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Another driver to test for HVM too Besides Jos Verstappen, it looks like the HVM team will be testing more drivers as it tries to decide who will be in the 2nd seat. Former Toyota Atlantic Dane Ronnie Bremer's press officer has issued an official statement in Denmark. It says that Bremer will test a Champ Car with the HVM team Wednesday and has a good chance of landing a seat in Champ Car. Bremer himself has stated several times this winter that he had a chance of a seat in Champ Car. However he has also said (at that time) he has no sponsorship to bring along. If this is still the case, does he really have a chance of landing a seat? The press release also said that he is now working with Rick Gorne as manager.
Williams calls for team meetingUPDATE The Formula 1 team principals got together twice on Sunday morning in Sepang and at the end drafted and agreed a letter which is to be sent to Fiat chairman Luca di Montezemolo, indicating their discontent with the way in which Ferrari is making decisions about its involvement in Formula 1 at the moment. The letter will be published immediately after the Malaysian Grand Prix. The document is, as we understand it, signed by all the teams except Ferrari and its engine customer Peter Sauber. The Swiss team owner is in an impossible situation and is not saying where he stands but that position is obviously being influenced by the question of engines. In part from Grandprix.com03/19/05 The Formula 1 team bosses gather in Kuala Lumpur this morning for a meeting called by Sir Frank Williams. It is not clear why the meeting has been called but the rumors suggest it is to discuss Ferrari's decision to test without restriction, a move which appears to be motivated by the desire to break up the alliance of the other nine teams.
Villenueve won’t last out the yearUPDATE #5 Jacques Villeneuve gave Sauber more ammunition to replace him when he lost control of his car under braking for turn one on lap 29 and spun into the gravel trap and out of the Malaysian GP race. 03/19/05 In Malaysia Jacques Villeneuve remained a second or more slower than teammate Felipe Massa in every session. The latest rumor in the Formula 1 paddock on Saturday morning is that Sauber will do a deal with McLaren to get Alexander Wurz into the second car to replace Jacques Villeneuve. 03/16/05 As reported exclusively by AutoRacing1.com back on February 13th that Villeneuve would not last out the year with Sauber due to poor winter testing performance, Autosport.com now reveals - Sauber have opened talks with Anthony Davidson as a possible replacement for Jacques Villeneuve. The BAR third driver was approached by Sauber to ascertain his availability to race for the Swiss team this season, and according to the magazine, should Villeneuve fail to meet performance clauses in his two year contract, the team can dispense with his services.
Villeneuve's poor performance in winter testing, sharpened by his public failure at the Australian Grand Prix, is a matter of some concern to Sauber. Disputes over tire choice caused tension within the team, which was heightened by his disappointing result relative to teammate Felipe Massa.
However, speaking exclusively to Autosport, Villeneuve remained defiant, arguing that the team has done little to accommodate him. "There has to be some adjustment on both sides, and that means from the team as well, working on set-ups and whatever," the 1997 World Champion said.
"If I had arrived here as a Formula One rookie then I would expect to be told what to do, but when you arrive with eight or nine years' experience and you want to take things to the highest level, you have to push and maybe that's uncomfortable."
03/11/05 Jacques Villeneuve struggled for pace in the Australian Grand Prix recording just the 15th fastest lap of the race. Villeneuve told his own website why he was unable to lap on the pace of his one-stop teammate Felipe Massa. “I did not get any front grip in the first few laps and I lost many positions,” said Villeneuve of his start that saw him slide backwards from his fourth position on the grid. “After this, my car did not have enough downforce and I struggled to keep the pace with the rest of the field. I had soft tires on and I think it clearly wasn't the right choice. The car was moving a lot and after the first pit stop - it was just too slow.” 03/10/05 More evidence Villeneuve has lost the edge and won't last out the year. What Sauber appears to struggling with at the moment is the pace of Jacques after that. Felipe Massa, at the back of the grid and starting with a heavy load of fuel, running only one stop, managed a best time of 1m26.893s on his 55th lap of the race. Jacques Villeneuve's best lap, set on lap 54, was 1m27.745s, eight-tenths of a second slower than Massa, despite the fact that Villeneuve was running a two-stop strategy. This performance begs a number of questions because in theory at least Massa's tires should have been in a lot worse shape than those of Villeneuve when they got into the final laps of the race. Instead Massa was considerably quicker and had gone from the back of the grid to 10th place, while Villeneuve had gone from fourth to 13th. Five of those positions can be blamed on the first lap but the rest - another four - were due to Villeneuve's lack of pace. Peter Sauber may not be saying much but he is obviously disappointed. "I'm reluctant to make a judgment," he said. "I really can't explain the difference, which is a big one at that. It's actually bigger than it seems. For the start, and after the first pit stop, Felipe Massa was driving with a heavy fuel load - in contrast to all the other drivers, who made two pit stops, Massa was driving with a one-stop strategy." Grandprix.com02/13/05 Rumors are already starting that Jacques Villeneuve won't last the full year at Sauber. He was smoked by teammate Jenson Button at BAR that resulted in him being fired by the team after 2003. Renault picked him up for the last three races of the 2004 season and teammate Alonso easily beat Villeneuve in every qualifying session and race. So far this year at Sauber teammate Felipe Massa has buried Villeneuve in just about every test session. Villeneuve has used the excuse that the new Sauber suits Massa's driving style and not his, the fact of the matter is that Villeneuve appears to have lost the edge, and in F1, where performing on the track is everything, that means he won't be around much longer.
Daytona's HOF bid may be in trouble Political trouble has the city's drive to bring the NASCAR hall of fame to Daytona Beach sputtering like a car with engine trouble. City Manager Jim Chisholm told city commissioners in an e-mail Thursday he would suspend the city's campaign. And though he later backed off making that announcement, the city's caution flags have state lawmakers rethinking their commitment to the project. The trouble started Wednesday when commissioners voted 6-1 to support building the hall of fame but wouldn't discuss putting up $20,000 to help pay an estimated $200,000 cost to develop a proposal. Local lawmakers were seeking $75 million in state funding to build the hall of fame. They fear Wednesday's commission action will make it even harder to sell the project to the Legislature.
With the Florida Marlins and Orlando Magic also looking for help with stadium projects, some lawmakers, including Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, have said they are reluctant to spend tax dollars on sports projects. To make the NASCAR project more palatable, King, Patterson and Daytona Beach lobbyist Sam Bell said Thursday they have revamped -- and scaled back -- their proposal for state funding. Initially, Daytona officials requested that the state commit $75 million over 25 years to help pay for building the hall of fame. Money would come from state sales taxes generated by the hall of fame. A revamped proposal seeks $30 million over 25 years. Also, it calls for creating a NASCAR-themed license tag, with proceeds from the sale of the tag going to the state to pay back the $30 million. Bell, a former Volusia County lawmaker, said the hall of fame initially was expected to cost about $75 million, but that estimate has been reduced to about $60 million. He said the state money would make up half of that amount, with the rest coming from sources such as sponsorships and land donations by the city and county. NASCAR set a May 31 deadline for proposals from areas including Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Kansas City, Kan., Richmond, Va., Talladega, Ala., and the state of Michigan. in part from the Daytona Beach News Journal
F1 dispute to be resolved McLaren boss Ron Dennis expects the future of Formula One to become clearer next month. The current Concorde Agreement, which governs the sport, expires in 2007 and little progress has been made toward finding consensus on how to progress beyond that date.
Ferrari have already signed with Ecclestone but the other nine teams are united in demanding a new order in Formula One. Dennis today revealed that the aims and proposals of that group will become clearer in the coming weeks.
He said: “I anticipate some agreement will be put in place in the next month that will carry a headline title, but it’s not for me to anticipate what that will be. The process is coming forward. Working groups are focused on the key areas and manufacturers are involved.”
Toyota Atlantic team moving to Champ CarUPDATE #4 This rumor is now 'fact' as first reported by AutoRacing1.com several days ago. See story on our Home page. 03/15/05 We are hearing that the first of two official announcements about this new team won't be made until this weekend. The official launch in a "major" city is tentatively slated for March 30th. 03/14/05 We hear this team has hired some mechanics and engineers from Formula 1 so they might pull a few surprises later in the year once they get an understanding of the Lola. 03/14/05 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that this new team will start the season in Long Beach and run the full season. We are embargoed from revealing any further details until the announcement later this week. 03/13/05 Sources tell us that a new Champ Car team will be announced possibly as early as this coming week. The team will be an existing Toyota Atlantic team that is making the step up to Champ Car. While our source was not specific, it could be the Eric Jensen team. Jensen already said he would run a partial schedule starting in Toronto months ago.
Verstappen again eyes Champ CarUPDATE #12 Verstappen will test for HVM at Sebring this coming week. See Hot News item. 03/18/05 Jos Verstappen is still gunning for a Champ Car drive. The highly popular Dutchman, who watched Australia's F1 grand prix from a lounge chair, is hopeful that talks with 'Fittipaldi Racing' may bear fruit. He warned on his website: ''But just like F1, it's all about money. ''Some teams are asking for even more (money) than in F1.'' [Editor's Note: AutoRacing1.com already reported that Fittipaldi will not have a Champ Car team in 2005, so Verstappen to Champ Car is looking less likely by the day. If some Champ Car owners are asking for more money than some F1 teams it's time for a reality check for some team owners.] 03/10/05 According to reports out of the Netherlands today, Verstappen still hopes to land a Champ Car ride by the end of March. He says his best chances are with Emerson Fittipaldi's team, which would be run out of PKV Racing's shop if it happens. The team would use Lolas. Word is that all Champ Car races may be shown live on RTL5 in the Netherlands, and his sponsorship may be hinged around that. Without question, RTL5 is the station to be on in Holland. If this deal comes together that late there will be no time for testing. If Champ Car wants the very popular Dutchman, they need to get this deal done ASAP or he will struggle terribly. Champ Car would be wise to get him in someone's Champ Car at the upcoming test in Sebring so he doesn't go into Long Beach cold turkey should his deal with Fittipaldi come together. 02/21/05 By the end of the week, F1's Dutch nearlyman Jos Verstappen should know what he's doing in 2005. The 32-year-old, earlier hopeful of one more go on the grand prix grid, is now aiming for American Champ Car racing. He told The Netherlands' Race Report magazine: ''I would have liked to have done some testing by now ... (but) I don't need many miles to adjust to a racing car. There's still time.'' Verstappen, born in Monfort, last raced for Minardi in 2003. 01/26/05 Verstappen, 32, last raced in F1 for Minardi in 2003 and has been linked to tests with Rocketsports, Conquest Racing and Emerson Fittipaldi’s resurrected team. “I want to be in a car that enables me to show how good I am,” said the Dutchman. “I want to be able to overtake, I want to fight for positions, I want to be running for podium places. That is what I expect to find in America. First of all I will be talking to the teams, then I will go testing and a decision will be made only after that.” After a career including stints with Benetton, Simtek, Arrows, Tyrrell, Stewart and Minardi, the Dutchman says he is tired of scraping around at the back of the F1 grid. “In F1 you depend too much on the equipment and the political games,” he said. “Driving the car is awesome, but I found the driver only plays a minor role when it comes down to performance.” Autosport Magazine01/21/05 Jos Verstappen's regional newspaper "Dagblad de Limburger" reports today that Jos is traveling to the USA next week and will test a Champ Car February 1-3, we assume at Sebring. Verstappen feels that he will draw far more attention in Holland for Champ Car than Albers will in F1 running for backmarker Minardi. Jos is far more popular and has a huge fan club. Besides Trust, he may also bring Dutch TV along as a sponsor. 01/18/05 According to reports in the Dutch media today, Verstappen is talking to Conquest, Rocketsports and a third unnamed team (thought to be Fittipaldi Racing) about a Champ Car ride for 2005. The reports say he will bring Trust as a sponsor. We suspect this will all play out, one way or the other, in two weeks or so as the time is getting close for Champ Car's Spring Training. Mark C.01/07/05 Per the other rumors that he is about to sign with Minardi in F1, Verstappen starts rumors in Champ Car every year to get F1 to stand up and take notice, but he never even comes to the USA for a Champ Car test. We'll believe it when we see it. This rumor is downgraded to speculation. 01/06/05 We are hearing that Verstappen is coming to the USA in the coming weeks and will test for either Forsythe or Walker Racing. 12/24/04 To clarify Verstappen's F1 record, he drove for the following teams, none of them top teams. His last year was 2003 where he teamed with Justin Wilson. He outqualified Wilson more times than not. Ditto did he beat Kiesa when Kiesa filled in for Wilson later in the season. He has the speed, but will he get the chance?: '94 Benetton '95 Simtek '96 Arrows '97 Tyrrell '98 Stewart Racing 2000 Arrows 2001 Arrows 2003 Minardi 12/24/04 This Dutch website article quotes Verstappen as saying they are working hard to put a deal together in Champ Car. F1 appears to be out of reach at the moment. Champ Car would be wise to pick up Verstappen. He is a VERY popular driver and has a huge fan base in Europe. He drove for Arrows when he was in F1, but then the team went bankrupt. Put this guy in a decent ride and Champ Car will move up a notch on the popularity ladder, especially in the Netherlands. Champ Car lost Albers, another Dutchman, to Minardi, but Verstappen is far more popular. Champ Car needs desperately to develop and hire drivers who car or already are heroes in order to rekindle its popularity. 12/18/04 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong.' This Raceplanet.net article says Verstappen's sponsor Harry Meurmans (of Meurmans Vastgoed) decides where Jos will drive. Quote Meurmans: "Jos needs to focus on Champ Car in 2005." Despite tests by Albers and Pastorelli, Verstappen is still the big star in Holland. He has a huge fan base, even outside of Holland. The women go gaga over his good looks. Albers would be great for Champ Car too as he did make a name in Germany and Holland with DTM. Mark C.12/18/04 It looks like Champ Car's Eurosport TV deal is starting to pay off as European drivers with European sponsors now have something to sell and a lot of drivers with sponsors are knocking on Champ Car team owner doors. Jos Verstappen, healing up nicely following a karting accident this past summer, recently drove the Minardi 2-seater in South Africa. Our sources in Holland tell us he has given up on the notion of landing an F1 ride again and will instead focus on trying to do something in Champ Car and has one of his Dutch sponsors behind him. We have of course heard these rumors about Jos in past years, but at 30-years old and with live TV in Europe, all of a sudden Champ Car looks a lot more promising. It's interesting to note what a positive impact a good TV deal can do for Champ Car. The damage that was done to the series last year because of the poor TV coverage was unconscionable. Mark C.
'Loophole' still open? Did an FIA 'clarification' really close the loophole in F1's two-race engine rule? Renault's top engine honcho, Denis Chevrier, doesn't think so. He told a media mob in Malaysia that a driver could still 'deliberately' exploit the clause allowing a new engine to be fitted in the case of a DNF. ''Maybe (the driver) could over-rev an engine,'' said the Frenchman, ''perhaps by spinning. How will the FIA decide?''
Two Americans to test F1 car Neel Jani and America's Scott Speed will test for the F1 team next week, Red Bull said in Malaysia. The 'GP2' duo's run is a 'one off,' a statement added. Jani and 22-year-old Speed will drive last year's Jaguar at Barcelona. ''We decided to introduce Speed to F1,'' said team principal Christian Horner. Jani has already run for Red Bull and Sauber. We also hear that American Colin Fleming will also get a chance to drive the Red Bull car.
Would BAR release Davidson? Test and reserve driver Anthony Davidson may be racing for BAR in Malaysia, but would the team release him if Sauber came knocking? Tech director Geoff Willis, insisting that Peter Sauber has made 'no enquiries' about replacing Jacques Villeneuve with the Englishman, told the media that 'Ant' is 'a BAR driver. ''If we did discuss (it),'' he added, ''it would only be about 2005, as we haven't made our driver decisions for next year. ''That's our position.'
Chinese to buy Fiat There is speculation in the German media that Fiat Auto may have found a savior in the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, the Chinese car company which is in the process of completing a joint venture agreement with the ailing British car firm MG Rover. Discussions between Fiat Auto and SAIC have been made public by Fiat although this was only related to possible deals in the Chinese market. However it is logical that such a deal could lead to a bigger involvement. Both companies have previously denied the stories but the statement from SAIC was carefully worded.
"At present, SAIC has not signed an agreement with any company related to the restructuring of Fiat," the company said in January.
SAIC has joint ventures with Volkswagen and General Motors in China but is looking to expand internationally and has money to spend. Last year it acquired a 49% shareholding in South Korean company Ssangyong.
SAIC is one of the three top automobile groups in China but only recently consolidated all of its automotive assets in a company called the Shanghai Automotive Group. These include Shanghai Volkswagen, a joint venture established in 1985 which builds VW Santana, Passat, Polo and Golf models at Anting International Auto City in the northwestern suburbs of Shanghai, producing 450,000 cars a year. The company recently took over GM's shares in Jinbei GM, which was established in 1998 to build Chevrolet Blazers in China. A separate joint venture with GM known as Shanghai GM also builds Buick Regal, Excelle, Sail and GL8 models, building 200,000 vehicles a year.
The future of Fiat Auto is important to Formula 1 because its financial success will help secure Ferrari's future in Grand Prix racing as the company has been underwriting Ferrari's F1 activity for many years. Grandprix.com
Fox Sports Loses David Hill, More NASCAR on DirecTV? Rupert Murdoch on Thursday tapped his longtime go-to guy, David Hill, to become president of the newly created DirecTV Entertainment group, with a goal of jazzing up the satellite television giant's offerings. One of sports' most influential executives, Hill will remain chairman of the Fox Sports Television Group but will give up day-to-day management duties. News Corp. owns Fox and is DirecTV's largest shareholder. The 58-year-old Hill will join El Segundo-based DirecTV Group Inc. on April 11 and report to DirecTV Chief Executive Chase Carey. At Fox Sports, Hill earned a reputation for innovation. He instituted such flourishes as fixed scoreboards at the bottom of the screen, the yellow first-down line in professional football and "Catcher Cam" for Major League Baseball games. He also is credited with developing NASCAR's popularity as a television sport. Now, Hill said he planned to augment DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package, which has about 2 million subscribers. He also is contemplating more shows about the action surrounding a NASCAR race, "the behind the scenes stuff that you never see." His continued presence with Fox Sports will allow him to integrate more of Fox's offerings into DirecTV, the company said. LA Times
No Haberfeld in 2005 Despite speculation by some that he will go elsewhere after losing his chance to land a seat at Walker Racing, we are hearing that Mario Haberfeld probably won't end up on the starting grid for this year's Champ Car season. Working against Haberfeld may be the fact that Champ Car is not racing in Brazil. Champ Car is trying to get at least one driver from each country it races in. That will be difficult for Korea this year, however. We expect to see at least one driver from Korea in the Toyota Atlantic series this year. Mark C.
