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DATE News (chronologically)

Elan and Green Prix troubles? UPDATE #3 Saint Patrick's Day and Spring Break revelers will have to wait for another time for the Green Prix USA debut and/or the Cooper Tires Atlantic Challenge Powered by Mazda series cars to race here on the Hutchinson Island road course.

Several recent events, including the need to bring the 1.98-mile, 10-turn public course to full racing standard, have made what would have been the Green Prix USA for Champ or Indy style cars debut for March 13-15 unlikely.

Green Prix USA founder Ben Johnstone, of Alpharetta, envisioned 20 mostly former Champ Car World Series Panoz DP01 cars to be the weekend's headliner. The DP01s would have been identically prepared from Panoz's Elan Motorsports Technology Group, of Braselton, and powered by former turbocharged 2.65-liter Ford-Cosworth EXE V8 engines. The revived Champ Cars were to be supported by what would have been the opening round of the Atlantic Challenge.

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Borja Garcia to race in USA UPDATE #2 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' today.  Garcia will drive for Condor Motorsports.  In Atlantic testing at Palm Beach Raceway this morning, Garcia was immediately fastest of all the drivers.

03/10/09 Today we can tell you that Garcia will race in the Atlantic Series.  Team to be announced soon.

Borja Garcia
According to AutoRacing1.com sources in Europe, we will soon be able to report that Spanish GP2 driver Borja Garcia will be coming to the USA in 2009 to race in an open wheel series.  Sorry we cannot tell you which one just yet. 

He was the 2004 Spanish Formula Three champion, and raced in the inaugural GP2 Series season. He raced the full Spanish F3 season in 2003, before moving to the Racing Engineering outfit in 2004 with whom he won the title. Due to his success he stayed with the team as they moved to GP2 Series for 2005, where he partnered with Neel Jani.

In 2006 he raced in the World Series by Renault (WSR) championship for the RC Motorsport team, finishing second overall behind Alx Danielsson. He returned to GP2 in 2007, driving for Durango. In 2008 Borja competed in Superleague Formula, representing Sevilla FC. He won one race (Donington Park) but only managed to finish the championship in 10th position. The race-team running Sevilla FC was Spanish F3 regular GTA-Motor Competicion.


Nick Fry out at Brawn GP? UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Ross Brawn on Tuesday insisted Nick Fry retains his role as chief executive at the team formerly known as Honda.

In a management buyout, 2008 team boss Brawn assumed 100 per cent of the shares of the team, which has been renamed 'Brawn GP' in the wake of Honda's withdrawal.

Intense speculation has surrounded Fry's involvement in the buyout, with rumors suggesting the controversial figure may have been marginalized amid the shakeup.

But addressing the media at Barcelona on Tuesday, where Rubens Barrichello is testing the impressive BGP001 car, Brawn confirmed that 52-year-old Fry remains at work at Brackley.

"Nick has been a key member of the team," he said.  "He retains his position as CEO and will be a vital member for the future.

"Nick's position hasn't changed, despite the speculation, and he has been a vital part of putting this all together."

Brawn also said his buyout was the only chance to save "the majority" of the 700 jobs of the British based team.

"There were no choices," he explained.  "If the management group - because it is not just myself - had not taken this task on, there would be no team.  Then all of the staff would have been made redundant."

Brawn revealed that the BGP001 is currently not equipped with a KERS system, and also that Mercedes-Benz was selected as engine supplier because its V8 unit fitted the chassis better than Ferrari's.

Nick Fry
03/08/09 Amidst all the media hype surrounding the rising from the ashes of what was Honda of Brawn GP, little is still known about the fate of Nick Fry – the man who for much of the sale process was believed to be at the forefront of the management buy-out.

It is understood that Honda in Japan went somewhat cool on the idea of Fry leading the team after it was discovered that he had fabricated claims that major Brazilian oil company Petrobras would be willing to sponsor the Brackley-based outfit by way of bank-rolling reigning GP2 Series runner-up Bruno Senna's graduation to Formula 1.

Following Petrobras' public denial of any such commitment, the Englishman appeared to shrink increasingly into the background of dealings as erstwhile team principal Ross Brawn took charge, and it was consequently little surprise that the new team has been re-christened in his name.

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Kyle Busch a shoo-in for new US Formula 1 team? UPDATE #4 NASCAR star Kyle Busch may have something else on his agenda if a new American-based Formula One team gets off the ground. He has been mentioned as one of the possible drivers and is definitely interested.

"I'd like to go to all the different areas and see what's all about,'' he said. "It would be fun to go do that stuff. You can find out exactly how good you are against the best in the world.''

Busch sounded as though it takes more skill to race on the Grand Prix circuit, a challenge he would love to take on.

"Those guys are outrageous,'' he said. "They are so good at being able to finesse a car and make it do what they want it to do. Here, you can try to make the car do what you want it to do, but you're really at its mercy. Those guys can make it do what they want it to do. To learn about that, see what it's like, that would be a lot of fun.''

02/26/09 "There are NASCAR drivers out there right now who I really think, if they wanted to switch to Formula One, we could groom them and help them make that change," Peter Windsor said.

"...Kyle Busch, for example. What a great star he would be. Formula One would welcome anything like that."

For the record, Busch's contract with Joe Gibbs Racing runs through 2010. His agent, Jeff Dickerson, told scenedaily.com that Busch 'would certainly leave the door open to try it out at some point."

02/25/09 Kyle Busch's agent said the young NASCAR star would "certainly leave the door open" to try Formula One "at some point" after Busch's name was mentioned during a press conference announcing a new American-based F1 team.

Officials with the USF1 team, which will be based out of Charlotte, said it would be interested in having Busch drive its car.

Kyle Busch is the best NASCAR driver by a long shot, but can he turn right?
Busch is under contract at Joe Gibbs Racing through the end of next season.

"Obviously, it's very flattering for him to be mentioned for a Formula One ride, especially an American-based team," said Jeff Dickerson, Busch's agent. "Thanks to Toyota, he was excited at the prospect of getting to test a Formula One car this past offseason.

"While it didn't work out then, he would certainly leave the door open to try it out at some point. At the same time, he's currently focused on winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series championships for Joe Gibbs Racing."

02/24/09 A reader responds to this news item by the Indy Star suggesting that Kyle Busch should be one of the USF1 team.  Dear AutoRacing1.com, Does anyone besides me find it hilarious that anyone would consider Kyle Busch as a "shoo-in" for the new US F1 team?  How in the world does turning left on banked corners in the dry driving a two-ton brick in a sport that's 95% car setup qualify someone for Formula One?  Not to denigrate Busch's obvious talent in stock cars, but it's amazing the spell that NASCAR casts on American perception of driving talent.  Three words Mr. McDonald - "Ain't gonna happen". J. Chitwood, Marysville, California

Dear Mr. Chitwood, You and many others agree it is hilarious.  Mark C.

02/24/09 Kyle Busch put on a driving exhibition this weekend that likely won't be matched any time soon and if the new U.S. Formula One team doesn't have him in their sights, they are not as smart as they think they are.

Busch won both NASCAR races in California on Saturday leading up to Sunday night's Sprint Cup race in which he finished third behind Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. Saturday's victories marked the first time anyone had won two major NASCAR races on the same day and, with a little luck, Busch might have had the weekend trifecta.

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Big 3 collapse inevitable UPDATE Towards the end of last week the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche wrote in an annual report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that General Motors's "recurring losses from operations, stockholders’ deficit and inability to generate sufficient cash flow to meet its obligations and sustain its operations raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern".

GM went to the US government with its cap in hand in December and asked for a bridging loan to help it survive. It is now asking for more but US politicians are saying that the firm should get no further federal loans unless there is a viable, long-term business plan that includes repayment of the money. President Barack Obama's administration has declared a March 31 deadline to approve or reject restructuring plans from both GM and Chrysler, which have received more than $17bn in federal loans already and have asked for $21bn more.

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#28 Team may have to fold
Travis Kvapil still needs sponsorship to keep racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beyond the upcoming race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Yates Racing co-owner Max Jones said Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kvapil, who finished 23rd in the points in 2008, was left without a full-time ride when Hall of Fame Racing brought Bobby Labonte and sponsor Ask.com to Yates and Paul Menard brought his family sponsorship (Menards) to the team. Points swaps among the group left Kvapil without a locked-in position in races this season. Yates Racing had pledged to run at least five races with Kvapil and then reevaluate. “Right now it’s still five,” Jones said. “We’re still talking to people. Hopefully it can be more, but we don’t have any firm commitments for more than five right now.” The team has had Golden Corral as a sponsor the last two races. “They’re very interested and they’re looking at it,” Jones said. “If we can go out here and run really well today, that would surely help. … We threw that [team] together in the last minute, and I think they’ve run really well.” Kvapil’s team is 38th in owners points, 29 points out of the top 35. Obviously getting in the top 35 in owners points would help because Kvapil would not have to worry about missing the race. One thing that gives Kvapil optimism that he might race beyond Martinsville is that the team has plans to test the new Martinsville-style track next to Rockingham Speedway. SceneDaily


Rumors hint at major Brawn GP sponsor
(GMM)  A well-known Austrian online betting company could be set to become a major sponsor of the newly-renamed Brawn GP team in 2009, according to reports.

Specialist publications in France, citing a source within the Brackley based team, believe the Mercedes-powered BGP001 will carry yellow and black 'bwin.com' branding.

Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG has already been active in the field of prominent sports sponsorships, through multi-million deals including with MotoGP as well as football teams Real Madrid and AC Milan.

The French publications claim Bwin has been in contact with Bernie Ecclestone.

Black and white flashes aside, the white BGP001 car debuted by Jenson Button at Silverstone last Friday carried no commercial signage except that of official tire supplier Bridgestone.


First step toward Mercedes/BMW merger?
Daimler and BMW plan a share swap to boost cooperation between the two automakers, the German magazine Der Spiegel said today. Daimler would take a seven percent stake in BMW and BMW would have the same stake in Daimler, the magazine said in a report on its Web site.

Der Spiegel said that the Quandt family, who own 46 percent of BMW, oppose cross-ownership. Family head Johanna Quandt, her son Stefan and his sister Susanne Klatten, fear Daimler would launch a takeover of BMW, as happened when Daimler-Benz seized full control of Chrysler soon after a much-touted “merger of equals” in 1998.

The German government has been informally approached to find out whether it would overrule any opposition to cross-ownership from antitrust authorities, the magazine said.

Der Spiegel said Daimler and BMW will shortly announce details of a proposed cooperation for purchasing components. Joint purchasing is expected to save the two companies several hundred millions of euros short-term and billions in the mid-term.

The magazine quoted a BMW manager as saying: “We will get closer together through this cooperation, perhaps more will come out of it.”

Daimler and BMW have both been hit hard by a steep decline in luxury car sales during the global economic recession.


Hamilton waits for 5.6m euro luxury yacht UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has denied reports that he has bought a luxury yacht.  London's Sun tabloid said work on the personalized 90 foot 'Sunseeker 90', at a reported cost of 5.6 million euros and colored silver and black like his McLaren, is currently taking place in Dorset (UK).

"Contrary to unreliable reports, Lewis Hamilton would like to confirm that he has not bought a super yacht," a statement on Friday read. 

03/06/09 (GMM)  Work on a personalized luxury yacht for reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton is currently taking place in Dorset (UK), London's Sun tabloid reports.

The reportedly 5.6 million euro 'Sunseeker 90' will eventually be transferred to Monaco, where the 23-year-old driver plans to moor the 90 foot boat.

The Sun published photos of the silver and black yacht, said to have been so colored to match his McLaren single seater.


NASCAR to change gear ratio for Vegas
Word is that NASCAR is considering an adjustment on the gear rule for Las Vegas next season to prevent the engine failures that plagued numerous Sprint Cup teams last weekend. Roush Fenway Racing lost three engines on Sunday, equaling the number of engines the team lost all of last season. Doug Yates, who oversees the Roush-Yates engine program, said the situation could have been avoided had there been a more conservative gear ratio that would have reduced rpms that were much higher than expected with the new tire and improved horsepower. He said weather conditions -- only 15% humidity -- also may have contributed to the failures, but we here at AR1.com think Goodyear is to blame.  For once they brought a good tire and it was faster that most anticipated which meant the cars were capable of carrying more RPM.


BMW keen to be F1's KERS supplier - report
(GMM)  BMW is keen to become formula one's official supplier of KERS systems beginning next year, it is reported in the German specialist press.

With the FIA introducing voluntary deployment of the controversial technology this year, the F1 teams' alliance FOTA on Thursday said it harbors different plans for 2010.

The FOTA statement said a standard system will be put to tender "with a target price of 1-2 million euros per team per season" -- a fraction of the money spent by teams on individual systems for 2009.

FOTA chairman and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, a staunch opponent of KERS, said at the presentation that the technology is "the highest cost" in 2009 team budgets.

"It is not such an important element like the engine, like the gearbox, like aerodynamics.  So we can have a standard KERS.  It is like an electronic box, it is not a sexy box!" he said.

