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Duno may have new IRL teamUPDATE #2 Milka Duno and representatives from SAMAX Racing, CITGO and the Indy Racing League will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. on Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway to announce plans for the 2007 racing season.
03/20/07 AutoRacing1.com has learned that on Friday at 11 AM in Homestead Milka Duno will announce her new IRL team with Samax and CITGO.
03/14/07 Milka Duno now has a second chance to make a first impression in the Indy Racing League. The Venezuelan sports car driver is expected to be confirmed to the new Indy-car program of Samax Motorsport, the team she drives for in the Grand American Road Racing Series. Her previous IRL deal with Cahill Racing fell apart last month. Samax director Peter Baron confirmed today that an Indy car has been acquired -- league officials said it came from Hemelgarn Racing -- and that an IRL crew has been established. But he would not confirm other details about the program, including Duno's role as the driver. A formal announcement is expected later this month, he said, which means the team won't participate in next week's season-opening race in Homestead, Fla. IndyStar.com
Martin could race full time in 2008 Mark Martin is sticking to his word of not racing this weekend in Bristol despite having the Nextel Cup point lead..
"I think that it's going to be interesting seeing the Car of Tomorrow in its first race. Seriously, I'm just going to hang out, barbecue a little bit and watch the race."
But the four-time Cup runner-up left the door open for a full-time schedule in 2008.
Martin will talk to Ginn Racing general manager Jay Frye in September about next year's plan, which currently calls for him to run a 22-race schedule with the option to add races as he is this season.
"Please, let's don't talk about that right now," Martin said. "I haven't even missed a race yet. I haven't even sat out Bristol yet. Let's wait until September to talk about '08. That's when I'll talk to Jay. We won't be talking about it until then."
Indian GP could be street race (GMM) India's highly speculated grand prix in the capital New Delhi could also be a street race, it has emerged.
"I'm proposing to start things with a street race on Raj Path," businessman Vijay Mallya said this week, admitting that the lack of an adequate permanent circuit would otherwise be an obstacle to getting the race up and running by 2009.
Mallya, who is a leading force behind negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone, is also chief of Toyota's new on-car sponsor Kingfisher Airlines.
Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher is therefore on PR duties in India this week, and with Mallya has met with Indian minister Shiela Dixit about the grand prix.
Ralf said: "It's incredible what's been happening in India in the last three years. If you read any newspaper you get to know about the booming economy.
Leinders may drive 3rd Minardi car Dutch website champcar.nl is reporting today that Team Minardi USA is looking at Belgian driver Bas Leinders to possibly drive a 3rd car at Zolder & Assen, the two new European venues on the 2007 Champ Car circuit. "It's a possibility we're considering," Stoddart told the Dutch website. Leinders was already in 2004 test- and reserve driver for Minardi F1.
"It would be a great chance for Bas. Because the European races are still far away, we haven't made our decision yet. At this moment we have a third chassis. We've bought that because spare parts aren't available. If the third car is still in good shape for the Belgian race, Bas can drive that car, without having to pay for it."
"At this moment we're trying to arrange something so I can race in Assen and Zolder, and hopefully beyond, in the third car for Team Minardi USA," Leinders said. "But there isn't anything certain at this moment," said the Belgian driver. " At the end of last season I didn't see Champ Car as an option, so I don't have the budget to start as soon as Vegas. I would love to get the chance to show what I can."
India GP getting closer to realityUPDATE #10 India's hopes of hosting a Formula One grand prix as early as 2009 gained a boost on Thursday when Delhi's chief minister welcomed the idea of having a street race like the one in Monaco.
"If it comes to India, which I hope it will, I'd really welcome it," Sheila Dixit told reporters after her meeting with leading Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, whose Kingfisher Airlines is a new sponsor of the Toyota F1 team.
"It certainly is feasible. We had an extremely positive meeting with the chief minister, who is entirely supportive of the idea," Mallya said.
"One of the areas which we believe would be beautiful and has a lot of heritage value is in and around the India Gate," Mallya added.
Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher, on a visit to India for the new team sponsor, said: "Clearly from what I have seen, it will be a great event. I am looking forward to it and hopefully it will happen."
"Yes, cricket is like a religion in this country. I am not saying 1.1 billion people are going to watch F1. But there is more than enough appetite out there," Mallya said.
At a news conference in Mumbai on Tuesday, Mallya said the facilities to be built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games could be used for the F1.
"This is the first time I have been involved in trying to bring F1 to India. Delhi is gearing up big time in infrastructure for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the chief minister is excited about the possibility," he said. tvnz.co.nz
01/24/07 (GMM) After months and years of speculation, formula one is definitely heading to India in the near future, according to reports.
The burgeoning south Asian country's 'Economic Times' said capital New Delhi has been selected as the host city, and that "a formal announcement is expected in March."
Central to the new talks with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been Vijay Mallya, chief of Toyota's new on-car sponsor Kingfisher Airlines.
Recently predicting an inaugural Indian GP in 2009 with government backing, Mallya has reportedly promised to be the main sponsor of the Delhi race.
Global financial services firm Goldman Sachs said in a paper this week that India will overtake the economies of the UK, France and Italy by 2015.
It could then overtake Germany, Japan and finally the US by 2050.
Carmichael to bring sponsors Ginn Racing is finalizing a deal that is expected to put Ricky Carmichael's chief Supercross sponsor, Monster Energy Drink, on the car for his first stock car race this weekend.
When Monster in January 2006 signed a reported two-year deal with Carmichael, widely regarded as the Michael Jordan of motorcycle racing, its marketers had no idea he would be driving a vehicle with four wheels instead of two. But the move to stock car racing and possibly NASCAR broadens the audience for Monster, the No. 2 energy drink in sales behind Red Bull.
"What we like is it takes one of our personalities over to the more mainstream, corporate side of the world with Ricky's NASCAR involvement," said Scott Sepkovic, president and CEO of Crown Athlete Management Group, the procurement agency for Monster. "We want to stay on board and follow Ricky." Sporting News
Penske almost bought Aston Martin Dave Richard's group bought Aston Martin recently but not before Roger Penske had a very serious look at it. Looking to expand his automotive empire, Penske told Chris Economaki the final deal was “not right” for him, but he supports the sale of Aston Martin to the Richards group 100 percent.
Pastorelli to drive third Team Australia car According to this Dutch newspaper article, Nicky Pastorelli, with financial backing from Bart Rietbergen and Meindert van Buren, may run in a third Team Australia car in the Champ Car World Series. It seems it's less costly to add a third car to an already established 2-car team than it is to finance a 2nd car at a 1-car team.
Qatar eyes F1 project (GMM) The Middle Eastern state Qatar is the latest name that can be added to a list of prospective future venues for grands prix.
Referring to his country's existing race, and Abu Dhabi's newly confirmed grand prix for 2009, Bahrain finance minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa said: "Qatar is also planning to follow the (United Arab Emirates) in starting a similar project, which clearly shows that formula one is a good marketing strategy."
[Editor's Note: Singapore, Abu Dhabi, South Korea, India, Russia, etc - where are all these races going to fit in the F1 calendar. The current calendar is 17 races, but Imola is spending a lot of money to improve its facility and get back on the schedule. That would make 18 races. Bernie says he wants to expand the schedule to 20 races, which means there is room for two new races before existing venues begin to lose their race.]
Spyker might not run Friday driver at Sepang (GMM) Despite previous reports to the contrary, it is now not certain that test driver Fairuz Fauzy will appear for the Spyker team on the Friday of the Malaysian GP.
Spyker did not run a Friday driver in Melbourne because of the Giedo van der Garde affair, but it was believed that part of Fauzy's new contract with the Dutch team was the guarantee of a Friday drive at his home circuit at Sepang.
But on the back of news that Spyker will sit out the pre-event Sepang test, Fauzy told the New Straits Times: "The team is still probably having some budget constraints.
"So whether or not I'll be part of the Friday testing prior to the Malaysian grand prix still isn't confirmed yet.
"I hope I'll get the chance. But nothing is confirmed yet."
Fairuz will also race in the Formula Renault 3.5 World Series in 2007.
Mazda Raceway wants Champ Car back According to this Monterey Herald article Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca really would like to have Champ Car back there racing.
"It was incredibly well attended," exuded Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO/General Manager Gill Campbell about the turnout for the recent Champ Car test there. "I was extremely delighted to see the number of people here and from all over."
As she wandered the paddock, Campbell said she spoke with one person who was from New York and a couple of others from Oregon. "I could not have written a better script."
A part of the Spring Training included a fan forum, which has become a popular event at Champ Car races around North America. At the Laguna Seca forum, there was standing room only.
Nelson Philippe eyes F1UPDATE #3 "Unfortunately I have to [look elsewhere]," said the Frenchman to Autosport, who won the penultimate round of last season. "As much as I want to race in the Champ Car series, I am expected to bring money and I'm not going to do that. I don't have a cent to bring.
"I'm down in Melbourne and I went to the Formula One paddock and introduced myself around to people like Flavio Briatore.
"I'm not prepared to pay for a test drive, and I don't want to move down to GP2. But if I got an offer of a test drive or to become one of Renault's development drivers, I'd take it."
"I'm looking at every top open wheel racing series at the moment, but I'm also looking at what my options are in V8 Supercars - hey, I might even get paid to race in that! - ALMS, and also the Le Mans 24 Hours.
"I want to be supportive of Champ Cars, and I believe it is the best series in the world for racing, but I don't want to be expected to bring money each time. And how can you find a sponsor who wants to put $2m into a series that hasn't had a television profile for the last six years?
"So I decided it's time to take my destiny in my own hands. I don't think I'm a superstar or anything like that, but I'm not going to pay to drive. I want to have a drive on merit and talent."
[Editor's Note: Bravo to Philippe. This notion that drivers should pay to drive is nonsense. If a sport is truly professional then the athletes should be paid to perform. Champ Car is not a development series. Atlantics is the development series and there drivers are expected to bring money. But at the top level drivers should be paid by the teams to drive because they should be the best, i.e. the pros.]
03/16/07 Champ Car driver Nelson Philippe was spotted in the F1 paddock in Melbourne and the whisper is that the 20-year-old Frenchman is trying to talk his way into a test drive in Formula 1 as his career in America has run out of steam because of the financial demands of the teams in the United States, where money is hard to find because of the never-ending lunacy that is the IRL-Champ Car fight. Everyone is trying hard to make things seem promising but the field in both series are threadbare and only those with sufficient cash are getting rides, unless the team owners are willing to pay for them.
Philippe is the youngest driver to ever drive a Champ Car, having made his debut at 17. In 2004 he raced for Rocketsports before finding a better relationship with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. In 2005 he began to show promise and won the award for the most improved driver that year and he did the same in 2006, winning in Surfers Paradise for the CTE-HVM Racing operation, which has now become Minardi USA. Logic would dictate that he should stay where he is but the money seems to be a problem and so Philippe is looking at F1.
Our spies tell us that he might try talking Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore into a management deal. That will mean that he will sign away a proportion of his income for years to come but will also give him the chance to test something in F1 and that could lead to a new career in a series which would love to have more French involvement. Grandprix.com
03/16/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. AutoRacing1.com has been in contact with Nelson Philippe and he said "An F1 test driving role is what I'm after. A few teams are interested (wish I could tell you but you know how it is.) and I will be testing soon. GP2 is a last resort for me as I would see it as a step down from Champ Car. My brother Richard and I both want to race F1 and we will." We will also remove Philippe from our Champ Car Silly Season page.
03/16/07 According to French sport newspaper L'Equipe, Nelson Philippe is in Melbourne shopping around for a GP2 drive or a F1 test drive. He said to L'Equipe that you cannot find a drive in Champ Car if you don't have $3 million.
All the F1 seats are taken, including the test seats, and ditto for GP2 unless he wants to drive for a backmarker team. The bottom line is that his younger brother is already signed to race in the World Series by Renault and it appears the Philippes have decided to get out of the Champ Car paddock completely and invest their money in Europe.
Why would they do this after Nelson won his first race last year and appeared to have finally proven he is a winner? Speculation says that Champ Car's image has taken a big hit because of recent reports of low car count and lack of sponsorship, making the Philippes question the long-term viability of the series.
Davidson to returnUPDATE Anthony Davidson's Super Aguri team said on Tuesday that the driver had sustained only a minor upper torso muscular injury in Melbourne and that he is expected be attending the Sepang test next week.
03/18/07 (GMM) It is understood that Anthony Davidson, complaining of upper back pain after finishing the Australian grand prix, is still at the local 'The Alfred' hospital following initial precautionary checks.
The Briton's Super Aguri landed heavily after locking wheels with the Spyker of fellow rookie Adrian Sutil near the start of the 58-lap race in Melbourne.
"The jolt also winded me a lot making talking on the radio difficult," he said in a post-race statement.
It is believed that Davidson had x-rays and could stay in hospital overnight, after he was taken out of the circuit on a stretcher and apparently in considerable pain with back muscle spasms.
Green light for ’red-tire’ ruleUPDATE #2 The little white circle Bridgestone put on its F1 tires in Melbourne last weekend to indicate which tires were the softer compound were a joke as no one could see them once the car was rolling. There is talk now that the markings must be visible for fans to see. Some predict that F1 is going to have to adopt Champ Car's red sidewall system (or whatever color) for them to be visible.
03/06/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Following an 11th hour decision by the Formula One Commission and the FIA's World Motor Sport Council, the Formula One's revised 2007 Sporting Regulations now state: "Each tire supplier must undertake to provide no more than two specifications of dry-weather tire at each Event, each of which must be of one homogenous compound and visibly distinguishable from one another when a car is on the track."
01/15/07 (GMM) F1 will introduce the so-called 'red rule' to coincide with the beginning of the sport's sole tire supplier era, we have learned.
It is understood that, in order to enhance Bridgestone's visibility after the withdrawal of Michelin, and to spice up the action for spectators, running two distinct tire compounds - a 'hard' and a 'soft' - during every race will be mandatory for drivers.
Bridgestone pioneered the idea, involving the coloration of red tire-walls to differentiate the softer tire, in Champ Car.
It is understood that all eleven teams and the FIA have agreed to implement the rule for 2007.
F1 gets set for new cheating row A new row about the legality of formula one cars could be about to break out in the pit lane of 2007.
The website of American broadcaster Speed TV reports that the under-body of Ferrari's dominant F2007 machine came under quiet scrutiny by rivals and the FIA in Australia.
It is suggested that the car's floor might have been designed to give a performance advantage by moving, which - as in the 'flexing wings' sagas of last year - is illegal.
Predictably, the leading antagonist of the new saga appears to be McLaren, who reportedly suspect that Ferrari's floor lowers at speed to give Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa an unfair speed boost in a straight line.
"We will see how things are in two or three races," McLaren principal Ron Dennis said, explaining that rival teams often seek clarification about rule interpretations early in the season.
He added: "So it takes a race or two to know what is or isn't permitted."
A Ferrari spokesman commented: "It's part of the game any time Ferrari is quickest. It's not the first time that there have been questions about legality.
"If someone has a complaint, there is always the FIA."
Did McLaren demote Hamilton in Melbourne? As the haze of near unprecedented hype surrounding Lewis Hamilton's GP debut fades, it has been suggested that the 22-year-old may actually have been at the unfriendly end of a McLaren team tactic on Sunday.
The reigning GP2 champion led his teammate Fernando Alonso for the entire Australian grand prix until the final pit stop, when he dropped behind the Spaniard to finish third.
Some observers immediately suspected a deliberate tactic from the team's pit wall to switch the duo's positions, in order to hand the points advantage to McLaren's higher paid and more experienced race driver.
But it later emerged that Hamilton's delay behind lethargic backmarkers cost him dearly just before calling in for pit service, and Mercedes' competition director Norbert Haug insisted to RTL: "It was not a team order."
The team's F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh also insists that the McLaren policy relating to drivers is of equality; a sentiment seemingly backed by Alonso.
The reigning world champion said in an interview with 'Diario As' that he might have raced Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen harder in Australia if he had enjoyed a "clearer track" during the grand prix.
Will Vegas budget crunch affect GP? Response times will be longer. Quality of work may suffer. There will be little ability to support special programs or events, like the Tennis Channel Open and the Las Vegas Grand Prix. The grim realities of expanding employee costs, a growing population and more city facilities like parks and community centers, coupled with flat tax revenues, became clearer Wednesday at a budget workshop for the Las Vegas City Council. Except for four smaller police facilities and two fire stations, no other capital projects will be started, according to a draft budget presentation by Finance Director Mark Vincent. Las Vegas also won't add any new positions next fiscal year, leading to an inevitable struggle over how the work force will handle more parks and city projects that are set to open. Las Vegas Review Journal
Bernie looking to rake Aussie, Asian promoters over coals There isn't a race promoter in F1 that does not lose huge sums of money because Bernie Ecclestone charges them high sanctioning fees and owns the rights to the TV revenue. Bernie's recent push to move the Asian and Australia F1 races to night was not to benefit the European fans but to line his pockets with more money.
Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker went public this past weekend with the claim that the move would give the event a better television profile in Europe and North America.
"If we could sell Melbourne, Australia, to another billion people, we'd consider it," Walker was quoted as saying, "The extra cost will be discounted because we'll be able to sell the TV rights for a higher amount of money."
However, the Albert Park environmental lobby said that running the Melbourne event at night would not only cause greater disruption to the city, but would also raise costs for an event already struggling to make ends meet financially.
"It's all very well for Ron Walker to say that the cost of a night event would be offset by the sale of television rights to a potentially larger audience in Europe, but the Victorian taxpayer does not own them," Save Albert Park spokesman Peter Goad told Melbourne newspaper The Age, "The television rights, both international and local, are owned by Bernie Ecclestone.
"If Ron Walker, at the moment, is still claiming an audience for his daytime race of 360 million in 132 countries - which is a wild, wild over-estimate - why would he want to pay for a night race, to increase the audience in Europe?"
Renault have smaller budget in 2007 (GMM) It is believed that Renault is operating on a smaller budget for formula one this year than in 2005 and 2006, when the French manufacturer secured back to back championships.
To the news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst, team president Alain Dassas - reportedly disappointed with Renault's sluggish start to the 2007 campaign - is quoted as estimating that the team's is now the "smallest budget" of all, not counting the independent squads headed by Williams and Red Bull.
He would not be pinned down on a figure but agreed that Renault's budget is in the range of $250 to $400 million.
"We have it (the budget) fully under control," said Dassas.
Mandatory expenditure has been lessened for 2007 by the new engine freeze rules, and Renault is selling engines to Red Bull in 2007 and also saving considerable money by not having to pay a superstar driver like Fernando Alonso.
Moreover, new title sponsor ING is believed to be spending less than its predecessor, Japan Tobacco.
George casts some doubt on the future of the USGP Tony George, interviewed on Wind Tunnel Sunday night said that he hopes that the USGP will remain at his track after 2007 but that is contingent on he and Bernie Ecclestone agreeing to a contract that works for both parties. He made it sound as if a deal to extend the agreement is far from a foregone conclusion.
NASCAR showing favoritism toward Montoya As if the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. needed any more headaches after 39 spins and accidents last week at Las Vegas, the company got even more criticism this week when Juan Pablo Montoya was allowed to do a tire test at the Darlington Raceway. Goodyear routinely conducts tire tests. It randomly invites drivers, but Montoya was allowed to drive although he wasn't on Goodyear's list. The test at Darlington was important because that race will feature the new Car of Tomorrow. Goodyear invited #24-Jeff Gordon, #22-Dave Blaney, #41-Reed Sorenson and #16-Greg Biffle, but Montoya showed up and was allowed to drive Sorenson's car. Goodyear said Montoya had NASCAR's blessing. NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter said NASCAR allowed Montoya, a rookie, to drive because he's never been at Darlington. Montoya's appearance at Darlington may prove to be a one-time exception. NASCAR said invited drivers are the only people who will be allowed to test in the future. Savannah Morning News
Things that make you go hmm....UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I see where Jimmie Johnson carried Kobalt Tools as his primary sponsor this week in Atlanta. Guess what, the Kobalt Tools car just won the Kobalt Tools 500. Now how about that! Well golly gee, just another one of them 'thar' NASCAR coincidences. What a farce NASCAR is. Dave Wilson, Cincinnati
Another reader writes, Jimmie Johnson wins the race. Kobalt Tools sponsored the race. Kobalt Tools prominently displayed on the sides of whose car? Johnson's. And just to add more fuel to the fire, who gave the command to start engines? None other than Larry Stone, the chairman and CEO of Lowe's. Who just so happens to be the primary sponsor of who's car? Johnson's. Mika Malehorn
03/16/07 Rumor has it that almost every pole position in NASCAR happens for a reason. Some say you cannot believe the times the computers put up on the screen for the pole winner. Let's examine the Atlanta results.
"Just getting things right with our Dodge,'' Atlanta pole winner Ryan Newman said. "This is the exact same car that qualified 39th last week and finished eighth [at Las Vegas]. We knew it was a good race car, we just needed to get it figured out.
"We struggled last year and it feels good to be back in this seat,'' he added.
Newman ran away with the pole despite a miss in the engine.
"It did it [miss] in both straightaways,'' Newman said, grinning. "I was really surprised. But the car got through the corners so fast that the Penske Jasper engine was still able to get it done. It's a great effort for us and a great result.''
Imagine that! The car was horrible last week, horrible last year at this track, he qualifies with a miss in the engine and miraculously when he crosses the finish line to complete his qualifying the NASCAR Timing & Scoring Computer puts up a number that is fastest by over a one mph. Only in NASCAR.
Doornbos confirmed for Minardi teamUPDATE Hungarian TV channel RTL Klub just aired a short interview with Paul Stoddart. He confirmed that Robert Doornbos will drive in Champ Car this season. When he was asked about the Minardi team's second driver, he didn't answer but added that Zsolt Baumgartner will be the only test driver this year and will participate in the two-seater program for the team. He said Zsolt needs to get sponsorship (money) in order to compete in Champ Car.
03/17/07 Former Minardi chief Paul Stoddart confirmed at Albert Park for the F1 race that Red Bull test driver Robert Doornbos - who is mysteriously not here this weekend - will race for his Champ Car outfit in 2007.
Williams team to announce new sponsorship deal AirAsia has apparently reached a yet unannounced three year sponsorship deal with Williams. The budget Malaysian airline's bright red logo appeared on the nose of the FW29 and on the drivers' helmet visors at the Australian grand prix.
Rivals to protest STR, RBR, Super Aguri (GMM) The talk in the Albert Park paddock this morning is that Williams and Spyker are preparing to launch official protests against the legality of the Toro Rosso, Red Bull and Super Aguri cars after the qualifying session at 2pm.
It is set to be the culmination of the bitter pre-season row about customer cars, where a compromise was not reached prior to the teams' presenting their cars for scrutineering and participating in official track action at the Melbourne circuit.
It was not previously believed that Red Bull would be involved, but - like sister squad Toro Rosso - the Austrian squad claims that its 2007 car is designed by a third party company, Red Bull Technology.
"They can do whatever they want," Super Aguri's defiant managing director Daniele Audetto, referring to the looming Williams and Spyker threat, said earlier this weekend.
"We cannot stop them doing it. If they have something to complain about then they can just do it.
"Then we will see if they are right or they are wrong."
Night race would force Melbourne to bleed more red ink Shifting the Melbourne F1 race to night would do nothing to improve the bottom line of the race for Victorian taxpayers - an estimated $10 million in lights would add to the cost of an event that is this year expected to lose $35 million. The poor taxpayers of Melbourne are thanking Bernie Ecclestone for this brilliant idea.
Verizon, Motorola to sponsor Gordon Add another cell phone company to the NASCAR mix. Verizon Wireless officials plan to announce today they will work with Motorola to sponsor Robby Gordon in the Busch Series. The first-time Busch sponsorship for both companies will begin with Saturday's Busch race at AMS. Motorola will also sponsor Gordon's Cup car in the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday. The sponsorship also includes Busch races at Charlotte, Chicago and Texas. Atlanta Journal Constitution
Despite huge losses, Aussie GP to continueUPDATE (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has given the Australian grand prix a boost at the end of a week beset by local media criticism of the loss-making event.
The F1 supremo, in Melbourne after talks with Singapore officials about a possible future race in the Asian island state, called reports that said the Albert Park venue was empty on the first days of the 2007 event "crazy".
More than 45,000 paying spectators attended the circuit on Thursday, when F1 cars are missing from the program, and on Friday organizers reported a crowd of 75,000.
"There's no other circuit in the world on a Thursday that gets 45,000 people," Ecclestone told Southern Cross Broadcasting. [Editor's Note: Wrong Bernie, the Aussie Champ Car race gets those numbers on Thursday too.]
"I mean it's completely crazy that people are talking about this."
Melbourne has a contract to host formula one until 2010, and 76-year-old Ecclestone played down concerns that the city is likely to lose its race.
He is a close ally of race promoter Ron Walker, who Bernie said puts in a "monumental effort" to stage the event.
"So obviously that will be taken into consideration," Bernie suggested.
Ron Walker commented: "It took us years to get (the grand prix) and we are certainly not going to let it go."
03/16/07 No F1 race promoter turns a profit under Bernie Ecclestone's system. In fact most lose huge amounts of money and only government subsidies keep them afloat.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation is facing the prospect of heavier losses this year after failing to keep the popular V8 Supercars on the support bill. The financial loss for the Aussie race is expected to be around $5million through lost sponsorship, hospitality and ticket sales, but chairman Ron Walker is adamant that the touring car series will return in future - especially if the grand prix can negotiate a date change. The government is usually willing to cover the losses because of the economic benefit to their city.
Flying in from meetings in Singapore likely to confirm the country as the latest addition to an already over-crowded calendar, and possibly to even announce an extension for the Aussie event, Ecclestone dismissed rumors of low crowd numbers being a danger to the race, pointing out that Melbourne's Albert Park surpasses attendance figures for most circuit, particularly on the day before F1 track action begins.
How big is the Shell Oil NASCAR deal? It's no coicidence that Kevin Harvick's Shell Chevy won the Daytona 500 race. Big sposnors in NASCAR usually grab some early headlines, typically a pole position. Just how big is the Shell NASCAR deal? Well besides the money it is paying the Richard Childress team, Shell is rumored to be spending an additional $30 million per year in advertising activation around that sponsorship.
A sign Philippe to be back in Champ Cars 2006 Lexmark Indy 300 winner Nelson Philippe will return to the place which has provided his most memorable racing moment, when he makes a fly-by visit to the Gold Coast next Monday morning. The occasion will mark the first time the Frenchman has revisited Queensland since his historic win during last year’s event.
And there’s little doubt this won’t be his last impromptu visit to the Gold Coast in 2007, as it appears love has blossomed between himself and reigning Bartercard Miss Indy Sarah Buller since last year’s event. The pair will rendezvous at the Surfers Paradise arch opposite Cavill Mall.
Philippe is still rumored to be close to signing a deal to return to Champ Car with the Minardi team.
Another driver aid on road to F1? (GMM) F1's governing body could be preparing to introduce to the sport arguably the most effective driver-aid available, according to reports.
'BBC' says talks between Max Mosley and the manufacturer-backed grand prix teams could result in stability control being legalized for use on the single seaters.
Williams co-owner Patrick Head is quoted as saying the introduction of stability control, which electronically corrects an unstable car in the middle of corners, would be an "interesting and complete about-face from Max"; the FIA president who traditionally argued against the existence of expensive technologies.
Spyker's Mike Gascoyne observed that the technology would result in "fewer and fewer mistakes" from the drivers.
"Is that what F1 needs?" he asked. "No, I don't think it is."
A spokesman for the governing body said he was "not in a position to say whether it's a direction we'll go in."
He added: "I'm not even sure we're close to a set of discussions where it could happen."
The next Mexican in Champ Car?UPDATE #3 SPEEDTV.com reports: "We ordered another car and that gives us three," said Neil Micklewright, vice president of operations for Forsythe Racing. "Now we're just waiting to hear from Gerry to see if we should go ahead and get set up to run two cars." AutoRacing1.com already knows that Gerry will give that order any day now.
03/13/07 We hear the Martinez deal with Forsythe may be done by the end of this week. He will soon go to 'fact' on our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page because our source is a very reliable one.
03/10/07 As we stated below, we expect David Martinez to land the 2nd Forsythe Racing seat this year and we heard more information today that substantiates that rumor. So for the immediate future David Martinez looks like the next Mexican in Champ Car, but keep your eye on David Garcia as the next to make the move.....you heard it here first.
03/09/07 Keep your eye on 18-year old Mexican David Garza from Monterrey as we predict he will be the next Mexican driver in Champ Car behind David Martinez who we think will ultimately land the 2nd seat at Forsythe Racing this year.
Garza raced Formula BMW last year and this year has moved up to Champ Car Atlantics with the US RaceTronics team. Fully funded by Mexican telecommunications company AxTEL and Tecate Beer, Garza is polished and well spoken. He was 4th fastest on Wednesday and 7th fastest on Thursday, which is fairly good since it's his first year in Atlantics.
Eddie Gossage rejects IRLUPDATE The IRL's search for a new chief operating officer need not stop in Texas. When it was learned that Brian Barnhart would be replaced as COO, the word was that Tony George wanted to pursue Eddie Gossage, who runs Texas Motor Speedway for Bruton Smith.
"I haven't spoken to Tony since last June but it doesn't matter because I have the perfect job and I work for the greatest guy," said Gossage, who embraced the IRL early and scheduled two races a year until 2003.Bruton is more of a friend than a boss and I'm totally happy here. I don't know for sure there's even a job open in Indy but I'm not interested."
03/11/07 According to Sunday night's SPEED Report, Tony George is looking to replace Brian Barnhart as the IRL Chief Operating Officer, but Barnhart would remain as President of the league. As to who could be the new COO, the report says they are courting Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage.
NASCAR's monopoly stranglehold on USA motorsports The 'Big Name' Nextel Cup drivers prop up the Busch Series. If not for their star power the NASCAR Busch Series would collapse in an instant. The Cup drivers get all the best equipment when they run in the Busch Series and win all the races. The strategy the France family is employing is to tie up all motorsports sponsorship with their Nextel Cup, Busch Series, Craftsman Truck Series and Grand-Am Series such that they drain all other forms of motorsports dry....and eventually out of business.
For example, when the PCM team was in Grand-Am they had Playboy and Vonage sponsorship. We asked the team why they did not bring them over to their Champ Car team this year and the answer we got was "Oh, that was a Grand-Am sponsor that was given to us.'
Rumor has it that many Grand-Am teams have never even met their sponsor or signed a contract with them. The check just shows up in the mail and they are told what decals to put on the car.
With 700+ people working for the France family in Daytona Beach they have plenty of bodies to work with and stroke sponsors to land deals. With so many sponsors under their wings they control large blocks of media advertising buys which in turn gets their four series and their drivers plenty of media coverage.
In essence, therefore, NASCAR pretty much has a monopoly stranglehold on USA motorsports by controlling the sponsorship, media ad buys and hence media coverage.
Spyker Cars to buy Lotus Spyker Cars, the Dutch producer of fast luxury cars are rumored to have plans to acquire Lotus in a takeover bid. This information is from reliable sources at Spyker Cars. Spyker boss Victor Muller recently had a secret meeting at Lotus in the United Kingdom. With that the door has been opened for further negotiations between the two companies. Muller confirmed the conversations yesterday evening, but denies any agreement had been reached.
Toronto sponsor deal worth $20M The Steelback Brewery title sponsorship deal of the Champ Car Toronto race is said to be worth $4 million per year over 5 years for a total of $20 million in sponsorship payments and commitments.
New Super Aguri made from 100% recycled Hondas A reader writes, Looking at the new Super Aguri F1 car I could not help but notice the resemblance. Wouldn't it be funny if, using an environmental theme like the Honda F1 car, the Super Aguri said "Made 100% from recycled F1 cars"! Get it? Kristin R.
Long Island developer eyes possible NASCAR track You don’t erect an 80,000-seat motorsports facility for a Saturday-night enduro feature. So as long as those spearheading the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL) Centre project are talking about building a track that size, local NASCAR fans can at least dream of someday hosting the Nextel Cup’s finest.
On March 9, RexCorp Realty, in partnership with Long Island Destination Group LLC, released plans for a $1 billion entertainment complex at the former Grumman air runway and testing facility, provided that the Town of Riverhead agrees to sell the property and green-light the project. The plan includes a 1/4-mile track for local weekly events—similar to what takes place at nearby Riverhead Raceway—and a 3/4-mile track.
The project would also feature a large equestrian center; a 15,000-seat amphitheater; an 8,000- to 9,000-seat indoor arena; and a family entertainment resort, featuring two hotels and amusement park-like activities.
Aguri to introduce major new sponsor (GMM) A major new sponsor appeared on the revised livery of Super Aguri's SA07 contender when the car was revealed to the media at Albert Park on Wednesday.