Tagliani all set for 2005UPDATE #6 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with the announcement that Tagliani will drive for Walker Racing in 2005. See Hot News page We have also updated our 2005 Silly Season Page. . 03/18/05 A deal that would pair Toronto's Paul Tracy and Montreal's Alex Tagliani at Forsythe Championship Racing in the Champ Car World Series is in the works, the Toronto Sun has been told. Tagliani was dumped by Rocketsports Racing owner Paul Gentilozzi a week ago after the team failed to renew several sponsorship agreements. There had been some speculation that Tagliani could end up at HVM Racing or Walker Racing - both second-tier teams - but the news yesterday about a possible return to Forsythe was welcomed by the 32-year-old veteran. "I would like to be with Forsythe," Tagliani was quoted as saying by Speed TV. Tagliani had spent three years with the team along with fellow Quebecer Patrick Carpentier, but was let go after Player's - then a partner in the team with Forsythe - hired Tracy after the 2002 season. But yesterday Tagliani was jumping for joy at the prospect of going back to his old team. "They always have a hell of a car," Tagliani said. "If there's even a slight chance for me to go there, I'll take it and be grateful for the rest of my life." 03/17/05 Paul Gentilozzi sets the record straight on Alex Tagliani in this RSN.ca article. 03/16/05 Alex Tagliani would love to be back at Forsythe Racing. He was quoted in this week's Autosport Magazine - "I would like to be with Forsythe," said Alex Tagliani, "They always have a hell of a car. If there is even a slight chance for me to go there, I will take it, and be thankful for the rest of my life!" 03/15/05 As reported here first - It seems that Alex Tagliani will have a team to race for after all. Molson Sports and Entertainment CEO Jo-Ann McArthur told the Toronto Sun Tuesday that the Lachenaie, Quebec native will have a new Champ Car World Series team to race for by the end of the week. "(Molson) has been assured that Tags will be racing in Champ Car this season," McArthur told the paper. "I don't know what team it is but I do know that he has a ride." McArthur added that Molson Breweries pressured Champ Car officials to have him on the 2005 grid and that an announcement will be made in the coming days. On Monday, the Sun reported that Tagliani was let go by Rocketsports Racing, contradicting an apparent verbal agreement made at the end of last season with team owner Paul Gentilozzi. The beer giant sponsors the Toronto Molson Indy and the Molson Indy Montreal and didn't want to see Tagliani gone, especially after Patrick Carpentier bolted for the Indy Racing League. TSN.ca03/14/05 This SPEED TV article says Tagliani can end up at Walker Racing. He's waiting to hear. This will surprise us because it's thought Mario Haberfeld will be at Walker with an Australian driver, possibly Marcus Marshall or David Besnard who did so well in his only start to date - Australia, 2004. 03/13/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned from an inside source at Champ Car that Canadian Alex Tagliani will absolutely have a Champ Car ride in 2005, so Canadian fans can stop worrying. We expect an announcement on Tagliani soon. Mark C.
More changes in store for NASCAR Last week at Las Vegas, Larry McReynolds moderated a roundtable discussion with car manufacturers, Goodyear, NASCAR's tire manufacturer, and NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, and talked about the state of the sport. You always get the feeling that these manufacturers know another rule change is lurking. You don't always know what it might be. It may be another 1/4 or 1/2 inch off of the rear spoiler down the road, and you get the feeling that they can't and won't quit thinking about it because the potential for change is always out there. FoxSports
What is Champ Car waiting for? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, we all know the problems with landing sponsors, the late TV package and so on. However, Long Beach is just three weeks away and there are only eleven confirmed drivers.....only plenty of rumors and expected, but not done announcements! What are they waiting for? Or are they in serious trouble? Alexander and his friends in Germany Dear Alexander, On the surface it appears Champ Car is reeling. However, we are told by Champ Car that everything is on schedule and we will see a whole host of announcements between now and Long Beach. There is expected to be a number of announcements at the Sebring test next week where a number of media will be gathered. We also expect to hear more about the Atlantic team moving up to Champ Car on Saturday. Mark C.
Renault 'might pull out' Mark Webber has admitted to feeling 'worried' about the future of Formula One. Faced with 'BMW-and-Williams-to-split' chitchat and general uncertainty about the championship post-2007, Williams' Australian driver said he would not waste time attempting to 'crystal ball.' But Webber, 28, told newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald: ''Where will Ferrari be in two years? ''How stable are McLaren? We don't know. ''If Renault win the championship they might pull out.''
Prost to return According to Paddock speculation, four time world champion Alain Prost will return to a grand prix-like car in 2005. The Frenchman, 50 and already a regular in a tin-top 'ice racing' category, is slated to contest a one off 'grand prix masters' race at Kyalami (in South Africa) in November. A full championship should follow in the summer of 2006. 1980 world champion Alan Jones would be another notable starter, as would Johnny Herbert, the rumor mill stated.
Sauber to BMW, Williams to Cosworth power?UPDATE #3 Williams has categorically denied rumors that it could split with its engine partner BMW. "We have a long-term alliance with BMW and we are very, very happy with it," said team principal Frank Williams. Any close partnership like this will have the occasional issue, but fundamentally we have an excellent team." "Several weeks ago, five of the manufacturers announced they would supply independent teams with an engine," said Williams. "We strongly support this initiative because it underpins the future of Formula 1." The Williams to Cosworth portion of this rumor is 'false.' Now it remains to be seen if Sauber gets BMW engines too. 03/16/05 Speculation that BMW will join Sauber as an engine supplier or full partner in 2006 continues to grow. One senior BMW source said: “The bosses at BMW are fed up with Williams’s behavior. The board members ask why they pay millions and millions but have no say in what goes on.” Peter Sauber said: “I’m in contact with several manufacturers, and one of them is BMW.” Autosport Magazine03/14/05 It is reported that Sir Frank Williams has kicked off the hunt for a new engine partner. According to speculation, BMW - not happy with Williams' progress since 2000, and the team not willing to sell a chunk - are looking into buying Credit Suisse's 65% Sauber share. Frank, the wheelchair-bound chief, has apparently already made contact with Cosworth, and Toyota. GMMF1 03/12/05 With BMW not happy with the Williams team performance there is talk BMW may add the Sauber team to its lineup and may in fact actually buy the team. Williams in turn is said to have opened talks with Cosworth because their engines now appear competitive with the top engine manufacturers. Williams is said to be designing their own transmissions for 2006.
Brack tests in Australia Former Indianapolis 500 champion Kenny Brack moved a step closer to switching to V8 Supercars after a surprise test in Queensland last week. The Swedish-born ex-Champ Car and Indy Racing League steerer jetted in from the US to try out for the Dick Johnson squad. Brack had a run in an old AU V8 and the Development Series car that Channel 7 weatherman Grant Denyer will handle in the second-tier championship alongside the V8 Supercars starting in Adelaide this weekend. "He's easy to work with and a good guy who is no problem to get along with," Dick Johnson said of Brack. "We're just trying different things and looking to the future. There is nothing definite. "He hopped off the plane and went straight to the track and he went OK." Foxsports.au
Ranger getting close to Champ Car seatUPDATE #5 Quotes from ChampCar.ws which indicate Ranger probably did sign with Mi-Jack Conquest racing - Eric Bachelart was very impressed with what he saw from Ranger in California last week. “We have a very strong interest in Andrew,” Bachelart said. “We feel that he is very talented and can become the next Canadian star in Champ Car. I’ve known his manager for quite a long time and I’m glad we finally had an opportunity to test him. We still have a few things to work out before we can announce anything but on the other hand we need to move quickly because, as everyone knows, the first race is coming up very soon. We very much wanted to test Andrew and he did a very good job for us. He was quick and he worked well with the team. For a young guy he’s got a good head on his shoulders.” Bachelart hopes to run both Nelson Philippe and Ranger at next week’s two-day test at Sebring where most of the Champ Car field is expected to be in action.
Ranger’s agent Allan Labrosse was able to convince the Canadian division of Procter & Gamble to put some Tide money behind Ranger when the young Quebecker made the move into cars in the short-lived FranAm series in 2003. Tide continued with Ranger last year and will also sponsor him in Champ Car this year. Kodak also provides some sponsorship for Ranger.
“I’m very confident that Andrew is going to be in the lineup at Long Beach and I’m hopeful that it’s going to be with Eric Bachelart’s team,” Labrosse commented. “The chemistry at Conquest is very good. “We’ve been working on this for six months,” Labrosse added. “Andrew is young and talented and marketable. He’s already starting his third year in a relationship with Procter & Gamble Canada which is a very large corporation selling consumable goods. It’s a great opportunity that we hope to develop. Tide will be identified on the car and Kodak will be on board also. They started with him in his first year racing cars.”
03/14/05 RPM in Australia has announced that Andrew Ranger has signed with Mi-Jack Conquest for 2005. We have yet to receive any official notification so this will stay a 'strong' rumor for now. 03/12/05 According to this Canadian TV station article, Andrew Ranger should be running in Champ Car in 2005 with either Forsythe, Walker or Conquest. Apparently Forsythe wasn’t very interested in him until his last Fontana tests but now they are interested. He says that Derrick Walker's door is always open. Walker will be announcing sponsorship over the next few weeks and has enough to run two cars all season. Any Ranger would bring is gravy. Ranger expects to decide on his 2005 Champ Car plans by the Sebring test on March 23-24. 02/03/05 From Le Journal de Montréal - Andrew Ranger will be in Champ Car next year. Alan Labrosse told them that he is negotiating with a team, that Andrew Ranger has enough money for 10 races and that they are working out the last details to find the money for the other 4. Alan Labrosse wouldn't say what team it is, but Andrew's dad had this to say when he spoke last weekend : "Andrew will test a Champ Car on February 14th-15th in Florida, probably for Walker Racing, but his manager Alan Labrosse hasn't given up on Forsythe yet." 01/24/05 After comments by Forsythe Racing that Andrew Ranger does not have the $6 million it will take to race for their team, Ranger and his manager Alan Labrosse have turned to other teams who might run him for less money. While he does have some backing from Procter and Gamble (Tide) and some other money, Ranger does not have $6 million. The fact that Champ Car team owners are looking for that much money to give a driver a ride, and Canadian companies are not stepping forward to sponsor drivers like Paul Tracy, Andrew Ranger, Michael Valiante and Patrick Carpentier, underscores what little value sponsors see in Champ Car right now, all thanks to having such a horrible TV product in 2004 that essentially took Champ Car off the face of the earth. Canceling the three year contract CART had negotiated with CBS and SPEED for 2004, 2005 and 2006 has, in hindsight, turned out to be pennywise and pound foolish. Now teams and drivers can't muster any sponsorship for 2005 because they have nothing but horrible TV ratings to put before a sponsor. And getting the 2005 TV package signed and announced so late has just made the sponsor hunting situation even worse. 2004 was a survival year for Champ Car, and 2005 is a foundation building year, but the hole they have dug in which to build that foundation is deep, very deep. 12/01/04 After testing with Forsythe Racing yesterday and setting 2nd fastest time behind Michael Valiante, Andrew Ranger's agent, Alan Labrosse, says it's possible the Toyota Atlantic rookie could test with as many as four other Champ Car teams, including PKV Racing and Mi-Jack/Conquest - both of whom are looking for drivers for 2005.
Another Timo eyes Champ Car AutoRacing1.com has learned that another German, Timo Scheider, is talking to at least one Champ Car team about a possible drive. He may also return to German DTM or perhaps drive the Maserati MC12 in FIA-GT. Ironically, when Champ Car raced in Germany they had no German drivers and still they drew a big attendance. Now that they no longer race in Germany, two Germans are eying the series, Timo Glock and now Timo Scheider. Scheider's manager is "Rolex Willy" (Willy Weber), the man who manages some of the biggest names in the sport, including the Schumachers. Mark C.
First Chinese F1 driverUPDATE #3 Autosport Magazine reports essentially what we stated last week - Minardi is on the verge of signing Formula BMW Asia Champion Marchy Lee Yin-Kin as its third driver from the San Marino GP. The Chinese would bring huge exposure to the team in his homeland and also increase awareness of the sport there, on the back of last year’s inaugural Chinese GP. Lee, 28, from Hong Kong, began karting at age 13 and moved through Formula Campus in France, French Formula 3, and F3 in Asia and Australia before taking the Asian Formula BMW title last year with 12 wins out of 14 races. [Editor's Note: In our opinion Marchy Lee is better off driving in Champ Car for a couple of years. He needs race experience and driving a Minardi on Fridays is not going to do that for him. However, we suspect Bernie will make this deal happen just to get some PR in China.] 03/11/05 (GMMf1NET) Hong Kong racer Marchy Lee Yin-Kin's management is negotiating with F1 team Minardi. It's rumored that the 28-year-old Formula BMW Asia champion, keen to capitalize on China's desire for a grand prix hero, could line up as Paul Stoddart's 'Friday' driver. ''I am ready for it,'' Lee told the South China Morning Post. ''I just need to be given the opportunity to prove that Chinese drivers can also compete. ''It is my dream to drive an F1 car ... (and it) would be very beneficial to my future.' 03/09/05 As first reported here on AutoRacing1.com - Formula BMW Asia Champion Marchy Lee Yin-Kin is rumored to be on the verge of a deal to become the third driver of the Minardi team. If confirmed the deal would be a massive boost for F1 in China, a television audience which the sport is keen to get on board as its ratings at each race dwindle. F1 has been able to post an increase in viewing numbers in 2004 but only by adding new races to the calendar. The 28-year-old Hong Kong driver has had a rather unusual career which began in karting when he was 13. He moved to Formula Campus in France in 1998 and finished fourth and then tried French Formula 3 in 1999 and 2000. He then moved to Formula 3 in Asia and in Australia before deciding last year to consolidate and go back to Formula BMW in Asia, which he won in style with 12 victories in 14 races. We hear that the plan is for Lee to start working as the team's third driver at Imola. Grandprix.com02/25/05 AutoRacing1.com hears that Chinese driver Marchy Lee is talking to Minardi to become their test driver and become the first Chinese Formula One driver in a year or two.
Champ Car speculationUPDATE This Toronto Star article speculates further - Initial reports had Tagliani being placed with HVM Racing, formerly Herdez Competition, but the team's managing director Keith Wiggins told the Star he had not spoken with Tagliani or his agent. Wiggins said he'd welcome Tagliani provided he brings sponsorship money. [Editor's Note: Strike Tagliani from HVM - see updated Silly Season page]
"Our second car is wide open," said Wiggins, although Sweden's Bjorn Wirdheim has been rumored for that seat. "But (Tagliani) has to bring money. That, unfortunately, is the situation today."
The latest report had Tagliani going to Walker Racing with Champ Car footing all or part of the approximately $4 million cost of running the car. Prappas said he knew nothing of such a deal and that Tagliani, who was in Montreal yesterday trying to drum up financial support, had some sponsorship backing. Walker is expected to announce its drivers later this week.
03/14/05 This SPEED TV article speculates on the following as yet unsigned drivers for Champ Car:
Andrew Ranger at Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. (Agree)
Sweden's Bjorn Wirdheim at Forsythe. (Agree)
Oriol Servia along with a Sperafico brother at Dale Coyne Racing. (Agree on Servia but if the Argentina race happens, Mazzacane is in the 2nd seat)
Roberto Gonzalez will team with Mario Dominguez at HVM Racing (Agree on Dominguez, but Gonzalez is doubtful).
Glock joins Hunter-Reay at Rocketsports. (Agree)
If Rodolfo Lavin has Corona Beer, he could be at HVM or Forsythe. (Lavin has Corona money but much less than last year)
The article doesn't mention Jos Verstappen who claims to have money and wants to race Champ Car. We could see Verstappen in a third Forsythe car if he has money. The article doesn't mention the new Atlantic team that is moving up to Champ Car - announcement scheduled for Thursday.
Button could lose 10 positions Jenson Button could be docked 10 places on the grid at Sunday's Formula One Malaysia Grand Prix if BAR opt to race with new engines. BAR believe a loophole in the new rules allows them to change engines that should last for two races, because they did not complete the first grand prix of the season in Australia.
To unify F1, Mosley may have to go Paul Stoddart has hailed Bernie Ecclestone as the only man who can stave off a potential defection of teams from the series in 2008 but also warned him to beware the dangers of self-interest.
The teams want Ecclestone to review the manner in which F1 marketing and television income is distributed and the FIA (International Automobile Federation) to cease making quick fire regulation changes without consulting them. Stoddart has become an unofficial spokesman for the rebelling teams that includes BMW, Renault, Mercedes, Honda and Toyota. The Australian businessman says there remains serious unrest among the top manufacturers and admitted a breakaway remains on the cards.
Stoddart said: "The politics of F1 dictate that we're heading towards two Formula Ones if we're not careful. Bernie has always been known as the master broker of deals and I think Bernie is the only one who can unite us but there is also an issue with Max (Mosley) first because Max is politically unacceptable to the manufacturers. That's a statement of fact. We've got five of the greatest car manufacturers in the world who are involved in this sport and they are very unhappy at the current governments within F1. Anyone who doubts the resolve of the five-car manufacturers - BMW, Renault, Mercedes, Honda and Toyota - do so at their peril.
"There's supposed to be a team meeting with Bernie on Friday and hopefully after the battles of Melbourne there will be a frank discussion about where we go from here. Unless the FIA and Ferrari take notice and join us in unity, we're going to end up with the worst possible combination which is two series when the current deal expires at the end of 2007."
Team Owners Want Sirius Money NASCAR's new multimillion-dollar contract with satellite radio provider Sirius has Nextel Cup car owners asking one big question - Where's the money going? Teams get 25% of the TV revenue, track owners get 65 percent and NASCAR gets 10 percent. There has been a push by some car owners the past three years for NASCAR to provide a more equitable distribution of that $400 million a year, but NASCAR has ignored such entreaties. Now Sirius (partly owned by DaimlerChrysler) has signed a deal to pay NASCAR $27 million a year, according to sources, beginning in 2007. That money will likely go straight into NASCAR's coffers. Some car owners aren't amused and would like NASCAR to put some of that radio money in the purse. "These guys are killing us," one car owner said. Winston Salem Journal
Brazilian soccer star to head A1 GP team Real Madrid soccer star and Brazilian World Cup hero Ronaldo is going to run his own team in the new A1 Grand Prix series, which will kick off in September. The news was announced by Sheikh Maktoum during the latest presentation of the A1 GP franchise in Mexico City.
“I am also very happy to announce on this occasion, that the Brazilian team has been sold to Ronaldo, one of the world's greatest athletes and national hero to the 180 million-strong Brazilian population."
Speaking of his involvement in A1 Grand Prix, Ronaldo said: “Like football, A1 Grand Prix is a team sport. Ultimately, it will be the country who will win the World Cup of Motorsport, not the driver. We've won the football World Cup more times than any other nation - it would be great to win the first ever World Cup of Motorsport to go alongside it.”
