Wednesday, will be sponsored in 2008 and 2009 by Silestone, a Spain-based multinational kitchen supplier owned by Cosentino.
The logo will also appear on Renault's team caps this year.
It is also expected that Banco Santander will sponsor the French formula one team in 2008, despite continuing to back Alonso's former team, McLaren, this year.
Santander, the largest banking group in Spain, will reportedly sponsor Renault through its 'Universia' subsidiary.
Free cars from SuperleagueUPDATE We have confirmed - the chassis is provided free (3 year program). The teams estimate a total budget of 750,000 Euros per car for the 6 events/12 races + 6 test days scheduled for 2008.
01/30/08 AutoRacing1.com hears that the Superleague is giving away free cars to all teams to run the series. And in addition to that, engine leases for the entire year are just 130,000 Euros. How is that for a business model?
Honda to sell Super Aguri team?UPDATE #3 (GMM) The Indian telco Spice Group has confirmed that it is interested in buying into the struggling formula one team Super Aguri.
The Mohali-based company is reportedly leading a consortium of fellow Indian corporates, possibly including the business group Tata as a potential sponsor, who are keen to join the grand prix circus and bring former Jordan racer Narain Karthikeyan back to the grid.
Spice Group is already involved in single seater motor racing and Karthikeyan through promotion of the Indian A1 GP team.
The Indian publication Daily News and Analysis (DNA) reports that the Spice consortium proposes a buyout price of just $1, including underwriting the small Japanese team's $47m in debt. Aguri Suzuki will reportedly be left in charge.
Spice CEO Andaleeb Sehgal on Wednesday would not confirm that the Super Aguri takeover is complete.
"There has been no acquisition yet," he said. "We are talking to two teams at the moment. One of them is Super Aguri.
"As now we are waiting to come up with a realistic valuation of the team. Should we find a number within our reach we will then proceed to buy," Sehgal added.
01/30/08 The Super Aguri F1 Team seems to be in big financial problems. There were already earlier reports on the money troubles of the Japanese team but it appears that the future looks less bright every day for the Leafield-based outfit.
It all started with a major sponsor that refused to pay the contributions promised. After that a great number of employees were fired because of the financial issues. From that moment, talks about a Super Aguri sell-out have never been far away.
The Japanese team is the only one that is yet to confirm its 2008 driver line-up and that has not set a date for a car presentation. As the team is not participating in most of the pre-season test sessions, the rumors about a sale have been flying around.
At Jerez, Super Aguri turned up for the test session but due to a problem on the car, the team had to wait two days for new parts coming in from the factory. The parts never arrived and the team had to move back to Leafield after only 10 laps out on track.
Last week at Valencia, Super Aguri was again the only team not to come in action and it is understood that they will not participate in the upcoming Barcelona test which will start on Friday.
If you add this to the continuing reports about financial problems, you can suggest that Super Aguri won't last an entire F1 season. This is also the conclusion of FIA President Max Mosley. When asked if he is confident that all eleven teams will contest the entire 2008 championship, Mosley repeated: "Not very." F1Technical.net
An Indian consortium led by the CEO of the Spice Group, promoters of A1 Team India, are in talks with the Super Aguri team about a possible investment opportunity.
However, Andaleeb Sehgal, CEO of the Spice Group, has denied reports the deal was already done and dusted.
"There has been no acquisition yet," Sehgal told the Indianinfo website.
"We are talking to two teams at the moment.
"One of them is Super Aguri. As now we are waiting to come up with a realistic valuation of the team. Should we find a number within our reach we will then proceed to buy."
On Tuesday Super Aguri managing director Daniel Audetto confirmed that the Japanese squad were looking for a partner who will invest in the team.
"We are talking with different people but first Honda has to approve it," he told Reuters.
"We are also looking for a strong partner. If they bring a lot of money and they want a driver from wherever, then he has to be good and accepted by the FIA." Setanta
12/15/07 (GMM) Honda officials have decided to keep the satellite formula one team Super Aguri up and racing in 2008, it is reported.
The fate of the financially struggling 'B' team was discussed by Tokyo chiefs earlier this week, the German specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport said.
It is understood that Honda, the small Leafield based outfit's engine and chassis supplier, heavily subsidized the Super Aguri budget in 2007 to the tune of dozens of millions of Euros.
Despite speculation that the manufacturer could simply pull the plug, then, the Honda meeting resolved that Super Aguri will continue to exist on the grand prix grid in 2008.
Auto Motor und Sport explained, however, that the detail of Super Aguri's continuing Honda support remains unclear, including whether the team will ultimately need to be sold to investors.
The magazine said the situation is currently "completely open".
12/11/07 (GMM) The fate of the struggling Super Aguri team will be discussed this week, reports from Germany suggest.
The authoritative magazine Auto Motor und Sport claims that Honda, the engine and chassis supplier that heavily subsidized the Leafield based team's flagging budget in 2007, could pull the plug on Super Aguri.
Aguri Suzuki-led Super Aguri, despite scoring 4 points this year, failed to attract lucrative sponsors and actually lost its main backer SS United mid-season.
Auto Motor und Sport claims that Honda paid for "more than half" of the satellite team's bills in 2007 -- a situation that will reportedly be discussed by chiefs of the Japanese manufacturer this week.
It is suggested that one option is to abandon the 'B team' project altogether, but there are also tangible benefits of the association for Honda; like increased data acquisition and - as controversially emerged in recent tests - divesting some of the 30,000km per team annual test limit.
Ganassi may expand into drag racing Indy cars, stock cars and sports cars. Chip Ganassi has made his mark in all three auto racing disciplines, but he may add another one soon.
Ganassi said Tuesday that he is considering making a move into drag racing.
"If I expand to any other form of racing, it will be drag racing," Ganassi said. "I don't have any concrete plans right now. We haven't talked a lot about it lately. I need to look at getting some things off my desk here first, but I'll probably get involved down the road one way or another." ESPN.com
Wilson gets out of contract, to replace BourdaisUPDATE #9 This rumor is finally upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.
01/28/08 The Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team has called a press conference for 1 PM Tuesday where they will announce their two drivers for 2008. We expect them to be Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson.
01/16/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources Justin Wilson has found a way to get out of his contract with Dan Pettit so he can drive for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing alongside Graham Rahal, which means the previous rumors of Wilson's move to that team are upgraded to 'strong' as well. This leaves a seat open at Forsythe Racing alongside Paul Tracy.
CDW is rumored to be going to NHLR with Justin Wilson in 2008
11/09/07 Justin Wilson and CDW are still being talked about for the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team next year with the McDonald's sponsorship going with Graham Rahal. The NHLR team will once again be the team to beat........
10/20/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Craig Hampson, Sebastien Bourdais' race engineer, told Autosport.com that he thinks Wilson has a good chance to replace Bourdais at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.
"It's not for me to speak for Mr. Haas, but what I will say is that I'm sure Justin is going to be on his list of potential candidates. Everyone in this team regards Justin as an excellent driver, and someone who we've regarded as a primary competition over the last two or three years.
"Remember, Justin was on our original shortlist to test when we picked Sebastien, but he went for the Minardi Formula One deal. What I'm saying is, we considered him then, and he's now got four years' experience in a Champ Car to add to that. He's a great driver."
"Also, bear in mind we now have Todd Malloy working for us, and he was Justin's race engineer for two years at RuSPORT. He knows how good he is, and knows he's a good guy with a strong work ethic."
"It's an... interesting time for me right now, to be honest. Newman/Haas/Lanigan is where any driver would want to be, so of course I'm looking at that," Wilson told Autosport. "And Champ Car is where I want to be because the racing's good and I have unfinished business here.
"But I've had inquiries from different championships, yes. I can't comment on the Andretti Green Racing rumors because I don't know what's happening there, and I don't want to go and do the ALMS even though I've been linked there.
"It's good to hear that someone like Craig Hampson thinks well of me, sure. We all know he's a great engineer. So of course I hope I'm on Carl Haas's list, yeah. Maybe things will start happening and phone calls will get made when we get back to America."
IRL/Champ Car merger - did George have ulterior motives? Rumors rippled through the open-wheel racing community the week of Jan. 21 that Indy Racing League boss Tony George had recently offered Champ Car World Series management a deal that would unify the two series for 2008. But such a merger again looks unlikely, based on what George told AutoWeek.
George said that in meetings with Champ Car leadership last fall, he offered to help its teams buy IRL cars on the condition that they spend at least two years in the IndyCar Series. No team stepped forward. [Editor's Note - So was the offer to the team leaders to steal them away and kill off Champ Car? It appears all the team owners rejected the offer, and instead stayed unified behind Champ Car, despite George’s lucrative offer.] With the start of the IRL's season approaching, time is up, said George.
"I needed to know earlier so we could get the cars ordered," he said.
It bears noting that Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven said he hasn't spoken with George "in nine months" and that George never made an offer to either him or business partner, Jerry Forsythe.
"I never, ever saw an offer," Kalkhoven said, "and he didn't make it to Jerry." [Editor's Note: Seems pretty strange that George would not make offer to Kalkhoven or Forsythe. Apparently he was trying to do a sneaky end-around in an attempt to steal teams and kill off Champ Car.]
Neither Champ Car nor the IRL permits the other's cars to participate in its series. George said he made the two-year stipulation because the IRL will introduce new cars for the 2010 season.
"For me to make the investment, it makes sense to do it for two years, not one," he said.
It seems the only way there could be a single series for 2008 is for Champ Car team owners to buy IRL equipment on their own.
George said he was willing to help Champ Car teams acquire a new car and a used backup, but he wasn't going to pay the entire freight. He said he is willing to incorporate the bulk of Champ Car's schedule into the IRL. AutoWeek
Pettit to sue NHLR? Just when you thought things could not get any worse for Champ Car, rumor has it that one Champ Car team might be suing another. We are told to look for a lawsuit soon on the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing deal with Justin Wilson for contract interference. Although we have no official confirmation one can assume it will be Dan Pettit bringing the lawsuit because he had a contract with Wilson and the rumor is that Wilson is soon to be announced at NHLR.
We hear they have been discussing it for quite a while. Contract disputes happen in business and the resolution does not always make friends or enemies. In this case they are not enemies; they just have a difference of opinion we are told.
Nationwide COT to be used full time in '09 Work continues on the Nationwide car of tomorrow program, with the four manufacturers helping to push up the timeline for development of the new car, Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash says.
Another wind tunnel test is planned, Balash said, after the four manufacturers in the series - Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge and Toyota - have constructed "identity" pieces for the car. The chassis is based on the Sprint Cup COT, but the body is all new and likely to be based on "heritage" cars for each manufacturer - though Toyota will likely be the only car maker to stick with the same model as in Sprint Cup.
"They're all anxious to speed the process up, so we're actually shortening the timeline that helps us get closer to locking some other things down that lets us move ahead with the rule book," Balash said. "They all had pieces, gathered information and had to go back and do some work. They've done that work. They're saying, 'We can come back sooner than what we thought.'"