Honda backed Super Aguri did not have a title sponsor in 2006.
The logos of 'SS United Oil and Gas' feature prominently on the red and white car, and a statement revealed that an official announcement is due to be made by the Japanese squad at the Melbourne venue on Thursday.
The Dutch squad Spyker, meanwhile, is also promising "an exciting new team development" at a news conference on Thursday morning.
Australian GP may be raced at night Australian Grand Prix organizers are looking at running the race at night if plans to hold other formula one events in the region under lights go ahead.
Formula one boss Bernie Ecclestone has discussed the idea with Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker and will have talks with race officials at the weekend's season-opener at Albert Park.
"We are looking at it and when Bernie gets here, we'll talk to him about it again. He hasn't said to me that we have to do it. It's an option," Mr. Walker said.
He confirmed that the corporation was investigating power needs for floodlighting the circuit and was studying the environmental impact.
"It's not a fait accompli by any means," Mr. Walker said. "There are problems with the power grid in Albert Park. It will take a massive amount of kilowatts to light up the track for the drivers, plus there are also environmental issues."
18, maybe more cars AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that there is a VERY good chance there will be 18, maybe more, cars on the Champ Car grid in Las Vegas. This comes from an inside source. Our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page above lists the driver lineups as we see them coming together.
No standing starts until PortlandUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by Champ Car.
03/11/07 Maybe one out of twenty stalled their car during Saturday's standing start practice. Now it's more related to the drivers getting the hang of things than Cosworth fixing things.....but we still hear Champ Car will wait until Portland followed by Cleveland, both of which have very wide main straights, to do the first two standing start races. After that, if everything goes well, they will try it on the three Canadian Circuits.
03/10/07 Standing Start testing went much better today at Mazda Raceway than Friday as Cosworth made some software changes last night and the drivers got the hang of how it all works. However, according to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car will not implement Standing Starts until the Portland race. They will use the gap in the schedule between Houston and Portland to do more testing and refine the system.
'New' Aguri is old Honda - source (GMM) Super Aguri's 'new' car for 2007, the unlaunched SA07, is indeed clearly a development of Honda's RA106 contender that was raced last year.
A source at the scene of the season opener in Melbourne confirmed on Tuesday that the car - to be launched in the Albert Park pitlane on Wednesday - is visibly distinguishable from the 2006 Honda but nonetheless obviously based on the car that carried Jenson Button to victory in Hungary last August.
The development is sure to re-fire the contentious 'car sharing' debate, where Super Aguri and Toro Rosso's closest rivals Spyker and Williams are threatening legal action.
No compromise has been reached prior to the circus' overseas trip to Australia, almost guaranteeing a bitter stoush in the southern country, but it is still thought unlikely that the saga will end up in a Melbourne civil court.
Holdup on Rahal deal A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, What is the real holdup on Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing signing Graham Rahal? We have been waiting for a long time. Dick Covington, Richmond, VA
Dear Dick, We are not 100% certain. Someone told us it might be Rahal's insistence of an 'out' clause after one year should he get an F1 offer. We have not been able to substantiate that information, however. As we understand it the team with help from Champ Car found the sponsor and it is not money Rahal is bringing. Therefore, we can see where they would want to keep him around a number of years or else they might be better off investing in another American that doesn't have ideas of flying the coup. Mark C.
Riley-D'Hondt planning Busch, Cup entries Riley-D'Hondt Motorsports still plans on fielding a Busch Series car later this year as well as entering the two Nextel Cup road-course races, team co-owner Eddie D'Hondt said Sunday. Road racer Marc Goosens, a native of Belgium, will drive in the Cup events, D'Hondt said. David Green has been working with the team and is presumed to be its Busch driver.
David Richards to buy Aston Martin from Ford?UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. With a news conference and statement on Monday, Ford rubber-stamped the sale of Aston Martin for $848 million to a US and Middle Eastern consortium headed by UK-based Prodrive's David Richards. Richards, to lead Prodrive into formula one next year, will be non-executive chairman of Aston Martin. It also emerged that Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum al-Maktoum - the now departed founder of the A1 GP series - could invest in Aston Martin.
03/08/07 (GMM) It is understood that Prodrive, set to be F1's twelfth team in 2008, has been successful in its recently reported bid to buy Aston Martin. Backed by US and Middle East investors, Warwickshire based Prodrive's boss David Richards led a consortium that reportedly bid an estimated $900 million to buy the English car manufacturer from Ford. The ultimate price may have increased to as much as (US) $965 million, with a deal set to be announced on Friday at the Geneva auto show. Prodrive declined to comment, but Ford may have favored Prodrive's offer because the company already runs Aston Martin's racing program for sports cars. Aston Martin raced eleven times in F1 in 1959-60.
03/07/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Aston Martin, the favorite car of James Bond, may soon be under British ownership once more. The sport car company, currently owned by giant American company Ford, is likely to be bought next week by a consortium led by motor sport entrepreneur Dave Richards. Mr. Richards is the head of performance car specialists Prodrive and helps run Aston Martin's own racing team. Ford would not confirm any sale today but a motor industry source said: "It's pretty likely that this deal will go ahead next week and will be around £400 million to £500 million." Daily Mail
02/21/07 David Richards is working on a deal to buy Aston Martin. The bid is in league with yet-to-be revealed financiers, including an Egyptian investment bank. Aston Martin is being auctioned off by Ford, despite the fact that it is profitable. The company is based in a purpose built facility at Gaydon in Warwickshire, which is close to Prodrive's current headquarters and to the company's planned new site at the former Honiley Airfield at Wroxall. This will include an advanced engineering research and development campus, a conference facility called the Catalyst Centre and a test track.
The big question is whether the bid is linked to Formula 1 or whether Richards has decided to sell his franchise in the sport to help raise money for the Aston Martin takeover. The Aston Martin company is one of the most prestigious sports car brands in the world and has a strong sporting heritage, dating back to the very start of the firm in 1913. The company sold 4500 cars in 2005 but suffered a sharp drop in 2006 because of the weak dollar and. The buyers, however, believe that the overall trend is upwards as new regions become automobile buyers in the years ahead. In this respect a Formula 1 project would be an obvious bonus for the company. The Prodrive company already has close links with Aston Martin and builds racing versions of the cars and has a deal to allow it to build and sell road-going versions for customers. The DBR9 sports car has enjoyed some success on the tracks and is aiming for more. The bid is believed to be worth around $900m. Grandprix.com
Ford to sell Jaguar next With the sale of Aston Martin expected to be announced today or tomorrow, stock analysts have said they would prefer Ford sell Jaguar, which lost more than $700 million last year, according to an executive presentation obtained by The Detroit News in January. The report also predicted that Jaguar would lose $550 million in 2007 and $300 million in 2008. Faced with a $12.7B loss last year one would think Ford would be looking to unload its biggest money losers, instead they sell Aston Martin which was actually profitable.
Another bike rider to NASCAR? Mike Metzger, "The Godfather" of freestyle motocross who achieved cult status by cutting back flips and breaking all manner of bones in X-Games competition, is actively pursuing opportunities in NASCAR, he said Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Metzger was in the garage area Saturday rubbing elbows introducing himself to prospective team owners. No question, he's anxious to join fellow motocross star Ricky Carmichael in stock cars. Metzger said he'd bantered with several teams, and that many are intrigued at the prospect of his coming to NASCAR. If he were to make the jump it would be substantial, and like Carmichael he'd have to start small and work his way up. The 31-year-old is currently on the mend after crashing badly while attempting a 75-foot back flip during a film shoot. The result was a crushed L4 vertebrae and back surgery. The injury sidelined Metzger's season in the Championship Off Road Racing Series. Metzger moved from two wheels to four last October and fell in love, and said he believes NASCAR to be the next step in the progression of his career. ESPN.com
Higher Vegas banking a disaster waiting to happenUPDATE #6 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as the Nextel race has turned into a crashfest and it's not 1/4 over yet.
03/11/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today and may go to 'fact' after Sunday's Nextel Cup race. The combination of higher banking and harder Goodyear tire led to a bevy of crashes and a race-record 12 cautions. "If you look at the last 36 hours and look at how many cars we've torn up, ...if I were car owners, I would send bills to the race track," Tony Stewart said. "Look at how many good teams and good drivers crashed today. Are they going to say that we forgot how to drive?"
01/31/07 The most frequent complaint heard at "New and improved" LVMS was "Fast — too fast!"
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said his "car wasn't driving that good around the bottom" but he picked up speed as he moved up the banking. Junior compared the redesigned track to Atlanta, adding that "the bumps going into (turn) one are really bad" and that the car was carrying a lot of load into the corners.
The afternoon session introduced a whole new set of problems, as many teams searched for balance and suffered an abnormally high tally of cut and blistered tires. Greg Biffle wadded up his car after he cut a tire early in testing. But when Kasey Kahne blew a right front tire and destroyed Chassis 128 — the best car of the stable that carried him to most of the No. 9's six wins last year — the garage took notice.
"That was my car," said a remorseful Kahne, who had posted the fastest lap of the day (29.239 seconds at 184.685 mph) in his favorite chassis. "That was the car, the good car. We don't have cars that are better, but we have cars that are that good."
Jeff Burton was far from satisfied after his day of testing. While he applauded track builders for canvassing the garage, Burton wonders how the suggestions are lost in translation.
"They screwed up Charlotte and didn't do this place any favors," Burton said. "What we do is inherently dangerous, and the racing doesn't have to be this fast. It's hard to get a feel for it. I don't see how too fast racing makes for good racing.
"The tires have to be as hard as bricks or they will explode. How many tires have we seen blow out today, three, four? We can expect tire problems when we built this type of a racetrack." Fox Sports
NASCAR set to expand racing monopolyUPDATE #2 Looks like NASCAR is inching closer to maybe buying the NHRA - John Force and his daughter look to be the point men for the NHRA/NASCAR connection. After parading John Force around Daytona like a puppet during the Daytona 500 weekend, Saturday they did likewise with his daughter Ashley at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She met with the NASCAR media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday morning before the NASCAR Busch Series race.
02/18/07 The success of the last years TV show Driving Force http://www.aetv.com/drivingforce/index.jsp reportedly caused quite a stir at SMI's corporate headquarters. That was when CEO Bruton Smith was initially rumored to be looking to acquire the NHRA. It's looking closer to being a done deal.
02/16/07 Is NASCAR about to extend its control of USA motorsports in a very big way? Sure it will be disguised as a Bruton Smith deal, but will have NASCAR fingerprints all over it when NASCAR business partner Smith completes his purchases of the NHRA? We hear that it's getting close and it would explain why the AutoWeek NASCAR Racing Guide just out included the NHRA but no other racing series. It would also explain why the NHRA's biggest star John Force is all over Daytona this week and is appearing on NASCAR exclusive TV shows gushing out all sorts of niceties about how great NASCAR is. NHRA is right behind NASCAR in popularity in the USA.
SMI wants one of ISC's dates It looked like love at first sight for Bruton Smith. Not so much for California Speedway president Gillian Zucker. Smith, the eccentric 80-year-old billionaire whose company owns Las Vegas Motor Speedway, was holding court with the media on Friday and bad-mouthing Zucker's track in the process.
Zucker happened to walk into the room around that time and was told of Smith's remarks. Having never met the owner of the Fontana track's biggest competitor, she waded into the horde of media and introduced herself to Smith.
The next 10 minutes were bizarrely funny and a little uncomfortable, but certainly memorable.
Smith began what he termed as "negotiations" with Zucker in front of about 20 media members. With his arm around the 37-year-old Zucker, he whispered softly in her ear, stroked her left cheek with his knuckles and brushed her hair back, occasionally rubbing her shoulder.
"Are you in a negotiating mood?" Smith asked gently.
A reporter had suggested to Smith moments earlier that perhaps International Speedway Corp., which employs Zucker, would sell one of its two NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race dates to Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc.
Currently, SMI's Las Vegas track only has one Cup race per year.
Smith has made it known he wants two.
"He said something about your interest in selling," said Smith, with his arm around Zucker.
"Absolutely not," answered Zucker, her arm around Smith's waist. "Why would we be selling something that's growing?" More at DailyBulletin.com
Schu could buy Toro Rosso - managerUPDATE (GMM) Gerhard Berger has denied reports that he is considering selling the Toro Rosso team to Michael Schumacher.
Berger, the former ten time grand prix winner who owns half of the Faenza based team, rejected long time Schumacher manager Willi Weber's recent claim that the seven time world champion might see team ownership as his future.
"I know nothing about it and nobody has spoken with me about it," the Austrian veteran told the newspaper Kleinen Zeitung.
A relative newcomer to the team ownership game, Berger said it would make "no sense" to buy and sell the Toro Rosso squad so quickly. He added: "But you should also ask (team co-owner) Didi (Mateschitz)."
03/09/07 (GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager has hinted that the retired seven time world champion might buy a formula one team.
38-year-old Schumacher is already an advisor for his old Ferrari outfit, but he could be eyeing up a stake in F1's other Italian based team -- Scuderia Toro Rosso.
"Perhaps we will go and ask a billionaire if he wants to sell us his spare team," the newspaper 'AZ' quoted Schumacher's long time associate Willi Weber - who already runs a team in the A1 series - as saying.
Alongside former grand prix winner Gerhard Berger, Toro Rosso - formerly the Minardi squad - is owned by Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz, who has been ranked 287th on Forbes magazine's list of billionaires in 2007.
Weber added: "I don't know it for sure, but I could imagine that Michael buys a team. But he is never going to be Ferrari's team boss.
"All that responsibility, work and stress -- why would Michael Schumacher want to do that? But if he owned a team, it would be a different task."
A number of buyers for ChryslerUPDATE Magna International Inc. Chairman Frank Stronach confirmed the Canadian auto supplier's interest in possibly buying DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group in an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail. Stronach said the company is exploring a purchase in a move to protect its business and help a major customer. "We have huge contracts with Chrysler, we have thousands of employees involved," Stronach told the Globe and Mail.
03/03/07 The hottest buyout firm on Wall Street is seriously eyeing an acquisition of the Chrysler Group. Blackstone Group, a private-equity giant with stakes in more than 100 companies, has emerged as a leading contender to buy the troubled U.S. division of German automaker DaimlerChrysler AG, people familiar with the situation told The Detroit News.
Blackstone, led by high-flying Chairman Stephen Schwarzman, is among a handful of corporate suitors that has been given access to confidential business data about Chrysler, which was put up for sale last month.
Other possible buyers include Cerberus Capital Management, which is also trying to acquire bankrupt Delphi Corp., and General Motors Corp., which has been in talks with DaimlerChrysler about a potential Chrysler deal since December.
Another Atlantic driver may move up to Champ CarUPDATE #2 We spoke to David Martinez Thursday at Mazda Raceway and he told AutoRacing1.com that he was indeed in talks with Forsythe Racing and they are trying to put a deal together with a sponsor in Mexico, but he's not sure it will come together. And if it does, he will be behind the 8-ball. "It will be hard for a rookie like me with no seat time in the new car, I would have liked to have been testing this week" said Martinez, "but I hope Mr. Forsythe can make it happen."
03/05/07 Our Scott Morris snapped these photos at Sebring last month of Martinez in a Forsythe Racing driving suit doing some filming for some PR material. Hmmm........
03/05/07 Proving that the Champ Car Atlantic ladder system really does work, according to AutoRacing1.com sources in Mexico, a third Atlantic driver, David Martinez, is in the running for the 2nd Forsythe Champ Car seat. If successful he would join Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud in the move up to Champ Car in 2007. Martinez did run one Champ Car race in 2006 for Forsythe, in Mexico City, where he qualified and finished a respectable 9th in his debut.
According to our sources, Martinez is up against one other driver for the 2nd Forsythe seat.
Champ Car TV announcersUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by Champ Car and ESPN that Rick Benjamin and Jon Beekhuis will be in the broadcast booth for all ABC/ESPN Champ Car races. It was also confirmed that NBC will use their own on-air talent for the first two races of the season but Jon Beekhuis will be in the booth for the CBS televised race in Cleveland.
03/04/07 It looks like Champ Car is slowly looking to improve its domestic TV broadcasts. This year, according to AutoRacing1.com sources, there is a good chance we will see Rick Benjamin back in the TV booth to anchor both the Champ Car and Champ Car Atlantic races. We hear that Jon Beekhuis will probably move from the pits to the booth to provide expert TV analysis for the Champ Car races. We also hear that there will be three pit reporters this year instead of two - something NASCAR has done for years and it really helps the race broadcasts because it gives the viewers more information as to what is going on at the team level.