Mexico wants more timeUPDATE The local 'Diario de Yucatan' newspaper said organizers have requested a 1-month extension to their allegedly approved October '06 debut -- a later-than-usual season finale. The newspaper reported that work has not yet commenced at Mantarraya, the second proposed site, following an initial environmental dispute. [Editor's Note: An October date for the F1 race would put it head-to-head with Champ Car's race in Mexico City, which is certain to pull attendance and sponsor money away from the Champ Car event. NASCAR has already put a dent in Champ Car in Mexico.] 03/12/05 The organizers of the proposed Mexican Grand Prix say that they can complete construction of the planned Mantarraya racing circuit, near Cancun, on schedule for a race in November 2006 despite the fact that the work is already two months behind schedule and yet to start. The Mexicans announced a deal to run the race last autumn but the project soon ran into trouble with the local authorities, who insisted that construction could not begin until all the necessary planning issues had been sorted out. The response of the promoters was to move the venue to a new area, where there are fewer problems. This is two miles from the original site and will be an even bigger venue than planned with 2000 acres now included in the project. The project is being coordinated by the state government of Quintana Roo with funding from the private sector. The aim of the program is to increase hotel occupancy rates in the area. Grandprix.com (See previous Cancun Rumor)
NBC, TNT Plan to Continue Joint Venture NBC and Turner Sports will continue to pursue NASCAR television rights in a joint venture, Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal reports. Media writer Andy Bernstein says NBC will not bring its new cable partner, USA Network, into its effort but will continue its NASCAR rights discussions with Turner, which broadcasts races on its TNT cable station. The NBC/TNT deal, which is said to be worth about $200 million a year, expires after the 2006 Nextel Cup season. Fox's deal for the first half of the season, which is said to be worth $220 million a year, could be extended to 2008 if NASCAR exercises a two-year option. NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Goodyear and Michelin to vie for NASCAR tiresUPDATE Goodyear and NASCAR officials already have met on extending their exclusive tire supply contract even though the agreement doesn’t expire until after the 2007 season, according to Goodyear’s top tire executive. It was NASCAR that first approached Goodyear about opening the discussions and the two sides met earlier this year, according to Jon Rich, president of Goodyear’s North American Tire unit.
"It was an excellent meeting and we’ll use that as a foundation to go forward," Rich said during an interview at Daytona International Speedway two days before the Daytona 500, the first race in NASCAR’s Nextel Cup 2005 season.
Rich said he expects the two sides to hammer out a new deal over the course of the next couple of months. "I have every confidence that between NASCAR and us, we’ll reach an agreement that will extend Goodyear for as far as we can imagine," he said.
Rich said he believes the days of the "tire wars" in racing are over, noting that Formula 1--where Groupe Michelin and Bridgestone Corp. both compete--also is considering going with just one tire brand. "Tire wars are very expensive for the teams," Rich said.
01/27/05 Goodyear has been a stalwart on the NASCAR tours for decades, but rumblings are getting stronger that NASCAR is considering a major change in its tire-supplier contract. Michelin is rumored to be in line for the exclusive deal in the next year or two. NASCAR people are still talking about Goodyear running out of tires for last year's 24 Hours of Daytona, a faux pas that was probably a key in the France family's switching to Hoosiers for this year's 24 Hours. Winston-Salem Journal
Sadler close to signing contract extension Elliott Sadler is finalizing a three-year contract extension with Robert Yates Racing (RYR) and his team sponsor, M&Ms, ThatsRacin.com reports. Last season, Sadler had two wins and finished ninth in points, competing in the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup 10-race playoff format. A RYR spokesperson, reached after Sunday’s race, said Sadler has discussed a new contract with the team and the Yates organization was pleased with his performance.
Bruton Smith wants 2nd Cup race for Vegas Bruton Smith had a field day yesterday celebrating his sellout crowd of some 156,000 here, which contrasted sharply with the mediocre crowd of 70,000 two weeks ago at California Speedway, just three hours down I-15.
Perhaps to emphasize Chris Powell's salesmanship as head of this track, Smith, who owns this track and six others, announced a new 14,000-seat addition for next year's Las Vegas 400. The track has 144,000 seats, but some of those seats will be lost in the building process.
Smith said that the sellout shows that NASCAR's Brian France should award this city a second Nextel Cup tour date next season.
"We're investing $30 million here this year, and we'll invest $50 million next year," Smith said. "NASCAR works here, definitely works here. And I'm investing heavily just to keep up with this city. I'll have to invest easily another $100 million in this facility, just to keep up with the city. We've got a lot of things planned here, and you'll love all of them."
One of those investments could be a major hotel here at the northern end of Las Vegas Blvd. And Smith hints he'd like to see the new downtown monorail extended to this track. "That monorail is something they need in Charlotte, too," Smith said.
The bottom line: Smith says that Las Vegas Motor Speedway clearly deserves a second Cup tour date. "We'll be begging and pleading on this one," Smith said. "I think the sport deserves to be here that second time. Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. Whatever the sport, you need to be here. There are 132,000 hotel rooms here now, and by October there will be 142,000. Everybody loves to come to Las Vegas. This is a super city, and our sport needs to be here in a big way." Winston Salem-Journal
Mexico to announce A1 team Rumor has it the Mexicans will announce details of their A1 GP Team Mexico at an event in Mexico City. It is not yet clear who will be behind the team but the project is likely to include one of the big name Mexican drivers.
Fittipaldi to resurrect Champ Car teamUPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' AutoRacing1.com has learned that Emerson will not have a Champ Car team in 2005, but is on track for 2006. 01/31/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that if Fittipaldi is able to resurrect his team it will be run as a third car out of the PKV Racing shop. Jim McGee is said to be against a third car for PKV Racing, but this car would be managed by Fittipaldi and his team, hence, lessening the burden on PKV Racing. Essentially Fittipaldi would be leasing a car and space from PKV Racing much like he did from Mi-Jack Conquest Racing two years ago. We hear that Verstappen is still high on Fittipaldi's list of drivers, but there are a lot of other drivers knocking on doors right now. Whether Fittipaldi is able to do this deal may depend on how much sponsorship Verstappen and his management can muster up in time. With this third car being one of the better open seats still available in Champ Car, things should get exciting the next two weeks or so. Mark C.01/13/05 We are hearing whispers that Emerson Fittipaldi is trying to resurrect his Champ Car team, this time Lolas. As to who would be his driver(s), scuttlebutt says Jos Verstappen is one of many under consideration. Mark C.
NASCAR ponders more races outside USA borders This Winston-Salem Journal article says (key excerpts), Robbie Weiss, NASCAR's multi-lingual internationalist, is suddenly one of the most sought-after stock-car racing executives on the tour. The latest men seeking his wisdom are people from Montreal and Toronto, here in Las Vegas for advance work on what looks like NASCAR's next marketing offensive.
Weiss, who helped lay out the Mexico City game plan and is now laying out Canadian options, likes the "rule of thirds." When NASCAR makes a change, he said, he expects a third of the stock-car men to enthusiastically embrace it, a third to just go with the flow, and a third to vigorously fight it - such as the people who still say that NASCAR was wrong to drop Rockingham for Los Angeles.
The votes are coming in on Mexico and Canada, and while Brian France may still have a hard sell persuading some still reluctant Cup drivers to make the trip to Mexico City next year, many of them seem resigned to whatever fate France plans to deal them.
France is holding his cards close to his vest, letting things ferment. He has proven that a Mexico City race is easily doable, even when sandwiched in that incredibly tight timetable between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. And he's proven to those who actually made the trek that Mexico City can be a delightful stop, disproving the pre-run horror stories. And he doesn't have to make a final call on the 2006 calendar for months.
One interesting point about the Mexico City crowd is that it was a very upscale crowd, thus a very targetable market audience for savvy companies.
Steve Hmiel sat in the stands Sunday, spotting for his son, Shane, who ran fourth, and watching Martin Truex Jr. win for Dale Earnhardt Inc., where Hmiel works as technical director. "The reception by the people was incredible," Hmiel said. "They stomped their feet and screamed and hollered. There were a bunch of us spotting, and some of the fans asked who we were spotting for and then they'd cheer for them. They really seemed to enjoy it. But what I most noticed was the seamless logistics. It was a very easy trip. Somebody did a heck of a job laying the groundwork. It was absolutely seamless. It was outstanding. The buses started running at 5 a.m., and you could wait as late as 7:30 or 8 and there'd be a bus or van to take you right to the track. And the hotels were beautiful.
"It was just a very enjoyable trip. I'd go back in a minute. It was perfect. They did a really nice job, it was a great track, well received by the people. None of the horror stories were true. And we were at home at 1 a.m. Monday morning, from Mexico City, even though that was a late-starting race. "The logistics were so smooth; and we'll leave here each night this weekend and know there will be a traffic tie up."
Part of the reluctance by some to embrace the Mexico City adventure is because the track is a road course, which is not a stock-car racer's favorite. But most racing throughout the world is on road courses, and there is certainly no incentive to build a large oval without the NASCAR eye and fan potential.
Jeff Gordon said to make the Mexican and Canadian ventures work just right, someone has to build oval tracks. The three-quarter-mile track at Cancun, part of a Formula One effort in that world-famous Caribbean vacation spot, is a hot topic here. And certainly Carlos Slim, the ultra-wealthy Mexican who promoted last weekend's race, could afford to build an oval. [Editor's Note: Carlos Slim is one of the top 5 wealthiest people in the world. This is the first time we heard that Slim was behind the NASCAR race. If NASCAR has him on their side they have a key ally and this may explain why NASCAR is quickly sucking the Mexican well dry for open wheel racing.]
But Mark Martin may be a hard sell: "Watched it on TV Sunday. Hope that's what I do again next year. Don't want to go. I'll only go kicking and screaming. Because of the hassles. Leaving the country is leaving my comfort zone. I'm just a hillbilly from Arkansas. I don't want to go to Mexico. I hated going to Japan, with a passion. If I go to Mexico - and I have been to Mexico - I want to go on vacation. I'm happy to go down there on vacation; but not to work."
Tony Stewart? Home Depot has a major and growing presence in Mexico; rival Lowe's doesn't yet, but made a splashy impact with Adrian Fernandez in a Rick Hendrick car. "We talked about running it," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief. "But, gosh, who wants to give up an off weekend? There aren't enough of them.
"It was a good first step." Charlotte's Humpy Wheeler said of the south-of-the-border run. "But we have some other challenges to take care of, too. One is expanding the fan base. The problem is until we get a really good Hispanic driver competing on a regular basis, it will be tough to get them really with us. I hope Michel Jourdain does well in Busch and doesn't get discouraged, because these cars are such a change.
"They did a good job putting on that race. It was such a logistical challenge. But I think they found it was easier to travel in Mexico than they thought it was. Security, while it's a concern, that is a highly civilized country. And there are parts of the United States I wouldn't want to travel through.
"We also need to be looking at a European driver. We're sending all this TV stuff into Europe, and they don't have anybody to pull for. Like, I like Australian Rules football, for about five minutes. Somebody from England, France or Italy would help us a lot." [Related article]
New sponsor for Jordan? At the Grand Prix of Australia the Midland Jordan ran with blank sidepods. According to rumors this soon will change. The Austrian/Canadian company "Magna" will be the primary of Jordan for this season. The company "Magna" is property of Austrian Frank Stronach. The millionaire is the head of this global operating company with more than 80,000 employees that design applications for the car industry. The companies profit is partly invested in sport sponsoring. A deal between Jordan and Magna has not yet been finalized, but the presence of Siegfried Wolf, director of Magna Europe, during the launch of Jordan in Moscow, now makes sense.
NASCAR, Champ Car and other rumorsUPDATE NASCAR Chief Operating Officer George Pyne said March 6 a decision about the sanctioning body's plans in Canada probably will be made within the next three months and that Toronto and Montreal are the most likely choices for a Busch or Truck event. Pyne said 80% of the Canadian population lives within 75 miles of the border and that NASCAR has a significant fan base in the country. NASCAR Scene While the FOX TV Rating for the Busch Series race was a decent 3.5 in the USA, the final Mexican TV Rating is reported as a 0.4, far below what Champ Car pulls in. The bottom line is that NASCAR has not caught on yet in Mexico despite all the hype by the NASCAR crazed USA media so just sending the Busch Series to Canada and Mexico for now makes sense. 03/08/05 Sources say that the Nextel Cup race at Pocono in June will be eliminated, “replaced by the Watkins Glen Cup race, currently held in early August,” and the Busch series will run in Montreal on the “newly opened August 2006 weekend.” NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck series will run “a companion event” in Monterrey, Mexico, with a Champ Car race in April ’06 WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 3/7. [Editor's Note: Champ Car owner Gerald Forsythe let NASCAR into Mexico with this past weekend's Busch Series race at his track in Mexico City. Now he is letting NASCAR bring the trucks to his other track in Monterrey. It looks like NASCAR and Champ Car are becoming partners in a number of ventures. And let's not forget the NASCAR/Champ Car doubleheader in Las Vegas in September. We now hear talk of NASCAR bringing the Busch cars to Montreal in August, which is the month Champ Car traditionally races there. Might that be another NASCAR/Champ Car doubleheader weekend? Meanwhile we read rumors of the IRL going to Montreal and Toronto, written by a journalist who has been saying that for years now. He's struck out every time so we'll have to see this time.]
NASCAR to Franchise? Last winter, some of the larger teams approached NASCAR with the idea of becoming franchises within the organization. As it stands now, teams are independent operators that have no financial share of NASCAR. Franchising would give the teams a monetary book value they now lack. But Ganassi, who owns 10 cars in four series (Nextel Cup, Busch, IRL, GASC) says the value is there. "Sponsorships, physical plants, equipment, contracts all mean something," Ganassi said. "Racing operations all have the challenges of traditional sports teams – payrolls, competition and the demands to be successful to win support. "But there are also some major differences. There's no players union in racing (nor are there pension plans). We don't have home courts. In your traditional sports, half the teams will win every day. We're like golf in that respect. All our stars are always in one place, with one winner. "But every racing team is part of the pie, just like the Pirates and Cubs are part of the National League." With the difference that racing teams are not officially part of the organization. More at Union-Tribune
Coyne will run two cars in 2005UPDATE #2 Dear AutoRacing1, The guy Champ Car should be looking at if they want a Chinese driver is Ho-Pin Tung (http://www.hopintung.com/). Although I believe he was born and raised in Holland, I think he is the best bet to represent China on the international racing scene. He won the F-BMW Asia championship in '03 and had a decent season in German F3 last year (7th with a couple of 2nd places). Probably not ready to step into Champ Car yet, but if they may race there next year, why not give him a learning season in '05. Stuart Page, England03/12/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Who do you think Dale Coyne will put in his two cars in 2005? Nancy Meyers, Bridgeport, CT Dear Nancy, We believe that Champ Car is cognizant of the fact that they must have at least one local driver in the field for each of its races. Hence why we believe you will see Walker Racing run an Australian (They have tested Australian Marcus Marshall and Matt Halliday, who is from nearby New Zealand). As for Coyne, Argentinean Gaston Mazzacane was announced last year for 2005 but we suspect that largely depends on the Argentina race materializing. Champ Car desperately needs to find a Korean driver (for the Ansan race) and they would be wise to stick whoever they find in one of Coyne's cars. If they want to race in China in 2006 they had better get a Chinese driver in a car. Sources tell us that all Champ Car races will be broadcast in China this year and what better way to start getting the Chinese talking about Champ Car now. As to what Chinese driver - why not Alex Yoong for now? He's Chinese, though his current citizenship is in Malaysia. Yoong has already driven in Champ Car and could hop in the car in Long Beach and be ready to go. Kevin Kalkhoven is bringing a Chinese contingent to Long Beach to see what Champ Car is all about. He drove in the V8 Supercar series but not this year. However, he is heading up the Malaysian A1 GP team in 2005 so his availability is questionable. Marchy Lee is another possible driver. Mark C.03/11/05 Our sources assure us that Dale Coyne Racing will field two cars in Champ Car in 2005. Coyne has been working quietly behind the scenes. It's assumed Mazzacane will drive one car if the Argentina race materializes and Coyne is still talking to Spain's Oriol Servia as well as a number of other drivers. Deals should play out in the next two to three weeks.
New Chevy Monte Carlo for 2006?UPDATE Dodge unveiled the Charger this season as its Nextel Cup entry. Now, Ford and Chevrolet are planning to introduce new models in the near future. "The teams have to go racing," Chevrolet's Pat Suhy said. "This year saw a new Dodge Charger. We are looking at a new Chevrolet in 2006 at Daytona." Chevrolet is planning to redesign its Monte Carlo for 2006, while Ford is working on a new car - either the Ford 500 or the Fusion, to replace the Taurus. The Taurus has been used since 1998. "To my understanding, it will be ready for 2006 as well," said Ford car owner Jack Roush. Both manufacturers will have to meet the July 1 deadline to submit their new models to NASCAR. AP02/17/05 A year after re-designing the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, General Motors wants to do it again for the 2006 season. The new production model of the 2006 Monte Carlo was unveiled in January at the Detroit Auto Show. Chevrolet must win support for its changes from NASCAR by a Sept. 1 deadline so teams will have time to build new cars in time for the next season. Since most of the templates in NASCAR are the same for Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge, the only areas open for change are the front and rear bumpers. Augusta Chronicle
Photos doctored? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Just been looking at ‘Racer Magazine’ (Mar 2005). I was looking at the picture on page 52 of an IRL race somewhere or other and I noticed the huge crowd! I couldn’t believe IRL had ever had such a big crowd (apart from the Indy 500). If you look closely the crowd has been ‘copy and pasted’ over and over again to make it look huge! Look for the red and white umbrella and you’ll see what I mean. Gary Parravani, UK Dear Gary, there has been much discussion of this all over the internet forums. If true, the question is who doctored the photos? Mark C.