The FOTA alliance had earlier attempted to delay KERS deployment until 2010, but BMW exercised its veto to push ahead this year.

The German marque is now favorite to be awarded the tender for the role as official supplier, Auto Motor und Sport magazine claims.


'Barrichello has deal with Honda' UPDATE #2 This rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News Page.

03/03/09 Although it is understood that a final contract has not yet been signed, Autosport reports that high level sources close to the Brackley-based team have confirmed that Barrichello has been given the nod to line up alongside Jenson Button in 2009.  The team are awaiting the final green light from the Honda Motor Company for the imminent management buyout led by Ross Brawn and Nick Fry, and only when that happens will the 2009 deals be finalized.

03/02/09 Rumor has it that Rubens Barrichello has a new deal with the ex-Honda team (possibly named Brawn Racing) for 2009 and will be testing the car at Silverstone this week. Chances of the popular Brazilian retaining his drive increased last week, with a management buyout of the team now looking more likely.  Barrichello, the most experienced man in F1, was retained for 2009 and is expected to be at Silverstone this week for a shakedown of the new car.


New Honda team to be called 'Brawn GP'? UPDATE This rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News Page.

03/02/09 (GMM)  With the Ross Brawn-led management buyout said to have been approved by Honda's Tokyo board, speculation about the Brackley based team's new name is now rife.

We reported last week that the neutral 'Brackley F1' was a frontrunner, but another likely alternative has now emerged.

Although reference to a specific individual was thought unlikely, due to the several officials (and therefore shareholders) involved in the buyout, the team may in fact use principal Ross Brawn's name, rumors suggest.

The internet domain brawnracing.com and similar iterations have reportedly been registered in recent days by Caroline McGrory, who has been the Honda team's legal counsel for some years.

The latest rumors, meanwhile, suggest that the airline Emirates may be lined up as a 2009 title sponsor.

Also whispered is that while former chief executive Nick Fry is no longer leading the buyout, he may still be involved in the team's new guise, although not as chief executive.

There had been suggestions that the team might make it to Jerez this week for the penultimate group test of the pre-season, but the session kicked off on Sunday without Honda.

At a recent media gathering, however, Williams' Adam Parr indicated he believes the team's survival is likely.

"The fact that they are still talking is important because if Honda wasn't faced with any serious opportunity then they would have called it a day," the Grove team's chief executive said, referring to recent events.

Parr added: "So the fact that we are four weeks away from the start of the season and they are still making kit must mean that Honda are taking the proposals very seriously."


Honda rescue 'contracts signed' - team source UPDATE #2 This rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement.

03/02/09 Emirates has moved to deny rumors linking it to a possible title sponsorship of the team that is set to rise from the ashes of Honda Racing F1.  "Emirates currently has an extremely comprehensive sponsorship portfolio,” a spokesman told Crash.net, “and is not actively looking to sponsor any other properties at this time."

02/26/09 (GMM)  Team staff at Honda's Brackley headquarters have been told to prepare for imminent winter tests in Spain and subsequently the beginning of the 2009 season in Australia.

"Everything's positive -- it's all going ahead.  Contracts are agreed and signed.  It's with the lawyers," a source at the team told BBC Sport.

It is almost certain that the last hope for Honda is the management buyout led by Ross Brawn, whose prospects seem to have taken a step forward since rumors emerged that Nick Fry might no longer be involved.

"We're carrying on as if we're going to Melbourne," the source continued.

A report in the Daily Mirror, meanwhile, said Honda's Tokyo board - already publicly unhappy with the seriousness of bids by third parties - has accepted the management buyout.

It is understood the 2009 car has been adapted to fit the Mercedes-Benz V8 engine, with only the green light now required to unlock a schedule of at least one test in Spain, and possibly a prior shakedown (probably at Silverstone, UK).

"There's no way we'd go to any test without an engine deal," the source explained. "If we're going to Jerez, it means it's a done deal."

In Barcelona this week for the inaugural Global Sports Forum, the Honda team's marketing boss David Butler told the Spanish newspaper Diario AS: "There is no news but we are working towards a positive resolution, and in this sense I think we can be fairly optimistic."

He also expressed frustration about the speculation surrounding the sale of the departing Honda Motor Co.'s team, noting that "there are many billionaires making comments in the media".


Senna could stay in GP2 - 2008 boss
(GMM)  Bruno Senna might consider staying in GP2 this year, after missing out on a formula one debut drive with the rescued Honda team.

Talks between the 25-year-old Brazilian and Mercedes' Norbert Haug about a 2009 DTM seat were revealed this week, and now Senna's 2008 boss Paul Jackson has flagged the possibility of a renewed collaboration in the F1 feeder series.

"All things are possible I suppose, but it's hard for him because he's got to a certain stage where he really does need to progress and prove himself in formula one," the iSport boss told EDP24.

Senna finished the 2008 GP2 championship in second place.


Sato set for Red Bull reserve role? UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Takuma Sato on Wednesday insisted he is not set to become Red Bull's formula one reserve driver in 2009.  The Japanese tested for Toro Rosso this winter but lost out in the battle for a race seat to French incumbent Sebastien Bourdais. However, talks with Dietrich Mateschitz's outfit continued, leading to speculation he might land the third driver role for both STR and senior team Red Bull Racing and travel to the Barcelona test next week. But on Wednesday, the 32-year-old revealed he is "disappointed" an agreement with the energy drinks company could not be reached.

"I am no longer in negotiation with the Toro Rosso or Red Bull teams about their third driver positions," the veteran of 93 grands prix confirmed.

03/03/09 (GMM)  Takuma Sato looks set to land the role as Red Bull's reserve driver for the 2009 season.

The Japanese has tested for Toro Rosso this winter, but lost out in the battle for a race seat to French incumbent Sebastien Bourdais.

However, Dietrich Mateschitz is thought still keen to harness the 32-year-old veteran of 93 races' popularity in Japan, a growing market for the energy drink.

Sato would attend all grands prix this year and be ready to replace either Red Bull Racing or Toro Rosso regulars if required.

It has emerged that he may be scheduled to test Toro Rosso's new STR4 car at next week's final test of the pre-season.

In other test news, it is believed Honda has cancelled its scheduled Silverstone shakedown of its 2009 car on Thursday, but the test may now take place on Friday.

The Brackley based team's plan is to then join the group action at Barcelona next week.


Senna in talks to become 'Mercedes' driver UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgrade to 'fact' today.  Mercedes-Benz is in talks with Bruno Senna about teaming up for the DTM championship in 2009, Norbert Haug admitted on Wednesday.  With Honda said to have elected to sign Rubens Barrichello this season instead of the Brazilian's rookie countryman, the Swiss newspaper Blick recently predicted a move to the German touring car series for Senna, 25.  "There are talks but no decision," Haug, in charge of the German marque Mercedes' motor racing programs, told the news agency SID.

03/03/09 Getting more reports that Senna will be a Mercedes DTM driver in 2009 and possibly be a test driver for one of the Mercedes supplied F1 teams.

02/27/09 Rumor has it that Bruno Senna could be headed for the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters 2009 with Mercedes, instead of Formula One. Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug has confirmed that they are negotiating.

"We are in contact. But what it could lead to it too early to say," said Haug to SpeedWeek. Rumors have pointed Senna towards the old, sure to be backmarker, ex-Honda-team, Brackley F1, that most likely is going to be on the F1 2009-grid in a new form.

According to Motorsport-Total there could be a link between the new F1-team and Mercedes as the German manufacturer are looking for the engine deal for the team.

Senna could be positioned as test driver for the "new" F1-team while Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are reported to get the main drive.

The plan for Senna could be F1-test driver and full time driver for Mercedes in DTM. Reports say that one of the 2008 specification Mercedes C-Class would be  assigned to Senna.


F1 whispers doubt Renault future UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone on Wednesday reacted with surprise to Renault's threat to quit formula one over the dispute about commercial revenue.

The French carmaker's chief operating officer Patrick Pelata had suggested that enough has not yet been done to convince Renault that formula one is sustainable in the current era.

"We're seeking to bring down contract costs and receive more of the revenues", he said at the Geneva Motor Show, according to the financial news service Bloomberg.

"We want to remain part of the emotion and the spectacle of formula one, but there are really no taboos", Pelata added.

Ecclestone reacted: "I'm surprised he would come out and say something like that.  We've got an agreement with the teams until 2013 and we'll stick with that."

Simone Perillo, a spokesman for the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), confirmed that additional commercial revenue will be among the vision to be outlined at a press conference in Geneva on Thursday.

03/04/09 Formula One team Renault may leave the sport if it doesn’t get a bigger share of the sport’s commercial revenue, according to Bloomberg. Chief operating officer Patrick Pelata said that the carmaker must reduce its overall Formula One bill beyond the cost cuts agreed among teams in December, to stay in the sport.  The team will seek to reduce its Formula One salary bill in addition to exploiting greater income from broadcast rights, circuit fees and trackside sponsorship.

“We’re seeking to bring down contract costs and receive more of the revenues” said Pelata said in an interview at the Geneva Motor Show. “We want to remain part of the emotion and the spectacle of Formula One, but there are really no taboos [if talks fail].”

The Formula One Teams’ Association will press its demand for a bigger slice of the sport’s revenue tomorrow in Geneva.

01/22/09 (GMM)  Speculation has stepped up a gear that 2009 could be Renault's last season in formula one.

Team president Bernard Rey said this week that the Enstone based squad's parent Renault Group has pledged its support for "this year".

This comment was followed by whispers in F1 circles that team management may have informed the latest meeting of the FOTA alliance that Renault engines will not be available to customer teams beyond 2009.

Sources are also reporting that nearly 100 staff at Enstone will shortly be shed, ostensibly due to the newly installed cost-saving measures.

In fact, the sources said precisely 98 staff may now already have been given notice that their employ is to end.

The sources informed that the majority of the losses will be limited to both the test team and the aerodynamic department.


McLaren appear set to use KERS in Australia opener
Heikki Kovalainen is "99% confident" McLaren will be using KERS for the season-opening grand prix in Australia on March 29.

The system is one of the most advanced concepts seen in Formula One as it provides drivers with a short burst of power on each lap from energy stored under braking.

It has had its teething problems, but McLaren appear in an advanced stage of development compared to a number of their rivals who have made it clear they will not be on the grid with KERS in Melbourne.

That is likely to give Kovalainen and current world champion Lewis Hamilton a distinct advantage at the Albert Park circuit.

"Potentially, but obviously I don't know where other people are," said Kovalainen.

"My feeling comes from how well we're operating it at the track, and that's why I'm 99% confident we should be using it.

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F1 will never return to Montreal
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Ile de Notre Dame in Montreal has long been a favorite venue of the Formula 1 circus. And tens of thousands of F1 fans from across the United States have regularly made the pilgrimage to the city to enjoy the race and the party atmosphere that has been so successfully developed in the last 10 years. Everyone agrees that the event was good for the city, for the province of Quebec and for Canada in general. It is reckoned that the local economy got an annual boost of around $100m when F1 came to town. Hotel occupancy rates went up 30% along (along with the prices) and most restaurants and shops said that they doubled their regular income during the GP weekend.

"The Grand Prix is very important for Montreal," said local mayor Gerald Tremblay. "It creates economic spin-offs, but even more, it makes Montreal famous internationally. There are more than 300 million people who watch the Grand Prix."

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Ecclestone forces USF1 name change UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  USF1, the new American team for 2010, has been asked by Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management (FOM) to change its name.

The North Carolina-based outfit will forthwith be known as 'USGPE' (US Grand Prix Engineering), after trademark-owner FOM objected to the use of the abbreviation 'F1' in the title.

Existing competitors including Renault, Force India and Toyota all use 'F1' in their respective names, but it is believed FOM allows these descriptors because they precede the word 'Team'.

The only exception is Williams, whose official trading name is 'WilliamsF1'.

Also at the request of FOM, Force India has changed its official logo for the 2009 season.  Previously, the team's 'FI' (including the letter I) logo resembled 'F1' (including the number 1).

This year, the logo features a dot above the I, differentiating it from the official title of the series.

03/03/09 The website of the team USF1 (www.usf1.com) now resolves to address www.usgpe.com (According to our research USGPE means U.S. Grand Prix Engineering). Why?  Because rumor has it that Bernie Ecclestone and FOM own the term F1 and no one can use it in their name. 

Ken Anderson, was the owner of domain names: grandprixengineering.net and usgpe.com.

No team has the right to use the term F1 in the name of the team unless it is associated with the word "Team" or "Racing", for example, Honda Racing F1 and Renault F1 Team.  In the case of the name USF1 the term F1 was part of the name of the team.


Ferrari gossip for Vettel, Alonso, goes on
(GMM)  Job-description aside, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso have another thing in common: speculation linking them with a future move to Ferrari.

On a visit this week to the Italian university Politecnico di Milano, the 21-year-old German Vettel - despite only recently inking a two year deal with Red Bull Racing - was asked about the rumors predicting his next move.

"To Ferrari?  I don't know," he answered.  "I hope so, one day, because it would be a dream."