However, for the two NBC races (Las Vegas and Long Beach) we hear that Benjamin could be replaced by NBC regulars Bill Webber and Wally Dallenbach Jr. Both are veterans and did an excellent job for NBC for NASCAR and it's expected they would do the same for Champ Car. If this happens we hear that Jon Beekhuis would join them as a third man in the booth for those two events.
Look for Jeremy Shaw and James Hinchcliffe to return to the booth for the international TV feed.
We hear the TV booth and pit reporters for this year may be announced this week at Spring training.
Philippe and Dominguez look doubtful We spoke to Mexican Mario Dominguez in Laguna Seca Friday and he tells us his Pemex sponsor from last year has not come through so it is doubtful he will have a ride this year. Ditto for Frenchman Nelson Philippe who is not even at Laguna Seca testing in this the last test before the Champ Car season opener.
RuSPORT to operate out of Rocketsports’ shopUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today as AutoRacing1.com was told by a Rocketsports representative that RuSPORT will continue to operate out of Colorado and Rocketsports in Michigan but there will probably be some sort of cooperation between the two teams. Details are still being worked out.
03/08/07 RuSPORT and Rocketsports appear headed for a merger. This was first reported weeks ago but the rumors won't go away with RuSPORT reporting to close up shop in Colorado and moving its operation to Rocketsports shops in Lansing, Michigan.
It is not yet certain whether RuSPORT and Rocketsports will remain as two teams operating under one roof, or one completely merged team.
By merging this helps the two teams save a lot of money on overhead making it easier to expand to a 3 or 4 car team, and perhaps we will see that happen sooner rather than later. In fact this move can add two cars to the grid. With lower operating costs it now makes it easier for the two teams to field two cars, which could result in two cars for both RuSPORT and Rocketsports this year. It might behoove the struggling Conquest Racing team to do the same thing with another team that has a large enough shop.
Legge to drive for Dale Coyne Racing According to what we hear in Laguna Seca this week, Katherine Legge will eventually be confirmed as one of Dale Coyne's drivers for 2007. Andrew Ranger has sponsorship for a partial season and may start the season in the 2nd Dale Coyne seat.
Newman/Haas to take on new partnerUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by Newman/Haas Racing that they have indeed taken on Mike Lanigan as a partner.
01/23/07 According to our sources in the Sebring paddock Mike Lanigan and Mi-Jack may be taking a minority ownership in the Newman/Haas team and to expect the Rahal car to carry Mi-Jack and possibly Gehl colors
Time to sponsor Justin Wilson car AutoRacing1.com has learned that Time Inc. (The magazine arm of Time Warner - as in Time, Fortune and Money Magazine) will be coming onto the No. 9 Justin Wilson CDW Champ Car as a very significant associate sponsor. We expect an announcement before the Las Vegas race.
Champ Car may add another test Word in Laguna Seca is that Champ Car is considering adding another test session before the opening race in Las Vegas because of all the rain the teams have encountered at Sebring and Houston. The teams do not feel they have the cars bugs worked out yet so they are lobbying for more test time.
RuSPORT down to one car Justin Wilson confirmed today that his RuSPORT team will drop down to a one car team as far as he can tell. Time will tell whether there is something going on with the team that could lead to a second car. This bodes poorly for Champ Car's car count for 2007.
PKV Racing to be flush with sponsorship According to inside AutoRacing1.com sources, Red Bull and Gulfstream will not be the only sponsors for the PKV Racing Champ Car team. iRise and Pay By Touch have both come on board and we hear that a Swiss Company and a financial institution will be announced in the coming days.
Long Beach race to be bigger and better According to inside AutoRacing1.com sources hospitality is nearly sold out for the Long Beach Champ Car and ALMS race and ticket sales are tracking ahead of last year, which was a successful event.
Baumgartner eyes Champ CarUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with Minardi's announcement that Baumgartner will be the team's official test and reserve driver.
03/07/07 Formula One refugee Zolt Baumgartner from Hungary is rumored to drive the Minardi Team USA's second DP01 Champ Car in the Laguna Seca test this week. He drove for Paul Stoddart's Minardi F1 team so Stoddart knows what he can do. It would appear that Dan Clarke's and Nelson Philippe's status with the team is very tentative at this time. We have added both he and Matt Halliday to our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page above.
GM may owe $1B on mortgage loans First, General Motors Corp. delayed releasing its much-anticipated financial results for 2006.
Then, the automaker missed the March 1 filing deadline with the Securities and Exchange Commission, requesting an extension to next week.
Now, risky mortgage loans doled out last year by GM's former finance arm are giving Wall Street another reason to be anxious.
GM may be on the hook for as much as $1 billion to cover defaulted mortgage loans made to high-risk borrowers by Residential Capital LLC, the former home-lending unit of General Motors Acceptance Corp., several analysts said this week. The automaker sold a 51 percent stake in GMAC last year for $14.4 billion to a group led by Cerberus Capital Management LP.
A GM spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday, saying that GM hasn't yet seen GMAC's 2006 financial report. More at Detroit News
Market threatens to kill one of Big Three Intense competition and growing overcapacity could threaten the existence of one of Detroit's Big Three automakers, General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said Tuesday. While Lutz dodged questions about GM's interest in buying the Chrysler Group, he said market conditions are conspiring to eliminate one Detroit automaker down the road.
"If you project out present trends, you can only come to the conclusion that it's going to be an extremely difficult environment," Lutz said in an interview at the Geneva auto show.
But Lutz made it clear that GM, in his opinion, is more likely to survive than Chrysler or Ford Motor Co. "Right now, we're in the best position," he said. "We're approaching the end of the beginning of the transformation of GM."
Analyst Bradley Rubin of BNP Paribas in New York agreed a shakeout is likely. "It's true. It is confusing. There are a lot of products out there," he said. More at Detroit News
Toronto race finds replacement for MolsonUPDATE This rumor, first leaked by AutoRacing1.com, is upgraded to 'fact' today as the race organizers have called for a press conference to announce a new race 'title' sponsor next Tuesday March 13th.
03/04/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the Toronto Champ Car race has signed a deal with a title sponsor to replace the departing Molson Beer. Look for an announcement in the near future.
Stoddart woos Webber to Champ Car Paul Stoddart, who gave Mark Webber his start in F1 with the Minardi team, told the Herald Sun newspaper that he would happily have the Australian drive for his new Champ Car outfit, Team Minardi USA.
"I would crawl over broken glass to have Mark drive for me in Champ Car, but I think he has a lot more to achieve in F1," Stoddart said.
"I still very much rate Mark as a driver. I don't think he has had the right car to show how good he is. I'm not sure how competitive the Red Bull will be against the big-budget teams. It has been quick sometimes in testing but I understand there have been some problems too.
"The most important thing is for him to beat his teammate. I'm sure Mark versus David (Coulthard) will be one of the most interesting races within the race itself."
Bourdais, Doornbos, Monteiro and SpeedUPDATE #11 Monteiro is confirmed as a factory driver for SEAT in WTCC, thereby ending his open wheel career.
02/24/07 Autosport is also confirming that Speed will be announced by Toro Rosso as their 2nd driver very soon. Recall what we said when Speed was included in the Toro Rosso film being made this week, i.e. that he must have the ride or he would not have been included.
02/16/07 (GMM) The Californian was a glaring absence at the Toro Rosso launch, but Scott Speed is expected to be confirmed as a race driver for 2007 within the next few days.
Red Bull's racing advisor Helmut Marko insisted to the website motorsport-total.com that the Faenza based camp is not negotiating with alternate drivers to race alongside Tonio Liuzzi.
Asked directly if talks were being held with any other drivers, he answered curtly: "No."
He added: "They are contractual issues (with Speed) and I would say that they will be solved in the next days."
02/15/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, American Scott Speed was given his walking papers by Toro Rosso last night. Although this has not been confirmed, if true, look for Red Bull to possibly place him in Champ Car (good for Champ Car, they need more American drivers) this year alongside Neel Jani in a 2-car Red Bull sponsored PKV team. And if true, does this open the door for Sebastien Bourdais or Robert Doornbos? Stay tuned......
02/13/07 See this Hot News item where Tiago Monteiro admits he will not race in F1 in 2007, but expects to land a competitive seat elsewhere. With two races in Europe, one would think that at least one Champ Car team is seeking his services (and money). It would seem to be the perfect fit for him, much more so than WTCC, for which he recently tested. No WTCC driver is going to make it back to F1, that is a guarantee.
GP2 driver to switch to AtlanticsUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as we can now confirm that Perera will be in the Condor Motorsports seat this week at Laguna Seca.
03/06/07 Now hearing that the team Perera will test for is Condor Motorsports, probably replacing Dutchman Junior Strous.
03/06/07 Will GP2 driver Franck Perera be testing in Laguna Seca? Our sources tell us he's already there. However, he won't be testing a Champ Car, instead he will test a Champ Car Atlantic car! The team's other driver, who was announced already last year and has so far been testing for this team, has hit sponsorship troubles and won't be in California!
Will Franck be the next Frenchman bound for Champ Car? If so, it seems like a good idea to actually have a Champ Car race in France in the future.
Things that make you go hmm....ZhuhaiUPDATE #4 Another source told us the Zhuhai race is now scheduled for the week before Surfers on October 14th, rather than the week after as previously rumored. This makes much more sense as it makes the gap between the Assen race on September 9th and Surfers on October 21st smaller. However, there is a China Superbike race scheduled at Zhuhai on October 14th (can bikes and cars share the track the same weekend?) whereas on October 28th Zhuhai has the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship, which could serve as support races for Champ Car....so the 28th makes more sense in that regard.
02/28/07 This rumor, first broke by AutoRacing1.com, is upgraded to 'strong' today as our Rick Benjamin alludes to in his latest article, Champ Car is going to make some schedule tweaks and you can look for the Zhuhai, China race to be moved to the week before or after Australia, we hear the week after, which would put it on October 28th. Benjamin also provides you with some other interesting rumors.
02/23/07 Despite making this rumor 'false' when we were told the Zhuhai race will remain on its original date (and it did when the TV schedule was released), the latest issue of Autosport Magazine reports that officials are still looking at the possibility of moving the race to a week before or after Surfers. Like we said awhile ago, why make the teams fly to each race separately when there could be savings in time and money by making them a back-to-back two race affair? It also would help fill the huge gap that currently exists in the 2007 schedule between Assen and Surfers, but it opens up a large gap in May-June, for.........hmm, the rumor that just won't go away.
02/07/07 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Autoracing1.com has learned that the Zhuhai race is not being moved and will be added backed on the ESPN TV schedule. It was removed by mistake. The full 2007 Champ Car TV schedule will be released today.
02/04/07 An interesting rumor making the rounds, all unsubstantiated for now, is that Champ Car's China race will be moved out of its May 20th date and paired with the Australia race in October. This makes a lot of sense and probably should have been that way in the first place. But the reason for the move, as the rumor goes, is the real kicker.
Recall Tony George and Brian Barnhart showing up at Panoz to see the new Champ Car before it was launched. Some say that was not just a coincidence. Some believe that the merger talks that AutoWeek referenced one year ago never ended. The media and fans assumed the talks ended, but did they really? A merger was never going to happen for the 2007 season because not enough DP01's could be built in time, which gave Kalkhoven and George more time to talk about a merger for 2008 without the media all over them.
The question was whether Panoz could build a DP01 oval kit in time for Indy? Now China's gone from the ESPN schedule and will probably reappear in October alongside Surfers. That leaves the entire month of May open for the Champ Car teams to do the Indy 500. If Panoz can have a DP01 oval kit ready for Indy, and Champ Car teams run there, the Indy 500 will have an easy 33 cars, in fact they will have a 'real' bump day without Tony George paying for half the field. How would you do an equivalency formula between the Honda engine and the Cosworth engine, and the Panoz chassis and the Dallara chassis is the hard part.
Fisi likely to lose Renault seat - Gascoyne (GMM) Giancarlo Fisichella is unlikely to remain at Renault beyond 2007 if he fails to shine for the team this year.
That is the claim of Spyker's technical chief Mike Gascoyne, who worked alongside the Roman in 2001 before switching to the Toyota team.
Briton Gascoyne admits that 34-year-old Fisichella is "very talented" but must step up his pace after the departure of his championship winning teammate Fernando Alonso.
"He definitely has to win half a dozen races this year," Gascoyne is quoted as saying by Reuters.
"If not he'll be falling back to the teams down the grid; he won't be getting another top line drive."
Fisichella, however, told the Melbourne newspaper Herald Sun this week that he is unlikely to reside a winning car at least in the early races of 2007, probably because Renault had not adapted as well as teams like McLaren and BMW in the switch from Michelin tires.
"McLaren and Ferrari are stronger than us," he admitted. "It's at least half a second a lap. It's a lot."
Pirelli came close to F1 tire deal (GMM) Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli, sole supplier for the world rally championship next year, reportedly came within an inch or so of returning to formula one.
The financial news agency AFX says Milan based Pirelli pulled out of the race with Bridgestone to win the 2008-2010 sole-supplier tender after F1's governing body refused to alter the technical rules.
Pirelli CEO Francesco Gori is quoted as saying that he "met" with FIA chiefs where he gave them his proposal to increase the size of a formula one tire to at least 15 inches.
"Gori reportedly said that, if (the) FIA had gone with its original recommendation of 17-inch wheel diameter limits, Pirelli would have entered formula one immediately," the publication Tire Review said.
Fiat to sponsor Yamaha and RossiUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page for announcement.
01/29/07 Rumors in the Italian press say that Italian car company Fiat is close to signing a deal to sponsor Yamaha's MotoGP team and Valentino Rossi.
Although an Italian car manufacturer supporting a Japanese motorcycle racing team may seem a bit odd, Fiat is eager to use Rossi's enormous popularity to help sell its new 500 model in Italy - and, according to the Italian press, a two-year contract is now 'on the table'
Ford may announce Aston Martin sale this week Ford Motor Co. could announce the sale of its Aston Martin luxury division for about $865 million as early as this week, according to a report by Reuters.
The report sites Naeem, an Egyptian investment bank, as a front-runner to purchase the brand. Other potential buyers include the British takeover firm Doughty Hanson, it said. Aston Martin has been part of the Dearborn automaker’s Premier Automotive Group since 1994. Along with Aston Martin, the PAG stable includes Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Lincoln.
Ford officials wouldn’t comment on the speculation.
“Generally when we talk about Aston Martin, there has been a lot of interest from many parties since August when Ford announced the possibility of a partial or complete sale of the business,” said Tom Hoyt, a spokesman for Ford, told the Detroit Free Press. “The process is ongoing, but we have no comment on rumor or speculation.”
F1 to implement brake lightsUPDATE (GMM) Spokesmen for Ferrari and Renault have confirmed that they were among teams that tested the use of brake lights at the Bahrain test last week.
We revealed exclusively at the weekend that, presumably at the FIA's behest and on the grounds of improved safety, several runners' rear rain lights were equipped to turn red under braking at the final group test of the 2007 pre-season.
"I have spoken to the engineers and we did indeed test them," a Renault spokesman said on Monday.
Ferrari's spokesman told us: "Yes we tested it but it is just for the future, not for this year."
03/03/07 (GMM) Several formula one teams tested the use of brake lights at the Bahrain test last week.
Sources report that runners for Super Aguri, Toyota, McLaren, Renault and Ferrari - and possibly others - trialed the innovation at the Sakhir circuit. The news is sure to spark speculation that the governing body could implement brake lights on the grounds of safety.
Further information is not available at this time, but it is clear that the single rain light below the rear wing glowed red when the drivers braked into corners.
Mansell and sons may give ALMS a go Rumor has it that former F1 and Champ Car Champion Nigel Mansell is trying to line up a GT2 American Le Mans Series ride with his sons at year's end at the wheel of a Risi Competizione Ferrari F430.
Champ Car to announce Ford replacementUPDATE #7 Further investigation of this rumor by AutoRacing1.com tells us that yes, another manufacturer is getting involved in Champ Car to replace Ford, but they will NOT be badging the Cosworth engines. And the rumor is that although they will not badge the engines they will contribute more to Champ Car than Ford.
02/14/07 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today as AutoRacing1.com has learned that indeed there will be a replacement for Ford, that indeed Champ Car pushed Ford out to make room for this replacement, and that an announcement will be made before the season opener in Las Vegas, possibly as early as Champ Car Spring Training at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in March. We are embargoed from telling you who the replacement will be.