Another Division of NASCAR in China? NASCAR went to Japan in 1996-98 for exhibition races. Helton said it was not an "experiment." He said NASCAR went there all along with the thought it was a temporary exhibition series to showcase NASCAR. Don't underestimate NASCAR's "international" plan now, even though it now is modest. NASCAR just got back from its first crack at Mexico, with a successful Busch Series race that is a tier below its premiere Nextel Cup Series. While NASCAR's international plan probably won't include Nextel Cup races in China, or anywhere outside of North America, it could mean the creation in the future of a China NASCAR series, similar to Mexico's Desafio Corona and Canada's CASCAR. Both national series are supported by NASCAR and operate using rules, guidelines and business plans similar to NASCAR. The Desafio Corona, in its second season, already is the top national series in Mexico. With Formula One struggling, NASCAR sees an opening. Other countries already targeted as possibilities to be added to NASCAR's growing empire include Germany, United Kingdom, Brazil and a return to Japan. France said racing is second only to soccer in worldwide sports popularity. France would just like to see those fans prefer racing "NASCAR style." Someday, he might. ThatsRacin/Miami Herald
IRL won’t race in MontrealUPDATE #2 This Toronto Sun article is basically a retraction of their previous story saying the IRL would race in Montreal. 03/10/05 Montreal Molson Indy promoter Normand Legault denied yesterday that he was negotiating to bring an Indy Racing League event to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in 2006. A media report earlier this week suggested that former Canadian Grand Prix chief operating officer Jean Paul Blais had spoken to the IRL about bringing that series to Montreal. "If they thought they were talking to someone in charge of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, they were talking to the wrong person. I certainly haven't spoken to them," Legault said. "My lease with the city limits me to two races per year, so I'm not looking for races, and definitely not in the short term." With two more years left on his contracts with Formula One and Champ Car, Legault said he intends to honor both deals. Globe and Mail03/09/05 We already proved why the rumor that the IRL was going to race in Montreal is 'false' in this rumor. A reader provides more background information. Dear AutoRacing1.com, I just wanted to give readers another bit of information regarding the rumors floating around about an additional race being held Montréal. The Isle Notre Dame, where the circuit Gilles Villeneuve is located, is for the most part a public park (except for a small area where the Casino facilities are located). The park is very popular amongst cyclists, rollerbladers, row boaters (the former Olympic rowing basin is in the park), and swimmers (there is also a small lake on the island). Because of our short-lived summers, the prospect of closing the park for an additional weekend on top of the two weekends already for the F1 and Champ Car races would likely cause many of these folks to be up in arms. In fact, some of these groups along with some environmentalists already voiced opposition when the Champ Car race was proposed. NASCAR may be able to throw enough money at the city and promoter to trump over the demands of the Montréal citizens (especially when it means the assured hordes of New-England tourists will make the trip up), but I find the prospect of a third open-wheel race very unlikely. I don't think the IRL has the clout or money that NASCAR does, and it certainly does not have the type of following here or elsewhere to ensure a well attended event. I would love to see estimates from their camp as to how many people from New England and Ontario they think will show up versus the F1, NASCAR, or even Champ Car races. Try as they may, I think the IRL will have a tough time convincing the government, citizens, and the promoter (Norman Legault) that there could be a successful event here, Carpentier included or not. Shaun M., Montréal, QC
Dutch grand prix? (GMMf1NET) A Dutch grand prix, not staged since 1985 at Zandvoort, could return to the Formula One calendar. It is understood that August's F1 street demo in Rotterdam is actually part of a wider quest to show off the merits of a Monaco-style circuit. Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, however, quoted project leader Herman Vaanholt as admitting that staging a Rotterdam GP would be difficult. ''(But) a demonstration such as that which we are planning,'' he added, ''can work well.'' [Editor's Note: Where will a Dutch GP fit in the already tight F1 calendar?]
Mexico behind NASCAR event with big $$$$UPDATE If this report is true coupled with the fact that all Mexican sponsors have left open wheel racing (Champ Car and IRL) indicates a major behind-the-scenes power play by NASCAR. To date it does not appear even Corona will be back to sponsor Lavin in Champ Car and HVM's sponsor for Mario Dominguez still has not materialized. Jourdain is now in NASCAR. Fernandez could not even get sponsorship in the IRL and had to sit out the year (sponsorship did materialize for his Mexico City Busch ride though didn't it?) . Unexplainably Mexico's TV Azteca stopped airing Champ Car races mid-season in 2004. In effect, at least from where we sit, it appears that in short order NASCAR has stepped right in and taken the Mexican market completely away from Champ Car....stomped on the competition like a true monopoly does to its competition. And you wonder why the Ferko antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR was settled out of court and TMS got its 2nd Nextel Cup date? We suspect there is far more behind this "conspiracy theory" than meets the eye. 03/10/05 According to Mike Mulhern of the Winston-Salem Journal, a reported $42 million dollars was paid to NASCAR by the Mexican government for a three-year contract to promote an annual NASCAR race in Mexico. That is $13 million per year sanction fee paid to NASCAR for a Busch Series race. Wonder what Champ Car gets given they outdraw NASCAR 2 to 1?
Champ Car to have four F3000 ChampionsUPDATE We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today. 2003 FIA F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim from Sweden insists he is close to landing a Champ Car ride. “I am really close to a drive,” the 24-year-old told Autosport. “Unfortunately I'm not allowed to tell you about it at the moment, but I'm really excited about the drive and I'm looking forward to racing again.” With so few opportunities to drive the car ahead of the season, time in the car will be at a premium. Wirdheim hinted that he may be running at the next test before pointing to his record: “I tested pretty well at Fontana as a reward for winning Formula 3000 [Wirdheim broke the track record], and of course I was at Barber with PKV last year. “To be honest I'm not too worried – the car is very similar to my old 3000 car except a bit heavier, and after a year driving for Jaguar I don't think it will be a problem. I have spent most of winter doing fitness training, so I'm really ready and looking forward to going to America. "In fact, I can't wait!" 11/26/04 It is anticipated that 2003 F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim will sign with PKV Racing or another Champ Car team in 2005 meaning Champ Car will have the F3000 champions from four straight years - Bruno Junqueira (2000), Justin Wilson (2001), Sebastien Bourdais (2002) and Bjorn Wirdheim (2003). In fact, if Tomas Enge tests well and lands a Champ Car ride, he fits right in because he actually won the 2002 title but was stripped of points and lost it to Bourdais. Mark C.
Cosworth could lose F1 market Despite now producing a competitive engine in F1, Cosworth can soon, after 40 years, find itself out of F1. All the smaller teams are trying to align with a major manufacturer, several of whom are offering engines at a lower cost than Cosworth. The minnows of F1 would love to be aligned with a major car manufacturer, hence why Sauber, Jordan, and soon Red Bull and possibly even Minardi, will be running engines from one of the major manufacturers, leaving Cosworth on the sidelines if it can't find a major manufacturer to badge its F1 engines. How the loss of revenue will effect Cosworth remains to be seen. It is very possibly we will see them getting involved in other forms of motorsports.
Zanardi for ’comeback’ award (GMMf1NET) Former F1 and CART driver Alex Zanardi is the hot tip to win Laureus' Comeback of the Year award. The inspirational Italian returned from an horror 2001 shunt, which claimed both his legs, to now drive full time in the World Touring Car Championship. The winner will be announced in May. Zanardi, 38, is up against men including golfer John Daly, the English cricket team and Australia's Shane Warne.
Karting Champ Matt Lee eyes Formula BMWUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Twin Tooth Racing announced their 2005 plans today, which will see the team contest the Formula BMW USA Championship with Matt Lee at the wheel of the Twin Tooth Racing Formula BMW FB2. Lee has proven his competitive mettle in the cut throat karting environment, and is poised to deliver on the promise he has shown as he makes the first step up the motorsports ladder. With six years of karting under his belt, the current WKA HPV Junior Champion is totally focused on his next challenge. “I was born for racing, it is all I think about,” says Lee. “My life is all about when I can get in the car again. I’m pretty much single-minded on being in a single-seater. And, of course winning in it!”
Based in Amityville, New York, Twin Tooth Racing, is managed by Bruce Miller, who has over twenty years of experience in motorsports, preparing everything from concours-ready vintage cars to Formula 1 racers, as well as a long history working in developmental level single-seater racing. “We are looking forward to showing what Matt can do this season,” said Miller. “He has been truly impressive in the early testing we have done - not just fast, but amazingly thorough in his approach to getting the most out of the car. It’s absolutely astounding when he takes his helmet off to realize that he’s just fifteen years old - he is completely professional in the car.”
The team will participate in the first Formula BMW USA open test at Road Atlanta on March 21-22. 02/17/05 Keep your eye on 15-year old Matt Lee of Long Island, NY. Matt Lee is a World Karting Association HPV Junior National Champion. Matt has been developing his karting skills for the past 6 years and has accumulated impressive results during his young career.
Matt started his racing career on the sandy road course paved in Westhampton New York. From those early days of his career until present Matt has rarely been outside the top 10 and more often than not he is sitting in the top 5. In 1998, Matt was voted rookie of the year for the Long Island Karting Association and won the LIKA Championship in 1999. During the 2000 season, Matt achieved the New York State Championship in Junior sportsman.
Matt sprinted onto the national karting scene, in 2001, and captured an extremely respectable 8th place finish in the national points. In 2002, Matt continued to impress and hone his skills on the national scene and never finished out of the top 10. 2003 and 2004 brought more wins and more fast times.
We have it on good word that Matt Lee, with backing from Red Bull, will be moving up to Formula BMW in 2005 running under the TwinTooth team name, the same as they had in karting.
Pantano now eyes GP2UPDATE Giorgio Pantano told ItaliaRacing.net: "I'm doing this test with the British Super Nova team to get to know the car, and to understand if something interesting can come up for the season. I haven't driven for several months, so I'm out of practice. But physically I'm fit, since I haven't missed a single day in the gym." 03/01/05 It was believed that Giorgio Pantano was poised to join fellow F1 refugee Gianmaria Bruni in Coloni's GP2 team this season, but the Italian team signed Mathias Lauda to complete its line-up. Jordan F1 refugee Pantano, a former Coloni F3000 driver, had been rumored to be rejoining the Italian team. He had been expected to follow Bruni in deciding to step down a level in order to re-establish their reputation, but now seemingly has just one option remaining in GP2 and even that is slim. Another option for him is Champ Car but it is late in the game for that now and it is questionable whether he has enough funding for Champ Car.
With no races in Europe, and its focus on North America and the Pacific Rim, we expect the majority of Champ Car drivers will come from those parts of the world, not Europe and not the Middle East. Champ Car needs to find an Australian, a Korean and a Chinese driver for races in those countries, and it needs to find them now.
IPS to MontrealUPDATE What’s with every sanctioning body and series looking for a race weekend in Montréal. Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is a temporary track that otherwise has four bus stops for all walks of users. By contract, Grand Prix week has to be before June 24th (a national holiday in Quebec) and Champ Car should be after Labor Day, but a week difference was agreed upon. As for IPS in Montréal, it is doubtful a twelve-car grid with no Canadian driver would draw any attention. The Montréal GP weekend already has on its program F1 with the large chunk of schedule they require, the Ferrari Challenge, the Star Mazda and the local Canadian Honda series. And possibly the Vintage F1 could be back. No more room for IPS. Michel Poirier-Defoy03/09/05 Hearing that the IRL is trying to get the IPS series to race in Montreal as a support race to the Canadian GP F1 event.
IRL to race in Montreal and TorontoUPDATE #2 See this Hot News item whereby Normand Legault confirms there will not be more than two races per year on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. 03/08/05 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Just another case of bad reporting by the Toronto Sun for not checking all the facts. AutoRacing1.com checked with Champ Car owner Kevin Kalkhoven who said, "Only two races can be held there (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal) F1 and ourselves. That is by contract, and we have a long-term contract." Of course the IRL is free to race elsewhere in Montreal, just not on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It should be noted that this same Toronto Sun journalist who wrote this story has written numerous articles in the past either predicting Champ Car's demise or their replacement by NASCAR or the IRL. Champ Car can choose to allow NASCAR to run their Busch Series with them in Montreal (see other rumor), but we doubt there is enough paddock space. People sure forget what Tony George says. In CART bankruptcy court he told everyone he had no interest in Montreal and a passing interest in Toronto. But then Tony has been known to say one thing and do the exact opposite.....case in point the IRL morphing into Champ Car. 03/08/05 The Indy Racing League is in discussions with the promoters of the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix to bring a race to Montreal as soon as next season, The Toronto Sun has learned. It would be the first race in Canada for the IRL but it also could be the precursor for others, including one in Toronto. Mecachrome, a multi-national engineering firm that has business interest in both F-1 and IRL, is part of a group working behind the scenes to push for a Montreal IRL race. Mecachrome, whose main business is in aerospace engineering, designed and built the engine block that won the season's first F-1 race in Australia for Renault.
Jean Paul Blais, the former chief operating officer of the Canadian Grand Prix and now a senior public relations executive who has Mecachrome as one of his clients, told The Sun in an interview at the Toyota Indy 300 in Miami that he believes the IRL would be successful racing at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, home of Canada's F-1 race. Blais was the right hand man for Montreal's F-1 rights holder Normand Legault before taking a job with Mecachrome.
"I think Montreal would be very accepting of an IRL race," Blais said. "Especially now with Patrick (Carpentier) racing in the series. He is hugely popular not only in Montreal but in all of Canada."
IRL executive vice-president Fred Nation confirmed that talks have been ongoing about bringing a race to Montreal. "The Indy Racing League has a strong interest in Canada," Nation said. "We would like to be competing in Montreal as well as some other cities, including Toronto."
Nation said Blais first approached him about racing at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve about half way through the 2004 IRL season. "I met Mr. Blais and we had some preliminary discussions about Montreal," Nation said. "Of course it all depends on the right business opportunity becoming available."
Legault, who rules the racing world in Montreal with an iron fist, has been actively seeking another race for the track that was built on Ile Notre Dame. Currently it is used just twice a year -- once for the Grand Prix and again for the Montreal Molson Indy Champ Car race. Legault has also had discussions with NASCAR about bringing a Nextel Cup race there, but those talks have stalled because currently there is no room for a summer date on NASCAR's calendar. More..... [Editor's Note: What races is the IRL going to drop if they add two in Canada? Three if they get Long Beach. How many venues is Champ Car going to let the IRL rain on their parade? So far the IRL has had mediocre success each time, in most cases failing miserably. The fans have rejected the IRL product, but the IRL's goal is to morph into CART/Champ Car so they are trying to move into each and every one of their markets. So much for Tony George's original vision.]
BMW set for Grove split? (GMMf1NET) If BMW buy Sauber, Sir Frank Williams' team may no longer be powered by the German carmaker. Despite the existence of a contract to 2009, speculation at Albert Park last weekend suggested that Munich-based BMW - in the sixth year of collaboration at Grove - is just about fed-up with Williams' failure to deliver a title-winning car.
''I don't want to speculate,'' motor sport director Dr Mario Theissen said. 'We do want to be a top team. If we cannot be a top team, then it will become a priority to consider our strategy.''
Newman/Haas to announce new sponsorUPDATE AutoRacing1.com has learned that the Newman/Haas team will announce their new sponsor lineup for Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira later this week or early next week. One primary sponsor will be returning (assumed to be McDonald's for Bourdais) and one will be new to Champ Car (for Junqueira). 02/17/05 Sources close to the scene tell us that the Newman/Haas team is close to announcing a new sponsor for Bruno Junqueira's car. Supposedly it is a big corporation that is new to Champ Car. At one point we heard PacifiCare might not be back but now we hear they will be, so it remains to be seen if the car sports two primary sponsors. As to why the team did not run a third car for da Matta, it turns out it was not about money, but about shop space and personnel. With the team shop located outside of Chicago, it's not like Indy where there is a large pool of experienced individuals to pull from. There was talk of running the third car out of a small shop the team has in Indy, but it is so small that idea was nixed. So in the end da Matta ended up at PKV Racing, which is good for that organization. Mark C.
SPEED Channel to offer simulcasting too Not to be outdone by ESPN and ESPN2 with their simulcast of the IRL race from Homestead on Sunday,, and buoyed by record ratings in February, SPEED Channel plans for an affinity program and the possibility of a spin-off SPEED2 network are in early stages of discussion.
ESPN2 showed continuous in-car camera shots during the Toyota Indy 200 while ESPN showed the complete race coverage. If SPEED adds a SPEED2 they can offer similar coverage for Champ Car, NASCAR, Trans-Am and Grand-Am. Of course getting cable TV operators to add SPEED2 won't be an easy undertaking given the time it's taken SPEED to reach the number of households it has.....where it still lags ESPN by some 20 million.
With that said, NASCAR is helping propel SPEED Channel to new heights and there is no telling how popular SPEED will be in a few years. Without question they do justice to motorsports in the USA.
Nextel Cup to Mexico in 2006, no IRLUPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' because this race may stay a Busch series race. Managing director of NASCAR International Robbie Weiss, one of the driving forces behind the sanctioning body's historic foray into Mexico, said he hoped the Busch Series would return to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in 2006. Sanctioning agreements have long been made between NASCAR and the tracks on a year-to-year basis, and Weiss admitted that since his last name isn't France, he doesn't make schedule decisions. But he sounded positive about a return to Mexico next season. "I would like to think from having a successful, a safe event, a very well promoted event, I would like to think we'll be back next season," Weiss said. Weiss also went a step further, saying "This could become the marquee event for (the Busch) Series." NASCAR03/06/05 As AutoRacing1.com reported last November - The biggest crowd in NASCAR's Busch series history is expected here today for the Telcel Motorola 200. And Fox is broadcasting the race head to head against Tiger Woods in the Doral Open and the ACC finale between Duke and North Carolina, to see how well it will do in the ratings war. If the numbers are good enough - and NASCAR has sizzling ratings this season already - it appears NASCAR president Brian France might turn this weekend into a full-fledged Nextel Cup stop next March. NASCAR's marketing people have pulled out all the stops to make this weekend a success, and NASCAR is a big winner here already, regardless of what happens today. NASCAR is expected to announce a 10-year deal for a NASCAR-Mexico touring series, along the lines of the Busch series. The tour sponsor is not yet known. Busch beer isn't sold in Mexico, but Anheuser-Busch owns 50 percent of the largest Mexican brewer, whose headliner is Corona. Corona was being passed out here to crews at the end of each work day, to ease the pain of traffic on the bus ride home. The track seats 70,000, and as of last week 40,000 tickets had been sold. But this city isn't known for strong advance ticket sales, but rather has a history of event-day walk-up crowds. And yesterday's crowd just for qualifying was a good harbinger. The U.S. ambassador was host to NASCAR teams last night, and Mexican president Vicente Fox was expected to attend, an indication of the high-level politics involved in this NASCAR venture. The Mexican government, according to one report, has a $42 million, three-year contract with NASCAR for promotion of an annual NASCAR race here. Winton Salem Journal
Asked if he believed the Busch Series' visit to Mexico City was a harbinger of NASCAR's top series adding it to the schedule, NEXTEL Cup regular Elliott Sadler was noncommittal. "We got a little work to do with the race track before the Cup guys come," he said. "We've got to do some stuff with the chicane and stuff like that. Maybe one day, we'll see. I think they want to see what kind of response we get with the Busch cars. We always send the Busch cars to test the market a little bit, and then if it does good, the Cup cars may come." Ford Racing
11/06/04 Word here in the Mexico City paddock, where the Champ Car series is gathered for its season finale, is that after the NASCAR truck race in Mexico City in 2005, look for Nextel Cup to race in 2006, but if you are holding your breath for the IRL, don't. Gerald Forsythe, who owns 50% of the Mexico City track said, "after we bring the NASCAR trucks here in 2005, we will look to bring the Nextel Cup cars here in 2006, but we will never bring the IRL here." Mark C.
Vegas Race expected to Increase 5 percent With the city racing to top last year's record-breaking year, the effort will get a huge boost when the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) drives through town with three events this weekend. As the only Las Vegas stop on the NASCAR circuit, the wildly popular sport is expected to bring in about 150,000 fans this year according to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, topping last year's total of 142,600 attendees by 5.2 percent. As Nevada's largest single sporting event, the three races drew 142,600 attendees last year consisting of both visitors and locals who dropped $85.4 million into the local economy, excluding gaming. Las Vegas Business
Champ Car to have two Pacific Rim swings With Japan and China both being possible new additions to the 2006 Champ Car schedule AutoRacing1.com has learned that all four Pacific Rim races will not be done together. We hear that Sapporo, Japan and Beijing, China will probably happen in May when the weather is warmer. Both are fairly far north and, therefore, get snow in the winter. Their climate is not too unlike the majority of the USA. The other two Pacific Rim races, South Korea and Australia, would continue to be run on back-to-back weekends in October. Mark C.