Balash said NASCAR's plan is still to have the new car run the entire 2009 season, but officials from the sanctioning body have not formally announced the rollout. More at Scenedaily.com
Rocketsports to announce driver for 2008UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as it was announced that ex-F1 driver Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi will drive for Rocketsports in 2008.
01/27/08 We have it on good word that the Rocketsports Champ Car team will indeed be on the Champ Car grid in 2008. An inside source from Rocketsports has informed AutoRacing1.com that an announcement will be made early this week regarding the driver of the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for the 2008 Champ Car World Series.
Perera eyes move to Champ CarUPDATE #7 We now hear that Perera may indeed get the $2M prize that Matos turned down.
01/28/08 Despite optimism that he would be able to reveal which team he would contest the forthcoming Champ Car World Series campaign with before this weekend's Sebring group test, Franck Perera has decided to postpone an announcement.
Although he has been closely linked to both Forsythe Pettit Racing - with which he tested late last year - and Conquest Racing, the Frenchman has not been able to ink a deal for 2008, a situation not helped by recent upheaval within Champ Car itself and confirmation that he would not be in line to 'inherit' the $2m graduation prize eschewed by Rafael Matos, the man who beat him to last year's Champ Car Atlantic title [Editor's Note: The right thing would have been for Champ Car to have given the $2M prize to Perera, or at least half of it.].
"Champ Car has informed all the teams and Franck's management, CJMotorsport, that it will not be passing along the prize money to Franck," Crash.net was told, "However, despite knowing this, three teams still made offers to Franck last week, including Walker, Conquest and Forsythe again.
"Walker seems to be unable to get Craig Gore's sponsorship of the team next season, and Forsythe seems to be unable to commit immediately, so Conquest seems to have the clear advantage. Franck seems closest to finalizing a deal with them, which should be announced this week, but, obviously, with the drama and upsets at Champ Car in the last two weeks, things have yet again been postponed as the teams themselves struggle with the changes and future of Champ Car.
"In spite of that, however, Franck's management promises the fans that Franck will be testing in Sebring." Crash.net
01/26/08 We hear that Perera is going to probably drive for Conquest Racing and not Forsythe/Pettit Racing in 2008 and is indeed moving up to the Champ Cars.
01/21/08 We hear there could be an announcement regarding Perera's move up to Champ Car this week.
12/28/07 "I want to thank all the fans for voting for me as the SPEEDTV.com Minor League Rookie of the Year. I really enjoyed racing in America this year." said Franck Perera, "I want to be in Champ Car next year for sure. We had a pre-agreement before Christmas with a CC team but my management CJMotorsport asked for the contract back so we could be free to do a deal with other teams who are ready to commit now. I hope to announce my new Team the first week of January."
His comments appear to indicate that Forsythe Pettit Racing are not ready to commit so early and hence he has landed with another team.
11/29/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'very strong' with today's announcement.
11/29/07 Forsythe/Pettit Racing is wasting little time in testing prospective drivers for 2008. Frenchman Franck Perera will test a Champ Car for the newly minted team this week in Houston. Perera finished runner-up to Raphael Matos in the 2007 Atlantic series.
Perera's manager says they've been approached by IRL and GP2 teams but that his clients goal is to race in Champ Car. He adds that if they don't land a full time Champ Car ride, Perera has an option to race with Forsythe's Atlantic team next season.
Autosport.com indicates that Team Australia's Simon Pagenaud and Matos are also on the short list of drivers being considered for Forsythe/Pettit.
07/28/07 We spoke to Champ Car Atlantic standout Franck Perera today in San Jose after he qualified 2nd in San Jose and asked him what his options are for 2008 if he is not able to overtake points leader Raphael Matos and win the $2M prize to move up to Champ Car.
"I would like to move up to Champ Car next year," said Perera. "That is where I want to be. I wanted to be there this year but we couldn't make it happen. However, if we cannot find a way to move up in '08 we will probably be back here [Atlantics] next year [to try and win the $2M].
Gainsco to run da Matta and Vasser in 2nd car In his latest column Gordon Kirby reports from the Rolex 24 Hour race - “I wanted to show people that I’m here and I’m ready to go, ready to drive,” Cristiano da Matta told me. “I want to get back to work and work towards a goal, and I’m ready for that. I’ve been talking to some people and I’ve got some nice conversations going.”
In fact, da Matta will test one of Bob Stalling’s Gainsco Grand-Am cars in March and Stallings is trying to put together the sponsorship to run da Matta and Jimmy Vasser in a second Gainsco entry in all the Grand-Am races starting at Laguna Seca in May. Stallings confirmed at Daytona last weekend that the test is scheduled and he’s looking for sponsorship for Vasser and da Matta to race regularly in the Grand-Am beside Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.
Villeneuve splits with Pollock, must buy his own rideUPDATE #3 Villeneuve released this statement today:
Jacques Villeneuve has confirmed that he and his long-term manager, Craig Pollock have decided to end their business relationship.
Villeneuve has claimed an almost unprecedented range of titles and victories under Pollock’s management. The split is by mutual agreement, and the two remain close friends. Pollock who has a new young family, and would like to concentrate on developing new business opportunities states, “We’ve had a fantastic time together, sharing the highs and lows. I have always believed in Jacques’ driving ability and that will never change. NASCAR is a new challenge and even though I will not be with him, it is my intention to follow his new adventure. Go for it Jacques!”
The Canadian, who will drive a Bill Davis Racing Toyota Camry in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup this season adds, “A lot has changed in recent years. I’m older, and probably no longer need a manager to perform those duties that Craig has covered so well before; now that I’m married, I’m much more reliant on my wife, and more and more I’ve been working on a lot of that stuff myself.”
As his preparations for NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500 continue, Villeneuve closed-off on what has been one of motor racing’s most successful driver-manager relationships, in stating, “Craig and I have been good friends for most of my life, and that doesn’t just go away; this is a friendly parting and we remain good friends. He has stuck with me through good times and bad, and I have a lot to thank him for.”
01/27/08 (GMM) 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has split with his longtime manager Craig Pollock. The pair have been friends and associates for decades, from his formative days in America's open wheeler scene, through their collaboration with the formula one team BAR, and most recently as Villeneuve, 36, forges a new career in NASCAR.
Now, mere weeks before the American tin-top season begins for 2008, the Canadian newspaper Journal de Montreal reports that Pollock and Villeneuve will no longer work together this year and beyond.
It is believed that Pollock's desire to remain based in Europe with his young family was the catalyst for the split, but there are also suggestions that his management style was proving an obstacle to Villeneuve's progress on the American scene.
"Craig has a new wife and he seems to want to concentrate on his new family life which will be centered in Europe," French-Canadian Villeneuve said
"For my part, I choose to base myself here in Canada, with my family, in order to pursue my career as a NASCAR driver. It's going well so far with Bill Davis Racing. I want to concentrate on it and do my things here," he added.
01/26/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Craig Pollock told F1GrandPrix.it - "It is pretty much as mentioned in the Autosport article. There are 36 races in the States and it's time to move on positively. Spending 36 weeks away from home at my age and experience is a tough call. Jacques lives in Canada and I am based out of Monaco with a new family to bring up. Jacques will have a great and well deserved career in NASCAR living his new challenge. At 36 Jacques is very capable of taking care of his affairs and I am sure he will surround himself with the expertise he needs for a North American career. We remain in daily contact and although we will not be working together, this does not mean that our long standing friendship will be effected."
01/26/08 Could Jacques Villeneuve's plans to run a full season in Sprint Cup be coming apart just weeks before the season opener here in Daytona?
A major change in management for Villeneuve could indicate just that, as Yahoo! Sports has learned that the Canadian driver has dismissed long-time manager and business partner Craig Pollock.
Last season, following months of speculation and after his name was attached to several major team owners in the NASCAR garage, Villeneuve made his NASCAR debut with Bill Davis Racing. He competed in seven Craftsman Truck Series races and also made his controversial Cup debut at Talladega. Villeneuve also competed at Phoenix.
At the time, Villeneuve and Pollock announced plans to field a full-time Cup entry with BDR in 2008. But efforts to find the financial resources necessary for that effort have fallen short, with deadlines issued by both Toyota and BDR approaching rapidly. Sources told Yahoo! Sports that Villeneuve, the former F1 world champion and Indy 500 winner, dismissed Pollock this week – under a cloud of controversy.
The two have known each other for nearly 20 years and together were partners in a host of ventures, including a restaurant and a car care products distribution business.
Recently, however, their relationship reportedly had begun to sour. And although Pollock had been able to put together two-thirds of the required financial package necessary to run a full Cup season, officials at Toyota and BDR demanded proof of a full financial package, sources said.
The relationship got even worse after Pollock, looking to take advantage of what he believed to be financial difficulties facing team owner Bill Davis, offered to purchase Davis' team outright.
Davis bristled at the notion, and Villeneuve was left to make a choice – Pollock or Davis. Shortly afterward, Villeneuve decided he needed to cut ties with Pollack.
Observers close to the situation say it was Pollock who perhaps was the main obstacle hindering Villeneuve's effort to find proper sponsorship, as stories of allegedly questionable tactics in Pollock's business dealings in Europe had made their way to North America.
With the start of the season rapidly approaching, Villeneuve likely will be forced to dig into his own pockets and provide the funding necessary – estimated to be in the millions of dollars – to begin the season. More at Yahoo! Sports
New Spanish F1 team in works? (GMM) Adrian Campos has played down speculation that he and business partner Alejandro Agag are on the verge of launching a Spanish formula one team.
It was reported recently that Campos, a former Minardi driver, and millionaire Agag had now completed the partial purchase of struggling Japanese team Super Aguri, following negotiations that began last year.
Campos and Agag already co-own a GP2 team.
But Campos told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo: "At the moment our sole priority is to join the fight for the GP2 title."
He did not, however, deny his interest in ultimately launching a Spanish F1 foray.
"Undoubtedly we are going to study and analyze any opportunities, but every single opportunity is not always possible.
"Formula one is a very complicated business and at this moment it is not an option for us," he said.
Campos predicts that the increased interest of Spanish corporates in high level motor racing could soon turn the situation around.
"It appears that things are about to change in this area," he said. "We will see."
BMW could return to ALMS BMW might return to the American Le Mans Series in 2009 with a V8-powered M3. BMW North America withdrew from the series at the end of 2006.
BMW Motorsport in Germany is working on a race version-almost certainly a GT2-class car-of the new M3, but it is unknown if company management has signed off on the project. BMW Motorsport boss Mario Theissen has said repeatedly that a GT program is one of the company's long-term goals.
Meanwhile, BMW North America motorsport manager Martin Birkmann denied the project's existence. "There is nothing concrete we can shout about right now, but we are keen to go racing again," he said.
Series gossip suggests that Rahal Letterman Racing is the favorite to run the BMWs should the program go ahead. AutoWeek
GM to report record annual loss General Motors Corp. will announce its 2007 earnings on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 12. The automaker is expected to announce its worst annual loss in history, due to a $39-billion paper loss in the third quarter, primarily because of a tax-accounting rule.