However, in the presence of Red Bull technical chief Geoff Willis, Vettel hastily added that he is currently "happy where I am".

Interviewed by Italian radio earlier this week, Renault boss Flavio Briatore was similarly asked about the constant speculation linking his team's Fernando Alonso with a move to the famous Maranello based marque.

Likening the speculation to a "never-ending soap opera that is never aired", the Italian nonetheless admitted the possibility that 27-year-old Alonso will eventually move on.

"If it happens, it will happen, I think all the drivers want to go to Ferrari," Briatore said.

"If he wins the title with us again, I would be calmer about seeing him later on in a Ferrari," he added.


De Ferran eyes IndyCar team
2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran returned to the cockpit of an Acura prototype in the American Le Mans Series last season for de Ferran Motorsports, which he owns. De Ferran will continue in that role this season and also is eyeing a possible return to the IndyCar Series, where he drove for Penske Racing in 2002 and 2003.

"I don't see me driving an IndyCar again, but this is all about the team, really," said de Ferran, who attended the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Era Gala in Indianapolis last week. "It's really not about me reliving the dream as a racing driver. That's not to say that I'm not enjoying driving the car, but the most important thing or my priority is making the team a success with me behind the cockpit or not.

"I would certainly like to grow the team and given my, to say the least, emotional ties with IndyCar racing, I would love to run an IndyCar at some point in the future."


NASCAR to add Montreal Cup race?
NASCAR yesterday announced it will "renew its agreement to hold races in Montreal for the next three years," according to Sarah Millar of the Montreal Gazette. The Nationwide Series NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will again be held this year, while the track the following two years will "also host the higher-level Sprint Cup series," she reported.  However, NASCAR today issued a statement that read, "There are currently no plans for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to run in Montreal, and NASCAR has not received a realignment proposal from ISC to do so" The Daily


High oil prices caused worldwide recession UPDATE The oil industry is quietly sowing the seeds for a sharp run-up in gas prices once demand recovers.  Oil companies are slashing new investment and production far more sharply than analysts projected just a couple of months ago, a strategy analysts say could lead to shortages and higher gas prices when consumption rebounds. And, analysts say, a standoff between the oil giants and their suppliers over the cost of rigs, labor and other expenses could prolong the investment slowdown.  USA Today [Editor's Note:  If oil prices rise sharply as this analyst predicts, certainly the world will move into a deep recession.  Just more evidence that we must rid ourselves completely of the greed that is prevalent in the oil industry.  It is time they drown in their oil because the economies of the world cannot deal with the topsy-turvy oil prices and the greed that pushes up oil prices when demand rises.  The auto industry cannot convert to electric cars fast enough.  While more nuclear power plants are being built (Obama is not moving fast enough on this), there must be more exploration for oil to hold us over until the day the world can rid itself of the use of expensive, pollution causing fossil fuels.]

03/03/09 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If this recession hitting us hard was due to America's Wall Street crooks and stupid banks who gave home loans to every Tom, Dick and Harry, how come the entire world is in a recession and not just the USA.  We all know it was the fault of George W. Bush.  Mary Carter

Dear Mary, We have a lot of mental midgets in the liberal media here in the USA who can only focus on bringing down those in power, and while we are not economic experts, we can tell you that every time the oil prices go sky high we see a world recession.  Gas prices were high around the world and hence it is a world recession.  Yes, the financial idiots in the USA blew it big time, but in fact bigger blame for this global recession is probably the greed in the oil industry.  History has shown it to be so.  And one final prediction - if the gasoline prices go up significantly again this summer, the world will not pull out of its recession.  Hence why we have been big proponents of electric cars and nuclear power plants.  The world must eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels.  They pollute, their supply is limited and terrorist countries are in control of much of it.  AR1.com staff


Toro Rosso to debut new car on Tuesday - report
(GMM)  The closed-door shakedown of Toro Rosso's new 2009 single seater will take place today (Tuesday), an authoritative Swiss newspaper claims.

The daily Blick, with strong links to the Faenza based team's rookie Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi, said the private Adria session in northern Italy is set for March 3, not the fourth (Wednesday) as previously reported.

Buemi, 20, has been assigned driving duties, Blick added.


Mercedes to power Honda team? UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Force India owner Vijay Mallya has said that Mercedes have been given a special dispensation to supply engines to the former Honda Formula One team this season.  The Indian billionaire, whose team are also powered by the German manufacturer and could have objected to them supplying other rivals, added that he expected 10 teams to be back on the starting grid in Australia on March 29.

"Under the FIA regulations, an engine supplier can supply two teams," Mallya said. "So logically that would have been Mercedes supplying (their partners) McLaren and Force India.  The FIA, I believe, have given special dispensation to Mercedes to supply an engine only to the former Honda team for one year. I'm quite happy to just accept that in the interests of the sport because we've had one team disappear from the grid, Super Aguri in 2008, and I'd hate to see another team disappear in 2009.  If Honda, in whatever new shape or form, can remain on the grid in 2009 then it's good for the sport of Formula One."

01/13/09 Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug told Autosport that Mercedes could supply the former Honda team with engines in 2009, provided any takeover leaves the team on a sound financial footing.

"If there is a feasible solution with an investor for that team, we would be prepared to discuss it," Haug told autosport.com. "But the financial background needs to be there.

"You cannot give any presents at this time and in this (financial) climate, but we would like to help for the sake of Formula One. Ross Brawn and Nick Fry and their guys have done a good job so far, so if we could be in a position to help we certainly could try to do so.

"But the financial feasibility is very important. It needs to be 100 per cent bulletproof."

01/13/09 As we suggested last week, it is quite likely that the Honda team will use Mercedes-Benz engines in 2009. The team will be renamed but at the moment there is no word on what it will be called. Ferrari has all-but announced that it will not be supplying engines for the team, which would seem to suggest that the team has a limited number of options, but we believe that negotiations are well-advanced with Mercedes-Benz.

The team will not be getting much in the way of pre-season testing (if any) and so it is going to be starting a little behind the opposition but much effort has gone into the 2009 program and so the team hopes to be relatively competitive.

The discussions over who will own the team are ongoing but a decision is expected within a few days. We believe there will be a management buyout. Grandprix.com


A1GP to replace F1 in Montreal
Rumor has it that just as they replaced the Indy Car series in Surfers Paradise, A1GP will go after another big worldwide recognized event, the cancelled F1 race in Montreal, rumored to be happening June 5, 6 and 7, 2009.


Rahal team pulls out of IndyCar? UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Rahal-Letterman Racing has removed all references to IndyCar or Ryan Hunter-Reay from the front page of their official website.

01/29/09 This statement for Rahal Letterman Racing is in response to a published newswire story that stated that the longtime race team had pulled out of the Indy Racing League for 2009. If used in print, it should be attributed to Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing.

Bobby Rahal
“As I said in the quote from the story, as of this time we do not have any sponsorship that will allow us to compete in the IRL in 2009, but by no means does that mean that we are giving up. We are continuing to search for sponsorship to run the 2009 season and to run in the Indianapolis 500 and we feel that there is still time for us to put something together that will allow that to happen.”

In addition to its IndyCar efforts, Rahal Letterman Racing remains committed to its programs in the Firestone Indy Lights Series as a partner with Andersen Racing, its American Le Mans Series program with BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team as well as its new partnership with Formula BMW Americas. RLR PR

01/29/09 Rahal Letterman Racing has pulled out of the 2009 IndyCar Series because it cannot find a sponsor to support its program.

RLR becomes the latest racing team to be affected by the reeling economy. The team won the Indianapolis 500 with Buddy Rice in 2004 and brought Danica Patrick to the IndyCar Series.

"At this time Rahal Letterman will not be in the IRL in 2009," team co-owner Bobby Rahal told The Associated Press in an e-mail today.

The team, which ran one car for American driver Ryan Hunter-Reay last season and won the race last July at Watkins Glen, will continue to seek sponsorship. RLR will concentrate on its sports car alliance with BMW in the American Le Mans Series.

RLR is co-owned by talk-show host and Indiana native David Letterman. AP Article/IBJ.com

01/29/09 Bobby Rahal said today he is “reasonably sure” his race team will participate in this year’s Indianapolis 500, but it is doubtful it will be involved in the entire IndyCar Series season due to a lack of sponsorship. ["At this time Rahal Letterman will not be in the IRL in 2009," team co-owner Bobby Rahal told The Associated Press in an e-mail Thursday.]

Rahal Letterman Racing, which is based in Hilliard, Ohio, had Ethanol at its sponsor last year and won the July race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International with Ryan Hunter-Reay driving, but that funding will not be available from the promoters of the corn industry.

Rahal said his deadline hasn't arrived for such a decision, in part because the team could have its cars prepared to race within two weeks, but time is running out. The season begins April 5.

Read more & Comment...

FIA may implement team budget caps
(GMM)  Max Mosley has admitted that capping the budgets of formula one teams would be a tidy way to slash costs.

The FIA president will present radical cost-cutting proposals for ratification to the World Motor Sport Council next month, after the FOTA team alliance separately reveals its own vision for the future of the sport at a Geneva press conference.

Mosley, intent on bringing down budgets to a "fraction" of their current massive scale amid the global recession, hinted that this could be done in one of two fundamentally different ways.

"The costs must be contained radically, by limiting the technical possibilities," he said.  "Or perhaps we turn the principle around: allow technical freedom and limit the budgets," the Briton told the German weekly Der Spiegel.

The World Motor Sport Council meets on 17 March.  The FOTA press conference is scheduled for March 5.


Others to copy Williams diffuser
Williams tech director Sam Michael reckons it's only a matter of time before "half the grid" copies the team's innovative diffuser design.

When Williams first unveiled their 2009 challenger there were some questions about the legality of the design, as there were with Toyota, who sport a similar looking rear diffuser.

However, with the FIA having given the design the green-light, Michael believes most of the grid will soon be copying it.

"It was something that in various forms teams have been doing for two years, so it wasn't really a big issue for us or the FIA. So it was something that we clarified with the FIA well over a year ago," Michael said.

"I am sure they (the other teams) will copy us. I would be amazed if at least half the grid in Melbourne doesnt have it."


F1 popularity in the Middle East waning UPDATE (GMM)  Developer Union Properties has halted construction and postponed the launch of the first official formula one theme park in Dubai.

F1-X is mid-way through construction and was scheduled to be opened later this year, but Union Properties announced in a statement that its board have frozen the project at least until 2010 due to the global recession.

"It is hard to believe that a financial partner will not come forward in coming days or weeks to capitalize on the opportunity," marketing director Penny Fischer said.

The theme park was to boast a hotel, formula one museum and various grand prix-themed rides, simulators and rollercoasters.

02/25/09 Reports from the Middle East suggest that F1-X, the Formula 1 theme park in Dubai, has been postponed by developer Union Properties. It seems that the project has run out of money. The plan was to fund the park with the sale of houses, but the collapse of the UAE property markets has meant that income dried up and with banks unable to loan money and the government showing no interest in saving the project, it seems that the whole thing has been shelved.

This comes just a few days after rumors that the Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi has been delayed a year. Grandprix.com

[Editor's Note: With oil prices down, revenue for the Middle East countries has dropped significantly and all of a sudden their taste for expensive F1 is dropping like a lead anchor.]


Barrichello linked with USF1's 2010 lineup
(GMM)  Rubens Barrichello's name has been mentioned in speculation about the formation of the first USF1 driver lineup of 2010.

The Charlotte-based outfit intends to field American technology with two US-born drivers at the wheel, but principal Peter Windsor confessed that it might be wise to begin the foray with at least one experienced racer.

"In year one, certainly there is an argument for having an experienced formula one driver in the car," the Briton is quoted as saying by The Guardian newspaper.

"There's definitely an argument for that, and then maybe having a young American in the other car," Windsor added.

Specialist press reports mentioned the name of Barrichello, the South American veteran of a record 271 grands prix, who having driven for Honda until 2008 is likely to be without a seat this year.


Toro Rosso STR4 delay?
The Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 team is planning on giving their new STR4 its track debut the following week at the Italian track of Adria, but whether the shakedown will go through is not certain. Although there was no mention as to why that is.  An STR spokesperson told 'GPUpdate', "We are planning to give our new car a shakedown next week at Adria, although this is not yet certain."


Final Williams livery? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  A Williams spokesman has confirmed that leaked photographs do depict the Grove team's new livery for the 2009 season.

Photos on the internet, originating apparently from marketing material of the sponsor Allianz, show the Toyota-powered single seater with a dark blue and white livery very similar to the paint-job of 2008.

The main differences are the locations of the sponsor names, including the replacement of Lenovo on the forward-facing rear wing with the electronics brand Philips.

It is reported that the 2009 livery photos date back to the Portimao test, when Williams reserved the circuit for a day for marketing purposes.

A spokesman told the Dutch publication Formule 1 Race Report: "The picture is a modified FW30 showing the 2009 colors."

Williams has been using an interim winter livery at the pre-season tests, with the official launch of the 2009 colors to follow.