Gordon - Parrott fight Some of the most heated action in the Telcel Motorola Mexico 200 took place before the race even started as Robby Gordon and Brad Parrott, the crew chief for Carl Edwards, scuffled minutes before the event on Sunday. Witnesses said that Parrott said something to Gordon before driver introductions. Gordon apparently turned away but not before Parrott supposedly gave Gordon a quick knee to the groin. Gordon responded by grabbing Parrott's neck and prepared to throw a punch before onlookers broke up the fight. "I don't know exactly what happened," Edwards said. "When I came onto the scene, Robby was roughing my crew chief up a little bit, so I just stopped Robby from doing that. I really didn't know what the situation was. That's all there was, and I was just trying to stop that from happening."
NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter said the sanctioning body would investigate the incident. "We'll take a look at it after the race," Hunter said. "Right now, it's hearsay." Orlando Sentinel
Champ Car will still dwarf NASCAR in MexicoUPDATE #2 The race was a boost for NASCAR's effort to build a new fan base in Mexico, where open-wheel racing has been dominant. Promoters said a healthy 94,229 people turned out on race day following a 38,319 crowd for Saturday's qualifying. "This could become the marquee event for the series,'' said Robbie Weiss, NASCAR's chief of international business. But he said no contract had yet been signed for next year. ESPN03/06/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as the Mexico NASCAR attendance was announced as 110,000, about 50% of the Champ Car attendance. Still, not bad for a Busch Series race. Weekend attendance was announced as 150,000, vs. the record for Champ Car of 411,000. 03/04/05 Contrary to all the hype by the NASCAR frenzied USA media, it appears that the NASCAR Busch race in Mexico City this weekend will be big, but small in comparison to Champ Car. According to this FOX/AP article, The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez opened in 1963 as a stop on the globe-hopping Formula One series. After a decade of inactivity, it underwent a $30 million renovation to host a CART (now Champ Car) race in 2002. The following year, CART drew more than 400,000 for its three-day weekend, including an astonishing turnout of 221,000 on race day. NASCAR isn't likely to attract those sort of crowds, with its Web site predicting a turnout of 60,000 for the 200-mile race. Felix Sabates is expecting much larger crowds. He said at least 125,000 tickets have been sold and predicted up to 300,000 for the entire weekend.
Mexican to run more NASCAR races Mexico City native Jorge Goeters may be back in the BUSCH series after a successful weekend in which he claimed the pole and led for the first 24 laps. His sponsors(Scotiabank Inverlat/Canel's) were pleased with the value and Goeters may be in line for a few BUSCH series during the present season. Goeters tested at Virginia Raceway nearly a month ago and kept pace with the likes of Boris Said and other drivers. Brewco Motorsports president Todd Wilkinson stated the team would like to run where their sponsorship does business, particularly Phoenix, Homestead or even Texas. Sportsillustrated.cnn.com
Two more sign 'new Concorde' (GMMF1.NET) Two more teams have joined Ferrari in vowing to sign a 2008-2012 'Concorde Agreement.' That's the claim of F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone, 74. ''I can't say who,'' he told 'World on Sunday.' The two teams are believed to be Jordan and Red Bull.
Ecclestone also claimed that a more effective, cheaper and harmonious end for the rogue 'GPWC' carmaker group would be to buy the banks' 75 per cent stake in F1. Max Mosley thinks they'd snap it up for $1b. 'The manufacturers want to run F1 like a modern supermarket,'' said Bernie, ''but it's an exclusive fashion store.''
Stoddart may quit F1 (GMMF1.NET) A political cease fire prevailed at Albert Park on Sunday, in the wake of a weekend of argument and intrigue featuring Paul Stoddart, Ferrari, and the FIA. Australian GP chairman Ron Walker, despite more meetings in the paddock and another this week in London, dismissed the governing body's threat to axe Melbourne.
'(The race is) not in jeopardy at all,'' said the tall Australian. In the 'Australian' newspaper, though, Stoddart - 'bloody knackered' after days without sleep - admitted he may be forced to sell Minardi, and urged Max Mosley to also step aside. ''We're both pretty damaged (now). I'd be prepared to leave ... if it meant the long term survivability of F1.''
Ecclestone in trouble F1 politics aside, Bernie Ecclestone is in a spot of trouble. Records at UK Companies House show that Formula One Administration have not yet filed their mandatory accounts. A small fine has already been issued, but 74-year-old Ecclestone could face criminal prosecution if the impasse continues. It is not known whether a link exists between the failure to lodge the documents, and a trio of equity-owning banks' case to wrestle control of Formula One.
Champ Car signs marketing deal According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car has inked a strategic marketing deal with MediaWide Marketing as its contracted communications and event promotions agency for new and alternative markets such as the "tuner," youth market, and affluent/celebrity lifestyle fan bases. MediaWide and its owners Peter Stark and Tracy McCarthy are responsible for Champ Car's alliance with Formula D, drifting and the tuner market, as well as the multi-page Champ Car features in this month's issues of Sport Compact Car, Robb Report, Modified Magazine and Modified Luxury & Exotics. We await the formal announcement before making this one 'fact.' Mark C.
Champ Car signs Drifting deal According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car has inked a strategic deal with Formula D that will see drifting competition, the latest youth movement craze, on-track at Champ Car races in Long Beach, Portland, Cleveland, San Jose, Montreal, Toronto, Milwaukee and Denver. Both Mexico races are strong possibilities as well we hear. After the exhibition at Laguna Seca last year Champ Car has decided to make this innovative, youth-market move in one of their efforts to attract new fans. In the urban markets that Champ Car races in, it's expected that the Formula D events will be big hits. We await the formal announcement before making this one 'fact.' Mark C.
Danica Patrick could miss Phoenix As part of an 8-car wreck that eliminated 7 cars, rookie Danica Patrick ran into the side of Ed Carpenter and went careening hard into the outside wall in turn 4 in today's Toyota Indy 300. The hit resulted in her feeling dizzy and being sent to the hospital with a concussion. Patrick was the only driver injured. She was examined by doctors at Baptist Hospital in Kendall, Fla., and released in good condition with a concussion.
The normal IRL standard period of no driving after receiving a concussion is two weeks. Two weeks from today is the Phoenix race and right now it is questionable whether she will be given clearance to drive.
Champ Car TV rumors Rumors making the rounds in the Champ Car paddock are worrisome. For 2005 Champ Car got rid of Betelgeuse Productions (who owe money to half of the dedicated TV crew), but they hired Rick Murphy (formally of Betelgeuse) to be their TV liaison, though that is not what AutoRacing1.com was told when we asked. People complained about last year's Champ Car shows, yet the new production company, MOLSTAR, (a company very experienced in CHAMP/CART broadcasts in Canada) has hired Betelgeuse’s' producer from last year to call the shots. On a positive note, Eric Thomas has been hired as Tech Manager. Eric has a great history with CART during the ESPN days, and his expertise last year was the main reason the Betelgeuse produced shows ever made the air.
Lyons tabbed as future F1 greatUPDATE A young Ulsterman is poised to fill the void left by Eddie Irvine's retirement from Formula One. That's the opinion of the voice of Grand Prix racing Maurice Hamilton - who hails from Bangor and this weekend began his first full season as BBC Radio Five Live's Formula One commentator. Hamilton is tipping Japanese Formula Nippon champion Richard Lyons (25), from Hillsborough, to emerge as a force in the most glamorous sport of the lot. "Richard Lyons is ready to come through but hasn't had the necessary breaks in terms of finance. But he is a big, big hope for the future," Hamilton told Sunday Life. [ Editor's Note: Recall that Lyons was trying to get a Champ Car test but so far no one will test him - see March 1st rumor below.] 11/10/04 (GMM -- Nov.10) Formula Nippon champion Richard Lyons may test for BAR-Honda in the upcoming 'winter' period, a source reported Wednesday. The source said the Ulsterman's London-based manager, David Kennedy, first contacted Brackley principal David Richards in August. 25-year-old Lyons returned to his Hillsborough home in suburban England, from Japan, on Tuesday.
More on NASCAR eyeing Canada The popular stock car series is definitely interested in expanding north of the border, Robbie Weiss, managing director of NASCAR International, said Friday. "It's a matter of time before we work something out," he said in a telephone interview from Mexico City, where the NASCAR Busch series is holding its first points race outside the United States this weekend. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver have been cited by NASCAR officials as attractive markets. Weiss said weather in Canada left only June, July and August for racing, a period in which the 37-race schedule is already crowded. "Another challenge is that you already have a number of events, whether in motor racing or cultural activities, in each of those markets," he said. "Not only do you not want to cannibalize any of those, but from a commercial standpoint, there's not a lot of openings. You need a bit of breathing room to make sure your event is successful." TSN.ca
Vasselon back to F1? (GMMF1.NET) Michelin's Pascal Vasselon may be considering a new role in F1 pitlane, according to speculation. The Frenchman, moved from the tyre marque's F1 project to the 4x4 line in America, 'loves Formula One,' according to Pierre Dupasquier, Bibendum's retiring motor sport director. Dupasquier, 67, said in Melbourne: ''We don't know what he'll do -- it's up to him.''
BAR to become Honda? BAR denied it may be heading for a name change. Despite Japanese carmaker Honda's increasing involvement in the UK-based team, CEO Nick Fry said there is no 'intention' to drop the British American Tobacco-derived moniker. ''Our assumption is that we are not going to do anything different after July,'' he said, referring to the impending Britain-specific tobacco ban. ''BAT is committed to the team.''
EJ to win new F1 job Eddie Jordan may return to the F1 paddock before long -- as a deputy for F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. The former team owner told Autosport that the idea would be to 'create ... more razzamatazz.
''If I can be a help to Bernie, then that may be something that may or may not happen,'' Jordan, from Ireland, added. EJ said a new job would be 'promotional,' and also vowed to travel to a few grands prix in 2005, mostly for TV appearances.
Ferrari to 'give in'? Ferrari are leaning towards letting Minardi contest their home grand prix in Melbourne, Paul Stoddart said. The Australian team owner emerged from a new meeting with Jean Todt and said the Ferrari principal would now consult with lawyers in New York. ''Apparently we can expect a letter saying that if they are the only team still objecting ... then they'll give in,'' said Stoddart, visibly tired. ''It's true,'' he added, ''I haven't slept all week, I think.'' At time of writing, it's a little past 8.30pm New York time.
IRL to get paid millions in XM Radio dealUPDATE #3 Another writes, I find it VERY hard to believe that very many people would listen to an IRL race over XM radio. Not that many watch it on TV because it's so boring, so why would anybody listen to it on the radio, much less satellite radio? Mark M., Texas 03/03/05 A reader writes, Why would anyone want to pay millions for the rights to broadcast the IRL on satellite radio? I wouldn't listen to an IRL race even if I were sitting in the middle of no where with nothing else to do. If ChampCar had a satellite broadcast I doubt that I'd waste my time with it unless I could not make it to a TV set. What is the economic model that makes this work? As an advertiser I wouldn't spend a nickel to advertise on such a program. In fact, I'm only a few miles away from St. Pete's until mid April and I wouldn't waste my time driving across the Sunshine Skyway to see an IRL race. Don Leslie, Manatee County03/03/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' See Hot News page for official announcement. 03/03/05 The IRL and XM Satellite Radio today will announce a multiyear agreement that makes XM the exclusive satellite radio partner of the IRL. Industry sources said the deal is in the mid-seven figures annually. XM will begin broadcasting IRL races live and nationwide beginning with Sunday’s Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Extreme XM, or Channel 152. For more, see today’s issue of THE DAILY. [Editor's Note: For two years now we have made the case that Champ Car should have a satellite radio broadcast deal. Now that the IRL has XM and NASCAR has Sirius that gives both series complete nationwide coverage, will Champ Car continue to sit on the sidelines? In its heyday, Champ Car had a radio network.]
Champ Car Canadian TV deal closeUPDATE See Hot News page for F1 TV news article making that part of this rumor 'fact.' 02/27/05 For Champ Car fans out there, this is the scoop: TSN is in the midst of finalizing its Champ Car World Series schedule. Although all the U.S. and Mexican Champ Car races will be available on CBS or the Speed Channel, a contract for a Canadian simulcast on TSN is still in the works.
Global, of course, will televise live the three Canadian Champ Car rounds: the 20th anniversary Molson Indy Toronto (July 10), the Molson Indy Montreal (Aug. 28 ) and the brand new Edmonton event (July 17).
Champ Car is also coming to Canadian radio. Aflalo Communications, Inc., of Montreal has purchased the national rights for the Toronto and Montreal Molson Indys and will produce live and taped coverage for broadcast on stations throughout Canada.
NASCAR: TSN will televise 18 more NASCAR Nextel Cup races this season — 15 of them in high definition, for those of you who have a digital signal — starting with tomorrow's Auto Club 500 from California Speedway. Fox and NBC announcing teams (Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds, Benny Parsons, et al.) will be in the broadcast booth.
F1: Andrea Goldstein, TSN's communications manager, said this week that TSN will carry all 19 races on the Formula One schedule this season. TSN even plans to cover Saturday qualifying, with anchor Vic Rauter calling the play-by-play and Canadian F1 expert Gerald Donaldson providing color commentary from the site.
Sundays, Rauter will anchor a pre-race show that will include highlights from the second qualifying session. Then, for the races, TSN will feature on-site ITV commentators James Allen and Martin Brundle, with the inimitable Louise Goodman ("Hard luck Kimi, Juan Pablo, David ...,'' etc.) in the pits.
The first Grand Prix of 2005 will be the Australian round next weekend (March 6 Down Under, Saturday, March 5, here because of the time difference) and the last will be held in Shanghai, Oct. 16.
Speed Channel, incidentally, will be covering all 19 F1 races as well. But there's one major difference: Speed's Bob Varsha, Steve Matchett and David Hobbs will do their announcing from a studio in the U.S. while watching TV like you and I do.
Canadian F1 fans are unique in the world, by the way, in that we have a choice of networks. If we're watching one and there's a commercial, we can switch to the other. What a deal!
IRL: TSN will televise a dozen Indy Racing League events this season, starting with the Homestead-Miami Speedway 300-mile race on March 6 and going through to the season-ender at California Speedway on Oct. 16, a 400-mile event. The highlight of the IRL season, of course, will be the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.
TSN will use the ABC/ESPN feed featuring Todd Harris as anchor, with retired drivers Gil de Ferran and Canadian Scott Goodyear providing the color and analysis. Former anchor Paul Page's contract was not renewed and I'm sorry about that. Much like Murray Walker was Mr. Formula One on the air. Toronto Star
Jeff Bucknum to drive for Dreyer and Reinbold The late Ronnie Bucknum will forever be linked with Honda's motorsports family since he drove the company's first Formula One car in 1964 and then drove the last Honda chassis/engine combination during a special test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1968. And now his son is going to continue this storied relationship. SPEEDTV.com has learned that Jeff Bucknum will drive a Honda-powered Dallara in the 89th annual Indianapolis 500 for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The 27-year-old California native may take his Indy Racing League rookie test next Monday at Homestead, Fla. following Sunday's 2005 season opener. Neither Dennis Reinbold or Bucknum could be reached for comment but the announcement is expected this weekend. It's believed he would make his Indy-car debut at Motegi, Japan on May 1st as a teammate to Roger Yasukawa. SPEEDTV.com
IRL dead countUPDATE #2 Kenny Brack won’t be making his comeback at the Brickyard with Morris Nunn’s team this year. “We were working on a sponsor to run together but it’s not going to happen,” said Brack. “It’s too bad because I think we could have made a good team. I’d still love to drive but I have no interest unless I’ve got a chance to be competitive, and I’m not sure there’s anything left out there. So I may just watch the race from my couch.” Nunn, who stopped running his full-time IRL operation earlier this year but still owns a couple of Panoz chassis, hasn’t abandoned his plans to race at Indy. “It’s a shame we (Brack) couldn’t work something out with Kenny,” said Nunn. “But we’re not done yet. We may still do Indy.” Autosport Magazine01/31/05 Morris Nunn's five-year run as a car owner is over, although he's still leaving the door open for this May. Nunn has sold his Dallaras to Ron Hemelgarn, an original IRL owner who is coming back this season with rookie Paul Dana and Toyota. "I've still got a couple of G-Forces and, if I could put together something competitive, I'd like to run Indianapolis one more time, that would be a good way to go out," said the 65-year-old Englishman, who started his own CART team in 2000 after engineering Alex Zanardi and Juan Montoya to three consecutive CART championships from 1997-1999 and winning Indy with Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989. Nunn talked with Tomas Scheckter, Patrick Carpentier and Barron about '05 but all had commitments so he opted to pack it in and head for the golf course with his wife, Kathryn, who started an Infiniti Pro Series team last year (scoring three wins with P.J. and James Chesson) but recently sold all her cars and equipment..........It was believed that Tony George had purchased Tom Kelley's IRL cars and equipment for his step-son, Ed Carpenter, but evidently that project is on hold because of some legal proceedings. If Kenny Brack is serious about also making the Indy 500 his last hurrah, could he wind up with Mr. Nunn? SPEEDTV.com12/30/04 The following IRL teams have one foot in the grave for 2005 and the backhoe is filling the hole. Tony George is going to have to open his wallet to fund their survival or Honda and Toyota are going to have to send over more Japanese yen:
Rocketsports to run 3rd car for GlockUPDATE We are downgrading this rumor to speculation, and it would not surprise us one bit if Glock is the latest in a long line of Europeans to "use" Champ Car to get a better deal in Europe. Timo Glock is understood to be close to a Champ Car World Series drive with Rocketsports Racing, but could opt to pursue his career in Formula 1 according to Autosport. Glock, who is backed by Deutsche Post, tested for Rocketsports last month but has also been linked to a third driver role at Minardi. He contested four grands prix for Jordan last year, but failed to land a seat for 2005. Bernie Ecclestone does not want any of his flock of drivers and their sponsors to flee to the USA. Hence why behind the scenes just about every European driver ends up rejecting Champ Car and staying in Europe. Champ Car teams tested a lot of Europeans over the winter and not a single driver ended up in Champ Car. Has Champ Car just became a pawn in Bernie's game to protect his F1 base? 02/23/05 Timo Glock, who ran for Jordan last year in Formula One but recently tested a Champ Car at Sebring, is thought to be on the verge of signing a deal with Rocketsports to run the 2005 Champ Car season. He'd be teammates with Alex Tagliani and Ryan Hunter-Reay. SPEEDTV.com We have updated our 2005 Champ Car Silly Season page.
Walker Racing to shut doors Walker Racing will close its doors unless adequate funding for the 2005 Champ Car World Series can be found, according to its owner. Derrick Walker, who founded his own team for the 1991 season after a long stint at Penske Racing, has admitted that its 14-year streak in the series could come to an end unless he can find a suitably funded driver. The Indianapolis-based team ran Mario Haberfeld in 2004, but the former British Formula 3 champion is still in the process of finalizing his budget. “It’s not over yet but it is looking pretty bleak,” said Walker. “We’re still trying to find some money and we’ve run some guys who needed a test to try and sell sponsorship. Right now there are 17 or 18 cars on the grid – and we’re not one of them.”