The loss comes even as GM announced earlier this week that 2007 was its second best sales year ever, with global sales of 9.37 million vehicles. The automaker had record years in many emerging markets — led by China, Russia and Brazil — while it lost sales and market share in the United States.
The automaker’s best sales year was 1978, when it set the record for most annual sales by any automaker ever with 9.55 million.
GM expects to start seeing some financial benefit from a new UAW labor contract this year, with the ability to pay any new hires with a lower wage and compensation package. It expects to save billions annually, too, from the establishment of a health-care trust — known as a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA. The VEBA is expected to take effect in 2010 and would allow GM to transfer the responsibility for $47 billion in hourly retiree health-care liability to the trust. GM expects to cut its hourly labor costs nearly in half — to about $5 billion — by 2011, thanks to the new contract.
D'Hondt Motorsports moves down to ARCA Former NASCAR team owner Eddie D’Hondt announced that his team will field Toyota Camry’s in a limited ARCA effort out of his new shop located in Lakeside Business Park - Mooresville, NC. Piloting the #19 D’Hondt Motorsports entry in the upcoming February 9 Daytona ARCA event will be driver, Jack Bailey. Under the banner of D’Hondt Motorsports, LLC, Bailey will also pilot the # 19 Toyota Camry at, Pocono, Michigan, and Talladega. As the season progresses, there is a strong possibility of additional ARCA races for Bailey, as well as, other drivers competing in DMS cars in both the ARCA Series and some selected Nationwide Series events. D'Hondt Motorsports PR
Andretti eyes Indy 500 return John Andretti, co-winner of the 1989 Rolex 24 At Daytona, is co-driving with Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt IV, Vitor Meira and Tony George in the No. 03 Vision Racing Daytona Prototype. Andretti, who returned in 2007 to compete in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 1994 with Panther Racing, said he's looking to put together a full-month program.
"I'm really enjoying my time down here," said Andretti, whose team will start 20th. "My teammates are a lot of fun to be around. For the Indy 500, I'd love to go back there and start the first week and spend all the time necessary to do it so I can learn a lot more." IndyCar.com
Nationwide Series COT rumors "We've been discussing that with NASCAR ongoing," Geschickter said Thursday. "They've built one. I've seen it. There's a team from each manufacturer building one for wind tunnel testing, and they'll have to take it a step at a time, the way they did with the Cup car."
Unlike the Sprint Cup COT, the car Geschickter saw had a rear spoiler instead of a wing.
"It's a good-looking car," he said. "It's got more front bias, a smaller splitter. You'll have more front downforce, which means you don't need the wing. It looks like a racecar, which I like. I think it's pretty sporty looking.
"I think the cool thing is they're also working on some character lines, where a Mustang may look more like a Mustang, or a Malibu may look more like a Malibu, so that will be good for manufacturer support, too."
F1 qualifying to change It has been confirmed after weeks of rumors that qualifying will be altered in 2008 in order to make it more entertaining and to get rid of the troublesome "fuel burn" period, which was seen by all concerned as a serious "own goal" in the process of giving Formula 1 a more environmentally-friendly image. The Q3 session which was previously 20 minutes in length will now be reduced to just 10 minutes which will give the teams time to do two or perhaps three qualifying runs for those who wish to try for a better qualifying position.
There is now talk that once qualifying is over the weights of the cars ought to be published so that the media can explain what happened in the knowledge that they are not guessing strategies. There is a decent argument that this makes sense given that teams cannot change the settings of the car at that point and the knowledge of who is running what may add to the interest in the race - and will make it easier for TV commentators to explain what is going on. Grandprix.com
Foreigners days in NASCAR numbered? NASCAR says it wants to get back to the Good Ol' Days when the sport was at its peak. However, it has a major dilemma on its hands - it has let the foreigners in and how do they now get them out?
"The perception that the sport is a lot different than it used to be is worse than actual facts," Jeff Burton said. "When I talk to people about the sport, some guys I respect that are race fans and have been for a long time, good old regular guys, what I get is, 'Well, I don't like it.' Why? 'Well, they let Toyota in' or 'I don't like all the foreign drivers being here' or 'I don't like the Car of Tomorrow'"
Champ Car and IRL merger talks heat up....again? A reader writes, I saw this note by Curt Cavin:
Question: If Champ Car folds, would Jerry Forsythe dare to step foot in an IRL paddock? (Robert, San Antonio, Texas)
Answer: I think it's possible he'd field a team. My spies said he's been in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway offices in the past few weeks -- although I haven't been able to confirm that -- so that ought to be worth something. Curt Cavin Indystar.com
I also just read this SPEEDTV.com article by Robin Miller that says Tony George has made an offer to Champ Car. Is there any truth to any of this. Patrick Moore
Dear Patrick, We checked with our Champ Car sources in very high places and were told categorically, "There is no truth to it. There was no offer and there are no talks." Mark C.
Illegal electronic aids in use in F1? (GMM) Jarno Trulli says he is concerned that the banning of electronic aids has returned the specter of cheating to formula one.
Toyota's Italian driver is quoted as telling the magazine Autosprint that, eight weeks before the opening race of 2008, some rival teams may have found a way around the new standard electronics developed and supplied by McLaren Electronic Systems.
He suspects that some teams are already using illegal forms of launch and traction control in pre-season testing.
"I'm not saying someone's cheating, even though we've received some conflicting information at Toyota," Trulli, 33, said.
"But having analyzed the behavior on the track both now and in the tests in December, the changes between them are many -- and in several cases suspicious," he added.
Why CDW may leave Champ Car A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have heard that CDW is not going to sponsor Justin Wilson at Newman/Haas/Lanigan because CDW's new owners have come in and are cutting every budget. Is this true? Donna Josephson
Dear Donna, Nothing could be further from the truth—CDW just signed a big deal sponsorship with the PGA Tour to be their Official Technology Partner for 5 years. People do not want to accept how badly the CCWS have screwed up—losing CDW is all of a piece with the hideous TV deal, losing Matos, losing Tony Cotman and sheer neglect of CDW.
In fact, CDW achieved a record full year and fourth quarter sales.
Full year 2007 sales: $8.145 billion, up 20.0% year-over-year
Full year average daily sales: $32.065 million, compared to $26.714 million in 2006.
Fourth quarter 2007 sales: $2.134 billion, up 17.0% year-over-year
Fourth quarter average daily sales: $33.866 million, compared to $28.951 million in 2006.
Tata to make electric cars for Chrysler Tata Motors Ltd , India's top vehicle maker, has signed a development contract with Chrysler LLC for electric vehicles, according to media reports on Wednesday, citing unnamed industry sources.
The deal, with the US carmaker's Global Electric Motorcars unit, is for an electric version of Tata's mini truck Ace that would be sold in the United States, the report said. "The battery-operated vehicle has passed required safety and reliability tests, and the prototype is ready for production," it said, adding they will be exported as completely built units.
Tata Motors will begin exporting around 10,000 units by year-end, and ramp up to 50,000 units, it said. "We are indeed exploring the feasibility of a vehicle on the Ace platform with an electric engine suitable for the U.S., in collaboration with a U.S. company," a spokesman for Tata Motors told Reuters. "But it is premature at this stage to give any details."
Tata Motors, which launched a passenger variant of its best-selling Ace last year, is working with foreign collaborators on biodiesel and electric traction technology, and is in talks for hybrid engines and fuel cells.
Tata Motors recently unveiled the Nano, an ultra cheap car priced at just over $2,500, and is the front-runner for Ford Motor Co's Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands.
Ford set to offer more buyouts Ford Motor Co. is preparing to offer another round of buyouts to all of its approximately 54,000 U.S. hourly employees, and sources say an announcement could come as early as Thursday.
The offers will be essentially the same as those Ford offered to United Auto Workers members in 2006, according to people familiar with the situation. However, a union official told The Detroit News that there is a proposal to offer more money to skilled trades workers, who are among the highest paid. The union source and the company said talks on final terms are continuing and the two sides are close to a deal.
"We have an agreement in principle to offer buyouts to our U.S. hourly employees," Ford spokesman Mark Truby said. "We have been working with the UAW regarding the packages to be offered and the timing of the offers. We will have an announcement relatively soon."
Ford CEO Alan Mulally said Tuesday that more details of the plan will be outlined Thursday when the automaker releases fourth quarter and full-year earnings for 2007, but did not say if a final deal was expected by then.
Ford's contract with the UAW allows the Dearborn automaker to pay new hires substantially less than current hourly employees, and the company is eager to create as many openings as possible. But Ford still has to find positions for up to 5,000 former Visteon Corp. workers it agreed to take back as part of a bailout of its former parts subsidiary in 2005. Detroit News
BMW may launch 'all-green' brand BMW may launch an exclusively green brand to supplement its BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce marques.
The green brand would sell ecologically friendly vehicles of a kind considered too extreme to sit comfortably within the company's existing ranges.
"We cannot take the blue out of BMW and change it to green," said sales and marketing director Stefan Krause in an interview with trade journal Automotive News. "Maybe we could add a fourth brand."
BMW is already doing more than most marques to green its vehicles with its so-called Efficient Dynamics program that has seen the introduction of various technologies to much of its existing range, including engine stop/start, regenerative braking and aerodynamic aids.
But BMW may be considering more extreme technologies and vehicle types that would sit more easily with a new brand rather than BMW, whose exclusively rear-wheel drive models are less efficient than front-drive vehicles, or with the quirkier Mini range.
Dakar Rally to South America? The government of Chile is supporting a big to take the Dakar Rally to South America in 2009. This year's event was cancelled because of a terrorist threat in Mauretania in Africa, and there are reports that Chile's deputy sports minister Jaime Pizarro has been in Paris with a letter from Michelle Bachelet, who has been president of the country since 2006, asking the Amaury Sports Organization to consider running the event in Chile.
There are suggestions that the event could take place in the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile and there are even suggestions that Argentina and Brazil would bee happy to hold stages as well.
This is not a bad idea as Africa's political stability cannot be relied upon but it is also rather difficult to imagine a rally to Dakar taking place in Chile, unless, of course, the competitors are flown to Senegal for the final stages.
If it is decided that no physical link is needed to Dakar - which would make more financial sense - it will beg the question whether the British GP could take place in Dubai. Grandprix.com
Will Sprint’s Customer erosion prompt NASCAR withdrawal?UPDATE Despite published reports that Sprint Nextel Corp. is planning to lay off as many as 4,000 employees and close 125 stores to help reduce costs, company officials say that the telecommunications firm is solidly entrenched in NASCAR and plans to remain there.
As the company announced its plans for the Sprint Cup Series this season, questions arose about the recent news. Dean Kessel, the company's director of marketing for the racing series, said that those business issues are separate from the company's involvement in NASCAR.
"Certainly there are some challenges with the business, and Dan Hesse, who's now been our CEO for about four weeks, I guess, is working on those things and making the decisions that need to be made," Kessel said Tuesday.