02/02/07 Possible more proof that Mazda is in the driver's seat to land the Champ Car engine deal. AutoWeek reports that an associate of Mazda, engine supplier for Champ Car's Atlantic series, confirmed talks about a Champ Car World Series association. However the source said that if Champ Car does not pick Mazda to badge their Champ Car engines, they would have to have a second look at the Atlantic program. "If we see something like 'Champ Car, Powered by Kia, happen I'm not sure if Mazda would be interested in playing second fiddle for that."
02/01/07 Another reader adds, Does the Ford employee not remember that Ford Motor Company has been the engine sponsor in Champ Car for years now and has not done a thing with it? Ford very easily could have advertised using Champ Car, but chose not to or were just not sure what to do. Ford is doing the exact same thing for the new Ford GT. Not much advertising and not racing it. The GT could very easily be the flagship for a new era for Ford, but they choose not to or are just not sure what to do. I myself tend to purchase American cars (Saturn has been great for me), but have been disappointed with what most of the American manufacturers want to sell. It is time that they started to get better at making and marketing their products. Unless, as I heard said in "The Water Boy", "what are you too st st st st stupid". Anonymous
02/01/07 Another reader adds, I laughed out loud when I read the tirade from the Ford employee who twice blamed Ford's dismal position on consumers and race fans. It's our fault Ford makes lackluster, boring products and markets them poorly? This is the attitude that has produced Ford's continual problems. Make a better product, market it effectively, and consumers will respond. It's called the open marketplace, and it works. Bill Gerken
02/01/07 A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1, I am a long time subscriber to your website and an avid Champ Car fan. I can no longer listen to the Ford bashing that is going on lately. Having worked for Ford Motor Company for the past fourteen years, I would like to comment on a few things;
a) Mazda will NOT be replacing Ford as the primary engine sponsor of Champ Car. Mark Fields, the brainchild behind Mazda's zoom-zoom strategy and resurgence is now in charge of Ford's turnaround. He has no interest in involving Ford or any of its subsidiaries in Champ Car because of the obvious lack of publicity and return on investment. Champ car will not have a manufacturer as a sponsor in the near future--of any kind...guaranteed!!! Ford owns AND controls Mazda--they DO NOT have separate budgets for anything anymore. Any Ford brand suddenly sponsoring Champ Car is a true fallacy!
b) Ford Motor Company is very much on track in its rebuilding efforts. It will fall to become the fourth or maybe even fifth largest automobile manufacturer this year---GOOD!!! That is what Bill Ford Jr, Mark Fields and Alan Mulally have in mind in order to become profitable again. Let's let Toyota take over the #1 spot in America for a year or two and see how the southern right wing extremist NASCAR fans feel about that for awhile--how could they let Toyota become #1--simple ignorance and neglect of the American automotive industry!! Let's see how long that lasts! Ford will rebound stronger than ever with new products and a stronger overall base and marketing strategy.--shame on so called American race fans and consumers for letting this happen.--This is the plan for Ford and General Motors--let America rebel and we will succeed long term and consistently!!!
Champ Car had better smarten up quick--I love the series and this is the first negative thing I have had to say...but considering the fact that they cannot get a corporate sponsor worth a damn, someone like Paul Tracy cannot get a sponsor, the series is still virtually unknown to most of America and people like AJ leave, not to mention the Hunter-Reay fiasco--I just don't know anymore...I am losing faith.
These are very sad things for a Champ Car/Ford lover. Let's all get our heads together and fix this! Anonymous
01/31/07 Champ Car is reportedly in negotiations with Mazda, which badges Cosworth engines and serves as the presenting sponsor for the Champ Car sanctioned Atlantic Championship series. Zoom-Zoom is said to be a perfect fit for Champ Car's street festival atmosphere. What is curious about this rumor is that Ford partially owns Mazda, and Ford just backed out of Champ Car. However, Mazda is the only part of Ford that turns a profit these days, and can afford sponsorship. We hear Mazda is also keen on selling their Zoom-Zoom concept in China in a big way and Champ Car can now deliver a China race to them. This article will help you understand the relationship between Ford and Mazda.
Las Vegas race to sell outUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. No tickets remain for the March 11 NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The speedway announced early Thursday that only a few hundred single-seat tickets were available for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Within a few hours those had been purchased. The sellout is the earliest for the track since its inaugural Cup race in 1998. Since then, seating capacity has been expanded by approximately 30,000.
"Obviously, the buzz that's been created by raising the (track's) banking and the building of the Neon Garage has spurred an unprecedented level of interest," said Chris Powell, the speedway's general manager.
"People love coming to Las Vegas. The increased banking has people counting on seeing a better show. There's a little bit of a curiosity factor. The Neon Garage will be the talk of the sport." Las Vegas Review Journal
03/02/07 Aside from a handful of available singles, the March 11 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a sellout, track officials announced in a news release Thursday.
The track has 128,000 permanent seats, including luxury suites but not including infield capacity.
LVMS has gone through a major renovation in the last year, complete with a new paving and banking (20 degrees from 12 degrees) and a new garage area.
"The demand for NASCAR tickets in Las Vegas confirms once again that Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the premier destination on the NASCAR circuit," said Chris Powell, general manager of LVMS. "This year we've sold out of Sunday's event earlier than any other year. Obviously, the buzz that's been created by raising the speedway's banking and the building of the Neon Garage has spurred an unprecedented level of interest."
F1, A1GP on Singapore radarUPDATE #3 Formula One has a large following among Singaporeans. Many do not think twice about heading to Malaysia to catch the action live. The recently-launched A1 too has its share of fans, especially since Singapore has a team competing in the race.
So it is no surprise then when both F1 and A1 expressed their desire to stage a race here. Singapore authorities have yet to decide whether to accept either one or both offers. But with growing interest, and benefits such as making the city more vibrant, some suggest Singapore could play host to both races.
"Whether it is A1 GP, whether it is Formula 1, whether it is the Le Mans type GT sports cars, whether it is touring cars…Once you got a stage you can invite different performers, if you think about it, it is a theatre," says Steve Slater, Commentator, London.
F1 has already got famous German designer Hermann Tilke to map out a street circuit for Singapore. His route covers the downtown area, including landmarks such as The Esplanade and City Hall. Channel NewsAsia understands that A1 too will be releasing its proposed street circuit design soon.
But some caution, that having both races may be too much of a good thing. One practical reason - many roads may need to be closed to accommodate the races.
Tan Teng Lip, President of the Singapore Motor Sports Association says, "Personally, I think for a country to handle two street circuits a year it may be too much to ask for, but I think for a start we might most probably do with one. If later on we have a permanent circuit, then more races can go there."
Whether one or two, F1 or A1, it seems the real winners will be motor racing fans in Singapore! Channel News Asia
01/12/07 (GMM) The prospect of a grand prix in Singapore has returned to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's agenda, according to reports.
The local government owned newspaper 'Today' said on Friday that the diminutive 76-year-old is "in talks with at least two Singaporean groups to stage a race here as early as next year".
Negotiations must be concluded soon, the newspaper added, amid speculation that one group is led by someone touted as being "one of Singapore's richest men".
Reflecting the apparent seriousness of the news, renowned grand prix circuit designer Hermann Tilke is understood to have already designed a street circuit that winds through the downtown heart of the southeast Asian country.
Ecclestone told Today: "Yes, we have been talking to various parties about a race in Singapore, but as it is, nothing has been firmed up yet.
"When we have something, you will definitely know about it."
Martin to stay in ride Regan Smith is more than an interested third party when it comes to whether Nextel Cup points leader Mark Martin will stick to his plan to run a part-time schedule. He's the driver ready to replace Martin in the #01 U.S. Army Chevy when the series moves to Bristol Motor Speedway on March 25. "When I go to Las Vegas I might put a couple of dollars on it," Smith said before practice for Sunday's Busch Series race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. "I'm sure it's going to be on the board soon. It's a pretty big story. "I don't know what the odds are. All I can say is if I was in his shoes and leading the points after Atlanta it would be tough for me as a driver to get out of the car." Either way, Smith will have a ride at Bristol. Owners Jay Frye and Bobby Ginn have promised to put him in a fourth car, the #39, if Martin has a change of heart. They've even discussed using his Busch Series crew chief to run the show. Martin, off to the best start in his Cup career with a second in the Daytona 500 and fifth last week at California, has been adamant that he won't change his mind. He insists he's happy with the part-time schedule and that he's looking forward to having an off weekend. He also has a history of changing his mind. He extended his 2005 retirement tour at Roush Fenway Racing into 2006 after owner Jack Roush lost Kurt Busch to Penske Racing.
Smith has run through all the scenarios, including what would happen if the #01 was in the top 12 in points with him and Martin splitting the schedule. "How cool would that be?" Smith said. "Maybe it would put some pressure on NASCAR to make a decision." There would be no decision. The way the Chase for the Nextel Cup is set up the top 12 in driver points make the field. Smith and Martin could run the car for the owner's title, but not the overall championship. More at ESPN.com
Zolder race to change datesUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement in Zolder. It is also on the Zolder website.
02/25/07 This rumor looks set to move to 'fact' on March 8th. This Belgian Pitstop.tv article says that the Zolder Champ Car race is not yet on the FIA calendar, but should be approved at the March 8th FIA World Council meeting. The article says that the RACB, the local arm of the FIA, asked the promoter and Champ Car to move the race up two weeks from September 9th to August 26th because it was too close to the September 16th F1 race in Spa, Belgium. RACB president Michel Jodogne denies Bernie Ecclestone forced the change. Race promoter Meindert van Buuren expresses confidence the race date of August 26th will be approved. We had already shown the date change on our 2007 Champ Car calendar when we first heard about this rumor.
02/16/07 Don't be surprised if the Champ Car race at Zolder, originally scheduled for September 9th (One week after Assen), isn't moved to one week before Assen on August 26th. Apparently the FIA asked the race to be moved because it was too close to the F1 race in Spa, Belgium on September 16th. We never could understand why they would put the race so close to Spa. This of course leaves an even bigger hole in the 2007 Champ Car schedule between the Europe races and the Australia race. We hear Champ Car may be trying to plug that hole with another race, possibly at Road Atlanta. They should work a deal to run with ALMS during the Petit LeMans weekend October 6-7. The ALMS race is on Saturday so it would make sense to run a Champ Car race on Sunday that same weekend. Wait, that makes too much sense so it won't happen.
Bernie bankrupts another race promoterUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today based on the rumor that this year's Malaysian GP will be a financial bloodbath.
01/30/07 (GMM) Malaysian officials are playing down speculation that the grand prix at Sepang might fall off F1's annual calendar after its current contract expires in 2010.
It was reported recently that the southeast Asian country's government might not want to fund an extension to the deal due to the depletion of the Malaysian currency, the Ringgit.
But the purpose-built circuit's press officer insisted that Malaysia, after first hosting the sport in 1999, is likely to be one of the circus' permanent stops.
"Negotiations for the extension of the contract had already begun in November when a delegation led by the (Malaysian) sports minister met with formula one supremo Bernie Ecclestone in London," Sepang's Azhar Ghazali is quoted as telling the Singapore newspaper Straits Times.
He added: "That was a preliminary discussion and more negotiations will follow, but thus far indications are that the Malaysian grand prix is set to remain."
[Editor's Note: If Bernie gets the Singapore race he wants, look for Malaysia to be axed. F1 can only hold so many race a year and with Abu Dhabi about to be added, something has to give.]
01/11/07 Dato Mokhzani Tun Mahathir, the chairman of the Sepang circuit and boss of the Malaysian Grand Prix told autosport.com at the Autosport International Show the Malaysian GP might be history after 2010.
"We are in negotiations with Mr. Ecclestone and as you can imagine that is not a straightforward thing," said Mahathir.
"We have to make a presentation to the government. At the end of the day it is the government that foots the bill and they have to decide.
"The problem is that from when we negotiated the original contract and when we took the decision to bring F1 to Malaysia, the Ringgit has depleted by between 40 and 50 percent.
"So it is the cost element that we really have to look at. That is the kind of consideration the government has to consider - because it is harder to justify, especially as F1 as a sport has remained the same."
Malaysian GP to be financial bloodbath (GMM) Organizers of the Malaysian grand prix look unlikely to reach their target of 125,000 spectators for the F1 event next month.
As preparations step up for the race held at Sepang, which is near Malaysia's most populous city Kuala Lumpur, it emerged at a launch event that only 11,000 tickets have so far been sold for the three days of the 2007 event.
Official statistics, meanwhile, showed that in 2006, the occupancy rate for hotels rooms during grand prix week was just 70 to 74 per cent.
Defending the poor figures, circuit chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir said: "Malaysians tend to have a habit of buying formula one tickets like they do movie tickets -- they prefer to buy tickets on race day or close to it.
"In the past, we've got excited and worried when we saw ticket sales not what we wanted them to be at the stage we are at now, but then suddenly in the week before the race, we saw dramatic increases. I believe it will be the same this year."
[Editor's Note: Given another dismal year for the Malaysian GP look for this race to be replaced by Bernie Ecclestone with one in Singapore or India before long.]
GM to scale back NASCAR effort This Autoextremeist article says, What about the rumor that has GM dramatically scaling back its NASCAR expenditures at the end of the 2008 season? There's a searing hot fire behind this smoke, folks. As GM becomes more interested in crafting a global image, watch for GM to put more money into other forms of motorsport and experiential marketing programs - and reduce its investment in the France family's Circus Maximus. And speaking of NASCAR, what about the rumor that Toyota was so deeply embarrassed by the fiasco that unfolded at Daytona Beach before the Daytona 500 when its new NASCAR teams were cited for cheating that it has already gone as far as to identify other teams that it would like to affiliate with in case its relationship with Michael Waltrip can't be salvaged? And one of the teams that Toyota has its eyes on is currently sporting a Chevrolet bowtie emblem - a team that normally wouldn't consider an overture from Toyota, but given GM's rumored plans, they're considering "all options" for the future. This one is pegging the AE Rumor meter at the very top.
IndyPro team eyes Indy 500 effort On yesterday's IRL media conference Indy Pro driver Robbie Pecorari hinted that his Team KMA team may have a go at the indy 500.
"Hopefully we'll be able to put a package together for the 500, which would be great," he said.
"Right now it's just through the talks with the team. (Team owners) John Lewis and Ingo (Strachkerjam) have a lot of people they know, trying to find a car, something that's affordable just to get some track experience.
"It's only in the talks right now. There's nothing definite at all.
"I think it would be a great accomplishment if we could get that through the team."
Champ Car may get South Africa’s best driverUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' as the IRL picked up Simpson in their Indy Pro series.
01/11/07 Stephan Simpson is from Cape Town and is South Africa's fastest driver. He is trying hard to land a ride with the Mi-Jack Conquest Champ Car team for 2007. Simpson beat all other South African drivers, including Adrian Zaugg who will be racing in GP2 next year, in a head-to-head A1GP recently in Silverstone.
After that his manager Robert Synge got him a test with Mi-Jack Conquest at MSR Houston with one very specific objective: "Beat Alexandre Premat's time!"
"Running the hard compound tires throughout the two days, I was not able to challenge Graham Rahal's recently set unofficial lap record but in the morning session of day two I was ready to give it a full go. The ChampCar is a physical car to drive and MSR is quite a technical and challenging circuit; all the braking and down-changing is done as you are turning into corners and counting down the seven speed sequential gearbox means some very quick counting! I did about 130 laps in all, with my fastest bettering Premat's time by 0.5 sec when we were both on the same compound tires. Mission accomplished!"
He hopes his speed earned him a chance to test with the Mi-Jack team at Sebring the week after next and, if all goes to plan, hopes to conclude his Champ Car plans in the USA the last week in January, this according to his website.
Toyota can't cut it in F1 Toyota F1 is in trouble as the Cologne based squad is way off the pace set by their rivals at Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and even Toro Rosso! In almost every preseason test they have been at or near the bottom of the speed charts in lap times. Now analyzing straight-line speeds at the Bahrain circuit on Wednesday shows they are way off the pace and simply are not making enough HP or are running a lot of wing angle to compensate for an ill handling car in the turns, hence sacrificing top-end speed.
At one time it was thought that Toyota would eventually get it right in F1 after struggling in its early years in the sport, but now it appears they are getting worse instead of better. Rumored to be spending as much as $500M per year in F1, if they go to their Mt. Fuji circuit this year and perform like this in front of their top executives expect heads to roll.