02/22/09 Rumor has it that these new photographs from Williams sponsor Allianz shows the FW31 in what should be their color scheme for 2009.  If so, this makes the third consecutive year the Williams livery has been spotted ahead of its official unveiling. Or maybe they’re just toying with us.


Mercedes to make Force India change both drivers? UPDATE #8 This rumor is now upgraded back to 'strong' today.  McLaren-Mercedes could turn to its new technical collaboration with Force India to place its own driving talents, Norbert Haug has admitted.

Following the announcement of the linkup and McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa's winter test for Silverstone based Force India, it was speculated that hopefuls including Paul di Resta and Gary Paffett might also benefit from the deal.

Vijay Mallya-led Force India ultimately stuck with its existing driver lineup for 2009, but Haug now admits that Mercedes getting involved in the future is a possibility.

"Not now, but this could mutually be developed as an option for the future.  For now we prefer to make one step at a time," the German said in an interview with DNA India.

12/13/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' based on today's announcement.

11/28/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation.'  Despite the persistent rumors that his seat or the one of teammate Adrian Sutil is under threat after the deal between Force India and McLaren, Giancarlo Fisichella is not worried at all. The Roman said in an interview with the official Formula 1 site that he has a solid contract.  Fisichella said: "I originally signed a two-year contract which was reviewed in September to incorporate the McLaren deal. In a few words, the team offered me a better car and a different package. I accepted their proposal and both sides signed the new document between Singapore and China. This is why Dr Mallya made the announcement in Shanghai."

11/21/08 (GMM)  Giancarlo Fisichella has joined his 2008 teammate Adrian Sutil in insisting his future on the formula one grid with Force India in 2009 is secure.

After boss Vijay Mallya vowed to take new partner McLaren-Mercedes' advice on all matters, the British team's main test driver Pedro de la Rosa this week tested the Force India car at Barcelona.

It sparked intense speculation that, notwithstanding Mallya's previous suggestions that Sutil and Fisichella will race on next year, their seats may in fact be in doubt.

"I am not anxious," the 35-year-old Roman Fisichella, who like Sutil also tested at Barcelona this week, is quoted as saying by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I do not think that there will be problems for me.

"I have a signed contract and Vijay Mallya announced that the drivers for 2009 will be Adrian Sutil and myself," he added.

11/19/08 (GMM)  Adrian Sutil insists he does not fear for his place on the 2009 formula one grid.

Adrian Sutil is confident Force India will keep him
After Force India boss Vijay Mallya recently admitted he will take new partner McLaren's advice in all areas, Pedro de la Rosa is this week testing for the Silverstone based team.

The McLaren-linked DTM racer Paul di Resta has also been linked with a race seat at Force India, who in 2008 fielded 25-year-old Sutil alongside Giancarlo Fisichella.

But Sutil's manager Manfred Zimmerman at the weekend said the German driver's race seat for 2009 is safe.

"The team has told me quite clearly that they are counting on me," Sutil, who like de la Rosa is testing in Barcelona this week, is quoted as saying by Sport Bild.

"Anyway, I have a valid contract for 2009," he added.

Sutil said he has not contacted any other teams regarding next year.  "At the moment there is no reason to," he insisted.

Read more & Comment...

GM and Chrysler may be forced into bankruptcy UPDATE #2 Days after General Motors Corp. outlined three possible bankruptcy scenarios, the U.S. Treasury Department acknowledged Monday that it is exploring how it might fund a court-protected bankruptcy by GM and Chrysler LLC. An Obama administration official indicated Monday that the efforts do not reflect any decisions about the auto industry's future.

In its viability plan filed last week, GM said a traditional Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy could cost more than $100 billion -- hurting sales as consumers reject GM products and causing turbulence during a process that could take years. But the automaker, which has resisted bankruptcy and emphasized its risks, also said that other bankruptcy scenarios could cost half that much. For example, a prepackaged bankruptcy, in which GM and its stakeholders would come to terms prior to the filing, could cost an estimated $45 billion. Under that scenario, GM estimates the impact on revenue would be "quite severe near-term." However, the long-term consequences would be "less severe" than a full-blown Chapter 11.

Some outside experts have argued that a court-supervised bankruptcy would allow GM and Chrysler to more easily overhaul their debt and contracts.

But GM has resisted the idea, citing all the damage such a move could cause to its sales and image. "Our primary efforts continue to be on transforming our business and executing GM's viability plan outside of bankruptcy court," GM CEO Rick Wagoner said last week. More at Detroit Free Press

02/15/09 General Motors Corp, nearing a Tuesday deadline to present a viability plan to the U.S. government, is considering as one option a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing that would create a new company, the Wall Street Journal said in its Saturday edition.

"One plan includes a Chapter 11 filing that would assemble all of GM's viable assets, including some U.S. brands and international operations, into a new company," the newspaper said. "The undesirable assets would be liquidated or sold under protection of a bankruptcy court. Contracts with bondholders, unions, dealers and suppliers would also be reworked."

Citing "people familiar with the matter," the story said that GM could also ask for additional government funds to stave off a bankruptcy filing.  GM declined to comment, the story said.

02/09/09 GM and Chrysler's days in NASCAR may be numbered.  General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC may have to be forced into bankruptcy by the U.S. government to assure repayment of $17.4 billion in federal bailout loans, a course of action the automakers claim would destroy them.

U.S. taxpayers currently take a backseat to prior creditors, including Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to loan agreements posted on the U.S. Treasury’s Web site. The government has hired a law firm to help establish its place at the front of the line for repayment, two people involved in the work said last week.

If federal officials fail to get a consensual agreement to change their position regarding repayment, they have the option to force the companies into bankruptcy as a condition of more bailout aid. The government would finance the bankruptcy with a so-called “debtor in possession” or DIP loan, a lender status that gives the U.S. priority over other creditors, said Don Workman, a partner at Baker & Hostetler LLP.

“They are negotiating to see if they can reach an agreement,” said Workman, a bankruptcy lawyer based in Washington. “If not, they are saying ‘We are pretty darn sure that a bankruptcy judge will allow us’” to be first in line for repayment.  But what about the money they are wasting in NASCAR, which does nothing for them as their sales plummet despite their NASCAR involvement?  Will the bankruptcy judge order them to stop such waste immediately?

Read more & Comment...

Obama could force GM-Chrysler merger
As rumors continued to swirl today about the future of troubled automaker Chrysler LLC, one analyst said there's a chance the U.S. government could force a merger between the company and rival General Motors.

Chrysler said in its restructuring plan submitted to the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments last week that it still believes the best option for the auto industry "from a financial and operational perspective" is a merger between the two carmakers, which have both asked for billions in government loans to help them restructure amid slumping sales.

Chrysler and GM discussed the possibility of a merger late last year as the global financial crisis and tight credit markets took their toll on sales and carmakers' balance sheets.

But Chrysler said in its restructuring plan that GM has since taken that option "off the table."

Bill Pochiluk of industry adviser AutomotiveCompass said Chrysler seems to want to show they are still open to the idea of a merger between the two companies.

"I think it was put in their plan to basically say they're still open to that discussion if somebody wants to bring that up. For example, (President Barack Obama's automotive) task force," Pochiluk said.

"At this stage there's the funding equivalent of sticker shock. Every time we look at the numbers they're substantially larger than we've seen before and we probably haven't seen all the numbers yet," he added.

"So we have to begin to ask the question, what's really going to happen? Will there be a forced merger situation to bring the GM and Chrysler assets into one tank, then to fund that in a very controlled way?"

Meanwhile, a Chinese business newspaper reported today that Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp. might bid for some of Chrysler's assets. Toronto Star


Allmendinger not interested in drive for USF1 team? UPDATE Word is that Peter Windsor has secured a release from Richard Petty Motorsports for AJ Allmendinger to test for the USF1 team.  Face it, Allmendinger's background is open wheel racing and he did very well in Champ Car driving for Forsythe Racing, beating Sebastien Bourdais handily in a number of races.  The other American drivers who could be a candidate alongside Allmendinger (the team would like to have two Americans but may go with one experienced F1 driver and one American according to Windsor) would be Scott Speed, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal.  Marco Andretti may have had a chance but he has not shown well in A1GP and is still a question mark.  With weight such a big factor in F1 this year, Allmendinger and Andretti may fit the bill.  As for Danica Patrick, that would just be a PR stunt.  Her place, her career, is best served in the IRL.  Mark C.

AJ Allmendinger at Fontana Friday
In a news conference at Fontana Friday former Champ Car star AJ Allmendinger, and now part-time Richard Petty Motorsports driver, says he is focused on his NASCAR career and dismissed the possibility of him being a candidate to drive for the new USF1 team set to be unveiled next week.

"I'm not focused on that," said Allmendinger. "I loved being a part of NASCAR. Going to all these races and being around the fans, I enjoy being here. I enjoy the racing... I enjoy all that.

"I'm a true American at heart; I like to in-between races...watch my NFL on Sunday and all that. I've learned in this sport, after everything that has happened to me the last couple of years, don't deny anything. Just nod your head and smile and say there's a chance."

Read more & Comment...

Hungarian MotoGP cancelled? UPDATE We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong.' Things about this project in Hungary certainly are not looking very good.  Check these photos.  These were taken about a month ago and not much progress has been made since then.

02/23/09 According to recent reports, the Hungarian Moto GP is under threat with delays in construction of the new circuit meaning that it is unlikely to be completed on time for the 2009 event.

It appears as if the group responsible for the construction of the 80 million euro circuit have failed to get things underway causing the local government to admit that the race will more than likely need to be cancelled, even though there has been no official word from the Spanish group, Sedesa, on the situation.

The Hungarian round was scheduled to replace Shanghai on September twenty this year at the new 4.6 km Baltonring.


Hulkenberg eyes Williams seat
Nico Hulkenberg
Williams test driver Nico Hülkenberg is hoping that a solid debut season in GP2 this year will help him be promoted to a race seat at the team in 2010. The German is a regular fixture on the test circuits around Europe, and has already attracted much attention in the GP2 Asia series, after putting himself into championship contention after just two events. However, Nico will have to wait until the main GP2 series starts in May to get his next fix of racing, with him due to hand his car back to Pastor Maldonado for the final rounds of the Asian tour.

Speaking to British website Crash.net, Hülkenberg was focused on performing well in GP2 this year. “I'm just trying to have a good GP2 season. In motorsport you always need to be successful to move on and make yourself interesting to other people,” he said.

However, he is hoping that a solid GP2 season will help him graduate to a race seat at Williams in 2010, and having dominated the Formula Three Euroseries in 2008, few are betting against that happening. “When I started motor racing it was clear for me that I wanted to go up to Formula 1 one day,” continued Nico, “so maybe if I have a good season there will be an opportunity next year to race with Williams.”

Williams will race with Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima in 2009, but with both drivers' contracts due to expire at the end of the season, 21-year-old Hülkenberg may find an opening.


Force India boss falling on hard times
Vijay Mallya's Formula One team helped him cultivate an image as India's 'king of good times.' Now that times are tough, he's looking to cede part of his liquor kingdom to Diageo.
Vijay Mallya's United Spirits Ltd. and Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. have made him one of India's wealthiest and most-recognized businessmen -- an image he cultivates with a Formula One auto-racing team, parties with Bollywood actors and liberal use of his nickname. Yet this week, with his airline logging millions of dollars in losses and United Spirits' liquidity dropping sharply, Mr. Mallya and his partners put some of their own shares on the line to keep both businesses afloat.

Now, in a risky maneuver, Mr. Mallya is looking to cede a major portion of his liquor kingdom to a rival: Britain's Diageo PLC. While a deal could extend Mr. Mallya's reach and help him tighten his grip on India's liquor industry, it also could make him vulnerable to an internal threat from a well-heeled foreign competitor.

Diageo and Mr. Mallya (pronounced MAHL-yuh) have been discussing a deal in which the world's largest spirits maker by sales could buy anywhere from 14% to 35% of Bangalore-based United Spirits, a person familiar with the talks says. Based on United Spirits' current market capitalization, a 35% stake would be valued at about $430 million.

Diageo Chief Executive Paul Walsh said reports that a deal is close are "very, very premature." But Diageo recently raised money on the bond market and could easily fund the investment, he said at news conference last week. "We have got a lot of cash," he said. "We have a desire to increase our footprint in India."

A United Spirits deal would bring Diageo greater access to a potentially vast market: India has the most whiskey drinkers of any country in the world. Diageo manufactures Smirnoff vodka and other spirits in India. A deal with United Spirits could propel Diageo's Indian sales by increasing the number of bars and stores where its spirits are sold, analysts say. More at Wall Street Journal


Earth to NASCAR: Californians dislike your racing UPDATE NASCAR didn’t fill every seat at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, but it filled enough to make track President Gillian Zucker happy.  NASCAR estimated race attendance at 78,000 while one of the local papers estimated it at 55,000. Prior to the race, Zucker said she would have considered being 10 percent off the 2008 Labor Day weekend attendance (which NASCAR estimated at 70,000) a success because of the rains that suspended the event last year and the current economic times. The track's grandstands seat 91,000.