"As it relates to what we're doing inside Sprint Cup Series, we're singularly focused on Daytona and executing the things we talked about here today. We're very focused on it. Our team is ready to go, and we've got the resources to do what we need to do, so we're going to do it."
Those things discussed included an ad campaign in which cars reflect the personalities of their drivers, enhancements to the annual all-star race and a decade-by-decade musical celebration of the sport as part of the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500.
"This program works," he said, explaining why fans should not be concerned. "It works for us form a business standpoint. It works for us across a number of key platforms for us, as it relates to churn, which is people leaving the company - they use the term churn in our industry. Fans, our customers in our database that have said, 'Hey I'm a NASCAR fan, and I'm buying your product because you support my lifestyle,' ... they use more data. Our acquisition numbers are higher as well. So the business case is extremely solid for us remaining in the sport, and that's why we're not going anywhere." Scenedaily.com [Editor's Note: And if you believe that, we have a bridge to sell you. That's why they are losing customers at an alarming rate, because a few NASCAR fans said they are using Sprint Nextel because of their NASCAR involvement. Too funny.]
01/20/08 Sprint Nextel’s announcement on Friday that it is losing customers more rapidly than expected is making investors nervous about a weak economy’s effect on other wireless companies. Ever since Nextel and later merged to become Sprint Nextel started sponsoring the NASCAR series they have been losing customers at an alarming rate indicating that sponsoring NASCAR may be hurting the company.
Shares of Sprint fell $2.87, or 25 percent, to $8.70 after it said that it planned to lay off 4,000 workers and close stores to trim costs as its customer base shrinks.
Industry analysts had estimated that in the fourth quarter Sprint lost about 350,000 contract subscribers — a carrier’s most valuable customers, signed up for contracts of a year or more. Instead, Sprint announced that it had a net loss of 638,000 contract customers.
“It’s the magnitude of the weakness that is shocking,” said Michael Nelson, an analyst at the Stanford Group, an investment firm.
To reduce costs, Sprint said it planned to cut its payroll by 4,000 workers. The company, based in Reston, Va., currently has about 60,000 employees.
Sprint said it would also close 125 company-owned retail stores, about 8 percent of the nearly 1,400 in the Sprint chain. The total labor savings, the company said, should be $700 million to $800 million a year.
The cutbacks were the first major step taken by Sprint since the arrival last month of its new chief executive, Daniel R. Hesse. He had been the chief executive of Embarq Corporation, a local-phone spinoff of Sprint.
Ganassi thinks something big up in open wheel Question: Chip Ganassi held a press conference yesterday at Daytona and he had all of his drivers with him and I listened to it on XM Radio's "Dialed In" program. He pretty much said that there are some developments happening in IndyCar and that the sport will "turn the corner" during the next two years and that he is really excited about it. Of course, the news reporters didn't inquire more about that, but do you know what the "developments" that are happening that Chip is talking about. I will say that as a listener Chip got me pretty excited about the upcoming season. (John, Nashville, Tenn.)
Answer by Curt Cavin - Indy Star Newspaper: I wasn't there, of course, but I imagine he was referring to the possibility that Champ Car closes and there's just one open-wheel series. But remember when Roger Penske said much of the same thing about three years ago. Everyone keeps waiting for that shoe to drop, and so far it hasn't.
Nearly six months removed from his last open-wheel outing at Infineon Raceway, Richard Antinucci can’t wait for the moment to report to work. As usual what is often aptly named “silly season” -- the winter break -- has fueled rumors, and from his San Diego home the driver is adamant about what 2008 has NOT in store for him: "Every now and then I was getting wind that I had one IRL deal all wrapped up. Some rumors were hinting at a part-time season, some even at a full-time job. This somehow may be deemed flattering, but I have to set this straight: this is not going to happen. Not in 2008, anyway."
Although Antinucci is aiming high, his practical side inclines him to hit the reachable goals first. "I had great results in the second-half of the past season.” Antinucci elaborates, “I've collected two wins and a second place. I am not one to underestimate my 2007, but the move to IRL is something that you can’t do with a thin resume. I think that racing-wise I have a thick resume, but as far as oval mileage is concerned I can better develop my skills there with some Indy Pro Series seasoning. Therefore my main goal for 2008 has been to land one of the IPS series’ top seats, I could also say the top seat, something that I am quietly working at for a while and that I am confident will be finalized soon. If this will happen this week it would make the ultimate birthday gift, as next Saturday I’ll be 27! I am quite confident of the path I am taking and I am sure this is the best way to prepare myself to be a IRL driver later on.”
Whilst Antinucci is honing in on his 2008 drive, he’s not forgetting his road-racing roots: "One quite cannot sweep having raced on tracks across three continents under the carpet. I am fully committed to take the right steps to IRL now, but I look forward to be involved in road-racing to some extent in the future. One can not help but notice that sportscars are growing constantly these days, here, in Europe and Japan. Manufacturers are deeply involved in it and quite likely we’ll see more of that. IRL household names such as Castroneves and Kanaan, I mean guys who are proven winners, are not afraid that driving sportscars may distract them from their main goal. So I would, if the right opportunity should arise. To be honest if in the mid-term things in open-wheel should not pan out, I definitely would not deem it a Plan B to be driving in ALMS or FIA GT. Over there you find pros who have had exceptional careers, people like Tom Kristensen or Ron Fellows. Only someone who has poor judgment would not evaluate their achievements as something that stand out in racing. Moreover, the IPS season ends in early September, when sportscars still are in the heat of theirs. At Miller Park I had a chance to make my Grand-Am debut after the open-wheel season wound down, and in spite of a trying weekend I managed to come to grips with driving with a roof, as my topping the race timesheets confirms. I would like to do it again in 2008.”
Toronto GP to get federal money? Fresh on the heels of its title sponsor's financial difficulties, the Champ Car Grand Prix of Toronto has hired an Ottawa lobbyist to help secure federal money for the July 6 race.
With Steelback Brewery and sister company D'Angelo Brands Ltd. having sought bankruptcy protection in November, race president Charlie Johnstone needs to replace an estimated $500,000 in cash and another $500,000 in promotion the beer outfit brought to the table in 2007.
"My major focus right now is a new title or presenting sponsor, and frankly, it's been going well," Johnstone said.
"Obviously, Steelback has some business difficulties that they are facing, so we do not have a deal in the beer category right now, but we are talking to a number of companies," he said.
Steelback signed a long-term deal to be the title sponsor of the race after Molson ended its 22-year association with the event in 2006.
Team Australia down to 1 car in 2008UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' and may soon go to 'false.' Team Australia told AutoRacing1.com "It is the plan to have a second car and everything is moving in a positive direction to ensure that happens. We currently are lining up the sponsors and talking to a number of drivers (including Simon Pagenaud). Since it is only January 21st, we still have a lot of time to get this done."
Walker (Top) and Gore (Bottom) are both looking for answers from Champ Car regarding what the future might hold
Team Australia may run just one car in 2008 if they can't find adequate sponsorship for a second entry. Team co-owner Derrick Walker admitted as much in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in which he also suggests the team is re-evaluating its future in the open wheel series.
"For Craig (Gore) and I, we are seriously considering the future," writes Walker. "It's fair to say 2008 is an important year for the series to regain momentum and (establish) a clear strategy where Champ Car is going for it to make business sense to remain in Champ Car."
Will Power is reportedly confirmed to return in 2008 but Simon Pagenaud's status with the team is tied to sponsorship. The Frenchman landed a one year ride in 2007 thanks to his $2-million bonus for winning the Atlantic Series title but all bets are off in 2008.
Walker and Team Australia tried to sign 2007 Atlantic champion Raphael Matos, before he decided to take a pass and join the IRL's development series
"It's a shame but it takes more than just that $2 million," Walker is quoted as saying by SpeedTV.com. TSN.ca
Tagliani could be in line for PKV seatUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' with today's announcement that Tagliani will test for PKV Racing.
01/10/08 Alex Tagliani could be the second driver sought by PKV. The French Canadian driver is without a contract after terminating his association with Rocketsports. He is still talking with PKV as of today.
"I would not say that an agreement is imminent, but things are going well," said Tagliani. ''It is clear that they are interested in me. Right now, they are looking at how I could help them as far as marketing in Canada. If everyone pushes in the right direction, it could be good for me and the team."
PKV already has the services of the veteran Oriol Servia, hired last week. The 33 year old Spaniard drove a car for PKV for the two last races of the 2007 season. "Oriol is a super good guy, I like him very much. And perhaps with this team, I could win the championship. In any case, it is what I wish for the continuation of my career," Tagliani states. RDS.ca
Ban on leaded fuel could kill drag racing in Canada The Government of Canada is going to kill drag racing in this country, industry experts predict. The pending decision to implement a total and permanent ban on the use of leaded fuels for competition purposes, effective Jan. 1, 2009, will force tracks such as Grand Bend Motorplex and St. Thomas Dragway to close, say their owners.
The ban won't, however, affect stock car racing as that industry saw this coming almost 20 years ago and has changed over for the most part to unleaded fuels.
But drag racing is definitely in trouble.
"If the ban happens, professional drag racing in Canada is over, immediately, completely and forever," said Dennis Smith, with Atchison Racing in London. Rob Atchison is a three-time IHRA alcohol funny car champion. This isn't the same as the challenges we've faced in the past. This time, they're dropping the 'Big One,' " Smith said.
Aguri sells team stake in AgagUPDATE According to what AutoRacing1.com has learned, Agag has nothing to do with the current negotiations to sell a stake in the team which have not concluded and are ongoing.
01/18/08 (GMM) Aguri Suzuki has now completed the partial sale of his formula one team, according to reports on Friday.
It emerged last year that Honda powered Super Aguri, based in Leafield (UK), was in talks with Alejandro Agag, a Spaniard and part owner of the Campos Grand Prix GP2 team.
It is believed that Agag and possibly also Adrian Campos were keen on purchasing a minority shareholding, which would leave Suzuki, like Campos a former grand prix driver, in charge.
Super Aguri ran into money trouble in 2007 when major sponsor SS United defaulted on due payments.
The German publication Auto Bild Motorsport now claims that Agag, a 37-year-old millionaire, has bought 50 per cent of the Japanese team.
Kenny to Run Some Cup Races? Kenny Wallace will come right out and tell you that he's not yet ready to gain his identity from his career in motorsports television -- he's still a racecar driver. Wallace said he plans to be part of an announcement on Monday for a Sprint Cup deal to attempt the 50th annual Daytona 500 -- the keystone event to Speedweeks -- as well as a limited number of other Cup races throughout the season. Wallace said he was signed [to a TV deal with SPEED] prior to the 2007 season to a three-year deal, with two option years. "I guess an ideal situation for me, right now would probably be to run for the championship in the [Nationwide] Series and run a limited amount of Cup races," Wallace said. But Wallace said he's a couple of years away from doing media full time -- or even thinking about it. NASCAR.com
Astronauts wearing HANS devices? It could happen, according to Dr. John Melvin, who helped NASCAR improve the safety features of its stock cars since the start of the 2001 racing season. Melvin said NASA has taken an interest in the data gathered by NASCAR's black box recorders over the last five years and may apply stock car safety standards to its upcoming moon and Mars programs. "NASA has become interested in this data for protecting the crew of the lunar and Mars modules," Melvin said. "I'm working with them, along with some other people, trying to get this data built into their understanding on how to protect people." When NASA ditches the shuttle program and goes back to Apollo-like capsules, the space agency plans to bring the returning space craft home with a ground landing. Daytona Beach News Journal
Biofuels do more harm than good? Controversial plans to make cars greener by using fuel made from crops and animal fat will be thrown into doubt this week when MPs are expected to question whether they will do more harm than good.