Despite the money worries, Walker will test again at the Fontana road course this week when Haberfeld christens its new Lola chassis. His hopes received a boost last week when his father sold his packaging company for £130 million. “He [Haberfeld] is still trying to put a deal together,” said Walker. “It’s as tough as it has ever been to find money, but obviously some guys are finding it.” Haberfeld said: “I expect to announce my 2005 plans by the end of next week. My expectations are pretty high for this year, since I’ll finally get to drive a Lola.” For full story buy Autosport Magazine
Ferrari says no, Minardi to miss Oz GPUPDATE Minardi has been told its cars will pass scrutineering and Australian owner Paul Stoddart is "99 per cent sure" the team will race in Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix despite Ferrari's refusal to approve its participation.
However Stoddart was then told the cars would pass Thursday's scrutineering - a mixed message that left the Australian more hopeful than certain about the team's status at Albert Park.
"We won't know until five minutes before practice I suppose," he said. "Our cars will be scrutineered tomorrow and they will pass at this point. They do meet all the safety regulations, they will be issued with the scrutineering tickets. We'll have to see whether that position of Ferrari is maintained. Once we are scrutineered we can take part in the event and until someone lodges a protest we will be okay ... so let's hope it doesn't come to that. Being the optimist, I would say I'm 99 per cent sure (Minardi will take part). It's a blind optimism, because I still believe in this sport. Minardi deserve better than this - its my hometown and the tenth anniversary of the Melbourne race."
03/02/05 Ferrari are refusing to back down in a row with Minardi over allowing the lowly team to use last year's cars in the Australian Grand Prix. Minardi say they have not been able to afford to comply with new rules aimed at slowing Formula One cars down. They can race if all the other teams give their approval, and only Ferrari have refused their consent.
"I spoke to (Ferrari boss Jean) Todt during the night, but he wasn't supportive at all," Stoddart said. "I tried to explain that to him rationally.
"I asked him to delegate the powers to some other member of Ferrari who was actually in Melbourne so we could at least have the discussion. He refused, and the phone call came to an end without a conclusion."
"As a last resort, and I mean last resort, there is always the option of the High Court to challenge the legality of the regulations," he said. "But on this, the 10th anniversary of the Melbourne Grand Prix, I would not want to be the one to spoil the party." BBC
Gordon to skip Indy 500 Robby Gordon will not enter this year's Indianapolis 500 unless he's driving somebody else's race cars. Gordon, who has competed in the 500 ten times says his commitment is to his Nextel Cup and Busch Series teams and sponsors. Gordon says "I don't have the room...we're full. We've got 40 guys full time just turning these programs around." Since he won't operate an open wheel team Gordon says his final decision could be put off until the first week of Indy 500 time trials. PRN's Garage Pass Radio Show
NASCAR looks to reduce engine size Rumor has it that NASCAR's next engine will be reduced in displacement from its current 358 cubic inches to 325 cubic inches in an effort to reduce HP and speeds. No word yet on whether it will be a pushrod engine or overhead cam. Teams have so many engines built to the current specifications it will cost them a lot of money to junk them all and build replacements. Some teams have as many as 90 engines.
F1 set for tire 'furor'? F1 could find itself in another '03-like tire controversy this year, Ferrari supplier Bridgestone has warned. Motor sport manager Hirohide Hamashima told Autosport that the new long life regulation risks tires falling outside the maximum 270mm tread width rule, following excessive use. ''I'm not only talking about (Michelin),'' he said. ''We are (also) paying particular attention to that.'' In 2003, Ferrari accused Michelin-shod rivals of racing too-wide a tire, causing a 're-interpretation' of the measuring method -- and a furor.
Red Bull to snub GPWC? An energy drink magnate may prove a spanner in the GPWC group's 'breakaway' works. Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian billionaire and owner of Red Bull Racing, hinted that he will be siding with Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari in the battle for F1's future. ''I think the purely works teams will fade away,'' he opined, ''and the private teams will again become strong.'' But asked directly whose side Red Bull is on, Mateschitz said his team - like Jordan, not yet formally signed up for either option - is 'not a manufacturer.'
Klien may lose F1 seat Christian Klien may be relocated to the F1 bench after April's Bahrain grand prix. Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, set to fly in to Melbourne on Thursday, said he would 'rethink' who will drive alongside David Coulthard prior to the circus' return to Europe. F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi, to drive the 'third' RB1 in Melbourne through Bahrain, is the candidate for the job. The Austrian billionaire, 60-year-old Mateschitz, also revealed that Red Bull's '05 target is to 'be at least as good as Jaguar,' according to the German Die Welt newspaper.
Melbourne could lose GP With all of the political infighting occurring within Formula One it's been revealed that Melbourne has a very good chance of losing the Australian Grand Prix. Should the series be split and the majority of teams head to the GPWC it would mean that the current contract with Melbourne would essentially be voided. This would leave the door open for Adelaide to reclaim the event and rumor has it that they are putting together a bid if circumstances are right. This comes straight off the back of the war that has arisen between Victoria and South Australia over the contract to build the naval destroyers. With Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker backing Bernie Ecclestone it would certainly get the GPWC off side, possibly enough for them to give the race to Adelaide. The Australian Grand Prix Corporation have dismissed such claims, but there is a very strong possibility the race will head back to Adelaide. La Source
Harvick might miss Mexico race Kevin Harvick, scheduled to drive in this weekend’s Busch Series race in Mexico City, is still sore from his crash during the Gatorade Duels at Daytona. Harvick has played in pain the past two weeks, but his bruised ribs could preclude him from driving on the Mexican road course. If so, Brandon Miller will replace him.
“My ribs and chest are still really sore from my crash in Daytona, and I am not sure if I can shift the car through the turns in the road course,” admitted Harvick. “If I cannot run this weekend, Brandon Miller will take over.”
If Harvick is unable to drive this weekend in Mexico, it will mark the first race he has missed due to injury. This would be very disappointing for Harvick and crew chief Rick Viers, since they felt he they had a great chance in winning the inaugural Busch Series race in Mexico City.
“Kevin has always been pretty good at road course events,” Viers said. “He will have a few road-course experts to deal with, but they always seem to have bad luck. He will also have Robby Gordon to deal with, but in the past couple of road course events, Kevin has been a thorn in Gordon’s side.”
Mexican drivers to look to NASCAR now In a recent NASCAR.com interview Adrian Fernandez was asked the following question: Do you see young Mexican drivers looking to NASCAR instead of Champ Car or the IRL? I think they will, just because I think there will be more opportunities for them. But at least they have other opportunities, and that's what I like. They will have an opportunity to participate in Champ Cars or IndyCars or NASCAR. To me, that's what I'm most proud of in what has happened in racing the last few years in my country. When I went to Europe, there was nobody to help you, absolutely no one. Everybody said when I went to Europe that I was crazy. I was fighting for my dream. Now, there are opportunities and openings. NASCAR.com
Lyons may test Champ CarUPDATE #2 Richard Lyons has confirmed that prior to Christmas he parted company with his management team DMI, which was run by ex-racing driver David Kennedy. After winning both the Formula Nippon Championship and the Japanese GT Championship for Nissan in 2004, Richard decided that the time was right to go it alone and allow him to form a closer relationship with the teams and sponsors which he will be involved with in 2005 and beyond. Commenting on the change in direction, Lyons said:
“I have been most encouraged by recent direct discussions with key players within the motor racing industry and as we head into 2005 I look to build upon my double championship success in 2004. At present I am discussing every avenue including Formula 1, Champ Car and Le Mans whilst not forgetting the defense of my Nippon and GT Championship success in Japan. Now I am dealing with this myself I feel my career has received a kick-start, with some interesting offers already being put on the table.”
11/28/04 "Next year could be very big for me in Japan," says 25-year-old Richard Lyons to Sporting Life. "There are several teams offering attractive contracts and if it was just about the money I would have no hesitation in staying. It has taken a while but I'm comfortable here now and, even if I say it myself, I'm pretty big in Japanese motorsport. But the pinnacle for any driver is F1 and that's where I want to be. I think I've proved I'm good enough for it and I'm ready for it. I hear reports of this driver or that driver being offered tests with various teams but, despite a lot of interest immediately after I won the Formula Nippon title this year, things have gone quiet in the last week or so.
"I'm looking at all options, including Champ Car," he confirms. "I'm going to America next month for an end-of-season GT race for Nissan at the California Raceway at San Bernardino and David Kennedy, my manager, is hoping to line up meetings with a couple of interested Champ Car team owners. Ultimately, however, F1 is where I want to be. I'm just puzzled that no-one seems to want to put me in a car and see what I can do. There are drivers getting tests who have never driven anything more powerful than an F3 car or a race that is longer than 50 miles. I've taken a Formula Nippon car from scratch and developed it into a race winner and I've won some of the longest, fastest races in the world in the Nissan GT car. It's a bit frustrating when people in F1 don't seem to recognize this but motor racing is like that. You just have to be patient and keep working at it."
11/16/04 We have it on good word that English sensation Richard Lyons is close to lining up a test with PKV Racing. Lyons was seen talking to Kevin Kalkhoven in the lobby of the Conrad London with his manager David Kennedy. Lyons won this year’s Formula Nippon championship and was a Palmer Audi star. Today and tomorrow the team is testing Bjorn Wirdheim and Ryan Dalziel. Mark C.
Busch might be barred from Budweiser ShootoutUPDATE Speed Channel's NASCAR Nation reported on its Monday show that they were told that Kyle Busch WILL be able to run the 2006 Budweiser Shootout. 02/28/05 19-year old Kyle Busch, who won the pole for this past weekend's Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, may be barred from running in the 2006 Budweiser Shootout because of his age. He turns 20 in February. NASCAR has not made a decision yet.
Honda eyes Grand-Am, then NASCAR With rumors rampant that Honda might drop out of the IRL, word on the street is that they may follow Toyota (Lexus) to the France family's Grand-Am series before they follow Toyota to the France family's NASCAR series (rumormongers say to pay their dues to the Frances before being allowed entry into the holy gates of NASCAR). Honda officials were at the Rolex 24 eyeing up the scene. Despite Honda officials denying they had plans to go to NASCAR, Honda's Robert Clarke was quoted as saying "we have no current plans, but never say never."
Russian GP getting close F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has claimed that a GP in Russia is not far away. The British billionaire has failed in his previous attempts to stage a race in the country, but during a brief visit last week for the launch of the new Jordan car, Ecclestone expressed his desire to make his dream a reality. "It will certainly happen," he vowed. "We would like it to be in Moscow, or if not here then in St. Petersburg. "I'm thrilled at the reception I have been given and what I have seen. There are hurdles to overcome but there is a will to get things done. "The response to the launch in Red Square shows what can be achieved."
Haberfeld close to Champ Car dealUPDATE Rumor has it that Mario Haberfeld's father has sold his packaging company in Brazil to Minneapolis based Bemis for $250 million, meaning Mario (pictured right) will definitely have the money for a Champ Car ride. As we hear it, Mario's father will sit on the board of Bemis as part of the deal. Might we, therefore, see Bemis as a sponsor of Mario's Champ Car at some point?
Assuming this rumor is true, it does not take away from Haberfeld's ability as a driver. He can really pedal a car and this year, with a Lola under him, we will see better results. The question s whether he returns to Walker Racing or moves over to Mi-Jack Conquest.
Bemis Company, Inc. (NYSE:BMS) recently announced that it had acquired majority ownership of Dixie Toga, one of the largest packaging companies in South America. Headquartered in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dixie Toga recorded annual net sales in excess of $300 million in 2004. In this transaction, Bemis acquired the voting common stock and 43 percent of the outstanding, non-voting preferred stock of Dixie Toga for a total cash price of approximately $250 million, which was financed with commercial paper.
Dixie Toga is the leading packaging company in South America, specializing in flexible packaging, injection molded containers, laminated tubes, printed labels, and folding cartons. Dixie Toga employs over 3,000 people in South America. Dixie Toga operates nine manufacturing plants in Brazil and two in Argentina. The non-voting preferred shares are traded publicly on the Brazilian Bovespa Exchange.
Bemis Company is a major supplier of flexible packaging and pressure sensitive materials used by leading food, consumer products, manufacturing, and other companies worldwide. Founded in 1858, the Company reported 2003 net sales of $2.6 billion. The Company's flexible packaging business has a strong technical base in polymer chemistry, film extrusion, coating and laminating, printing and converting. The Company's pressure sensitive materials business specializes in adhesive technologies. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bemis employs about 12,000 individuals in 52 manufacturing facilities in nine countries around the world. More information about the company is available at our website, www.bemis.com.
02/25/05 Brazilian Mario Haberfeld will return for his third Champ Car season of his career in 2005. Although no deals have been signed yet, the 28-year-old driver told SPEEDTV.com that is now a mere formality. “I can’t say it officially yet, but I expect to announce my 2005 plans by the end of next week,” revealed the former Walker (2004) and Conquest (2003) driver. Haberfeld’s destiny will likely be either one of the two squads, with Walker having the upper hand. I love the series, and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of a Champ Car again,” confessed the 1998 British F3 champion. My expectations are pretty high for this year, since I’ll finally get to drive a Lola,” he confirmed. Haberfeld’s two previous seasons were on Reynards, but both Walker and Conquest will be campaigning only Lolas this year. The Brazilian also praised the new Champ Car rules that banned the dreaded pit windows of recent seasons: “The changes allow for riskier race strategies, which only adds to the excitement of the sport,” he believes.
Four more years for King Schu (GMMF1.NET) At the end of the decade, Germany's Michael Schumacher might still be leading the grand prix pack in F1. Already the oldest in pitlane, Ferrari's star, 36, was asked by a reporter if it's 'possible' that he'll become a forty year old driver. He replied at the F2005 launch in Italy: ''(It's) quite possible.''
Pushed to name a main Renault or McLaren rival for the imminent season, though, Schumacher smiled and pointed to an amiable Brazilian, seated beside him. ''It's this guy,'' Michael said, referring to teammate Rubens Barrichello. ''Since Rubens arrived at the team (in 2000) ... the competition went up significantly.''
BMW 'to buy Sauber' - report (GMMF1.NET) BMW may abandon Williams and buy independent F1 team Sauber, a German newspaper reported on Sunday. 'Welt am Sonntag' suggested that the Munich-based manufacturer is not simply talking to Peter Sauber's Swiss squad about a customer engine supply. The newspaper said several meetings have already taken place.
Meanwhile, Ferrari's Jean Todt - current supplier of V10 power for the team - said he 'hoped' Hinwil-based Peter Sauber sealed a new deal with a carmaker. The Frenchman explained: ''If Peter Sauber has the opportunity to get a better deal ... he is right to do it.''
Tobacco may get F1 reprieve (GMMF1.NET) F1 teams may be allowed to advertise cigarettes outside of Europe after this August's ban. It had been suggested that teams would be subject to prosecution if 'illegal' logos were beamed via television into European lounge rooms.
But a spokesman for the European Commission said: ''The commission has no way of enforcing the law outside the area of its treaties. ''The laws of the (European Union) apply to the EU,'' he told the UK's Guardian newspaper.
Another Dutchman eyes Champ CarUPDATE #2 Similar to Nicky Pastorelli, Jordan's other test driver, Doornbos will have plenty of time on his hands to also drive in Champ Car, if he can find the necessary sponsorship. The Midland-Jordan team doesn't have the money to do a lot of testing, so between Pastorelli and Doornbos, their other test driver, and their two regular drivers, the testing time commitment for each is minimal. 02/18/05 This Dutch article reiterates that Doornbos feels Champ Car is a viable option for him in 2005. We are hearing that with so many drivers looking at Champ Car now, 20 cars is quite possible for '05. The two extra cars are likely to be a 3rd car at PKV Racing (recall they bought all of Fernandez Racing's Lolas) and a 2nd car for Walker Racing. 02/07/05 Dutchman Robert Doornbos was left stunned last week when Jordan announced that Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan would race for the Toyota powered team in 2005 as he had been in lengthy talks with the team for a race seat. “When the news reached me on Thursday morning, I was completely overwhelmed by it," Doornbos admitted. "In the last few months, my management team went flat out to secure me a race drive by the team, and last week we actually had all the necessary ingredients together to finalize the deal. Though the final decision was of course with the team, I was always pretty confident to be on the grid in Melbourne.”
“Now Kolles and Carlin decided to choose for Karthikeyan and Monteiro, we have to go for Plan B," Doornbos continued. "At this moment I want to keep focused on F1 for 2005. In the last couple of days I’ve also received several offers out of other series, but my feeling says to stick to F1 for the moment.” There are zero seats left in F1 so he can forget that notion. On Friday Doornbos returned to the Netherlands to examine four unspecified options for the 2005 season. It remains to be seen what is the Dutchman's Plan B, but Champ Car is one of them.
Pastorelli might still do Champ Car Although the Midland-Jordan team recently announced that the 21 year old Dutchman and reigning Euro 3000 Champion, Nicky Pastorelli, would be one of their two test drivers in 2005, Dutch sources tell us that his preference is to still drive in Champ Car and also be a test driver in F1. The Midland-Jordan team doesn't have the money to do a lot of testing, so between Pastorelli and Doornbos, their other test driver, the time commitment is minimal. His management is said to still be talking with Walker Racing. Mark C.
New Ferrari might debut earlier After the Ferrari F2005 launch ceremony, the designers of the new car faced the media to go into more detail about its technical content, with particular reference to the new regulations, which include among other matters, the use of the same set of tires for qualifying and the race and the fact that an engine must last two grand prix weekends. The affect of these changes on the car’s performance was the main topic of discussion.
“Probably, overall, we have lost a bit in performance terms, especially because of the longer life required from engines and tires,” replied Rory Byrne. “However, we are working to overcome this deficit. We need to find the right compromise and be sure to make the right tire choice, which will play an even more important role than usual. Obviously, tire deterioration will affect performance.
[Editor's Note: Arguably the best designers and managers in the history of F1, pictured right (L to R) Paolo Martinelli, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and the F2005.]
The way various components are managed will also change. “We need to set parameters for both the life of the tires and for performance. We have worked on increasing the range of these parameters in order to give engineers more scope,” explained Ross Brawn. “We have therefore worked on traction control, weight distribution and a whole range of critical factors.”
At the moment, only one F2005 chassis is ready, which will begin testing on track next week with Luca Badoer. “The second will probably be ready after Malaysia, because at the moment it is still being used for the crash test,” said Brawn. “When we have two chassis, we will be able to do more testing. Of course, we want to race the new car as soon as possible and to do that we need to gather a lot of data. Badoer will do the first test, as the race drivers will be busy with the Australian Grand Prix.
So when will the F2005 make its race debut? “Probably Barcelona,” replied Brawn. “But we will have to see how testing goes. Maybe it might be possible to introduce it in Bahrain. It also depends how the F2004 M goes in the races. If it is competitive, then we can get on with things more calmly.”