The track appeared to be about two-thirds to three-quarters full at the start of the race. The race lasted 3 hours, 40 minutes – including 37 laps run under caution because of intermittent drizzle – and empty seats became more noticeable throughout the event.

Track parent company International Speedway Corp. doesn’t announce attendance figures, but Zucker said she was “happy.”

The track had reduced ticket prices on some of the seats on the lower parts of the grandstands and ran several promotions, such as one where fans got tickets to the race if they spent a certain amount of money at a grocery store.

"The doom and gloom about the fact that California cannot support NASCAR is dead wrong,” Zucker told reporters Sunday night.

She said the track had ticket holders from all 50 states and 12 countries.

“That really says an awful lot about how passionate people are that they are willing to travel such far distances still for their sport,” Zucker said.

The track’s 2-mile configuration at times leads to strung-out racing, but the event Sunday did feature a close battle between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon near the end.

“The quality of racing is everything,” Zucker said. “The races are not boring. They’re different. When you look at what different race tracks have to offer, they offer different styles of racing. We have a very wide race track, and what you see is a racing surface that gives a lot of room for drivers.”

Zucker said she only received one complaint from a fan about the 3 p.m. local start time. The fan was planning on traveling five hours to the event. She said Fox requested a late start time, and she didn’t have an issue with it because the Chase For The Sprint Cup race later in the season will be a day race (12:15 p.m. local start) and her fans wanted a race run at least partially at night.

“If I didn’t think [the start time] was the right thing for people here, absolutely I could be out there saying I don’t think this is the right thing,” Zucker said. Scenedaily.com

02/22/09 Sunday could be one of the worst-attended Cup races ever there. Reports emanating from the west coast are gloomy, indeed.  In fact, while in Daytona for Speedweeks, a high-ranking official of International Speedway Corporation dourly lamented about how only one-third of the seats for Sunday's race had been sold a little more than a week ago.  He feared that the race might draw just 50,000 people, tops.

If that.

And if that happens, it would be the lowest-attended race in Auto Club Speedway (ACS) history.

When are the NASCAR top brass going to realize that Californians are sophisticated people who drive very few American cars and trucks. California is where new trends in America are started.  Californians have no desire to watched NASCAR's dumbed down managed racing using 1950's technology cars (yes, they still even use carburetors, imagine that!) and drivers who cannot properly speak the English language.  When they hear NASCAR drivers butcher the English language as if they are from another country, they cringe and head for the nearest exit.

This is NASCAR's third foray into Southern California over the years.

The first episode was at Riverside International Raceway, which proved popular as a Cup venue at the outset in 1958. But by the time it held its last Cup event in 1988, you could squeeze more people into a phone booth than you could into Riverside's grandstands. It's no wonder the old track is now a housing subdivision.

And then there was the ill-fated Ontario Motor Speedway, which lasted exactly 10 years on the Cup circuit (1971-80). Again, poor attendance proved its downfall. Today, that same area is once again thriving -- just three miles from ACS -- but for different reasons: It's where the very popular Ontario Mills outlet mall now sits.

We'd hate to say Fontana's own ACS will make it three strikes and NASCAR is out, but unless nothing short of a miracle, that's probably what's going to eventually happen. And no matter how many excuses they make, there's no way to overcome the ambivalence of people who just aren't that interested in watching guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart run 180-mph lap after lap on the edge of the desert.  In part from JerryBonkowski.com


Bourdais to return to USA? UPDATE #17 Bourdais admits F1 nearly lost him to USA. Sebastien Bourdais has revealed that in re-signing him for a second campaign in Formula 1 in 2009, Scuderia Toro Rosso acted only just in time to prevent him from returning across the Pond to compete in America once more.

"I was definitely relieved," he confessed, speaking exclusively to Crash.net. "I mean, it's a nasty situation. You wait and wait and wait. I was obviously trying to investigate other options, because over being a F1 driver, I'm a professional driver.

"That's what I make a living from, so I needed to make sure that this was still going to be true for '09 and that was not easy. It's been a very long and difficult winter, no need to deny that. It's never easy when you are left uncertain for so long.

"At some point I was not hoping so much anymore; I was just trying hard to get a seat in particular in the States. In the end Toro Rosso came back to us before anything in the States was completed, so here I am!"

01/12/09 According to Robin Miller's latest SPEEDTV.com article, Ralph Hansen, the sponsor guru for NHLR the past three decades, admitted there had been conversations with Sebastien Bourdais and there was also interest in Robert Doornbos.  "Everyone at Newman/Haas/Lanigan would be thrilled to have Sebastien come back and he wants to come back," said Hansen, who owns Pegasus Marketing in Chicago.  "We're working very hard to make it a possibility."

12/18/08 Sebastien Bourdais told Autosport magazine this week that he is considering a return to racing in North America if he is left without a drive in Formula One next season.

"I'm pretty open," he told Autosport. "Right now I need a good program and America would be an interesting option.

"I have been looking at alternatives (to F1) because that's my job. I need to find a way to make a living, but that's not easy right now - everybody is not willing to commit to any programs."

Read more & Comment...

Mercedes wants Vettel to replace Hamilton or Kovalainen
Reports have emerged that Mercedes motor sport director Norbert Haug is looking into buying Red Bull's, Sebastian Vettel's services in the next three to four years, hinting that either Lewis Hamilton, or more likely, Heikki Kovalainen will have to vacate their race seat.

Haug was speaking to the German newspaper Bild at the time. "Our desire and goal is to see a top German driver in a McLaren Mercedes in three to four years."

"I think he is very genuine and already a very, very strong driver," the German said. "He combines his talent with his work in a way that very few do. There is certainly a similarity with Michael Schumacher."


Honda bosses tell Bernie to butt out
Jenson Button's hard-up Honda bosses have snubbed an incredible £100million rescue offer from Bernie Ecclestone to save the team from the Formula One scrapheap.

Grand Prix supremo Ecclestone told the News of the World he pledged to keep the outfit going. But Honda team principal Ross Brawn and chief executive Nick Fry, who are leading a management buy-out bid, rejected his offer.

Ecclestone was desperate to save Honda and hoped to bring in F1 legend Ayrton Senna’s nephew Bruno to drive alongside Button.

Read more & Comment...

Wilson, Junqueira to Coyne team
Justin Wilson
Bruno Junqueira
According to this SPEEDTV.com story, Justin Wilson and Bruno Junqueira will probably be teammates at Dale Coyne Racing in 2009, making Coyne's team a formidable force to be reckoned with.

"I haven't signed a contract yet and we're still working on some things but it's looking good," said Wilson, who lost his ride with Newman/Haas/Lanigan when no sponsorship could be found.

"I met Bill (Pappas) yesterday and Dale seems very intent on being competitive so I intend to make the most it." Coyne admitted some new sponsor opportunities were on the horizon but sounded like he was prepared to spend his own money to get to the front.

"I am committed to make it happen because I've got unfinished business in this sport," he said. "Bill is a great fit for this team and obviously Justin is one of the best drivers out there so we're going after it."

"Is Bruno out of the picture for 2009?, no, we're working on several things," said Coyne. "He's been good for us and I think we were good for him and we want to run a second car if we can pull things together."  We have updated our 2009 IndyCar Silly Season page.


Plans afoot for Madrid F1 track
(GMM)  Plans are afoot for a formula one-standard circuit in Barajas, near Madrid's international airport in Spain.

Ignacio Gonzalez, vice-president of the autonomous community Comunidad de Madrid, told the Diario AS newspaper that he supports the project, which could be used for F1 testing.

"The technical, environmental and other agencies will act on the matter, but in principle I welcome the proposal," he is quoted as saying.


Virgin in bid for Honda team? UPDATE #6 Sir Richard Branson has revealed for the first time he "might be interested" in becoming involved in Formula One.

Sir Richard Branson
Initially trying to sidestep the issue, a smiling Branson told BBC News: "If we are in discussions then I wouldn't be allowed to say because there would be some kind of clause which would prohibit me talking about it."

But when pressed on the issue, he added: "I love grands prix.

"If Bernie Ecclestone can make it more cost-effective for the likes of the Virgin brand to come into the sport, and if he can champion clean motor-car racing, which is possible to do by making sure all the cars run on clean fuels, at some stage we might be interested in getting involved."

Branson, though, refused to be drawn on whether he was in talks with Honda, repeating: "If there were I wouldn't be allowed to tell you, so I can't clarify it I'm afraid."

He later added on BBC Radio 4's Today program: "I think that there are faults there that would need to be rectified before we moved into Formula One.

"(But) with the Virgin brand expanding on a global basis, it is certainly something that is attractive."

02/19/09 Bernie Ecclestone has given Sir Richard Branson's 11th hour Honda rescue mission the thumbs up. The most powerful figure in Formula One is ready to roll out the red carpet for the entrepreneur and his £7billion Virgin Group.

"We would welcome them with open arms," said Ecclestone. "He's exactly the type of person we would want in the sport. Sir Richard Branson is a wonderful guy. I met him at Monza last year and we got on very well."

Branson's offer could scupper a planned management buyout led by the Honda team's chief executive Nick Fry, principal Ross Brawn and three other senior Honda Racing executives. "I know about the management buyout," said Ecclestone. "But if Virgin are interested and people say they want the same management, then that's great too."

But the final decision on the Brackley outfit's future now rests with the Honda board in Tokyo.

They face a choice between Branson, his PR clout and financial muscle, and the management bid of Fry and Brawn, who wield extensive experience in the sport - but less capital. With battle lines drawn, a question mark hangs over how Brawn and Fry could work with the Virgin hierarchy if Branson is successful.

Mancunian Brawn designed the seven cars in which Michael Schumacher won world titles and has a £15million personal fortune.

The lure for him is not to win yet another championship but to become a latter-day Colin Chapman or Enzo Ferrari as designer-owner or shareholder of his own team.

Bruno Senna, nephew of race legend Ayrton Senna, is competing for the second seat with former Honda driver Takuma Sato.

Grand Prix racing would be the ultimate promotional vehicle for a man of Branson's ambitions. And the Honda team, with unparalleled investment by the car giant, represents the deal of the century. Five years ago the same operation might have commanded a £100m price tag. But following severe criticism at home in Japan for pulling out of F1, Honda are ready to sell the team for just £1 to any buyer who can safeguard the long-term future of the 700 staff. Mirror.co.uk

02/18/09 Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group have until the end of the month to save the beleaguered Honda Formula One team.  The entrepreneur is in talks with Japanese car manufacturers to rescue the career of British racer Jenson Button, but time is desperately short with the new season starting in Australia on March 29.

A Honda spokesman confirmed: 'We are negotiating with several buyers and one of those is the Virgin Group.'

But Honda want to have a deal in place in the next fortnight - or else they will go ahead with their plans to close their Northamptonshire factory with the loss of 700 jobs.  Honda are likely to help fund any new regime by making available around £40million that they would have spent on their intended closure. It still leaves Branson with the unattractive task of finding £80m-plus of his own to run the team this year in the tough economic climate.

02/18/09 (GMM)  A source close to the Brackley based formula one team has confirmed that Virgin Group is the late bidder hoping to buy the beleaguered outfit.

It has been rumored that Virgin, headed by the flamboyant British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, was the unnamed third party who stepped in and scuppered the progress of the Nick Fry and Ross Brawn-led management buyout.

"They have made a bid to purchase the team," the source, requesting to remain unidentified, was quoted as telling Reuters.

An official Honda spokeswoman declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for Virgin Group said the company is "constantly named in speculation and rumor".

Virgin has been involved with F1 before; with the Virgin Mobile brand at the Jordan team in 2002, while the Japanese Takuma Sato was driving.

Virgin Atlantic Japan still sponsors Sato, who narrowly missed out on a Toro Rosso seat for 2009.

32-year-old Sato's manager Andrew Gilbert Scott said earlier this month that he is "looking ahead for the next opportunity" for his client to rejoin F1.

Read more & Comment...

Why NASCAR called the 500 so quickly UPDATE
Q: There's no thinking then to try to have for the 500 or a couple of races mandates that you go the full distance regardless: "

ROBIN PEMBERTON: "Our rules when it comes to that have been fairly clear and fairly basic over the years. When we get to halfway, it's over with it. For instance,  you can look at what we went through with Michigan a couple of summers ago. What if we had gotten 100 laps at Michigan and then actually sat there for three more days to get the race in? Where do you draw the line? I think everybody knows going in what we're faced with and understands.  When you look at the odds, only four of those races out of the last 51 being rain-shortened, I think the odds were stacked against us that it was going to happen eventually.''

02/17/09 A reader asks, Dear AR1.com, Why did NASCAR call the Daytona 500 official so soon after the rain delay? The tracks has lights and in the past they would wait till as long as midnight to finish a race. Plus, no one had to work on Monday as it was a holiday. They robbed us fans of a good finish. Jeffrey Dent

Dear Jeff, You are spot on, in the past NASCAR would have waited longer. As with most things in life, when in doubt, follow the money. Once the race was red-flagged the TV ratings headed south in a hurry. If they did not wrap it up quickly the delay would have lowered the overall TV rating, which would mean next year the race would command less money per 30 second advertisement. NASCAR and FOX will never admit it, but we suspect this analogy isn't too far wide of the mark. Mark C.