Biofuels have been hailed as a green alternative to oil by some, but in the US, where there are massive plants converting maize (corn), it has been criticized for making food more expensive and being environmentally unfriendly.
From April, petrol and diesel sold in the UK must have 2.5 per cent Biofuels, drawn from sources such as tallow, rapeseed and sugar beet, rising to 5 per cent in two years' time. The EU wants to increase this to 10 per cent by 2020.
But the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee is likely to call tomorrow for the schemes to be delayed because of fears that Biofuels can have negative consequences. Criticisms include claims that producing some Biofuels emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and that habitats such as tropical rainforests are being destroyed to plant the new crops. The report, 'Are Biofuels Sustainable?', is also thought to predict that rising food prices pushed up by competition for land could restrict growth in the industry.
The committee's report follows a separate study last week by the Royal Society calling for strict controls on how Biofuels are grown. Stavros Dimas, the EU Environment Commissioner, has also admitted that it might have been premature to press ahead with Biofuels, which were fiercely debated at the United Nation's Bali conference on climate change in December.
Groups representing farmers and biofuel producers have warned any delay could damage the fledgling industry at a time of intense competition from overseas. Clare Wenner, head of transport Biofuels for the Renewable Energy Association, said: 'The US won't close down [their industry], Brazil isn't going to close down, EU countries aren't going to close down, the emerging countries are not going to close down and the world is not going to have the example we have set because we won't be there.' More at The Observer
There are reports in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun that Toyota is going to take a hybrid racing car to Le Mans. The newspaper quoted an unnamed Toyota official as saying that the company's plan is to use the classic French event to spread the word about its hybrid products and will also use the program to boost its image as an environmentally-friendly company.
"Audi proved the superiority of the next generation diesel engine at Le Mans," the Toyota official was quoted as saying, "Toyota wants to do the same with the hybrid."
There have been rumors of such a move for some time with the suggestion being that Toyota will ease its way out of F1 by giving the Le Mans hybrid program a high profile and leaving Williams as its representative in Grand Prix racing. Given the Toyota F1 team's lack of success in recent years and the promising showing by Williams in 2007, this is a logical step as the company can justify the switch away from F1 because of the need to concentrate on environmental issues, while also benefiting from any success that Williams achieves. Grandprix.com
Why did Champ Car let Matos get away?UPDATE In this SPEEDTV.com article, Matos explains why he had to leave Champ Car. In essence the series is in such bad shape that none of the teams had any sponsorship to add to the $2M Matos was to get from Champ Car for winning the Atlantic championship. It takes more than $2M to run a full season. So Matos went to the IRL where there is sponsorship money and he will get paid to drive. He made the decision because he felt he had a better future there.
"I feel bad for Simon [Pagenaud] because he has nothing now and Derrick wants to run him but doesn't have the money," said Matos. "I think it's bad that Champ Car guarantees you will have a ride for $2 million and it's only a one-year deal.
"I don't want to run just one year in Champ Car, I want a professional deal. What would I do in 2009 when I have no money? Be out of luck just like Simon.
"That's why I made this decision, it's the best for my career.
"I understand I have no experience on ovals and I will spend 2008 learning them," said Matos, who won two of the four IPS races (on the streets of St. Pete) he competed in before moving full-time to Atlantics in 2006.
"But AGR has an ALMS team and they could run five cars at Indianapolis and I think I have many opportunities with them. Michael made me feel like I had a future with him and made me feel comfortable.
"Champ Car has always been a great series but it's difficult to see where it is going. Everything the IRL had to offer me was a little bit better as far as my future was concerned."
Matos tried to stay in Champ Car, but it just was not possible because of the lack of sponsorship the teams have.
01/19/08 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, The recent news for Champ Car is devastating. Cotman leaving, the horrible TV schedule, and Matos. The Matos news is particularly devastating as it sends the wrong message on every front. I can't help but think that Michael Andretti has a big smile on his face right now, having helped to drive another nail in Champ Car's coffin by stealing their Atlantic champion. I've ordered flowers, when is the Champ Car funeral? Dave Dileo
Dear Dave, Indeed on the outside the writing does appear to be on the wall, however, contracts are being signed and everything is moving forward for 2008. As for Matos, yes he is an excellent driver, but he is Brazilian and Champ Car does not race there, so perhaps they wanted to let him get away as he is not the right fit nor have the personality for Champ Car's future. Franck Perera, the 2nd place Atlantic driver is perhaps viewed as a better fit for the kind of driver and spokesperson Champ Car wants to build its future on. Will he now get the $2M? One would certainly hope so and we hear that will probably happen. Last we heard, he wants to drive for Forsythe and of course Forsythe has the personal wealth to supplement the $2M to do a full year program if he wants to. Mark C.
NASCAR driver’s dad allegedly scammedUPDATE Thursday a Texas jury cleared Malik Ibrahim, a Nigerian national, of scamming nearly $1 million from a McKinney resident in a NASCAR-related business deal that broke down.
According to a report in the Dallas Morning News Ibrahim was arrested last May on theft charges and three counts of securing and executing a document by deception, all felonies.
The jury's not-guilty verdict was delivered after seven hours of deliberations over the course of two days. When it was announced, it brought tears to Ibrahim’s eyes.
"I wish there was a word that would describe what I'm feeling," Ibrahim, 44, said as he was escorted out of the courtroom by the bailiff. "It's been hellacious. But this has restored my faith in American justice."
Despite Thursday's verdict, Ibrahim, who has said in the past that he is a Nigerian prince and has three teenagers, remained in the Collin County Texas Jail in lieu of $35,000 bail in connection with seven perjury charges relating to comments he made during bail hearings.
Ibrahim was accused of stealing money that Robert Richardson Sr. gave him to invest in the racing career of Richardson's 25-year-old son, Robert Richardson Jr.
The younger Richardson had been racing cars as an amateur but was looking for the next opportunity, Robert Richardson Sr. testified Monday, the opening day of the trial.
"When Junior played football, I'd buy him two or three balls a year," Richardson said. "Racing is something you can't teach. You have to do it. You have to experience it." Cupscene.com
12/06/07 A man accused of scamming the father of a NASCAR Busch Series driver from McKinney out of hundreds of thousands of dollars received seven additional charges of perjury for giving false testimony during his criminal and civil trials.
Adulmalik Ado-Ibrahim, who has several aliases, including Malik Ado-Ibrahim, Malik Ibrahim and Prince Malik Ado-Ibrahim, received seven third-degree felony counts of aggravated perjury from a Collin County grand jury last week stemming from alleged false statements he made during the pre-conference portion of his earlier felony trial and his civil trial, according to Collin County court records.
An earlier grand jury indicted Ado-Ibrahim, 43, back in March on a first-degree felony count of theft over $200,000 and a second-degree felony count of securing execution of a document by deception and filed the case in 380th District Court. The Collin County District Attorney’s Special Crimes Unit alleged Ado-Ibrahim stole about $625,000 from Robert G. Richardson Sr., of McKinney, father of Busch Series driver Robert Richardson Jr., by promising they would be deposited into a Bank of America trust account that did not exist. They also allege he stole $125,000 of the $625,000 from Richardson Sr. through four checks worth $31,250 each that he made out to Maverick Motorsports, Ado-Ibrahim’s company, according to the indictments.
The court issued a warrant under the name Malik Ibrahim and police officials arrested Ado-Ibrahim on May 2 in Los Angeles, Calif. He waived his extradition rights and officers returned him to McKinney for his court proceedings. He was placed in Collin County Detention Center on $1.5 million bond, according to court documents.
During the course of the trial, Ado-Ibrahim’s attorney Charles Woods, of Dallas, filed a motion to reduce his bail to $25,000. According to the defense’s motion, his attorney claims that Robertson Sr. entered into a contract with Maverick Motorsports, which claims to have specialized in race promotions. The motion doesn’t list a date when the two entered into the contract or what the contract was for, but notes that Richardson Sr.’s son, who currently races for Jay Robinson Racing, wanted to be a race car driver and had raced in several “sanctioned NASCAR events.” The two eventually engaged in drafted settlement agreements that broke down in late 2005 and led Richardson Sr. to file a criminal complaint with the Collin County DA’s Office.
According to the indictments, the SCU alleges Ado-Ibrahim perjured himself seven times during hearings in his criminal trial and depositions in his civil trials. The SCU claims he made “inconsistent statements” regarding plane tickets he purchased to Malaysia during a deposition in his civil trial in which he was being sued by Precision Preparation, a liability company in North Carolina. He claims the tickets were paid through an account and given back to an unidentified woman and in another instance, he claims he doesn’t know if they were paid through another company, according to the indictment. McKinney Messenger
Matos to forego $2M, black eye for Champ Car?UPDATE #4 In this SPEEDTV.com article, Robin Miller agrees with AutoRacing1.com that Matos leaving Champ Car and going to the IRL is another major PR blow for Champ Car. He writes, The Matos Mutiny is simply another public relations disaster and another example of the flawed business plan. A kid from Brazil comes to America with $200, works in a go-kart shop and climbs the ladder until he wins the Atlantic title and $2 million to put towards a Champ Car ride.
But, imagine this, he actually wants to be paid a salary to drive and that doesn't fly with PKV or Forsythe so they try to pawn him off on Gentilozzi's team (and he wisely says, no thanks).
Rafa's agent [Editor's Note: John Caponigro - who also runs all of the Andrettis businesses] makes a deal with Michael Andretti's team and now a future star of Champ Car is an Indy Pro Series driver. He gets a little money, his expenses, a multi-year deal and peace of mind -- which is a lot more than Simon Pagenaud has right now. He was the recipient the first $2 million bonus and did a splendid job for Derrick Walker but Pagenaud has nothing for 2008.
This kind of scenario should really make those Atlantic drivers excited about their future. See related SPEEDTV.com article.
01/18/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement from Andretti Green Racing. A major black eye for Champ Car to have a driver walk away from the $2M prize to drive in Champ Car.
01/16/08 We are told that the rumor that Matos was being told which Champ Car teams he must use his $2M Atlantic prize money with is not true, and he is free to negotiate with any team.