This year’s pit stops mean refueling only and no tire changing. Does Brawn think this will lead to substantially different race strategies and a different number of stops? “We will have to see how things go at different circuits. I do not expect a big change in the number of pit stops and I think there will usually be 2 or 3 stops. Obviously, now the calculations will be based purely on the fuel load, given that the tires do not change and so the strategy will vary from circuit to circuit,” said Brawn. “In a short space of time, we will find the right way to go between a little and a lot of fuel in relation to tire wear. We like this challenge. Those who do the best job will create interesting opportunities.”
Paolo Martinelli and Gilles Simon went into more detail as to the philosophy of the 055, the ten cylinder engine powering the F2005. “The engine was based on last year’s, but it has improved in every area. The key element is the fact it must last for two grands prix,” said Martinelli. “The architecture is similar to last year’s. But the mechanical elements, the electronics and almost the components have been revised. We worked above all to ensure the best possible integration with the car. But our work is not finished, as it is on-going.”
Has the braking system been adapted to be as kind as possible on the tires? And what about the transmission? Brembo and Ferrari have tried to find the best possible compromise, working to optimize all the parts and increase integration with the chassis,” said Brawn. “Our collaboration with Brembo has always been very important but this year we have cooperated more closely.” “As for the gearbox, we have improved its structure,” added Brawn. “The internals and operation are different to the work we did initially, before the new rules forced us to change the design. We won’t have this new gearbox for the first few races, but the one we will use is a good compromise.”
Harrah’s to sponsor GordonUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See story on Hot News page. 02/23/05 “First off, I’m excited about a sponsorship package that we are going to announce Friday at the track. We ran really well last year at Fontana in the RCR car and we are hoping to pick up right where we left off for our new sponsor and our new team. Menards (melglobal.com) has been working extremely hard on the motor package and we should have power comparable to the best cars. They have made great improvements in the horsepower they are producing just since we tested in California last month. I’m very proud of our relationship with Menards and despite our challenges in Daytona I’m confident in our cars, our engines and our people." A new primary sponsor for California and other races will be unveiled at the media center on Friday at 12:30pm [3:30pm/et]. Robby Gordon Website [Editor's Note: NASCAR.com's entry list has Gordon's car sponsor listed as Harrah's.]
More on Honda and Toyota’s 2006 NASCAR plansUPDATE As for talk of Honda and Nissan entering NASCAR: Won't happen, at least for a very long time. Several motor-sports journalists continue to insist that the new Honda Ridgeline pickup truck signals Honda's interest in the NASCAR Craftsman truck series: Not true. And Nissan -- as long as CEO Carlos Ghosn, king of the depression mentality is in charge -- has no interest in anything that doesn't immediately translate into profit. Orlando Sentinel02/21/05 Next season Toyota is expected to jump into NASCAR's Busch series and Honda is expected to jump into NASCAR's Truck series. Winston Salem Journal
Petty contemplates retirement Kyle Petty probably made his dad proud on Sunday. He finished 17th and even led a lap of the Daytona 500. Kyle Petty said he would be happy to finish in the top 15 just a few days before the race. This coming from the son of Richard Petty, the man who won 200 Cup races and seven NASCAR Cup championships, didn't seem too optimistic. But, judging from the way Kyle has been running in recent years, it was quite realistic.
Quite frankly Kyle has not come close to equaling his dad in his racing accomplishments. It is getting near time for Kyle to think about who will take his place in the Petty Enterprises Dodge. Lee Petty was a Cup champion. His son, Richard, is still considered "The King." And now there is Kyle. A few years back Kyle's son, Adam, was ready to carry on the family name in racing. But Adam was killed in a practice session crash at New Hampshire International Speedway.
There is another Petty named Austin. He works at Petty Enterprises but will not be driving a race car now or anytime in the future. So when Kyle retires, as many of the oldtimers are doing now, Petty Enterprises will have to come up with a replacement, and it will be someone without a Petty name.
Kyle had a good idea of the type of racer he wanted to have replace him. "There are a lot of young racers out there now that have won races but would not be considered." he said. The veteran racer, who heads up the family racing business, pointed out that any driver they pick will have to be good with the media, fans and sponsors. More at Phillyburbs.com....
Grove to fire aero chiefUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' as AutoRacing1.com has learned that Grove will not fire their Aero Chief. 02/24/05 Williams' main wind tunnel man, John Davis, may be 'let go' by the underperforming F1 team, according to speculation. Team co-owner and former technical director Patrick Head admitted this week that analysts made mistakes in the FW27 car's design, due to the recent move from one tunnel to the multi-million dollar new one. ''I'm not going to be too critical,'' he added, ''but we're all feeling a bit second rate.'' Davis' sacking would follow the recent exit of principal aerodynamicist, Antonia Terzi.
Lavin expected to re-sign with Forsythe While it was in doubt for awhile, sources tell AutoRacing1.com that Rodolfo Lavin is now expected to re-sign with Forsythe Racing to drive alongside Paul Tracy. It is expected Corona will be back as his sponsor.
Forsythe courting LaudaUPDATE #5 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' AutoRacing1.com has learned that Mathias Lauda was not able to raise the money to race in Champ Car and will remain in Europe in 2005. We hear that Forsythe will just run a 2-car team for Tracy and Lavin, with Corona coming back to sponsor Lavin. 02/04/05 Rumor has it that Lauda's management has been given until the 17th of February to come up with the necessary money Forsythe Racing is looking for. Time is running short. 01/14/05 Lukas Lauda got a full tour of the Forsythe Racing shop on Friday and came away quite impressed with the operation. He appeared genuinely interested in continuing negotiations for his brother Mathias. Lukas headed back to Europe where he will talk to father Niki Lauda and his brother Mathias and it's expected talks will continue next week. Our sources tell us the Laudas are anxious to wrap something up as soon as possible, either in the USA or abroad, so Mathias knows where his future lies and can prepare for the upcoming season. Mark C.01/14/05 Mathias Lauda, son of three-time Formula One champion Niki Lauda, said Thursday he's on the verge of signing a contract with a Champ Car team. While his father tried his luck in European motor racing to finally become a Formula One star, Mathias Lauda hopes to make a name for himself in the U.S. racing series. "Champ Car racing is still highly rated in Europe and particularly in Formula One," Lauda, 24, told The Associated Press.
His brother, Lukas, who works as his manager, is in Chicago negotiating with Gerald Forsythe's team. "Lukas told me it was easier to raise $3 million US in sponsorship money for the Champ Cars than to get $1 million US for a European series like the Superfund GP2," Mathias Lauda said.
"Moreover, across the Atlantic you are already seen as a hero if you finish seventh in a race as a rookie, while in Europe not even a podium is enough to hit the headlines," said Lauda, a former Euro-3000 driver. He said Champ Car team boss Forsythe, one of the most influential people in U.S. racing, "not only wants to sign me on but is also planning to invest money in my career."
Team Forsythe is one of the most successful in recent Champ Car history, winning 26 races and setting 30 pole positions in 12 seasons. In 2003, Paul Tracy won the team's last title, and fellow Canadian Jacques Villeneuve also once raced for Forsythe. The last Austrian to compete successfully in the United States was Philipp Peter, who finished third overall in the 1999 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Series. AP Story
01/11/05 This SPEED TV article says, A move stateside is Mathias Lauda’s new priority for the 2005 season, his manager - and brother - Lukas revealed to Autosport magazine. 22-year-old Mathias, the son of three-time World Champion Niki Lauda, is reportedly in negotiations with Gerry Forsythe’s outfit.
Lauda made 10 FIA F3000 starts this season, with a best finish of sixth at Monza. However, the Austrian is unwilling to attempt a sophomore season in the GP2 series, the championship regarded as F3000’s successor.
“It is easier to find a budget of three million dollars for Champ Cars than 1.2 million for a series such as the GP2, where no one knows how it will evolve,” said Lukas Lauda. “More so, if you are performing nicely in Champ Cars as a rookie, as seventh or so, you are the hero. If you finish third or fourth in GP2, no one will give a toss.”
Lukas is believed to be in Chicago at the moment in an attempt to seal the deal with Forsythe, which could put the Austrian alongside Paul Tracy, Rodolfo Lavin and a possible fourth Forsythe entry in this year’s Champ Car World Series. “Mr. Forsythe even wants to invest some money into the career of Mathias,” concluded Lukas.
This Grandprix.com article says, Mathias Lauda, the son of triple World Champion Niki Lauda, says he is more interested in going to America to race in Champ Cars than to compete in the new GP2 series. The 22-year-old Austrian, who has not done anything to really impress in his Formula 3000 career to date, is rumored to be talking about buying a drive with Gerry Forsythe. "It is easier to find a budget of $3m for Champ Cars than it is to find $1.2m for a series such as the GP2, where no one knows how it will evolve," Lukas Lauda, Mathias's brother and manager, told Autosport magazine. [Editor's Note: Like Jos Verstappen, don't be surprised if this is just another ruse by a European driver to get Bernie Ecclestone and F1 to stand up and take notice so someone picks him up for Formula GP2.]
01/11/05 Rumor in Germany has it that Forsythe Racing will run four cars in 2005. Tracy and Lavin are set. Andrew Ranger is the third man and, surprise surprise, Mathias Lauda, son of former F1 World Champion Niki Lauda, is looking good for the fourth seat. Gerry Forsythe is helping Lauda get money together for a ride. Recall we have been telling you for a long time that Forsythe will run up to four cars in 2005.
Jordan might move headquarters "We want to radiate the energetic picture of Russia, modern, intelligent and successfully", said the man behind Midland F1, Alex Shnaider. The Russian aims to move the Jordan headquarters to Russia. The Irish Jordan F1 team is now established close the British Silverstone circuit. "Because of my Russian background, I have decided that it's a big chance to bring something back to Russia," explained Shnaider his decision. The team will have a sponsor package of more then 100 million dollars. "I think that will be enough to do all things necessary. We also will need more of our own investments, but of course also look into partners and sponsors which want to connect themselves to the Jordan F1 team. Tomorrow the renewed Jordan team will present its car, drivers and sponsors in Moscow.
No commercial breaks possible for desperate IRL This Times Dispatch article says, Wow, here's a novel idea: split-screen auto racing, allowing viewers to see continuous coverage of the action during all national commercial breaks. Don't get your hopes up, wrenchheads. This isn't NASCAR we're talking about here. Fox and NBC/TNT are charging premium rates, which means their sponsors won't go for the split-screen idea. They want your undivided attention, even though you're sitting there, steaming, at the seemingly endless interruptions. When it comes to the Indy Racing League series on Disney-owned ABC and ESPN, it's a different matter. They're desperate. Open-wheel racing, once the big thing in motorsports in this country, has been lapped, then lapped again by NASCAR. How desperate are they? ABC and ESPN have talked their sponsors into what Disney is calling "Side-By-Side" for the first two races of the 2005 IRL schedule. Or given them drastic discounts, hoping to attract enough new viewers that they'll get hooked, and thereby build an audience for the rest of the schedule that includes the annual stop at Richmond International Raceway (June 25, ESPN2). The March 6 season-opener at Homestead, Fla. (ESPN) and the March 19 race at Phoenix (ABC) will be televised with the "Side-By-Side" concept. During national commercial breaks, we'll get a two-picture screen with live racing on the left and the advertiser's spot with audio in a larger box on the right. The networks' five local commercial breakaways will be full screen with no race coverage. "The enthusiastic and positive responses we received on this concept from our sponsors and IndyCar [were] tremendous," an ABC/ESPN marketing and sales spokesman was quoted as saying. Why not? Anything is worth a try.
How many races for Champ Car? A reader asks, Champ Car has only published a 14 race schedule for 2005. That's a pretty low number. With March right around the corner, what are the chances more races will be added? Steve Lockwood, Atlantic City, NJ Dear Steve, Based on the information we have, there is a reasonable chance that Buenos Aires, Argentina will be added on September 11th. There is a remote chance Road America or China will be added, but we think both are highly unlikely for 2005. We are expecting to see a 14 or 15-race schedule for 2005. 2006 will be a different story, however. Mark C.
Champ Car maneuvers against Indy 500UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Champ Car isn't going to keep any of its teams from competing at this year's Indianapolis 500 according to Tony Cotman, the new vice president of operations for Champ Car. "There's a rule that some people have interpreted to mean is there to keep our teams from running at Indy but it’s not true," said Cotman. "It's a testing rule and we have it to prevent somebody in the IRL from leasing one of our cars to test a driver on a road course because then that Champ Car team would gain information." "But are we going to stop our people from running Indy? No. Should we? No, I don't believe so. Are we helping the IRL? Probably but if there's a sponsor who might run Champ Car if they get to compete at Indy, that's good."
The paragraph that created the stir states:
No Champ Car entrant may use Champ Car chassis, equipment, personnel or team resources to perform testing of any type for any other racing team in any series, any manufacturer or other third party. The mandatory penalty for violation shall be the loss of all series points awarded during the then current season, exclusion from one Champ Car sanctioned Champ Car World Series event (the event to be determined by Champ Car) and a fine of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000 U.S.). The decision by Champ Car as to whether any testing provision has been violated and the assessment of the prescribed penalty is not subject to protest.
Newman/Haas Racing, who captured the 2004 Champ Car title with Sebastien Bourdais, was the lone CC team to field a car at Indy in 2004 with Bruno Junqueira and appears to be the only operation considering it again this year. Junqueira, who captured the pole at Indy in 2002, finished fifth last May. SPEEDTV.com
02/12/05 Since the CART/IRL split and in recent years, the IRL has been having trouble filling the 33-car field for the Indy 500 and in recent years ratings and attendance have plummeted. CART teams have regularly gone over and cherry-picked the Indy 500, taking home the first-place Hulman George money on a number of occasions. In doing so they helped fill the 33-car Indy 500 field. Champ Car has put a stop to that. Their 2005 rule book, section 5.5.6. reads:
No Champ Car entrant may use Champ Car chassis, equipment, personnel or team resources to perform testing of any type for any other racing team in any series, any manufacturer or other third party. The mandatory penalty for violation shall be the loss of all series points awarded during the then current season, exclusion from one Champ Car sanctioned Champ Car World Series event (the event to be determined by Champ Car) and a fine of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000 U.S.). The decision by Champ Car as to whether any testing provision has been violated and the assessment of the prescribed penalty is not subject to protest.
So unless a Champ Car team owner starts a separate IRL team just for the Indy 500, there will no longer be any Champ Car teams helping to fill the traditional 33-car field. To fill the field in 2005 Tony George will have to tap deeper into the family coffers or convince Honda and Toyota to pay teams to run additional cars to fill the field. Of course all of this would not be necessary had Tony George not created the IRL, split the sport and all but destroy it. Mark C.
Atlanta not moving NASCAR race to Vegas Contrary to an internet report posted Wednesday (not AutoRacing1.com), Speedway Motorsports Inc. has no plans to move a NASCAR race date from Atlanta Motor Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“The report was completely unfounded and false,” Clark said. “It’s very disappointing that internet sites spread this kind of mistruth. Rumors like this, published without any attempt at verification, create confusion, and they hurt our fans, our competitors and our sport.”
Atlanta Motor Speedway hosts two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race weekends – each March and October – which are the two largest sporting events annually in Georgia. The city, ninth in the nation in terms of television markets, is also currently seeking to lure NASCAR's Hall of Fame downtown.
A Sports Illustrated survey published in the Feb. 21 issue also listed Atlanta Motor Speedway as the favorite track of 36 NASCAR drivers polled anonymously. “There have been absolutely no discussions in our company about moving a NASCAR date from Atlanta,” Clark said. “We will continue to host two NASCAR races well into the future, giving fans the ‘Real Racing. Real Fast.’ that they expect when visiting NASCAR’s fastest track.” AMS
Pizzonia could still walk Antonio Pizzonia is staying with Williams - or at least that is what the team says. When one asks the Brazilian driver about his thoughts the answer is rather less clear cut. And Pizzonia's manager Jayme Brito has made two trips in recent weeks to the United States to talk with Champ Car teams. Pizzonia was very disappointed when he discovered that the team was not signing him up as a second driver this year, having waited while other seats disappeared in the belief that Williams would take him. The decision to take Nick Heidfeld instead was one that was obviously influenced by BMW and Pizzonia feels aggrieved that the team is now wanting to block his career in open-wheeler racing. Pizzonia, however, has a Williams contract to test and thus if he wants to get out of that he will have to face the consequences. However Williams has nothing to gain from taking legal action against Pizzonia. The team needs a test driver with the right kind of experience and Pizzonia either needs a reason to stay and delay plans to go racing until 2006. The best way for the dispute to be settled would be for Williams to pay Pizzonia to feel better about staying where he is. If the team chooses to nickel and dime him he may still walk. Grandprix.com
BMW agrees to supply engines to SauberUPDATE According to Reuters, BMW are talking to both the Sauber and Red Bull Formula One teams about supplying them with an engine for 2006 but no deal has been done, the German carmaker said on Wednesday. "Nothing has been decided yet. We are talking to several teams," said motorsport director Mario Theissen. A spokesman confirmed Red Bull, the former Ford-owned Jaguar team bought by Austrian energy drink billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz in November, was one of them.
Frank Williams, whose team has had an exclusive partnership with BMW for the past five years, told reporters on Tuesday that Theissen had told him BMW had decided to go with Sauber as a second team. He said Williams had no problem with the decision. A Sauber spokesman said the team had been surprised by Williams' comments. "Our situation is completely unchanged," he said. "Peter Sauber is talking to several manufacturers about an engine supply for 2006 and there is no decision."
02/22/05 According to Autosport, Williams is set to lose its exclusive use of BMW powerplants from the start of next season, with the Grove-based team revealing on Tuesday that its German technical partner has decided to supply customer version of its engine to the Swiss Sauber team. It is not clear whether a final contract has been signed between Sauber and BMW, but the fact that Theissen has informed Williams of its plans appears to indicate that the deal will now be a formality.
It remains to be seen what sort of engines Ferrari gives to Sauber this year since they have gone against them and sided with BMW and the GPWC. Expect a lot of hand grenades.