Fastest overall straight-line speeds for Wednesday
1. Raikkonen – Ferrari – 300.6 km/h 2. De La Rosa – McLaren Mercedes – 300.1 3. Kovalainen – Renault – 297.3 4. Hamilton – McLaren Mercedes – 297.2 5. Massa – Ferrari – 295.9 6. Barrichello – Honda – 294.9 7. Fisichella – Renault – 294.0 8. Heidfeld – BMW Sauber – 293.9 9. Liuzzi – Toro Rosso – 290.5 10. Button – Honda – 290.3 11. Webber – Red Bull Racing – 290.2 12. Sato – Super AguriF1 – 289.9 13. Kubica – BMW Sauber – 288.7 14. Coulthard – Red Bull Racing – 288.1 15. Schumacher – Toyota – 286.8 16. Trulli – Toyota – 285.8
Red Bull chief in Ferrari switch Arguably Red Bull's highest ranking motor racing chief, the low profile Dany Bahar, has reportedly left the Austrian energy drink stable.
It is suggested that Bahar, officially Red Bull's head of corporate projects, is about to join Ferrari in a top management role, despite his close personal links with Red Bull supremo Dietrich Mateschitz and his listing as a 'team owner' on the NASCAR website.
If confirmed, the news will follow the recent revelation that head of development Anton Stipinovich also departed Red Bull.
Ferrari to run Marlboro branding in 2007 (GMM) Confusion has descended upon Ferrari's sponsorship strategy in 2007 involving the tobacco giant Phillip Morris.
The Maranello based team is the last in pit lane still associated with a cigarette brand, after widespread tobacco advertising bans swept the world in recent years.
Ferrari's new F2007 single seater was launched earlier this year without cigarette branding, and the team has also officially dropped the word 'Marlboro' from its title.
But the head of Ferrari's Motor Sport Press Office, Luca Colajanni, refused to rule out the usage of tobacco signage at grands prix this year, after the team tested at Bahrain this week in Marlboro branded gear for the first time this winter.
The move is on to ban alcohol from racing sponsorship Australian politicians have called for all alcohol sponsorship to be banned at the Clipsal 500 V8 motor race in Adelaide. A number of teams competing in the Adelaide street race have alcohol companies as sponsors or backers.
South Australian Democrat MP Sandra Kanck said having spirit and wine companies associated with motor racing promoted the combination of alcohol and fast driving.
Ms Kanck said tobacco sponsorship of sport, including motor racing, was banned in the 1980s and it was time to do the same with alcohol sponsorship of car racing.
[Editor's Note: Look for this to be the start of a move to ban alcohol from all motorsports sponsorship - drinking and driving just do not go together. Whereas with tobacco that you smoke, you kill yourself, with alcohol when you drink and drive you kill innocent victims, and if you are lucky you also kill yourself so you do not have to live with the guilt. Alcohol advertising in sports has just as bad an influence on our children as tobacco does, perhaps even more. Now that cancer stick advertising is out of motorsports (unfortunately not in the IRL where Marlboro is rumored to still have a large at-track presence as it attempts to promote its cancer causing cigarettes to poor hapless race fans) it's time for the sport to clean up its act with regard to alcohol.]
Spyker tester on verge of DTM seat One of Spyker's test drivers for 2007, Adrian Valles, is likely to also race in the German touring car series this year.
It is reported that the 20-year-old Spaniard, who last season raced in GP2, is on the verge of signing to drive a 2006-spec Audi A4 entered in the DTM category by Spyker team principal Dr Colin Kolles.
The magazine Motorsport Aktuell says an announcement could be made next week.
Gerald Tyler to make a return?UPDATE #2 The rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today according to AutoRacing1.com sources. As of late last night, Gerald Tyler, who is this past decade's winningest Race Engineer/Technical Director in Atlantics with Dorricott Racing and RuSPORT, has teamed up his Tyler Engineering, Inc. services with Gelles Racing to focus Gelles Racing's Atlantic program on winning and becoming a "destination" team for aspiring racers from all over the globe to chase the Champ Car Atlantic Championship and it's two million dollar prize to take to the Champ Car World Series ...
Now, is Alan Sciuto, Americas most dominant force in karting and a rising open wheel star the next "done deal" with Gelles Racing? Stay tuned.......
08/22/05 To Clarify and correct this rumor - Last season (2004) Tonis Kasemets obtained information from Gerald Tyler concerning set-ups, especially about Road America. Mr. Tyler's plan was a very good starting point in '04. We genuinely appreciate what we received from Mr. Tyler. We know Gerald is very talented, we used his set-up in 2004, but many things have changed this season, i.e. shock absorbers and aero, amongst other changes implemented by the Toyota Atlantic Series. This years Road America car set-up was developed exclusively by Tonis Kasemets and Alan O'Leary. Statement from the team08/21/05 We have it on good authority that polesitter (by a comfortable margin) for Sunday's Toyota Atlantic race at Road America, Tonis Kasemets, is using set up information obtained from Gerald Tyler, who in his last appearance at Road America as Dorricott Racing's Team Technical Director and race engineer for Luis Diaz had his cars go 1,2,3 with Diaz winning, series Champion Jon Fogarty in 2nd and Alex Gurney 3rd ... As Champ Car's momentum and the Champ Car Atlantic series heats up for next year, might Gerald Tyler who dominated with both Dorricott Racing in Indy Lights and Atlantics and RuSPORT in Atlantics, winning three consecutive championships, be back in open wheel in the new Champ Car Atlantic Series? ... Only time will tell ... We certainly would not want to be on any team and have to run against him!!! Especially with a 2 million dollar prize and a guaranteed Champ Car ride on the line. Mark C.
Champ Car races slated to move to Eurosport 2? As Champ Car hits the European tracks, it will likely disappear from the screens from the majority of European people. Instead of the main Eurosport channel the coverage is set to move to Eurosport 2 because of poor ratings in 2006. These are quotes from a motorsports commentator for Eurosport.
"Unfortunately, the viewing figures for last year were very disappointing, surprising, considering the number and pedigree of European drivers in the series. Because of the bad ratings, there is a 90% chance that all the Champ Car races will be on Eurosport 2, which means 100% live and with very few ad breaks."
"Here is the latest update. The Eurosport schedules were updated last night through the week ending 8/04. The opening round from Las Vegas will be Live on Eurosport 2. But the season will kick off in style. There will be a 30 minutes intro starting at 21:00 CET. Than the race coverage is scheduled for 150 mins - from 21:30-00:00! I don't know what more could you want. Of course it will be better if the race was on Eurosport 1 but for now that is the best we can hope for. And the best part is that the Vegas race is the ONLY live event for the day on E2. There is a tape delayed lacrosse game before the race. So overrunning won't be happening!"
For comparison: Eurosport is the most widely available channel in Europe, reaching over 95 million homes and 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Eurosport 2 is distributed in over 35 countries reaching just 17 million homes. While Eurosport is part of every basic cable package, Eurosport 2 is usually in an optional paying package.
Would California give Cup race to Vegas? After falling thousands of seats short of a sellout once again, you have to wonder if California Speedway deserves two Nextel Cup dates.
The 92,000-seat facility is relatively small compared to some NASCAR tracks, but not all of those seats have been filled in the second-largest market in the country.
No wonder L.A. doesn't have an NFL team.
The main reason NASCAR wants two Nextel Cup events in Southern California is because sponsors want more races in big markets, but it doesn't look good when fewer than 80,000 show up for the race.
Atlanta, Texas and Lowe's in Charlotte also don't sell out two Cup races, but you have to keep it in perspective. All three tracks still sell more than 125,000 tickets to each Cup event.
Gillian Zucker, president of California Speedway, would like to see NASCAR move the early-season date to April. What the track really needs is a date that isn't within three weeks of the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
If any track out West deserves two Cup races, it's Las Vegas, which sells out every Cup event. The facility also was remodeled and the track reconfigured in the off-season.
Taking a race away from California and giving it to Las Vegas makes sense, but politics gets in the way. More at ESPN.com
Canada's Magna Corp studies bid for Chrysler Canadian auto supplier Magna International Inc. may be a serious suitor for DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group.
Canadian Auto Workers President Buzz Hargrove said Monday that he met twice last week with Magna Chairman Frank Stronach about Chrysler. He declined to discuss details of the meetings.
"We talked about the Magna-Chrysler situation, but I can't go any further than that," Hargrove said in an interview.
Hargrove's comments follow media reports speculating about Magna's interest in Chrysler. Also on Monday, Brett Hoselton, an auto analyst with KeyBanc Capital in Cleveland, wrote in a report to investors that Magna has done "substantial due diligence" on Chrysler, including reviewing its financial information, and is "seriously considering the potential purchase" of the Auburn Hills-based automaker. Hoselton did not cite specific sources for the information.
Rumors have been swirling about possible buyers for Chrysler since DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche said earlier this month that the automaker would consider all options for its money-losing U.S. unit, including the possibility of a sale. Chrysler lost $1.5 billion in 2006 and is cutting 13,000 hourly and salaried jobs as part of a three-year turnaround plan. More at Detroit News
Toyota reportedly building plant in Mississippi Toyota, Japan's biggest automaker, plans to invest some 100 billion yen ($830 million) to build a sport utility vehicle plant in the U.S. state of Mississippi, the Nikkei business daily said on Tuesday. The plant, to come on line in 2009, will build the Highlander SUV model and is set to have an annual production capacity of 150,000 units, the paper said.
A separate report from Kyodo news agency put the investment figure at 200 billion yen and output capacity at 200,000 units a year. The plant would create about 2,000 new jobs, Kyodo also said, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Toyota, which may claim the title of the world's biggest auto maker from General Motors Corp. this year, has said it was reviewing possible locations for an eighth vehicle assembly plant in North America in an attempt to boost local production and stem a rise in imports.
An official announcement could come by Wednesday, the Nikkei said.
Company spokesman Tomomi Imai said no decision has been made on such a move. More at ABC News
MotoGP to force Indy redesign? In order to secure a second US round of the MotoGP World Championship, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is reported to be ready to modify its existing road course layout.
It is highly unlikely that the MotoGP riders or the FIM would agree to use the circuit's fast, wall-lined, final corner, as present on the current Formula One road course.
Motorcycle USA reports that the final turn will indeed be removed from a MotoGP inspired redesign, the layout of which has apparently already been approved by the FIM. The banked corner forms part of the legendary oval used for IndyCar and NASCAR racing, but has been the scene of several heavy F1 accidents. It is reported that the grand prix cars will also use the new MotoGP layout.
Champ Car fires MillerUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' based on a confirmation we received from Robin himself. Robin is taking the high road in all this telling AutoRacing1.com, "It won't affect how I cover Champ Car for SPEEDtv.com and SPEED REPORT and WIND TUNNEL, I hope the series succeeds because it's got a lot of good people."
02/26/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources Champ Car fired Robin Miller today as a writer for the Champ Car website over this SPEEDTV.com article that he penned over the weekend that painted Champ Car in a very negative light.
More evidence of NASCAR’s global aspirations?UPDATE #3 Many people think Bernie Ecclestone is behind this series and not NASCAR as he wants to head off NASCAR's apparent international expansion aspirations and this way he has control of stock car racing outside of North America and not NASCAR
02/26/07 Today's announcement of a NASCAR type racing series in the Middle East and Asia is interesting. On the surface it appears NASCAR is very likely behind this series as the cars are NASCAR and the engines are even built in Charlotte. The proliferation of NASCAR's model is spreading worldwide. Eventually they could probably put their name on this series, just like they did in Mexico and Canada. What is interesting are Bernie Ecclestone's comments. Could he be involved, and if so is he really behind this as a way to head off further NASCAR international expansion?
02/22/07 See this rumor for more information on this rumor.
02/17/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, My brother, who works for a prominent data acquisition mfg. for NASCAR/GRAND AM/World Challenge says that they are extremely busy with a new IROC type series based in the Middle East and that they are testing NASCAR-type engines on the dyno here in the US for the series to start this summer for ex-F1 drivers, etc. in a NASCAR type road racing series. As far as he knows it is not sanctioned by IROC or NASCAR (yet), but this just strengthens the idea of the reach NASCAR is trying to grab onto for worldwide domination with its stock car racing. I just wish open wheel would get it together and merge already before open-wheel becomes a forgone memory. Name withheld
Date conflict could force Toronto changeUPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' The Toronto Star reports - Tournament organizers announced the move of a group stage match on Sunday, July 8 from the soccer stadium at Exhibition Place in Toronto to Montreal's Olympic Stadium. The change was made to avoid conflict with the Champ Car Grand Prix of Toronto auto race at Exhibition Place that day.
02/24/07 A reader writes, But the suggestion that the Toronto race could just swap dates with Edmonton or St. Jovite is ridiculous. They point out that there are TV commitments that can't be arbitrarily changed, but there is a lot more involved than that. There are travel plans and hotel arrangements for thousands of fans. For example, our airfare to Edmonton is non-refundable. I can change the date for $100 a ticket penalty, but that puts us, personally, out $200 if the Edmonton race were a different date. And I won't be able to get the same low car rental rate in March for July that I got last November for July.
How about our friends who have agreed to rent a chateau for ten people at St. Jovite for race weekend. Will the owner of that property agree to a full refund if the race doesn't run that weekend? Not likely. And is that arrangement available on the alternate race weekend or are they starting from zero to replace arrangements they made months ago.
There are tens of thousands of fans making plans to travel to these races, most of whom would be out money if there was a date change 90-120 days before the race.
And then there are the race organizers. They have been working since the race last year to have all the pieces in place on SPECIFIC DATES this year. All of the components of those arrangements that require having the right pieces or people in the right place at the right time would have to be redone with new dates. That might not be possible with only a 4 month instead of a 12 month window to get it done. At the very least there is a significant cost for the time to redo all of the logistical arrangements to hold a race at a given location on a given date. Marshall Hunt
02/24/07 The popular Champ Car race is set for Sunday, July 8, the same day of an opening-round doubleheader for FIFA's international soccer tournament at BMO Field, Toronto's new stadium at Exhibition Place...
There is also a soccer game scheduled for July 5, the day that Grand Prix organizers plan to have their track fully set up for their prerace media event.
"Most people are genuinely shocked when I tell them that this [scheduling problem] has happened," said Toronto Grand Prix spokesperson Shannon Davidson...
[Editor's Note: It would not be difficult for Champ Car to swap the Toronto date with Edmonton or Mont Tremblant, but they better do it soon. We think the two entities will work out a solution for crowd control.]
Champ Car reeling? Robin Miller really slams Champ Car in his latest commentary on SPEEDTV.com call "The silence is not necessarily golden." He hammers the lack of sponsor announcements, anticipated low car count, and takes aim at ex-SCCA President, and now Champ Car President Steve Johnson and the other SCCA staff he has brought in, and minority series co-owner Paul Gentilozzi. His conclusion is that Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe should run the series correctly or sell the assets to Tony George and the IRL. Kevin Kalkhoven told AutoRacing1.com to wait until Spring Training at Laguna Seca in two weeks for a number of significant announcements. If after that things don't look better, we'll make this rumor 'fact,' per Miller, or 'false' if Kalkhoven proves to be right.
NASCAR could lose another sponsor [Note: On the heels of the Cingular to AT&T name issue with Nextel and the Sirius/XM Satellite Radio merger news comes this] Alltel Corp. could fetch a price tag of $25 billion to $31 billion from private equity firms or other U.S. mobile service providers looking to expand in rural markets, analysts said Tuesday Feb 20th]. Alltel, the top rural U.S. wireless provider, fueled merger speculation when it said during an earnings conference call Tuesday that it was reviewing its strategic options. Analysts said a sale agreement could happen as early as April. Its shares rose 3.3 percent to $62.40 after the comments, also spurred by better-than-expected quarterly results. Some analysts said Verizon Communications was the most likely company to bid for Alltel as Verizon Wireless uses the same CDMA network technology, making any merger easier. Verizon Wireless has the second-biggest U.S. customer base but leads in terms of revenue. Alltel, with 12 million customers, could also attract bids from AT&T's Cingular Wireless, Sprint Nextel or Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA, analysts said. Alltel has approached AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, and "made the rounds" among some private equity firms, but no one has jumped to buy the company yet, the source said. Michael Nelson, an analyst at Stanford Group, said private equity firms, which have bought a series of technology companies last year, were more likely acquirers than Alltel's wireless rivals. "I would say Verizon's the most likely strategic buyer," he said. But since Verizon has grown nicely on its own, "I still don't believe Verizon is a willing buyer of the asset unless their hand is forced and they risk losing it," Nelson added. Analysts said Alltel would likely aim for a sale agreement by April or May, ahead of a U.S. government sale of wireless airwaves that could take place as early as August. Rival bidders are barred from talking to each other once they register to take part in the auction. Analysts said No. 3 U.S. wireless provider Sprint Nextel could be a bidder as it also uses CDMA technology, but they note that Sprint's financial results have flagged in recent quarters as it struggled to integrate its Nextel purchase. Representatives for the companies in this story declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment. money.cnn.com
IRL may add 18th race to ’07 scheduleUPDATE #2 GULFPORT - City Hall is working a deal to bring professional auto racing to Jones Park, but one councilwoman seems to have her foot, at least gently, on the brakes.