GMAC may move from rust belt to sun belt
GMAC Financial Services, whose Motor City roots date back 90 years, is considering changing its headquarters from Detroit to Charlotte, N.C., but would keep its auto financing arm here.

One reason for considering the shift: Charlotte is the home of GMAC CEO Alvaro de Molina, who joined GMAC in 2007 after a 17-year career at Charlotte-based Bank of America.

"Our CEO lives in Charlotte and operates out of that city. Whether we decide it becomes our legal headquarters, I don't know," said Toni Simonetti, GMAC spokeswoman. "But we are going to have a strong presence in Detroit. Detroit is the center of our auto business and that is not going to change."

No timeline has been set when the decision would be made, she said, but, the regional financial center is actively wooing the firm.

Read more & Comment...

Doornbos to IndyCar for 2009 UPDATE #7 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page.

02/19/09 Although the publication about Bobby D's plans for 2009 is delayed, we can announce that Robert Doornbos will test an IndyCar next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on an oval in Homestead (USA) for the first time.

02/18/09 We are downgrading this rumor to 'speculation' based on inside information AR1.com has obtained out of Holland today.  The deal with Doornbos was to be announced today or yesterday but nothing happened. The deal with ING might have been signed last week but apparently it fell through because a major sponsor for Graham Rahal, or Milka Duno (we suspect the latter) dropped out at the very last minute. For Doornbos it meant that he had to come up with $5 million instead of $1.5 or $2 million to NHL Racing we are told. Furthermore, one of his former personal backers, Muermans, has big problems in Belgium and Holland because he is being sued over a retirement fund scandal from the Eindhoven based Philips company.  We think millions are involved.  Harry Muermans will soon go to court in Maastricht, Holland in, ironically, the building (The Palace of Justice) he built himself.  He sold one of his houses to Michael Schumacher recently, but that was sealed off last week by the Belgian police. Let's see how this all plays out.......if he still has the money from ING perhaps he can run a limited IndyCar schedule. Mark C.

02/14/09 The latest rumors out of Holland appear to confirm that ING is indeed backing Doornbos at NHLR and now they are saying an announcement is coming Wednesday.

02/12/09 In this mornings De Telegraaf newspaper there was another article about Doornbos (see translation below). Apparently the contract has been signed and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will make an official announcement on Tuesday, next week (February 17). It all still depends on team sponsorship negotiations with Milka Duno's sponsor CITGO, who could be NHL's 3-car team sponsor ... ! 
Doornbos dolgelukkig

      Robert Doornbos stapte gisteren als een dolgelukkig man in het vliegtuig dat hem naar Europa terugbracht in de zekerheid dat hij straks weer naar de Verenigde Staten kan terugkeren als indycarcoureur bij het topteam Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. Hij tekende er een éénjarig contract met opties op 2010 en 2011. Zijn teamgenoten zijn de Amerikaan Graham Rahal, de zoon van oud-indycarrijder Bobby Rahal, en de Venezolaanse rijdster Milka Duno.
        „Ik ben heel blij en ontzettend trots. Toen ik bij het team werd geïntroduceerd, was mijn openingszin: ’If you cannot beat them, join them’. Dat vond iedereen wel mooi. Ze waren erg enthousiast”, vertelde de 27-jarige coureur. Voorafgaand aan de twee officiële testdagen van de Indy Racing League legt ’Bobby D’, zoals hij in Amerika bekendstaat, op 23 maart zijn rookie-test af op de Homestead Miami Speedway. In april is dan de eerste race in St. Petersburg (Florida). In Indianapolis, waar de kantoren van de IRL zijn gevestigd, bekeek hij de Motorspeedway waar op 24 mei de beroemde Indy 500 mijlsrace plaatsheeft. „Dat enorme stadion was nu nog leeg en kaal, maar je kon gewoon de magie ervan voelen. Mijn eerste Grand Prix in de Formule 1 was iets speciaals, maar ik denk dat de Indy 500 het meest bijzondere in mijn carrière wordt. Als je ziet hoeveel beroemde namen hier hebben gereden en gewonnen”, sprak Doornbos bewonderend. Na Arie Luyendijk senior, die de Indy 500 tweemaal won, en diens zoon Arie junior wordt hij de derde Nederlander die aan het ’greatest spectacle in motorracing’ gaat meedoen. „Ik denk dat ik Arie maar als spotter bij de Indy 500 vraag”, lachte Doornbos.

• Robert Doornbos

              NHL Racing maakte officieel nog niet het 2009-team bekend, omdat NHL nog niet rond is met een teamsponsor. De verwachting is dat de sponsor van Duno (CITGO, een multinational in petroleumproducten) ook zijn naam aan het team gaan verbinden.
Rough Translation:
Doornbos is happy !
Robert Doornbos was a happy man yesterday on the plane ride back to Europe knowing that he will return to the United States as Indycar driver with Newman / Haas / Lanigan Racing. He signed a one-year contract with options in 2010 and 2011. His teammates are the American Graham Rahal, the son of former Indycar driver Bobby Rahal, and Venezuelan Milka Duno.

Having raced against NHLR, Doornbos is happy to not have to beat them.  "I am very happy and very proud. If you cannot beat them, join them," said the 27-year-old driver.  NHL Racing has not made official yet their 2009-team lineup. The expectation is that the sponsor of Duno (CITGO, a multinational petroleum products) will have a major presence in the team.

02/11/09 In today's De Telegraaf newspaper it says Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will today announce / confirm Robert Doornbos as one of their (two or three) drivers for 2009. Robert Doornbos is quoted as saying: "It's not up to me to make the announcement, the team wants to do this themselves.'


’Bobby D’ terug in de States

      Robert Doornbos verwacht dat het Amerikaanse indycarteam Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing hem vandaag als nieuwe coureur zal aankondigen. Dat meldde hij gisteren vanuit Indianapolis waar de laatste hand werd gelegd aan het contract met de 27-jarige Rotterdammer van geboorte.
        Officieel mag hij zich nog geen teamgenoot van Graham Rahal noemen die ook al vorig jaar voor NHL uitkwam. De renstal van wijlen acteur Paul Newman en de huidige eigenaren Carl Haas en Michael Lanigan wil het nieuws over de rijders in een eigen verklaring naar buiten brengen.
      Het is zelfs mogelijk dat er nog een derde coureur bekend wordt gemaakt. Als de geruchten kloppen dan is de derde Dallara met 3.5 Honda V8-motor voor Milka Duno. Zij is een Venezolaanse schone die al enige jaren in de indycarserie actief is en met Citgo een kapitaalkrachtige sponsor (en echtgenoot) heeft.
      Doornbos zal op 5 april op het stratencircuit van St. Petersburg (Florida) zijn debuut maken in de Indy Racing League die zich ook op veel ovale banen afspeelt. De ex-Formule 1-coureur maakt daarmee zijn rentree in het Amerikaanse openwheelracing. In 2007 nam hij aan de Champ Car World Series deel die echter voornamelijk op straten- en wegcircuits werd gehouden. Als ’Bobby D’ maakte de Nederlander naam. Omdat de champcarserie failliet ging en werd overgenomen door de rivaliserende Indy Racing League van Tony George, viste Doornbos afgelopen jaar achter het net. Hij zocht zijn heil in de ’voetbalserie’ Superleague Formula en werd nadien opgenomen in het A1GP-team van Jan Lammers. Tot nu toe kwam hij voor Team Nederland in China en Nieuw-Zeeland in actie.

• Robert Doornbos zal op 5 april op het stratencircuit van St. Petersburg (Florida) zijn debuut maken in de Indy Racing League.

      Intussen werd door Doornbos en zijn manager Lodewijk Varossieau onderhandeld met indycarteams, waarbij de voorkeur uitging naar NHL Racing, dat een rijke geschiedenis kent. Huidig Formule 1-rijder Sébastien Bourdais werd vanaf 2004 viermaal kampioen met het team dat in 1983 werd opgericht. Wereldkampioen Nigel Mansell behaalde er de indycartitel in 1993.
              Hoewel de deal met NHL al een tijdje in de pijplijn zat, wenst Varossieau niet eerder te juichen voordat het team het verlossende woord zal spreken. „In de autosport weet je het maar nooit, maar het is simpel. We zijn heel ver met de onderhandelingen. Eigenlijk zijn we het over alle voorwaarden eens en komt het alleen nog op details aan”, vertelde de manager al vorige week. Dat Doornbos volgens sommige publicaties circa 3 miljoen euro moet inbrengen, wijst Varossieau met grote stelligheid af. „Schromelijk overdreven.” Wel gaf hij aan dat de coureur een groot deel van zijn salaris zal inleveren en dat zijn beloning uit sponsoring zal bestaan. De coureur onderhoudt banden met ING Direct en Red Bull.
Robert Doornbos
02/10/09 Robert Doornbos is currently en route to the U.S. for a medical and physical test. Soon we expect to hear his confirmation at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.

02/03/09 UPDATE #15 Robert Doornbos will join the IndyCar Series after reaching an agreement with Newman/Haas/Lanigan, according to a Dutch newspaper report. Doornbos is said to bring 3 million euros ($3.85M) in the way of sponsorship.

01/26/09 Robert Doornbos' hoped for move to IndyCar in 2009 could be in jeopardy.  ING, who is rumored to be his primary backer, will cut operating expenses by EUR 1 billion in 2009. The structural expense reduction will lead to annual savings of approximately EUR 1.1 billion from 2010 onwards. Of the cutback, 35% will come from a reduction of the workforce by approximately 7,000 full-time positions in 2009. The remainder of the expense reduction comes from decreasing costs for our head office, marketing, the Formula 1 program, consultancy, third-party staff and the renegotiating of certain contracts with IT-vendors. Of the total expense reduction, EUR 650 million will be realized in Banking and EUR 350 million in Insurance.

Read more & Comment...

Roush-Yates Engines branching into NHRA?
The world of racing is known as a hotbed of rumors. Among the various forms of racing and the numbers of drivers, crew members and other employees involved in the industry it is difficult to keep secrets.

One rumor to have recently made the rounds in drag racing circles is that Roush-Yates Engines, better known for their NASCAR exploits, may be about to enter the realm of the quarter-mile.

In particular, they have their sights set on NHRA Pro Stock. Completely unofficial word has it the racing engine conglomerate is in the process of developing a 500 cubic inch pro stock motor, apparently with the blessing of Ford.

If the rumor is to be believed they have established a Ford parts number for the cylinder heads and engine block. NHRA rules mandate a Pro Stock engine must have a factory part number to be raced in that division.

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Fittipaldi turned Castroneves into Feds UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  This Car and Driver article indicates that the documentary evidence in the civil cases between Fittipaldi and Castroneves was the basis of the IRS investigation against Castroneves now.  What will really tick off Emmo is that he may not be eligible for the whistleblower's fee.  If it was deemed that Helio was in compliance with reporting requirements, Emmo is eligible for nothing.

Emerson Fittipaldi is rumored to have ratted on Helio Castroneves as a tax cheat
Q: What can you tell us about Emerson Fittipaldi’s role in Helio Castroneves’ IRS problems? I saw a news story a few months ago in the Dallas Morning News that suggested that there was bad blood between Emmo and Helio over some past business dealings; and for that reason Emmo dropped a dime on Helio with the IRS. (I hope it’s not true as I am a long time fan of both these guys.) I haven’t seen anything else about this in the enthusiast press and was curious about your take on it. Vic Bloede

RM: The rumor from Day 1 has been just that. Because Helio signed with Penske immediately after Greg Moore's death and reportedly didn't bother to include Fittipaldi in the deal (he was Helio's manager at that time), Emmo supposedly wrote him off as a friend. Then, as his revenge, he blew the whistle on HCN to the IRS. Not sure I believe it but maybe it will come out in the trial. SPEEDTV.com


GM's Saturn might sell Chinese and Indian cars
General Motors is moving toward a spin-off of its Saturn brand and is open to selling vehicles from other automakers through the Saturn dealer network, according to a letter sent to Saturn owners.

Such a move would be a perfect door into the U.S. market for Chinese and Indian automakers.

If an alliance with Chrysler fails to materialize, Fiat, long chomping at the bit to go to the U.S. with its Alfa Romeo models and launch is popular Fiat 500 here, would be another possibility.

All options are on the tables but among those being seriously considered by GM and Saturn dealers is the spin-off of Saturn into the Saturn Distribution Corp., an independent GM subsidiary. If the spin-off occurs, Saturn dealers would source vehicles from other automakers, Jill Lajdziak, general manager of Saturn, wrote in the memo.

As part of its restructuring required as part of the government loan package, GM impose Saturn up for review. GM CEO Rick Wagoner pretty much advertised Saturn's availability during a press conference Tuesday detailing the automaker's progress report submitted to the U.S. government. He aforesaid GM was open to talking to anyone interested.