Maserati to challenge Corvette in ALMSUPDATE #5 This rumor is now 'fact.' See story on Hot News page. 02/18/05 This rumor is downgraded back to 'strong' today. ALMS President Scott Atherton told AutoRacing1.com, "No, it is technically still not approved but it is something I am working everyday on. If we are able to approve that car it will generate some real excitement in this series." More comments on this in an upcoming interview with the ALMS President. 02/16/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. This week's Autosport Magazine reports, The Maserati MC12 will be allowed to race in this year’s American Le Mans Series – but it will be ineligible for points. A deal was hammered out late last week between series officials and the Le Mans organizers to allow the V12-engined supercar to race even though it doesn’t conform to the rules. The ALMS managed to overturn opposition from Le Mans by agreeing that the car should race outside the championship. No comment was available from the ALMS or its sanctioning body, IMSA, at the time of press. The move means there will be a solo MC12 on the grid for the series opener at Sebring on March 19. The car will be entered under the banner of the Risi Competizione team and run in conjunction with Maserati’s factory squad. Plans for a second MC12 to join the series later in the year appear to have been abandoned. Maserati tester Andrea Bertolini looks certain to head the driver line-up, while ex-grand prix racer Mika Salo appears likely to join him. Fabio Babini, who is contracted to Maserati tire supplier Pirelli, should join them for Sebring. 02/09/05 AutoRacing1.com contacted the ALMS on the Maserati MC12 controversy and received this statement from a spokesperson - "We are continuing to work with the ACO to find an acceptable position to all parties. There are a lot of moving parts as you can imagine and a lot of parties that have to be comfortable with the arrangement we strike for the MC12. We think the Maserati will be an exciting addition for the ALMS fans, and we are working very conscientiously with the ACO to do something that's in the best interest of sports car racing here in the U.S. while still maintaining our integrity and relationship with the ACO." 02/09/05 As reported a few days ago...the Maserati MC12 will debut at Sebring barring any last minute politics...however today there were strong words from the ACO and clearly they are not happy with ALMS's decision to allow the MC12...The ACO warns the ALMS and Maserati. With the ACO one does not appreciate the project of American LeMans Series to accept Maserati, at the 12 Hours of Sebring and in the other races of the ALMS. "For the moment we were satisfied with one call to order at the ALMS and with Maserati, says Daniel Poissenot, director of the sporting services of the ACO. We ask them to pay great attention. Not only the ALMS is likely to cut (piss off) several other manufacturers who would not appreciate this unfair competition but that it in the event of accident would occur. I do not dare to imagine it."02/05/05 The ALMS is close to a compromise deal that will see the new Maserati MC12 car that is not qualified to race at LeMans, compete in the ALMS against the Corvette and Aston Martin teams. The MC12, pictured below, will also race in the FIA-GT GT1 category, but is not allowed by the ACO at LeMans because it does not meet their requirements. Maserati is said to be working on a revised version that will meet the ACO requirements, and hence race at LeMans. The MC12 is based on the Enzo Ferrari platform. The fact that it has a long tail is enough to give it an unfair advantage and that tail will have to go if it is to race in the ALMS and at LeMans. The car is also dimensionally a bit too small. If approved, it will make the ALMS GTS division battle between Corvette, Aston Martin and Maserati quite interesting.
Sacked Jag man to return (GMMF1.NET) Jaguar's former managing director David Pitchforth could be about to return to pitlane. Rumor has it that, following Red Bull's controversial sacking of the lauded manager, he could assume Williams' unoccupied position as 'chief operations engineer.' The move would indubitably be backed by Williams' new driver Mark Webber, who worked with the considerable Yorkshireman at Jaguar Racing. ''(Pitchforth) was one of (Jaguar's) greatest assets,'' Mark, 28, said. ''If he wants to stay involved in F1, he'd be welcomed ... at most teams.''
NASCAR to Move Daytona 500 into Prime Time If NASCAR gets its way -- and as the No. 2 sport on television, it usually does -- next year's Daytona 500 will have a new time slot. Considered the Super Bowl of stock car racing, the Daytona 500 is likely to move to a 5 p.m. starting time so it can end during prime time to attract a bigger audience and higher advertising dollars, just like football's Super Bowl. Florida Times-Union
Panther Racing to announce new sponsor Panther Racing, the IRL IndyCar® Series’ only Chevrolet-powered team, on Thursday will announce the new primary sponsor for the No. 2 Chevrolet-powered Dallara. The sponsor will also be an associate sponsor on the No. 4 Pennzoil Chevrolet-powered Dallara. Team owner John Barnes, drivers Tomas Enge and Tomas Scheckter and the CEO of the new sponsor will make the announcement.
Pizzonia could switch to Champ Car, may test soonUPDATE #10 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' See Hot News page. 02/21/05 Below is a translation from the www.Globo.com website. Usually they only post rumors if they are close to happening or have already happened. So the rumor about Antonio Pizzonia being on the Champ Car grid for 2005 must be close to becoming reality according to our Brazilian sources.
Pizzonia Is One Step Away From Driving In Champ Cars Barcelona, Spain- Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia appears to have found a new path towards 2005. At this moment testing for Williams in Formula 1, after losing the second race seat at the team to German Nick Heidfeld, the Amazonian is one step from hooking up with a Champ Car team and transferring to the United States.
"I don't want to be a test driver one more year and not race" said Pizzonia in an interview with the F-1Racing.net site in Barcelona, where he is testing for the British team. Pizzonia said he is already in contact with some Champ Car teams and that he should have a response in the next few days.
"I would like to compete in a championship where I could have the resources to win the title and in Champ Cars it appears ideal at the moment. I am talking with some teams and most likely will test in a Champ Car in the next few days", he completed. Still the Brazilian does not want to forget Formula 1, where he considers the best for his future in auto racing. "It's a very tough decision, I want to race, but at the same time I don't want to forget Formula 1. I still don't know for sure if a switch to Champ Cars would be the best thing for my career, but I will think with caution. One of the teams I am talking to is Newman Haas, he revealed. [Editor's Note: As AutoRacing1.com has revealed, Pizzonia will not be driving for Newman/Haas. His manager, Jayme Brito, flew to Chicago for Champ Car talks. Since Newman/Haas is located in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, everyone assumed they were talking to Newman/Haas. However, Gerald Forsythe lives in Illinois, and Dale Coyne is also located outside of Chicago. Since Pizzonia has said he will only race for a top team that has a chance to win races, one might suspect that Pizzonia could be one of Forsythe's drivers in 2005. Forsythe gave Mathias Lauda a deadline to come up with the money for a ride, but from what we hear, that did not happen.] 02/21/05 Official word from Newman/Haas Racing to AutoRacing1.com is that they are not exploring the possibility of running a third car in 2005, so if Pizzonia does come to Champ Car, it is going to have to be with another team. 02/20/05 Newman/Haas Racing makes no secret of the fact that they don't have enough space in their existing shop in Chicago to run a third car for Pizzonia. However, the team can lease space in Indianapolis for the third car. Indy also has a lot more available experienced personnel to hire than Chicago. While the two shops would be hours apart by car, at the track the teams can locate adjacent to one another and share all data each weekend, effectively operating as a 3-car Super Team. It all comes down to sponsorship. Antonio Pizzonia is said to have Brazilian Petrobras money behind him (see uniform in picture to right from F3000 podium in Hockenheim several years ago.) If Newman/Haas wants to run a third car they can, but money talks and setting up the third shop will take money. Time is not on their side, decisions would have to be made very soon. Working in Pizzonia's favor as well is the fact that Champ Car is eyeing a race in Brazil for 2006. Mark C.02/19/05 Antonio Pizzonia was testing for Williams this week in Spain but his manager Jayme Brito has disappeared off to America once again to try to sort out a drive as it seems there is no deal at the moment over a third drive at Williams - and it seems unlikely that there will be as Williams cannot offer Pizzonia much in either 2005 or 2006. The next best thing to a Formula 1 drive is a seat with the best team in Champ Car racing and it seems that Carl Haas is willing to run a third car for Pizzonia if he has the money to do it. We understand that a budget can be found for Pizzonia to race alongside Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira. There are other opportunities such as a third car with Forsythe of the second seat at HVM but there is little logic in doing either of these if a Newman Haas Racing deal is on offer. Grandprix.com02/18/05 Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia has admitted that his manager, Jaime Brito, has already traveled to the United States to check on the state of play and, speaking to autosport.com during testing at Barcelona this week, Pizzonia confessed his mind was not yet made up. “The most important thing is that I don't want to do anything stupid, or rush myself into a decision,” said Pizzonia. “I want to race where I have a chance to do well and Champ Cars seems to be the ideal solution for me at the moment.
“I'm talking to some teams and I may do a test there in the next few days. But I want to be in F1, so it's a difficult thing to decide. That's why I'm thinking it through and taking my time, because I want to do what will be the best thing for my career.”
Although most of the front-running teams in Champ Cars have already chosen their line-ups, one possibility for the Brazilian is to be given a third car at Newman/Haas.
When asked whether that was the main option Pizzonia said: “Well, it's not a secret Newman/Haas is considering the possibility to run a third car for me, but there are other possibilities too.” Autosport.com
02/08/05 Speaking to autosport.com about Pizzonia's future plans, Pizzonia's manager Jaime Brito said: "We are assessing the position. If an opportunity comes up to go racing then we will go racing. The priority will be racing." Although Pizzonia has a firm contract with Williams for this year, it is believed that team boss Frank Williams will not stand in the way of the Brazilian going elsewhere if he had the possibility of a race drive. Despite expressing an interest in the United States, however, Pizzonia may ultimately feel that his F1 chances may be better served by staying with Williams. 02/07/05 Not sure if SPEEDTV has any better sources on this rumor, but in this article they are reporting Pizzonia could be headed to Newman/Haas with Petrobras money. 02/04/05 We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong.' Antonio Pizzonia's manager Jayme Brito was spotted this morning at Frankfurt Airport, boarding a flight to Chicago and it does not take a rocket scientist to work out that the Brazilian was off to have a look around some of the Champ Car operations to see what might be available for his client. Newman Haas Racing is based in Chicago itself, while Rocketsports is located at Lansing, Michigan and most of the other Champ Car teams are in Indianapolis - all within easy reach of Chicago. This could be bad news for Frank Williams who is hoping that Pizzonia will stay on at Williams as the team's third driver. Grandprix.com02/04/05 There is no chance of a job at Jordan for Pizzonia now that the team has signed Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro and so the only real option available for the Brazilian is to head for the United States and see if he can make a name for himself in Champ Car racing and so get back to Formula 1 via a year or two in America. The American scene is pretty closed up at the moment with the news that Cristiano da Matta has signed to drive for the PKV Racing team alongside Jimmy Vasser. It seems that Kevin Kalkhoven's team does not want to run a third car, which has released several other drivers onto the Champ Car market, notably Bjorn Wirdheim. There is the possibility of a third drive with Forsythe Championship Racing alongside Paul Tracy and Rodolfo Lavin but that will involve bringing money. There might be a chance of a third drive at Newman Haas Racing alongside Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira. The team was looking at running a third car for da Matta but gave up on the idea because of lack of cash. If Pizzonia could find some backing he might get that drive. That leaves Rocketsports which has a seat open next to Alex Tagliani, although the team is expected to sign up another F1 aspirant Ryan Hunter-Reay. The final possibility could be a deal with RuSport but that would involve the team running a third car alongside AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson. The only other team with a vague hope of a chance of success is Keith Wiggins's HVM but it too is looking for money. Grandprix.com02/01/05 (GMMF1.NET -- Feb.1) Antonio Pizzonia might not be content to stick out the year on Williams' F1 bench. The Brazilian, visibly upset following Frank Williams' decision to overlook him as race driver, mentioned - despite retaining the test gong - the possibility of a move to US-based Champ Car racing. ''I need a couple of days to think about it,'' he said at the F1 team's launch in southern Spain. ''I think right now I want to stay (in F1).'' But the 24-year-old, fired at Jaguar for failing to match up to Mark Webber in 2003, admitted he'd 'been in touch' with a few teams from across the Atlantic. He also confessed to not liking the head-to-head testing 'shoot out' against Nick Heidfeld. Champ Car is rumored to be eyeing a return to Brazil for 2006. With Cristiano da Matta and Antonio Pizzonia in the lineup, the Brazilian fans will take notice.
Magnussen eyes NASCAR Former Danish F1 driver Jan Magnussen has admitted that he'd love to try NASCAR. Speaking during a meeting for members of his fan-club, he added that he has been won over by NASCAR, after hearing Terry and Bobby Labonte rave about it during the recent Daytona 24 hours. "I would love to drive in NASCAR," the Corvette driver said.
"I would really love the challenge. I have only driven one race on an oval - in Champ Car at Chicago in 1999 - and I loved it. It was the most exciting form of racing you can imagine with action on every lap."
"Doing NASCAR would be great," continued Magnussen, who will drive at Sebring, the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Petit Le Mans for Corvette this year, while also taking part in the Danish Touring Car Championship and selected Grand-Am races for Doran-Pontiac "It has been difficult for Europeans in NASCAR but I am ready to take on the challenge if I get the chance. I drove the recent Daytona 24 hours with Terry and Bobby Labonte and I loved everything they told me about NASCAR."
Another Mexican in play at HVM AutoWeek is rumoring that 18-year-old Antonio Perez-Garibay could get the 2nd HVM seat alongside Mario Dominguez. See our 2005 Champ Car Silly Season page for the latest possibilities.
Stoddart to launch airline Formula One team owner Paul Stoddart is about to launch his long-anticipated new commercial airline for Australia. In southern capital Adelaide, a 30-year-old 'Ozjet'-liveried 737 will be unveiled as a potential threat to existing domestic carriers Qantas, Virgin Blue and Jetstar. 50-year-old Stoddart, who bought Italian-based team Minardi in 2001, earned his fortune in European-based aviation. But Ozjet, we can reveal, does not have an Australian commercial license, and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said it had not even received a formal application.
Ticket sales slow for Long Beach GPUPDATE AutoRacing1.com spoke at length to the GP of Long Beach President Jim Michaelian today about the 2005 Champ Car ticket sales. "Compared to many years ago when Champ Car was at its peak, we are down a bit, but to be honest, sales so far this year are comparable to where we were last year for this race and we all know that the 2004 event turned out well," said Michaelian. "We have some new things happening this year which should make this year's event even better such as the Drifting Competition and the popular band Pennywise. We have two more announcements coming out shortly that will be very positive for the event. Our hospitality sales are up for this year and we are, therefore, going to build our sky boxes above the pits this year (they did not have them last year). Our ticket sales tend to be late here in Long Beach and are affected by weather. If we get three clear days things should be real good. Last year we had rain one day. We have a big promotion campaign about to kickoff. One positive aspect is our Hispanic reach. Long ago our Hispanic attendance was about 4% and now we are up over 25%." Michaelian was more concerned with Champ Car getting their end done as they have a lot on their plate. He was also concerned with Champ Car getting a late start compared to all other series and then when they do start, they have a 5-week break again until Monterrey. "How they keep the momentum going will be something Champ Car has to deal with," said Michaelian. 02/19/05 Word from Long Beach is that ticket sales are going slow for this year's Grand Prix of Long Beach. Many tickets remain unsold and a quick check of their website confirmed that, allowing a user to purchase large blocks of tickets in high rows of every grandstand (Row 1 is at the top). With just seven weeks to go this is an ominous sign that the grandstands will have gaping holes of unsold seats this year. In years past it was difficult to purchase tickets in prime locations at this late juncture. There is apparently three reasons for the slow ticket sales, ineffective promoting by Dover (sales in Edmonton are huge, so what's Long Beach's excuse?), little or no corporate sponsors interested in buying large blocks of tickets, and most Champ Car teams with unannounced driver lineups leaving fans uncertain whether there will be enough cars to even have a race.....so they wait for the last minute Traditionally Grandstand 30 was 100% corporate ticket sales and almost always sold out, now it's open to the public and most seats remain unsold. The race promoters are going to have to hope for a good walk-up crowd and good weather.
If the race is not a success this year, the City Council in Long Beach could vote to replace Champ Car with the IRL as the current contract with Champ Car expires after this year's race. Of course whenever the IRL follows Champ Car into a market the race does even worse, so that is not the solution for Long Beach either. Part of the problem can be attributed to the general decline in open wheel racing in the USA since Tony George created the IRL, split the sport in two and all but destroyed it.
Did terrorists strike Melbourne ahead of F1 race? Ahead of the upcoming F1 race, one of Australia's main airport terminals was shut down for eight hours as emergency crews hunted in vain for the cause of a mystery illness which struck down nearly 60 staff and passengers in the building, officials said.
Paramedics, firefighters and hazardous materials crews in full protective clothing rushed to Melbourne airport early Monday after staff in a domestic terminal began suffering nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headaches and shortness of breath. Up to 2,000 staff, passengers and their friends were evacuated and the terminal shut down around 10:00 am while emergency crews tested air conditioning units and other facilities in an unsuccessful search for what was causing the illness.
Ambulance service spokesman James Howe said 47 people were taken to hospital and another 10 were treated at the scene for the symptoms. Most of those hospitalized were released later in the day. "They were certainly quite distressed ... so whatever substance this has been has certainly caused a physiological response," said another ambulance service official, operations manager Paul Holman. Those affected were mostly security and airline staff working in the departure area for domestic carrier Virgin Blue, officials said.
The shutdown of the terminal caused chaos around the airport, forcing the cancellation or postponement of scores of Virgin Blue and other domestic flights. Channel News Asia
NASCAR eyes China NASCAR is taking its road show to Mexico City in a few weeks, and Montreal and Toronto are on the horizon. Now, how about Shanghai?
General Motors' John Middlebrook, for years the man who has been NASCAR's ace-in-the-hole in Detroit, for his staunch support of stock-car racing, has a new job - global sales and marketing. And he's heading from Daytona to Shanghai, the Asian city-of-the-future.
Shanghai, with some 30 percent of all the world's construction cranes busy at work, boasts a state-of-the-art race track, which was home to a Formula One race last fall. The F1 race was used to promote the city as a world venue, and sponsoring companies used the race to network into the lucrative Chinese market.
"It's amazing - every time you go there it's like a new city, it's growing so fast. I think they've got every crane in the world there building," Middlebrook said. "The market potential for us in our business is so huge, because the number of people there who have automobiles is so tiny, and the economy is starting to really move. We're looking at a lot of synergies with China in a lot of areas. We're working with the NBA in basketball, because that's such a big thing there. And they've got the Olympics coming. So there are a lot of sports things."
Could NASCAR use Shanghai as an international marketing gambit, as it did Japan, with its three races there? "I think so," Middlebrook said. "I'm sure they learned a lot from the Japan venture. It may well come down to the sponsor side of the thing. Right now we don't have that many global sponsors (in NASCAR racing), but it's increasing all the time. And you think about the growth of companies like Home Depot and Lowe's that are really going after these markets. All of a sudden they have this asset (NASCAR)....
"So you could see a cadre of global brands. Certainly Ford and Chevy and Toyota and others. And now that we have this need to promote the Chevrolet brand globally - it is clearly a global brand for us - what better format than if we could work together to do it. I think the possibilities are endless."
And racing, Middlebrook emphasizes, is a key part of GM's marketing: "It may sound like a trite answer, but one thing about NASCAR - we're a winner. We get beat up in the press a lot of times, and the one thing about General Motors in NASCAR is we play hard and we play to win and we do win. We won 22 races last year and the manufacturers' championship.
"It's a strong core success story for us, and the more we can play that, the better the reputation of the company."
Middlebrook has been a GM-NASCAR man for years. Since September he has been on a global mission, "trying to tie the whole globe together, with our sales, our service and our marketing processes and systems. Chevrolet is a global brand, in 70 countries. And we're getting great results in taking the Chevy brand into Europe right now. Just introduced it in China, launched it in January, and in Thailand. So we're getting Chevy positioned in Asia-Pacific. And racing is one of those things that has a global reach, and global opportunities." More at Winston Salem Journal
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