The Indy Racing League, which features famed drivers Danica Patrick and Michael Andretti and team owner David Letterman, has announced plans to add another event to its 2007 schedule, and Gulfport appears to have won the race of cities hoping to land it.
The IRL reportedly has been in talks with Dallas-based Marquis Sports Marketing, which wants to bring the race to South Mississippi. The plan is to race on a temporary road course through Jones Park for about three years and, if the races are a success, build a permanent speedway somewhere in the city, making Gulfport an annual stop on the IRL circuit.
"The location in Gulfport is just wonderful and that's why the Gulfport-Biloxi area was our selection," said Stephen Kaminski, a spokesman for the marketing firm. "Hopefully we can get this approved within the next 24 hours and once we do the big announcement down there, then people are going to really understand exactly how big this is."
Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines expressed concern this week over a full-blown, 180-mph road race through Jones Park, which is under a restricted-deed agreement, preventing the exchange of money in some areas. More at Sun Herald
02/23/07 Jones Park is under consideration for an exhibition race in this year's IRL circuit. If the race is a success, a permanent speedway could be built for Gulfport. GULFPORT - City Hall is working a deal to bring professional auto racing to Jones Park, but one councilwoman seems to have her foot, at least gently, on the brakes.
The Indy Racing League, which features famed drivers Danica Patrick and Michael Andretti and team owner David Letterman, has announced plans to add another event to its 2007 schedule, and Gulfport appears to have won the race of cities hoping to land it.
The IRL reportedly has been in talks with Dallas-based Marquis Sports Marketing, which wants to bring the race to South Mississippi. The plan is to race on a temporary road course through Jones Park for about three years and, if the races are a success, build a permanent speedway somewhere in the city, making Gulfport an annual stop on the IRL circuit.
Name that mystery driver Gelles Racing Engineer Gerald Tyler has been working with elite German driver Maximilian Götz and F-1 experienced engineer Rodolfo Perdomo is working with American Skip Barber graduate Richard Heistand. “Maxi and Richard are doing great, follows Gelles; both are training extremely hard at Jim Leo’s Pit-Fit Training Academy in Indy. Luis Mussi did an outstanding job at Belle Rose, Louisiana. We also recently tested Alan Sciuto, Tim Bridgeman and South African Gavin Cronje. Tim pummeled the overall track record at Belle Rose last week in his Gelles Swift .016a and another very quick one who wants to remain anonymous.”
Will California Speedway lose one Cup race? Will all the initiatives and improvements that track president Gillian Zucker has implemented in the last year, will Sunday's Auto Club 500 finally be the success NASCAR has hoped for since it began to stage races at the two-mile facility 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles?
Or will Sunday be the final nail in the coffin, the event that leads to the suburban L.A. track no longer hosting two Nextel Cup races per year – especially with so many other tracks wanting their first Cup date (including Kentucky Speedway and Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis) and existing Cup tracks seeking a second annual race date (including Las Vegas, Chicagoland and Kansas)?
Last February's Auto Club 500 was a sad sight to see on TV and even worse in person. The grandstands, which hold 92,500 seats, were lucky if they were two-thirds full. Gaping holes along the front stretch and completely empty sections at both ends of the stands prompted lowly estimates of 60,000 attendees, tops. More at Yahoo! Sports
[Editor's Note: Small crowds were seen for both the Truck and Busch races the past two days despite a good number of Cup drivers racing in both. NASCAR's ploy to generate attention to its two lower tier series is to run as many big name stars as possible (i.e. ride on the back of the popularity of their 'stars'). Unfortunately they come in with the best equipment and the little guy has no chance to win.....unless you have a Toyota truck.]
Honda footing entire bill for F1 programUPDATE Added spy photo of the new Honda livery, courtesy of the Honda photo gallery in a hidden section.
02/24/07 (GMM) Honda's new car livery for the 2007 season features no sponsor logos, the London newspaper Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday.
After the RA107 tested this winter in all black colors, the Japanese squad will reveal the definitive paint job - rumored to be green or take images from Google Earth - on Monday at London's Natural History Museum.
It will reflect Honda's "commitment to raising environmental awareness" and is the brainchild of British pop mogul Simon Fuller's company '19 Entertainment', the newspaper said.
Sponsors will still appear on the drivers' overalls and in the garages, but it is already being suggested that the no-logo approach is a measure of Honda's failure to attract a decent replacement for departed title sponsor Lucky Strike.
With a new aerodynamic package, Honda's Jenson Button was third quickest in Bahrain testing on Friday.
Google may emerge as Honda F1 backerUPDATE A reader points out, Things couldn't be moving along better for Marco Andretti right now. If in fact an American company becomes title sponsor on the Honda F1 car, how long will we have to wait before the next American F1 hopeful, Marco, moves to the team? Charlie Werner
02/24/07 (GMM) With the latest rumors hinting at the signing of a major American sponsor, a photo of Honda's radical new livery for 2007 confirms speculation that 'Google Earth' imagery will be used.
With the exception of a couple of small references to Honda and Bridgestone, and the mysterious website myearthdream.com on the rear wing, the strikingly green and blue RA107 is to be devoid of sponsorship logos.
Detailed 'Google Earth' imagery has been used to depict the globe on the Honda racer, sparking suggestions that the American corporation might on Monday be announced as a 2007 backer.
The car will be officially unveiled at London's Natural History Museum.
GM may buy Chrysler to stay No. 1 Rumors have surfaced that GM may be interested in buying Chrysler so that it could significantly increase the number of cars it sells each year thereby putting some distance between itself and fast closing No.2 Toyota for bragging rights as the largest automotive manufacturer in the world.
Predictions are that Toyota will surpass GM for the No. 1 spot this year, and we hear GM execs are trying their best to remain as No. 1.
The bidding process for the Chrysler Group will begin as soon as next week, when private investors and automakers are expected to receive confidential data on the U.S. division of DaimlerChrysler AG.
Distribution of the detailed prospectus is the first step in a lengthy process that could lead to the sale of Chrysler to a private-equity firm or a rival automaker such as General Motors Corp.
Only a limited number of potential buyers will be given the document prepared by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the investment banker hired by DaimlerChrysler to manage a possible sale.
"We are not going to let every single company in the world in here," said one person close to Chrysler. "Serious companies are going to get a peek under the tent."
600-HP Corvette exposedUPDATE A Romulus loading dock worker not only took spy photos of a top-secret supercharged Chevrolet Corvette -- he took the super high-performance sports car for a test drive, according to a police report. The employee drove the prototype car, valued at $1 million, around a parking lot on Monday, and used a camera phone to take some 23 photos of the vehicle, the report states.
The report was obtained Friday by the gmsource.com automotive blog and posted to its Web site. Romulus police would not release the report to The Detroit News on Friday afternoon, saying it was part of an ongoing investigation. The incident took place at the Central States Trucking Co.'s facility near Detroit Metropolitan Airport the day before the vehicle was shipped to Germany
02/23/07 General Motors Corp. is investigating how photos of a vehicle identified as a top-secret, super high-performance Chevrolet Corvette showed up on several Web sites Thursday.
Several photos of the Corvette that showed both its exterior and engine began appearing Thursday on auto enthusiast Web sites such as Autoblog.com, Jalopnik.com and thegmsource.com. It's unclear where the photos were first posted.
The car was identified as a prototype of the 2009 Corvette SS, a 600-plus horsepower supercharged supercar dubbed by some as the "Blue Devil," after GM CEO Rick Wagoner's alma mater, Duke University.
’07 Aguri fails crash testUPDATE Because of the delay in getting the car redesigned and crash tested again, Autosport is reporting that the new Super Aguri car probably won't get unveiled until the F1 season opener in Australia.
01/23/07 Super Aguri's 2007 car has reportedly failed its mandatory FIA crash test.
It is widely believed that the car, to be designated 'SA07', is controversially a development of the 'RA106' that Honda raced in formula one in 2006. Super Aguri is already using last year's Honda in winter tests.
The Honda-powered team evidently made chassis modifications to the sides of the cockpit and the rear structure so that it would pass the stricter tests introduced for 2007. The setback could now delay the launch of the car until late February.
It is understood that the SA07 specifically failed the new rear-impact test after passing the frontal test. Whether the car passed the side test is not known.
Super Aguri was hoping to get the car running early next month.
Roush courting Gulf Oil Roush Racing's 50-50 partnership with John Henry's Fenway Sports Group, finally announced last week at Daytona International Speedway, might show an immediate return. One of the Boston Red Sox's longtime partners, Gulf Oil, has expressed an interest in a sponsorship position with Roush. Gulf, a Fenway Sports Group client based in Chelsea, Mass., distributes motor fuels and lubricants in about 2,600 branded gas stations, with a footprint that extends from Ohio to the east and Delaware to the north. The company's 65-foot logo is painted on the left-field wall at Fenway Park. "NASCAR really never made sense for us before because it is a national play and we're a regional company," said Richard Dery, Gulf's vice president of branded marketing and sales. "A race at Daytona doesn't do us a lot of good, but a race at Loudon, N.H. -- that could be a really fun day." Dery said his discussions with Roush have involved sponsorships for select races in Gulf's footprint, primarily the July 1 Lenox 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Gulf also could become the official motor oil of Roush Fenway Racing. Fenway Sports Group and the Red Sox are sister companies, both owned by John Henry, who said he hoped the partnership with Roush would vault FSG into a prominent position in sports marketing. Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service [Editor's Note: Sunoco isn't going to like this.]
NASCAR courting JetBlue NASCAR chief marketing officer Steve Phelps has been talking sponsor consolidation for the past year, but that might change if NASCAR can expand into previously untapped areas.
The airline category has been a difficult sell for NASCAR, but officials have been in discussions with JetBlue Airways about a partnership. The New York-based low-cost carrier offers 500 flights per day and provides 36 channels of DirecTV programming on its flights. DirecTV has been NASCAR's official satellite television provider since 2005.
Footwear is another category that remains unmined and could hold some potential, whether it's Starter, which is owned by Nike and has a new shoe and apparel deal with Joe Gibbs Racing, or Puma, a brand that's commonly seen in the garage area.
Expect NASCAR to also start pitching national real-estate companies, such as Century 21 and Re/Max, sources said. Sporting News
Ganassi eyes 4-car team in '08 Owner Chip Ganassi said he would like to expand his Nextel Cup stable to four teams by as early as next season, if he can secure sponsorship. Dan Wheldon, who drives for Ganassi's IndyCar team attended the Daytona 500 and has been fitted for a seat in a Busch car, is intrigued by the possibility. ''It would be perfect, right?'' Wheldon said this week. ``Chip has to let me try the NASCAR first, so I can see if I like that. That would be something I would definitely consider. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure I can take the IndyCar title back from Sam Hornish Jr.. If I do that, and I'm able to win the Indianapolis 500, it would be very hard to say no to a Cup opportunity like that. I've got to do that and have that opportunity presented to me before I can make a decision.'' Miami Herald
Indy to modify layout for 2008 US GP - report (GMM) The future of the US grand prix beyond June is unconfirmed, but should the race go ahead in 2008 it is reported that the F1 layout at Indianapolis could be changed.
The publication 'Motorcycle USA' claims that a round of the motorcycle grand prix series MotoGP may well be held at the fabled Motor Speedway next year; a move that would require a modification to the infield road course.
MotoGP's governing body, the FIM, has apparently already inspected the Indy road course "and approved it for racing".
But the Motorcycle USA report added: "No, the bikes won't take to the banking like the current formula one course.
"Instead the Speedway has drawn up plans to reconfigure the circuit to avoid that potentially dangerous section. And once that construction has taken place, the new configuration will also become the new F1 circuit."
Turn 13, the banked section that is actually Turn 1 of the Indy 500 oval layout, is already a contentious feature on the annual formula one schedule, after Michelin's tires in 2005 proved unsuitable and 14 cars refused to take the start of the race.
Ralf Schumacher, meanwhile, has crashed twice against the inside concrete wall and in 2004 broke his back.
Official confirmation of the MotoGP round at Indianapolis is expected in the next few weeks.
Champ Car eyes race at Dijon According to ChampCar.nl, Champ Car has had a few meetings with the Dijon, France track about a possible third European Champ Car race after Assen now that Zolder is rumored to be moving to August 26th, thereby creating a large gap in the schedule. The Dijon track is located in the hills west of Dijon, France. Recall also the rumor about Estoril, Portugal as well.
New IRL rules a disaster in the making Sam Hornish pans the IRL for changing the rules to give the cars more downforce this year, which will result in the 'pack' racing being even tighter. We all know from past experience what happens when IRL cars run in packs and two cars touch wheels - they crash, and they crash in a big way, many times resulting in driver injuries, and always resulting in major car damage.
"It will be a little bit tighter field, of course," said Hornish. "If you add more wing angle, it's going to make it a little bit easier for the cars to draft up, and the car will be easier to drive."
"The unfortunate part about it is that it's going to bring more of the pack together," he said. (i.e. even less talent required to run at the front of the grid than before.)
"I thought we saw a fantastic race in the closing laps last year. You had five or six guys fighting for the win and capable to win.
"You saw one of the closest finishes that we've had in IndyCar Series history. Why we're doing it, I'm not sure. But that's the choice of the technical group."
"It's very hard when you run that much wing to get any disparity between the top car and perhaps the slowest," he said.
"With the way that the rules are going in IndyCars, I think we're going to see even closer finishes."
British and French GPs under pressure The British and the French Grands Prix are both under pressure at the moment - even if the British Racing Drivers' Club at Silverstone seems to be blissfully unaware that Bernie Ecclestone was not kidding when he said that work must be done before the track will be granted a new contract after the current deal runs out in 2009. France seems to be willing to accept a situation in which it can alternate the race with Britain but there is likely to be considerable resistance to the idea in Britain - not least from the Formula 1 teams who consider the British event to be one of the most important for them.
The problem is that the Formula One group has a deal with the FIA which means that both races must remain on the calendar and the idea of alternation is one way to argue that this has been achieved.
There remains the possibility of a race at Donington Park in the longer term but the new "owners" of the track may not own quite as much as it has been suggested. Our understanding is that the track and the land are still owned by Tom Wheatcroft and that there is a lucrative leasing arrangement in place which gives the newcomers "ownership" of the land and facilities for an unknown fixed term. Wheatcroft has always said that he would be happy to host a Grand Prix but is not going to pay the kind of fees that the Formula One group is used to getting from the big government-backed races in the Middle East and Asia. Grandprix.com
NASCAR TV in Europe in jeopardyUPDATE #2 LIVE NASCAR Nextel Cup returns to NASN on Sunday February 25th and will air on Setanta Sports Ireland (Sky Channel 434 in UK and 429 in ROI). Tune in at 8pm for all the exciting racing action from the Auto Club 500. Check back on nasn.com for further announcements about additional motor sport programming on NASN.
02/04/07 In late 2006 there were reports of Setanta seeking to sell NASN, and a sale was soon confirmed, with ESPN purchasing NASN for €70m. Completion of the sale will be in the first quarter of 2007. It is not known if ESPN plans to change the channel's name from NASN to ESPN, bringing the channel's name in line with ESPN Classic (UK). However, at present, NASN Customer Services have confirmed that NASN will remain part of the Setanta Sports pack, thus guaranteeing the immediate future of NASN2.
It is thought that ESPN will use the new channel as a foothold to compete with BSkyB and Setanta for access to the FA Premier League when its bidding rights come up in 2009-10. And they may try to obtain broadcasting rights to the NFL were NASN don’t already hold the broadcast rights.
02/03/07 Rumors are growing that there could be no live Nextel Cup coverage for fans in Britain and the rest of Europe in 2007 as satellite TV station NASN struggles to reach an agreement with the series.
From the NASN Site: Here’s the rundown on NASCAR Coverage: We are currently in negotiations with NASCAR regarding coverage for the upcoming season. As soon as there is anything to report on the situation, we will announce it NASN
Champ Car sponsor announcements waiting in wingsUPDATE This rumor will soon go to 'fact.' In a press release today Champ Car stated that Thursday March 8th at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will feature a number of team and driver announcements as well as unveiling of new liveries for the 2007 season as Champ Car kicks off their 2007 Spring Training event.