Saturn's letter to owners said that the goal would be to find coming events vehicles that match the Saturn brand for fuel-efficiency, safety, reliability and affordability. "From a retailing view, we would build on our core strength of unparalleled customer service," Lajdziak said in her letter to owners. More at Allcarsreview.com


Stoner may miss '09 MotoGP season
Casey Stoner
Casey Stoner has admitted his MotoGP season is in serious doubt due to continual pain in his wrist. Stoner underwent an operation on his wrist last November to repair an old injury but he says his movement is still severely hampered.

Remarkably he set the fastest lap times in the first official test series at Sepang in Malaysia recently.

"Three months have gone by and my wrist has little mobility and hurts badly," Stoner told Motosprint. "I don't like the way this story is going at all.

"I'll try not to think about it until the test in Qatar, then we'll see. If the situation in Qatar hasn't improved radically, then it means there will be plenty to worry about.

"I just think that three months have gone by and in my opinion the situation isn't good at all.

Read more & Comment...

Floundering A1GP to cancel more races UPDATE Only 6 cars have arrived in South Africa for the race as we write this, the rest are coming Friday so the first practice has been delayed.  Another sign that bills are not getting paid and under the covers the series is in trouble.

02/19/09 We have long questioned the viability of the A1GP series - how it could survive with such huge costs and so few fans and TV ratings.  Well it appears the calendar of the A1GP series has once again changed. The scheduled race in Mexico City at the end of March has been canceled by the organizers . "As soon as the A1GP series receives the necessary approvals by the FIA, a new date will be announced," it was simply mentioned in a press release of the A1GP series. Yeah right.  With so few Mexicans in attendance last year, the race was a money pit.

The A1GP racing calendar for the 2008/2009 season has already been changed several times. The season opener at Mugello was completely deleted, the race in Indonesia had to be canceled and the A1GP season finale at Interlagos has not yet been confirmed by the series managers.


Cosworth eyeing IRL return?
Q: With all this talk of new engines, has anyone considered getting Cosworth back into OWR? They are no longer in F1. Are they still in business or have Kalkhoven and Forsythe run that company into the ground like they did to Champ Cars? I loved the sound of the Cosworth V8 turbos in full song when I heard them at the last Vancouver Indy. What is their current status and prospects? Or would TG even consider them because they represent the "loser" series? Keith Hines, Smithers, BC, Canada

RM: Interesting you brought that up. A Cosworth biggie was seen leaving the IRL office a few weeks ago so let's do some speculating. Let's suppose the IRL doesn't adopt the V6 like Honda wants and, after 2010, Honda leaves IndyCar. Let's also suppose VW joins the IRL but not until 2012. Who fills that void in 2011? Those turbo Cosworths sitting in a shop in California. SPEEDTV.com

[Editor's Note: Cosworth is also free to build and maintain engines for any of the manufacturers wanting to run in the IndyCar series.  In fact it makes sense for VW to hire Cosworth, who are already based in the USA, rather than waste millions setting up their own race engine shop and rebuild facility.  Cosworth also has a good relationship with Mazda, should they choose to step up to IndyCar to go head-to-head with Japanese rival Honda.]


Honda F1 team could collapse completely
Honda have not ruled out the possibility of disbanding its Formula One team as there is still no confirmation of a new buyer, just five weeks before the start of the season. The Japanese car giant announced it was pulling out of F1 back in December after citing the credit crunch as the reason behind their demise. Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is the latest in a long line of potential purchasers but there is still no official word about a deal being agreed.

It is understood that Honda chiefs in Japan are studying the proposals are on the table, but Honda have conceded that shutting the team down completely remains a viable option.

"It's true that we are pursuing several potential buyers. But the team may still have to be disbanded if the negotiations fail," a Honda spokesman said.


GM may sell Saab, Opel stake
General Motors Corp., facing the biggest crisis in its 100-year history, may sell a stake in its German carmaker Adam Opel and could abandon its sporty Swedish brand Saab in an effort to slash costs abroad as well as at home.

GM's European division and the top representative of its European employees issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they were looking for ways to reduce costs further without resorting to firings and plant closings.

The automaker is seeking $1.2 billion in labor cost savings, on top of existing measures, including a wage freeze, GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster said.

"Management is willing to consider strategic third-party partnerships, alliances and equity stakes in case such an approach is seen as beneficial for GM Europe and Opel's viable and sustainable future," Forster said.

His comments underscored the global nature of GM's latest restructuring effort, outlined Tuesday in a plan submitted to the U.S. Treasury Department under the terms of a loan agreement.

GM said 26,000 of the 47,000 jobs it plans to eliminate are in its foreign operations, and executives singled out Europe as requiring urgent action.

In spite of deep restructurings and an attractive lineup of cars, including the new Opel Insignia sedan, the German carmaker struggles to make money, while Saab has lost money during most of its 19 years as a GM affiliate. (GM bought 50 percent of Saab in 1990 and the rest in 2000.)

In the latest figures available, GM said GM Europe lost $1 billion in the third quarter of 2008. Detroit News


Monday is D-Day for Honda rescue
(GMM)  Only a few days remain for the Brackley based formula one team to survive the shock withdrawal of the Japanese manufacturer Honda.

Amid reports of potential buyers including Richard Branson's Virgin Group, or a Nick Fry and Ross Brawn-led management buyout, it has emerged that Monday 23 February is the deadline for final plans to be set in stone.

Team principal Brawn is quoted by the Swiss newspaper Blick as confirming that "Monday" is decision-day, and Britain's authoritative Guardian newspaper revealed the same deadline.

The Daily Mail said the deadline for the Honda Motor Co. board to approve a buyout deal is 28 February.

The Guardian, however, said 23 February is the deadline set by Mercedes-Benz, with the German manufacturer wanting its first payment for the customer supply of engines on that date.

With the first payment, the team must also be able to demonstrate to the German manufacturer that it can afford the entire 8m euro engine bill for the full season.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, having intended to back Honda's 2009 campaign, clarified this week that it is not interested in signing with the "future team yet to be formed", nor is it helping to finance Bruno Senna's grand prix debut.

But the Guardian writer Alan Henry said he believes Embratel, another Brazilian company, is still "keen to offer support".


NHL Racing buying car off of Conquest? No. UPDATE Per the team, the truck was there to pick up some pit equipment that Conquest is lending NHL Racing.  They were not there to pick up a car.

02/17/09 We spotted a NHL Racing 18-Wheeler parked behind the Conquest Racing shop today complete with McDonald's livery on it.  Speculation is that NHL Racing may be buying an extra car off of Conquest to complete their stable to run three cars in 2009.


American F1 team in the works UPDATE #7 Peter Windsor has backed up his USF1 partner Ken Anderson’s assertion that Danica Patrick will be considered for one of the team’s race seats, should the squad enter the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship as planned.

Former Ligier engineer Anderson and ex-Williams team manager Windsor are preparing the groundwork for the proposed team, which is set to be based in North Carolina. An official announcement regarding USF1’s intention to join F1 is to be made on 24 February.

There has already been plenty of speculation regarding who may drive for the team, but it looks likely that Americans will be chosen, with Patrick to be considered.

"She's great and gets a lot of press," Anderson said earlier this week. "Indy Racing League chairman Tony George would be pretty mad with me if I took her out of the IRL but we'll see.”

Windsor has now made more solid the potential for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model - who became the first women to win an IndyCar event when she triumphed in the Japan 300 last year - to become a Formula 1 driver.

"We are looking at all American drivers with the right credentials and that includes Danica,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian. "But it's not about what the driver brings commercially, it is [about] the driver's compatibility with the team and their ability." Setanta

02/16/09 A reader writes, Danica is being included in discussions of USF1 only because it brings attention to the project. But to include her name in your Editor's Notes is an embarrassment to your site. I don't knock Danica but she is light years from The HOF names mentioned. Paul G.

Dear Paul, Consider the sarcasm in what we wrote.  We think everyone realizes that Danica is not F1 material, that her name is being listed as a PR stunt for USF1, and that she will remain in the IRL where she has a large fan base and has had some success.  She will never go to NASCAR either.  Mark C.

02/15/09 An American team will be racing in Formula One next year, and IndyCar driver Danica Patrick is a candidate to fill one of the seats.  USF1, which will be unveiled Feb. 24, will have a staff of at least 100, a working budget of $64 million and an aim to put two American drivers on the starting grid. The team is looking at several candidates, including the 26-year-old Patrick.

Danica Patrick, one of the true great American race car drivers, so deserving of an F1 ride given her ability to win most of the races she has entered over the past 3 or 4 years.
[Editor's Note: Based on the length of her autograph lines, Patrick must be one of the greatest American's to have ever driven a race car and is, therefore, worthy of an F1 ride.  Patrick is a true American hero and she ranks right up there with Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Petty, Dan Gurney and all the other great American drivers who won so many races and demonstrated such skill and daring behind the wheel.  She will demonstrate to the world that America really can produce great race car drivers.]

"She's great. She gets a lot of press," USF1 technical director Ken Anderson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "(Indianapolis Motor Speedway president) Tony George would probably be pretty mad with me if I took her out of the IRL but we'll see.

"I don't know if it's something she wants to do. We'd certainly love to test her and go from there."

NASCAR driver Scott Speed, who raced 28 times for F1 team Toro Rosso from 2006-07, is also a candidate.

Conor Daly -- son of former F1 driver Derek Daly -- and Josef Newgarden are also being mentioned, with both drivers presently competing in European junior categories.

The team will be based in Charlotte, N.C., and with much of the technology coming from the United States it means "there are a lot of companies we can lean on to outsource," according to Anderson.

Calls by the AP to motor racing's governing body Sunday to confirm that USF1's entry had been accepted were not returned.

The team is currently looking for a secondary base in Europe, most likely sharing with Epsilon Euskadi's team headquarters in northern Spain.

"We're talking to (F1 engineer) Sergio Rinland about basing it at Espselon. It's a beautiful city, it's certainly on top of our list," said Anderson, who worked as a designer and engineer in F1 and IndyCar. "Spain makes a lot of sense with all the winter testing."

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Foyt IV out of ride
AJ Foyt IV cast aside
Vision Racing will field only one car in the IndyCar Series, and of course it will be for the team and series owners stepson because blood is thicker than water.  Vision's Indy car will be driven by Ed Carpenter, the son of team owners Tony and Laura George. The team, founded in 2005, does not currently have the sponsorship to bring A.J. Foyt IV back for a third season.

The team will also field Firestone Indy Light series entry to be driven by Australian driver James Davison. It will be Vision's first participation in the series.


Sirius XM radio have one foot in the grave UPDATE #4 Sirius XM Radio Inc., the satellite broadcaster, will receive $530 million in loans from John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. in exchange for board seats and an equity stake, avoiding a bankruptcy filing.

Sirius XM will first get $280 million and use part of the financing to repay convertible bonds due today, the companies said in a statement. Liberty also agreed to offer to purchase as much as $100 million in outstanding loans and to lend New York- based Sirius XM an additional $150 million. Sirius XM doubled to 21 cents at 9:35 a.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

The company, run by Mel Karmazin, said Feb. 13 it might have to file for bankruptcy as soon as today if it couldn’t reach an agreement to restructure its debt. The bonds due today are held by Charles Ergen’s EchoStar Corp., which had been buying Sirius XM debt after the broadcaster rejected its unsolicited bid, according to a person familiar with the plan.

“Sirius has bought itself some time to work its way through the downturn, but they’re far from out of the woods,” Fred Moran, an analyst at Stanford Group, said in an interview today. Moran, who is based in Boca Raton, Florida, recommends investors hold the shares and doesn’t own any.

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Dale Jr. choking under pressure
It was as uneasy as 1-2-3. 1. One big, controversial wreck. 2. Two inexplicable pit-road blunders. 3. Three, at the very least, drivers called him out. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona 500 began with promise. He ran up front early and passed Kyle Busch for the lead on Lap 53. But on his subsequent pit he missed his stall. Track position was gone. Later in the race when he came to pit, his tire was on the line, which is a no-no in NASCAR. Changes were made to the car anyway, resulting in a one-lap penalty. "We had a pit stop where I was told the right-front tire was only an inch over the line," Earnhardt said. "I was held a lap for that and I don't feel like that was a fair trade. Maybe it's time to re-evaluate that rule." And it was just a few laps later when things went from bad to worse. A collision between he and Brian Vickers triggered a multi-car crash that took out several lead cars. Both Earnhardt and Vickers were running a lap down at the time. For NASCAR's most popular driver in NASCAR's most popular race, it was not a good day. Was Junior at fault for the wreck? But an even bigger question has emerged: Is the pressure of driving for Hendrick Motorsports, where there are no excuses, finally getting to Dale Jr.? Even he admits pressure led to his first pit-road mistake. "I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get up in there and try to lead a lap and all that and I just wasn't thinking good," he said. nascar.com


Honda facing first quarterly loss
Honda Motor Co., confronting the first quarterly loss in at least 15 years, will scale back plans to make business jets and may offer voluntary retirements in the U.S. for the first time as it slashes costs.