01/16/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Our sources in the Atlantic series are saying that the rumors about Matos going to Andretti Green Racing (AGR) in the IRL's IPS series are correct. Apparently the situation inside Champ Car is such that many of the teams are getting multimillion dollar subsidies in the form of free tires and engine leases from Champ Car. But if they take Matos with his $2 million, they do not get these subsidies... thus, taking less cash from a paying driver like Dan Clarke, added to their subsidies, results in an overall higher dollar figure. Champ Car wants Matos to drive for Rocketsports, which is a back-of-the-field team, and this one-year deal includes no salary, no travel expenses and all prize money goes to the team. On the other hand, AGR is offering him a 3-year deal, decent salary, test days in the IRL car and the chance to move up in a commercially-viable team that operates in both the IRL and ALMS. You really can't blame Raphael.
01/16/08 Rumors making the rounds are that Champ Car Atlantic champion Rafael Matos will forego the $2 million prize money for a Champ Car ride that he earned as 2007 Atlantic Series champion, and instead will drive for Andretti Green Racing in the Indy Pro Series in 2008. This rumor is unconfirmed, but if true would be a major blow to Champ Car's reputation to have a driver walk away from $2 million to go to the rival series. At issue may be the team with which he was being asked to drive for. If this rumor turns out to be true, it will be interesting to see if Atlantic series runner-up Franck Perera gets the $2 million prize.
Chandhok wants F1 debut in 2009UPDATE Indian driver Karun Chandhok believes he can convince Formula One newboys Force India to hand him a 2009 world championship opening if he shines in the GP2 support series this season.
Chandhok was linked with a drive with the Silverstone-based team last year when they were taken over by compatriot, and close friend, Vijay Mallya.
However, the multi-millionaire owner has opted for the experienced former Renault driver Giancarlo Fisichella and promising Adrian Sutil to spearhead the team's campaign in their debut season.
"If you look at it, Fisichella is coming towards the end of his career and Sutil is on a one-year extension," Chandhok told Autosport magazine.
"You could speculate that both of those seats could be up for grabs at the end of the year. If I can finish in the top five of GP2, I think that would put me in contention.
"Mallya has proved by not signing Narain Karthikeyan or me that he is not signing drivers based on nationality. Of course, the fact that I'm Indian is going to help - that's not rocket science - and his ideal scenario is a quick Indian driver.
"But, as we're friends, we've agreed in principle that another year in GP2 is what I need to do, and then we'll see." Hindustan Times
12/17/07 (GMM) Karun Chandhok is confident he can begin a career on the formula one grid in 2009.
Although countryman and long time supporter Vijay Mallya has ruled the 23-year-old Indian GP2 driver out of the running for a Force India seat next year, Chandhok is happy to instead look to 2009 for his grand prix break.
"My chances are looking a lot better now than one or two years ago," Chandhok told the Indian news agency PTI.
He recently made his F1 test debut with Red Bull, deeming it a success as he surpassed the team's expectations.
"They said if I got within one second of David Coulthard, they will be very happy. I got within seven tenths of his time," he beamed.
Chandhok plans to race again in GP2 in 2008, targeting a place in the top five championship standings.
"There will be a good opportunity at formula one (in 2009) because a lot of contracts are expiring at the end of the next season," he said.
Chandhok also ruled out eventually winning an easy ride with Force India, just because of his nationality and Mallya's firm desire to power an Indian to the podium of the inaugural Indian grand prix in 2010.
"As far as Force India goes, Mallya has been very clear that the driver choice will be based on credibility (rather) than nationality and I one hundred per cent agree with him," he said.
Champ Car headed for ocean floor In this article Robin Miller predicts the same fate for Champ Car as the infamous Titanic - The straw boss quits in disgust because he's sick of the false promises and lack of business sense from the series owners. The Atlantic champ goes to the Indy Racing League because he can't get a square deal for $2 million in the series he loves. The latest television package is almost as embarrassing as the coverage itself.
It's two weeks before the first test and only three drivers have been formally announced.
And, oh by the way, nobody has been paid any of their paltry prize money from 2007. More at SPEEDTV.com
[Editor's Note: Since these three announcements we have received a flood of email from fans saying it's all over for Champ Car. Just what the series needed, another off-season full of bad news]
Rossi to leave Yahama Former MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has played down speculation he is close to leaving Yamaha and insists he will be more competitive this year.
The Italian finished third last season behind champion Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa and had hinted of a possible move to rivals Ducati.
"My dream is to end my career with Yamaha," the 28-year-old said. "If we've a competitive bike it's possible to continue to the end. I hope I'll be riding for many years to come."
Rossi's finish outside the top two for the first time in since his rookie season in 1996 led him to hint at a move to Ducati last year. But Rossi insists he is focusing on the new season with Yamaha. "This is a very important year as we've got to try to be competitive again. I think we have great potential. We should've learnt from last year's mistakes.".
Rossi will be fit for the first race in Qatar on 9 March despite breaking bones in his right hand in a crash in qualifying for November's season-ending Valencia Grand Prix.
He added: "My hand is not too bad, I had it X-rayed as the little finger still hurts. There is a ligament that is not quite right, but it shouldn't bother me riding the bike." BBC
RPM range could be key to Toyota's edge The current high RPM range allowed by NASCAR may have given Toyota its edge during the past 10 days of Daytona testing.
The Toyota engine is right at its peak at about 8,800 RPM, while Dodges, Chevrolets and Fords are struggling with more RPM than they can effectively use. Ford teams are particularly off. At this top-end RPM, Toyotas have a sizeable horsepower advantage, according to some rival teams.
So, will NASCAR slow the Toyotas for the Daytona 500 with a new rear-end gear?
Probably not. Toyota’s Michael Waltrip ran his fastest lap with the predicted new gear, and Toyota, in fact, has been among those politicking for the change.
Toyota’s top-end RPM edge is nothing new. That was evident early last season.
But, while such a top-end edge might be very good at Daytona and Talladega (where Toyota teams last fall were the class of the field in speed), it isn’t always so good at the tour’s other tracks, where mid-range torque is more critical.
That’s why Joe Gibbs’ engine shop, headed by veteran Mark Cronquist, is working hard to move the Toyota engine torque curve down to mid-range, which would suit driver Tony Stewart’s style.
Some rivals are starting to ask pointed questions about why Toyotas are so fast at Talladega and Daytona.
One top driver, who asked not to be named, said yesterday that he has never seen the playing field for the Daytona 500 so unbalanced: “Toyotas just make more power here. It’s not aerodynamics, it’s sheer power. Don’t make it any more complicated than that.
“I’ve never seen it this unequal. We saw that at Talladega last fall, and we were told right after that race (by NASCAR) that the problems would be addressed. But it doesn’t look like anything has changed.”
The new Daytona-Talladega engine, in theory, is an open, relatively unrestricted engine like those used at tracks such as Michigan. The old restrictor plate engines would make 420 to 430 horsepower, but these make as much as 675.
“When we all went to this car of tomorrow, NASCAR wanted the engines to turn more RPM, because these cars are bigger through the air, and they wanted the racing more like the trucks - with more throttle-response,” engine builder and team owner Doug Yates said.
“So NASCAR has pushed RPM up 1,000 more than we used to run here.”
One classic Daytona speed benchmark over the years has been the Yateses’ Ford operation, which last year swept the front row in 500 qualifying.
“I’m ticked off about it,” Yates said, “because we’ve been on three of the last four poles here, and now all of a sudden we’re six-tenths (of a second) off with the rules change. What they’ve done has played right into Toyota’s hands. At Talladega, it was just a Toyota qualifying day, and Toyota should have won the race; but the smartest guy won (Jeff Gordon).
“But this RPM is way over the peak power. We’re peaking at 7,800 (RPM) but we’re running 8,800, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. And it’s really hard on the engines.” More at Winston Salem Journal
Verstappen to Champ Car.....again? In his latest column in Holland Jos Verstappen says he has been approached by Champ Car to race in their series, but won't do so in a wanker team. He wants a competitive ride with a fair chance to win. Cannot say we blame him.
"It is correct that I have been approached by the organization of the American Champ Cars with the question if I have interest to race in their circus. I have said that I would gladly want that, but only in a competitive car at a competitive team. If they have that for me, they can phone me directly; otherwise I rather hear nothing. This is how I am: I do something good, or I not at all do it. I do not know if the Champ Cars-organization do not accept my point of view, but they have understood me in any case!"
Bernie could be knighted - report (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone could be the next British motor racing stalwart to be knighted by the Queen.
The F1 chief executive, who is 77, would follow in the footsteps of Sir Frank Williams, Sir Jack Brabham, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart, if the prediction of the Swiss newspaper Blick is correct.
Following the recent New Year's Honors list, the next British honors will be unveiled to coincide with the Queen's birthday in June.
Ecclestone, however, said in an interview recently that he would not automatically accept such an honor.
Indeed, in 1996, it is understood that Ecclestone declined an invitation to become a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for "services to motor racing".
"I'd have to give it some serious thought if it was offered," he said.
Christian Klien to serve in Army Rumor has it that the Austrian army has served former Red Bull and Ferrari driver Christian Klien with a summons, ordering him to fulfill the six-month military service requirement
F1 teams to be allowed one engine failure We hear that the F1 teams have all been granted one free engine failure per car this year after the recent meeting in Paris. This will mean that they will not to have to suffer a drop of 10 places on the grid. This could be important as most of the teams are very reliable these days and engine changes are rare. If a team manages to survive all year without a blow-up this would give them some flexibility at the final race where they might, for example, be able to blow up an engine in qualifying and then run a new one in the race. However, for most of the teams it is simply a way to avoid having too many penalties that will affect the results as a 10-place penalty these days pretty much dictates that a car will not be able to score points. Grandprix.com
Clarke to leave Champ Car for the IRLUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. "The only drivers who can survive in Champ Car are the ones who have sponsors," Clarke told Autosport in an obvious slam on Champ Car who again seems hell bent on surviving on the backs of funded drivers. "I love racing in America and I want to start earning a living here.
"The IRL is one of the few series where drivers can get paid and you can work your way up. Sam Hornish started at Panther and moved to Penske, Ryan Briscoe has been around for a few years and now he's landed a Penske drive too."
"Most teams have driver coaches for ovals too, and the schedule has some road courses where I would be fine."
01/11/08 Rumor has it that Champ Car driver Dan 'Crash' Clarke attended a recent IRL photo shoot for the upcoming season and there is a possibility he will make the switch to IndyCars in 2008. Clarke has proven he is a fast driver, but keeping all four wheels on the tarmac has been a challenge for him when he drives over his head. As a result, he has caused a lot of crash damage in Champ Car. We'll see how well he fares in the IRL with the concrete walls looming.
Champ Car World Series 2008 TV ScheduleUPDATE Although we were rather critical of this rumored scheduled, we have learned from Champ Car's David Higdon, who is now responsible for TV for Champ Car, that there are some positive aspects for this year:
1) Champ Car will be more fully integrated into the ESPN global network of properties, not just television broadcasts but also digital media, radio, mobile, magazines, events and the like.
2) Some of the races will be shown in prime-time, so although they are tape delayed, they may actually yield higher TV ratings than in the past
3) There are no early Sunday morning broadcasts on ESPN Classic, which very few people were able to watch in 2007.
It would have been good if Champ Car could have done high-definition this year, but it would have taken a major financial investment and that wasn't in the cards for this year, but may be for 2009.