02/14/07 AutoRacing1.com has learned through its inside sources that there will be many Champ Car and team sponsors announcements made between now and the first race of the season. Announcements are being held back to coincide with the media event/Spring Training to be held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The reason why all the cars are still testing with blank sidepods is for the reason stated above and the fact that these tests were meant to be focused on ironing the kinks out of the new Panoz chassis, and not meant to make a media impact. There will indeed be a minimum of 18 cars this year and that number still might go up depending how things shake out. We hear Forsythe Racing will, at the end of the day, run a 2nd car this year. Mark C.
Ford's USA racing budget Chris Economaki reports in National Speed Sport News that "Despite losing $12.7 billion last year, it was surprising to Ford Racing Technology headman Dan Davis that the parent company so quickly approved his estimated $20-million 2007 racing budget. Included in it is financing for nine full-time Nextel Cup cars. Savvy business types put Ford’s investment in NASCAR, including marketing, at just short of $100 million. Financial reasons, however, did dictate that FoMoCo end its Champ Car World Series support."
Rumors suggest that Toyota is spending $100M a year on its NASCAR racing budget, and that's not including marketing.
Ford could close more plants Struggling Ford Motors Co. could be forced to shutter seven more plants and ask its unions for a 20 percent cut to wages and benefits as it faces a financial "meltdown," a respected analyst said.
The recent dramatic decline in Ford's market share has brought the automaker to the brink of a crisis which could undermine the assumptions in its current restructuring plan, said Sean McAlinden, chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research.
"We're really, really worried about Ford," McAlinden said during a presentation to a group of investment bankers, journalists and human resources managers.
Brawn, Dennis and McLarenUPDATE (GMM) Mere days after he admitted that becoming Ferrari's team boss would be considered "an option", Ross Brawn is being linked with a possible switch to the McLaren team.
The rumor has emerged in the German publication Sport Bild, which claims that the Mercedes-powered camp might be on the lookout for a successor for Ron Dennis.
Mercedes' parent company DaimlerChrysler is reportedly looking to buy the rest of Dennis' personal stake in Woking based McLaren, after the Briton sold half to a Bahrain company.
It has been suggested that Dennis, who is approaching his sixtieth birthday, might shift his allegiance to Prodrive as the likelihood increases that David Richards' new entrant will use McLaren cars and a Mercedes engine in 2008.
Sport Bild added that Dennis may be negotiating with Richards to buy up to 70 per cent of the Prodrive grand prix team.
Brawn, 52, is this year taking a 'sabbatical', after following Michael Schumacher from Benetton to Ferrari in 1996 and serving as technical director ever since.
02/20/07 There are still rumors knocking around about the future of McLaren, despite the fact that a large share of the company was recently sold to Mumtalakat, a Bahraini government-owned holding company. There is talk that there are more clauses to this than meet than the eye with the suggestion being that as part of the deal Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh are going to sell their remaining shares in the team and have given DaimlerChrysler, which owns 40% of the company, a fixed deadline by which they must buy the shares or they will be sold elsewhere (presumably to Mumtalakat). If DaimlerChrysler does not take up the opportunity it will be in a minority shareholding situation, which may not appeal.
There continue to be rumors that a deal has already been done for Mercedes-Benz to supply its chassis and engines to Prodrive but that the F1 team will be owned in the future by Dennis (and perhaps Ojjeh as well?) which have agreed to buy the operation from David Richards. Grandprix.com
Verstappen, Doornbos in fight over race seatUPDATE #7 In this article on his website Jos Verstappen Former grand prix driver Jos Verstappen has ruled out racing in the US-based Champ Car series in 2007. The popular Dutchman, who contested more than 100 F1 races until 2003, revealed recently that he was in talks with the Forsythe team, but on Tuesday he said they had not reached a deal.
On his official website, the 34-year-old is quoted as blaming "politics and money". "A number of teams were interested but we have run out of time for me to be prepared well enough," Verstappen reportedly said by phone. He lamented the bad news by reflecting that he could have "sold out" Champ Car's new Dutch round if a team had snapped him up, "but apparently it is difficult for a driver to find a seat these days if he wants to be paid." He has been removed from our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page above.
02/12/07 Jos Verstappen says in this exclusive interview with Racexpress that he leaves the door open to get into Champ Car this year, even though he's not testing at Houston this week. He indicates his people are now in communication with another team. Perhaps Forsythe Racing wanted too much money and he will end up with perhaps a Conquest Racing, Minardi or Dale Coyne, who can usually field a car at a lower cost.
02/11/07 A reader from Holland writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Not having Verstappen in Champ Car will indeed result in a drop of 25,000 from the Assen race but even more from the Zolder race, as Zolder is much closer to the south of The Netherlands where most of the Dutch fan base of Verstappen are living. By the way: The Verstappen family lives in Belgium, around 20 km from the Zolder circuit and Jos is married to the daughter (Sophie) of one of the 'shareholders' of the Zolder circuit: Paul Kumpen.
The owners of CCWS apparently won't care less if the Europe races fail as they have sold the European race rights to Bart Rietbergen (Champ Car Europe) for an undisclosed figure which they will receive in any case. Both the European Champ Car race promoters though, Bart Rietbergen (Assen) and Meindert van Buuren (sub-contracted to promote Zolder) should start scratching their heads, as a certain seeming profit, for example from ticket sales, will now be significantly diminished.... Local 'heroes' like Doornbos and Heylen will help a little, but that’s about it ....
In the attachment you will find information about TV figures from RTL Television (Netherlands). It compares the number of A1GP live broadcasting viewers between the 05 - 06 season and the 06 - 07 (so far), or in other words the Verstappen and the non-Verstappen era. In total numbers have more than halved. These are the average numbers:
Year Qualifying Race 1 Race 2 05-06 78,000 123,000 166,000 06-07 21,000 58,000 88,000
Unfortunately the popularity of Doornbos is not even half of Verstappen’s (by far!) .... so I won't even mention Pastorelli or Zwolsman or even Heylen (for the Belgian fans) ....I wonder were this will lead to .....
At last years (05) A1GP race in Germany (Lausitz), there were more Dutch (i.e. Verstappen) fans (+/- 5,000) in the grandstands then Germans (total number 7.500). The Dutch fans had to travel around 750 km to get there. They also followed Verstappen all the around the globe in reasonable numbers (not in their thousands to Australia, of course). One can spot Dutch fans quite easily, as they wear orange clothing (in any sport and in all sorts of forms) and wave the Dutch flag (red-white-blue) enthusiastically. Apart from Zandvoort (where tickets were sold when everybody was still thinking Verstappen would compete) we (the Dutch) haven't seen anymore 'Dutch fans' at A1GP meetings.
As a big Champ Car fan I want to see Champ Car succeed in Europe this time, but unfortunately without Verstappen and his huge following, that appears doubtful. I have read where you said on several occasions that heroes make a sport, and this is just as true in Europe as it is in America. And if I can add, Ho-Pin Tung lives here in Holland but he is of course Chinese. I can tell you that he is the only Chinese driver that the media follows over there. I see no signs of him in Champ Car either, so the Zhuhai race won't be around long either. I was hoping with its new owners things would be different, but unfortunately I think Champ Car has a death wish. Marc Janssen
02/11/07 AutoRacing1.com has learned that Forsythe Racing will only test Paul Tracy in Houston, meaning Jos Verstappen (pictured right at the Durban, South Africa A1GP race last year) must have not been able to close the deal. He said he needed to test in Houston if he was to race this year, so unless he tests with another team, his chances of landing a Champ Car ride in 2007 have severely diminished. Strike about 25,000 people from Sunday's attendance in Assen, Holland as a result.....such is the huge popularity of Verstappen in Holland.
02/10/07 AutoRacing1.com has learned that Minardi Team USA will be running Robert Doornbos at MSR Houston on Monday and Tuesday of this coming week. If Doornbos is again testing for Minardi that would indicate that he is not the driver who is trying to outbid Verstappen for the second Forsythe seat and we expect that is either Nelson Philippe or Tiago Monteiro if he is indeed out of the running for any F1 seat as it now appears. We hear that Verstappen has come up with a good deal of sponsorship, we assume from Trust. If both Verstappen and Doornbos drive in Champ Car in 2007 expect the two European races to attract huge crowds. And of course rumors persist that another Dutchman, Nicky Pastorelli, is trying to do a deal with Paul Gentilozzi's team.
02/10/07 Recall our previous rumors that Nelson Philippe was negotiating with Forsythe about a possible race seat. Apparently he is still in the mix for the Forsythe seat as well. Most likely it will come down to who has the most money. It is quite possible we will see Doornbos (with Meurmans money) at Forsythe Racing and Philippe and possibly Verstappen (with Trust money) at Minardi. Philippe drove for Minardi last year when it was the CTE Racing/HVM team and Verstappen has a history with Minardi and Stoddart from F1, so when all the chips fall that appears to be a likely scenario. As Verstappen wrote in his column, if he is to drive in Champ Car this year he wants to be at the Houston test on Monday and Tuesday, which means he must fly from Europe on Sunday morning.....meaning this must get itself sorted out quickly.
Ganassi to field Lexus ALMS entryUPDATE By the looks of this Team Lexus website, Lexus does not appear like it will race in ALMS in 2007 either. Rumor has it Toyota got the order from Daytona not to field a car in the competing ALMS Series when they would like them to spend more in Grand-Am. Toyota isn't about to get Daytona mad at them.....now would they? Not fast enough for ALMS, the car ended up in Grand-Am Cup (right) where Lexus wasted their money with zero exposure.
11/10/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Chip Ganassi has agreed to take over the floundering Lexus ALMS GT2 program that has yet to get off the ground after being announced over a year ago. Ganassi of course also fields a Lexus entry in the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype series.
Silver Crown cars to run at Darlington? Open-wheel racing was Harold Brasington's original inspiration for building Darlington Raceway. He'd seen cars racing at Indianapolis and wanted to duplicate that excitement in South Carolina.
But since the track opened as NASCAR's first superspeedway with the 1950 Southern 500, Darlington has come to be known for stock-car racing. Open-wheel cars haven't been there in more than 50 years.
That will change next week, however. The U.S. Auto Club will hold a test session for its Silver Crown series cars at Darlington next Thursday and Friday.
The USAC Silver Crown series is in its second year of competition with a new style car built for competition on pavement. The cars weigh 1,700 pounds without a driver, roughly half the weight of a Nextel Cup car, and have engines that generate 750 to 800 horsepower. ThatsRacin.com
GM, DCX talks seriousUPDATE General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, stands a 50 percent chance of buying DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit and may seek the purchase as a "defensive maneuver," Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy said today, according to Bloomberg News.
"Given the transformation the U.S. industry is beginning, we would not rule out a tie-up," Murphy, who is based in New York, said in a note to investors today. "GM may view the acquisition as a defensive maneuver to box out new competition."
GM and DaimlerChrysler are discussing options including a sale of the unprofitable Chrysler division, people with knowledge of the talks said Feb. 16. DaimlerChrysler said on Feb. 14 it was exploring "all options" for the Auburn Hills-based unit after Chrysler posted a $1.5 billion loss for last year.
Buying Chrysler might give Detroit-based GM more leverage with the United Auto Workers union and truck-manufacturing technology that could be used in common, Murphy said. He rates GM shares a "buy" and doesn't have a recommendation for Stuttgart, Germany-based DaimlerChrysler. Detroit News
02/19/07 General Motors Corp. has been in talks for two months with DaimlerChrysler AG about acquiring all of the troubled Chrysler Group and folding its operations into GM, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The first contact occurred in December, when GM Chairman Rick Wagoner and DaimlerChrysler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche met in Detroit to discuss the blockbuster idea of GM buying Chrysler from its German parent company.
While a deal is far from certain, at least four meetings have taken place involving Wagoner and GM's chief financial officer, Fritz Henderson, and Zetsche and DaimlerChrysler's CFO Bodo Uebber. Talks are said to be ongoing, primarily between Henderson and Uebber.
Sirius and XM Satellite may mergeUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.
01/18/07 U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin said on Wednesday licenses held by XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. prevent them from combining, but one industry expert said the licenses could be modified. "There's a prohibition on one entity owning both of those licenses," Martin told reporters during a news conference after an agency meeting. But he also said the FCC would examine any transaction submitted to it.
01/13/07 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today. Shares of satellite radio operators XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. rose Friday, on speculation that the companies might merge or combine in another way. Shares of XM Satellite added 74 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $17.12 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq. The stock has traded between $9.63 and $29.57 in the past 52 weeks. Sirius Satellite shares added 18 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $4.08 on the Nasdaq, where it has traded between $3.50 and $6.51 in the past 52 weeks.
"We believe a 50/50 enterprise value split or perhaps a slight premium to XM shareholders may be warranted in a merger scenario," Stifel Nicolaus analyst Kit Spring said in a Thursday client note, keeping a "Buy" rating on XM shares. Businessweek.com
11/29/06 An attempt to merge Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., the two largest pay-radio providers, is likely to occur within the next 18 months, Denver-based analyst Kit Spring of Stifel Nicolaus & Co. said.
A combination would create $650 million in annual savings, Spring said in a report published Nov. 27. He put the chances of a bid by one side or the other at 75 percent.
XM and Sirius have spent billions of dollars on competition with each other, signing up celebrities such as Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, Bob Dylan and Oprah Winfrey. Their share prices have each declined by more than one-third this year, partly because of investor concerns over marketing and programming costs.
"A successful merger could create $7 billion of shareholder value," Spring wrote. He has a "buy" rating on both stocks. More at Bloomberg
Monteiro eyes Champ Car return In this Hot News item Portuguese F1 driver Tiago Monteiro was quoted as saying that he will look for a race seat outside of F1 in 2007. Meanwhile the IRL's Brian Barnhart recently said that the IRL is looking at possibly adding a race in Portugal, which came out of left field and it was assumed Monteiro must have been tied to those negotiations. Why else would the IRL race in Portugal?
However, AutoRacing1.com has since leaned that the former Portuguese Champ Car driver is talking to Conquest Racing, Team Minardi USA and Forsythe Racing about a possible Champ Car ride in 2007 as he feels Champ Car is his best possibility for a return to F1 someday. At Conquest he is up against Belgian Jan Heylen for the seat as Heylen might have the backing of the Belgian Champ Car race promoter and team owner Eric Bachelart is also Belgian. Over at Minardi he is rumored to be up against Mario Dominguez, Dan Clarke and Nelson Philippe.
Having said all that, recall our assumption in the Jos Verstappen rumor that when Jos alluded to another driver bidding to get the coveted second Forsythe seat that it was not Robert Doornbos as most assumed, but in fact it was Tiago Monteiro, which we now hear is indeed the case.
Recall how well Monteiro did in Champ Car back in 2003 when he was in a lowly Reynard (pictured right in the Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing Reynard at Laguna Seca) up against a field full of Lolas. Now with the entire field having the same Panoz DP01 don't be surprised if Monteiro makes quite an impact.
Recall also back then our rumors (see February 11, 2003 rumor on this rumor archive page) that Monteiro and his backers were trying to convince Champ Car to race at Estoril outside of Lisbon, Portugal. In fact it was so close to happening this CART.com article said it was likely to be added as a third race on the then CART European swing in 2003 and then President Chris Pook made a number of trips to Europe regarding this. At the time Emerson Fittipaldi said in no uncertain terms, "for sure, we are looking to race at Estoril in Portugal next year. I'm sure it's going to happen and it's one of the reasons why there's interest from Portugal in Champ Cars." The Portuguese government (who owns the track) and the bureau of tourism were both interested in a CART race in 2003. Estoril motorsport director Marc Piedade (pictured left) was quoted as saying he is trying hard to land a CART race on May 18th of that year. We discussed this a number of times that year with Piedade.
Which takes up back to the Brian Barnhart statement about possibly racing in Portugal. While this makes absolutely no sense for the IRL (The IRLers say their American sponsors only want them racing in the USA), in fact it does make sense for Champ Car to add it as a third race in September of this year to help plug the huge gap in the schedule caused when the Zolder race gets moved from September 9th to August 26th (rumored). Since losing its F1 event Estoril has tried to reestablish itself with another big-time event. If Monteiro lands a Champ Car seat, don't be surprised if Estoril again tries to land a Champ Car race.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next two weeks because by the time Champ Car goes to Laguna Seca for its final preseason test, any driver who is not in a seat by then will be firmly behind the 8-ball when the Las Vegas season opener rolls around.
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