The company will produce 70 to 80 jets a year for delivery from the end of 2010, compared with an earlier plan to make 100 planes a year, Chief Executive Officer Takeo Fukui said in an interview on Feb. 16.

Honda, Japan’s second-largest carmaker, expects a loss of 243 billion yen ($2.6 billion) in the current quarter as vehicle demand in the U.S. and Japan plummets and a stronger yen erodes overseas earnings. The worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression has cut corporate demand for jets as companies curb perks for top management.

“In this political climate, it’s hard to imagine executives jumping up and down and demanding jets to fly around in,” said Ed Rogers, chief executive officer of Tokyo-based hedge fund adviser Rogers Investment Advisors Y.K. “This is the time you focus on core businesses and particularly profitable business lines.”

Last week, Honda said it is considering postponing production of Jazz compact cars in the U.K. as vehicle sales plunge in Europe. The company is also eliminating 4,300 temporary jobs in Japan by April.

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Scheckter eyeing IRL return UPDATE #2 A reader speculates, With regard to the Tomas Scheckter rumor, Miller has always enjoyed success in Indy Cars in particular with Rahal.  Tomas' quote said that it would be a company that would "give other companies confidence to invest in Indy Car again."  I get that he also said it was US-based but wouldn't the US arm of South African Breweries (Miller) make sense all around?  Rahal needs the cash and it could come with a brand that he is familiar with. Dan, Lincoln Park, MI.

Dear Dan, Makes sense to us too.  Mark C.

Question: After seeing your report of Tomas Scheckter with a sponsor possibly coming on board, you mentioned he would like to go to a team that would win races. Outside of Penske, Ganassi and AGR, which teams do you think would be in the next tier, ones that it would seem Tomas is looking to bring the sponsor to. Who would you put your money on? Matt, Oshawa, Ontario

Answer: There are two logical possibilities in my mind: Rahal Letterman and KV Racing Technology. I think KV Racing still hopes it can strike a deal for Paul Tracy or at least Oriol Servia, so I think Scheckter's best bet is with Rahal. Tomas didn't say how much money he might have access to, but I'd guess about $2 million. I'm not sure if that's enough for Rahal, but it would be an interesting team to watch. I suppose a return to Vision isn't out of the question either. Tomas did a lot to help that team grow. Indy Star

Tomas Scheckter, son of F1 great Jody Scheckter
02/16/09 Tomas Scheckter confirmed today that he has a potential sponsor to help him return to the IndyCar Series this season.

He wouldn't disclose the sponsor, but he said it is a U.S.-based one that figures to give other companies the confidence to invest in Indy-car racing again.

"It'd be a great company to have in the sport," he said.

Scheckter also declined to say which team he's most interested in joining, but at 28 years old he said he wants a full-season ride with a team that has a chance to win races.

Scheckter, who has two race victories and eight poles in his IndyCar Series career, drove in six races last season for Luczo Dragon Racing.

"We're speaking to people," he said of IndyCar teams. "It's still not a done deal (on the part of the sponsor), but the intent is there. It's like, 'OK, how can we get it together to make it work?'" IndyStar


'All banks' to exit F1
(GMM)  ING's departure from formula one represents the end of an era for the sport, according to former grand prix driver and Swiss commentator Marc Surer.

Following the Dutch bank's announcement on Monday morning, the Flavio Briatore-led Renault team said the news justifies the current moves for a "restructuring of our sport" and "drastic cost reductions".

"With the ongoing program of measures we are confident we can guarantee a solid future for our team and for formula one," Briatore, whose outfit commenced a three-year contract with ING in 2007, insisted.

With Credit Suisse also now departed, however, and speculation that the troubled Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) may soon follow suit, Surer is adamant that "all banks will disappear" from the grid within time.

"As the causes of the (financial) crisis, they simply no longer fit with formula one's image," the 57-year-old, who raced in the 80s, is quoted as saying by the German news agency SID.

The report estimated ING's annual spend on F1 at about 50 million euros, and representing at least half of Renault's total sponsorship bill.

British MP John Mann last week slammed Williams sponsor RBS's "reckless" spending, using the example of contracting highly-paid figures like Sir Jackie Stewart to entertain VIPs at grands prix as "a good illustration of excessive behavior in anything to do with money".

"The party is over," Surer observed, "but just as F1 survived the end of tobacco sponsoring, once again there will be something new.

"The wheels will keep on turning," he said.

track news

NASCAR announcement tomorrow
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Frankfort with Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith and others.

An advisory distributed this morning indicated only that the news conference would address, “the future of NASCAR in Kentucky.”

Also scheduled to attend are former Kentucky Speedway chairman Jerry Carroll, Kentucky Senate President David Williams and Kentucky House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins.

Carroll said the news conference would not include an announcement about bringing a long-sought NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to Kentucky Speedway.

“We’re having lunch,” said Carroll, now a consultant with SMI. “We’ll fill them in, brief them and then talk about a few things.”


Earnhardt wanted piece of Vickers
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made two mistakes off the track Sunday, but it was the one on the track that was the most costly. With bad weather closing fast and drivers thinking time was running out in the Daytona 500, Earnhardt on Lap 124 tried to dip to the inside of Brian Vickers as the two battled to get back on the lead lap. Vickers moved low to block Earnhardt's advance and both went below the yellow line. As they moved back up toward the racing groove, Earnhardt's Chevrolet hit Vickers' Toyota, triggering a nine-car wreck. Earnhardt was a lap down at the time of the wreck because he had stopped outside his pit box during the previous caution. That was his second pit-road mistake of the race. He had completely missed his pit during a caution early in the race and had to make a second stop.

In an interview during a rain delay, Earnhardt denied he had wrecked Vickers intentionally. "I got a run on him. He saw me coming. I got a big ol' run on him and I went to the inside," he said. "I didn't try to make any late move or some surprise. He went to block me and hit me and sent me down to the grass. "I tried to recover my car and I got back into him coming back up the race track. I don't hate it for him, but (I do) for everyone else that got wrecked." Apparently the incident lingered with Earnhardt. During a caution more than 20 laps later, Earnhardt radioed his crew and said, "Tell Vickers if he wants to meet me in the garage to get his ass beat, I'm willing." Charlotte Observer


Senna signs for ex-Honda team - 4 races UPDATE #3 This rumor is now downgraded to 'speculation' today.  With less than six weeks to go until the start of the season, speculation regarding the future of the Brackley-based team, which was put up for sale by the Japanese car manufacturer in December, is now reaching fever pitch.

Bruno Senna
Widespread reports over the weekend claimed that Senna, nephew of the late great Ayrton Senna, had signed and would bring with him considerable financial backing through his links to Brazilian oil company Petrobras and telecommunications firm Embratel.

However, Telegraph Sport understands that not only are the reports regarding Senna untrue but Petrobras have pulled out of a sponsorship deal with Honda for 2009.

It leaves the future of the team and their 750-strong staff, including Jenson Button, hanging in the balance.

With the nine other teams on the grid having already finalized their line-ups for 2009, former driver David Coulthard recently voiced concerns for Button's future career if he is forced to sit this season out.

There now appear to be three options on the table.

Firstly Honda could shut down the team altogether, which would cost them an estimated £100 million, mainly in redundancy payments. Paying off Button's recently signed three-year contract would alone cost £24 million.

Secondly, Honda could accept the proposed management buy-out proposal being led by the current CEO Nick Fry and team principal Ross Brawn.

Finally, Honda could accept a bid from an unnamed third party, who have come to the table late in proceedings.

A source within Honda described the company as "reputable, able to bring long-term financial stability, with a brand image known throughout the world. Formula One would do well to have them on board."

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Dale Jr. running out of time for championship?
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. may be NASCAR's most popular driver, but he is deficient in driving talent
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is approaching a dangerous statistical marker as he enters his 10th season as a Sprint Cup driver. Only two Cup champions -- Bobby Allison in 1983 and Dale Jarrett in 1999 -- raced as long as Earnhardt has before they won their first title. It took Allison 18 years racing full time before he won his only championship, two weeks before turning 46. Jarrett did it in his 13th season, five days before he turned 44. Earnhardt is only 34, so time is on his side, but history isn't. Of all the drivers who have suited up as full-time competitors for 10 years or more, Allison and Jarrett are the only ones who became champions in their second decade of racing. ESPN


Dashboards in future to be 3D
Auto dashboards in the future may be 3D
Research scientists have developed a novel car dashboard that functions as a 3-D display and shows velocities, engine speeds or warnings in three dimensions. The display’s design can be chosen individually by the driver.

A driver gets into his car and turns the ignition key. The dashboard, which was black just a moment ago, now reveals itself as a 3-D display with a simple but modern design. If his son were at the wheel, the controls for the mp3 player would now appear in the foreground: “Please select an artist”. After choosing some music, he would set off. The display would show a 3-D model of the town, and the integrated navigation system would direct him to his destination. The car owner, however, prefers other types of information, such as the latest traffic reports. He also likes to have the rev counter in view at all times. After he has driven for a while, the display changes and an alert message literally jumps out at him: “Please refuel”.

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track news

Milwaukee Mile circling the drain UPDATE #2 The Wisconsin State Fair Park Board has decided to cut ties with Milwaukee Mile Holdings LLC, the group that promotes and runs auto racing at the Milwaukee Mile.

"The Fair Park Board has made every effort at reasonable negotiations with Milwaukee Mile Holdings," said Susan Crane, chairwoman of the park board. "The board felt the time had arrived to take decisive action to ensure there is racing at The Mile this summer."

Waiting in the wings is Wisconsin Motorsports LLC, a new group led by Claude Napier, currently the president and CEO of the Milwaukee Mile. Napier said Thursday that he was very close to a new agreement with the fair that will keep racing going at the historic racetrack.

Napier added that this year's slate of races at the track, including IndyCar and NASCAR, will be held as scheduled. Napier said he was also working to add more events at the track.

Napier did not disclose who would be in his ownership group.

In a prepared statement, State Fair officials said they expected a "seamless transition because the new promoter has significant experience managing day-to-day track operations and race events such as the IndyCar series, and NASCAR's Truck Series and Nationwide Series."

Fair officials said Napier will guarantee that tickets already purchased by race fans for events this season will be honored. JSOnline.com

02/12/09 The current president and CEO of the Milwaukee Mile is trying to form a new ownership group to take over racing at the Milwaukee Mile from Milwaukee Mile Holdings LCC, the current promoter.

Attendance has been soft at Milwaukee since 1996 when Tony George decided to create the IRL and split the sport.  It's now 2009 and the sport is still reeling and most track promoters are losing money
Claude Napier made a presentation on Monday to members of the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board, meeting in executive session. Napier declined to comment afterward. Sue Crane, the chairwoman of the board, would only say the board and Napier had a good discussion.

According to sources, Milwaukee Mile Holdings, which has lost millions of dollars staging races at the racetrack, wants to get out of racing sooner than later. It has already exercised its right to leave the track in December 2010, but has communicated to the board that it wants to get out as soon as possible.

However, the board and Milwaukee Mile Holdings are at odds over a number of issues. One such issue involves a so-called letter of credit, a kind of insurance policy the board has with Milwaukee Mile Holdings to ensure the board can continue to make payments on the $1.8 million it still owes on the fair's new grandstand.

Milwaukee Mile Holdings LLC has insisted that, when it renegotiated a new operating agreement in February 2008, both sides failed to reach agreement on a new letter of credit. As a result, from Milwaukee Mile's point of view, a letter of credit does not exist.

The board insists that the old letter of credit is still operational.

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Rome trying to 'steal' GP - Monza UPDATE #5 Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has given preliminary backing to the idea of holding a grand prix in Rome, the man behind the proposal has said.

"We have the approval of the city council, the regional government, the provincial government and of Ecclestone too," Maurizio Flammini was quoted as saying by Saturday's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Flammini, a former Formula Two driver and world superbike promoter, said final plans for a race in the EUR district on the outskirts of the Italian capital would be presented to the Rome city council by the end of March.

"There are 150 million euros (£134 million) available to set up the first edition in 2011 or 2012," Flammini said.  "It could be the response to the 2015 Expo in Milan. But I must have the guarantee (to hold) four editions (of the race) minimum."

Flammini said Ecclestone had promised that the Italian Grand Prix at Monza would continue to be staged if plans for a street-circuit race in Rome came to fruition. International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley is unenthusiastic about the idea, while Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said a Rome Grand Prix would be unthinkable unless it was a one-off.

"I hope to meet the Ferrari president, Mosley and Ecclestone soon to show them the details of the event," Flammini said. Eurosport

02/04/09 (GMM)  Hermann Tilke, the German architect responsible for the design of modern formula one venues, has emerged this week in Rome.

The news, reported by the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, gives weight to the recent revelation that the Italian capital is looking to host a street grand prix in 2011.

It is unlikely that Tilke's visit would be without the backing of F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, the sole author of the sport's annual calendar.

Gazzetta said Tilke is currently analyzing three possible layouts for a Rome race, all within the EUR district in the city's south west and with a budget of about 50 million euros.

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