01/16/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, below is the soon to be announced Champ Car domestic TV schedule for 2008. If true this is the worst TV schedule in series history with all the ABC telecasts just 1-hour highlights and the majority of races tape delayed. Even the opening two races of the year are tape delayed and on ESPN2, which delivers near-zero ratings.
Why is it so bad you ask? 1) To save money since the series has few sponsors who buy TV ad time, and 2) They procrastinated so long on doing the schedule and the deal that all the available inventory for live races was gone. How many years in a row are they going to make this mistake before they get it right?
With that said, if all the races were going to be in high-definition, like the competition, then the fans might accept the tape delays, but according to our sources, as of a month ago, that was not going to be the case.
EVENT DATES NAME, LOCATION, VENUE
April 20 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Long Beach, California 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. – ESPN2 – Same-day tape
April 27 Grand Prix of Houston at JAGFlo Speedway, Houston, Texas 10:00 p.m. – Midnight – ESPN2 – Same-day tape
May 18 Champ Car Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, California 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. – ESPN - LIVE
June 1 Champ Car World Series Belgium at Circuit Zolder, Zolder, Belgium 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. – ABC – Same-day tape (Just 1 hour of highlights)
June 8 Champ Car World Series Spain at Circuito Permanente de Jerez, Jerez, Spain 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. – ABC – Same-day tape (Just 1 hour of highlights)
June 22 Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. – ABC – Same-day tape (Just 1 hour of highlights)
June 29 Champ Car Mont-Tremblant, Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. – ESPN - LIVE
July 6 Champ Car Grand Prix of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. – ESPN - LIVE
July 20 Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. – ESPN - LIVE
July 27 Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, Portland, Oregon 10:00 p.m. – Midnight – ESPN2 – Same-day tape
August 10 Champ Car Grand Prix at Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. – ABC – Same-day tape (Just 1 hour of highlights)
September 14 Champ Car World Series Holland at the TT Circuit Assen, Assen, Holland 10:00 p.m. – Midnight – ESPN2 – Same-day tape
October 26 Gold Coast Indy 300, Surfers Paradise, Australia 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. – ESPN2 – Same-day tape
November 9 Gran Premio de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. ESPN2 - LIVE * All times eastern
F1 career over, Wurz eyes sports carsUPDATE #3 (GMM) Alex Wurz has indicated that he will indeed again contest the famous Le Mans 24 hour race.
It was reported last month that the veteran Austrian, who has retired as a formula one racer but will travel to the grands prix as Honda's official reserve driver this season, was in talks with the works Peugeot team about 2008.
Wurz, 33, is no stranger to Le Mans, having become the race's youngest ever winner in 1996 before debuting in formula one with Benetton.
"I will be seeing you again at the race at the Sarthe, which at the beginning of my career left me fascinated," he told the Austrian publication networld.
Wurz, however, stressed that he gave away the game as a full-time racer "because I was not sure if I had the energy any more for a full F1 racing season".
But he said he is looking forward to his reserve and test role at Honda.
"Driving and development is something that I have always found fun, and I will continue to do so," Wurz explained.
10/08/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' now - see Hot News page for announcement.
10/08/07 (GMM) Alex Wurz's retirement as a racing driver could be announced as soon as later today (Monday), according to reports from Austria.
The newspaper Kleinen Zeitung said the announcement will take the form of a press released issued imminently by the 33-year-old's current formula one team Williams.
Wurz may be retained as a test driver for 2008, or even in another non-driving role, according to speculation.
10/07/07 (GMM) Austrian formula one veteran Alex Wurz is likely to retire as a race driver after the Brazilian grand prix later this month.
The news was revealed on BBC Radio Five Live following Sunday's Chinese grand prix, amid existing rumors that the 33-year-old might revert to test driving next year or even a non-driving consultancy role at the Grove based team.
Wurz, having returned to the grid this year after six straight years as a tester for McLaren and Williams respectively, has struggled to match the pace of his teammate Nico Rosberg.
Wurz entered formula one amid much promise in 1997, initially taking over the ill Gerhard Berger's Benetton seat and staying at the Enstone squad for three more years.
The BBC reported that Wurz made the decision to stop racing at the end of 2007 after the Canadian grand prix in June, where he finished third.
"I think Alex has had his best days in F1 and he has probably made the right decision," said long time F1 journalist Maurice Hamilton.
Wurz was asked about the retirement rumors by reporters in Shanghai, but he apologized and pointed to an agreement with Sir Frank Williams to keep quiet for a bit longer.
Toyota might withdraw from F1UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. "The rumors about us leaving the sport have always been groundless," Howett was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport. "Having signed the Concorde Agreement, we are in it at least until 2012. "We never received deadlines from Japan regarding the next two years."
01/03/08 Toyota's high-spending formula one team risk being consigned to history unless they can get themselves into a consistently competitive position over the next two seasons. After six years with only two pole positions to show for their efforts, despite the international car manufacturer topping the sport's spending league with an annual outlay close to $500m (£252m), the Cologne-based team have been warned by their Japanese senior management that things must improve dramatically, a message which carries the inescapable threat that the future of the entire programme may be called into question and the team withdrawn from grand prix racing.
"I have been given two more years," said Tadashi Yamashina, the Toyota team principal, in the company's recently published motorsport report. "So we will work and fight to make sure we prove ourselves in the 2008 season."
This very public signal to Yamashina comes only a week before the unveiling of the team's TF108 challenger, which will be driven this season by the veteran Jarno Trulli and the rising star Timo Glock, the German who last year followed Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton to become the third winner of the GP2 championship, the supporting category to formula one.
The Toyota principal also took a thinly veiled swipe at his fellow Japanese under-achievers Honda, who have pinned their hopes of a performance upsurge on the signing of Ross Brawn, the highly regarded former Ferrari technical director, as their team principal. Yamashina professed that the solution to Toyota's ills lay in getting the most out of a wide range of staff rather than depending too much on one individual. "To become stronger it is more important to improve the level of organization in general rather than to rely on the power of one person," he said. "My job is to mobilize the resources to achieve that." Manchester Guardian
Without driver aides, will Hamilton fizzle? Lewis Hamilton twice went off the track in McLaren's new car yesterday on his first stint of official testing this year at Jerez in southern Spain.
On both occasions Hamilton, 23, beached his McLaren into gravel.
Hamilton blamed a lack of engine braking, one of the driver aids - along with traction control - now banned under new regulations.
"The first time it was just wet," Hamilton said. "I touched the curb and went on to the edge of the gravel. But without these controls helping on entry to corners there's more locking of the rear wheels, and when you're pushing hard, it happens."
Hamilton still set the second fastest time of the day with one min 20.099 sec, behind rookie Timo Glock who was 0.3sec quicker in the new Toyota, with Fernando Alonso in last year's Renault, third fastest. Daily Telegraph
NASCAR likely to change gear rule before Daytona 500 NASCAR is still evaluating data from Sprint Cup Series testing at Daytona International Speedway, but it looks as if there likely will be a change in the gear rule when competitors return in February. Teams currently have a choice of a 370 gear or a 375 gear, but their RPMs are above what NASCAR is looking for.
A change in gear - likely a 364 gear - would reduce RPM. That would make the engines more durable. It could even make the cars faster.
"If we change the rule, we won't do it officially until all of testing is completed," NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby said Wednesday during testing. "I think all of the teams are already anticipating a change. I know a lot of teams last week tried a 364 gear and a lot of teams here have got 364s in."
NASCAR would like to keep the RPMs below 9,000, Darby said. Darby said no one has reached 9,000 RPM.
"We're getting too close to that," Darby said. "The key to it is if 10 cars are drafting and they see 8900, when we put 43 out, they're going to be over 9000."
Darby said NASCAR is fine with the overall speeds, which have hit 188 mph in drafting. Scenedaily.com
NASCAR to increase age limit? A reliable inside source tells rowdy.com that NASCAR is seriously considering raising the age limit for drivers in the Sprint Cup Series from the current 18 years of age to 21. Should the change happen, and a decision has not yet been made according to the source, the driver who comes most quickly to the mind of Rowdy listeners is phenom Joey Logano. Logano, currently with Joe Gibbs Racing, turns 18 on May 24th of this year (he's scheduled to make his Nationwide Series debut at Dover shortly afterward), and under the current rules he would be eligible for Cup duty in 2009. Presumably any change would affect the Sprint Cup series only. Rowdy.com
ALMS to announce major new green racing initiativeUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Feature Article
01/14/08 Rumor has it that Tuesday, the American Le Mans Series will announce a major green racing initiative, further putting its stake in the ground as motorsports’ global leader in alternative fuel technology and solutions. The use of clean diesel in the Audi R10 TDI and E10 in other race cars was just the first step in the Series' platform of alternative energy sources. Check back here Tuesday to find out more about the Series' alternative fuel initiatives and details about an actual Green Racing competition.
Chrysler seeks partnershipUPDATE Chrysler LLC, the least-global of Detroit's automakers, is pursuing a variety of efforts toward its goal of doubling its overseas sales in just four years.
The automaker sold 238,218 vehicles overseas in 2007, up 15% from 2006. In the United States, Chrysler sold about 2.1 million vehicles.
To realign itself as a global business, the Auburn Hills automaker is trying to add dealers in Russia and South America while pursuing partners in Asia.
"To me, success is making sure that we continue to put the right foundations into our business. In some markets it will take longer for us to grow just because of the very nature of the market," Mike Manley, a Chrysler executive vice president in charge of international sales and business development, told the Free Press Monday during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
This year alone, Manley said, he wants to double the number of Chrysler dealers in Russia. "We need to increase our dealers in Russia certainly over the next 12 to 24 months," Manley said.
The company currently has about 23 dealers, one of which recently opened a $23-million facility in Moscow, he said.
But it's not just Russia where Manley and other Chrysler executives are pushing.
"To some extent, China is more complicated because it's today an absolute requirement ... to have product localized and obviously there is a process to get that done and it's very complicated," Manley said. "But in terms of Russia, you can still import product and you can still take advantage of the growing market, but you certainly do want to be localized in, let's say, the near or to long-term future because localization will drive some of the cost competitiveness in the region."
At this point, Chrysler seems to be creating a mosaic of partnerships to help build its global business.
The recently announced deal with Nissan Motor Co., for the Japanese company to make a small car for Chrysler to sell in Brazil and possibly elsewhere in Latin American beginning in 2009, helps Chrysler in its efforts to expand its dealership network in South America, Manley said.
"The biggest challenge for me in Latin America is building the dealer network," he said. "Part of that is to make sure we can continue to fuel our growth. I've got to be able to offer our dealers a good business plan. I've now got one more product that's very relevant to them that I can offer to them as long as they make the right investment in our franchise."
The automaker also has a deal with Chery Automobile Co. for the Chinese company to make small cars for Chrysler to sell in various regions around the world.
One of the reasons given for the Chrysler-Daimler merger nearly 10 years ago was to help Chrysler become more global. Though some say newly independent Chrysler needs a major partner, executives indicate that's not their plan.
"I am not spending any time on something bigger than project-by-project," Tom LaSorda, a Chrysler president and vice chairman who is responsible for developing global partnerships, said Monday. Detroit Free Press
01/05/08 Chrysler LLC, which is searching for partners to help give the Auburn Hills automaker a more global reach, is reportedly in talks with Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. over some sort of partnership. Chrysler wants to tap the Indian company's engineering expertise to develop products for emerging markets, the Economic Times in India reported today, citing an unnamed industry source. Mahindra was reportedly in the bidding to purchase the Britain-based Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford Motor Co. Friday's report said the potential Chrysler and Mahindra deal could include an equity stake.
A spokeswoman for Mahindra could not be reached for comment, and a Chrysler spokeswoman was unable to comment Friday. Chrysler prepared Thursday for more global alliances, appointing Simon Boag executive vice president for global alliance operations. "As outlined in the company's recovery and transformation plan, growth in markets outside of North America is critical to the success of Chrysler," President and Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda said in a statement. "We are looking for new alliances and growth opportunities all over the world." LaSorda signed a partnership with Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co. last year to sell small cars under the Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep brand names.
An executive at Gaz, a Russian automaker, told the Financial Times in London last month that his company was talking with Chrysler. Detroit Free Press
Ralf, Klien, set for Mercedes DTM testUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Mercedes-Benz, the German touring car series and Ralf Schumacher have all confirmed that the 32-year-old German will test a DTM car this week.
It was reported that the 32-year-old, the former winner of six grands prix who lost his Toyota seat at the end of 2007, is scheduled to line up alongside fellow F1 refugee Christian Klien for a test in a C-Class Mercedes at Estoril on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Ralf watches nearly every (DTM) race on television," Norbert Haug, Mercedes' competition director, told the newspaper Bild.
"As we have always said, if the contractual situation ever permits, we would arrange a test for him," the German added.
Ralf Schumacher commented: "First and foremost the test will be for fun, and then we will see how it continues."
A Mercedes-Benz media spokesperson, meanwhile, told the official DTM website that - despite the reported presence of Klien and other drivers at the Portuguese circuit - the Estoril test is not a "shootout" for a race seat.
"What will come out of this test is completely open," he said.
01/14/08 (GMM) Despite elder brother Michael's advice to the contrary, it appears that F1 refugee Ralf Schumacher may be considering a switch to the German touring car series DTM in 2008.
According to ORF, the Austrian national broadcaster, the 32-year-old has lined up a test in a Mercedes-Benz tin-top car this week.
Christian Klien, who similarly tested for Force India earlier this winter before the team selected Giancarlo Fisichella for 2008, may also attend the test, the report added.
Following former twice world champion Mika Hakkinen's departure as a works Mercedes-Benz DTM racer, it has been suggested that the manufacturer and the series were keen to tie up again with another F1 name.
ORF said Schumacher, a six-time grand prix winner, and Austria's Klien will test on Tuesday and Wednesday at Estoril, Portugal.
Tony Eury Jr. says he'd be disappointed if the new Hendrick Motorsports driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., doesn't win at least four NASCAR Sprint Cup races. The crew chief and his driver began testing at Daytona International Speedway today in preparation for the season. Eury seems pleased with the team's progress and says that his move to join Hendrick late last season, instead of waiting for the offseason to make the move from Dale Earnhardt Inc., should pay off for the group.
His confidence is high as the team prepares for 2008.
"We can get the job done," he said. "It's just a matter of the people to surround me and we get the right breaks and making the right calls during the year. I think we've got a shot at being in the Chase [For The Sprint Cup], winning the title."
"I'd be very disappointed if we don't win at least four, to be honest," he said. "I mean, I just look at the races that we had problems with last year, and we were running in the top three and in contention. That's the biggest thing in this sport, is you've got to put yourself in contention and anything can happen in any of these races. That's all we've got to do. We've got to make the right calls and be in the right position at the end of races and we can win those races.
"We didn't win any last year, but it wasn't for lack of effort. I mean there were several races where we were running in the top three, top four at the end of the race and something happen, motor blow up, we get in a accident, something. I don't think it's totally out of line. I think it's up to us what we do."
New sponsor for DEI No. 01 Dale Earnhardt Inc. has not announced sponsorship for its No. 01 Sprint Cup entry with driver Regan Smith, but it appears that one of the sponsors will be Principal Financial Services. Smith got into his car at testing Monday morning at Daytona International Speedway wearing a Principal Financial Services uniform, and the company logo graced the rear quarter panel of its car. The company's Web site was featured on the rear bumper.
"Principal Financial and Dale Earnhardt Inc. have executed a letter of intent for a 2008 sponsorship relationship," DEI President Max Siegel said. "The details are still being worked through to make Principal Financial a primary and associate sponsor for DEI in 2008. Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Principal Financial will be making a proper announcement once the contract has been signed."
Mercedes-Benz weighs cooperation with luxury rival BMW Mercedes-Benz and BMW face daunting technological and cost challenges from strict European emission standards coming into force, and it makes sense for them to look for ways to work together and share costs, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said Sunday. Along with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, Mercedes and BMW have already worked together on the development of a gas-electric hybrid system. There may be scope for Mercedes and BMW to cooperate in other areas, in technology or segments such as small cars, and transmissions and engines for small cars. "We hope there are areas where we can say, yes, that makes sense, let's go for it," Zetsche told reporters at the North American International Auto Show.
Alonso to replace Massa at FerrariUPDATE #6 (GMM) Felipe Massa is still unperturbed by rumors that Fernando Alonso's future beyond 2008 could be with Ferrari.
Although the Brazilian inked a new deal with the Maranello based team last October to stay until the end of 2010, some still consider him more likely to be ousted in favor of Alonso than his current teammate and reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen.
In fact, Raikkonen - already under contract for 2008 and 2009 - told reporters at the Madonna di Campiglio media event last week that he could extend the deal "tomorrow" if he wanted.
But Massa, the lower paid of the pair and 16 points behind his Finnish teammate on the final 2007 standings, says the Alonso gossip does not bother him.
"I have not given any weight to anything that was said or wrote. Zero," the 26-year-old told the Spanish daily newspaper Marca.
"When all the rumors about him (Alonso) coming to Ferrari were around, I had already signed," he added.
09/27/07 Kimi Raikkonen said: "It would interesting to race Fernando in the same car. But I don't think it is going to happen."
09/26/07 (GMM) Felipe Massa has denied speculation that he will vacate his Ferrari seat at the end of the year.
It has been rumored in recent days that Fernando Alonso is so advanced in talks with the Maranello based team about 2008 that he may already have agreed a $40 million per year deal.
The Spaniard's Ferrari teammate, according to the reports, would be Kimi Raikkonen, after Massa was spotted meeting with Toyota officials at Spa-Francorchamps two weeks ago.
"This story of me going to Toyota next year does not exist," Massa was quoted as saying by the Chinese news agency Xinhua on Tuesday before leaving his native Brazil for the weekend's Japanese grand prix.
Massa reportedly also told the Brazilian press that his Ferrari contract includes the 2008 season, and that he is already negotiating an extension for the year after.
BMW to sign testers Asmer, Villa (GMM) BMW-Sauber is poised to sign two young test drivers for the 2008 season.
It was reported last week that Marko Asmer, the 23-year-old Estonian, has been called back to test again for the Swiss based team following his recent winter outing.
But the Spanish newspaper Diario AS claims that Javier Villa, a race winner in the GP2 series last year, will also be signed alongside Asmer as they both replace former BMW-Sauber tester Timo Glock in 2008.
The news could be confirmed officially at the launch of the team's new car for 2008, the F1.08, in Munich on Monday.
However, other sources insist that both Asmer and Villa will be tested again by BMW in the near future, to determine which of them will be designated the reserve driver at grands prix.
F1 teams agree to shorten engine freeze According to Autosport, the F1 teams have agreed to shorten the engine freeze to five years. During the meeting of team bosses and the FIA on Friday, the teams agreed to shorten the ten-year freeze on engine development down to five years, with the governing body to start work on a new engine concept that will be ready for 2013.
The new engine will aim to be more environmentally friendly and more cost-efficient than the 2.4-litre V8 engines that are currently being used in F1.
All in all, it was clear that the 10 year freeze was an unrealistic target for Formula One. With teams being allowed to introduce KERS systems as early as 2009 it would not make any sense to continue with engines that could easily be developed to be more environmentally friendly.
Ferrari baulks at budget cap plan - reports (GMM) Ferrari has baulked at a plan to introduce budget caps in formula one, according to reports.
The German newspaper Bild claims that Ferrari, the famous Italian marque that in 2007 won the drivers' and constructors' titles, does not agree with FIA president Max Mosley's plan to limit each team's annual spending at (US) $150m.
According to the magazine Auto Motor und Sport, Ferrari prefers the FIA's previous proposal about limiting aerodynamic development, while other teams - such as Force India - are pinning their hopes on utilising multiple wind tunnels to make progress towards the front.
The topic was discussed at a meeting on Friday with Mosley and the eleven team bosses in Paris.
Despite Ferrari's opposition, Mercedes-Benz competition director Norbert Haug, like most other F1 chiefs, welcomes the plan.
"We welcome any meaningful action to reduce costs," he said, albeit cautioning that more detail about the budget cap still needs to be discussed.
Auto Motor und Sport claims that another meeting between the teams and Mosley has already been scheduled for February.
It is believed that, in exchange for the teams' interest in cost-cutting, the current ten-year freeze on engine development may be reduced to five years.
An entirely new, economical and environmentally-friendlier engine formula may then be introduced in 2013.
Jonny Reid eyes F1 seatUPDATE (GMM) New Zealand racing driver Jonny Reid has told a newspaper that he is "very, very close" to breaking into formula one.
The 24-year-old, who drives for his country in the A1 Grand Prix open-wheeler championship, told the New Zealand Herald that he hopes to follow in the footsteps of the series' reigning champion Nico Hulkenberg by knocking on the doors of F1 teams.
"It would be as a test driver first, like what Nico Hulkenberg is doing with Williams," he explained.
"If it was a test with a decent team, I would go for it," Reid added.
Reid admitted that risking his future on leaving A1, where he has won three races, could be a gamble.
"That's the golden question but it's an exciting future," he said.
01/13/08 New Zealand A1GP driver Jonny Reid believes he is close to a Formula One deal. "I am very, very close [to picking up a F1 deal]," he says. "It would be as a test driver first, like what last year's champion Nico Hülkenberg is doing with Williams. If it was a test with a decent team, I would go for it.
"That would still let me race A1GP because it is in the [F1] off-season. The more you can do as a driver, the better. But the other side is A1GP is so young and it's already grown so much, so who knows where it will end up? Do I want to give that up? That's the golden question but it's an exciting future."
Matt Halliday back to Champ Car Rumor has it that New Zealand's Matt Halliday will be coming back to Champ Car in 2008. Halliday drove for Conquest Racing much of last year until he ran out of money late in the season. We shall see if he returns to Conquest again.
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